12 days: on the sixth day of christmas: brock… (2017)

– By now, Sean Brock’s great contributions to the current wave of revivalism rippling through our American South is widely known. While organizations like the Southern Foodways Alliance have been crucial to the documentation and preservation of that region’s rich, culinary heritage, Brock’s ability to communicate and apply his obsession with Southern history and culture in his […]


By now, Sean Brock’s great contributions to the current wave of revivalism rippling through our American South is widely known. While organizations like the Southern Foodways Alliance have been crucial to the documentation and preservation of that region’s rich, culinary heritage, Brock’s ability to communicate and apply his obsession with Southern history and culture in his restaurants has ignited a pandemic of culinary curiosity in an area of our country long-dismissed and shamed.

If you are unaware, I urge you to explore the Southern Foodways Alliance website to learn more about its important mission and work.  And, of course, I encourage you type Sean Brock’s name into your browser and disappear into his world for a while.  In addition to countless other Southern voices – farmers, distillers, millers, chefs, and academics; many of whom I’ve had the privilege of meeting at S.F.A. events and Music To Your Mouth over the years –  they are spearheading one of the most important culinary movements of our lifetime.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll remind here again: The Twelve Days of Christmas is more than a string of fancy dinners.  It is also more than a celebration of culinary excellence. At its very best, this event is a platform for awareness and cross-pollination. Sean Brock’s deep-dive specialization makes him an exemplary candidate. So it is not surprising – indeed, commendable in my opinion – that he is one of only two chefs whom Christopher Kostow has invited to return to cook at The Restaurant at Meadowood for a second time.*

Of all of the chefs I’ve photographed at the Twelve Days of Christmas over the past five years, Brock has had the longest kitchen line-up. Whereas most chefs efficiently run through the prep list; pause to explain some techniques; sketch some background where necessary; and briefly describe the final plating, Sean Brock’s approach was very different. He focused less on the practicalities. For him, context is everything. Reaching back half a millennium to the colonial, and often gothic history of the American South, he planted and then traced the seeds of provenance forward to the dinner table of today.

To this kitchen in Napa on the opposite coast, Sean Brock transplanted the red violins of the South for a wholly new life:

Milled Jimmy Red corn Kostow used in hushpuppies with California abalone; a canapé.  It was one of the most compelling examples of collaboration during the entire 12 nights.

Sea Island rice and field peas were served with west coast caviar. And Brock’s prized Nostrale rice – a fledgling revivalist grain that I first saw earlier this year, when he brought a rare bag of it to cook at a Synergy Series dinner at Gavin Kaysen’s Spoon & Stable in Minneapolis – he cooked with Dungeness crab for a version of Lowcountry crab rice.

Kostow used milled Guinea flint masa to make dumplings, which he served with chicken.  This was one of my favorite dishes from this dinner.

And Brock used Carolina runner peanuts – which cooks had to de-skin – in a sauce, marbled with bright-green lovage purée.  He served this with buttery black cod and local matsutake mushrooms.

Brock anchored this dinner with the two poles to which his cooking gravitates.

Representing Brock’s pan-Southern cooking at Husk was a leg of ham that had been cured 3 years in the rickhouses of Willett Distillery in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  As he explained to me, a particular yeast thrives off of the bourbon production in the area, and it gives the ham a uniquely sweet flavor (indeed, the lard from the ham smelled just like sweet, Cantonese sausage).  He shaved this ham for guests during the hour-long reception in the kitchen.

Brock’s dessert represented the untethered side of his cooking at his flagship restaurant McCrady’s in Charleston, which he transformed late last year into an intimate, counter with a set, tasting menu.**  There, he and the chef de cuisine John Sleasman (who accompanied Brock to cook at The Twelve Days of Christmas) explore the flavors, ingredients, and traditions outside of their region.  I had a version of this dessert when I had dinner with a friend at McCrady’s last month (November, 2017).  There, it was a sorbet of roselle (a variety of hibiscus) over which were clipped fresh chrysanthemum petals.  At the Twelve Days of Christmas, Brock changed the sorbet to a mixture of blood orange, yuzu, and rose geranium.  But servers still presented fresh chrysanthemums to guests, and clipped the petals table-side.

Below, you’ll find the menu from the sixth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas with Sean Brock.   To see all of the photos from this dinner, CLICK HERE.



3-Year Ham
Aged in the rickhouses at Willett Distillery.


Abalone Hushpuppies
Jimmy Red Corn

Uni and Persimmon
Baby kale.

(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

First Course 
Sea Island Rice and Peas
California caviar.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Second Course
Nostrale Rice
Dungeness crab, egg.

Third Course 
Black Cod
Matsutake, Carolina runner peanut.

Fourth Course 
Guinea flint masa.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Fifth Course 
Brassicas, farro, black truffle.

Sixth Course
Blood Orange-Yuzu-Rose Geranium
Fermented honey, chrysanthemum.

Seventh Course
Gjetost, white truffle.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

J.B. Becker
Riesling Spätlese
Wallufer Berg Bildstock, Rheingau, 2002

Charles Ranch Chardonnay
Fort Ross-Seaview, 2016

Barossa, South Australia, 2015

Peay Vineyards
“Les Titans”
Sonoma Coast, 2011

Castello dei Rampolla
Toscano, 1994

6th Course: Ribeye

Below are links to my posts and photos from all of the Twelve Days of Christmas dinners I have attended over the past four years at the Restaurant at Meadowood. Each chef is listed with the restaurant with which they were cooking at the time they participated in the event (some have moved on to other projects and restaurants).


Scott Anderson (Elements; Princeton, New Jersey)
John & Karen Shields (Formerly of Townhouse; Chilhowie, Virginia)
Phillip Foss (EL Ideas; Chicago, Illinois)
Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski (State Bird Provisions; San Francisco, California)
Jason Franey (Canlis Restaurant; Seattle, Washinton)
Matthias Merges (Yusho; Chicago, Illinois)
Mori Onodera (Formerly of Mori Sushi; Los Angeles, California)
James Syhabout (Commis; Oakland, California)
Nick Anderer (Maialino; New York, New York)
David Toutain (Agapé Substance; Paris, France)
Josh Habiger & Erik Anderson (The Catbird Seat; Nashville Tennessee)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Andy Ricker (Pok Pok, Portland, Oregon & New York, New York)
Rodolfo Guzman (Boragó; Santiago, Chile)
Carlo Mirarchi (Blanca and Roberta’s; Brooklyn, New York)
Tim Cushman (O Ya; Boston, Massachusetts)
Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner; Raleigh, North Carolina)
David Chang (Momofuku; New York, New York)
Matthew Accarrino (SPQR; San Francisco, California)
Mark Ladner & Brooks Headley (Del Posto; New York, New York)
Rasmus Kofoed (Geranium; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Nicolaus Balla & Cortney Burns (Bar Tartine; San Francisco, California)
David Kinch (Manresa; Los Gatos, California)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Matthew Orlando (Amass; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Frank Castranovo & Frank Falcinelli (Frankies 457, Prime Meats; New York, New York)
Kobe Desramaults (In de Wulf; Dranouter, Belgium)
Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillère; La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, France)
Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn; Lummi Island, Washington)
Joshua McFadden (Ava Gene’s; Portland, Oregon)
Virgilio Martinez (Central; Lima, Peru)
Grant Achatz (Alinea; Chicago, Illinois)
Corey Lee (Benu; San Francisco, California)
Esben Holmboe Bang (Maaemo; Oslo, Norway)
Ignacio Mattos (Estela; New York, New York)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, NoMad; New York, New York)
Nenad Mlinarevic (Focus; Vitznau, Switzerland)
Christian Puglisi (relæ; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Jorge Vallejo (Quintonil; Mexico City, Mexico)
Joshua Skenes (Saison; San Francisco, California)
Matthew Wilkinson (Pope Joan; Melbourne, Australia)
Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan ([One]; Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
Isaac McHale (The Clove Club; London, The United Kingdom)
Kyle Connaughton (Single Thread; Healdsburg, California)
Atsushi Tanaka (A.T. Restaurant; Paris, France)
Justin Yu (Oxheart; Houston, Texas)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Mark Lundgaard Nielsen (Kong Hans Kælder; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Manish Mehrotra (Indian Accents; New Dehli, India; New York, New York; London, U.K.)
Jeremiah Stone & Fabián von Hauske Valtierra (Contra & Wildair; New York, New York)
Jeremy Fox (Rustic Canyon & Tallula’s; Santa Monica, California)
Ben Sukle (birch & Oberlin; Providence, Rhode Island)
Sean Brock (McCrady’s, McCrady’s Tavern, Husk, & Minero; Charleston, South Carolina)

* Sean Brock’s last cooked at The Twelve Days of Christmas in 2011, the year before I first participated.

** To be precise, McCrady’s was bifurcated.  What used to be the main dining room of McCrady’s is now McCrady’s Tavern.  What used to the one of the private dining rooms of McCrady’s is now McCrady’s, which is tasting menu-only.

Photos: Sean Brock showing his 3 year-aged ham to chef Yoshiaki Takazawa; abalone hushpuppies; Sea Island rice and peas, with caviar; Brock shaving ham for guests; Christopher Kostow finishing a plate of chicken and masa dumplings; Brock’s dessert of sorbet with chrysanthemum petals; Brock at the pass; Brock’s Nostrale rice veiled in egg yolk; Kostow and Brock at line-up; slices of ribeye served with farro and brassicas.


Categories 12 days 2017

Leave a Reply