Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dinner at the Palme d'Or

One of the highlights of our trip to Miami was the dinner we enjoyed at the award winning Palme d'Or Restaurant at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, where we were also guests. I'll have video of the hotel and interviews with Chef Phillipe Ruiz and Manager and award winning Sommelier Sebastien Verrier.

The Palme d'Or was named Best Restaurant in South Florida by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and also named as "superior wine program", and deservedly so, since Verrier has created an impressive wine list with 100 wines by the glass! Most restaurants don't even have 100 wines on their list, much less that many by the glass.

Pictured below are the five courses, but we were treated to a a lovely Amuse Bouche of Crispy Polenta with Red Pepper Coulis and Prosciutto Julienne (which I gobbled up before I even pulled out the camera, so my bouche was REALLY amusee!



The First Course was a Seared Duck Foie Gras with Wild Mushrooms and Creamy Spinach, paired with Mas Amiel Cuvee Speciale 10 ans, which was almost Port like in its characteristics. It's from the relatively obscure appelation of Maury in Southwestern France, and composed mostly of grenache, with a bit of Macabeo. The grapes are placed in a barrel and left to age for one year in the sun in large "demi-johns", then for 9 years in oak which makes for a wonderfully complex wine, which went so well with the rich fattiness of the foie gras.



The 2nd course was a Maine Lobster Fricasse & Baby Vegetables infused with Rosemary Bisque Reduction. Chef Ruiz shared the recipe with me, and we'll be featuring it later this month on The Gilded Fork as we celebrate rosemary. Sebastien paired it with Chateau de Vieux Gaubert, a white Bordeaux from Graves with a balanced acidity and minerality and light honeyish fruit notes. The rosemary bisque of the dish was very aromatic, and the wine went very well and held up without being overpowered by the dish.



The 3rd course, a Caramelized Black Cod Fish & Ratatouille Provencal with fresh Thyme Beurre Blanc was paired with a Meursault. While the fish was perfectly cooked, and just flaky but tender, I found the ratatouille was a bit tame. With a hit film bringing this traditional dish of Provence to the forefront, we're seeing this more and more on menus, and for me there was just not enough of that tomato-ey kick that you get with a rural rustic ratatouille. For me the fish would have been more successful with an herb infused galette of potatoes, which we saw in the next course, or maybe a pea puree or celeriac mash. The beurre blanc was just perfect, though.



The 4th course, a Seared Buffalo Tenderloin & Potato Galette with Green Peppercorn Sauce had a deceiving appearance. While the presentation was not as dainty as the rest of the meal, the flavor sure packed a punch. Rule #1 with any cut as lean as tenderloin, especially buffalo, is to cook it rare. At the same time, the outside must be well caramelized with out being charred. Chef Ruiz achieved the perfect palance with the meat. The galette, though, could have been crispier to provide more of a contrast with the tender steak. The sauce, of course, was one that could be dangerous, as I might be tempted to mainline it. This dish was paired with a Chateau Poujeaux 2002, another Bordeaux, this one from the Medoc made with merlot. (Not that Sebastien is a chauvinist or anything, but his French wine choices are exquisite.)



For dessert, we finished the meal with a Dark Chocolate Molten Cake with Red Wine Braised Rhubarb and Ginger Ale Granita, paired with a Coteaux du Layon, a sweet white dessert wine from the Loire made with Chenin Blanc grapes. While it's quite common to serve dessert with Sauternes, this pairing was successful, primarily because we had three very distinct tastes. The wine had honey notes on the nose and a nice fruitiness. The fullness of the mouth feel was a great match for the chocolate, while the tanginess of the rhubarb was balanced by the sweetness of the wine. The Ginger Ale Granita was a surprise, with a shot of raspberry reduction in the bottom, and I didn't expect the wine to work with it, but it actually did.

My mouth is now watering just describing the meal again!

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