News from Around Banderas Bay | November 2005
|The Chef's Table Masterpiece of Cocina de Autor|
Kathy Taylor - PVNN
Puerto Vallarta - Imagine this... you've invited two of the world's finest chefs into your home, as well as a sommelier, a maitre d' and staff, and a jazz duo. The linens are crisp, the glasses gleam in the candlelight, and soothing water cascades down the rock wall in your outside atrium as you watch Chefs Thierry Blouet and Oscar Tapia create a masterpiece.
In reality you are at the Chef's Table dinner at Cocina de Autor on Tuesday night during the Festival Gourmet in Puerto Vallarta. You are dining in the casual intimate elegance of Thierry's Cocina, where the bond between the finest ingredients, the chef artiste, and the guest is forged in an unforgettable way.
Fronting the brigade in the open kitchen tonight are Chef Thierry Blouet and Guest Chef Oscar Tapia. Thierry's impeccable credentials include being named a member of the exclusive Maîtres Cuisiniers de France in 2000, two prestigious national titles as Chef of the Year in 1988 and 1989, and presently Assistant Director of Chaine des Rotisseurs in Puerto Vallarta. Thierry Blouet's Café des Artistes, celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, is one of Vallarta's very top restaurants and has received awards and accolades too numerous to mention.
Oscar Tapia, from Santiago, Chile, is president of the Chefs Association of Chile and Regional Director for Aregala Chile. He is well recognized for his avant-garde culinary techniques and is currently executive chef at Vina Indomita in Santiago.
Cocina de Autor is the canvas where Thierry Blouet creates a masterpiece, an evolving, innovative, quality driven work of art for a seating of 40 guests each evening. Every month except September, he serves a prix-fixe chef's signature wine-pairing menu: the Festival Chef's Table menu is imaginative yet reassuring. Favorite ingredients appear like old masters, but like a Picasso, the preparation and presentation require the diner to have an intelligent and imaginative palate.
Like brush strokes on a canvas, each dish layers depth and definition on the evening. There are no secrets in this room. The open kitchen is part of the gallery, as much art as the Patrick Denoun on the wall. The first plates are dressed and service begins.
Every culture has its dumpling, its gyoza, empanada, perogy, or potsticker. Cocina claimed its own cultural character with the invention of Dumpling with Crusty Crab. Crisp on the outside, moist on the inside, it is a plump pillow of crab and Camembert delicately crisped in sesame oil, on a bed of mesclun, drizzled with a mirin reduction.
Obeisance to the ocean continues. Sea urchin from Ensenada did not know that their fate would be so extraordinary. They share a trio of destinies: spiced cream, tempura, and marinated with soy sauce and lemon.
An amuse-bouche earlier in the week left me craving more of the next offering... cold almond cream perfumed with garlic and prawn tartar with mint oil and shallot. It is a gastronomic B-52, layers of flavour and texture and color in an elegant shot glass. A shitake and balsamic reduction created a foundation for a rich stripe of cold almond cream perfumed with shallot. The crowning tier was a prawn tartare traced with mint oil and chives. Tonight it is adorned with a single perfect hint-of-smoke, grilled, mirin-glazed prawn.
A sea bass filet succumbed to the fork in pearly opaque flakes, topped by an earthy wild mushroom tapenade. Native potatoes mashed and folded together with whole river prawns formed a most unlikely croquette liaison, one of the finest items of this menu.
We are brought back to terra firma and travel halfway around the globe to New Zealand for an organic deer filet, crusted with pistachios. Sharing the trip is a date and wild mushroom strudel, the plate richly lashed with an exotic blackberry and merlot reduction. It is tender, succulent, and well worth the journey.
A simple salad follows... as simple as barbecued grilled figs and cubes of marinated goat cheese atop mixed greens and endive can be. The salad was slicked with a fig vinaigrette and studded with cherry tomatoes.
And then dessert. This a difficult time of the evening to be asked to make a choice, especially when it comes to chocolate, very good chocolate - Valrhona, the favourite of the best pastry chefs of the world. The other guest chef at Cocina de Autor for the Festival Gourmet, and in particular, the Chef's Table menu, is Marino Palma, the official chef for Valrhona chocolate.
The choices: banana and dark chocolate mousse on a light meringue base, with drizzles of chocolate and vanilla, or a white chocolate fantasy.
The virtue of the dome of white chocolate and mango mousse is protected by the thinnest crust of white chocolate and a thin moat of citrus and berry coulis and a scatter of berries. A light tap and the spoon holds a mélange of creamy mousse, fruit, and luscious sauce. It is fantastic.
The evening goes by languidly. The chefs mingle with the diners and some guests retire to the Cigar and Cognac room. Oscar has a beer. The brigade teases him. There are no secrets in this room.
The artistry of Thierry Blouet, Oscar Tapia and Marino Palma was accompanied by a selection of great wines from Chile. Lafite Los Vascos Chardonnay 2004, Mont Gras Chardonnay Reserva 2004, Indomita Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva 2001, Vinedo Chadwick Vina Errazuriz 2000, Dona Bernarda Luis Felipe Edwards 2000, and Sena Vina Errazuriz & Robert Mondavi 2001.
Read all the event stories and view the photo galleries of the Festival Gourmet International 2005, from the Jungle themed kick off at the Mayan Palace to the Tropical Odyssey Closing Gala at the Sheraton. Just follow the links below.
Tropical Odyssey - An Exotic End to Festival 2005
For an evening to be truly memorable, it takes a combination of ambiance, music, wine, food, and often, company. The Tropical Odyssey Gala that was the closing event of the Eleventh Annual International Festival Gourmet Vallarta had all of these elements.more »»»
The ABC's of Gourmet
What many consider to be the "heart and soul" of the Festival Gourmet takes place in the days between the opening and closing parties, and during the daylight hours before the coveted Chef's Tables. The cooking classes offered by the Festival Gourmet are a great way to learn new skills and rub shoulders with like-minded gourmands.more »»»
To Know Wine is to Understand Life
It has been said that "to know wine is to understand life," and thanks to the wine tasting events taking place at the Sheraton Buganvilias during this year's Festival Gourmet Expo Forum, you don't have to be a wine connoisseur to explore the wonderful world of wine.more »»»
Bianco - The Best of Both Worlds
Just a month after their gala opening, Bianco's Chef's Table event, as part of the Festival Gourmet, was a huge success. Guest Chef Bernard Guillas from La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, and the Bianco staff created a one-of-a-kind 6 course meal in their unique fusion style, bringing together European cuisine and traditional Mexican ingredients.more »»»
Festival Gourmet Brunch Highlights
One of the most anticipated events of the Gourmet Festival is the Brunch at the Sheraton Buganvilias in Puerto Vallarta. Chef Francis Drillien of the Sheraton Cabo San Lucas, guest chef for this event, celebrated the sea with a minimalist brunch for 400 guests on Sunday. more »»»
The Flavours of Contemporary Chile
In the leafy aerie that is the top terrace of Chef Thierry Blouet's Cocina de Autor, his guest chef Oscar Tapia gave us a little gift yesterday, an amuse-bouche, which not only pleased but teased in anticipation for the chef's table dinner they will offer this Tuesday.more »»»
Hot Opener for the Gourmet Festival International
Fire. It is fitting that this most primitive and basic of cooking methods was the theme of the opening festivities of the Festival Gourmet International at the magnificent Mayan Palace in Nuevo Vallarta.more »»»