Friday, 7 September 2007

Dining And Wining

On Saturday night it was my pleasure to entertain some friends - bloggers, writers and gourmets - to dinner at the restaurant that changed my life: The Providores in Marylebone Village. I'd like to start by thanking everyone who came to eat and drink with me in celebration of my Professional Chef Diploma and my imminent departure to the temple of world cuisine, Catalunya. I hope you all enjoyed your evening and got home safely. After the difficulties with my previously arranged job in Tarragona, I've been very circumspect about my future intentions, but I was able to break the news of my new intended destination to my dinner guests and I'll publish details here on my blog this weekend.

Eagerly anticipating our food and wine at The Providores
My Saturday night dinner guests were Andy (sometimes of) Living To Eat, Howard and Ben from Food And Drink In London with friend Antonia, Richard from Superfood, Krista from Londonelicious, Walid from TrustedPlaces and, last but not least, my brother Joel and his girlfriend Aliyyah. I'd hoped to see Jeanne of CookSister and Johanna of The Passionate Cook, but previous commitments made this impossible. And Roshani of Living To Eat fell sick on the day and was unable to make it. Note to self: try to get these three talented women round a dinner table before your departure.

At my request, The Providores had laid on a three-course meal with a selection of wines chosen to match each course. It was the first time in my life that I've ever had a menu printed specially for me. We kicked things off with a tasty little amuse bouche of pork belly with a watermelon and coriander salad. But as Peter Gordon talked us through the amuse we noticed that the crispy buckwheat element was missing. Without hesitation and with a big smile on his face, Chef marched down to the kitchen and returned with a little dish of the buckwheat, proceeding to jovially serve it to all of us himself.

I started with the coconut, black cardamom, crab and galangal laksa. A creamy, velvety soup packed with umami and a perfectly balanced edge of bitterness from the cardamom.

I thought the various textures - the silky body of the soup, the crunch of the shallots, the soft flesh of the grilled prawn and the firm al dente of the green tea noodles - all worked together in glorious harmony.
Howard doing what food bloggers do best

For my main course I chose the line-caught wild sea bass. From reading the description of the dish I knew straight away that this was up my street. Fruit with fish is an often overlooked combination, but the combination of papaya, chilli and coriander was simply marvellous with the thin noodles.

Wild sea bass on papaya and chilli salad with peanuts, shallots and shrimp crispThe one element of the dish that surprised me was the fried peanuts, which unsuspecting to me, were quite a dominant flavour in the dish. That's not a bad thing of course, in fact it was a very, very good thing. The combination was totally new to me, and one that I would never have imagined would work. But boy did it work! I can't recall ever trying white fish with peanuts as a combination before, but I'm sure that I'll be experimenting with it at home myself before long.

This was Aliyyah's chocolate kalamansi delice, which you can't actually see from the angle I took the photograph. It's hiding under the molten flow of coconut tapioca with the immaculately spherical scoop of strawberry sorbet perched on top.

I can only assume that Aliyyah's massively broad smile throughout her consumption of this dish was testament to her approval.
Chocolate kalamansi delice with tapioca, strawberries and chocolate wafer

Grenadine panna cotta with pear and basil jelly, pomegranate, cherry and honey snap
For my own dessert I went for the grenadine panna cotta, in truly seasonal style. Does grenadine count as seasonal drinking? Well maybe not, but then again I'd also be kidding myself if I believed it contributed to my 5 a day. Ah, who cares? My panna cotta sat beneath a pear and basil jelly, the flavour of which was incredibly satisfying. The subtlety of the pear was appreciable, but was rightly made to play second fiddle to the insanely fragrant and clarified aroma of the basil. I'm telling you this was flavour at its sheer purest. I loved every mouthful.

I think everyone enjoyed their meals, based on comments on the night and one or two since. But I'll leave everyone to give their own opinions. And to comment more expertly than I possibly can on the wines, which I thought were excellent. One of the two reds - a Pinot Noir I think - was simply sublime. And my brother is still raving about the Riesling.

It was great to meet Peter Gordon again - after spending two of the most formative weeks of my professional development training in his kitchen just over a year ago. Peter is living proof, if needed, that you don't have to scream and shout in a kitchen in order to get a brigade to work harmoniously and productively. His culinary combinations never cease to inspire me and they set the direction in which I want to develop my own cooking style.


Richard said...

Hi Trig
Well thanks for organising it!

I can also vouch for the duck breast with foie gras pastille - it all went down very well.

As for the wines, my favourites were also the Reisling and the Pinot Noir. The Reisling in particular went really well with the amuse - just a touch of sweetness but good acidity to balance it.

It was my first time here, but I like to think I'll be back!

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

Hey, you're looking a little beardy there!

How's the career going, anyway? I'm holding out high hopes for you coming good. Keep up the great work!

Jeanne said...

Oh I'm so sorry I could not make this! The food looks bloody marvellous and the company even better ;-)

Trig said...

Richard - And thanks for coming, I think everyone had a great time. I'd never eaten there myself either, only experienced the food through observing and tasting in the kitchen.

Scott - I've actually trimmed the beard right down since, but I'm growing it back again now. Career's on track so far (as per my latest post), all that remains is finding somewhere to live!

Jeanne - Oh it was!

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