When planning our holiday dinner for the Hilton Netherland Plaza, Executive Chef Todd Kelly made a somewhat unusual suggestion. Why not bring the kitchen and dinner together in the same room? Thus we found ourselves on Sunday, December 9, 2012 in the Hall of Mirrors with an entire culinary presentation set up in the center of the banquet hall to create a real show for all to see and enjoy.
We started with a reception outside the doors to the Hall of Mirrors with some Roederer Estate Sparkling from Mendocino County and a selection of appetizers, including liver mousse on brioche with poached apples and beef tartar canapés. They were all a delicious prelude to the main event. Then the mirrored doors were opened and we entered the Cirque du Culinaire under the dramatically lavender lit ceiling. Chef Kelly did better than a three-ring circus with seven food stations and two wine stations.
A seafood raw bar with ceviche and oyster shooters from both East and West Coasts gave a refreshing start while we watched oysters get shucked. The carving station had roasted tenderloin and a yummy truffle macaroni and cheese. The vegetable sous-vide station combined colorful carrots, pears, and squash into an aromatic mélange of elegance. The nearby fried station had sweet corn fritters that matched nicely with Burgundy wine and unusual salt cod beignets that gave an interesting twist on traditional fare.
Across the room was the Southern barbeque station with suckling pigs on display and rows of cornbread at the ready to be combined with three sauces and two slaws. The mozzarella station was the most entertaining as the chef was taking the fresh-made cheese and blowing it up into an edible balloon before combining it with cherry tomato confit, balsamic gelée, and baby arugula. This went very well with the Sauvignon Blanc.
As entertaining as the inflated cheese was, the best station of all was dessert with all its delicious choices and beautiful possibilities. Pastry Chef Megan Ketover made an array of house-made ice creams, macaroons, whoopie pies, and various scrumptious toppings to decorate your choices. Some of us more decadent diners had to start as well as end the meal here.
The culinary show carried on for hours as Chef Kelly presided over the multi-ring extravaganza in a stadium atmosphere. We finally left with thoughts that we may not soon see such a Circus of Delectation. Hurray for Kelly’s Kings of the Kitchen!
J.T. Mayer, Chargé de Presse Provincial Midwest