GOURMET DINING WITH FINESSE
With the holiday season on our doors, being the perfect host and serving your guests with the best that you can muster is a skill that we can learn with a few tips here and there!
By Sonya J. Sabbah
Christmas is a time of giving and sharing and you can make this a year never to forget for your special guests. Besides the traditional Christmas turkey and its accompaniments, you can decide to honor your guests with the best and most luxurious foods in the world.
Second to caviar, foie gras is one of the finest foods available. Foie gras is generally eaten as a raw pate, but it can be lightly cooked to give it a greater depth of flavor.
If you are serving the foie gras as part of a larger meal, serve it before the main course. At this point, the palate is still fairly fresh and can appreciate its dense flavor. Serve it with brown or white bread cut in triangles, then place the foie gras on top of the bread or beside it. Pair it with fruity and acidic flavors. These flavors can cut through its sweet, rich taste. Serve it alongside a glass of sweet dessert wine such as Sauternes and Reisling.
Beluga Caviar is the most expensive food item in the world, costing up to USD 5,000 per kilogram. It usually ranges from purple to black, the palest being the most expensive. It should be served chilled and never at room temperature, in a dish of ice. Use utensils made of glass, plastic or ceramic to preserve the taste.
It is traditional etiquette to eat caviar in small bites. You can also eat it on unsalted crackers or bread, or on small traditional Russian pancakes called blini. You can garnish it with fresh herbs like parsley, dill or sour cream.
Oysters are best served raw in their own juices with a slice of lemon. Start by sorting through your oysters and selecting the ones which are tightly closed. Discard opened ones, as these are dead and are no longer suitable for eating.
Use an oyster knife with a hand guard and insert the tip of the knife into the small hole at the hinge of the oyster shell. Wiggle the knife and push it all the way inside the shell to break the hinge. Remove the top shell, keeping the bottom shell flat to conserve the oyster juices. Then cut the muscle holding the oyster onto the bottom shell so that it is lying loose on the shell, ready for serving.
Serve the oysters immediately on a bed of crushed ice. Hold it, and keep it flat, so that the smooth edge of the shell is facing towards you. Tip the shell up and let the oyster and its juices slide into your mouth.
TARTUFI DE ALBA
Truffles are easily among the most delicately flavored, expensive and mysterious foods of the world, not least because they grow entirely underground. Truffles are expensive items, but none as dear as the Italian white Alba version. These items have become difficult to cultivate, thus explaining the exorbitant price.
The French Perigord Black Truffle is best when cooked because its wonderful flavor is released and intensified by heat. Paper-thin slivers of raw black truffle can be inserted beneath the skin of uncooked fowl such as chicken, pheasant or duck before the bird is roasted. You can also grate black truffle into sauces made with brandy or wine to lend them that rich truffle flavor. Black truffle slices layered into a foie gras terrine is the ultimate culinary pairing. Black truffles tend to pair well with a fine Bordeaux or aged Burgundy wine.
Elvish Honey is one of the most expensive honeys in the world and is made deep in a cave, not in hives, where bees create a high-quality, mineral-rich honey on spherical walls in northeastern Turkey. Professional climbers have to help extract it. You can use it to glaze your turkey or just as a dessert dressing. Store it at room temperature and never refrigerate it.
The Tessieri brother and sister team created the most expensive and best quality fine chocolate back in 1990 in Tuscany, Italy. The 70% Tavoletta dark chocolate smells fresh and flowery. It keeps its really fresh character when chewing on it and feels like eating fresh raisins. This very light chocolate flavor pairs well with coffee and red fruit. You can also pair it with a green tea or Oolong tea or make a cake with hazelnut to get the best of the taste of this quality chocolate.