by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine
Last week Vero Vine and Vero Beach Foodie hosted our 2nd VIP Dining Experience on Wednesday, January 25th. If you were not there, then you definitely missed an EPIC meal! With the release of my GOLDEN FORK awards article, the selection of the restaurant of the year, chefs of the year, and the Best Steak, I knew immediately who I wanted to work with for this special event. Of all the chef’s that I met over the past year, I knew these guys could pull off this dining experience and take it over the top, which is exactly what they did. While I gave them some suggestions for the menu, I also gave them the creative freedom to WOW us with their talent and creativity. We planned a 4-course meal, including an Amuse Bouche and dessert. The main courses all came with a wine pairing, and the cake was themed to the event. We also limit the attendance of these events so they are more intimate and you get a chance to get to know the other diners as well. Below is a picture of the table and the setting each guest was greeted with. The menu was printed on vellum paper.
Now on to the food! Let’s jump right in and see what we had to eat and drink!
Amuse Bouche – A “gift” from the chef to start out our meal was sliced duck breast, on a toasted crostini with a Black Turkish Fig jam. The duck breast was thinly sliced and was cooked and seasoned to perfection. The fig jam was the perfect balance of the sweet and savory, and the crunch of the crostini added a nice texture variation. Everyone loved it!
Oxtail and Foie Gras Terrine – Our first course was this wonderful terrine! It had slow roasted oxtail wrapped around a Foie Gras center and other secret ingredients only known by the chef! It was tender and very flavorful and was served over a raspberry preserves smear on the plate which gave it that salty and sweet combination we all love so much. The only problem we had was that it was gone in only 4 bites! The chef was generous enough to bring out some more at the request of the diners. Wine pairing was Lyric Pinot Noir.
Canoe of Bovine Marrow – This dish specifically was requested by yours truly since I have not had it before, and I thought it might be new for a few of our guests also. It’s a bovine femur bone split lengthwise, roasted in the oven, then topped with a gratinita and placed under the broiler to crisp it up. For those that have not had it before, it’s very rich, fatty, and delicious! The added crunch from the gratinita adds a nice texture variation to the dish. Wine pairing was Cotes du Rome Blush.
Crispy Asian Wild Boar Pork Belly – Another one of my all time favorite foods is pork belly. Since this was a “Wild” themed dinner party, Chef Hughes had a friend that was able to procure a wild boar for this dinner. The wild boar belly was braised to make it tender, then roasted at high temperatures to crisp it up, glazed with a sweet Asian sauce that was reminiscent of a rich teriyaki sauce. It was served over an Asian vegetable slaw. Everyone loved it and thought it was the star of the night! I had advised the guests to reserve judgment until the next dish because I knew that it would wow them once again! Wine pairing was San Osvaldo Pinot Grigio.
Venison Purse – Check out this show stopper! I first got a taste of Chef Hughes’ food last year at The Hope for Families Center’s Top Chef finale event in February of 2016. He made this dish, and while he did not take top honors with it, I thought it was the clear winner of the evening. I told him he had to make it again for me some time, and this was the time. A roasted leg of venison was shredded, wrapped in a phyllo dough, sitting on top of a grit cake. Surrounded by a rich venison demi gloss and garnished with multicolored cauliflower with a rosemary sprig. The venison was very tender, and the phyllo was delicate and had a slight crunch to it. The demi gloss was rich and flavorful. This definitely blew everyone away, as what I think was the best dish of the evening! Wine pairing was Steele Red Zinfandel.
Wild Boar Themed Cake – Roxane Gibbons of R Cakes does it once again! She did such a great job with the cake from our first VIP Dining experience, that I asked her to do another one. This time she definitely stepped up her game and created this awesome cake for us. Strawberry cake to used to represent the flesh of the boar, and vanilla buttercream between the layers. A vanilla buttercream was used on the outside as well, just tinted a dark color to represent the color of the beast! The cake was moist and a perfect way to round out our fantastic meal!
Wow, what a meal! When I moved to Vero Beach a little over 2 1/2 years ago, I was looking to get involved in these types of specialty dining experiences. The problem was that they were all in the bigger cities around us such as Orlando and Miami, and that is simply too far to drive for them, so I decided I would just start my own foodie movement here in Vero and see what happens. Now with the development of our Facebook group and page Vero Beach Foodie, we are slowly building a following of local foodies that love food as much as we do and enjoy these types of events. We have lots of plans in store, so stay tuned to see what we cook up next!
Our next VIP Foodie Dining Experience is coming up on Sunday, February 12th at Baci Trattoria and is called “Will you be my Secret Foodie Valentine?” If you would like more information about it, or to purchase tickets, please visit the following link: https://verobeachfoodie.ticketbud.com/will-you-be-my-secret-foodie-valentine