Jamaica Observer / Limitless Champagne flowed last Saturday evening at a four-course dinner hosted by Moët & Chandon in celebration of Moët & Chandon Grand Day 2018. The dining room of the recently opened Summerhouse at the Liguanea Club was transformed into an impeccable alcove that hosted 24 of Kingston’s Champagne lovers and connoisseurs. The evening’s hosts were Geoffrey Bouilly, market manager, Caribbean, Moët Hennessy; Jared Samuel, brand manager, Moët & Chandon; and Michelle and Suzanne Rousseau, co-principals of Summerhouse at the Liguanea Club. The décor, by Tai Flora Luxe, was a tasteful envisioning of Versailles. Tall bronze candelabras held spheres of hydrangea mixed with white and blush roses. Multiple crystal glasses were perfectly distanced from the tip of the dinner knife. The well-starched blush raw linen had a surprisingly soft hand. Warm candlelight bathed the table and its guests as a warm Kingston breeze parted the gossamer curtains ever so sultrily.
Moët & Chandon Grand Day is a highly anticipated annual event celebrated in 80 countries. There was, here in Kingston, Jamaica, a full day of activities that included a yacht party, the aforementioned Champagne dinner and a night of dancing. The 275-year-old Champagne House is highly regarded for its elegant bubbly and “savoir-fête” (they know how to throw a party).
The Rousseau sisters, along with food service consultant Bill Moore, led a team of servers who had the impossible task of moving quickly, confidently and quietly throughout the duration of the four-course dinner… they almost succeeded!
The evening commenced with guests sipping French 75 cocktails and flutes of Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial in the restaurant’s bar. Speaking of the bar — it is thoughtful and precise, but also inviting. You probably have never heard of a cunning bar. This was one.
After drinks, the convivial atmosphere moved to the dining table where a charcuterie board curated by Simon Levy’s Roast Meats awaited. The locally made capicola, salami and Pâté Maison paired perfectly with Summerhouse’s champagne preserve and cucumber mustard seed relish. This was the perfect precursor to the salad course.
The first course was a composed salad of fire-roasted mountain peach (yes, peaches grow in Jamaica), artisanal local chèvre (yes, we make goat’s cheese in Jamaica), pepper elder (one of the original herbs in jerk), pink peppercorn, mizuna (water greens), sweet pot herbs and a focaccia crouton. It may be unsophisticated to describe a bite of all the salad’s components as being swoon-worthy. But that’s what it was. Creamy cheese, tart and firm fruit, slightly peppery greens went perfectly with the nuanced floral, citrus and Asian spice notes of the accompanying Moët & Chandon Vintage Blanc 2008.
The 30-degree celsius weather was made for the second course of cool and slippery sorrel-cured amberjack crudo. The dish was expertly balanced by sharp ginger, pickled christophine, chadon beni, nasturtium and a tapioca crisp that had the toothsomeness of a chicharrón (fried pork rinds). The creamy richness and notes of ripe fruit of the Moët & Chandon Vintage Blanc 2006 that was paired with the fish rounded out the flavours and made it go down way too easily.
The seared Jamaican beef tenderloin that followed was not the kind of red meat that you’d find at a typical Jamaican restaurant. Expertly cooked with a fleshy pink centre, the tenderloin shared the plate with an earthy provision purée, almost-scene-stealing locally farmed oyster mushrooms, crème de Brut Impérial and crispy frizzled leeks. The dish was paired with Moët & Chandon Vintage Rosé 2006 which has top notes of stone fruit that give way to subtle botanicals, leaving a whisper of south Asian herbs on the palette.
There was barely room for dessert but this was not a group of quitters. Also, who wouldn’t make way for a pavlova parfait? Rosewater ice cream, pistachio meringue, berries, mango, stewed otaheite and champagne chantilly were an edible version of an ideal diplomatic relationship. The Moët & Chandon Vintage Rosé 2004 perfectly complemented the last course with its hints of liquorice, blackberries and notes of dark chocolate.
Geoffrey Bouilly, market manager, Caribbean, Moët Hennessy, flew in for the day’s festivities and remarked at dinner that the vintages were carefully chosen to honour the French-inspired island flavours of the meal. The care, selection, execution, almost-flawless service and five-star meal made for one memorable and very grand night.