A dual celebration for Chef Art Smith's new Blue Door Kitchen & Garden and Common Threads

It was a celebration, both for Chef Art Smith's new Blue Door Kitchen & Garden and for Common Threads, his 13 year-old non-profit that educates kids on making better food choices. The private luncheon was held in the beautifully appointed upstairs dining room for longtime supporters of the organization as a way to introduce them to the new farm-to-table restaurant concept and to applaud the success of Common Threads.

Let's talk about the restaurant first. Three letters-O.M.G. I loved the old Table 52, but I ADORE this chic, retooled spot at 52 W. Elm! The decor is still comfortably elegant but now the main room downstairs is painted a lovely French blue with white marble-topped tables dotting the space. My favorite part is the new bar which is now situated along the east side of the restaurant, instead of in the rear and obscuring the kitchen. It's the first thing you see upon entering and it makes the room seem much larger. The blue and white porcelain dinnerware by Ralph Lauren is gorgeous too!

The outdoor space is ultra charming with rattan seating and flowers everywhere! At night, the space must be enchanting since I saw three wrought iron, electrified, hanging chandeliers. The only critique I have is that they need umbrellas as the tables get pretty hot in the afternoon sun.

And now for the food! Our luncheon menu was TOO good--to the point that I won't be able to eat for weeks (or at least I shouldn't). For starters, we were served pimento stuffed dates and olives and Little Farm on the Prairie deviled eggs. There were three salad choices: A cherry fennel salad that included ricotta, candied ginger, granola and orange balsamic vinaigrette; a brussells and kale salad with toasted almonds, parmesan, bacon and maple tahini vinaigrette and a BDK Power Grain salad with high protein grains, dried fruit, hazelnuts and pickled carrots.

And then, a crowd favorite--buttermilk fried chicken with braised greens, hot sauce and honey! As if this weren't enough, add delicious shrimp and grits (white corn grits, tasso ham, tomato stew and crispy okra) and Cece's Three Cheese Mac & Cheese with orecchiette. Dessert on the patio consisted of Art's famous Hummingbird cake and some chocolate raspberry decadence.

And even though the food was delicious, the highlight of the afternoon was the latest, exciting news about Common Threads! The organization is now in 9 cities and will serve over 70,000 kids by the end of the summer! Chef Art shared the story of how the organization was founded in 2003 with just a few kids in an old church. He gave huge (and much deserved) props to his beautiful founding CEO, Linda Novick O'Keefe.

I'm proud to say I was an early supporter and will never forget my experience cooking with the kids. When they put their little chefs' hats on, they all stood a little taller and I did too. They were in their wheelhouse where no violence or fear existed, only the sheer pleasure of learning a much needed skill and being with friends of every race and color. It was something I will never forget. God bless Art, Jesus and Linda for recognizing this need and following it through to the exciting (and ongoing) success we learned about today.

The group of supporters (about 25) included Linda Johnson Rice, Shawn Donnelley, Margaret and Bob Rainone, Michelle Boone, Latrice Davis, Lakesha Rose, Lynne Bredfeldt, Susan Ellefson and many more.

Congrats to Chef Art, Jesus and Linda on all the good you do! Please keep up the great work, both in the kitchen and in our communities!

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