After a trying and brutal year for the still struggling restaurant industry, the James Beard Foundation has taken its Taste America dinner series on the road again, landing in Los Angeles Tuesday at Hinoki & the Bird.
With stops along the way including Park City, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, New Orleans and Seattle, the non-profit organization is raising funds to help support local restaurant communities across the country with their Open For Good campaign. The fundraiser will provide resources to help independent restaurants recover and regenerate.
James Beard award-winning chef Mary Sue Milliken took off Taco Tuesday night at Socalo to dine on the generous three-course dinner with husband Josh Schweitzer and friends on the breezy outdoor patio, starting with a bread course of buckwheat sourdough with Kerrygold assorted cheeses and Irish butter. The evening was sponsored in part by Choose Chicago, Milliken’s hometown.
The appetizer was a crudo trio that included California whitefish with tomatoes and basil seed ponzu topped with Imperia caviar. The entree was a dramatic short rib sambal en croute with ember roasted yams under pickled jalapenos and umeboshi creme alongside summer corn fried rice with thai basil pesto and watermelon. Grilled maitake mushrooms with garlic aioli rounded out the main meal. Finally, a meticulously constructed dessert of Japanese cotton cheesecake, Straus Farms cream and a mixture of fresh summer berries finished off the evening. At $250 for two, it was an unbeatable deal.
“Right now we need a little bit of comfort,” Kida told L.A. Weekly in between courses. “That’s what people come to restaurants for. They want to feel hospitality again and they want to feel welcome. I purposefully designed the menu family-style, to bring in the community and the flavors that represent Los Angeles. The sambal represents the southeast Asian community and we use so much of the local produce. When you tie in the local ingredients with the different ethnic backgrounds of Los Angeles you get a very time and place oriented food.”
An internationally accomplished chef, Kida came through the ranks of some of the country’s most iconic restaurants including L’Orangerie in Los Angeles and Lutèce in New York. He has led Hinoki & the Bird’s culinary team since 2016. So a dinner like this is no sweat, right?
“Oh my God no, I get extremely nervous,” says Kida who always has his eyes on what’s going on in the kitchen. “My wife was making fun of me today, saying ‘honey, you’ve got this.’ You don’t understand, this is James Beard, this is what you work your whole career for. It’s such an honor to be called on and I will always be here to lend a hand.”