On February 7, 2023, 100 people sat at beautifully adorned tables to experience an Indigenous Food Pathways of the Americas – themed dinner at the Virginia History Museum in Richmond, VA. The guests, privately invited museum executives and historians, attend this annual conference to celebrate America’s rich early history and the love of chocolate. The NMS operated Thirty Nine Restaurant at First Americans Museum culinary executive team, Chef Consultant Loretta Barrett Oden, and Executive Regional Chef Brad Harris crafted the highly anticipated menu to highlight indigenous ingredients sourced along both American continents.
Approached in October about this event, the exec team spent the following months planning a five-course meal that honored the restaurant’s dedication to indigenous ingredients and celebrated the host’s famed chocolate. To pull off an event 1,300 miles from home in Oklahoma City, they partnered with Occasions Catering in Washington DC, a company that frequently prepared meals in their generous kitchen and safely transported it all over the surrounding area.
The week of the event, Brad and Loretta packed nearly 200 lbs. of ingredients, sauces and supplies and flew to Washington, DC, to meet up and finalize the menu at the Occasions kitchen. They spent the Monday before the event perfecting the mole, a chocolate and spiced sauce, and Loretta’s famous spiced popcorn while taste-testing and adjusting the final dishes.
Tuesday morning, the food catering team of five – led by Reynaldo Perez, securely packed and transported the food for the two-hour drive to Richmond, where they would reheat, prep and plate the components alongside Brad and Loretta.
The catering design team had worked with Loretta to design a beautiful tablescape – selecting every item, ten pieces of silverware and four glasses. The event also had a group of excellently trained servers who prepped the tables and wowed the guests with beautifully executed serving and hospitality.
James Pepper Henry, the executive director of First Americans Museum and emcee of the event, spoke briefly about his museum’s successes and honors. He also announced that First Americans Museum will host this event in 2025, the first time west of the Mississippi. He then introduced members of the Chickahomini tribe, who provided a drum blessing over the meal.
Loretta then took center stage to describe each of the courses, explaining their importance, healthy attributes, funny stories, and regional origin.
he first course was a showstopper, providing the room with awe and delight as servers carefully removed small cloches covering the bowls and released a billow of hickory smoke to unveil the smoked bison tenderloin with chimichurri.
The next course was a lobster bisque with spiced popcorn that contained a surprising dollop of spiced chocolate in the center that swirled in the bowl, elevating the soup one spoonful at a time.
The salad course was beautiful, with strands of butternut squash and adorned with Seka Hills Elderberry Vinaigrette, which guests took home in their goody bags.
The main course was Venison Osso Bucco in a bed of dark chocolate mole. The meat was so tender that it fell off the bone. The marrow from the bone provided guests with an extra treat.
The final course was a chocolate ganache bar with tart cherry compote, gold leaf foil, blue corn chocolate tuile and cilantro dessert olive oil. Later that evening, the NMS culinary team was thrilled to hear that of all the chocolate dinners they’d hosted, this dessert was the best use of chocolate they had ever tasted.
It was an exceptional night lead by exceptional talent. To learn more about Thirty Nine Restaurant, operated by NMS, click here.