Palais des Thés USA collaboration dinner with The Rotunda at The Pierre Chef’s Social Club dinner with Executive Chef Ashfer Biju was a shockingly good one that I haven’t had in a long time – and it’s mostly no alcoholic beverages involved to taint my mind. All of these teas were paired by the lovely Aurélie Bessière, president of Palais des Thés USA.
I’ll admit I had my round of a dangerously easy to drink rum punch. Not too sweet, fruit forward and enough acidity for me to be fine drinking this cocktail. There were several rounds of passed snacks like the delectable mini lobster rolls, heirloom tomato wrapped in duck prosciutto and a tomato jam filled, mustard-y gougères. I was foolish to eat so many of these because this dinner turned out to be quite long and very filling.
First course of scallop crudo, peach vanilla vinaigrette, mustard cress was paired with a Miyazaki Shincha Ichibancha Japanese Grand Cru green tea. The tea works beautifully as it has this delicate, grassy, fish-like/seafood flavor finish. It does not overwhelm the sweet, silky fresh scallop and the sweet flavors of peach and vanilla. I adored the spicy, bitter, bracing bite of the cress.
The next dish, if you will, that absolutely blew my mind and stole the evening was the upstate farm heirloom tomato “tea.” The name of the dish is an inspired, tongue-in-cheek idea of having a tea bag to steep in hot water. What Biju explained, the tomatoes were lightly crushed and drained with the various herbs (I tasted a strong kick of basil amongst the other herbs he chose not to list) overnight in a refrigerator and place them into muslin cloths like a tea bag.
During service, waiters poured in teapots the warm tomato broth but when dipped with the bag, the intoxicating, sweet and herbaceous aromas waken your senses and make me think of late summer (super ripe tomatoes and basil). When a sip is taken, it tasted like the freshest, cleanest tomato soup I ever had but without the tomato purée, cream and other things. It’s pure, vibrant essences of tomato, herbs and a touch of salt. Incredible and I wanted a few gallons of this tea for me to take home.
Slow cooked fillet of South Bay fluke, summer squash, yellow tomato and pepper jam was a nicely poached, delicate fish. The savory pepper jam added some exciting notes. The tea pairing of Yuzu Shincha Japanese Grand Cru green tea that compliments the bright, acidic notes of the tomato pepper jam and the yuzu flavor is vibrant without dominating the dish.
The palate cleanser of jasmine tea sorbet with matcha gelee and a shooter of orange blossom green tea was a lovely idea of having something a little bit cold, bitter and a little bit sweet at the same time but leaning toward the floral realm. I liked the sorbet the most for the wonderful jasmine tea flavor and the texture is smooth enough to enjoy.
Chef Biju presented the beautifully cooked whole duck and toured it around the long communal dining table as we could smell the deep dark aroma of the Nilgiri tea he used to smoke the duck.
The duck was beautifully cooked with a faint hint of the smoky tea flavor and the confit leg was utterly fork tender. The red thumb fingerling potatoes were classic pairing and perfectly golden brown and delicious. The Swiss chard was cooked until it’s creamy and wilted and had a bracing acidity as a perfect contrast to the luscious duck. The pairing of Golden Yunnan Chinese grand cru tea was bold and smoky like the duck.
The cheese course of Ossau Iraty sheep’s milk cheese, blueberry compote, and honey comb was fantastic and I wish we could have ended dinner this way. (Reason: I’m getting really full and I tend not to be able to enjoy the food much when I get to that point.) The cheese was unctuous and velvety while it melts on the tongue. The honeycomb was piercingly floral and sweet and a great foil to the cheese. The tea pairing of Butterfly of Taiwan oolong tea was sublime. Complex and bold as the cheese and it’s great to drink on its own. (I’m raised with various oolong teas so I’m partial to them despite loving most teas.)
For dessert, we had apple and ginger cake with ginger yogurt ice cream. The ice cream was my favorite portion as it had great flavor and the mouthfeel was silky. The cake itself was fine maybe a touch dry for my preference but I liked the semi-dry apple chip and the candied ginger that topped the cake.
Overall, it’s the most exciting dinner I’ve had within the past few months. The dinner progressed beautifully (and that tomato tea!). The wait staff was professional and one of them was a little playful. The teas were delicious on its own besides brilliantly paired with the dishes the staff of Perrine cooked up, and if I could buy some of that tea onsite that would have been great.
For more photos, please CLICK HERE for the complete sets or see below for the dining photos:[alpine-phototile-for-flickr src=”set” uid=”26389565@N00″ sid=”72157687876826516″ imgl=”flickr” shuffle=”1″ style=”gallery” row=”4″ grwidth=”1200″ grheight=”800″ size=”640″ num=”30″ shadow=”1″ border=”1″ align=”center” max=”100″]