As I told you when I first reviewed Highball & Harvest Kitchen and Bar, the Southern-inspired restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, the name is partly a reference to a railroading term that means to go at high speed. To continue that analogy for our recent Supper Club there, H&H's engineer (chef de cuisine Mark Jeffers), conductor (manager Matt Cristi), and all the porters who cooked and served the meal had us at full-steam-ahead all night long. It was one enjoyable journey.
We started with a reception on the covered terrace overlooking the grounds of the resort on one of the most gorgeous evenings we've had lately. There the bartenders were shaking one of the lounge's signature cocktails, the Doc Holliday, which features Tito's vodka, ruby grapefruit juice and house-made ginger beer, plus blueberry jam. The jam gave me caution the first time I tried this cocktail, but it all comes together nicely, and everyone loved the copper mugs it was served in. We nibbled on pimento cheese and smoked fish dip before heading into the adjacent dining room for supper.
Our first course, called Campfire Oysters, was a huge hit. It featured Jeffers' version of oysters Rockefeller with creamed kale instead of spinach, and cornbread crumbs on top. Instead of the usual bed of rock salt that Rockefeller is served on, the Campfire Oysters came on singed wood chips, which gave off a delightful smoky aroma. This course was paired with Argyle Brut from Knudson Vineyard in the Willamette Valley. The bubbles and smoke made it a sensory sensation.
The next course was harvest vegetable ragout, with carrots, colorful cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and a perfectly poached egg from Lake Meadows Natural. A 2012 viognier from Maison Nicolas Perrin, with honeyed notes in the nose and bits of lemon and pear on the tongue, accompanied.
The Supper Plate was a "Southern-style Surf & Turf," with a citrus-brined cobia representing the sea and pork belly from the land. Seminole squash puree offered a third dimension. Each was expertly executed, and when I chatted with Supper Clubbers and asked simply "Surf or Turf?" it was clear that both were well received. I believe there may have been a slight nod to the Turf. The 2011 pinot noir from Cristom Vineyards, another Willamette Valley winemaker, played well with both the fish and the meat, offering rich ripe strawberry and black fruit tastes that didn't overwhelm the subtle flesh of the fish.
Side dishes included pimento macaroni and cheese, collard greens and bacon dressed Brussels sprouts.
Dessert, engineered by pastry chef Stephane Cheramy, was a personal apple pie that had everyone swooning. At least one veteran Clubber declared it the best apple pie of his life.
All of the servers showed great intuition to anticipate our needs, and requests were met with speedy fulfillment. All well trained (that's another railroading term).
It takes a lot of people to pull off a Supper Club as effortlessly as H&H made it look. Thanks to the whole team for an enjoyable evening.
The next Supper Club is Thursday at the Bistro on Park Avenue in Winter Park. Only about four seats remain.