By Michael Klein
It’s a great honor for chefs and restaurants to be asked to cook at the James Beard House in New York City.
They get a date, plan a menu, secure the ingredients, truck the stuff up there, cook for an audience of food-forward folks, clean up, and come back.
If you’re a large restaurant – as are most Beard attendees – it’s not such a big deal.
But if you’re a small bakery accustomed to feeding a dozen or so people at a time in a storefront on Germantown Avenue, you may feel that a dry run is a smart idea.
Which brought a few dozen of us to Night Kitchen Bakery on Sunday night, March 17 for a dress rehearsal of its Beard dinner on April 14.
Most Beard meals are dinners, which mean that the chef and staff arrive in the morning and have all day to prep and cook.
Not so for the Night Kitchen.
Owners-spouses Amy Edelman and John Millard plan to set out at 4 a.m. that day, arrive shortly before dawn, and have everything ready for a noon brunch.
Sunday night’s test “brunch for dinner” – for which tables and chairs were crammed into the bakery – started with passed hors d’oeuvres: duck breast on orange-infused carrot cake, miniature sticky bun, and gorgonzola walnut scones.
No fancy cutlery and plates, so we had to rough it. #firstworldproblems
We used plastic spoons to lap up spring pea soup with crab cake served in plastic bowls. Delightfully rich egg strata with lardons, grilled leeks, and fontina came out in porcelain ramekins. But the hit of the meal – the braised Jamison Farm lamb, potato pancake stuffed with Shellbark Hollow goat cheese, fava beans and spinach – came out on plastic. The wines from Constellation Wines were poured into plastic.
The banana cream chocolate tart and dessert sampler of Key lime, iced brownie, salted caramel and coffee cake hit the spot.
Edelman says they’ll make a few small refinements, and will add challah French toast with strawberry/rhubarb jam to the menu.
If you’re up for the brunch, it’s $95 a head.