¡Viva México!: Chef Salum at The James Beard House

It was a clear Autumn night, one of those nights in the middle of October that deceivingly charms us into thinking that we’re ready for what is to come. In downtown Manhattan, shiny pumpkins sat on brownstone stoops and bursted in their orange skin, leaves hung on to branches, beginning their transition from a joyful emerald green to their brittle golden selves. Yet on this night, even though a sharp chill encroached upon me without an invitation, piercing through my tights and slithering behind my collar, I walked briskly to my refuge for the night. A warm place awaited, and I didn’t even have to leave the city.

The James Beard House on 167 West 12th Street

Chef Salum smiles from the kitchen

Caprino Royale Texas Goat Cheese, Chile Morita, Buttered Texas Toast, Piloncillo Syrup

Mexican Epazote and other herbs in the kitchen

Prepping the Country Butter Biscuit, Fried Chicken and Wildflower Honey with Chili Flakes

Huitlacoche fritters

Chilled Cream of Corn Demitasse, Whipped Queso Fresco Cream, Huilacoche Fritter and Manzano Chili Oil

I was invited to attend a 9-course tasting menu prepared by Mexican Chef Abraham Salum, who lives and works in Dallas, Texas. The dinner would be held at The James Beard House, one of my favorite buildings in the city. Located on 167 West 12th Street, this is a classic New York brownstone that houses the James Beard Foundation, which celebrates all things related to food. Once the home of James Beard, a chef and food writer known for bringing the French style of cooking to the U.S. (à la Julia Child), the building was converted into a mecca of food in the 1980’s, and has since hosted an array of culinary events celebrating chefs and their creativity.

Chef Salum was the guest chef of the evening, and he would prepare dishes from his newest restaurant Komali which just opened this year, surprising us with a sophisticated take on hyper-regional Mexican dishes. To start the night, we had the chance to whet our palates with miniature seafood tostadas, in which delicate morsels of seafood mixed with avocado, epazote, and aguachile, were mounted on a tiny tortilla. Their crunch and tang delivered a thrilling bite. Other amuse-bouches included a goat cheese mousse spiked with chile and piloncillo syrup piped on a buttered Texas toast, and a butter biscuit topped with a golden nugget of fried chicken and wildflower honey.

We officially kicked off the meal sipping a delicate cream of corn dotted with a queso freso cream and chili oil, to accompany a savory huitlacoche fritter. A silky piece of perfectly roasted sea bass was one of the highlights of the meal, as it sat on top of a velvety pumpkin bisque and was accented with a sautee of shaved brussel sprouts and Spanish chorizo sausage. The meal ended with a Mango Bread Pudding with Prickly Pear Sauce and Cotija Cheese Ice Cream. This was my favorite dish, offering a fantastic play on textures, marrying the warm bread pudding, the cool tanginess of the cheese, and refreshing sweetness of the pear.

Chef Salum is a warm and jovial person who’s food is a natural expression of his outlook on cooking and life. In his dishes, he relies on authentic Mexican ingredients like epazote (traditional Mexican herb), huitlacoche (corn truffle), and piloncillo (raw sugarcane) to flavor his food with deep, rustic notes, a little bit of heat, and a whole lot of love.

2 Responses to ¡Viva México!: Chef Salum at The James Beard House

  1. I also had the pleasure of attending Chef Abraham Salum’s dinner at the James Beard House. What a beautiful confluence of cultures with his Italian and Lebanese heritage and growing up in Mexico City, studying culinary arts in the US, and interning in Europe. Karina, you didn’t miss a flavor in your report. Thank you.

  2. Rebeccah Fleming says:

    Sounds absolutely savory! Can’t wait to try out his restaurant in Dallas! Gracias

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