El Dorado Rum, A True Taste of Demerara
On every Thursday night of Tales, the most legendary restaurants of New Orleans come alive with the Spirited Dinners. All of the industry superstars are put on display with a combination of talents in mixology and distilling to create the most unique experiences in culinary and cocktail excitement. Invited as a guest to enjoy a Spirited Dinner presented by El Dorado Demerara Rum, it was more than the food and drinks that turned this into an experience. Hosted by Borgne at New Orleans Hyatt Regency, a coastal Louisiana concept by chef John Besh, the open space was warmed with conversation and early signs of future friendship.
Upon an early arrival I was greeted by Adam Seger, a name and cocktail personality that precedes itself in many circles beyond personal comprehension. Seger has been responsible for inspiring the movement to pairing fresh ingredients with spirits and taking a chef’s approach to mixology. Respected for his accolades as a Certified Culinary Professional and Advanced Sommelier accreditation from Court of Master Sommeliers, he along with Joe McCanta of London are responsible for the creation of the beautifully balanced and highly utilized American botanical spirit called hum.
He shared a little about his involvement and work in the inspired movements with Nacional 27 in Chicago and iPic entertainment across the states, as well as his current project in Singapore called WOOBAR at W Sentosa Cove. His current position at WOOBAR allowed him the opportunity to create a rooftop garden full of tall tropicals that shade the shrubby herbs beneath. The Japanese Ice Tower looming above us during conversation was imagery of what was to come throughout the remainder of the evening.
Former Denver bar personality Matty Durgin who is known for work at Green Russell and Colt & Gray has since relocated to Boston’s Toro, a Barcelona-style tapas restaurant featuring classic-inspired cocktails. Durgin, who was sharing space behind the Spirited Dinner bar with Seger, was hard at work in preparation for the increasingly anticipated coursework in cocktails. Among others behind the stick for the evening, Czech Republic barman Zdenek Kastenek of Singapore’s 28 HongKong Street, who was also a Tales of the Cocktail International Bartender of the Year finalist in 2012. Michael Callahan who is a partner and lead bartender at 28 HongKong Street was getting to work on the first block of ice; his ice program is widely respected across the communities of bartenders.
A menu full of fare designed by Chef Brian Landry of Borgne boasted four courses of divinity and presentation. Upon arrival of guests, a ‘Cocktail Amuse Bouche’ was served as a creative introduction to El Dorado’s 2 Year Aged White Rum in a bed of yuzu and Maple Pearl Daiquiri Spoons. About this time, the dinner took a turn towards becoming an experience. Community dining with strangers [a personal favorite in dining styles] allowed guests to gawk and awe at the courses that followed, inspiring the friendships through food and drink conversation. Landry’s first course was presented – Pontchartrain Crab Callaloo, a battle of textures served with a spoon for the polite blend of Covey Rise greens, okra, and Chappapeela pickled pork. Paired with a ‘Not so Dark, Not so Stormy ’, El Dorado’s Cask Aged 3 year, Magnolia Shrub, Abita Turbo Dog, and slapped herbs.
Following, the Oxtail Garganelli was presented. Oxtail was prepared as a savory ragout over impressively soft garganelli pasta. Coming very close to exceeding my expectations at this point, he continued with grilled octopus and two of my personal garden favorites – roasted fennel and pearl onions. To pair, a dripped ‘Freak of Nature Oolong Tea’ by Rare Tea Cellar by means of the Japanese Ice Tower was finally presented. This tea, mind you, is rare indeed, and only harvested on one particular day a year. Crafted into a cocktail, ‘Tower of Power’ was presented with chilled El Dorado 12 year Special Reserve, Forbidden Forest Smoked Tea Syrup, HUM Botanical Spirit, and Vino Verde. And the team was just warming up, which became apparent as they carried the next course around the tables on display over the final savoring of ‘Tower of Power’.
Cabrito en Adobo, following its public presentation was divided and conquered by friends of fare. The whole roasted goat, which was a first for me, was paired with chickpeas, tomato, and a lemon balm chimichurri. Goat, similar to a lamb has a bit of game and was balanced quite well with the chimichurri and bitter lemon balm. The cocktail was seamlessly paired to this dish – closer to an ingredient in the presentation than a pairing. A Hand Shaken El Dorado 15 Year Special Reserve and Pharoahs Ancient Egyptian Lemon Daiquiri, Steen’s Louisiana Cane Syrup, Truffe Amere Winter Black Perigord Truffle Bitters. The cocktail, called ‘Billie Sunday’ had a great body and flavors of the chewy 15 Year Special Reserve, cane syrup, and truffles both in bitters and savory garnish, carried through the next bite to bring it back together.
For Dessert, conversations turned personal and guests mingled a bit before the presentation was served. Tables turned to families and would visit with their neighboring to share their excitement through the experience. In grand display and good company, Seger served the final cocktail tableside. ‘Can’t Beat-a-Chiquita’, poured from the belly of a 10,000 mL science-grade glasspiece was built with El Dorado’s Golden Rum Cream Liqueur, Oolong & Magonolia-scented Macadamia Nut Orgeat Spiked Bananas Fosters Milk Punch, Maple Sugar and lined with a Rare Tea Seven Hardwoods Smoked Salt Rim – dessert in itself. As everybody snapped photos of the cocktail presentation, Landry and the team at Borgne presented a Warm Dark Chocolate Banana Cake with Butterscotch ice cream.
Through the savoring of the final pairing, guests exchanged cards and shared their plans for their stay in the Louisiana city for Tales. El Dorado did an amazing job of assembling the experience. The lineup of talented professionals behind the bar and kitchen at Borgne was a perfect setting for both myself and new friends not to just enjoy, but experience the stories behind their rums. I look forward to the next opportunity to enjoy their spirits and future encounters with the talented team of bartenders that represented for this class act experience.