Wine and food pairings are fairly commonplace these days at restaurants. But when the venue is the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, you know it’s anything but commonplace.
Such were the festivities earlier this month when the Hard Rock Hotel co-hosted (with Moet & Chandon) the “Wine Riffs’’ pairings dinner that showed off the best the Hard Rock world at Universal Orlando has to offer.
“It’s a production, – our attempt to do what we do best, which is music with food and wine,” said Eric Jenkins, assistant director of food and beverage for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando. “It’s our attempt to do what we do best, which is music with food and wine.’’
This month’s event was the fourth of 2014 in what Carlton Hudson, managing director of the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, termed “our way to blow the top off the typical wine and food pairing.’’
And in typical Hard Rock fashion, it succeeded. This most recent dinner featured five courses of champagne, seafood, beef and music.
The first course, for example, paired Moet’s Grand Vintage Rose 2004 with a Chive Omelet, Poached East Coast Oyster, Florida Sturgeon Caviar, Chervil Crème Fraiche, Pea Tendrils and Fingerling Potato Chip. Being the opening dish, it was a bit playful, so the music selections included Jason Mraz, Fun and Teddy Geiger.
The Shellfish pairing featured Black Italian Truffle and Seared Pistachio Crust Day Boat Scallop and Imperial Brut. The truffle was a throwback to the days of French King Louis XVI, whom many believe made truffles a royal delicacy. The music, of course, had a royal sound from the likes of Elvis Presley, Billie Holiday, Led Zeppelin and Frank Sinatra.
The Beef dish of Serrano wrapped Filet Mignon was paired with Dom Perignon 2004 and the music of Lorde, Lana Del Rey, Broods and The Kills.
“It takes a couple of months to put it all together,’’ Jenkins said. “We take feedback from the vineyards first. We try to capture whatever emotions they had when they were actually making the wines. And then we do a sample tasting of everything from the vineyard and pick five or six wines we want to use. We take those over to (Hard Rock Hotel Executive Chef Douglas Chin) and he creates the menu.’’
A ‘vibe manager’’ then pulls together the soundtrack.
“We don’t re-use any of the music,’’ from previous dinners, Jenkins said. “We use a completely different soundtrack for each dinner.’’
While the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando – and indeed each of the Loews hotels at Universal Orlando – are Central Florida meccas for tourists, the wine, dinner and music trifecta is primarily aimed at the local audience. Many of the guests (only between 50 and 70 per dinner) receive invitations because they have an annual pass to Universal Studios or are members of Hard Rock Live.
“We’re ready to open up the secret a little bit more to the community,’’ Jenkins said.
That “secret’’ not only includes the restaurants at the Hard Rock Hotel but at Loews Portofino Bay Resort and Royal Pacific, each of which have outstanding signature eateries. At the Hard Rock, for example, there’s the legendary Palm; Portofino Bay has Bice Ristorante; and Royal Pacific features Emeril’s Tchoup Chop.
“We want people to understand that we have nice hotel restaurants,’’ Jenkins said. “You don’t have to Restaurant Row (on Sand Lake Road) or Winter Park to get a fantastic meal.’’
And fantastic music.