Island Tasting Round 1: Cuisinart

Get ready to settle in for this epically long post. I promise you, if you make it to the end, it’ll be well worth it.[1]

File Mar 17, 1 27 01 PMWe landed in paradise a few days ago, and I was open to whatever amazing possibilities awaited me. Given the cold, gloomy rain where we came from, every moment here is one to be savored and enjoyed. Last night kicked it up a notch in a way that’s almost indescribable, but I’m going to try my hardest.

Husband’s family and I have been coming to the island of Anguilla for 50 years,[2] and we seem to be stuck in a few ruts in terms of where we go once we land. Trying something new doesn’t always go over well with my travel partners who are incredible creatures of habit. Now, I’m all about going to my favorite restaurant when we get here, but bring on the new experiences, the new chefs, the new beach bars; show me the beaches I’ve never seen![3]

File Mar 17, 1 26 28 PMLast night we entered the world of the CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, a place we must have passed a hundred times in the past but never ventured in. We took a tour with Davida and Devon, taking our golf cart around the massive property. Ocean view suites here[4], hydroponic garden there, then there was the world class spa, Japanese restaurant, infinity pool and beach bar, complete with Justin the singing bartender[5], having a grand old time.

File Mar 17, 1 25 41 PMOur tour wrapped up and we were delivered into the beautiful open air lobby where Chef Jasper met us to prepare us for dinner. He explained that each Wednesday he prepares a private Chef’s Table for parties from 2 to 16 guests, using the freshest and best of what he has on hand that day. Each of the eight courses are described on the menu by just one word; the preparation method and accoutrements are left up to the chef’s interpretation. We had about an hour before the extravaganza began, so naturally we opted for some pre-dinner refreshment; Husband with a rum punch, I with some bubbly[6]. The service was impeccable[7].File Mar 17, 1 24 45 PM

Time passed quickly, with the sun setting and the crowd beginning to get lively. We ended our “first course” with a dram of the house-infused ginger rum, which gave us the first inkling of the exceptional experience that was to come. The rum was fresh, bright, almost creamy. Perfection!File Mar 17, 2 01 45 PM

Natalie came to get us to let us know that Chef was ready for us; she would be our server that evening and would attend to our every need[8]. The room was beautifully set, with a perfect view of Chef’s workspace, complete with candles and flowers romantically adorning the table.

File Mar 17, 1 24 21 PMWe were formally introduced to Chef Jasper Schneider, a native New Yorker who came to Anguilla in 2013[9]. Since then he’s been handcrafting the cuisine at Cuisinart with a passion that vibrantly comes through in his creations. Cuisinart’s head sommelier, Bernel Richardson, had exquisitely paired each of the eight courses with wines equal to their food counterparts. A native Anguillan who found himself pouring wine several years ago, wondering what the deal was with all this expensive nectar; Bernel told us how he’s honed his wine skills and abilities through extensive tasting and travel, and now realizes what the fuss is all about.File Mar 17, 1 23 49 PM

The meal began with an aperitif cocktail concocted by the bar manager; fresh picked sage and tomatoes muddled with Tanqueray, tomato and lime juice, simple syrup and angostura bitters. A deliciously refreshing way to cleanse the palate before we set sail.

File Mar 17, 1 23 29 PM If we’d only had the first course, this would have still been one of the best meals of my life. A bed of Arctic Char graced the bottom of our bowl. It was topped with freshly chopped radishes and chives, sprinkled with a few oyster crackers and a very healthy dose of caviar. Thank you. End of story. I was done. This was only my third experience with caviar, but each time I experience it, it reinforces my belief that it should be a staple of my diet[10]. This beautiful first course was paired with the fine, delicious bubbles of a Brut Ruinart Champagne, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier[11]. The rich salt of the caviar met its match with the silky soft char; mixed with the bubbles, it was heavenly. Like I said, I would have been perfectly satisfied if the meal stopped right then and there.

Before we get to the second course let’s talk about the butter. Yes, the butter. Flown in up to four times per week on the daily Air France flights into St. Maarten, direct from Brittany, France. Hand-crafted especially for Cuisinart, according to Chef Jasper, the dairy farmer he deals with does INSANE things to butter and yogurt. A perfectly round pat of this most delicious butter sat between Husband and I, and it took all my willpower not to steal it and devour it on my own. Each course was also paired with a different bread, hand-made in house, and the sweet, salty butter added an extra layer of heaven. God I love bread and butter[12].

File Mar 17, 2 02 32 PMSalad course came next, and every bit of what appeared on our plates had been handpicked by Chef that morning, grown on the grounds in the hydroponic farm; basil boils, nasturtium leaves, and a whole host of other veggies I’d never heard of, complete with a local “cherry” a literal hybrid of a cherry and a tomato, with the tiniest pit seed inside. This garden snapshot was paired with the 2014 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. I got a bit of vegetable on the nose, then it opened up to be a fruity mix of melon, peach and kiwi with a hint of a stone minerality, typical of this style of wine. Perfectly crisp with the devastatingly fresh greens, which were topped with a French strawberry vinaigrette. File Mar 17, 1 23 10 PM

File Mar 17, 1 22 24 PMNext came white asparagus from Europe, cooked in brown butter and lemon, expertly dabbed with a healthy helping of basil gel. Perfectly crunchy, just the way asparagus should be. Bernel paired this with a 2013 Campogrande Orvieto Classico Santa Cristina which hailed from Umbria, our favorite Italian haven, so of course we loved this juice. A blend of Procanico[13], Grechetto, Verdello, Drupeggio and Malvasia[14], the wine was perfectly light with a hint of citrus, it let the asparagus and basil gel shine. This course went with the house ciabatta; Cuisinart’s head pastry chef, Collin Yearwood, has perfected the art of bread making by lowering the temperature and cooking it longer. I piled on another scoop of butter and savored the fresh baked loaf.

File Mar 17, 1 22 51 PMNext came the diver scallop. Oooo the scallop. Fed-Exed down from Maine earlier that day, it was one of the largest, freshest scallops I’ve yet to encounter[15]. Chef Jasper’s secret is that he cooks them only on one side. It literally melted in my mouth. Served atop a small bed of horseradish and dill that had been infused into grapeseed oil, it tasted like a fresh garden with the heartiest of scallops. We sipped on a 2014 Château de Maligny Petit Chablis as we enjoyed this meaty delicacy. A clean Chardonnay with a touch of oak, with notes of melon and apple.

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Yes. That is a truffle shaving.

When I come to Anguilla I eat snapper. Snapper with peppers, snapper with rice, snapper with lemon. I’ve had it all. But until last night, I’d never really had snapper. The snapper served next was perfect. Fresh from the ocean outside, it was served with a smattering of whole hazlenuts. On top was a thick layer of shaved black truffles, then literally drenched in a black truffle sauce, and on top of the entire plate, the healthiest round of fresh black truffle shavings I’ve ever had. Ever[16]. Again, the fish was cooked only on one side, giving it a perfectly caramelized top with an untouched underbelly. I looked over to Husband and told him to look away while I licked, literally licked, the sauce off my plate. Exquisite.

File Mar 17, 1 22 04 PMWhile you can’t really compare any of these courses to the other, the snapper was a show stopper. Bernel knew it and so he paired it with a showstopper of his own, a 2001 St. Supery Dollarhide Estate Chardonnay. Hello heaven. Well balanced, the color of deep golden hay. Opened up with tropical fruits, yielding to a bit of yeasty bread on the finish[17]. The consistency was heaven, thick, smooth, it coated your whole mouth. Bernel shared that this was his Last Bottle of this vintage, and knew that it would be a special addition to the meal. He was so right.

By this time I needed a break and Bernel showed me to the little girl’s room[18]. I didn’t really think the meal could continue on its upward trajectory, one course after another, exceeding my expectations, introducing my mouth to another unique experience. I figured we’d begin our descent after our break. Well that was stupid of me. Because next came the pièce de résistance, the course I’ll remember until the day I die. Foie Gras. If you read me on the regular, you may have gleaned that I’m a fan of this stuff, but this took it to a whole new level. After my first taste, it gave me goosebumps and I had to close my eyes to take it all in[19].

File Mar 17, 2 29 26 PMChef Jasper had reduced maple syrup into rock powder form[20]. The duck liver was encrusted with the powder, together with pickled shallots. This was incredible. The most succulent, perfect, wonderful, orgasmic foie gras plate I’ve yet to devour enjoy. Bernel sucker punched us by pairing this delight with a 2009 Château Roûmieu-Lacoste Sauternes. As with all the other Sauternes I’ve sampled so far in life, spicy mustard prevailed, and it was a perfectly lovely complement to the dish.

File Mar 17, 2 02 47 PMOur final course before dessert, or so we thought, was interrupted by a surprise course that came out of left field. Irish steel cut oats, yes the kind you eat for breakfast. Chef reduced these with a rich mushroom stock, more decadent black truffle shavings and what must have been a pound of shaved pecorino cheese. The result was a thick, hearty, divine scoop of porridge. It was like magic; one of the most intense foods I’ve ever tasted[21]. Bernel paired this with the first red of the night, a J. Vineyards Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley[22]. The Pinot was a perfect choice, as the perfect lightness of the wine allowed the deliciously opulent oats to overtake your senses.

File Mar 17, 2 30 49 PMFinally we reached the final food course which was described only as “Ribeye” on our tasting menu. This was a beautiful cut of meat that had been house dry-aged for 28 days; it was accompanied by a parsley puree, and a homemade Worcestershire sauce aged for 2 years. The steak was perfectly pink with caramelized edges, crisped to perfection. And then there was the wine. A 2010 Shafer One Point Five Cabernet from Napa’s Stag Leap district. Bernel had decanted this before the meal started; it was one of those deep ruby garnet Napa Cabs that make me tick. It had that Cabernet nose I know and love, with tannins that made you chew. Direct quote “This is why I drink wine.”

File Mar 17, 1 19 51 PMNow I could barely stand, let alone continue eating, but I do regret not finishing every bite of the ribeye. That being said, I ALWAYS have room for dessert. But we were in for another surprise course with Collin’s “Hazlenut Pre-Desert” a sweet, nutty, satisfying poof of deliciousness. Intensely flavorful and satisfying. We kept drinking the Cab, not only because I never wanted to stop, but because the deep wine went well with the airy palate cleanser[23].

File Mar 17, 2 02 58 PMAnd then we arrived to what was really our last course. Collin’s Lemongrass Coconut parfait accompanied by a shot glass of ginger lemongrass and lime tea, which reminded me of a sweet lemonade. The merengue chip was a breath of fresh air. The whole plate balanced out the previous nine courses[24]. We couldn’t have asked for a better ending, not only did it satisfy my ever-present sweet tooth, but it cleansed us in a way that eliminated any hint of over-fullness[25].

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Collin, Wine Esquire and Bernel

We ended the evening with hugs,[26] laughter and a quick visit to Bernel’s wine tasting cellar room, where he brought out Cuisinart’s extensive wine list and showed us some of his hidden gems.

File Mar 17, 1 18 52 PM

I just can’t say enough about this experience; one of the most memorable and delicious of my life. Cheers, bravo and thank you to all who made it possible, and to all of you, dear alleged blog readers, if there’s anyone still reading!

Until the next tasting[27] au revoir!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Or at least I hope you think so.
[2] It hasn’t quite been 50, more like 16, but Husband’s estimation seems to grow each time he tells someone new.
[3] I try to sneak in some new places each time, but God forbid if it’s a dud!
File Mar 17, 2 41 11 PM[4] Walking into the suites was beautiful; I haven’t felt air conditioning like that since we got to the island, a refreshing twist since I’d just blow-dried my hair, another island first, and was almost reduced to a puddle.
[5] When we walked by, Justin was literally climbing the pole in the middle of the bar, singing to his captive audience.
[6] Per usual.File Mar 17, 1 25 10 PM
[7] Not knowing what to expect, I came armed only with my iPhone, a phone charger booster and some lip gloss. #amateur Given our debriefing, it became clear I was going to need something to write on. We asked the concierge for a pad and paper and when one did not immediately present itself, they put a makeshift pad together for me, stapled neatly along the side, appropriately delivered in a legal sized manila folder. #lawyerlife
[8] Husband recognized her from past trips to other restaurants, and it turns out that we’d seen her at the beach earlier that day.
[9] He’s always on the lookout for pumpernickel bread and bagels from home in case you’d like to bring him a treat.
File Mar 17, 2 03 13 PM[10] Not sure how that would affect things like cholesterol levels, but I’m sure it’d be fine. I’m willing to take the risk.
[11] I’d never heard of this varietal; Meunier is apparently one of three main grapes used in the production of Champagne and represents approximately one third of the vines planted in the region.
[12] #carbaholic
[13] Also known as Trebbiano.
[14] Yea, these were pretty much all new to me.
[15] Chef works with and swears by the variety and freshness of their products.
[16] My notes say INSANE! Complete with all caps, exclamation point and underline.
[17] Again, my notes say INSANE! By this point my ability to take notes was slightly deteriorating…
[18] Since we’ve been coming to Anguilla, I’d say at least 75% of the faucets I encounter have only one working handle where water comes from one side of the spigot; water pressure is also hard to come by. Not so at Cuisinart where both water spigots gave forth strong streams of the clear stuff.
[19] My notes here say TOP. EVER. ONE. OMG. Not sure what all of that means, but clearly this was good.
[20] This by itself is culinary genius.
[21] As I side note, by this time, I’d finished off the butter. I think I may have had more than my fair share, but Husband didn’t seem to notice. All’s fair in love and butter.
File Mar 17, 1 18 30 PM[22] That’s in California.
[23] If you refer to a dessert as a palate cleanser, it means there’s no calories
[24] God, we’re gluttonous.
[25] Not that there could possibly have been any over-fullness after that extravaganza. #sike
[26] I always get huggy after drinking for hours on end.
[27] Which is happening tonight. Stay tuned.

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