Fine dining at Key Largo’s Chef’s Kitchen

One of the fundamental truths of journalism is that you don’t go into it hoping to strike it rich. Not for us is the world of fancy suits and expensive cars. It is the price we pay to pursue our passion. Another truth is that you never say “no” to a restaurant gig (see above). So when I saw an invitation to Hemingways Mall’s second Chef’s Kitchen event, I was understandably interested.

The idea behind the Chef’s Kitchen event, as explained to me on the evening, is to give Hemingways chefs an opportunity to show off their own signature dishes to an eager audience. Tonight, the chefs on show were Key Largo’s sous chefs Terri Pomone, Memory P Kutiwa, and Jarrod Lawrence.

There’s no denying the offer was tempting: four-course meal, wine pairing, and – arguably the most important – free. How could I possibly say no? And thus I found myself walking through Hemingways Hotel on my way to their second Chef’s Kitchen event at the Key Largo Restaurant.

I won’t deny I was just a little intimidated going in. I am definitely not the sort of person who normally attends fancy places like this. My idea of a night out is eating pizza on the couch while binging Netflix so this was definitely a step up.

Still, there are few things that cannot be improved by the introduction of champagne and tonight was no different. Upon descending the stairs to the restaurant proper, I was greeted by a very dapper waiter who immediately offered me a glass. I took it gratefully and was shown to my table where I finally sat down and prepared to enjoy the evening.

Before long, the the first chef stepped forward and introduced themselves. Their name was Terri Pomone and she started us off with the appetizer, a sweet potato and feta spanakopita. I took the fact that I’d never heard of it to be a good sign and I was right. The sweet potato was wrapped in that delicious phyllo pastry that shatters like glass when you bite into it  while the sweet potato itself was that perfect consistency that hits that sweet spot between too hard and too soft. If this was the appetizer, then we were off to a good start.

With the first plates cleared away, the second chef made themselves known. For the salad course, we would be provided for by Memory P Kutiwa and her grilled skewered prawns served with garden greens & citrus salad. I’ll admit, I had mixed expectations for this one. On the one hand, I love seafood so the prawns were an easy sell. On the other, citrus has always been one of my least favourite fruit groups – too sour for my taste. Thankfully, the chef had the foresight to go easy on the citrus aspect so my delicate sensibilities could enjoy the meal un-harrassed. Like the appetizer before it, the meal was a success and I was certainly eager to move on to the main course.

The next chef, Jarrod Lawrence, must have read my mind because his contribution to the evening was soon sitting on the table. This one had a bit of a long name so bear with me: Tandoori rack of lamb slowly smoked and infused with spices from around the world, rubbed with an Indian infused rub and set to rest alongside a cumin and flavoured Jasmin basmati rice with a Rita dressing and poppadum’s. A mouthful, I know. I was a bit worried when it was first introduced because Lawrence described the spice as “mild” which, in my experience, is chef-speak for “you won’t be sitting down for a few days”. Thankfully Lawrence was true to his word and the lamb was absolutely delicious. A bit of a bite but nothing a wimp like me couldn’t handle.

Finally, we arrived at the highlight of any meal – the dessert. In keeping with the goal of the evening, the dessert consisted of blueberries prepared in three different ways, one by each chef: panna cotta, macarons, and Turkish delight. The panna cotta was undoubtedly my favourite although that isn’t too say the other two weren’t fabulous either. I was particularly surprised by the Turkish delight. Normally, I’m not a fan of those sorts of gelatin-y sweets. But this one was not hard and chewy like most delights. Instead, the inside had the smooth consistency of melted marshmallows. In fact, it wasn’t until I glanced at the menu that I realised what it was. So that was certainly a highlight of the evening.

Like all good things, the evening eventually reached its conclusion. All in all, I found myself very glad that I had attended. The food was amazing, the atmosphere was pleasant, and I even managed to walk away with an invite to the next one in August. Maybe I’ll even see you there.

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