Indiana's best bounty heads to the Big Apple as local chef creates menu for James Beard House

Monday, October 22, 2018
Bobby Zaring

Fillmore farmer Bobby Zaring's home-grown produce is headed to the Big Apple.

The output of Zaring's green thumb will join the creativity of local chef Sal Fernandez of Greencastle's Bridges Craft Pizza & Wine Bar later this week when Fernandez joins the ranks of a select few Hoosier chefs to ever have been extended the rare invitation to create a dining experience at New York's James Beard House.

Zaring, who the gang at Bridges refers to as their "farmer chef," is also scheduled to make the trip to New York with Fernandez.

The Friday, Oct. 26 dinner menu will highlight dishes created with products from Indiana farms and purveyors.

Sal Fernandez

"We'll have pork belly from Fischer Farms, Tulip Tree Creamery cheeses, charcuterie from Smoking Goose and produce from Zaring Farms," said Chef Fernandez, who specializes in creating innovative dishes made from fresh, local ingredients.

The multiple-course menu, includes such innovative plates like fig salad with roasted sweet peppers, prosciutto, shaved pecorino and fennel vinaigrette; chestnut agnolotti with fontina, celery root purée and focaccia tuile; bacon-wrapped quail with focaccia stuffing, wild rice and bacon agrodolce; and a popular dish currently on the Bridges' menu, fried masa ravioli with braised beef tongue, queso fresco, lemon crema and tomatillo relish.

When it comes to creating a menu like the one he will prepare at the James Beard House, Fernandez says he looks for seasonal ingredients that lie within his wheelhouse -- Italian and Latin inspired as well as those prolific to both California and the Midwest.

Having spent his childhood in Napa Valley, Fernandez says he was inspired by renowned chef, Thomas Keller -- the James Beard Foundation's Best California Chef in 1996, and the Best Chef in America in 1997.

"His influence to the culinary world began in Napa and I got to see it happening," Fernandez said. "I try to live by his philosophies: Keep food simple, make sure to use proper techniques, and always choose the best ingredients."

Also joining Chef Fernandez at the James Beard House will be Bridges' General Manager Damion Wallace. Like Fernandez, Wallace is originally from California and is no stranger to fresh ingredients, innovative cuisine and fine wine.

Wallace is currently in the process choosing the wine pairings to compliment their James Beard House dinner, set for Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $140 for members, $180 for the public and can be purchased by calling (212) 627-2308. The official menu is posted on the Foundation's website.

Bridges will be hosting a live viewing party with a limited menu on Friday, Oct. 26. Music on the Square (M2), the space adjoining Bridges, will have communal seating, a limited menu with music and the live feed of the James Beard House kitchen projected on a large screen starting at 7 pm. Space will be limited and reservations can be made by calling 653-0021.

A New York City-based non-profit culinary arts organization, the JBF recognizes those individuals dedicated to making America's food culture more delicious, diverse and sustainable. Potential chefs are recommended to the James Beard House Chef Nominating Committee by multiple sources including fellow chefs, JBF members, staff and others. Final chef selection is based on a number of criteria including reputation; known use of high quality, seasonal and or local ingredients; excellence in a particular discipline and more.

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