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The Rusty Spoon Serves Pork Three Ways for James Beard Scholarship Fund

Rusty Spoon butcher board

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the James Beard Foundation, the New York based culinary organization has established the James Beard Foundation Silver Anniversary Scholarship Drive. Restaurants around the country are offering special selections on their menus through September 3, 2012 and will donate one dollar from the sale of each of the special items to the scholarship fund. Scott is sampling the dishes from all of the local participating restaurants:K restaurant, Cress, Spanish River Grill, Taverna Opa, 4Rivers Smokehouse, Mi Tomatina and the Rusty Spoon. In this issue: The Rusty Spoon.

I was happy to see that Rusty Spoon was participating in the James Beard Foundation Silver Anniversary Scholarship drive. Kathleen Blake is a talented chef, and one I’d like to see on future ballots for the organization’s annual awards honoring the country’s best culinary professionals. Blake has a dedication to using fresh, local ingredients in classic dishes. In fact, the restaurant’s motto is “American food, European roots, locally sourced.”

For her Beard scholarship dish, Blake has created a butcher board that is a pork lover’s paradise. Because of the commitment to feature the best products available, the butcher board may not always feature the same items that I enjoyed, although you can probably count on the pork rillettes being part of it -- it’s a favorite of regular customers, some of whom, I’m told, come in just for that.

I’d certainly make that quest. Rillettes, of course, is the pate-like preparation of meat cooked in fat and served with just enough of same to form a rich spread. The congealed fat is clearly visible; this is not a dish for the faint of heart, and I mean that quite literally. But unless you’re under a doctor’s strict orders, this rillettes is certainly worth the coronary risk. Spread upon the toasted rounds, the shredded pork was absolute heaven. It was served in a small glass pot and was topped with the tiniest sun-dried tomatoes I’ve ever seen

A pork house pate also accompanied, served with a whole grain mustard that had a mouthfeel as though it were made with a butter base. Freshly made pickles and onions offered a nonmeat diversion.

But what turned this butcher board from a mere charcuterie platter into a mini entree was a pork and beans dish that was fashioned after a James Beard recipe for Boston baked beans. It had loads of shredded pork mixed in with al dente beans. It was topped with a sort of crumbled breading that had so much flavor that I had to ask what it was. Bacon dust, was the reply. I loved that term.

Service was first rate; I was especially impressed with the menu knowledge of the servers I met. Also, they had more than a passing knowledge of who James Beard was and were able to speak confidently about his legacy and the relationship of the foods being offered.

The Rusty Spoon just gets better and better every time I stop in. I’m glad it’s part of downtown Orlando’s dining scene, and I’m delighted that Kathleen Blake has an appropriate showcase for her culinary talents.

The Rusty Spoon is at 55 W. Church St., Orlando. It’s open for lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner daily. Here is a link the therustyspoon.com. The phone number is 407-401-8811.

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