To Chef Jeff Guinn, a meal is a masterpiece. Like an intricate theatrical production, he says a multicourse dinner presents a suspenseful storyline, interlaced with interesting peaks and plot-thickening valleys. Instead of viewing a meal as a means for satisfying a momentary hunger pain, The Broadway Hotel’s Executive Chef sees it for what it truly is: a well- intentioned, elaborate experience.
A comprehensive nine-course dinner, complete with thoughtful wine pairings, is Guinn’s method of choice for making a more meaningful encounter out of a meal. On Sept. 11, a historic day with a somber storyline of its own, staff members of both Inside Columbia magazine and Zimmer Radio and Marketing Group gathered to share in such an experience.
Given the significant timing, Guinn selected a patriotic theme to define the evening: America, The Melting Pot. The night’s cuisine featured tastes unique to American Southern traditions, as well as hints of Spanish, French, Asian and other global influences. The complementing wine pairings were vital to the meal, adding interest to the fare they were selected to match.
Unanimous praise filled the air as final plates were whisked away from tables. “I love preparing food for this kind of setting,” Guinn admits. “Here, people can taste in smaller bits and this really extends conversations as well. And obviously, the wine also adds a great essence to it. But for me, it’s really all about the experience of people getting together to enjoy food and company.”
Sterling Vineyards Brut Rose
The first course of the evening was preceded by an acidic, sparkling wine intended to awaken the palate, priming it for the plates to come. This particular wine, a California blend of Syrah, Tempranillo and zinfandel, started the meal off with fruity notes of apple and strawberry. Its crisp and clean texture held up nicely to the spice of the shrimp to follow.
Shrimp and Grits
A blackened shrimp on a cheesy-grit croquette with creole remoulade
“I usually like to start off with a play on something that’s fairly comfortable but full of flavor,” Guinn says. To accomplish this, he kicked off the night’s courses with his twist on the classic Southern special, shrimp and grits. This “amuse bouche,” or “gift from the chef,” popped with both taste and texture, providing diners with a substantial first bite and hitting each of their flavor sensors.
Domäne Wachau Gruner Veltliner
Moving forward required a new wine pairing, so for the next two courses Guinn elected for a dry and medium-bodied Domäne Wachau Gruner Veltliner. This fruity and herbal white wine hails from Austria and is comprised of white pepper, apple and persimmon notes. These flavors presented a stark contrast to the acidity of the salad course’s vinaigrette dressing, while balancing the creamy cheddar and salty pancetta found in the soup dish.
Grilled Cauliflower “Salad”
A warm, grilled cauliflower salad, tossed with peppery watercress, sweet roasted red pepper, toasted pine nuts, gruyere and a citrus-Dijon vinaigrette, then finished with Kalamata olive caramel
After the initial, flavor peak provided by the “amuse bouche,” Guinn added to the narrative of the meal by opting for a calmer course. “I basically try to balance as we go through. I don’t want to do a whole lot of rich dishes back to back,” he says.
He is quick to recognize that a warm salad composed of grilled veggies and other unlikely toppings is not exactly commonplace. “I like to have fun with food and break from the traditional mold when appropriate,” he says. “This salad offers a mixture of many distinct flavors and textures that are nicely pulled together and balanced with the wine. Grilling the cauliflower tones down the bite and brings out some sweetness and nuttiness.”
A chilled, creamy fennel-leek-potato soup with a self-serve garnishment of pancetta, sharp Irish cheddar and chives
Vichyssoise is widely regarded as an often predictable French classic; yet Guinn took the liberty of making the well-known dish his own. Straying from the norm, he presented the course in a “do it yourself” manner, inviting diners to assemble their dish by combining the soup with its paired toppings.
Intermezzo – “Dark and Stormy”
A ginger beer sorbet, prepared similar to Italian ice, with a spiced dark rum “caviar” and lime zest
In this palate cleanser, Guinn demonstrated his play on the popular “Dark and Stormy” cocktail. Apart from wowing the crowd with its creativity, this intermezzo was responsible for removing any previous flavors left on the diners’ palates, preparing them for the upcoming, richer courses.
MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris
A shift to the evening’s main protein courses necessitated a fresh wine pairing. For this, Guinn selected a California pinot gris from MacMurray Ranch, a smooth white wine defined by its subtle and delicate notes of peach, pear and apple. “The seafood course is creamy and buttery,” he says, “So, we paired it with this pinot gris because of its good acidity. That will really help cut through all of that richness.”
Additionally, Guinn praises the dynamic ability of this pinot, explaining that it also pairs perfectly with the course following the seafood. “The next course is a pork, which has a little more Southwest flavor to it,” he says. “The acidity of the wine is also going to play well with the spiciness of the pork and the sweet corn found in the tamale.”
Lobster-Stuffed Halibut Cheek
A butter-poached halibut cheek finished with lobster claw meat, charred lemon and garlic butter, paired with steamed broccolini and classic Romesco
The halibut cheek is not a common cut to find on the market, says Guinn. He describes the meat as a cross between a sea scallop and crab, commending it for its texture and the punch of rich flavor the fish offers. Adding to the richness, Guinn paired this rarity with lobster claw meat, creating a dish that boasted two seafood delicacies.
Pork Tenderloin and Pork Belly Tamale
A grilled pork tenderloin with a light carne asada spice, paired with a smoked pork belly and sweet corn tamale and finished with a cucumber-tomatillo gazpacho
Following the fish, Guinn presented a plate that awakens a unique passion within him. “Pork is my favorite protein,” he says. “I also get uber-excited [about] tamales.” This particular dish presented sweet, smoky, spicy, fresh and clean flavors with varying textures. “It brings your palate right back from the richness of the seafood dish.”
Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre
The final wine pairing of the night was also the fullest-bodied. The “Italian-bred” Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre is a ruby red blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Sangiovese wines that offers a weighty combination of jammy fruit notes and balanced tannins. Guinn selected this particular red wine for its unique ability to pair with both the pork and beef dishes, extracting different flavor components when tried with each. Spice, grill and smoke flavors from the dishes contrasted well with the bittersweet notes of the wine.
A braised beef short rib and a crispy eggplant chip atop a base of creamed demi-glace and asiago potato gratin
“To me, this course embodies the comfort of a Sunday afternoon dinner,” Guinn says. He classifies his version of the classic, Greek staple as a Napoleon-style “casserole” dish. The comforting and creamy textures of the course offered a needed break from its bolder, pork predecessor. “After the variances of flavors of the previous courses, this one just feels like home,” he says.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
A double-layer, flourless chocolate cake with a center layer of chocolate mousse with crème anglaise and raspberry coulis
Prepared by the hotel’s pastry chef, this sweet tooth-satisfying dish was light and packed with flavor. Raspberry and chocolate essences effortlessly balanced with a surprise, final wine pairing: A Sauvion Vouvray from Loire Valley. This medium-bodied and mildly acidic wine with dried fruit and honey notes complemented both the chocolate dessert and the cheese plate to follow.
Cheese Course – Edgewood Creamery Ozark Mountain Blue and Farmhouse Original
Spiced red plum shavings topped with Edgewood Creamery Ozark Mountain Blue Cheese and diced baked apples beneath cubed Farmhouse Original
Instead of stopping on a sweet note, Guinn presented a creamy cheese plate as his final course of the evening. “A nice cheese plate is settling on the stomach and gets everything relaxed,” he says. “Throughout the meal, there have been many ups and downs. We’ve had spicy and acidic, then creamy and buttery, then rich and sugary. So it’s nice to end with a savory and milky cheese paired with a couple of sweet components. This really just brings everything back together.”