Thursday, December 14, 2017

Diverse flavours for the holiday


TASTY: The main course, which features a pineapple and green peppercorn glazed ham and rum brined pork loin served with arugula mash and carmelised onions. —Photos: VERDEL BISHOP

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CHEFS: Sous chef Curtis Duke, left, and pastry Chef Milan Smith.

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Dining out during the festive season calls for selecting the right menu, which really shouldn't be a challenge because this season, Hyatt Regency Trinidad, has promised a festive feast for their guests. Chefs at the Hyatt have taken on the challenge to come up with unique blends of traditional favourites, with a contemporary twist, which offers diners various options from a selective combination of diverse flavours.

Earlier this week, Express visited the chef team at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain. The chefs spoke candidly about their creativity and their desire to create a memorable menu for guests opting to dine at the Hyatt Waterfront Restaurant during the Christmas season.

Executive chef, Fernando Fanco, said the menu is perfect for lunch and dinner. He said groups of friends and families can enjoy the festivities at the Hyatt and a menu which chefs took careful consideration to prepare. "Every year we do a special menu. We have catered to the needs of everyone; there is fish and options for vegetarians. The menu is contemporarily designed and large groups can enjoy the festivity and the menu, he said.

Sous chef, Curtis Duke, wanted to do something different yet still maintain the traditional festive food Trini's look forward to. To accomplish this, Duke turned to an exclusive combination of ingredients for the main course. According to Duke, "We wanted to do something different yet still incorporate the traditional ham, ginger, sorrel and pork that most people love. So we considered this and we came up with local

ideas which we presented in different ways.

Duke, alongside his team, has introduced a main course, in which diners have a choice of three options. Option number one features dried fruit and herb-stuffed turkey roulande with almond green beans and ginger- honey sweet potato mash. Option two is a pineapple and green peppercorn glazed ham and rum-brined pork loin served with arugula mash and carmelised onions. The third option features herb-roasted red snapper and coconut polenta cake with chive and cauliflower puree topped with tempura pimento.

Duke said only local produce were used. In option two, the idea of arugula mash is not only a healthy option but it supports local farmers who have only recently started growing arugula crops locally in the Lopinot area. Arugula is an aromatic salad green. It is also known as rocket, roquette, rugula and rucola, and is popular in Italian cuisine.

According to Duke, "We came up with the idea of arugula mash and green pepper corn marinated pork and we decided to do a duo with the pork and the ham together. So it's grilled pork and pineapple glazed ham marinated in pepper corn. We also caramalised onions using red wine and wine vinegar to give it the effect of sorrel, so it actually looks like sorrel. Then we have glazed carrots so it's a complete meal – you have your starch, vegetables and proteins," he said.

Pastry chef, Milan Smith, will satisfy any sweet tooth, with his choice of deserts. Option one is a warm white chocolate and pumpkin bread pudding served elegantly with ginger beer Chantilly and Florentine tuille. Option two features butterscotch tiramisu with fleur de sel caramel and macaroon cookie. Option three is the taste of the season crème brule inspired by the flavours of ponche crème and rum infused Christmas fruit.

Describing his inspiration for option one, the chef said his aim was to bring "festive" back to Christmas.

"We have kind of deviated from traditions. Pumpkins are always a popular choice around this time of year so I decided to combine it with dessert to bring something different and diverse on the menu. Not often you find people asking for pumpkin as a dessert. I wanted to cross over and do something different. It's a bread pudding with pumpkin puree and white chocolate; so the entire thing is drenched in white chocolate batter and then steamed for about an hour. The liquid to go with it is a nice balance. I decided to do a Chantilly cream with the emphasis on ginger, which I used to encourage the Christmas spirit. So I culminated the two flavours wonderfully together by cooking the ginger roots which I simmered into thick syrup. I added soda water and secret spices," Smith said.

For starters diners will have a choice of mussels and clams in Spanish saffron sauce with sorrel oil. Option two features beetroot and citrus salad with herb feta cheese, while option three is a corn and sweet potato soup with cranberry crème fresh. The menu is available for a minimum of ten persons per table. Reservations must be made in advance.