The holiday season is cause for great festivity and our Bailliage elected to meet at the grand venue of historic Netherland Plaza. This architectural masterpiece was built concurrently with the Empire State Building by the same constructors in 1930 and in recent times had much of the original Art Deco facade and fabric restored to its rightful splendor. We met on the Mezzanine overlooking Palm Court and its multistory murals to toast with a vintage Laurent Perrier Brut and a trio of appetizers. Among these were raw Pemaquid oysters and a pistachio sushi creation that hinted of culinary adventures to come.
After this elegant start we descended a grand staircase towards Palm Court and turned into the Continental Room for our private affair. Though the original center ice skating rink to amuse diners was long removed we were to have our own entertainment as the night progressed. At each place was a gold colored “charger” or place plate with the special menu created by Chef de Cuisine Christopher Calhoun inscribed upon it as a souvenir for our celebration.
As we finished our champagne the staff presented a surprise course of organic egg with vodka-horseradish cream and spoonbill caviar. This was served in the shell on a bed of salt and had a texture similar to a mousse to complement the last sips of Laurent Perrier. Soon came our first course of Maine yellow fin tuna tartare with avocado served on a sesame tuile. Again we had a treat with a nutty character that matched well with a glass of Franz Künstler Spätlese Riesling from the Hochheim region in Rheingau. Next up was our fish course of organic Irish salmon with a luxurious yuzu-mascarpone risotto and al dente asparagus. Our wine for this dish came from the famous Piedmont producer Gaja, although rather than a Barolo we had a rare white Rossj-Bass from the Langhe vineyard. Its chalky nose and very dry mineral finish made a tasty contrast to the rich creamy risotto and wonderfully aromatic salmon.
A gustatory respite of cinnamon spiced cider sorbet served as an interlude while our musical entertainment commenced with the arrival of the Mothers of Mercy Vocal Ensemble, an all girl chorus from a local high school. Under the direction of instructor Kim Zang, they performed a number of old favorites and some original tunes a capella with choreography to the amusement and approval of all.
A convivial spirit filled the Continental Room as we reached our main entree for the evening. An elegant presentation of Marcho Farms veal cheek and veal sweetbread tournedo over braised sweet potato proved the most exotic course of the night. With apricots and almonds there again were flavors to show a theme through all the dishes we had that was evocative of Christmas. These rich decadent meats needed a substantial wine to match them and an Antinori Tignanello proved itself up to the task. The rich body and oaky character of this super Tuscan had a foundation of acidity to break through the profound veal reduction sauce and prepare for a taste of the delicate sweetbreads.
After such a tour de force a more subtle cheese course was called for, and Chef Calhoun favored us with a palate cleanser of Corsican brin d’amour accompanied with pickled turnips and quince puree. It was crunchy, tart, and fresh all at once. Finally we came to dessert and our Chef featured a rousing finish of Poire Belle-Helene. This included gingerbread, ice cream, chocolate, nuts completed with a web of candied sugar leaving nothing to be desired. A last refreshing flute of Moscato from Gagliardo la Villa in the Italian Piedmont gave a coda to our culinary chorus. All felt blessed by the hallowed season, heartfelt music, and artful mastery from the chefs and staff at Netherland Plaza.
J.T. Mayer, Vice Chargé de Presse