Feb 25, 2013

Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2013 Closing Ceremonies

After a 16 day  long celebration of food and feasting, Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2013 finally came to an end and had to do it in style with an elegant soiree complete with a 5 course menu and canapes galore! The lobby filled with familiar faces of event attendees along side media personalities who shared one common love, food.  People dressed in their very best enjoyed the hors D'oeuvres as they streamed out of the kitchen.  It was such a busy meet and greet, I wasn't able to capture images of all the beautiful treats prepared by the high-end kitchens of the St. Regis Hotel, Saadiyat Island, until we sat down for our perfect meal.  I did manage to grab at least one of the items, a Thai inspiration, fused with lemongrass and ginger, these flavorful prawns were a burst of asian essence and prepared us for the multi-course menu that awaited us.
As the evening rolled on, we were invited to take our seats at the dinner table.  Lucky for us, we had a fun group consisting of a top chef friend from Dubai, the Valrhona chocolate representatives, and the purveyors of some of the finest products in town that go by the company name Chef!!!   We familiarized ourselves with our surroundings and as the music played lightly in the background, we checked out the menu we were about to indulge in, I could already tell the evening was going to get better. 
Our first course was created by Chef Wafaei Al Zaham of the Yas Viceroy in Abu Dhabi.  Chef Wafaei won the Regional Cuisine Restaurant of the Year 2012, and earned his place at the dinner table this evening.  This timbale of crab, gulf shrimp, and shanklish sat on top of waves of beetroot and zaatar dusted crispy vermicelli.  Scented with spearmint and orange, this dish was light and airy and delicately eased us into the meal.I really enjoyed chefs creativity in melding these flavors together as well as in his presentation.  The dish was eye catching and balanced with a great use of textures. 
For our second course, we enjoyed a dish prepared by guest chef Chumpol Jangprai, the Siam King's Lobster Dumpling with a spicy "tom yam" bisque emulsion and rice cracker caviar. A refined take on some classic Thai flavors.  Because these dumplings were freshly made, the taste and consistency of the dough was perfect, and you really can't go wrong with a lobster filling, any way you cook it!  The sauce was a milder version of a familiar thai soup, I just wished the spices had been kicked up a notch, because it felt like something was missing from it. Perhaps the chef was trying to accommodate a different palate, but to me thai food should have a little more heat.
Our next course was by Chef Frank Camorra, a steamed black cod with smoked rice caldoso, sea urchin, and sea vegetables.  Frank is a native from Barcelona, but his cuisine is well known through out the culinary world, especially in the Land Down Under where he has six different operations under his belt.  This particular dish takes inspiration from the ocean, and executes fine technique as well as a harmony of flavors that really make one feel as if they are enjoying this right by the open sea.  The creamy smokey rice complemented the salty sea vegetables and the crunchy sea asparagus added that extra element of flavor that made this dish stand out. The sear on top of the black cod was done to a crispy perfection, seasoned and cooked well, this had to be the most memorable dish of the evening!
The final course before dessert was by chef Patrick Bischoff, winner of Gourmet Abu Dhabi 'Executive Chef of the Year 2012'.  He is currently based at the Beach Rotana in the heart of Abu Dhabi.  I had the pleasure of presenting with chef Patrick at the Culinary Creation stage a couple weeks prior, and he demonstrated this dish for the audience in a couple of quick and easy steps, a milk fed veal medallion, "souvaroff" style with winter truffle jus, carrot mousseline and straw potatoes.  Talked about a packed dish, this one had it all, including a hidden piece of foie gras lying under the duxelles of mushroom and truffle.  Chef Patrick is one of the nicest and professional chefs I have met in the UAE, and really takes a lot of pride with his work.  He runs a stand-up operation, and I can personally vouch for that, since I have always had a wonderful experience at many of the venues in his hotel, Finz being at the top of that list.
The final course of the evening was by chef Christophe Sapy from the St. Regis Saadiyat Island.  He teamed up with Valrhona to prepare this extremely playful chocolate dessert.  At first glance this plate brought back childhood memories with Hershey kiss like mounds and little chocolate covered bon bons on top of what looked like "chocolate dirt", it felt like a scene from Willey Wonka's Chocolate Factory!  However this creation was anything but childlike, the nyangbo chocolate cream made from 68% pure Ghana dark chocolate filled with roasted peanut ice cream were a cool and creamy treat.  The meringue drop and guanaja and peanut crumble gave it that crunchiness that melded so harmoniously with the dulcey liquid sphere.  Chef Christophe and Valrhona make a good team, and this dessert was a clear example of that, kudos to both!   

And with that Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2013 comes to an end, an action packed fun filled food fest that did the city proud.  It was a great experience, and I only wish it could happen every day of the year, but somehow, I don't think my waistline would approve.  Looking forward to more of these gastronomical wonders when Gourmet Abu Dhabi comes  back around next year!

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