The assembled group of local and regional chefs had been selected very consciously to showcase some of the finest up-and-coming and already-there culinary talents. The Catbird boys were there making their insanely rich egg custard with a Benton's bacon dunking stick. The line to get a plate of Tyler Brown's fried quail and stewed greens was so long all night that I totally missed out on that particular treat. Matt Bolus was whipping up a crudo of scallops that were so huge and beautiful in the shell I was sure that the ballroom of the Hutton had been magically transported to New Bedford. The mad geniuses at Porter Road Butcher served what they called "Beeves in a Blanket," an all-beef hot dog made from 14-day dry-aged beef short ribs wrapped in a biscuit dough that they made with two months of bone marrow that they had been squirreling away in their shop. It was freakin' brilliant!
So Donovan told me she felt out of place among all those crazy smart chefs, but I couldn't disagree more. She had been chosen not only for her considerable talents in the kitchen, but also to represent the ranks of talented culinarians in Nashville who might not necessarily work out of a traditional restaurant kitchen. The fact that so many homes and restaurants around town have graciously invited Donovan to work out of their cooking spaces speaks volumes about the regard in which she is held.
Her pecan sandies were not only delicious, but were a perfect choice to represent Donovan's dedication to earnest simplicity in her cooking. Pastry chefs can easily head right the heck over the top in their creations, (see Cake Boss, on second thought ... don't), and the temptation to try to show off in front of Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel must have been hard to overcome. But Donovan's sandies were expertly baked and belied the hours of back-breaking effort it must have taken to roll out all that pastry dough for her pecan treats and the mini pear feuilletes that she also served. She said her proudest moment of the evening was as she left she saw Chef Keller devour one of her nutty treats in one ravenous bite. (My proudest moment was when he responded to one of my emails with a smiley face. TK uses emoticons ... who knew?)
For her next Buttermilk Road Sunday Supper, Donovan looks backward and forward as the calendar transits from 2012-2013, Mayans willing.
On Jan. 6, she will create a menu based on Edna Lewis’ book, The Taste of Country Cooking, a tome which has become something of a manifesto for Donovan. She is keeping the particular dishes a secret surprise, but expect lots of pickled vegetables and preserved fruits from last summer as an homage to everything she has accomplished over the past year. There will also be thoughtful wine pairings and live music, and as always lots of lively conversation at the family-style dinner.
There are still a few seats left for the dinner, which Donovan has pushed to a slightly larger number of attendees than her previous events. You can ensure that you'll have a place at the table by going to the event's reservation website and making a donation of $120 per seat. You will receive confirmation of your seats within 24 hours of making your donation. Once your reservations have been confirmed, you’ll receive the full secret details of the supper in the weeks to come — to include location, full menu, wine pairings, music line up and more. Start your year off right with one of Nashville's treasures. She's Keller-approved!