If you know me at all - or have been a faithful reader of this blog - then you know that I love food. Actually, "love" isn't a strong enough word...but I don't know exactly what word would express how I feel.....Hmmm...."obsessed", perhaps? I love to experiment in the kitchen (when I have the time), and I love, love, love watching "Top Chef" and other cooking shows on T.V. Hubby and I like to both watch that and pretend we're the judges - even though we can only judge based on appearance and not taste. But don't ruin it for us - we're having fun, okay?
Hubby and I had a rare opportunity last week while vacationing in Orlando to experience a once-in-a-lifetime meal...a true dining experience at a restaurant that is a 10-year recipient of the prestigious AAA Five Diamond award. The restaurant? Victoria & Albert's...and we went one step further and reserved the exclusive Chef's Table....where we enjoyed a four-hour, 10-course meal. It. was. heaven.
If you enjoy food, then you'll enjoy this post. If you don't enjoy food, just skip it. But - the pictures alone are worth looking at - even if you don't read what it is - because the presentation in this restaurant is amazing.
But first, note that there is only ONE party in all of Orlando that gets seated at the Chef's Table each evening. If you think of the thousands and thousands of visitors who are in Orlando at any given time - you can see that this reservation is harder to get than Hannah Montana tickets...seriously. I had to call at 6:00 a.m. on the day that my "window" opened - which is 180 days out from your expected time to visit Orlando. I remember setting the alarm and putting my credit card by the phone the night before - and when the alarm went off at 5:50 a.m., dragging myself to the phone so I could begin calling. And we scored. We were in. Woot!
Our reservations were for Sunday, March 14th at 5:00 p.m. We were dressed in our finest - befitting the special night that awaited us. Because I was in heels and a formal gown, there was no way in God's green earth I was riding the Disney bus from our hotel (Animal Kingdom Lodge) to the restaurant (at the Grand Floridian). I told hubby that if we were spending $500 or so on dinner, he could spring for a $20 cab. He did. He's a Prince.
We were taken through the dining room and back into the kitchen area, where we were seated at the Chef's Table, and immediately given glasses of champagne to begin the evening. We were introduced to our chef (Chef Amy) for the evening, as well as our own personal "butler" and "maid" who would be attending to us. Our attendants treated us like royalty the entire evening - bringing me a little footstool to place my purse on (rather than on the floor), and at one point, bringing me a cashmere scarf to drape over my shoulders, as I was getting chilly. I felt like a Queen...
Before each of our 10-courses, the chef would come out and explain what we would be eating...before the first course came out, I couldn't help but start humming the words to one of my most favorite Disney songs, from "Beauty and the Beast", "Be Our Guest":
"Ma chere Mademoiselle, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight.
And now we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair as the dining room proudly presents -
"Be our guest! Be our guest!
Put our service to the test
Tie your napkin 'round your neck, cherie
And we'll provide the rest!"
Course #1: the Amuse-Bouche, consisting of: a soft-poached quail egg with Galilee caviar; popcorn crusted Gulf shrimp; and crispy Buffalo Mozzarella. Our wine for this course was a Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut, Reims.
This was all very good...however, the Buffalo Mozzarella was probably my least favorite of the three we tasted. The texture was just a little off...for me, anyway. Also - the popcorn crusted Gulf shrimp - although tasty - didn't taste any different from other popcorn shrimp I've had. Good - but not great...but not to worry - this was just Course #1 - it was only going to get better from here on.
Course #2: Caviar Tin of Fresh Alaskan King Crab Salad with German Osetra Caviar and Petit Herbs, paired with a glass of Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley 2008
The crispiness of the salad greens perfectly mixed with the saltiness of the caviar...this was excellent and left me wanting more.
Course #3: Cold "Smoked" Niman Ranch Lamb with Fuji Apple and Curry Dressing, paired with a glass of Kabinett Maximin Grunhauser Abtsberg Riesling, Mosel 2007
Our "maid" came in before this was served and said I would want my camera ready to capture the presentation of this meal - when the chef brought it in, he poured a liquid on the platter, creating the "smoke" that you see here.
We learned later that there is dry ice underneath the food - creating the smoke effect. As far as the taste - very, very good. The apple and curry perfectly balanced each other, and truly brought out the flavor of the lamb.
Course #4: Wild Turbot with Bulgarian Caviar Sauce, paired with a glass of Puligny-Montrachet "le Trezin" 2007
I didn't think I was a big fan of caviar until this experience - and now, I could probably live on caviar. The caviar sauce was very creamy and perfectly enveloped the turbot.
Course #5: Vermont Squab with Root Vegetable Flan and Pomegranate Jus, paired with a glass of Domaine La Roquete Chateauneuf du Pape, Rhone 2005
Squab? What's a squab? I'll admit - I had never tried squab before...but I found it surprisingly tender and tasty.
Course #6: Minnesota Elk Tenderloin with Braised Red Cabbage Tart, paired with a glass of Familia Schroeder "S" Pinot Noir/Malbec, Patagonia 2004
Florida isn't exactly known as the elk capital of the world, so they go to Minnesota to get their elk. This elk was perfectly cooked - and the accompanying red cabbage tart was very flaky and just sweet enough to offset the muskiness of the elk. Due to a severe jaw injury several years ago, I do not often eat red meat - for the most part, it is normally difficult for me to chew...but not this. This practically melted in my mouth - it was extremely tender.
Course #7: Australian "Kobe" Beef Tenderloin with Oxtail Jus, paired with a glass of Torres "Perpetual Salmos", Priorat 2005
I love my red meat, and this did not disappoint...and it was very tender...the Oxtail jus was very good - I was glad I'd had Oxtail before (while in Jamaica), so it didn't intimidate me to try it when I heard what it was.
Course #8: Coach's Goat Farm, Abbaye de Tamie, Robbiola, Rogue River Blue and 36-Month Old Parmigiano-Reggiano, paired with Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Porto 2002
The cheese plate - my favorite! I have never met a cheese I didn't like, and that was true in this case - although, the Parmigiano was my least favorite. This surprised me, as I normally love Parmesan cheese - but in this case, the other cheeses were so scrumptious that they completely overshadowed the Parmesan.
Course #9: Green Apple Mousse with Hazelnut Cookies, paired with a glass of Paolo Saracco Moscato D'Asti, Piedmont 2007
This, thankfully, was a light dessert - which at this point, on the 9th course, was very much appreciated by my stomach and my palate. I couldn't have handled a heavy dessert at all....
Course #10: Tanzanie Chocolate Mousse and White Chocolate Gelato
By now, I was pretty much in a food coma and so I really don't remember this dessert - except it had chocolate, so by its very definition, it had to be good. I'm just sayin' - you can never go wrong with chocolate. And because we were celebrating our anniversary, there was a bit of extra "magic" for us on the plate.
It was now 9:30 p.m. I was ready to go back to the hotel and go into hibernation, as my tummy was certainly happy and had enough food to last me until spring. Of 2011, that is. We sat for awhile, though, just letting everything settle...taking in the sights as we watched the kitchen prepare the other meals that were going out to the dining room.
When we were ready to leave, the Maitre'd called our cab for us, and then presented us with a box of chocolates, a loaf of specially-baked dessert bread, and a red rose....
I was very impressed with the entire experience. Pricey? Yes. But a meal to remember, for sure....Oh, and the wines? They were good, too...they seemed to get better as the evening went on. (Go figure.)
And now I have the entire meal here - with pictures - to remember for eternity....
Damn, it was good!
And because today is Monday - which means Girl Scout meeting tonight - I will be taking Daughter to our "normal" Girl Scout dinner place - Sonic Drive in.
Hmmm....Victoria & Albert's.......vs.........Sonic Drive-in........
Sigh. I miss Orlando.