… to me (Happy Birthday to me…). As part of my birthday week celebration (as you get older,
birthdays take longer to celebrate – you need time to remember those rapidly accumulating years
gone by), I was treated to the Remy Martin Ultimate Dinner at La Mer at the Halekulani. This
dinner is an annual event sponsored by Remy Martin that’s a benefit for the James Beard
Foundation. It is served in selected restaurants across the nation between September through
December. The menus differ at each restaurant and range from five to nine courses. The common
denominator of each dinner is a ¾ to 1-ounce serving of Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac at the
conclusion of dinner.

What’s For Dinner?

A complimentary smoked salmon crudite was served with a glass of complimentary Dampierre
champagne to start. The first course was a sautéed duck liver with julienne papaya in a bigarade
sauce. I’ve never heard of a bigarade sauce but the sweetness of the papaya and the sauce
complimented the rich duck liver.
The second course was thinly sliced abalone (aquaculture raised in Hawai’i) drizzled with a mirin
and lime dressing served with julienne celery. I would not have known it was celery if not for the
menu but this second course was one of the highlights – I now know what to do with the fresh,
farm-raised abalone sold at the local Marukai markets.
Course number three was escargot served in a potato croustade with a garlic hazelnut butter. The
potato croustade absorbed the garlic butter that you would normally dip your bread in.
The fourth course was a black rice risotto served with a langoustine tail (langoustines resemble
skinny little lobsters more than shrimp and are the traditional seafood found in the authentic
Italian scampi). The menu description said the dish was perfumed with Remy Martin though the
richness of the rice bordered on caramel – another highlight of the menu.
Course number five was a crispy skin moi (moi is a white fleshed fish found in Hawaiian waters
that previously was reserved for Hawaiian royalty. It is now farm raised in Hawai’i). The moi was
served with a parsley sauce though again, there was another darker sauced just under the fish that
bordered on a caramel-like richness…exquisite!
At this time, a palate cleanser served as course number six. It was a simple sorbet accented with
Remy Martin cognac. It had all the richness and complexity of a fine cognac but no detectable
alcohol. This was definitely a sorbet that I would have to try to recreate in my own kitchen
someday… soon!
The last of the entrees (course number seven) was a veal medallion stuffed with Roquefort cheese.
If you’ve ever had veal before, you know that it has a tendency to be a little dry if overcooked due
to a lack of fat. The Roquefort cheese perfectly complimented the mild veal and added a richness
lacking in plain veal (kind of like stuffing filet mignon with blue cheese).
Course number eight was your own selection of cheeses from La Mer’s cheese cart. We had a
variety of blue, goat’s milk, cow’s milk, hard, soft and triple cream cheeses. This also was served
with a walnut raisin bread and assorted dried and fresh fruits.
The last dish was a trio of La Mer’s desserts – a lemon tart, a chocolate mousse and a rich
chocolate cake. Since we informed the maitre’d that we were celebrating my birthday, I was also
served a complimentary layered chocolate cake with a solitary candle – which actually turned out
to be the best dessert that night
Finally, the crowning glory was the Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac. For the uninitiated, this
cognac is a blend of cognacs from the Remy Martin house that go back up to 100 years!
Understandably, this libation does not come cheap. A simple Web search had prices for a standard
750 ml bottle ranging from $1,600 to $1,800. Therefore at retail, a ¾-ounce serving would be at
least $47 (select Hawai’i restaurants serve 1 ounce for $75 to $90). And believe me, they carefully
measured the ¾-ounce serving.

Was dinner worth $150?

Is any dinner worth $150? Or $100 or even $50 for that matter? It comes down to the pleasure
you personally get out of it. I know that I will remember this dinner for years to come. Will I go
to La Mer regularly? Probably not. This type of dinner is for those really special occasions… as
opposed to celebrating a new haircut or… Groundhog Day.
The monetary value is akin to the $200 your spouse “saved” by purchasing $700 worth of clothes
for $500. As Einstein put it “relativity”. La Mer normally charges $125 for their usual nine-course
meal. Subtract the $50 value of the Louis XIII cognac means the dinner itself was actually “only”
$100. I saved $25 by ordering the Ultimate Dinner!! And since I was treated to dinner, IT WAS
FREE!! Plus I’d drop $150 or even $200 for a seating at the French Laundry in Napa Valley.

Isn’t French cuisine laden with fat and cholesterol?

Well, if you remember my motto that “Cholesterol and calories don’t count on holidays,
vacations and your birthday,” it was both my birthday and I was also on vacation so the
cholesterol and calories WERE ALSO FREE!!

The Ultimate Dinner near you

Two restaurants in Northern California are participating with Remy Martin and the James Beard
Foundation: The Firehouse in Old Sacramento (916) 442-4772 and Le Bistro French Continental
Restaurant in Stockton (209) 951-0885. A full list of restaurants participating nationwide is
listed at the James Beard Foundation Website: http://www.jamesbeard.
org/events/other/2003/ultimate_dinner.shtml.
 
Hauoli La Hanau...