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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkNews from Around Banderas Bay | November 2005 

Tropical Odyssey - An Exotic End to Festival 2005
email this pageprint this pageemail usKathy Taylor - PVNN

The Tropical Odyssey Grand Gala Dinner brings an exotic end to the International Festival Gourmet Vallarta 2005.

Click HERE for the photo galleries
Puerto Vallarta - 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.

The ten days of the festival were a whirlwind of parties, chef's table dinners, gourmet expo visits, tastings, and classes. And that was just for the patrons! For the chefs and restaurants, and exhibitors and teachers, it was ten long days of demanding work.

Friday night was a welcomed opportunity for the chefs to compare notes, forge new associations, socialize, and enjoy the tropical paradise that had been their temporary home.

The cocktail reception on the pool deck at the Sheraton set the tone for the evening. A gigantic martini glass sculpted in ice dispensed perfectly chilled martinis, and waiters moved through the crowd with trays of salt rimmed frosty margaritas and ice cold beer.

Atop the tables around the deck rose towers of prawns and fruit, and pyramids of spoons filled with maki sushi and other tidbits. Hungry guests crowded tables laid with trays of smoked salmon, fruit, cheese, and more maki rolls.

Their lithe bodies artfully painted in tropical themes - a wave, a lobster, and a watermelon - nearly nude dancers moved in a sultry dance throughout the crowd to the sexy jungle beat of bongos. The surf crashed rhythmically and the cries of exotic birds rose to the tops of the gently swaying palms.

Chef Roland Menetrey, Mayor Gustavo Gonzalez Villaseñor, Chef Heinz Reize, Carlos Obando, & Chef Thierry Blouet.

Their lithe bodies artfully painted in tropical themes, nearly nude dancers moved in a sultry dance throughout the crowd.

Sheraton Buganvilias chefs take the stage.

Bianco owners Carlos Obando and Louis Dorfman Jr. with Oscar Tapia, executive chef at Vina Indomita in Santiago Chile.

Click HERE for the event photo galleries
The crowd of guests moved toward the elegant outdoor dining room, its ceiling a canopy of stars. They were greeted by Cuyao and Ouija, Brazilian cockatoos, a noisy addition to the exotic scene. Palms were draped with gauzy capes and softly lit. A life size replica of a Frida Kahlo self-portrait was surrounded by real macaws and parrots and cockatoos on perches. Frida gazed seriously at the guests talking to the exotic birds.

At a table under a tree, a young woman rolled cigars. Her nimble fingers flew as she wrapped the supple leaves of Cuban tobacco. Usually, she rolls a cigar every 2 minutes, 5 hours a day, 6 days a week. Tonight she slowed slightly, to talk about the cigars as she worked.

Chef Michel Mustiere stood with his arms crossed at the fringe of the crowd, his Tropical Odyssey menu already pushed back half an hour. Most of the menu items tonight require careful timing... the kitchen is poised for his signal. He sighed. "Oh well, in two hours, there will be no stress."

Seats are found and taken. Chef jackets are interspersed with party dresses and dress shirts. Host and guest chefs from the participating restaurants mix with friends and family, and await the final meal of the Festival Gourmet.

It is worth the wait. There are two outstanding items on this menu and Mustiere begins with one.

Looking like smooth mocha in a demitasse cup, the pumpkin flower cappuccino is delicately flavoured and silky in texture. Spoons can be heard scraping the bottom of the cups.

Next presented is a salmon terrine and baby scallops with tomato coulis. A solid centre of salmon and scallops is surrounded by a light salmon mousse, with a sprinkle of tomato coulis decorating the plate. It is well matched with the Chilean Chardonnay that is poured.

The goat cheese soufflé is wonderful. It is an extravagant individual soufflé on a bed on arugula, the arugula's peppery bite an ideal counterpoint to the smooth creamy interior of the soufflé. Ribbons of proscuitto and reggiano curled around the plate and provided a salty slant to the mild and pepper marriage of the goat cheese and greens. This is the other of Mustiere's best offerings of the evening.

Next, a wild mushroom sauce with a garlicky, woodsy nose surrounds a generous beef tournedo resting on a grilled slab of golden polenta. This is a big dish, rich and hearty. A few delicate spears of asparagus provided a feminine twist to an otherwise macho main.

Dessert was a chocolate and hazelnut bavarois with spiced fruit. It was gorgeous to look at, but a strangely weighty dessert for a Tropical Odyssey.

Emcee for the evening Abraham Rioz introduces the "Tres Hombres" of the Festival Gourmet, Chefs Thierry Blouet, Heinz Reize, and Roland Menetery, and brings them onto the stage. The guest chefs are introduced and join this powerful, seemingly indefatigable, trio on the stage. Each participating chef in turn receives a black chef's jacket emblazoned with the Festival Gourmet insignia, a certificate of participation and a commemorative sculpture.

Before the dancing begins, the dates for the next Festival Gourmet are announced. Mark your calendars for November 9 to 19, 2006.

Praise and applause greet the chefs. Two weeks of working in a strange kitchen with different staff members, ingredients and equipment, has paid off. They are taking home new ideas and have left some behind. The restaurant patrons of Puerto Vallarta are richer for their participation, as once again the festival has stirred the culinary soul of this city.

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.

The ABC's of Gourmet
Kathy Taylor

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 »»»

The Chef's Table Masterpiece of Cocina de Autor
Kathy Taylor

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 Blouet and Tapia create a masterpiece.more »»»

To Know Wine is to Understand Life
Denise Derameé

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
Erich Haubrich

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
Kathy Taylor

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
Kathy Taylor

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
Kathy Taylor

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 »»»

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