And I Can Cook, Too

Sunday, February 12, 2006

On a typical New Year’s Eve, my husband and I would hunker down in our home, sit on the lawn with some friends and neighbors, open a couple of bottles of Billecart Salmon, and watch the Kaneohe Marine Corps’ fireworks display across the bay. This past year, we decided to see how the other half lives and accepted an invitation to dinner at one of Waikiki’s hottest night spots. Although we were a bit concerned about fitting in with the best, brightest, and, well, thinnest folks on Oahu, we decided to give hobnobbing with the cool kids a shot. We spent the day in Waikiki, enjoying a wonderful day of sand, surf, and poolside massage. A quick shower and a change of clothes, and it was time for dinner.

Upon arrival at the restaurant, we discovered that the reservation for our party of six had been misplaced. After a few rounds of “Yes we do” “No you don’t”, it appeared that we had missed the only seating of the evening until a manager arrived. Of course we had a table! It was ready, and it was waiting. There was, however, one remaining disappointment: the dinner that night was a $195 per person pris fixe, which included just one glass of wine. Such a calamity brought on much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, until the manager expertly brought us back down to the ground. Hottest ticket in town…folks dying to get in…best menu anywhere…waiving of the $30 after dinner cover charge…but most of all, promises of special treats for the table. I wondered aloud if the treats would be liquid and, he assured me they would. Soothed, we were finally seated and promptly served an amuse bouche of Ocetra Caviar atop Crème Fraiche on Brioche, paired with a glass of Veuve Clicquot. The Ocetra was absolute perfection, and launched us into a discussion of the pollution of the Caspian Sea, and wondering aloud how much longer we would have caviar to enjoy. Following the Veuve, the manager arrived at our table with a bottle of Franciscan Chardonnay. I don’t normally care for Chardonnay, and this was no exception, but everyone else in our party found it to be a well-rounded Chard with the perfect amount of oak. With our Chard, we had course number one: Lobster Cappuccino. The soup itself was unusually harsh and acidic, but was tamed slightly by the dollop of foamed milk on top. The generous slice of tail meat at the bottom of the bowl was a nice touch, but not enough so to procure the dish any higher accolade than the shrugging of shoulders. We had better luck with Terrine of Foie Gras with Fresh Black Truffle that followed. Served with a traditional balsamic glaze, it was a slice of heaven. Once again, the conversation turned. With the recent changes in European feeding laws, how much longer will we have foie gras? As I vowed to purchase the next full lobe I could find, our chewing slowed as to enjoy the dish just a few moments longer. At this point, a 2003 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir was brought to the table, and with it, Duck Confit en Croute, served with Tarragon Emulsion. As we discussed the over/mis-use of the term emulsion, we bit into flakey pastry, delightfully seasoned confit, and a tarragon emulsion that knocked our socks off. It was an unusual pairing, and a wonderful one. As for pairings, we were thrilled with our Paul Hobbs. It opened quickly and beautifully with a nose of tea and vanilla, had a beautiful deep color, and was wonderful with the food. The wine’s aroma, however, was over shadowed by the distinctive and unmistakable smell of burning hair floating through the dining room. Along with several other tables, we rubbernecked around, half expecting to see someone’s head on fire. Unable to identify the source of the mystery smell, we returned our attention to the table and an herb crusted Chilean Sea Bass with Balsamic Reduction and Frisee. The bass was moist and tender, and a light grill on the frisee added volumes to the flavor of the salad. After a palate cleanser of a lovely Sauterne Sorbet, we were ready for both our next course, and our next wine. We chose a Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon to go with our medallion trio of Bison, Lamb, and Veal with a Pinot/Port Reduction and Ice Wine Infused Demi Glace. The wine was big, bold, and chewy. Unfortunately, so was the bison. Though decidedly more tender and flavorful, the veal was also lukewarm. As we discussed the over/mis-use of the term “infusion”, we discovered that ice wine infused demi-glace is a stunning saucing for a succulent medium rare lamb. Dinner plates were cleared, desert plates were served, and the source of the burning hair smell was revealed! The “Flaming” part of our Flaming Chocolate Raspberry Charlotte was half a brown eggshell drizzled with raspberry liquor and set ablaze. Visually stunning. Aromatically? Several people declared that the smell alone cost their appetite for the dessert. With the smell still in the air, the flavor of the dish was okay, but not much more.

Throughout the evening, I watched as of young, beautiful, skinny, and presumably wealthy singles lined up for admission into the dining room. After dessert, it seemed that the lifting of the barricade was inevitable. Ten o’clock rolled around, and in they came. We tried to blend in. Us: 40-something, fine dining, retirement planning. Them: 20-something, meat marketing, Jaegermeister shooting. They had us out-numbered and we all knew it. Exiting the building, it was impossible not to see the hundreds of people lined up around the block waiting for admission. We ran for the nearest patch of available space we could find. We spent the bewitching hour on Waikiki Beach, watched the fireworks with thousands of others who were ringing in the New Year.

As this New Year’s approaches, I look back and wonder; did we have fun? Yes. Is it an experience I’ll always remember? Yes. Was it worth it? Well…
We did have a very nice time spending New Year’s in Waikiki. But this year, I think I’ll whip up a couple of pupus, open a few bottles of Billecart Salmon, sit on the lawn with my friends and neighbors, and watch the fireworks on the Bay.

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