A dinner with a Michelin starred Chef is (normally) something of an experience. When you put 12 of them together and add some great wines you prepare yourself for one of the meals of your life. That’s what happened last night and it blew me away.
The mood was set early. The 2nd day dinner of the International Gourmet Festival was going to be held at the Vila Joya’s fantastic restaurant room which sits just on top of a sandy beach and has a great sea view (where you can actually hear the waves).
Vila Joya is a highly respected 2 Michelin star restaurant located in heart of the Algarve in the south of Portugal. A cathedral of fine dining and number 37 in the The World’s 50 Best Restaurant list.
Then, a line up of some of the best Chefs working in Portugal (or being Portuguese and working abroad) was nothing short of remarkable. The host Dieter Koschina and his right-hand men Matteo Ferrantino (in the picture) and a list of names that rarely get together in such an impressive setting: José Avillez, Ricardo Costa, Leonel Pereira, Vitor Matos, Benoît Sinthon, Hans Neuner, Albano Lourenço, Vincent Farges and George Mendes (who travelled all the way from NYC)!
And finally a wine list that included such stars as the fantastic Dom Pérignon Millésime 2004, the 2003 Pelada, the Niepoort Batuta 2010 or the Pintas Vintage Port 2007. The pairings would most probably make each of the night’s courses shine even more.
Expectation was at the highest possible level but what followed simply blew past it.
Cocktail First a premium Olive Oil tasting, with homemade grissini, salty focaccia and Oliveira da Serra’s brand new and truly delicious early harvested Portuguese olive oil. Then it was cocktail time! Grabbed a Port tonic and visited the very busy Vila Joya’s kitchen (with 12 Chefs and and their staff inside) preparing the 10-courses menu. Time for some interesting amuse bouche and we’re off for the dinner.
The Chef’s Table at Vila Joya. Available for sponsors and for those paying 600 € to attend the dinner.
The Portuguese Michelin Stars Dinner For 4 hours we indulged in a sequence of food masterpieces. Each of them paired with a specific wine and enjoyed with good conversation and even better company.
1. Fresh Gillardeau oysters. A great start to an amazing Michelin-starred dinner. Prepared by Chef Benoît Sinthon and produced since 1898 by the Gillardeau family and their small company near La Rochelle and the (gorgeous) Île d’Oléron in France. Brilliantly paired with a crispy and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Cortes de Cima.
3. Tuna Chūtoro, the tastiest fatty part of the tuna. Here cooked masterfully by Hans Neuner (Restaurant Ocean, Algarve). I’ve been transported to another dimension. Absolutely amazing!
4. Marinated Scottish salmon with Imperial Caviar by Henrique Leis. Paired very well with an oaky white from Herdade da Calada Reserva.
5. Red mullet, scallops and carpaccio by Ricardo Costa, the Michelin-starred Chef from @Theyeatman. A superb mix of amazing flavours.
6. Wild turbot & White truffles, a match made in heaven by Vincent Farge of Fortaleza do Guincho. Plus hazelnuts and Jerusalém artichokes (not really artichokes!). Totally blown away by the pairing with the Dom Pérignon Vintage 2004
7. Black Truffle Cappuccino with chicken sot-l’y-laisse. Exciting textures and flavours in a dish created by Albano Lourenço. Also a great pairing for the Dom Pérignon. (no picture, sorry)
8. Roe Deer Back and Horseradish. Served early than what was listed one the menu because (they said) Chef Dieter Koschina thought the meat was perfectly cooked and ready to be served. A timely decision. The Roe Deer Back was one of the best meats I’ve had this year. Amazing balance in amazing dish. Dieter and Matteo (Ferrantino) rock as a team. Again a perfect pairing. The Niepoort Batuta 2010 is showing beautifully and together they are a match in heaven. Great stuff! (no picture, sorry).
9. Fois gras with onions and cauliflower. Beautifully presented but unfortunately the only uninteresting course of this otherwise great meal. After a set of quite amazing course this one lost its place. I’m sure that wasn’t intended. Maybe have it sooner next time?
10. Slow cooked hare, goose liver, white beans and mushrooms. A heavier but oh-so-delicious slow cooked dish. The sauce added extra thickness. Perfect pairing with the 100% Baga from Campolargo served in a Magnum bottle and also with the fantastic Álvaro de Castro Pelada 2003. Two great Portuguese red wines. Two of the best pairings of the night!
11. Wild berries, violets and grand cru chocolate. A surprisingly fresh dessert and actually the only way a dessert would fit in after 10 courses. The balance of ingredients was just perfect. The Wine & Soul Pintas Vintage Port from 2007 was fruity but elegant and powerful enough to pair with the last item on the menu. I was too busy with my Port to take a photo. After all a superb food night simply cannot end without a great Port Wine!
While slowly sipping through my glass of Port I remember thinking to myself that this was an one of the best food and wine experiences I’ve ever had. How wonderful of an opportunity to enjoy in one night the amazing food masterpieces created by some of the best food artists in the World. Thank you gentlemen. We’ll certainly meet again in the near future!
The 7th edition of the International Gourmet Festival continues this week with a fantastic programme that includes the likes of Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca), Nuno Mendes (Viajante), Quique Dacosta (Quique Dacosta) and many more Chefs.