It's the simplest phrase, but trusting someone else can be so hard. Yet, that's what Sam Governale was asking his supporters to do as part of his "SAMpaign" to raise $100,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society during its annual Man of the Year/Woman of the Year fundraising drive.
Governale made a simple pitch. Donate $200. Show up at the newly remodeled Zimm's on Montrose to sample the bar's new cocktail menu and 100+ bottle whiskey selection. Then move on to dinner with a mystery chef or two. Implicit in the invitation was a promise that contributors would get a memorable experience, as befits a man with Governale's reputation as the operating partner of Fleming's in Upper Kirby.
The result of all that talent: a decadent, no-holds barred 10-course meal that felt like a game of culinary H.O.R.S.E.
Governale turned to Triniti's Ryan Hildebrand, who stepped up and created a menu on the fly to match the sushi master's plans. "Ryan Hildebrand came in at the very last minute and saved the day," Governale tells CultureMap. "(He said) ‘Whatever you need. I want to work with Chris Kinjo. I want to be next to him. I want to showcase what we do.’"
As for Kinjo, Governale has a long-standing relationship with him that goes back to their time together in Atlanta. "Chris is a friend of mine," Governale explains. "Chris is not the sort of guy who’s willing to share the spotlight, (but) he did it for me. He knew that it was a great cause. He’s got a good heart."
Just to sweeten the pot, Governale tapped Mac Watson, owner of boutique California winery Macauley Vineyard, to pair wines with each course. Offerings ranged from a first taste of the 2012 Chardonnay to the show-stopping 2006 Cabernet poured from magnums. Governale auctioned off a nine-liter bottle at the end of the evening to raise additional funds.
The result of all that talent: a decadent, no-holds-barred 10-course meal that included four dishes served side-by-side. It felt like a game of culinary H.O.R.S.E., where each chef would deliver a plate that the diners would immediately agree was the best thing we'd eaten that night . . . until the next course raised the bar again.
Calling certain courses "highlights" could incorrectly imply that any of them were less than delicious, but a few stood out. On the Triniti side, halibut with foie gras bonbon and "ham and eggs" of smoked duck breast served over potato hash and topped with a quail egg helped end the meal on a high note.
The night's best bites
Still, two Kinjo's dishes emerged as the night's best bites. Simply prepared chu-toro nigiri had an incredible depth of flavor and a texture that felt as though it melted rather than needing to be chewed, but it was just a warm up act for the Japanese Kobe beef nigiri that was seared with a blowtorch just prior to serving and topped with truffled soy sauce.
How did Governale feel about the meal? "Whoever paid $200 tonight got the best deal . . . I think I gave them what they deserved. Value for dollar it was pretty phenomenal," he says.
Governale credits the supporters who believed in him. "They jumped off a cliff for us, and that’s what people do in this city philanthropically. They don’t ask any questions. They don’t have any requirements. They do it because they are giving souls and giving people."