Epicureans fly to Bangkok for 10-course, $25,000 dinner
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published February 11, 2007
BANGKOK, Thailand - It was an evening of utter decadence - a 10-course gourmet dinner concocted by world-renowned chefs at $25,000 a head.
Many of those who attended Saturday night's culinary extravaganza in Bangkok hailed it as the meal of a lifetime. But it's no easy task to eat plate after plate of Beluga caviar, Perigord truffles, Kobe beef, Brittany lobster - each paired with a rare and robust vintage wine.
"It's really amazing," said one diner, Sophiane Foster, a wealthy Cambodian who lives in Malaysia, as she eyed the dinner's eighth course - a pigeon en croute with cepes mushrooms. "But I can't finish it. Your senses can only appreciate so much."
High-rolling food lovers flew in from the United States, Europe, the Middle East and other parts of Asia for the 40-seat dinner organized by the Lebua luxury hotel in Bangkok, grandly titled Epicurean Masters of the World.
Cooked by six three-star Michelin chefs - four from France and one each from Germany and Italy - the menu featured complicated creations like tartar of Kobe beef with imperial Beluga caviar and Belon oysters, and mousseline of pattes rouges crayfish with morel mushroom infusion.
Among the talented chefs, some said they found it challenging to give diners their money's worth. Antoine Westermann of Le Buerhiesel, a top-class restaurant in Strasbourg, France, said he shaved 3 1/2 ounces of Perigord truffles - worth about $350 - onto each plate of his coquille Saint-Jacques and truffles.
"For $25,000, what do you expect?" he said.
As guests entered the dinner, held at the hotel's rooftop restaurant on the 65th floor overlooking Bangkok, attendants bowed and scattered rose petals at their feet. Men wore tuxedos and women were dripping in diamonds.
"It's surreal. The whole thing is surreal," said Alain Soliveres, the celebrated chef of the Taillevent restaurant in Paris.
Soliveres prepared two of his signature dishes, including the first course: a creme brulee of foie gras that was washed down with a 1990 Cristal champagne that sells for more than $500 a bottle but still stood out as one of the cheapest wines on the menu.
Chefs submitted their grocery lists to organizers beforehand and the ingredients were flown in fresh: black truffles, foie gras, oysters and live Brittany lobsters from France; caviar from Switzerland; white truffles from Italy.
Diners also sipped their way through legendary vintage wines, like a 1985 Romanee Conti, a 1959 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, a 1967 Chateau d'Yquem and a 1961 Chateau Palmer. The latter is considered "one of the greatest single wines of the 20th century," said Alun Griffiths of Berry Bros. & Rudd, the British wine merchants that procured and shipped about six bottles of each wine for the dinner. The wine alone cost more than $200,000, Griffiths said.
Organizers say the event was designed to promote Thai tourism and that most of the profits will go to two charities: Medecins Sans Frontieres and the Chaipattana Foundation, a rural development program set up by the king of Thailand.
Some chefs confessed they were astonished by the $25,000 price tag. "It's crazy," Westermann said. "After this, nothing can shock me."
[Last modified February 11, 2007, 01:23:48]
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