While the rest of us are enjoying our turkey and mashed potatoes Thursday, three Utah restaurants will be feeding some discriminating diners at the James Beard House in New York City.
Pine, Metropolitan and St. Bernard's at Solitude Mountain Resort will showcase an ambitious Thanksgiving Day feast of cider-braised rabbit leg with a sage and apple gnocchi, and roasted guinea hen breast with roasted parsnip/potato puree and cornbread-pecan stuffing.
If holiday diners are missing Grandma's traditional yam-marshmallow casserole, they can console themselves with seared Hudson Valley foie gras with candied yam, brown sugar ice and house-made marshmallow. Instead of pumpkin pie, there's a honeycomb tart made with Miller Farms wildflower honey.
It's a prestigious honor for the chefs Greg Neville of Pine, Jed Banta and Chad Horton of Metropolitan and Matt Barrigar of Solitude. For a chef, being invited to cook at the James Beard House is akin to a musician being asked to perform at Carnegie Hall.
James Beard, a cook and food writer, is widely recognized as the father of American gastronomy. After Beard died in 1985, Julia Child and other friends bought his New York City house and preserved it as the foodie gathering spot it was throughout Beard's life.
Distinguished chefs are regularly chosen to present a dinner at the James Beard House. Only about a dozen Utah chefs have had the honor in the past.
Neville, owner of Pine, went to New York last spring to present an Italian dinner on behalf of his other restaurant, Lugano. At the time, he was also invited to do an American-themed dinner from Pine on Thanksgiving Day. Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Visitors & Convention Bureau saw it as an opportunity to "bust some myths" about the Utah dining scene, with a joint venture of several restaurants, according to Chief Executive Officer Scott Beck.
"When Greg had the opportunity to go back and do this Thanksgiving dinner, we asked to share the stage. He didn't hesitate, and it shows what a great team we have in the hospitality industry," Beck said during a preview dinner of the menu at Pine on Nov. 7.
Utahns who came to the preview dinner paid $60 per person (plus $35 for optional wine pairings). That's a relative bargain, considering New Yorkers will pay $155 to enjoy the same menu.
The theme spotlights three Utah dining destinations urban (Metropolitan), suburban (Pine) and mountain (St. Bernard's at Solitude).
Being away from home for Thanksgiving isn't the only sacrifice the chefs will be making. The restaurants must provide the transportation and lodging, as well as the food and wine for 60-80 diners. The money raised goes to the James Beard Foundation, which promotes the culinary world through events, scholarships and annual awards.
"It's a very expensive trip to make, and the Visitors & Convention Bureau has been tremendously supportive in helping to send us," said Karen Olsen, owner of Metropolitan. She noted that this isn't the first time Utah restaurants have gone as a team to the Beard House. She said that in October 2001, Metropolitan's then-chef Jonathan Perno cooked with Log Haven's then-chef David Jones and Bambara's then-chef Scott Blackerby.She added, "It's a nice way to expose Utah dining to a national market."