Take a sneak peak at the James Beard Foundation Sneak Peak dinner we were invited to attend at the Paragon in the Foxwoods Casino Grand Pequot Towers. The dinner is coming up in NYC this weekend and features Foxwoods chefs. During the dinner we sampled specially crafted hors d’oeuvres, entrees, and desserts by five of Foxwoods’ renowned chefs:
- Executive Chef Edward Allen
- Chef Robb Brunelle
- Executive Pastry Chef Franck Iglesias
- Chef David Brai, and
- Chef de Cuisine Scott Mickelson
These were samples of the food that they will be presenting during a six-course menu at the historic James Beard House in New York City on Thursday, July 25, 2013 to help support the James Beard Foundation. Their dishes will be featuring the season’s best ingredients. Each course was paired with the appropriate wine. Tickets are available to the public.
As we were making preparations to attend the dinner, we determined that we did not know where the Paragon restaurant was located in Foxwoods. We had heard the name, but never seen it when walking through Foxwoods and we have been visiting Foxwoods since it opened. A quick visit to the Foxwoods website and we soon found out that it is on the 24th floor of the Grand Pequot Tower hotel, that explains why we have never seen it before. If you can’t find the right elevator to take, ask someone.
The Paragon, an AAA Four Diamond Award of Excellence recipient for six years straight, offers French fusion cuisine on their seasonal menus while using daily market offerings. They are only open for dinner, Thursday through Sunday. As you relax with a well crafted cocktail in the lounge or dine at the bar or in the dining room, you can enjoy the nightly live piano music. Several of the windows within the Paragon off a splendid view of the woods surrounding Foxwoods. The atmosphere is relaxed where casual dress is okay. The staff is super friendly and eager to meet your request.
For our sneak peak dinner we were served the following sample size dishes:
Each one was bite size and filled with flavor.
Sepe Farm Lamb Tartare with Noritamago Furikake, White Harissa, and Pappadam.
Rowland Farm Pork Belly Siu Mai with Black Vinegar, Chile Oil, and Micro-Cilantro. This was my favorite of the hors d’oeuvres. How can anything with pork belly be bad? The Chile oil gave it a little kick that was smoothed out by the micro-cilanto.
Louis M. Martini Sonoma Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
New England Grassfed Veal Meatballs and House-Cured Veal Bacon with Amatriciana Sauce. The veal meatball had a surprising twist as within it were pine nuts and bits of goat cheese with the pine nuts offering a little “crunch” to the meatball. The house-cured veal bacon was a fantastic twist on the traditional pork bacon, slightly sweet. The meatball was cooked to a light crunch on the outside and a juicy interior.
Sunomono-Marinated Mishima Ranch Wagyu Rib-Eye Cap with Connecticut Summer Harvest and Aged Maitake Demi-Glace. The Wagyu rib-eye appeared to be cooked towards the medium well done region, but was still tender and nearly melted in my mouth, so the darkness may have been a result the marinated. The earthiness of aged Maitake demi-glace paired well with the rib-eye. The rib-eye was surrounded by a variety of miniature root vegetables. A bit more seasoning would have enhanced the flavor of the pureed sweet potatoes.
Bombster Scallop Crudo with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Kabuso, and Ají Amarillo. Prior to sampling this dish, I had never eaten raw scallops and was anxious to give these a taste. They were surprisingly sweet and juicy. It was a great blend of complimentary flavors that worked together not against each other.
Goat’s Milk Feta Cheese Crème Brûlée with Olive Oil Sponge, Peach Sorbet, Lemon Verbena Gel, and Summer Couscous paired with a La Marca Prosecco NV
The dessert focused on the Goat’s Milk Feta Cheese Crème Brûlée with supporting cast of Olive Oil Sponge, Peach Sorbet, Lemon Verbena Gel, and Summer Couscous. I find the olive oil sponge to be an interesting culinary technique that actually looked like a sponge and had a airy feel to it when eaten. The peach sorbet was excellent. The Brûlée was very smooth and creamy.
Lemon–Basil Bonbons, Peach–Saffron Macarons, Madeleines, and Apricot Financiers
Prior to dessert, we were served Lemongrass–Mint Granité with Sencha–Lemon Tea Pool and Candied Angelica. This granite was a very light and refreshing frozen treat that worked well as a palate cleanser prior to dessert.
Each plate was beautifully presented that showcased the main character of the dish. The chefs presented their culinary talent by preparing luxurious and sophisticated dishes for us and those who attend the James Beard dinner pleasure. Each dish was laid out in an eye catching arrangement. An individual at the table summed it up nicely: “A James Beard level dinner in Connecticut that you can not get in New York City”. For those that are attending the James Beard dinner, you are in for a fabulous meal, if the sneak peak dinner is an indication of what you will be served.
After our dinner, several of us adventured over to the bar/lounge to try a few of the crafted cocktails being offered. I tried “The Ace”, made with a shot of Espresso, Kahlua, and Stoli Vanilla. I have to say I really liked “The Ace” and I typically do not drink cocktails. It was enjoyably smooth with a bold coffee taste from both the espresso and Kahlua. I can easily replace the after dinner coffee with a couple of these. I did not hear a single person in our party say they disliked any of the cocktails. The bartenders were friendly and eager to assist us in choosing a cocktail using their vast knowledge about the cocktails the served.
With regards to the Paragon, if you are looking to enjoy a reasonably priced, award winning restaurant featuring French fusion cuisine, I recommend trying the Paragon. They have small plate as well. While you are there, try one of their crafted cocktails. If you do not see one you like, ask the bartenders to mix one of your own creations.