Covering the dining scene in and around the OC
How do you feed thousands of people over three days?
That’s what we wondered while wandering the Taste of Newport last weekend. Fortunately, we had an answer from Palm Terrace Restaurant at The Island Hotel.
A few days before Taste of Newport began, Palm Terrace Executive Sous Chef David J. Man prepared for us the two entrees that his restaurant served: macaroni and cheese, and lamb lollipops.
“So why mac and cheese, and why the lamb?” asked Stasha.
“The macaroni and cheese is a signature dish here at the hotel,” replied Chef Man. “Our Executive Chef, Bill Bracken, created it, and it’s been on our menu for many years. As for the lamb, when we were the Four Seasons we used to do a lamb dish that was similar and became very popular, and even though we are now the Island Hotel people expect it. However, we’re doing this dish the Island Hotel way.”
Chef Man watched as we sampled the dishes. “This ain’t your daddy’s mac and cheese,” I said with a laugh. “This is fantastic. No wonder it’s a signature dish.”
“What are the ingredients?” asked Stasha, a former chef. “I see truffles, but I can’t place the cheese.”
“We use Taleggio cheese to make a cream sauce with white wine, mushroom, leeks, and cream,” explained Chef Man. “Then we add crushed truffles and truffle oil.”
“Black or white truffle oil?” Stasha queried.
“White truffle oil. We then finish it with a little parmesan cheese, and some chives.”
“I have to say, the lamb presentation is certainly different than a typical lamb kabob you would normally find at an event this size. It’s classier and elegant—a good reflection of the hotel,” said Stasha, as she cut into a piece. “Oh, the salsa verde tastes very summery—the parsley and hint of citrus is a really nice compliment to the meat.”
“It’s light and healthy, more California style,” said Chef Man.
“What ingredients did you use for this dish?” I wondered. “For the salsa verde we used lots of green herbs, including parsley, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, mint, oregano. We added lots of garlic, some lemon zest, a very nice California extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. We mixed that with the feta, and some nice sweet tomatoes.”
“And now the big question: How do you prepare food like this for several thousand people over three days?” I asked.
“We have a whole brigade working on this,” said Chef Man. “We have a butcher who prepares and chops the lamb for us, a couple of guys that pick herbs and cut tomatoes for the salsa verde, someone to cut cheese, and another person to make 25 gallons of the Taleggio cheese sauce. We also make things as we go—we’ll make it the day before Friday, see how much how we go through that day, then prep more for the next day.”
“Out there, doing the cooking, we’ll have two to three cooks, and probably two chefs. I’ll be there the entire time, and Chef Bracken will be out there. We have a slew of volunteers from the hotel who will be promoting the hotel and restaurant, and assisting with handing out the food. It’s a lot of work, but we use our past experience with Taste of Newport. We keep track of what we do every year, so we can look back and say how much of this did we serve, and use that as a guestimation for how much to prepare and bring for the next year.”
“So what happens if you run out of food?” asked Stasha.
“I don’t think that will happen,” said Chef Man, smiling.
Based on his experience, we had a feeling The Island Hotel had the Taste of Newport situation well in hand. And, after seeing them at Taste of Newport, they certainly did!