At Thanksgiving time, when our thoughts turn to gratitude and feasts, I’m grateful for the most amazing meal of my life, enjoyed last summer at Wolfgang Puck American Grille in Atlantic City, New Jersey. My sweetheart Joel and I were celebrating our birthdays. We were guests of our friends Paula and John Becher, whose son Brian happens to be the sous chef at the chic restaurant. I'm something of a foodie and have reported on food.
When I first arrived on the scene in Denver, in 1985, I wrote dining reviews. Years later, I wrote a series called "Lunch With..." for The Denver Post. The feature called for me to have lunch with one of the top chefs in Denver, one-on-one, and then report on the meal and our conversation. I've had the good fortune to enjoy many a remarkable meal.
But the culinary wonders at Wolfgang Puck take the cake, to date.
Chef Brian reserved the best table in the house for us; and when we arrived, we were greeted with a personalized menu spelling out our chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings. But first, we toasted with fresh pear martinis, shaken tableside. A refreshing sip of late summer, the cocktails were an indication of gastronomical delights to come.
For a starter, we nibbled Wolfgang Puck’s signature smoked salmon and crème fraiche pizza elegantly paired with NV Zardetto Processo from Veneto, Italy.
New Jersey tomatoes, New Jersey blueberries
The salad sticks out in my mind and almost lingers on my taste buds months later. New Jersey boasts about their tomatoes, and I can’t dispute their bragging rights after tasting the memorable heirloom salad with prosciutto, beautifully plated and beguiling to the palate. The somallier paired the love apples with a lovely wine from Salta, Argentina: a 2009 Susana Balboa ‘Crios.’
The next course, a risotto, featured summer truffles. Mmmmm! Truffles to my tongue taste of Mother Earth herself. I am far from a truffle snob. All I can say is I do understand a bit of what all the fuss is about. We pigged out on the truffled risotto paired with a fine wine: Macon-Versa, Domain Leflaive, 2005.
Just when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and overfed, the tempo slowed. An intermezzo also capitalized on a quintessential summer flavor: watermelon. Watermelon sorbet cleansed our palates and prepared us for the following course: wild Alaskan halibut with Little Neck clam sauce. My mouth literally waters at the memory of this succulent dish, paired with a California Pinot Noir: 2008 Row Eleven.
I was feeling a bit like one of Marie Antoinette's besties. This sort of decadence does not come every day, nor could I stand all the richness regularly. But the evening was special, and we continued on to another course. Chef Brian—knowing Joel and I hail from Colorado—also prepared savory Colorado lamb “Three Ways”—including a spicy sausage—and ratatouille. The wine was a 2004 Scarzello Nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy.
As if that weren’t enough, dessert arrived. On our way to the Jersey Shore from Philadelphia, we’d driven past blueberry fields. Some of the berries may have found their way into the blueberry crumble served with chocolate soufflé. Oh, the delicacy of chocolate soufflé and fresh, fat blueberries. Food at this level is art. The dessert wine was Chateau Doisy-Vedrines from Sauternes, France. Need I say more?
A tip of the toque to Wolfgang Puck's Sous Chef Brian Becher
Talk about an amazing repast! The food and drink were divine, the company dear, the service sophisticated and friendly. And the fact that Chef Brian had a hand in the preparations made the evening all the more sweet. A tip of the toque to Wolfgang Puck and his talented young chef: Brian Becher. I can’t help but wonder what he’s preparing for Thanksgiving dinner!