We approach Las Fuentes Culinary Theatre on one of many golf carts that silently whizz about the El Dorado Royale Resort property, as a mariachi band kicks off the evening with a lively musical greeting. Dressed in our finest resort attire for such a special occasion, we walk the red carpet to the front door with flutes of sparkling wine in hand.
Whisked to our tables, we peer around in anticipation as to what delights the evening’s program has in store. The stage is set for what will assuredly be a spectacular event – and a bedazzling culmination to what has been a memorable week of culinary experiences. This is the ‘Gourmet Inclusive, (GI)’ Gala Dinner at El Dorado Royale, Karisma Hotels & Resorts in Riviera Maya.
This particular ‘GI’ is the pinnacle event of the inaugural Canadian Beef Culinary Series held in conjunction with California’s Jackson Family Wines. The GI program is designed to offer a selection of interactive tasting and tutorials for foodies, with a rotating spotlight on renowned chefs from some of Canada’s top restaurants. On the second week of the month throughout 2015, visiting chefs cook their favourite beef recipes and which are thoughtfully paired with stellar wines, all in breathtaking tropical settings.
Daily activities include a Kick-off Beach BBQ, accompanied by live music, lovely wines and warm breezes that send aromas from sizzling charcoal-grilled beef wafting through the air (inside skirt, New York, and chuck eye roll…to name but a few cuts). The festivities also include a Tricks of the Trade Event & Tasting and a Cutting Demo & Cooking Class.
Visiting chef for this first series is Ottawa-based Louis Charest; with a list of accolades and achievements as long as my arm, he knows his way around a kitchen. Executive Chef at Rideau Hall since 2007, Charest regularly creates meals for the Governor General, heads of state, government officials and visiting dignitaries. We are in good hands. He is the first of many talented Canadian chefs in the series that includes Paul Rogalski (Rouge and Bistro Rouge, Calgary), and Antonio Park (Park Market and Park, Montreal).
El Dorado Royale Executive Chef, Erik Peters and his more-than-capable team of cooks work alongside Chef Charest for the event. Marty Carpenter – Executive Director and Certified Chef de Cuisine at Canada Beef is also on-hand to support this debut Culinary Series. I caught up with Carpenter beachside fora chat about the Gourmet Inclusive Chef Series.
“We want to create a unique and top-notch offering that, from a GI experience, people can take away with them,” Carpenter says. “We want to see guests return home with some great information and having learned something they didn’t know beforehand. Beef is often a confusing category in the grocery store, and potentially in the kitchen, so if we can give them a head start, we’re pretty happy.”
“We are bringing to the forefront some cuts that a lot of guests would have never experienced or seen before. Things like skirt steak, which is a very big item here in Mexico, for example. If we can demonstrate and show some different ideas with it here, then it lends itself to some gourmet creations back in Canada.”
Simply stated, pairing beef and wines creates an exceptional partnership. Jackson Family Wines Sommelier, Dana Aguero, is certainly up for the beef and-wine pairing challenge, deftly matching Beef Short Rib Ravioli in Jalapeno Beurre Blanc with a 2010 Hartford Court, Russian River Valley Chardonnay — equally buttery and with lively acidity to cut through the richness.
Jackson Family Wines has been an active part of the GI program for more than a year now, featuring wine masters and interactive wine experiences on a monthly basis. ‘Sips in the Sand’ and ‘Wine Around the World’, anyone? If you’re seeking an exceptional culinary experience while vacationing in Riviera Maya that’s both remarkable and compelling, consider indulging in the Gourmet Inclusive Canadian Beef Culinary Series at El Dorado Royale – it’s an edible adventure you won’t soon forget.