Elizabeth Wunderlick, the Caribbean Manager for U.S. Meat, a repeat guest on the island and a very popular lady among local chefs, invited some of her friends, from Dairy, Pork and Wine organizations to come together and discuss the latest global evolution in food service, over award-winning cuisine.
The evening was facilitated by Josue Merced-Reyes, an Island Hopping Gourmand and an authority on all aspects of Buen Vivir.
The Westin’s executive chef Matt Boland and his culinary brigade prepared a lovely menu of tastings reflecting the 12 global trends identified in Merced-Reyes’ lecture, and guests hailing from all of Aruba’s fine eateries had fun sharing the heaped family-style platters paired with exquisite wines, imported to the island by Arion Wine Company.
Among trends defined by Merced-Reyes for 2011/12, the return of pre-prohibition libations and signature retro-cocktails such as The Sidecar, and the ones named after icons of yesteryears such as Greta Garbo & Marlene Dietrich.
Other trends include Low & Slow, cooking in low temperatures over long periods of time producing tasty dishes such as the American Lamb Shanks cooked Osso Buco style, meat falling off the bone, served that evening. The course was paired with TaMas Estates Pinot Grigio and Obikawa Shiraz, described and served by Govert van der Hout of Arion Wine Company.
The Indulgence Trend in which fat is our friend drew a lot of chuckles as this, in opposition to last year’s low-fat/low-cal craze, advocates nicely marbled meats, Certified Angus Beef Filet of Top Sirloin and Bacon Wrapped Filet of Pork Loin, where the high fat content guarantees the superb flavor of the cut. Murphy’s Goode Pinot Noir enhanced the experience even further. Pinot Noir is the in choice this season, thanks to its considerable meal pairing versatility, states Merced-Reyes.
Comfort foods are still a strong trend, he reiterates, Truffle Macaroni & Cheese, flavored with boutique cheeses such as Shullsburg Cheddar and Roth Kase Gruyere, lend a fresh twist to childhood favorites, and Mezzaluna Fontina Cheese Grits delivers the same effect of comfort, home-style cooking with fine dining flair. Apparently cheese is big on the list of trends as the menu embraced it with every course!
Talking about the Aging Trend at length, Merced-Reyes explained how improved dry aging is over wet aging, which is also reflected in the price, but one can taste the difference, as far as flavor, in beef and in rum, a fine aged rum, he suggested, is perfectly suited for sipping, in the same way cognac is.
The trend of Artisanal Cheese, Artisanal Bread and Artisanal Wine was enthusiastically received, as restaurant patrons are tired of mass produced products and are willing to pay for superior quality.
Not surprisingly Merced-Reyes advocated smaller portions as part of being a responsible consumer and having less-leftovers at the end of the meal. He discussed the slicing of mega sirloins in half, creating tasty medallions as a way of conserving resources and eliminating waste.
The trend of mixing and matching sauces from around the globe is strong. The meat tasting featured a Portobello Chocolate Red Wine sauce, and a Tamarind Tarragon Green Peppercorn sauce besides a Buttermilk Blue Cheese sauce, illustrating the globe-trotting tendencies of the menu writer.
The Big Picture of Food, concludes Merced-Reyes, requires creativity and the desire to surprise and delight restaurant-goers, explore flavors and serve a sensory explosion, as exemplified by the deconstructed Tiramisu dessert which served light-as-a-feather Lady Fingers biscuits, strong expresso and BelGioioso mascarpone, for every guest to make up his own version of the Italian Pick-Me-Up Dessert, with as little or as much coffee and cream toppings.
All invitees expressed gratitude to the sponsors which made the exquisite evening possible including additional product donations from Buckhead Beef, Kansas Packing LLC and Silverado Vineyards.