When you talk about gourmet dinners in an elegant setting, the Farm to Table banquets hosted by Peter and Susan Goodwin, skillfully prepared by nationally recognized Chef Bick Johnson, became a dining feast to savor in the memory of their guests.
The executive chef at Cleveland’s Bald Headed Bistro, known for his commitment to excellence, took the farm fresh vegetables grown in the organic gardens of the Goodwins and turned them into a succulent blend of perfectly seasoned and elegantly prepared dishes for their guests to enjoy a full range of flavors.
Chef Bick, who served as executive chef for a Caribbean restaurant on the island of Saba in the Dutch West Indies as well as in San Francisco, Seattle and British Columbia before coming to Cleveland, hosted his last wine dinner as the executive chef of the Bald Headed Bistro on Aug. 24, called, the “End of an Era Wine Dinner.” He will be retiring in October.
The week before, the chef, who is included in the book, “Best Chefs America 2013” — regarded as the ultimate chef’s guide to chefs and showcasing the top chefs in the U.S. as selected by their peers, other culinary professionals and food enthusiasts — also elaborated on his retirement plans at the Goodwins.
“I’m trying to make my family happy,” he said. “I promised them I would slow down a bit. The hours I’ve been working are long, and I promised I would be around the house more. I have a big garden and I love working in it. It’s a hobby. We also have chickens and I’m trying to eat healthier.”
The 66-year-old executive chef told guests he is an artist and would love to get back into painting soon, as well as playing the guitar. He said he would do some consulting but was not specific about for whom, when or where. He did comment on the extraordinary growth of the Goodwin’s garden, however.
“Everyone I know in the county said their garden this year was not as productive — except the Goodwins,” he said. “It’s that alpaca manure they use as compost.”
Chef Bick used the fresh ripened tomatoes, carrots, corn, potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, okra, squash, green beans, beets, cucumbers, apples, basil, rosemary, dill, cilantro and watermelon from the Goodwins’ garden, creating a colorful menu that included hors d'oeuvres of corn fritters with crème fraiche and salmon roe, roasted beet and goat cheese crostini potato blini with saku tuna and tomato confit.
The couple served Louisiana duck gumbo with green beans, okra, carrots and tomatoes, chopped salad with cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and lettuce, served with parmigiano basil dressing and garnished with 50-year-old aged balsamic vinegar provided by their friends, the Ballarini family in Italy.
Chef Bick also created a special coconut miso shrimp with sautéed corn, pressed watermelon and sesame seaweed salad. His flavor-rich roasted beef tenderloin included coffee and cocoa crusted tenderloin with Southwestern potato-sweet potato-pecan hash. The six-course meal was topped off with a delicious apple-corn pudding with maple-caramel sauce that earned the famous chef several rounds of applause.
Days later, one of the guests, Sally Tighe wrote Susan, “I woke up dreaming about trying to remember each course that was served at your fabulous dinner last night! Each bite of food was spectacular. It was one for the memory books! You really gave the best dinner party I have ever attended or even dreamed of.”
The first Farm to Table dinner prepared by Chef Bick was held July 13, with a few friends at the Goodwins. The event was such a success that they decided to do it again, Aug. 17.
“Farm to Table to most of us would be harvesting the vegetables and fruits from the garden, then roasting, grilling, baking or frying them,” Susan explained. “The culinary genius of Chef Bick goes well beyond the routine, day-to-day garden bounty. He introduced the same vegetables and fruits but in a unique preparation which was a masterpiece to the taste, smell and sight senses. Chef Bick demonstrated how to ‘think outside the box’ when planning a menu from the garden. He definitely opened our eyes to various new ideas and recipes that I would not have thought of before. It was sooo good! Every dish just kept getting better, which was hard to believe. He is such a talented chef. We wanted to do something special with our friends and enjoy a great meal by a great chef.”