Sitting at the Chef’s Table | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Sitting at the Chef’s Table

At 1908 Provisions’ March 4 Chef’s Table dinner, Chef Gary Hawkins offered diners seasonal dishes such as 
this one made with heirloom toma-toes, burrata, prosciutto and basil.

At 1908 Provisions’ March 4 Chef’s Table dinner, Chef Gary Hawkins offered diners seasonal dishes such as this one made with heirloom toma-toes, burrata, prosciutto and basil. Photo by Julie Skipper.

Ordering the same thing at your favorite restaurant can get old fast. That's why I was excited to learn about a new offering at the Fairview Inn's 1908 Provisions: the Chef's Table.

This monthly dinner premiered March 4 and will run through late fall. It allows chef Gary Hawkins to explore dishes not on the regular 1908 menu and offers diners a four-course meal and optional wine or cocktail pairings. At each event, Hawkins comes out of the kitchen to explain the dishes as guests receive them, and a sommelier discusses how the chosen wine pairs with it.

Hawkins came up with the idea as a way to play with flavors, interact with patrons and give them a chance to experience seasonal foods beyond what's offered on the restaurant menu. "I don't usually come out to the floor," Hawkins says. "But it's nice to get to be able to talk to guests about how and why I came up with the concept of a dish and how its elements work together."

The format also gives folks an opportunity to interact with other people who enjoy food and wine. Chef's Table dinners are limited to about 35 guests who are seated family-style around shared tables to encourage interaction.

For the inaugural dinner, themed Spring Fling, Hawkins used ingredients of the season, while sommelier Laura Collins chose complementary wines. My dining companion and I sat at a table across from a school-bus driver and a special-education teacher's assistant from Simpson County. The couple had come to Jackson for a special date night. I admired their commitment; they had to drive home to Simpson County and then rise at the crack of dawn. (That might explain why they left most of their wine.) Further down our table, another couple enjoyed a night out, and innkeeper Peter Sharp and his wife, Tamar Sharp, were at the dinner as well.

A long table in the center of the room accommodated more diners, and some of them clearly knew each other already. By the end of the night, others seemed to have kindled new friendships as they engaged in the boisterous conversation. And isn't that what a good meal should do? It brings folks together in a shared experience. At Chef's Table, everyone enjoys the same dishes at the same time at a table with friends and strangers. At our table, we may have started out talking about the food, but we ultimately found other common ground.

Those other conversations aside, the food provided plenty to talk about. The beginning course of heirloom tomatoes, burrata (a type of Italian cheese), prosciutto and basil was a plate full of color and freshness. It paired well with a Falanghina, an Italian white wine that played off the flavors of the burrata and prosciutto.

We moved on to the proceed course of quail breast, confit carrots and citrus verjus with a pinot noir rose. The main course was Pacific salmon, forbidden rice—a purplish black heirloom rice—white asparagus and sweet-sour vinaigrette with a California 
pinot noir red wine. The final course was a creme fraiche mousse with gingerbread and burnt caramel, paired with a port (dessert wines are a favorite of mine, so I was most pleased with that choice).

As we ended our evening, my companion and I talked about returning for the next Chef's Table dinner April 22. The price point is palatable: The cost is $49 per person for the dinner and an additional $20 for the alcohol pairings. The dinner made for a great date—a chic, warm setting, good company, tasty food and wine. The four courses were enough to be special, but not so much that we left feeling overly stuffed. Also, having started at 6:30 p.m., we were finished at a perfectly decent hour for a weeknight.

The next week, I visited 1908 during regular dinner hours and discovered that the special that night was a spin on the salmon dish from the Chef's Table. That's another fun thing about this concept: It gives Hawkins the opportunity to try out dishes and get feedback from a focus group of sorts. Don't be surprised to find something you particularly enjoyed at a Chef's Table dinner featured on the regular menu later.

Look for announcements of upcoming Chef's Table events on the Fairview Inn's website (734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429, and Facebook page. For more information, call 1908 Provisions at 601-948-3429. Each dinner is $49, with an extra $20 for the alcohol pairings.

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