Tracy Nieporent from Myriad restaurant group walked into the James Beard House right after me this evening. Wayne Nish, the chef and co-owner of March, was already there. Shortly thereafter in walked one of my favorite dining companions, restaurant investor Penny Trenk, who has never met a restaurant she didn't like and is therefore always good company at a meal. Arlyn Blake, who recently left the Beard Foundation's publications department and whose single goal in life seems to be to introduce people whom she thinks should know each other, was not far behind. So I knew I was going to have a good time. Paul Virant, the chef of Vie in Chicago, was cooking. One of his line cooks for the evening was none other than Paul Kahan, chef of Blackbird and Avec in Chicago, and a winner of a prestigious James Beard Award himself a couple of years back, when he was named best chef in the Midwest.
Paul Virant had worked at Blackbird before opening Vie, and he also had worked at March, which was why Wayne Nish was there.
I wandered into the kitchen while Wayne, Paul and Paul were discussing Jimi Hendrix. Wayne said he saw the guitarist three times. The first time his father handed him concert tickets and told him he was taking his little sister to see The Monkees. Not cool.
He got to the concert hall and saw that not only was he going to have to sit through lame Davy Jones, but the warm up band was some guy named Jimmy [sic] Hendrix.
In those days, Wayne recounted, Rock bands had their own names — The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones and yes, even The Monkees. If the actual performer was named, that meant it was a folk act. So Wayne was sure he was in for a night of actual torture.
He described the audience as what we would now call soccer moms, with their 12-year-old daughters, screaming the way girls screamed when they were going to see Davy Jones, or Paul McCartney or various other heartthrobs of the time.
Jimi Hendrix came out in skin-tight white leather pants and started off with Foxy Lady, and the mothers shielded their daughters’ eyes as he engaged in acts with the monitors, mic stand, what have you, that the mothers deemed to be inappropriate public behavior.
The girls didn't stop screaming, according to Wayne's story, and Jimi Hendrix ended his 45-minute set by slamming his guitar on the stage and saying “fuck this shit!” but the guy operating the sound equipment cut off the mic before anyone could hear it. The sound guy clearly impressed Wayne a lot. So did Jimi Hendrix.
What I ate and drank:
Chestnut and lavender soup
Beignet of brandade with Kinnikinnick farm dilled preserved tomatoes
Crostini of rabbit sausage with picholine olives and Meyer lemon
Duck confit, herbs, and Vella dry jack gougères
Pannier NV Brut Rosé Champagne
Poached Lake Superior whitefish, choucroute, house made Nichols Farm pickles, Mahogany clam vinaigrette
Joseph Schmid, 2002 Kremser Alte Reben "Priorissa," Gruner Veltliner, Kremstal, Austria
Ricotta gnocchi, chestnuts, Wisconsin winter roots and rosemary
Cordero di Montezemolo, 1998, "Vigna Bricco Gattera" Barolo, Piedmont, Italy
Roasted Millbrook Farm venison loin, spätzle, Werp Farm vanilla scented turnips, pickled Michigan sour cherries, venison jus
Finca Sophenia, 2003 Malbec, Tupungato-Mendoza, Argentina
Lazy Lady Rapture raw cows' milk cheese, Spring Valley Farm shirred fresh egg, Perigord black truffles.
Quinta das Tecedeiras, 2001 Touriga Nacional, Douro, Portugal
Hazelnut and chocolate napoleon: chocolate mousse, hazelnut dacquoise with caramel sorbet, Paternoster Farm orange supremes and roasted hazelnuts.
Helmut Lang, TBA Chardonnay 1997, Neusiedlersee, Austria