Monday, September 25, 2017

A garden variety of culinary journeys

“naples

My first culinary experience at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples was a four-course paired dinner called, “Through The Garden.” The dinner was an expression of intense garden-fresh flavors, with a focus on micro greens, used in savory cuisine, succulent desserts, mixology and proved well with cohesive pairings with new world wines. I was elated in the fact that I recently was educated on the nutritional benefits of micro-greens. Not only do they make a stunning garnish but they round out the palette with a small burst of flavor and pack about three times more nutritional value than more mature greens and vegetables.
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort has a series of unique culinary journeys through out the year. The next one will be in October. The main reason for these sensational dining opportunities is the new and talented Chef de Cuisine at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, Chef Leandro “Leo” Jaszchuk. He is a native of Argentina who creates imaginative and delicious dishes by infusing flavors from his heritage into his cooking style. I discovered a spark of French influences in there as well! He adds a stroke of brilliance to Southwest Florida’s dining scene.
Sitting down with my husband, at our table, we were immediately greeted by friendly staff offering a Sparkling Watermelon Fizz containing Bombay Sapphire Gin, watermelon juice, rosemary, fresh lemon and sparkling wine. The cocktail was elegant, refreshing and measured in even parts so the flavors complimented each other with each tantalizing sip. Our Amuse Bouche was the Summer Crudité with Chef Leo’s masterful hand preparing quinoa, an edible seed of the amaranth family. It was cooked perfectly and blended with chick peas, parsley, pea roots, miniature radishes and carrots. On the side we enjoyed mini corn muffins and red pepper, lime and paprika aioli.
It’s always amazing fun choosing your first course, entree, dessert and series of fine wines to pair with each course! We were thrilled by the menu and the choices were difficult. Our server was kind enough for assisting in the selection of courses and offering samples of featured wines. For the first course, I had opted for the Butternut Squash with Cypress Grove Goat Cheese and Pumpkin Seeds paired with King Estate “Backbone” Pinot Gris from Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The butternut squash was pureed and presented as a soup with baked cheesy crouton topping and a dollop of goat cheese. The marriage with the wine seemed spot on as the pinot gris naturally blossomed in flavor with this Fall harvest bounty. The clove and cinnamon spices in the butternut squash and textures from the crunchy pumpkin seeds and creamy goat cheese were exciting and soothing all at the same time. My husband had the Cold Smoked Trout with Salsify Puree and Baby Beets. Salsify is a root vegetable belonging to the dandelion family and tastes much like a parsnip. I never tasted trout like this! It was amazingly fresh and prepared so delicately that fish just melted in my mouth. The plate came garnished with roe and a caper berry.
The entrees were shared between my husband and myself. We chose Stout Beer Braised Beef Brisket with Summer Corn and Charred Corn Puree paired with North by Northwest Walla Walla Syrah from Washington and Red Snapper Averdale (cauliflower) Puree, Eight One Ball Squash and Blood Orange Beurre Blanc. We had paired the red snapper with King Estate Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon and not the chardonnay. The casting of a shadow on the plate was by the brisket that stood almost 2 inches high with lightly fried onions on top. The juicy forkful of beef and a scoop of the puree was just HEAVEN. The allspice and nutmeg was as inviting as a warm autumn day.
The red snapper was an exquisite fish boasting with flavor from the brown sugar caramelization on top. This made it quite irresistible. It rested on the averdale puree with plump raisins all around it. The Eight One Ball Squash had adorned the fish. This squash is actually grown in Colorado and is a hybrid summer squash variety with an almost perfectly round shape, hence the name.
Polishing off this elegant culinary journey were two desserts; Summer Strawberry Shortcake with lemon ice cream that was very palette cleansing and Wild Berry Mousse with Greek Yogurt Crema and fresh wild berries that looked like a work of art and tasted artfully amazing.
The backdrop in the dining room was cozy and warm as we dined by the mock fireplace and listened to the guitar player offering notable Beatles favorites all evening. My belief is that the time to step out of the norm and seek a culinary experience should be here at the Ritz-Carlton. Come and enjoy the dinner series starting again in October with the culinary genius of Chef Leo, cordial staff, inspired mixology and fine wines.

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