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The Friends of Escoffier Dinner

TomSwift | Dec 9, 200301:26 PM

For the second year we attended the annual dinner put on by the "Les Amis d'Escoffier" Society, under the auspices of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Culinary Federation. There are similar dinners held across the country on Escoffier's birthday, this year on December 1. This year the black tie event was held at the Regency Club in Westwood, with a menu coordinated by Whitney Werner, Escoffier Society President, and Patrick Jamon, Executive Chef of the Regency Club.

The hors d'oeuvre hour was very well done, with the taste and style for which the Regency Club is known. The Champaigne was Roederer Estate Brut, and the standout item was oysters on the half shell with caviar and spinach. Delicious, plump oysters. Also crabcakes with a spicy remolade (sp), chicken and cheese quesadillas empanada-style, popcorn shrimp which were sweet, very crunchy and totally delicious, and endive with roquefort and apple, and with smoked trout and sweet carrots. After an hour and a half of this it was time to go home.

The deal with dinner is that the 7 courses are to be prepared in the "manner of Escoffier." Read butter, cream and rich, rich, rich. There is a wine pairing, and each wine must be drunk during the course for which it is intended. Your glass, even if full, is removed at the end of each course. Your glass is kept full at all times and it is not difficult at all to go though 21 glasses of wine during the 4 hour dinner. We did that last year and regretted it - this year we were more discreet. Everyone, ladies included, must tuck their napkin under their collar. This tradition was started in the 20's in order to conceal class differences which might be revealed by seeing those who could afford black tie and those who could not.

The chow, on the whole, was excellent, for what was essentially banquet food, far superior to other dinners for 55 people. The menu was in French and I didn't write down the translations, but here's what Chef Jamon dished up. Vol au Vent de Sotilesse Champignon, paired with a Nobilo "Icon" Sauvignon Blanc 2002. Very flavorful mushrooms and very tender chicken oysters. Then Timbale de Sole aux Ecrevices et Pousses d'Epinard, with a Vinacola Hidalgo "Napoleon" Amontillado. The pairing of the sherry with the seafood was unusual but very complimentary. Then Riz de Veau aux Feves, with Au Bon Climat 20th Anniversary Chardonnay 2000. Although sweetbreads are among my favorites, these were overcooked. Still very flavorful, just poor texture. Then Granitee de Poires Williames. Then Pigeon en Salmis, with Chateau Reynella Shiraz 2000. Perfectly cooked with delightfully crispy skin and delicious braised leeks. Then a Salade de Mache aux Truffles et Brie de Meaux, with a Domaine Metz Gewurtztraminer 2002. Black truffles, not white, but tasty nevertheless. The Brie was very ripe and delicious. Finally, Vacherin a la Vanille de Tahiti, which was very good vanilla ice cream. Then cigars and Paradis. Whew!

It's an entertaining evening, attended primarily by food professionals and the conversations tend to drift toward food, wine and the pleasures of excess. You do feel somewhat foolish, though, with a napkin tucked into the coller of your tux. And you should see some of the women trying to keep their napkins tucked into their, uh, gowns.

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