The Literate Chef

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On Tour with The Literate Chef – Bermuda, Part III

In General Articles on July 22, 2012 at 3:52 PM

Continued From Part II

Upon returning to the hotel, we decided to have dinner at Ascot, rather than travel out to Tom Moore’s Tavern. Lunch on the first day was a preview to the excellent dishes turned out by the chef, and after-dinner drinks in the lounge rounded out a perfect day.

Day Three greeted us once again with sunshine, a light breeze and cheerful birdsong. However, this time the sun was out to stay, so after a brief committee meeting it was decided to catch the ferry out to the Royal Naval Dockyards.

But first, thanks to contacts made by a fellow NYAC club member we had lunch at The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, where we ran into yet another fellow Club member, who with his wife had sailed up from the Caribbean on a friend’s boat.  What are the odds, bumping into several people you know, 769 miles from home? (I had neglected to mention earlier that at Bolero on the previous day, we ran into a different fellow Club member.)

Upon arriving at the Dockyards, where was berthed the cruise ship Explorer of the Seas, a leviathan of the sea at 3 and ½ football fields in length, we kicked around for a few hours, checked out the beach, the glass-works and the old fort and then stopped in at the The Frog & Onion Pub for a few refreshing pints and some good music.

We missed our ferry back to Hamilton so decided to take a taxi rather than wait around for 90 minutes. Once again serendipity stepped in, as our cab driver, Reynoldo proved to be a great guide, raconteur and poet in his own right. On previous visits to Bermuda, when we were young and carefree, we always got around the island on motorbikes. While cabs are much safer for those of us who are past middle age, they also are a better way to observe the scenery instead of focusing on avoiding a head-on collision.

The afternoon was but a prelude to the evening, because at long last, it was time to head to Beau Rivage Restaurant  where we would meet Master Chef Jean-Claude Garzia and be treated not only to the finest meal on the island, in a spectacular setting overlooking the harbor, but as an added plus would meet the Chef himself, whose talent is only exceeded by his charm.

In June 1997, Chef JC was awarded the gold medal of “Meilleur Ouvrier de France,” the highest honor for a chef in France, by then President Jacques Chirac at the Elysée Palace in Paris. The difficult and demanding contest for this award is held every four years in France. Chef Jean-Claude applied for and was accepted into the 1996 contest. He was one of 17 chefs who won the award out of 550 chefs who had competed. He did so after 20 years of training, studying and working as a chef in France, then at the Chateau Frontenac in Québec City and at the Cambridge Beaches Resort in Bermuda. In 2008, he opened Beau Rivage, for which my friends and I are very thankful.

A Perfect Bloody Mary

A 20 minute taxi ride from Hamilton, and just across the harbor, Beau Rivage is a true gem of Bermuda. From its spectacular deck, while enjoying a delicious Bloody Mary, Apple Martini, Dirty Martini or glass of wine, each of which was tested by one or more of our merry little band, you can watch the magnificent sunset and see the lights come on in Hamilton. As we discovered, the views were equally enjoyable inside.

Sunset Hamilton Harbor from Beau Rivage

After perusing the extensive and mouth-watering menu, I decided to go with two classics, a creamy Lobster Bisque and an outstanding Filet de Boeuf Wellington. Other members of our party equally enjoyed  perfect Coquille Saint-Jacques, spectacular Seafood Risotto, classic Bermuda Sautéed Rockfish and the innovative Glazed Salmon. After dessert, we got to meet Chef Jean-Claude and compliment him on his outstanding restaurant.

We spoke briefly about my efforts as The Literate Chef, after which he invited me back into his kitchen. His philosophy is that everyone is welcome in his kitchen and there are no secrets. I asked Chef JC if he would mind if I took one of his menus so that I would be able to mention in my blog the wonderful dishes that he offered. Much to my surprise, he presented me with an autographed copy of his most recent book, Bon Appétit Bermuda, which is filled with detailed recipes accompanied by beautiful photographs. Dinner at Beau Rivage was the perfect finale to our serendipitous Bermuda adventure, that had begun more than a year ago on a chilly afternoon in New York City!

Chef Jean-Claude’s inviting personality matched by his delicious dishes, the professional service of his staff, and the ambiance of his restaurant, make Beau Rivage a must place to visit on your next trip to Bermuda. In my case it will be my first stop. In the meantime, I will have to content myself with following his recipes and sharing those adventures with my readers.

Steak! It’s What’s for Dinner!

In General Articles on May 23, 2011 at 7:01 AM

I don’t think I had ever tasted French cuisine until I was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi Mississippi. No, even though the Air Force is reputed to eat better than the Army, Navy and Marines, French cooking was not in the repertoire of the mess hall sergeant and his cooks at Keesler; that treat was to be experienced in the city of New Orleans, which lies 90 miles to the west of Biloxi and was our escape destination whenever we had the money and a 48 hour pass.

New Orleans in the 1960s was divine, especially after a couple of weeks cooped up on the base. Waiting to be discovered were such renowned restaurants as Antoine’s, Brennan’s and Galatoire’s, along with Dixieland Jazz, Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s, Jambalaya at The Court of the Two Sisters, and Beignets at Café du Monde, which tasted particularly delicious accompanied by an espresso at four in the morning.

Steak au Poivre (with Pepper), Oysters Rockefeller and Banana’s Foster, comprised my introduction to French style cooking in New Orleans. I was used to having steak at home, cooked in the oven by Big Mike; although usually rare on the inside, it was grey on the outside, chewy and not all that interesting. Steak served with a delicious sauce was a revelation.

Several years later, I learned to prepare it myself after first following the recipe in The New York Times Cookbook, authored by Craig Claiborne. Subsequently, after many additions, deductions and consultations with other home cooks, I perfected what was then my recipe. It was a staple in our family until 1986, when I had a eureka moment.

During the summer of 1986, my wife and I took our two daughters to Quebec City for a week’s vacation. It was my fourth visit to that beautiful city and my wife’s second. Quebec City has a distinctively European atmosphere. For the girls, it was their first trip outside of the country and would serve as a foretaste of what they would later see and experience in Europe. We stayed at the Chateau Frontenac in a suite overlooking, and high above, the St. Lawrence River. After each day of sightseeing in the city, or taking side trips to Chute Montmorency, the Shrine of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains, or the Ile d’ Orleans, we strolled the streets of the city, perused the menus in the windows and chose a restaurant for dinner.

For each of the first six nights, we selected a different restaurant in which to eat. My wife, our older daughter and I ordered varied meals in each, but our younger daughter, who was 9 at the time, ordered the same thing every single night…Steak au Poivre! That was the only French dish that she knew and clearly loved, so to her way of thinking, why experiment and wind up with something yucky?

On our last night, having pretty much exhausted the restaurants that were most appealing to us, we asked the ‘Steak au Poivre girl’ which restaurant had the best. Unhesitatingly, she proudly selected one and that’s where we went. The sauce on the Steak au Poivre was different from what I had been making for the previous 18 or so years, it had cream in it! That was my epiphany. Cream was not in Craig Claiborne’s original recipe, with which I had started and from which I had adapted mine. To my palate it was what had been missing.

This recipe for Steak au Poivre has been served to family and friends for almost 25 years and I am happy to share it with you. From beef, we move on to ‘the original white meat’ chicken at: Chicken Scarpiello; Everybody Makes it Differently!

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