Locust Grove’s Sunset Sensations – May Featured Chef


The kolkwitzia, also known as beauty bush, was discovered in China in 1898 by Ernest Wilson AKA ‘China Wilson’. Photo at right is a close up look at the flowers. This plant, growing at Locust Grove, is situated along the path behind the visitor center. At about 10 feet in height and width, this shrub is covered with delicate light pink flowers with yellow throat on arching stems, cascading nearly to the ground. It is one of the most admired and photographed plants at Locust Grove. My photo does not do it justice. I know this post is supposed to be about Sunset Sensations, but I had to showcase this plant even though my photo is not that great.

Chef Chris May of Babycake Cafe kicked off Locust Grove’s 2012  Sunset Sensations on Thursday May 10, 2012. Started in 2006, this is the 7th season and is getting better and more exciting each year.

Chris, a 2000 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is the young and upcoming executive chef of Babycake Cafe. As you can see from the menu above, he is also an innovative chef. A week later, guests who attended the event are still talking about the delicious food and unique combination, also the things they learned. You see, not only is Chris good with food, he is also a good presenter. His enthusiasm and clear instructions make you say to yourself “I can do that.” Chris has graciously agreed to share a few recipes which follows below.

Photo above, demonstration by Chris

Photo at left, the first course: Skewer of Thyme Grilled Vidalia Onion, Fiddlehead Fern and Serrano Ham Served with a Ciabatta Crostini with White Bean Puree and Braised Chard.

I forgot to bring my camera to the event. Photos of Chris and the foods are courtesy of Babycake Cafe and Chris May.

With a name like Babycake Cafe you expect to see cakes and more cakes (there is a small display case with single serve cakes) but this is really a full service restaurant. One of the unique entree listed on the menu is Skillet-Seared Branzino served with smoked tomato risotto, baby arugula, bacon lardons for $22. There is wine pairing suggestion with each entree. Photo at right is one of Chris’ creation for dinner specials. Slow Roasted Duck Leg with Petite Arugula & Berry Salad with Roasted Fingerlings & Balsamic Glaze.

Photo at left is another of Chris’ dinner specials, Grilled Salmon with Celery Root (celeriac) puree & Saute of Sweet English Peas with Fresh Morel mushrooms & Pea Shoots.

Below are 4 recipes that Chris has graciously included to share.

Citronette(orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc)
Yield: 2Qt

.5C  Juice, Fresh
.5C  White Balsmic Vinegar
1Pt  Oil, Vegetable
1Pt  Olive Oil, Extra Virgin
2T  Honey
1t  Zest, Fresh
1ea  Shallot, Lg
1ea  Garlic Clove
1t  Red Pepper Flakes
tt  Salt, Sea or Kosher

Combine all ingredients EXCEPT for OILS in blender. Blend on highest setting until smooth. Add oils in a steady stream to emulsify. Continue until oil is gone. Taste and adjust seasonings.
(Norma’s note: I am sure you can make smaller quantity of this dressing without any problem.)

Lemon-Roasted Asparagus
Yield: 2 servings

1bnch Asparagus, trimmed & washed
1ea Lemon, zest & juice
1T Parmesan cheese, grated
.5t Crushed red pepper
1T Oil, Extra virgin
Tt Salt, Kosher or Sea

Combine all ingredients and let marinate for 10 minutes. Either grill or roast in 450 degree oven for approximately 5-10 minutes.

Black Peeper Roasted Strawberries
Yield: 1Pt

1Pt Strawberries, washed, trimmed & halved
1T Honey
1T White balsamic vinegar
.5t Cardamom, ground
Pinch Salt, Kosher or Sea
1T Black Peppercorns, cracked

Combine all ingredients, mix well and let marinate for 10 minutes. Remove from liquid and place on well-oiled roasting rack. 450 degree oven for approximately 7 mins. Let cool before touching.

Celeriac Puree
Yield: 1Qt

2ea  Celeriac, Lg Peeled and sixthed
1ea  Garlic Clove, Crushed
1ea Bay Leaf, Dry
A.N.  Milk, Whole
A.N.  Heavy Cream
2T  Butter
tt  Salt, Sea or Kosher
1ea  Towel, Clean and Lint Free

Combine celeriac, garlic, bay leaf and milk(to cover) in appropriate size pot and cover with towel assuring no sides are hanging over edge. Simmer until tender then strain and reserve liquid. Put celeriac in bleder and puree adding reserved milk slowly until combined. Finish with touch of cream and butter. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cool in ice-bath.
(Norma’s note: A.N. = as needed)

Many of you are probably wondering “What in the world is Sunset Sensations?” To give you a better understanding of what Sunset Sensation is all about, I have decided to include the press release that was sent out by Locust Grove.

Sunset Sensations

A Unique Wine & Food Sampling Series at Locust Grove

Held on the Second Thursday of the Month,
May through October & December 2012

Kick-off of Series – Thursday, May 10th

What better way to discover the gardens and enjoy the landscaped grounds of Locust Grove than to attend “Sunset Sensations”, a unique wine and food sampling series held on the second Thursday of each Month, May through October and December from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

“Sunset Sensations” provides the opportunity, in an elegant historic setting, to enjoy fine wines paired with delicious culinary creations.  Hors d’oeuvres will feature seasonal vegetables from the heritage gardens at Locust Grove.  Visitors will be treated to cooking demonstrations and samplings by the featured chef of the month; informal wine pairing presentations by Bob Brink, fine wine manager at Arlington Wines & Liquor; and a tour of Locust Grove’s heirloom vegetable garden, the inspiration for the series.  The evening concludes with the last pairing on the grounds by the mansion amidst a magnificent Hudson River view at sunset.

And new this year, Locust Grove will present a Holiday Sunset Sensation in December.  In lieu of touring the gardens, enjoy the warm glow of the mansion decorated in seasonal splendor on a twilight mansion tour, accompanied by food and wine pairings with a holiday theme.

For the kick-off of the Sunset Sensation Series on Thursday, May 10th, the featured chef will be Chris May of Babycakes Café in Poughkeepsie, NY

Upcoming Sunset Sensations featured chefs are:
Thursday, June 14 – Ed Kowalski of Crave Restaurant & Lounge, Poughkeepsie, NY
Thursday, July 12 –  Anthony Moustakas of Gourmet To Go in Millbrook, NY
Thursday, August 9 – Charlie Fells of The Artist’s Palate, Poughkeepsie, NY
Thursday, September 13 – Anthony Moustakas of Gourmet To Go in Millbrook, NY
Thursday, October 11 – Bruce Kazan of Main Course, New Paltz, NY
Thursday, December 13 – Ed Kowalski of Crave Restaurant & Lounge, Poughkeepsie, NY

“Sunset Sensations” tickets, purchased in advance, are $25 per person.  The price of admission on the day of the event is $27 per person, subject to availability.

December’s Holiday Sunset Sensation tickets (includes decorated twilight mansion tour):
$30 per person, $32 day of (as available).
For reservations, call 845-454-4500.
Locust Grove is a 180-acre National Historic Landmark, museum, education center and nature preserve located on Rt. 9 in Poughkeepsie, New York, just 2 miles south of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. For more information about hours or special events, visit or call 845 454-4500.

Babycakes Cafe
1 – 3 Collegeview Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
Tele: 845-485-8411

Copyright © by Norma Chang

About Norma Chang

I am the author/publisher of 2 user-friendly Chinese cookbooks: "My Students' Favorite Chinese Recipes (updated edition)" and "Wokking Your Way to Low Fat Cooking" A gardener who enjoys cooking and eating and loves to think outside the box A garden volunteer at Locust Grove Heritage Vegetable Garden Conduct hands-on cooking workshops for teenagers Conduct cultural programs for children and family Conduct healthy cooking classes for adults
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42 Responses to Locust Grove’s Sunset Sensations – May Featured Chef

  1. ChgoJohn says:

    The kolkwitzia is one beautiful plant, Norma. Does it have a scent, too, or is that asking too much? That was quite a menu that “Young Gun” put together and would be the perfect centerpiece for his presentation. It was generous of him to share his recipes so freely. It sounds like a wonderful evening for everyone.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello John,
      Yes it is very stunning! I do not recall any scent, must pay attention next time I am at Locust Grove. The food was out of this world, too bad I do not have photos of the other 2 courses. Not only is Chris a generous person, he is also unpretentious and approachable, very nice young man.

  2. What a goldmine of information….Loving the recipes (no surprise)! Thank you

  3. This post taught me many things and provided some beautiful photos my friend 😀
    I also very much enjoyed the recipe for black pepper strawberries 🙂
    Thank you!

    Choc Chip Uru

  4. Kristy says:

    This looks like a wonderful event! That roasted duck leg looks so good to me right now. Yum!

  5. Sammie says:

    Wow Norma! That really looks like a fun event! And Chris seems like such a professional!! hmmmm loving the duck and the salmon! lol I’m such a carnivore

  6. Eva Taylor says:

    What a beautiful bush the kolkwitzia is. I’m going to look around my garden centre to see if I can get one!
    That event sounds like it was great and the food fantastic.

  7. The close-up of the beauty bush looks good to me, Norma, as does that duck leg!

  8. Norma, I love this post and all information you provide to your readers. Norma, I have my first tomato of the year! 🙂

  9. The food and flowers look amazing!

  10. mac says:

    Roasted strawberries sound interesting, never had one before.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Mac,
      Going to give it a try? Chris put together really interesting combinations and they all compliment each other, I think you would enjoy his style of cooking.

  11. I wish I could have been at this event….looks like my kinda thing! Thanks for sharing, Norma. Love the recipes (as always)

  12. Joanne Ozug says:

    All that food looks so fresh, what a fun event! I want to go to stuff like that more often…though admittedly the area I live in now is not foodie-oriented at all, but we’re moving in the fall…hopefully to a more food-cultured place. Have a great weekend Norma!

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Joanne,
      Well I hope your new home will be in a food-cultured place. With your talent, may be you could start the trend. A great weekend to you too.

  13. Sounds like a fantastic evening Norma! I’m intrigued by the sound of the Celeriac Puree cooled in an ice-bath. I make something similar but use Crème Fraiche and Myrtle leaves instead of ‘heavy’ cream and bay leaves-but served hot. Have to try it this other way too now….

  14. Sissi says:

    I have never seen kolkwitzia, but the name sound familiar. I’m not surprised: it’s such a beautiful plant!
    The event sounds so interesting and all the dishes luscious. I adore celeriac purée and you have just reminded me I haven’t had it for ages.

  15. Those are great recipes Norma – thanks for sharing!

  16. Sunset Sensations is a terrific idea! If something like that was available here I’d be signed up in an instant. I want to try some of Chris’ recipes!

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Maureen,
      The dishes were delicious. I am a volunteer server for all the events so I get to sample all the goodies (food and wine) and chat with the chef, if they are not too busy.

  17. Sophie33 says:

    It looks that you had a fun evening! I love the roasted strawberries a lot! Great flavours in that dish! I must try that recipe soon! 🙂

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