They said it would be beyond imagination, and it truly was extraordinary. The customarily traditional Chaine des Rotisseurs, the international gastronomic society founded in Paris in 1950 and devoted to promoting fine dining and the pleasures of the table, was anything but typical when Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino hosted their 18th Induction dinner last March 17.
Themed “Beyond Imagination: A Taste of the Surreal,” the dinner invited the Chaine members and their guests to “a world of fantasy and limitless possibilities, an experience that is unlike anything [they] could have ever imagined,” and encouraged them to “let go of reason and tradition for this one evening and simply let [their] imagination take flight.”
True to their word, the dinner was grand yet playful, a fantastic production with careful attention to detail, conceptualized by Waterfront General Manager Marco Protacio and beautifully executed by his talented team—F&B director Sarah Mascariñas, Conventions and Events Manager Annie Retuya, Executive Chef Alessio Loddo, Banquet Chef Alan Chan and Executive Pastry Chef Gabriel Garcia, Banquet Manager Raul Tangarorang, Beverage Manager Luther Manayaga, and their team of 61 chefs, 137 servers, 22 bartenders, 28 engineers and one seamstress.
Inspired by the surrealist art movement of the early 1920s, the venue featured one element of surprise after another, from the colorful décor to the 40 surrealist paintings surrounding the square tent. The Pacific Grand Ballroom of the hotel was enclosed in striped chartreuse and purple fabric, and the surrealist works of Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, Frida Kahlo and Joan Miro, among others, hung in ornate gold frames all around the tent. Gold wrought-iron chandeliers hung dramatically from the ceiling.
A mix of rectangular and round tables were arranged to form three long tables with colorful linens in turquoise, violet, chartreuse, orange and fuchsia, while plush Louis XVI medallion chairs with a muted brocade print were perfectly lined up on each side of the tables. Lush flower arrangements were made to match the linen colors and were accented with tall gold wrought-iron candelabras.
Place cards were made to sit on intricately carved Louis XVI medallion chairs made out of chocolate, while individual menu cards were printed over Salvador Dali’s “Rose Meditative” painting in elaborate gold frames.
The menu was as playful as the venue, and the food as pretty on the plate as it was on the palate. The surrealist-themed dinner gave Marco the license to play with the sequence of dishes and wines in the seven-course dinner, and conventional it certainly wasn’t.
Music set the mood, and the playlist was a heady mix of dreamscape melodies, operatic pop and familiar classics remixed by jazz and bossa nova artists.
Each course was inspired by a surrealist painting, and the first course was a cheese plate inspired by the “Indefinite Divisibility” painting of French surrealist artist Yves Tanguy paired with an aromatic red wine, the Sylvain Fessy Côtes du Rhône 2007.
Assorted Italian and French cheeses like formaggio erborino stagionato in grotta, Camembert Jort-AOP au lait cru affiné au Calvados, and pecorino Sardo Dolce, Santa Teresa were served with dry fig, honey and balsamic reduction for Tanguy’s Cheeses.
The second course was called Kahlo’s Prey—poached and roasted tenderloin of veal stuffed with black truffle and mushroom duxelle, accompanied with tourchon au foie gras, baby vegetables, polenta and bone marrow jus. It was inspired by Frida Kahlo’s “The Wounded Deer” painting.
The third course, Ode to Magritte—a lemon and rose sorbet—was an edible look-alike of its inspiration, Belgian painter Rene Magritte’s “Son of Man,” with the sorbet placed in a halved apple atop the face of a man in a suit and a bowler hat.
The delicate and refreshing Robert Mondavi White Zinfadel 2009 paired perfectly with this course, as did the tenor. Ervin Lumaoag of the Philippine Opera Company, dressed in a suit and a bowler hat, was a knockout with his operatic take on Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”
Rene’s Catch, pan-roasted sea bass with artichoke-mascarpone ravioli, tomato confit and light caviar sauce, was served next. It was inspired by another Magritte painting, “Collective Invention,” which features a beached half-woman, half-fish being.
Inspired by Salvador Dali’s “A Burning Giraffe,” A Dali Concoction of double consommé of beef with vegetable pearls followed.
The sixth course, called The Color Wheel of Max Ernst—watermelon and prawn salad with spicy avocado mousse—was as refreshing as it was pretty, and took after the bright colors of Ernst’s “The Blessed Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus Before Three Witnesses.” The crisp and smoky Pouilly Fumé Loire Valley 2007 accompanied this luscious course.
Miro’s Mirth was the seventh and last course, and the idyllic hodgepodge of flavors and textures—cheesecake, roasted peach, caramel brûlée and Maracaibo chocolate mousse, all in one peach caramel brûlée granola cone—interpreted Spanish surrealist artist Joan Miro’s “Carnival of Harlequin” flawlessly.
This finale was paired with the beloved Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial, causing giddy toasting among the Chaine members and guests.
Midway through dessert, The Type One performance artists gave a dreamlike, gravity-defying dance in black light, sealing the deal that the dinner would be beyond imagination, one of pure fantasy that had come true.