As if a boat ride down the Charentes river toward dinner were not already a fabulous treat for the global finalists – who were happily singing, sipping, snapping photos and making general revelry – there was more decadence in store on Day 2 of the GCP…
Jaws dropped and a wave of ooh’s and aah’s spread across the deck as the boat drifted up to the dock, and a clearing in the wooded area beyond the bank of the river revealed the G’Vine hot air balloon. Hovering over the grass like a giant helium-filled green grape, in a field belonging to the local castle looming behind it, the balloon glowed and swayed gently, as if beckoning the child within each person to drift into the clouds and tickle the belly of Heaven itself.
Our finalists were divided into 3 groups, and with much anticipation, the first group de-boarded the boat and hurried across the bridge to amble into the basket of the balloon and lift off the ground. Stronger winds than desired kept the balloon relatively low, but that did not prohibit the excitement people felt when boarding a balloon for the first time (myself included)!
Meanwhile, the second group of finalists was led to a beautiful terra cotta terrace on the patio of La Ribaudiere, a 2-Michelin star restaurant overlooking the river. As foie gras, caviar, and an array of other top-calibur nibbles were passed around, the group assembled around a long table with some mysterious new bottles set along it, along with wine glasses half-filled with light amber liquid, golden liquid and rich brick red liquid. What could it be?
As they started nosing and tasting, they were informed that they were among the first people in the world to try EuroWineGate’s highly-anticipated new product: La Quintinye Vermouth Royal.
It will be officially unveiled at Tales Of the Cocktail in New Orleans, next month, as part of Audrey Fort’s series of vermouth seminars. It will be pretty cool for our finalists to be able to say, “Oh, I tried that months ago!” when the rest of the bar managers around the world won’t get to taste it until Fall 2013.
The third group was led into the kitchen of 2-Michelin star restaurant La Ribaudiere, where each finalist donned a personalized G’Vine apron with their name embroidered onto it and handed a glass of exquisite wine to sip while nibbling on oysters. Next, Executive Chef Thierry Verret himself led them through a hands-on lesson of how to cook frogs legs, escargot and other French delights.
Once all groups had a chance to participate in each activity, and mingled over Royal Negronis (G’Vine Nouaison, Vermouth Royal, Campari) and tray passed hors d’oeuvres of foie gras, truffled eggs, smoked salmon, and many other mini delights, we sat down to an artfully crafted and decadent meal spanning several courses.
Creative presentation is one of the signs of a truly skilled bar or kitchen chef, and the plates that came out from the first bite to the flaunted Chef Verrat’s skills with both savory and sweet. For example, this dessert with a nod to “molecular gastronomy.”
At the end of the evening, Jean Sebastian Robicquet, President of EuroWineGate, had one more surprise for everyone. He presented each guest with a small bottle of gin blended by Gary Regan and Dale DeGroff the day before, while the finalists were busy with their own gin challenges, the distilled on premises. It bears their autographs, as well, making it an industry collector’s item of the highest order.
Finally, spoiled and sated, the bus delivered everyone back to Hotel Francois Premier for one last nightcap and some shut eye before day 3…