OK, here we go! I felt that for my first review I should just go for it and tackle the most unbelievable meal I have ever had.
Every year Tom and I take our four kids to Walt Disney World and live on amusement park burgers and fries. Orlando was the last place that we ever expected to have a memorable food event. Thank goodness, three years ago, our wonderful friends, Barbie and Keelan Parham, knowing our penchant for fine dining, took us to Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian Hotel on Disney property. In the past two years we have had such great meals in their elegant dining room. Each table has two servers, Victoria and Albert!, and a harpist to accompany the meal. We have always had the wine pairings with the menu, (the sommelier is a genius!) and together we have grown in our enjoyment of gastronomy. I believe that the first time Barbie had foie gras was at V&A’s and now she is addicted! Always an amazing event and I will break down each visit at another time. For now, I want to talk about an event 6 months in the making.
On April 19th of this year, Barbie and Keelan woke up at 6:30 on a Sunday morning and using three different phones, were the first ones to call for reservations to the hottest table in town. Victoria and Albert’s Chef table in the kitchen can be booked 6 months in advance and only one seating a night is available. They scored the table for us, and the wait was well worth it.
A champange toast
On October 19th, we left the kids at the condo with Tom’s mom, who had joined us for this trip. At 6:00, we were shown into the kitchen of Chef de Cuisine, Scott Hunnel. We started our journey with a champagne toast with the chef. I love champagne and sparkling wines of all kinds, and the Heidsieck Monopole “Blue Top” Brut Champagne was a delightful start.
Chef Scott Hunnel
What followed was a 9 course tasting menu and wine pairings that never let up or disappointed.
The Amuse Bouche
The Amuse Bouche, that at any other dining experience is a small bite to tempt the palate, was many small bites that tempted our imaginations. Blue Fin Tuna on a Salt Plate with Ohio Tomatoes, Smoked Salmon Roulade and Deviled Quail Egg with Iranian Osetra Caviar, and A Vanilla Skewered Crab Sphere. This array of treats was perfectly paired with the Champagne. Each was a perfect bite of the finest ingredients.
The first course
The first course was duck prepared two different ways. We enjoyed Long Island Duck with Tuscan Melon, Grains of Paradise and Minus Eight Vinegar. The thin slices of duck where paired with crisp melon and rye crisps. The second preparation was like a duck panceta assembled over micogreens. This course was paired with Von Buhl Maria Schneider “Jazz” Riesling, Pfalz 2005.
For the second course, they divided up the ladies from the gentlemen. Barbie and I had Tempura Crab Stuffed Squash Blossom with Violette Moustarde. This was not a tiny bite, but rather a very large portion of a tempura crab cake with tempura vegetables. We paired this with Chateau Sancerre, Loire 2004. I was already very full, but couldn’t wait for the next round.
So good! John Dory fish
Tom and Keelan enjoyed a wonderful piece of fish with asparagus in an amazing sauce. I am lucky to be married to a man who knows how to share. I enjoyed his selection even more than mine. Their John Dory “Amandine” with Green and White Asparagus, Beurre Noisette was paired with Prosper Maufoux Vire-Clesse Chardonnay, Macon 2005.
The girl’s quail
The third course was again split between the sexes. Barbie and I had quail done two different ways. The delicate leg was baked into a puff pastry and the tender slices of quail breast were arranged on turnip kraut. A fig jam was a lovely accompaniment. Our Quail with Black Fig Jam and Turnip Kraut was paired with a wonderful and light Morgan “Twelve Clones” Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands 2004.
The boy’s mushroom heaven
The guys had what was my favorite taste of the night. Colorado Lamb with Wild Mushroom Ragout, Porcini Pasta and Truffle Foam, was amazing. I love anything that combines pasta and mushrooms, but this was heavenly. Tom, who is not a mushroom fan, was reluctant to share, but because he loves me, saved me an extra bite of the pasta. The truffle foam was in an egg and this amazing custard with truffles on top. Oh, and the lamb was perfect. Paired with LA Baronne Rougr “Montagne d’ Alaric”, Corbieres 2002, this was most assuredly my favorite taste of the evening.
Chef Scott’s pork, pork, pork
Boys and girls were back on the same plate when our wonderful wait staff brought out the fourth course and Chef Scott introduced what he called pork, pork, and more pork. The plate was dressed with a wonderful, fresh corn cake with whole kernels, pork belly in a delicious sweet sauce and three slices of pork tenderloin. Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin and Belly with Florida Corn and Cipollini Onions was matched with Perea Cruz Reserva Carmenere, Maipo Valley 2002, a wonderful big red from Chili.
Next came what Tom and Barbie had been waiting for. The fifth course was Pan Roasted Foie Gras and Fuji Apple Tart with Mostarda di Cremona, perfectly accompanied by Royal Tokaji Azsu 5 Puttonyos, Mad Tokaj-Hegyalja 2000. On the food network’s Iron Chef America, I heard the term food-gasim used to try to describe the sheer joy brought on by the perfect bite of food. Tom and Barbie reached this simultaneously as they took their first bite. The foie gras was done to perfection and balanced with the sweetness of the apples in the tart. Being that I love my husband, I saved my last bite for him to savor. The wine, from Hungary, was a perfectly sweet dessert wine, and a natural pairing to the delicacy.
By now, on to the sixth course, we were truly reaching the limit of what a human could consume. Unlike most tasting menus, where you get one perfect taste of each item, we were rewarded with full servings of these masterpieces. Seared Australian “Kobe” Beef Tenderloin with Short Ribs was all that you would think of when you here about world famous Kobe Beef. The slices were perfectly rare on a red wine reduction and the short ribs were placed on creamy potatoes. This was served with a big, bold Chateau Cantermle, Haut Medoc 2000 from France. So Smooth!
The cheese, please
Are we done yet? No! Onto the cheese course. Five cheeses to sample including Comte Saint Antoine, Roomano, a Baked Min Pear with Gorgonzola, and a Fog Lights Blue. They were accompanied by figs, nuts, and even Tupelo Honey. I think this is the point that I lost feeling in my legs.
The first dessert course
The first of two dessert courses had a trio of chocolate. All are signature Victoria and Albert’s desserts in miniature versions. Miniature Chocolate Pyramid, Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Soufflé, and Orange Chocolate Napoleon. Unfortunately, there was no wine pairing with the cheese and dessert courses, and we didn’t know to save some from the last course. A sweet dessert wine would have been the perfect way to cap off the meal.
Tom prepares to dig in to the Creme Brulee
The banana gateau
Grand Marnier Soufflé
At the end of our adventure came a full sized dessert serving. We each had our own, and no one could come close to finishing. Tom and the perfect Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee, which he immediately trades with me for a Caramelized Banana Gateau, because I am not a fan of Bananas. Erich Herbitschek is the pastry chef that mad all of the wonderful sweets the ended our evening. Barbie and Keelan shared a Grand Marnier Soufflé, and a poached pear stuffed with ice cream and a meringue cookie of some sort. I was too full to even try them.
At the end of the meal, the ladies are always presented with a perfect, long stemmed red rose, and your menu is beautifully printed out for you to keep. As we left the cozy nook of Victoria and Albert’s kitchen, we knew that we had experienced a truly once in a lifetime event. I would recommend that a cab be taken home, not just because of the wine pairing, but also due to the food induced coma that one tends to fall into after 3 hours of eating amazing course after amazing course. I think I can speak for all of us when I say this is a meal we will never forget.
Our dining partners, Keelan and Barbie Parham!