BY SOPHIE HOTTINGER
To pull off the kind of culinary experience guests have come to expect from an incredible annual gala like The Speed Ball – one that consistently sets the bar higher, year after year – a delicate balance of skill, creativity and planning is absolutely essential. This year, award-winning Chef Dean Corbett will take on the challenge, for the third time in his career putting together a mouthwatering menu that promises to both surprise and delight those attending the elegant affair, set to take place March 9 at The Gillespie.
Months in advance, the owner of Jack’s Lounge, Equus and Corbett’s: An American Place was reaching out to local suppliers like Grateful Greens to determine the ideal varieties of fresh ingredients to craft an original menu for an event of The Speed Ball’s magnitude. “I thought, what will be coming into season, and what will be plentiful enough to be able to take care of 400-plus people?” Corbett recalled. Building his bill of fare from a catalogue of seasonal produce, choice cuts of meat and carefully-composed sauces, the chef created a list of delicacies sure to satisfy the most sophisticated palate.
The noshing will begin with a selection of passed appetizers including savory country ham puffs; crab cakes with Chestnut Hill tartar; and roasted duck confit in barclay cups. Not forgetting vegetarian guests, the chef will concoct an excellent crostini appetizer with mushroom, potato and truffle oil. Three or four additional hors d’oeuvres are rumored to make an appearance at the ball – “just some fun things to surprise them,” Corbett teased. For the most part the chef is keeping his lips sealed about what these secret tastes might include, although he did suggest the possibility of a light salmon parfait, invitingly presented in miniature sesame cones.
Following the small bites, Speed Ball guests will take their seats to enjoy a refreshing salad comprised of crisp, seasonal Rhazes Romaine lettuce, rich avocado, fresh corn and Stilton cheese – the “granddaddy of the blues,” quipped Corbett. The raw blend will be topped with Green Goddess dressing, a creamy concoction favored by the culinary talent.
For the main course, diners will be treated to a decadent dish featuring thinly-sliced, Parmesan- and Panko-dusted chicken breast with lemon caper Beurre Blanc; paired with Chef Dean’s signature short rib in a red wine, shallot and marrow butter reduction. The slow-cooked short ribs, a wildly popular appetizer found on the menu at Corbett’s, stand out among the rest of the delicious fare as the chef’s personal favorite dish. “It’s fabulous, it’s just wonderful,” he exclaimed. “Each tray of short ribs will be cooked for 14 to 16 hours (until they’re) falling apart – so that they’re completely done and tender. I don’t want anybody to have to use a knife, basically – I want them to be able to cut everything with a fork.” Flavorful acorn squash and barley will be available as a vegetarian entrée, and both dishes will come with a delightful side of voulevant pastry and a selection of colorful vegetables including green beans, mushrooms, peas and tomatoes.
The evening’s gastronomic experience will conclude with a dessert of white chocolate Meyer lemon Gateau with fresh, seasonal spring berry jam, an inspired creation by Corbett’s Pastry Chef Sarah Leopold. This delightful combination of subtly sweet cake, velvety white chocolate and ripe berries is well worth the effort made to save a little extra space.
Guests are sure to harbor high expectations for the upcoming Speed Ball, and Chef Dean Corbett is poised to deliver an unforgettable dining experience to match them. From thoughtful menu-planning to prep-work for the meal beginning a full five days in advance, to courses expertly prepared and timed to arrive at the ideal moment, Corbett and his staff will do whatever it takes to ‘wow’ the Speed Ball crowd, the chef assured. “I just want it to be perfect. I literally want everybody coming out of it going, ‘That was just the best (meal) ever.’ That’s my goal, lofty as it may be.”
Tickets for The Speed Ball, which will take place March 2 at The Gillespie, can be obtained by calling 502.637.6363.