12 days of christmas: shieldses… (2019)

– In April of 2011, my friends and I arrived in the sleepy town of Chilhowie, Virginia. We had driven eight hours from Charleston to eat at John and Karen Shieldses’ restaurant Town House.  The meal was as exciting and delicious as I had heard, and it was the beginning of a friendship that would […]


In April of 2011, my friends and I arrived in the sleepy town of Chilhowie, Virginia. We had driven eight hours from Charleston to eat at John and Karen Shieldses’ restaurant Town House.  The meal was as exciting and delicious as I had heard, and it was the beginning of a friendship that would bring John Shields to my hometown of Kansas City later that year, coincidentally, where he would cook alongside Christopher Kostow, chef of The Restaurant at Meadowood.

The next year, 2012, the Shieldses were invited to The Twelve Days of Christmas, which, as it so happens, was the very first year I was invited to attend the event (see the photos at the very bottom of this post).

In the years since those early encounters, I have met the Shieldses all over the world, mostly to eat – from New York to St. Louis and San Francisco; in Denmark, Sweden, and Spain (where we had first met, even before I had visited them at Town House). And of course, I’ve had dinner at their two Michelin-starred restaurant Smyth a couple of times since they opened in the West Loop of Chicago in August of 2016, once with Christopher and Martina Kostow.

All of this is to emphasize the many intersections in my life where Shieldses and Kostows meet. And to add one more, John and Karen Shields were invited back on the second night of the Twelve Days of Christmas this year to cook with Christopher Kostow and his team at The Restaurant at Meadowood.

Of all of the guest chefs this year with whom I am familiar, I think the Shieldses’s sensibilities and approach to cooking are the most similar to Kostow’s. They are all incredibly clever culinarians, and so their food is brainy. But it’s not outlandishly so. It’s delicious. But not always straightforwardly so.  Like so many of the most compelling chefs of our current age, they trace the outer edge of normal, while staying well within the orbit of traditional cooking.

Take for example Kostow’s answer to John Shields’s caviar with chicken custard and a crispy pizelle.  Taking a friendly jab at Shields, Kostow served “A Better Caviar Dish” comprised of pickled okra seeds, which he mixed with the familiar trio of dill, shallots, and chives, and served it with warm potato blini and housemade crème fraîche.  The caviar war was the highlight of the dinner for me.

Another example of cleverness was the oyster Kostow served as a canapé. They had been kept alive in a tank of saltwater that had been smoked, fortified by an assortment of fresh seaweed.  The oyster were allowed to filter the water for 36 to 48 hours, which infused them with the smokey flavor of the water.

Rosa alba is a silky, blush-colored lettuce, and, as it turns out, an excellent camouflage for slices of aged pork, which Kostow tucked between the leaves.  The lovely, warm salad was dressed with a sauce tinged with ham garam.

Out of the pastry corner, Karen Shields sent out two desserts – a custard of black currant, with coffee oil, and an ice cream sundae infused with conifers and topped with black walnuts, which had been cracked by hand earlier in the day.

This is the menu from Day 2 of the Twelve Days of Christmas with guest chefs John and Karen Shields (click here for all of the photos from this dinner):


Winter Greens
In a salad roll.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Baby Corn
Soured and fried.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Bubbled in smoked sea water.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Chicken custard, pizelle.

“A Better Caviar Dish”
Pickled okra seeds, blini.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

1st Course
Carrot Aguachile

2nd Course
Marinated Shima Aji

3rd Course
River Trout
Apple, garden lettuces.

4th Course
Boudin noir, our preserves.

5th Course
Aged Pork
Rose alba, ham.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

6th Course
Mimolette Fondue
The Charter Oak bread, persimmon.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

7th Course
Black Currant Custard
Coffee, peppers.

8th Course
Conifer Ice Cream Sundæ
Black walnut.

Koji-Filled Chocolate
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)


Fritz Haag, Riesling Trocken, Juffer, 2017

Kongsgaard, Albariño, Napa Valley, 2018

Peay, Estate Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, 2016

13th & 3rd, Grenache Blend, Paso Robles, 2015

Silver Oak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 1988

Royal Tokaji 2013

Day 2.

Below are links to my posts and photos from all Twelve Days of Christmas dinners I have attended. 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)
Yoshiaki Takazawa (Takazawa; Tokyo, Japan)
Thomas Keller (The French Laundry; Yountville, California)
Eric Werner (Hartwood; Tulum, Mexico)
Jock Zonfrillo (Orana; Adelaide, Australia)
Alexandre Couillon (La Marine; Noirmoutier, France)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Jose Enrique (Jose Enrique; San Juan, Puerto Rico)
David Pynt (Burnt Ends; Singapore)
Jessica Largey (Simone; Los Angeles, California)
James Lowe (Lyle’s; London, The United Kingdom)
Kamilla Seidler (formerly of Gustu in La Paz, Bolivia; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Byung-jin Kim (Gaon; Seoul, South Korea)
Wojciech Modest Amaro (Atelier Amaro; Warsaw, Poland)
Justin Cogley (Auberine; Carmel, California) & Trevor Moran (Nashville, Tennessee)
Michael Tusk (Cotogna and Quince; San Francisco, California)
Ana Ros (Hiša Franko; Kobarid, Slovenia)
Sota Atsumi (Maison, opening in 2019; Paris, France)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Gabriela Camara (Contramar; Mexico City, Mexico/Cala; San Francisco, California)
John and Karen Shields (Smyth, and The Loyalist; Chicago, Illinois)

Photos: Saucing rose alba lettuce with aged pork; John and Karen Shields at afternoon line-up; blanching squab; Jacqueline Dasha saucing squab dish; Tyler Gore glazing squab; Karen Shields making pizelle; blini for the “A Better Caviar Dish” course; John Shields at the hot line; John and Karen Shields with Christopher Kostow with the team at The Restaurant at Meadowood.


End of service.


 Shields and Kostow

Categories 12 days 2019

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1 reply on “12 days of christmas: shieldses… (2019)”

These meals are going to haunt my dreams. Thank you for sharing and I just added attending one of these dinners to my bucket list.