Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Victoria and Albert's Queen Victoria Room: Chef's Table experience sans Chef

Back in the good old days, Florida residents could book the Chef's Table at Victoria and Albert's for dinner and, over the years, we have used this privilege to good advantage. Disney has recently modified the Chef's Table requirements, restricting reservations to individuals actually staying at the Grand Floridian Resort. This is a bummer as the environment, staff, food, and service are all impeccable and we loved holding special tasting events at the locale.

Recently it was brought to Ron's attention that the Queen Victoria Room -- an enclosed 8-seater off the main dining room which serves the same menu as at the Chef's Table -- was still available for booking by locals so he set up a dinner and tasting in order to check out its viability as a rotational site for our tasting events. The tasting diner was scheduled, and held, on July 18th and is the subject of this post.

The night had no specific theme -- just bring (good) wine and they would be flighted on location. We were the first to arrive and were welcomed warmly by Israel (the Maître d'Hôtel) and his reception staff. We opted to wait in the reception area until the others arrived so that we would all experience the new locale simultaneously. When Ron, Bev, and Linda arrived, we were ushered into the room.

It is adjoining and to the left of the main dining room but it is a world removed. It stands in stark contrast to the the Chef's Table: Tasteful period decoration, quiet, privacy, enclosed, deficit of pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, no sous-chef testosterone on display. I was liking this place already. The table setup and the presentation of our wines further added to the allure.

Traditional setup for Queen Victoria Room
Setup of the room for our event

Ron ordered a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blanc off the list while we wrestled with Israel about the wines that we had brought. His preference is to display/decant all of the wines up front while we are a little more cautious, especially as it relates to older Burgundies. Two of the wines that I had brought -- 2005 Masseto and 2006 Méo-Camuzet -- probably required decanting but we wanted to revisit that at a later time. Ron described the Champagne thusly: Toasty brioche; citrus with a touch of green apple; very refreshing.

At this time Israel stepped to the front of the room to officially welcome us and to introduce the menu. We would be having the same fare as the patrons who were currently at the Chef's Table but he understood all of the dietary restrictions in the room and those would be accommodated in the plates served. A total of 10 courses would be served. The Champagne was paired with the amuse-buche shown below, itself a study in contrasting flavors and textures.

Maine Lobster "jar" with Siberian Osetra Caviar

Upon completion of Israel's intro, we eased into a white Burgundy flight comprised of a 2007 Remoissenet Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatierres and a 1997 Remoissenet Montrachet. They both were gold in color with the Montrachet being just a little darker. The Montrachet exhibited a waxiness on the nose, a slight hint of tropical fruits, and tangerine. Andrew identified a creme brulée character. On the palate a dried-tangerine character with the waxiness on the nose manifesting as an oily texture. Long finish. The Puligny-Montrachet had notes of lime, sage, pepper, and a trace of phenolics. Lean and sharp on the palate with a long, balanced finish. The Montrachet was clearly the class of this pair. This flight was paired with the beautifully constructed Jumbo lump crab shown below.

Jumbo Lump Crab with Cucumber Gelée

We followed up the white Burgs with a red Burgundy flight: 1971 Remoissenet Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru, 1966 Leroy Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru, and 1983 DRC Richebourg. The Bonnes-Mares and Richebourg were disappointing and, thus, made the Leroy shine even brighter in comparison. The Leroy exhibited aromas of a musty closet, earth, and ripe red fruit. Great acidity on the palate along with a spiciness and a long dried-herb finish. Balanced. The Bonnes-Mares was pruney, piney, and resinous with balsamic and amarone tones. VA on the palate with a short finish. Unpleasing. The Richebourg was musty and moldy with notes of preserved dried cherries and orange rind. Disappointing on the palate. Disaggregated and lacking acidity. The lamb, which was paired with these wines, had a smoky, salty, herbaceous character which worked well with the wine that worked. The Leroy was the WOTF.

Hot "Smoked" Niman Ranch Lamb with Fuji Apple and
Curry Dressing

The Bordeaux flight consisted of that Old Faithful -- 1966 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion -- plus a 1966 Talbot and a 1986 Comtesse de Lalande. Thanks to Ron's never-ending supply of '66 La Mish, we have drunk this wine on many an occasion and we are never disappointed. This wine generally presents dill, smoke, tar, black olives, and perfect balance. Tonight was no exception. The Talbot showed blood, iron, spice, mint, anise, and baking spices on the nose. I felt a misalignment between nose and palate. Ron characterized it as "very rustic." I tagged the Pichon as having bell pepper notes along with brown shoe polish, cinnamon, clove, and beer. I found it to be tight, tannic, and linear. The fruit is not there currently and it is an open question as to whether it will outlive the tannins. Definitely does not compare well with the other wines in the group. La Mish as WOTF.

Fennel Crusted Diver Scallop in a Salt Bowl

One of the wines we were looking forward to with great anticipation was the 2006 Domaine Méo-Camuzet Premier Cru Cros Parantoux; and this wine delivered. It was the subject of a post all its own.

Poached Chicken Egg with Corn Foam

Ron's notes on the 1995 Chateau Rayas which followed indicate cherry, raspberry, and garrigue characteristics. In his estimation it is "Grand-Cru-Burgundy-like" and no other CdP "is in the same league."

Marcho Farms Veal with Peas, Carrots, and Morels

The next flight was a very uncharacteristic grouping of two of our very favorite wines. We have had these wines where the Vega Sicilia was paired with other Spanish wines and where the Masseto was either grouped with other Super Tuscans or with other Merlots. Vega-Sicilia is arguably the greatest wine from Spain while Masseto is one of the great Super Tuscans, the best Italian Merlot, and one of the finest Merlots in the world. They were flighted together because of a perception of an underlying "Pomerolian" nature to both. According to Ron, the 1970 Vega-Sicilia Unico exhibited dried red fruits, licorice, graphite, earth, and spice box. Very focused with polished tannins. Elegant and silky. Balanced. First-growth-like. The 2005 Ornellaia Masseto was very rich and very young with plentiful chocolate on the nose and palate. Pomerol-like. Excellent length on the finish. Needs another ten years to fully realize its potential. Drinking now but patience will produce even greater rewards. These wines were paired with an Australian Kobe-Style Beef with Potato Sphere.

The final bottle opened was a 1998 Guigal Ampuis Cote Rotie. Ron pegged its aromas as smoked meat, black olives, coffee, and spice box and expressed a fondness for the wine.

Selection of Cheese from Trolley
Peach Quark Panna Cotta
Peruvian Chocolate Timbale with Roasted
White Chocolate Gelato

Our experience throughout the evening was wonderful. I have already described how pleasing the environment was and I would be remiss if I did not give a shoutout to the service staff. We had a husband and wife team rotating as the shot callers from course to course and they had a trying job. Not only did they have to announce the general course highlights, they also had to go to each seat with a dietary restriction and explain the contents of that plate. They did a really good job and contributed mightily to the success of the evening. The courses were brought in by uniformed waiters bearing covered plates on white chargers (not the horses). The covers were then removed in a choreographed fashion once all of the chargers had been placed on the table in front of the owning patron. No mistakes here.

At the end of the evening Chef Hunnel came over to our room to chat us up. He missed us. He looked lost.

Sorry Chef, but you know the rules.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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