Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Bombay Sapphire gin dinner at the Famous

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 6:12 PM

It started with this invite:

Sapphire_Invite.pdf

Then Johnathan Shankland, general manager at the Famous, kindly asked me to be his guest (i.e., comped me) for the event — the first in what he hopes will be one similar special dinner a month. (Keep an eye on the Famous' Facebook page for updates.)

Shankland and chef Brian Sack partnered with Bombay Sapphire brand specialist Corie Riden to present the four-course, gin-cocktail-paired meal.

If you'd like to simply take a quick photo tour, watch a slideshow by clicking here or clicking this photo:

The Famous Bombay Sapphire gin
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Bombay Sapphire meets a Pernod-washed glass, Champagne, lemon juice and pear puree laced with baking spices.

If you'd like the cocktail recipes, Shankland will post them on the Famous' Facebook page soon.

But if you want the sexy details, stick with me for a quick recap.

First, Riden introduced Bombay Sapphire, discussing the 10 internationally sourced botanicals that provide its unique flavor. A display in the center of our table housed the dried form of each botanical, from Spanish lemon peel and almonds to Moroccan coriander and Italian juniper berries — all of which we could open and smell or taste if we preferred. Also, a central display table (viewable in the above slideshow) featured "deconstructed" bottles of gin with only one of those 10 ingredients each, to highlight each one's contribution to the whole.

She mentioned that Bombay Sapphire owns four of 10 special Carter Head pot stills in the world. The botanicals are placed in a basket through which the grain spirit vapor rises, allowing the botanicals to impart their essence.

Bombay Sapphire's recipe dates to 1761, she says, though the company only formed in 1987, and has gained market share rapidly since. It's now No. 2 in Colorado, behind Tanqueray.

Our greeting drink was a deliciously simple Gin Rickey with lime and soda, paired with some fantastic organic Scottish smoked salmon (via Shetland Aquaculture) on toasted pumpernickel with dollops of caviar and crème fraîche. (I may or may not have eaten four of them between conversation. Hey, there was plenty to go around ...)

The Famous Bombay Sapphire gin

For the first course, chef Sack beautifully prepared a sea scallop with a Champagne beurre blanc and an amazing little cube of anise-pear gelee (like a Jell-O lump) to match the pear and Champagne in the gin cocktail (pictured above with the slideshow link).

The Famous Bombay Sapphire gin

Second up: both Golden Mantle and Shigoku oysters topped with a fine dice of cucumber and candied ginger mignonette. The oysters weren't briny and the ginger, being candied, wasn't biting on the tongue, but soft and mildly sweet. The ginger liqueur in the next cocktail, mixed with bitters, fresh orange and a house-infused ginger-cucumber agave syrup, was also soft; cucumber always makes me think of a summertime drink, and this one is appropriately light for the continued hot days we're having.

The Famous Bombay Sapphire gin

Third course: Nope, not steak, even though we're sitting in the premier steakhouse in town. Shankland intentionally wanted to demonstrate that the Famous isn't just for your special-occasion steak. So, after the seafood rounds, we got a roasted Berkshire pork loin with a slightly thickened gin-juniper reduction (essentially an infused au jus) and some "basil-scented" new potatoes. Perfectly cooked, it was simply a powerhouse course with exceptional flavor.

Shankland credited Famous grill guy John Hagen, who has been with the restaurant since its opening. He calls him "an unsung hero downtown," who will go weeks or more without having a single plate sent back to the kitchen with temperature complaints (out of many hundreds or thousands of plates).

The Famous Bombay Sapphire gin

That course was paired with a really wonderful clear cocktail (again, see photo in slideshow) that contained St. Germain, lemon, basil, soda, Amaretto and Amaretto-macerated berries. It wasn't too sweet or sticky, and the mountain herbs from the St. Germain blended easily with those present in the Bombay Sapphire. The fruit was subtle, and a nice pairing with the pork in the way that some pork recipes will call for a berry (if not apple) sauce.

Lastly, as a coconut freak, I was a huge fan of the coconut milk Panna Cotta with a yellow curry syrup. Like, this was perhaps the best Panna Cotta I've ever had, or at least that I can recall.

The Famous Bombay Sapphire gin panna cotta
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Talk about a perfectly textured night: each component nailed its ideal form, including this firm-pudding-like panna cotta.

The curry component played wonderfully with some of the gin's botanicals — perhaps it was the grains of paradise from West Africa or the cassia bark via Asia. The vanilla beans and dried herb crumble as garnish also harmonized well with the cocktail, which also contained coconut milk, this time with lime, egg whites (for texture, as in notable pre-Prohibition drinks like a gin fizz), lemongrass syrup, ginger beer and a single sage leaf for garnish (to smell as you sip).
The Famous Bombay Sapphire gin coconut milk
  • Matthew Schniper
  • It's a classy touch to have a garnish meant specifically for boozy aromatherapy.

Another deserved shout out to bartender Luis Rodriguez, who executed the drinks that it appeared Shankland, Riden and Sack all had a hand in designing and vetting.

I can tell you sincerely, that after around seven years of sporadically attending special dinners similar to this all over town, this was one of the most impressive and unique I've been to, with no flaws and stand-out food and drink.

It's also the only gin dinner I can think of locally, though a great Colorado cocktail dinner from 2011 at the Summit at the Broadmoor did come to mind as another fun spirits-paired meal.

While on the subject, a Colorado spirits event is planned for 10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Famous. It will be set up more as an informal tasting than sit down meal. Again, keep an eye on the Famous' Facebook page for details on that, soon, as well as future dinners of this caliber.

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