November 28, 2013 Lebanon Middle East

Moët et Chandon: Food Pairing with Lebanon's Renowned Chefs

My day couldn't have been better. I was like a kid lost in a candy store. I spent a day in the kitchen with some of the countries renowned Chefs, including the one and only Chef Hussein Hadid along side Bernard Dance, Moët et Chandon's Executive Kitchen Chef... I was in a kitchen, where professionalism, amazing aromas, beautiful colors, amazingly prepared dishes met around some great champagne. Moet_Chandon_Hussein_Hadid_Kitchen_Food_Pairing_Beirut188 I was invited by champagne giants Moët et Chandon to join a handful of esteemed chefs from around the country including Youssef Akiki, Rouba Khalil, Georges Berberi, Georges El Kik, Reem Azoury and Abdallah Khoder and the youngest of them all, Rouba Khalil to cook and taste the best of two worlds champagne and food. Bernard Dance was also working in the kitchen, while Chef Charles Azar, The Four Season's renowned pastry chef joined later on. Intriguing! Pairing of ingredients that made my curious antennas on alert the whole time... In the heart of Hussein Hadid's headquarters in Mar Elias, chefs and connoisseurs gathered for a one of kind experience. I was flying over the moon, or should I say sun since it was day time… A world of things I love where food, chefs like Hussein, Bernard, drinks, Moët... What else can make me happier? You switch off, leave all your troubles outside and plunge into a huge oriental salon filled with little tiny details that will transport you into another dimension. Moet_Chandon_Hussein_Hadid_Kitchen_Food_Pairing_Beirut031 Meet the chefs:

  • Bernard Dance: Moët et Chandon's executive kitchen chef
  • Youssef Akiki: Burgundy restaurant Beirut, executive chef
  • Rouba Khalil: Chef and consultant for many restaurants in Lebanon
  • Georges Berberi: Cat & Mouth catering chef
  • Georges El Kik: Sofil catering executive chef
  • Reem Azoury: Meat the Fish chef and cooking classes master
  • Abdallah Khoder: Hotel Le Gray Beirut executive chef
  • Charles Azar: The Four Seasons Beirut Pastry chef and one of the best in Lebanon at what he does

Moet_Chandon_Hussein_Hadid_Kitchen_Food_Pairing_Beirut140 What a lovely place... worth describing: The lounges of Hussein Hadid:

  • Pass a parking space to find a large wooden door at its very end
  • Behind it a huge open space decorated in an oriental style of the thousand and one nights
  • In its center, elevated on a wooden floor is a black piano
  • Lounges and long sofas can host hundred of guests
  • The decoration is based on earth colors: grey, brown, black, beige and some colors add a touch of joy
  • Take some time to appreciate the iranian carpets covering the stone floor
  • White walls, keeping things simple
  • Take the stairs to go down where the buffet table, kitchen and more lounges take place
  • The blend between modernism and oriental authentic art is clear. A well decorated space filled with little tiny items all by keeping it simple and clear
  • At the very end is a dining area fitted with a long table you only see in castles
  • Copper casserole, utensils, design items, steel and collectors objects decorate this area fitted with a long table and a bar that can seat six persons
  • Around the table, wooden chairs on a large carpet make you feel at home
  • Refinement with a touch of artistic flavors is the best that describes those saloons
  • Next to it is the open kitchen. A spacious kitchen where everything is prepared

The event started with a gathering around a glass of Moët Imperial alongside a few shots. Christophe Becker, Area Manager North Africa & Middle East Moet Hennessy Diageo accompanied by Chef Dance presented the brand and the champagne we are drinking before moving to the furnaces for a long morning of cooking. In a pleasant ambiance filled with positive vibes, chefs were running around, helping one another, pouring all their know how to come up with tasty preparations. Chef Hadid, with a large smile on his face was enjoying the show. For once, he was not cooking. Moet_Chandon_Hussein_Hadid_Kitchen_Food_Pairing_Beirut067 Let’s look around and see what’s happening. Try to picture the little details with me. Some Tempura de Langoustine a La Mente was freshly being prepared by Chef Dance while Chef Khodr and Chef Akiki where roasting the figs. "Anthony,” shouted Chef Akiki. “I decided what I'm going do with the scallops: Roasted figs and roasted scallops.” I grabbed my camera, and accompanied the duo, Khodr-Akiki during the preparation process. On the other side of the kitchen, Chef El Kik was preparing his "Shrimps Thai" by cutting the ginger into small cubes. Chef Khalil, the youngest chef went for something more complicated. She was preparing "Duck breast with spicy ginger fig marmalade." I went around snooping for more details. “Chef Berberi what are you working on?” I asked. "I'm mastering the roasting of scallops for Chef Akiki to season them." Moet_Chandon_Hussein_Hadid_Kitchen_Food_Pairing_Beirut099 Here, Chef Dance started his second preparation: "Gambas with olive oil, shallots, and curry with coconut milk." The smells and aromas around the kitchen were breathtaking. All our senses were activated. The sounds of oil sizzling on the casseroles, the aromas floating around the place and the colors will simply make you smile. Shooting, eating, tasting, drinking... Ipad, camera... I was overwhelmed. The whole mood was positive, interesting and let's say sizzling hot with action. Moet_Chandon_Hussein_Hadid_Kitchen_Food_Pairing_Beirut139 Hahahaha! I could have died from laughter when Chef El Kik asked about the onions he had chopped a few minutes earlier. Chef Berberi looked at him and said but "Bernard took them." Shocked, he looked down and started chopping some more onions again. No time to argue... it was funny and amazing to see how team work really works... Chef Azoury acted smoother doing a spontaneous job. The meat expert decided to prepare veal. Pears were cut and the rest was yet to come. Chef Berberi then decided to move forward on his own. Ginger and olive oil were heated before the Gambas went in for a bath. Dill then seasoned them for the Moët Imperial to master them. Champagne Gambas with fresh cream. Eating with well cooked pasta is the best to be done. Amazing! I was so happy... Moet_Chandon_Hussein_Hadid_Kitchen_Food_Pairing_Beirut101 Thank you chefs for preparing all your dishes without garlic nor onions. You made my day. The favor returned, Chef Khodr helped Chef El Kik serve and present the Gambas pasta with its fresh cream aromas. I loved this. Everyone was busy and shouting, while Chef Berberi, the only chef with a burgundy apron was preparing his dish silently. He had to change from shrimps to chicken since fish stock was not available in the kitchen. The question I asked Chef Dance. “What's the difference between using white or rosé champagne in the food. He recommended white champagne for white meat and rosé for red meat to giving more acidity and flavors. One more dish by Chef Dance: "Langoustine poilée, huile d'olive, mente. Beurre de pamplemousse" and the table was ready to be set while Chef Reem, Chef Rouba and Chef Georges finished their creations. Oups! Women were behind in schedule but I presume that their food's going to be unique. Helped by Chef Hadid we were served and ready to be appreciated. Moet_Chandon_Hussein_Hadid_Kitchen_Food_Pairing_Beirut128 The ingredients available today in the kitchen:

  • Parmesan
  • Green apples
  • Pears
  • Beetroot
  • Red bell pepper
  • Decorative flowers selection
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Almonds
  • Dried fruits
  • Seasoning ingredients
  • Asian slices
  • Garlic
  • Anchovies
  • Pasta
  • Olive oil
  • Basil, mint, parsley and coriander
  • Shrimps
  • Gambas
  • Meat
  • Duck
  • Veal

Setup on the dining table and the bars around it was a fine dining touch of luxury awaiting to welcome us. Silver cutlery, crystal glasses and pure white table napkins with Moët et Chandon magnum bottles. Moet_Chandon_Hussein_Hadid_Kitchen_Food_Pairing_Beirut015 On the menu today:

  • Veal Tenderloin with pears, apples, raspberries and vanilla bean with a Moët et Chandon reduction, prepared by chef Reem Azoury. A long rectangular plate with four large chops of duck and the fruits around set up in quarters. Soft and tender red and juicy meat with a sauce that's filled with the ingredients felt distinctly on your palate. The fruits are crunchy and slightly caramelized. Crunchy on the outside, soft from the inside bursting into life after each bite. Best enjoyed with Moët et Chandon Rosé


  • Duck Breast on sweet spice black fig marmalade with mushrooms and wilted sorrel warm salad by Chef Rouba Khalil. Duck on the sauce and a salad on the side. The richness, sweetness of the figs and compote flavor is unique. Adding to that saltiness and the pepper aftertaste covering the mushrooms. Bravo! Best enjoyed with Moët et Chandon Rosé


  • Roasted Prawns with olive oil and fresh mint seasoned with butter of pumpkin by Chef Bernard Dance. Two lines of shrimps, pumpkin slices in the middle, looking like a colorful flag and flavored with rose champagne. A rich toasting flavor followed by an interesting salt and pepper seasoning on those soft neat langoustine. On the side is the bitterness and sweetness of the ... Best enjoyed with Moët et Chandon White Imperial


  • Shrimps Asian style, floating in a large bowl of sauce. An interesting preparation of gambas with olive oil, shallots, and curry with coconut milk. Tasty and rich in flavors prepared by chef Bernard DanceBest enjoyed with Moët et Chandon white imperial


  • Scallops by Chef Youssef Akiki and Chef Abdallah Khoder colorful red figs cut in four than roasted with rosé champagne in a large round plate. Scallops setup in the middle were then decorated with flowers. Unfortunately the scallops had an oily feel and a dull taste -maybe due to the waiting time between the preparation and lunch-, even though the figs did the equilibrium. I would have added more seasoning, ground pepper and more interesting flavors. Best enjoyed with Moët et Chandon white imperial


  • Prawns with pasta by Chef Georges Berberi decorated with dill giving a green color to the dish like pesto and few pink flowers to decorate it. Pasta was a bit over cooked for my taste. More pepper would have made this dish perfect. Best enjoyed with Moët et Chandon white imperial


  • Prawns Tempura with Fresh Mint by Chef Bernard Dance: Simple and clear, soft in the middle crunchy on the outside with fresh mint leaves to boost the flavor. The mint crunches like chips while the tempura melts under your teeth like butter. Best enjoyed with Moët et Chandon White Imperial


  • Chicken Thai with coconut Cream, fresh cream, ginger, coriander by Chef Georges El Kik: White rice covered by four pieces of chicken cut in slices and decorated with red tomatoes and cilantro. Rice is well cooked, the chicken is juicy and the sauce is unique. The textures are really interesting. Rice, chicken and sauce together made of every bite an exquisite combination. I think this is my favorite today. Two thumbs up for the chef. Best enjoyed with Moët et Chandon White Imperial

Moet_Chandon_Hussein_Hadid_Kitchen_Food_Pairing_Beirut181 What do you think about today's challenges, I ask Chef Dance: "The sensitivity of each food ingredient has been immediately understood. It was a challenge for the chefs who understood the meaning and importance of food and champagne. The food was exquisite. The chefs exhibited a perfect balance. While each plate can be enjoyed with white or rose depending on the ingredients." Other than tasting exquisite preparations, what I learned today about champagne nourished my soul.

  • The Brut Imperial is a mix of 30 to 40% Pinot Noir, 30 to 40% Pinot Menier and Chardonay that ads freshness and aromas. Exotic fruits and spices come up after each sip.
  • Every bottle of Moët et Chandon champagne rests a minimum of two years in the cellar. As for the millesimal editions, 7 years are needed to give the richness to the bottles.
  • After fermenting separately, more than 800 different wines are then tasted to produce the same taste Moët et Chandon has been know for since 1743. Afterwards, more fermentation is needed inside the bottles to create the bubbles.

Moet_Chandon_Hussein_Hadid_Kitchen_Food_Pairing_Beirut075 Interesting fact: Tasting wines activates all the senses except one - the hearing sense. Tasting champagne activates them all since you can hear the popping bubbles of champagne and enjoy it afterwards. "What a day!"... Is the best way to describe my feelings...

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