Amrut Competes with the World’s Finest Whiskies

Jordan Wright
October 2018 

Photo credit: Jordan Wright

Single malt whisky connoisseurs can rejoice at the news that some of the finest whiskies in the known world have reached our shores from Amrut Distilleries in India.  Amrut “Fusion” has been rated “third best” whisky in the world by British whisky writer, Jim Murray, with 97 points from the Whisky Bible who at that time ranked it third in the world.  They could also boast of the “Thumbs Up” award from Malt Maniacs and dozens more awards worldwide.  A recipient of 92 points out of 4,800 entries by Whisky Advocate, they have consistently beat out the best-known Scottish whiskies in countless blind tastings.  Its “Single Malt Peated Cask” has scored a coveted 92 points from the Whisky Bible.  In 1987, and despite outsider prejudice, Amrut bravely put its product into these highly competitive Scottish tastings to prove it can compete with the best in its field.  They are now the number one whisky in India, despite the country’s longtime preference for Johnny Walker Black, a holdover since the early days of British colonialism.

Last month I had the opportunity to taste all of Amrut’s products from their single malt through their entire gamut of whiskies and rums.  I didn’t do a blind tasting, because frankly I would have planted my face in the floor, especially as it was a noon tasting and I hadn’t had breakfast.  Managing to keep upright throughout, I settled in for a concentrated, thought-provoking experience that would both confound and alter my appreciation of whiskies outside the realm of the best-known brands.

Photo credit ~ Amrut

Made from select Indian malted barley grown in Punjab and Rajasthan, these spirits are distilled in the hot climes of India.  They react to those conditions by coming to fruition far earlier than others of their ilk.  Their flavors are modified by temperature, added ingredients (spices, citrus peel and the like), the wood used in the casks, Himalayan water from the Sutlej river, and the casks’ former use.  These choices are made under the direction of Master Distiller Surrimar Kumar, a 33-year veteran of Amrut and award-winning whisky innovator, and veritable genius in drawing out the complexly crafted, unique personalities he is after.  One of Kumar’s creations is Amrut “naraangi” that won “World’s Best Whisky 2018”.  Aged three years in an ex-oloroso sherry cask, the single malt is then seasoned with wine and orange peel and aged for another three years.

Did you know that 60-70% of flavoring comes from the barrel?  That’s how important the choice of wood is for determining the final profile.  So, imagine for a moment using wood from five different species of trees to produce one whisky barrel.  These specially designed barrels are used exclusively for their “Spectrum Single Malt Whisky” to be available in 2020.  I’ve tasted whisky made in port barrels and sherry barrels (Amrut Single Malt Whisky Intermediate Sherry” earned 96 points from the Whisky Bible), but this is an exciting new concept.  A Special Limited Edition, Amrut Madeira” aged in Madeira barrels, will be on the U. S. market in time for the holidays.

Neel Jagdale - Chairman of Amrut ~ Photo credit: Amrut

Next year, Ashok Chokalingam, who has been with the company for many years, will take the reins as Master Distiller and Whisky Innovator bringing his own imagination to the company’s growing range of whiskies and rums.  At our first meeting he offered up this self-effacing quote. “We are a minnow coming from India,” he told me.  Well, this minnow of a company has become a full-grown shark with a high demand for its products that’s currently five times what they can supply.  But, no worries.  The company’s newest plant will now be able to accommodate its rising popularity.  Amrut is now in 45 countries and boasts $3M in annual sales.  Surprisingly, the U. S. is the second largest market outside of Europe for “Amrut Single Malt Indian Whisky”.

AMRUT - Photo credit: Jordan Wright

Now I’m no expert in describing the varied flavor profiles of whisky, I rely on my palate and my years of experience tasting spirits from around the world.  I leave it to the whisky mavens to create descriptors for these products.  They’re the ones that can extrapolate the taste of honey, chocolate, ginger, licorice, chocolate-chip cookie dough, driftwood (?!!!), orange, smoked fish, pepper, barbecued meats, pears, coconut, cherries, plums, raisins, lemons, and on and on.  It’s a probably good thing they don’t describe food.

[Color Wheel Credit] ~ Courtesy of Whisky magazine

Because India is the world’s second largest producer of sugar in the world, Amrut made the decision to produce rum, and it is sensational.  Ashok explained that rum existed since 320 BC – long before rum was produced in the Caribbean in the 17th century.  Amrut offers two types of rum – “Two Indies Rum”, made with leftover sugar cane from Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana.  It is made with five rums that have been aged together.  The “Old Port Deluxe Matured” has a lovely hint of coconut from the jaggery sugar used in the process.  Jaggery is a by-product of sugar cane grown in India.

Two Indics Rum ~ Photo credit: Amrut

If you're looking to impress a whisky connoisseur with the whiskies that everyone is talking about, you can do no better than some of these winning spirits.

Imported by Glass Revolution Imports you can find many of these whiskies and rums in our area at Jack Rose Dining Saloon, Pappe, Bombay Club, Rasika, Karma, Chaplin’s and Chloe by Haidar Karoum.

For more information visit Amrut Distilleries and Amrut Whisky UK Office.

A Special Celebration of the 130th Anniversary of Twin Oaks ~ Features a Spectacular Display of Taiwanese Orchids

Jordan Wright
September 30, 2018 

Bathe in the beauty of hundreds of orchids at the historic 18-acre estate of Twin Oaks in Northwest DC.  The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) presents the exciting exhibition, "Discover the Beauty of Taiwanese Orchids".  This exciting exhibit is open to the public from September 27th to October 3rd.  At the opening reception Ambassador Stanley Kao and his wife hosted guests with the President of Taiwan Sugar Corporation, Mr. Yu-Chung Huang in the 24-room mansion built in 1888.

Ambassador Stanley Kao and his wife ~ President of Taiwan Sugar Corporation, Mr. Yu-Chung Huang ~ John J. Norris, Jr Managing Director American Institute in Taiwan ~Tania, Uen-han, Wei Executive Officer TECRO ~ Chuang, Suo-Hang Vice Chairman TAITRA ~ Franklin F.Y. Chen Director TECRO ~ Craig Min-Hsien Lee Press Officer TECRO

“Twin Oaks is a symbol of friendship and strength of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship,” said Stanley Kao, Taiwan’s representative to the United States. “This estate has a storied history, both for sharing the culture of Taiwan and the United States, and also for bearing witness to key historical events in this long the mutually beneficial partnership.”

Owned by the government of Taiwan, this magnificent estate showcased one of Taiwan’s national treasures – Phalaenopsis amabilisin a myriad of ways.  Trees are now hung with enormous sprays of these many-colored orchids and the portico and mansion’s interiors are chock-a-block with their elegance.

The opening reception were leaders from the Washington business and policy community, think tanks and diplomatic corps and journalists

At the opening reception were leaders from the Washington business and policy community, think tanks and diplomatic corps and journalists.  We were thrilled to enjoy both indoor and outdoor displays of these stunning blooms and hear the stories of the Orchid Symphony.

One particular outdoor display features a winding watercourse with floating teacups to symbolize a poetry game of legend, popular with the country’s ancient literati. Among the trees hangs the calligraphy of Lantingji Xu.  It records one of the games and is the preface to the poems collected during that particular game.  Other displays triumph the culture of Taiwan as well as the 130-year history of Twin Oaks.   In one, a decorated canoe created from nine different kinds of wood illustrates the exquisite workmanship of Lanyu the island celebrated for this native Taiwanese orchid species.  Guests were gifted with a basket of phalaenopsis orchids donated by the award-winning company Taisuco who brought the team who created the eye-popping displays.

Lanyu the island celebrated for this native Taiwanese orchid species

Factoid:  A whopping 32% of Taiwan’s orchids are exported to the U. S. where orchid fanciers have enjoyed their long-lasting beauty and charm.

The Taiwanese Council of Agriculture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan) co-sponsored this event. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) has entrusted the Taiwan Association of Orchid Production and Development with landscaping and arrangement of this auspicious celebration.

The exhibit is open to the public through October 3rd.  Twin Oaks is located at 3225 Woodley Road, Washington, DC.  www.roc-taiwan.org.

Richmond for the Holidays

Jordan Wright
December 5, 2017
Photo credit Jordan Wright

The holidays are a time for making memories with loved ones.  Agreed?  But if thoughts of capturing your seasonally-imbued memories feature a well-worn sofa and boxed wine, then read no further.  This adventure requires you trot out your childlike sense of wonderment.

In a city that has emerged as a world class destination with cutting-edge cuisine, art exhibitions often seen nowhere else in America and a five-star luxury hotel, Richmond provides everything a couple or family could ever dream of.  Okay, no skiing.  And that’s what the holidays are all about isn’t it?  Making wishes come true.

The magnificent stained glass skylight in the Palm Court lobby

The magnificent stained glass skylight in the Palm Court lobby

I admit, I get a thrill of anticipation each time I check into The Jefferson Hotel – a turn of the 20th century American classic in the tradition of the country’s grandest hotels.  The more familiar I am with its pleasures the more I feel the need to revisit, if only to assure myself that all is well with the world.

Carrara marble statue of Thomas Jefferson amid Tiffany windows in the Palm Court lobby

Carrara marble statue of Thomas Jefferson amid Tiffany windows in the Palm Court lobby

On this trip, I planned to experience the recent room renovations.  The improvements at this 2017 recipient of the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Award are not mere window dressing, they are both elegant and technologically clever with television screens built invisibly into the vanity mirrors.

New marble bathrooms at The Jefferson Hotel - Courtesy photo

Marble, marble and more marble abounds on bathroom countertops, soaking tubs, and the spacious walk-in showers.

Grand Premier Room - Courtesy photo

Luxuriate on poufy comforters and down pillows adorning beautifully tailored designer bedding.  Recently the hotel’s 262 guest rooms were rebuilt into 181 spacious new rooms, including 15 suites with entry foyers and spacious dressing areas.  Our suite had a kitchen with marble countertop plus a large mahogany dining table and spacious living area with a view of the city.

JEFFERSON SUITE LIVING ROOM

Jefferson Suite Living Room - Courtesy photo

Perfect for inviting guests in for cocktails before dinner, or entertaining six for dinner in your private suite.  And though room service is 24-hours a day, you’ll want to get out and about.

 Jefferson Hotel Holiday Tree ~ Photo credit - "The Jefferson Hotel".

Jefferson Hotel Holiday Tree - Courtesy Photo

But first we stare in wonder at the Christmas decorations.  Hundreds of poinsettias, yards of garland and ribbon, thousands of twinkling lights and dozens of toy soldiers adorn the Palm Court Lobby and the surrounding areas.  A gingerbread display made from hundreds of pounds of gingerbread, royal icing and candies dazzles even the grownups.  At midday, musical ensembles play familiar carols in the Rotunda and the festive ambiance is utterly magical.

Courtesy photo

Pro tip: If you’re planning on being here on a Sunday, book ahead for the lavish ‘Champagne Brunch’, and do not miss the spoonbread.  The hotel’s signature breakfast concoction with deep Southern roots, is as light and fluffy as a cloud.  Ask for the recipe.  No, beg!  I did.

Oh, and be sure to swing by Blooms at The Jefferson, the flower and gift shop on the lower level.  I always find great hostess gifts and, of course, petits bibelots pour moi.

The hotel is currently offering a Holidays at The Jefferson Package for those wishing to celebrate the season with an overnight stay.  It includes a newly constructed Grand Premier Room, complimentary valet parking, and rates from $275 per room, per night.

Sally Bell’s Kitchen

Sally Bell’s Kitchen

There is so much to do in town that after dropping off our luggage with the bellman, we head for lunch at the iconic Sally Bell’s Kitchen, a luncheonette directly across from the Science Museum of Virginia where you can tour special holiday exhibits including Ralphie’s, A Christmas Story, and “Fruitcake Science”.

At Sally Bell’s find throwback lunch fare like pimento cheese, corned beef spread, Smithfield ham on a roll, tomato aspic (this must be a Southern thing) and more, plus thirteen different flavors of cupcakes (caramel!) and five different kinds of pies (lemon chess!) with which you can fortify yourself for the day ahead.

Black History Museum of Virginia is housed in the former Leigh Street Armory

Cross the street to visit the Science Museum or opt for the Black History Museum and Cultural Center featuring art exhibitions and artifacts commemorating the accomplishments of African Americans in Virginia.

Black History Museum of Virginia

Black History Museum of Virginia

Recently relocated to a beautifully renovated location (at the Leigh Street Armory), it is an interactive and modern museum.  For hours of operation visit website.

A must see is the Lewis Ginter Gardens spectacular Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights from 5 till 10pm.   This annual holiday tradition glows with more than half-a-million twinkling lights, hand-crafted botanical decorations, model trains, holiday dinners, a fire pit with s’mores and hot chocolate, nightly family activities and more.  For tickets and information visit website.

A restaurant I’d been hearing a lot about is L’Opossum, where chef and proprietor David Shannon has been creating masterfully complex dishes in an eclectically decorated, nondescript corner spot on China Street.  I promise you’ve never seen anything like it with its Flintstones throw pillows and 50’s satellite chandeliers in a cozy, candlelit, appealingly garish room that feels like Gay Paree meets your granddad’s rec room. But don’t cast a gimlet eye on the quirky décor or the 1940’s illustration of a chic pirate on the menu – Shannon has a curatorial eye for mid-century modern – this is serious cuisine and it’s the essence of the new Richmond.

Charred and chilled Chinese five-spice slices of venison - Chasing Dragons Above the Clouds of Yuzu with Lotus Chips (Left) - Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Fernet-Branca soaked Apricots, Butternut Squash Puree, Cherry-brandied Apples and Brown Butter Toasted Pecans (Right)

Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fab craft cocktails made with top shelf liquor and house made ingredients.  Expect the unexpected.  The ‘Hooty Hoo’ is a White Russian served with Yoo-Hoo, Black Lava salt and Xocolatl bitters.  The ‘Honey Badger’ is a blend of Belle Isle Honey Habanero Moonshine, muddled jalapeno and orange, Ginjo Sake and St. Germain.  Go on with your bad self.  Have one of each.

Les Escargots a la Ham Biscuit with Sweet Garlic Beurre Blanc (Left) Old Thymey Chicken Fricassee - Port and Chardonnay Drenched Breast and Thigh Topped with Lemon Spaetzle, Escarole and Lardons in a Mustard Jus (Right)

Les Escargots a la Ham Biscuit with Sweet Garlic Beurre Blanc (Left) Old Thymey Chicken Fricassee - Port and Chardonnay Drenched Breast and Thigh Topped with Lemon Spaetzle, Escarole and Lardons in a Mustard Jus (Right)

Shannon, who was a semi-finalist for ‘Best Chef Mid-Atlantic’ by the James Beard Foundation, likes luxe ingredients – caviar, foie gras, brandied figs, absinthe mists, escargots and flambéd desserts.

La Petit Mort au Chocolat en Flambe avec une compote de la cerises noir (Left) - The Rainbow Spoonicorn - "A mythical saffron and citrus confection with hand churned blackberryice cream. "A defiant lack of inhibitions and sprinkles" (Right)

Expect a dining experience that would wow even the most sophisticated palate.  Reservations are a must in this tiny, romantic spot.

Citizen restaurant

Citizen restaurant

On day two we rose early and headed downtown for breakfast at the industrial-cute, Citizen.  Laser-focused on the Southern thing, we order bowls of stone ground Byrd Mill grits topped with swirls of melted butter, sour dough toast with pear butter, Benton’s bacon, lentils with feta (too healthy?) and steaming hot cappuccinos.

Citizen’s bar and open kitchen

Citizen’s bar and open kitchen

This lively spot serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu that trends hip, healthy and international.

At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Art, one of the nation’s premier museums, is currently featuring ‘The Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China’.  The exhibition showcases ten majestic terracotta figures, including a cavalry horse and 130 works that tell the story of China’s birth.

The Sculpture Garden at VMFA

The Sculpture Garden at VMFA

You’ll also see arms and armor, horse and chariot fittings, ritual bronze vessels, works in gold and silver, jade ornaments, precious jewelry, and ceramics from the First Emperor’s mausoleum complex.  If that isn’t thrilling enough, there’s the reinstallation of the museum’s breathtaking Fabergé Collection.  For timed tickets to The Terracotta Army exhibit visit website.

The Urban Farmhouse Market & Kitchen

The Urban Farmhouse Market & Kitchen

You can linger at lunch at Amuse or the more casual café, or head over to Scott’s Addition to The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café, a nifty, rustic place that features local artists and farm-to-table.  It’s a friendly, low-key hangout with wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling retractable windows and, naturally, a farmhouse vibe.  The daily selection of gourmet sandwiches and salads, smoothies, espresso drinks, fresh pressed juices and fair-trade teas are listed on the chalkboard menu.  Browse the antique wooden cupboards for local foodstuffs to take home.

Scott’s Addition is the trendy neighborhood for millennials, with its reconverted warehouse loft apartments, hipster eateries, coffee brewers, and craft beer breweries like The Veil Brewing Company, Strangeways Brewing, Isley Brewing Company, Väsen Brewing Company, Ardent Craft Ales and more.  It’s the holy grail for brewhounds and those who like their aging done with apples.  Blue Bee Cider has moved to the hood and is now firmly ensconced in a 19th century reconverted stables.

Blue Bee Ciders

Blue Bee Ciders

While in the neighborhood, scour Class and Trash for cool retro collectibles, farmhouse tables, architectural elements and garden ornaments.

The tasting room at Buskey Hard Cider ~ Buskey Founder/Owner William Correll (Left)

The tasting room at Buskey Hard Cider ~ Buskey Founder/Owner William Correll (Right)

Stop by for a tour and tasting at Buskey Hard Cider.  You’ll probably meet Founder/Owner, William Correll, whose usually on site to explain the aging process – some ciders in steel barrels, some in old whiskey barrels from the Virginia Distillery Company.

Stocking up at The Veil Brewing Company

Stocking up at The Veil Brewing Company

Nearby is The Veil Brewing Company. When we arrived, just before the 4pm opening, there was a line around the block.  We were so shocked we thought they must have been having an early bird bargain sale.  No such luck.

This über popular brewery has a comfy lounge area and a very efficient pick up area for take away and growler refill.  You’ve probably heard of their ‘Double Espresso Hornswaggler’, an espresso chocolate milk stout that shouts “school’s out!”.

Back at the hotel we took a relaxing dip in the indoor pool before dressing for dinner at Lemaire.  There’s no way to prepare you for Lemaire, except to describe it as the height of destination dining.  The hotel’s lavish dining room fairly sparkles with grandeur.  The capacious room is resplendent with crystal chandeliers, heavy silk draperies and exquisitely carved period architecture.

Pearl Oysters, with champagne mignonette ~ Chilled Cucumber Soup with Georgia Olive Oil, Poached Shrimp and Preserved Lemon

Pearl Oysters, with champagne mignonette ~ Chilled Cucumber Soup with Georgia Olive Oil, Poached Shrimp and Preserved Lemon

Place yourself in the expert hands of sommelier Shawn O’Keefe who will gently guide you toward the perfect pairings for Executive Chef Patrick Willis’ seasonal haute cuisine.

Fresh Strawberry and Beet Salad with Wildflower Honey Chèvre, Orange, Ginger and Aged Balsamic Vinegar ~ Pan Roasted Swordfish with Carolina Gold Rice, Grilled Alliums, Roasted Fennel, Pine Nuts, Red Veined Sorrel and Strawberry-Rhubarb Gastrique

Fresh Strawberry and Beet Salad with Wildflower Honey Chèvre, Orange, Ginger and Aged Balsamic Vinegar ~ Pan Roasted Swordfish with Carolina Gold Rice, Grilled Alliums, Roasted Fennel, Pine Nuts, Red Veined Sorrel and Strawberry-Rhubarb Gastrique

Whether your preference leans toward seafood or meat, vegetarian fare or poultry, everything is sumptuously prepared and exquisitely plated.  Desserts are as pretty as they are delectable and you’ll want to linger over a postprandial port or brandy till the cows come home.

Slow Braised Spring Lamb Shank with Mascarpone Cheese Grits, Baby Carrots, English Peas and Trumpet Mushrooms and Port Jus ~ Meyer Lemon Tart with Toasted Meringue and Raspberries

After a quick breakfast of muffins and coffee at the hotel’s bistro, TJ’s, shopping was on our minds and there are plenty of specialty clothing boutiques in Carytown.  Bygones, the vintage clothing store for men and women, comes to mind.  But my personal favorite is Helen Campbell’s La Petite Boutique on MacArthur Avenue.

La Petite Boutique

La Petite Boutique

Helen has an eye for distinctive and feminine statement clothing in luxe fabrics, often with embroidery or intricate pleating.  She also carries fabulous hats and accessories to complete a stunning ensemble you’ll see nowhere else.

National Harbor Issues Forecast for Weekend of Snow

Jordan Wright
August 30, 2017
Photo credit - Jordan Wright

Guests enjoy the "cool" vibe

Guests enjoy the "cool" vibe

The unlikely event of snow in August will fall every twenty minutes at National Harbor’s super chill Harbor Dome Summer Snow Globe this weekend.  The huge transparent geodesic dome with a sweeping view of the harbor features DJs on Friday and Saturday and a 90’s cover band on Sunday.  Signature cocktails are from ‘Mixtress’ Gina Chersevani of Buffalo and Bergen the throwback spot in Union Market known for its adult milkshakes.

A live band will perform Sunday night only

A live band will perform Sunday night only

Gina has concocted some fun and sassy drinks to get the party started.  Summer Snow Globe Julep made with Maker’s Mark, mint and lime; Harbor Breeze with Effen Raspberry, pineapple, orange and lime; Tropical Ice with Mountain Dew White Label, Effen Vodka, grapefruit, pineapple and ginger syrup; and Elf on Vacation with Effen Green Apple, Mountain Dew Green Label and lemon.  Winter Snow Cones are made with shaved ice.  Try Snowy Melon with Effen Blood Orange and cinnamon; Big Wheel Snow Cone with Effen Black Cherry, fresh orange syrup and lime; or Kentucky Snow with Maker’s Mark, sparkling wine, ginger, lime and mint.  There’s also wine and beer.

Crab cake hors d'oeuvres

We went last weekend for press night and stood under gleaming crystal chandeliers watching guests slurp on pastel colored shaved ice drinks and munch on hors d’oeuvres while marveling in the dustings of snow.  And yes!  It’s really snow.  Not your Hollywood picture show ivory flakes or prom night confetti.  Though the space is advertised as being 64 degrees (we thought we’d freeze) it’s perfectly comfortable for a sleeveless dress or light jacket.

The Capital Wheel at sunset

The Capital Wheel at sunset

This is the last weekend to enjoy this unique experience.  Just head to National Harbor and down towards the water.  You can’t miss it.  It’s beside the merry-go-round and the beautiful Capital Wheel. Be sure to time your visit for the sunset over the Potomac.

Esther Wei tries to catch the falling snow.

Esther Wei tries to catch the falling snow.

At the intersection of Waterfront Street and National Plaza, National Harbor, MD 20745 - Friday from 5pm till midnight, Saturday from 2pm till midnight and Sunday 2pm till 6pm.

Beer $6 – wine $8 and cocktails are $10 and adult snow cone cocktails are $12.

Eric E. Richardson (left) with friend Clarence J. Fluker enjoy the scene.

Eric E. Richardson (left) with friend Clarence J. Fluker enjoy the scene.

www.NationalHarbor.com

How I Learned to Love the Art of Sous-Vide Under the Tutelage of Its Inventor

Jordan Wright
May 22, 2017
Photo credit - Jordan Wright
 

In a non-descript two-story building in Sterling, VA, in a suburb better known for defense contractors and software developers, is a company that has trained more three-star Michelin chefs than any cooking school in the world.  Here at Cuisine Solutions Inc. through their learning division CREA (Culinary Research and Education Academy), I recently participated in a workshop on sous-vide given by Dr. Bruno Goussault, the very scientist who developed the revolutionary technology.

In the classroom with Dr. Bruno Goussault, the creator of sous-vide

In the classroom with Dr. Bruno Goussault, the creator of sous-vide

There are two divisions under one large corporate umbrella.  Cuisine Solutions sells prepared sous-vide foods to Costco, as well as airlines, cruise ships, the military and major hotel chains worldwide.  And CREA, with locations in France and Sterling, trains chefs in the sous-vide technique with seminars, on-site training and online video courses.  The company opened its $30 million dollar, 163,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art plant in Sterling in 2013.

Table set for luncheon in the Executive Dining Room

Table set for luncheon in the Executive Dining Room

Along with Goussault’s many years of experience as a scientist and founder of Centre de Recherche et d’Edudes pour Alimentation in Paris as well as recipient of the “Ordre National du Merite” from the President of France, officers in the company have equally extensive pedigrees.  Stanislas Vilgrain, Chairman and CEO, rose to the top of his career earning the medal of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor of the French Republic in 2015 after years as a top officer at Vie de France Corporation; Chief Strategy Officer Gerard Bertholon is a Maître Cuisinier de France, one of the world’s highest honors, and trained as a chef under the great Alain Chapel;  Felipe Hasselmann, Cuisine Solutions president, brought his powerful international business development experience from L’Oreal Paris, Coca Cola and Frito Lay; and Bruno Bertin, VP of Culinary Innovation who himself has worked with the legendary Pierre Troisgros, Louis Outhier and Daniel Boulud, as Sous Chef at Restaurant Daniel in New York.

72-Hour Short Rib & Potato Hash

72-Hour Short Rib & Potato Hash

Not only did I watch, learn and participate, but I also spent most of the day tasting the results, beginning with a breakfast prepared by a cadre of chefs schooled in the art of sous-vide.  Exquisitely decorated plates were served starting with an egg white and red pepper sous-vide egg bite (these were specially created for Starbucks); bacon and Gruyere egg bite; coconut and chia seed oatmeal parfait; compressed fruit and dragon fruit granite; egg and rosti with sous-vide hollandaise and 72-hour short rib and potato hash served in a miniature cast iron pan.

Egg White & Red Pepper Sous-Vide Egg Bite and Bacon & Gruyere Sous-Vide Egg Bite

Egg White & Red Pepper Sous-Vide Egg Bite and Bacon & Gruyere Sous-Vide Egg Bite

After breakfast our class moved onto nibbles of “sous-shi” – a trompe l’oeil preparation that looked and even tasted like sushi but was entirely vegetarian; a Moroccan dish of octopus, raisins, capers, compressed melon, pomegranate seeds and radishes; Arctic char brandade with ramp aioli; and a sous-vide pig face which offered up meltingly tender cheek meat.  Well fortified, we left the dining area for a large classroom, which is really a laboratory.

Moroccan-influenced Sous-Vide Octopus

Moroccan-influenced Sous-Vide Octopus

Under the avuncular tutelage of the 75-year old Goussault, “father of sous-vide” and the company’s Founder and Chief Scientist, I slowly shed the neophyte’s notion that sous-vide is a cheater’s technique or a culinary sleight of hand.  There is just as much time and effort put into sous-vide preparation as there is with conventional methods.  In many cases, a lot more goes into achieving the perfection that it guarantees to the chef.  Moreover, I learned that many of the world’s greatest chefs were taught by Goussault – chefs such as Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal, Daniel Boulud, Dan Barber, Charlie Trotter, Anne-Sophie Pic and the late Michel Richard, who have embraced it wholeheartedly.

Braised Beef Cheeks over Celery Root Purée with Truffle Triple Sauce & Pickled Ramps garnished with borage flower

Braised Beef Cheeks over Celery Root Purée with Truffle Triple Sauce & Pickled Ramps garnished with borage flower

During this one-day workshop I became a rabid convert, sometimes tasting conventionally prepared product beside sous-vide prepared foods.  I learned how preparing literally tens of thousands of dishes for major events using this method (Cuisine Solutions has catered huge events, like The Ryder Cup and the Super Bowl, for tens of thousands of guests.), offers high quality, consistency, precision and food safety while preventing product loss and spoilage.  Meats are cooked uniformly and fruits and vegetables retain the intense signature of the ingredient.  This was heady stuff for someone not particularly science-minded.

A cadre of chefs create our meals

A cadre of chefs create our meals

Dr. Goussault, who invented the two-minute rice while working in food science for the United Nations in Africa, invented sous-vide in the early 1970’s and continued to tweak and promote it with Joël Robuchon in Paris with the establishment of CREA.  Armed with probes and monitors Dr. Goussault travels the globe throughout the year training chefs in his methods.  He has been compared to Escoffier as a pioneer in the world of gastronomy, and you can take that to the bank!  Some of our local chefs who have trained with him at this facility are from Le Diplomate, Mintwood Place, Green Pig Bistro, The Red Hen, Central Michel Richard, Convivial, Fiola and The Dabney, to name but a few.

Glazing the vegetarian "Sous-shi"

Glazing the vegetarian "Sous-shi"

After discussions on vacuum sealing, water circulators, the precise temperatures for the scale of doneness, and becoming familiar with the various types of machinery involved in this technique, it was time for lunch – Beef sirloin “jar salad’ with ponzu and baby greens; Amazon cod with soy beurre blanc and fiddlehead ferns; braised pork belly over Beluga lentils with shitake broth and wild foraged mushrooms; braised beef cheeks over celery root puree with truffle, triple sauce and pickled ramps.  As each dish was sampled it became clearer to me that food prepared sous-vide results in the superior dishes found in the world’s finest restaurants.  Each ingredient retains its singular identity, and that is a mind-blowing experience.

Amazon Cod with Soy Beurre Blanc & Fiddlehead Ferns

Amazon Cod with Soy Beurre Blanc & Fiddlehead Ferns

Even after such a lavish lunch we continued to sample sous-vide filet of beef, fried chicken, carrots and other delights comparing them alongside traditionally prepared product.  The meats were seared and finished on a flat top grill, the chicken crisped up in a fryer.  The results were remarkable.  In the matter of the chicken, you could just die right there.  It was ultra-crispy while still juicy.  Carrots tasted as though they were picked fresh from the garden and apples like they had just been plucked off a tree.

Platter of citrus madeleines

Platter of citrus madeleines

Cramming ten meals into one day wasn’t for the faint of heart, or I should say, stomach.  At this point I am wishing I had a cow’s four stomachs and a week to digest everything.  But I persist, because this is what I do.  And were we done?

Chocolate Moelleux with Raspberry Coulis

Chocolate Moelleux with Raspberry Coulis

No siree!  Desserts were served – chocolate moelleux brightened with raspberry coulis and baskets of citrus madeleines and macarons.

Compressed Fruit & Dragon Fruit Granita

Compressed Fruit & Dragon Fruit Granita

After all this, I’m fairly sure I will never attempt to replicate these dishes at home – equipment costs can be out of sight for home cooks and small restaurants, though many do experiment with the concept of sealing and immersion.

A Multivac seals the food before immersion

A Multivac seals the food before immersion

I certainly came away with a greater appreciation and keener understanding of what sous-vide means and how lucky I am to have been born when it was invented.

High Tech Rotary Evaporator

High Tech Rotary Evaporator

Here are some pearls of wisdom from Goussault.

* Water is the best fluid to transfer the heat.  When you cook in water you’ll have a beautiful jus.

* Take lemon to the market when you buy fish and squeeze it over the raw fish to determine if it’s fresh.  If it turns opaque, it’s NOT fresh.

* The Maillard reaction has to do with the perception of the color of the meat.  What do you say in a London fog? All the cats are grey!

* Red meat has a thin layer of albumen.  White meat has a thicker layer.

* Vegetables cooked separately retain the integrity of the dish. Cooking vegetables to 85 degrees to respect the pectin will give you the top taste in the world.

* Brine your fish for 10 minutes before cooking.  Fifty grams of salt per one quart of water.