Saturday night turned out to be one I will never forget.
After looking at the website for the tour, I knew Nick and I had to attend.
A dinner made by a former White House Chef?
A foodie tour that’s put on by The James Beard Foundation?
And this – our little corner of southwest Virginia – was the starting point for the tour this year? We could not miss this.
When we heard back from Foodbuzz, they had some good news and some bad news.
The good news was that we would be able to go! The bad news was the dinner was completely sold out, so we were only able to get in to the welcoming reception.
Even without dinner tickets, Nick and I were extremely excited to visit the reception to taste appetizers, mingle, and take pictures of the set up for this 5-star dinner.
Walking into The Palisades that night was so exhilarating.
There was so much excitement in the restaurant, and seeing the place set up for this dinner was fun for us.
We’ve eaten here plenty of times, but this dinner was different. Special. And it was great to see the local support and enthusiasm that filled the rooms.
As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by servers and appetizers! I didn’t get pictures of all of them (it was crazy in there!), but I did get some of my favorites of the evening.
White Cheddar with Grape and Pistachios
When Nick first bit into his, we had no idea there were grapes in the middle. I loved the combination of the creamy cheddar and the sweetness from the green grape. Definitely not something I’d put together!
Dried Figs with Roasted Walnuts and Goat Cheese
Can you believe this was my first time ever having figs like this? The tangy goat cheese was amazing with the figs and walnuts. I really enjoyed the different textures in this one – chewy from the figs, crunchy from the nuts, and creamy from the goat cheese.
Marinated Feta with Olives and Mint
This was my favorite of the night. The feta was coated in sesame seeds and layered on the sticks with a slice of cucumber, olive, and a mint leaf. The olive and mint together were delicious!
Mousse de Foie Gras with a Rhubarb Compote
After attending this reception, I can now say I’ve tried foie gras. I actually loved the rhubarb compote on this dish – it was so colorful! – but I’m not sure I’m a foie gras convert just yet.
At this point in the evening, people were starting to take their seats so Nick and I were finishing up our appetizers and drinks, and I walked over to get a few pictures of the Chef while he was signing cookbooks.
All day leading up to this, I was secretly hoping we would be able to stay for the meal. I knew the dinner was sold out, and I knew that we probably had no chance, but this was a once in a lifetime experience.
While we were waiting for everyone to get seated, Nick and I met Jeff Black, the President of the Celebrity Chef Tour. He thanked us for coming, talked to us about the night and the meal, and told me they were about to introduce the Chef and start the dinner.
I was ready to take pictures of Jeff and Chef Scheib as they made their introductions, and right before they started, Jeff told us that they had some room for us to sit and eat!
You have no idea how excited we were. The reception itself was fun enough, but now we were really about to eat a meal made by a former White House Chef?!?
Jeff Black, Celebrity Chef Tour
Jeff started the night off by introducing himself and telling everyone more about The James Beard Foundation and the Celebrity Chef Tour and how he got involved.
After learning more about the Foundation, Chef Walter Scheib came out to tell us some of his background and get the meal started.
He was so entertaining! Before every course, he came out to tell a story of where the dish originated. Each course in this dinner came out of his time working at the White House under the Clinton family and the Bush family. Hearing the funny stories of how he was hired and how he came up with the dishes we were served wasn’t what I was expecting, but it made the entire night even better.
He was a great storyteller! He was so animated, and his stories and jokes had everyone laughing.
Nick and I also had a great group of people at our table. We made some new friends and shared a lot of laughs during the meal.
Our first course was a soup he created for Chelsea Clinton when she went vegetarian. He apparently also served this soup to Tony Blair, who then requested this soup anytime he was visiting the White House.
Sesame Crusted Halibut with Red Curried Sweet Potato Soup paired with La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2007
This curry soup was perfectly balanced – the heat from the curry was there, but it wasn’t overpowering. The soup was velvety smooth and had thin strips of carrots and zucchini underneath the halibut. You know your halibut is cooked perfectly when you eat this entire dish with a spoon. I’m not sure how they cooked the fish, but it was light and tender.
To cleanse our palates from the curried soup, we were served a
Pear and Riesling Granita. It tasted like there was a bit of nutmeg in this? The little scoop of icy, sweet pear was a great transition to the next course.
Tequila Glazed Smoked Certified Angus Beef Tenderloin with Warm Fruit Salsa and Chipotle-Corn Sauce paired with Point West Touriga Nacional 2005
This dish, according the Chef Scheib, was concocted for a last minute dinner party for the Bush twins. Apparently, the twins typically had smaller get-togethers (40 people) and often had easy picnic-type foods, but they wanted a sit down dinner for 80 on a weekend that they were supposed to be out of town!
Caught off guard by their plans, Chef Scheib decided to take beef tenderloin (a mainstay of the Bush family diet) and slowly smoke it, which would keep the meat from shrinking in size, leaving more portions to serve.
After glazing the meat in a lime juice, honey, and tequila mixture (which Jenna told him was a waste of a perfectly good margarita), it was slowly smoked, sliced, and then served with green beans, a fruit salsa, and a charred corn and chipotle pepper sauce.
This was Nick’s favorite dish of the night, hands down. I still can’t decide what I liked best, but I will say this was the best piece of beef I’ve ever had.
Every single bite melted in my mouth – I barely needed a knife!
The beef was so smoky, and I loved the combination of the spicy sauce, smoky meat, and sweet fruit salsa. My favorites bites had some beef, green beans, and pineapple.
Forever Cheese Manchego Tamale Tart with Avocado, Orange, and Charred Onion Salad paired with Stella Artois and Murphy Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel 2006
Chef Scheib described this dish as a non-green green salad he made up for President George Bush. According to the Chef, President Bush wasn’t a fan a big salads or anything “green” unless it was covered in cheese.
But to make both the President and the First Lady happy, he had to come up with a way to serve a salad that they would both enjoy.
The tart was basically a mini quiche, but it had a cornmeal/tamale crust instead of a traditional dough. The filling of the machego cheese and scallions was so creamy. It actually reminded me of the texture of a souffle! The cheesy middle was so light and fluffy.
The salad base was a ring of charred sweet onions and topped with diced avocado and oranges (tossed with cumin and coriander) and some spring mix.
Whether you call this a salad or not, it was delicious. I love Mexican seasonings, and I’ll eat anything with avocado. But I really enjoyed the mix of hot and cold in this dish. The tart was warm and creamy while the salad had the cool chunks of avocado and orange. The perfect combination!
Peach and Blueberry Cobbler with Honey and Lavender Ice Cream paired with Kendall Jackson Late Harvest Chardonnay
Cobbler is a fairly common dessert (especially in the South) and is something that the Bush family loved.
One thing they couldn’t get in D.C. was their beloved Blue Bell ice cream. I’ve had Blue Bell, and I understand why they missed it. That was one brand I could always buy at the store when I was going to school in Arkansas.
At their request, Chef Scheib contacted the Blue Bell company for their recipe so he could make vanilla ice cream for the Bush Family, and it somehow morphed into this lavender honey vanilla ice cream.
I scream for this ice cream.
The lavender honey ice cream was simply incredible. I have never had ice cream that had so much flavor but still tasted so pure.
I would like to just have a gallon of the ice cream, to tell you the truth.
After the meal was over, I scrambled downstairs to get a picture with the Chef!
Chef Scheib and Shaena Muldoon (Owner of The Palisades)
And I snagged a pi
cture with Jeff Black from the Celebrity Chef Tour!
Nick and I had an amazing night and a meal that neither one of us will ever forget.
Thank you Foodbuzz and the Foodie Correspondent Program for setting this up for us! We were extremely excited we could attend such a huge event for this area.
A big thanks to Chef Scheib for the amazing meal!
And a special thanks to Jeff Black not only for the work he does with the Celebrity Chef Tour, but also for welcoming us and somehow finding room at a table so we could enjoy the entire meal.
After attending this event, I’ve realized just how much I love good good. I love celebrating what can be done with food and allowing great American Chefs like Walter Scheib to work his magic in the kitchen.
In a country overtaken by microwave meals and drive-thrus, it was refreshing to have such a flavorful meal that truly utilizes food and the flavors in each dish.
I’m pretty sure I could do this for the rest of my life – food is my passion. I think about it all day long, dream about it at night, and talk about it with anyone who will listen. If I could make this a job, I would.
I know I’m already looking forward to next year.
Make sure to check out the Celebrity Chef Tour website to see if it’s coming to a city near you!