A few nights ago, I was invited to an event organized by Grey Goose. A few lucky people came to savor some real drinks blended with good food. Our evening that night started with a welcome drink offered by Richard Irwin, Grey Goose’s Brand Ambassador for the Middle East and Africa. The drink was a blend of Grey Goose and lime, St. Germain (elderflower liqueur) and chilled soda to add a fizz. A fine drink (called Le Fizz), that I enjoyed to the last sip.
At 7:30pm it was time to move to the first floor of the Taillevent Academy, where the event was taking place. The central oval table was perfectly set with a knife, fork, two spoons, a glass of water, salt, sugar, lemon juice and a vodka glass, as well as an individual bottle of Grey Goose for every guest. We were ready for a journey of discovery... examining the five elements of taste.
“Welcome to Taste by Appointment,” Richard said as he started introducing the event, he told us how we were going to change the way we think about food and taste over the course of the night.
We started with something quite humble. Simply bread to start the experience. Bread is used in the French tradition to start a meal. Break the bread, with unsalted butter and salt on the side. Our journey of taste started with salt, the basic saveur. We looked at the plate, a black plate where the three items lay majestically. A piece of bread, which smelt so fresh, a cylinder of pure bitter and some sea salt, all so simple.
Let's have some food:
- Sticky salmon, sweet corn purée, corn crunch: Close your eyes and enjoy a sweet starter that's balanced in terms of flavor and aromas. A warm salmon, covered with a sweet sauce and set majestically on a corn purée. Not only that, three small pieces of popcorn add the crunch, the finesse and the difference to make this bite a unique one.
- Tamarind roasted carrot, lemon cream, sumac: Mmmm... I loved it, especially after the sweet starter. A carrot, perfectly cooked in tamarind (Tamer Hindi), not too light and not too hard, melting smoothly while the sumac grabs all your senses together for a shake down. Great to say the least.
- Grilled beef, dandelion purée, olives, bitter vinaigrette. Sweet, sour and now bitter, what a mix, what a perfect way to end it. We usually start with sour and end with sweet, but the other way round is just awesome. A fine piece of meat that's so tender, grilled to perfection and topped with crunchy olives and this green sauce, a dandelion purée.... It was a plate of fine dining standard.
Time for the drinks:
Make sure to pop the bottle while opening it. After all, the Vodka comes from the region of Cognac, so it’s fitting. Pour some vodka and create your own drink.
A finger of Grey Goose, a bit of lemon, a tiny bit of sugar and one drop of Angostura bitters. I found it too strong for my taste buds, so I added some Badoit sparkling water to it. Now it was time to add the aromas. Mint, lemon peel and pepper. Take a piece of lemon and squeeze it over the top, it will give some subtle flavors. Take the mint and try this little game: Close your nose, you won't know it is mint. You'll feel the flavors but not the signature mint scent. So, I added some mint leaves after scrunching them with my hands. Finally, I added a tiny bit of black pepper.
Did it ring a bell, the food, the three flavors and the drink? Yes, the idea was to combine three flavors and every drink had to have three tastes, sour, sweet and bitter: Angostura for the bitters, the sour added by the lemon and sugar for the sweet.
The Parmesan custard, wild mushroom ragout and anchovy croutons followed. A long anchovy biscuit of and its strong sour taste, next to a yellow, custard-like soup with a rich Parmesan taste contained fresh wild mushrooms, cut in small pieces to bathe in style. Perfect seasoning, amazing textures... Pepper, salt, lemon... Chef Rouba Khalil, you made my evening.
Of the five tastes, umami is the most recently discovered, hardest to pin down and, for many, the most exciting.
Next up was "the" drink. An orange drink, similar to the Tomatini, called the Umami Bomb, containing Grey Goose vodka, white balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon juice, black pepper and a drop of truffle oil. A cocktail of aromas, flavors and textures and everything in between. Grab the glass, bring it to your nose and it feels like you’ve been slapped. The strong truffle aromas start activating your senses in preparation for the upcoming richness. What a mix. I loved it. You really have to love truffle oil to appreciate it.
The best way to understand tastes, temperatures and textures.
Dessert is a combination of anise cookie crumble, orange sorbet, whipped citrus curd mascarpone bathing in orange juice. I think the chef is even better at desserts than savory creations. A fresh, icy orange sorbet that's just sweet enough, four chunks of anise cookie crumbles, hard, crunchy and full of taste, and a hint of mascarpone cream. The three together are exquisite. A crunch, creaminess, cold, icy, fresh, sweet... It was, an indescribable feeling. I've had good desserts around the world and this one is surely one of them.
Varia, one of the finest bartenders in town, along with chef Rouba, made our night a memorable one. Bravo from the bottom of my heart.
We were not done yet. Trigrminal chocolate truffles: coffee, black pepper and mint. Pure chocolate, no biscuit, no added sugar, no complication with flavors, unique pieces, supported by a premium dark chocolate. I loved the mint aroma, the pepper’s spiciness and the coffee’s freshness.
That night, I was introduced to the world of flavors and tastes, to the way drinks are prepared. I loved Chef Rouba Khalil’s dishes and Varia Dellalian’s drinks, met great people and ate superb food. An experience I wish you all to have the chance to live one day.