R + T Dinners 2018 and Looking Ahead

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Written by Dr. John Sconzo

An old-school January snowstorm is blowing outside as I’m sitting snugly at my computer thinking back on the significance of what happened a year ago this past 18th & 19th of January. We produced our very first Rascal + Thorn Guest Chef Series Dinner with none other than the award-winning, Miami, Florida superstar chef, Brad Kilgore of Alter, Brava Arts Center and now, Kaido. We paired Brad with Chef Michael Lapi, a local chef’s chef and consummate professional. Together, they plated food on dishes provided by our very generous and wonderful sponsors, a combination of Steelite USA, Little M. Tucker Co. (now LMT Provisions), M. Tucker Co. and Crucial Detail. Having plateware like they were able to provide was a major element of what we were trying to do – create a haute, beautiful and delicious dinner party to introduce our culinarily savvy, local population to what we are capable of providing in terms of our travel experiences. In short, we aimed to bring some of those experiences back to our home base in as delicious and fun a way as possible.

Chef Kilgore’s dinner set an incredibly high bar. Held at the beautiful test kitchen of Old World Productions in Saratoga Springs, his food was both beautiful and delicious. Two great evenings with great food, wine, cocktails and fantastic company, all held in a dinner-party format, became our signature.

Chef Kilgore set a high bar, but those who followed continued that tradition of excellence, creativity and deliciousness. Our second dinner was held in the spring at Hamlet & Ghost, a fabulous bar and restaurant combo in Saratoga Springs. This one featured a dynamic duo from Washington, D.C.

Chef Johnny Spero took time away from preparing to open his new Georgetown restaurant, Reverie. While those preparations were on-going, the former Chef of Jose Andres’acclaimed temple of modernist gastronomy, minibar, worked as Culinary Director at the sensational DC cocktail bar, The Columbia Room. Superstar bartender, JP Fetherston, Bevrage Director of The Columbia Room, accompanied Johnny to Saratoga, where they combined to create a cocktail-paired set of dinners at Hamlet & Ghost. Utilizing both rooms of that restaurant, we featured Yola Mezcal and a number of other beverages to accent Johnny’s fabulous cooking.  Our early May DC Weekend features both Reverie and minibar, in addition to a cocktail workshop at Bar Mini and lunch at another former mini-bar chef, Katsuya Fukushima’s Bantam King and Daikaya. We still have a few spaces for what promises to be a spectacular spring weekend in DC – don’t miss it!.

NYC-based chef Victoria Blamey’s R+T Guest Chef Dinner at The Saratoga Arms Hotel in June was for a private event (yes, we arrange private group dinners as well as our public events). Unfortunately, the majority of our clients were unable to experience her fabulous cooking, which had been paired with superb and interesting wines selected by Heather Lavine of 22 Second Street and Peck’s Arcade in Troy. I guess that she will have to return at some point for a public dinner! (Photo by Evan Sung)

We had fun in the summer, bringing a bit of Kentucky horse (and Bourbon) country to New York horse country with Chefs Patrick Roney and Nokee Bukayu. They came up from Ashbourne Farm in the heart of Kentucky to do a Rascal + Thorn Guest Chef dinner at The Saratoga Polo Club as well as a Kentucky Barbecue that was supposed to follow their big polo match of the season, The Whitney Cup. Alas, the weather conspired against us as far as the polo matches were concerned, though Chefs Roney and Bukayu did a fabulous job, abetted by Michter’s outstanding Kentucky Whiskeys (Bourbon and Rye). Keep an eye out on future R+T Kentucky trips as we plan to make visits to the beautiful Ashbourne Farm a habit!

Our last dinner of 2018 was an international affair, as Chef Enrique Valenti came all the way from Marea Alta in Barcelona (part of our June 2018 “Legacy of elBulli” Tour of Barcelona and one of my Top meals of 2018) along with one of his sous chefs, Gerard Trilles and restaurant owner Ernesto Ventos. Those dinners, with sponsorship from Pura Vida Fisheries and Moby Rick’s Seafood in Saratoga Springs expanded our audience to Troy, as they were held at the inimitable and wonderful Peck’s Arcade. The following weekend, they also prepared a Private VIP Spanish brunch at The Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s Wine, Food and Bugatti Festival at SPAC.

Looking ahead to this year, we are working on a number of events, featuring incredible chef’s from some of the finest restaurants in the world. Please keep an eye in the near future on our emails, website, facebook and Instagram accounts for announcements. We are always looking to keep things fresh and fun. One constant is that we will bring incredible culinary talent to our area. Another is that we will keep things fresh in the style of a dinner party, because we feel that is the best way to experience these special events. Mingle, make new friends and reconnect with longstanding ones, while enjoying great food and drink experiences in ways not otherwise available in this region.

We cannot do this without our incredible sponsors, such as Steelite USA, M. Tucker Company, LMT Provisions, Crucial Detail, Polyscience/Breville Culinary Equipment, Vitamix Blenders, Pura Vida Fisheries, Battenkill Creamery, The Saratoga Arms, and Urban Industrial Design, all of whom helped us get off the ground in 2018. In addition to these businesses, we look forward to welcoming Mack Brook Farm Beef, Mariahville Mushroom Men to our 2019 Sponsor Sheet. We are always looking for quality sponsors to help make these events even better, and we are always on the lookout for great venue partners both in the Saratoga Springs area and beyond. Please contact us, if you have a quality product and/or a great venue, and would like to be part of the R+T universe. We would love to talk and see if there is a fit.