The saga we deserve. Chefs Urvin Croes and Jason Howard joined forces to honor their Caribbean roots and present an unforgettable dining experience at Infini for only 4 nights.
After a hiatus to celebrate The FoodE Life 1st year anniversary and to give away a bunch of prizes I am back with a bang! and no less than probably the culinary event of the year.
When Chef Urvin Croes and Chef Jason Howard bonded over their love for Caribbean cuisine it was just a matter of time to make this iconic collab a reality. So, fast forward to a few years later Chef Jason Howard boarded a plane to Aruba ready to join forces and bring us his interpretations of the Caribbean. Barbadian and currently based in London, the Chef has made waves by combining his classic French training with Caribbean ingredients. Dishes that have won acclaim from the industry.
Going to Infini for dinner is a whole affair. You start by sipping a glass of Champagne al fresco right before sunset at 6:45, til you hear the call to enter. It is all a well-coreographed move where only a few attendants can join per night. I believe their capacity is only 12 per service.
After a few salutations and formal introductions, you are presented with the Amuses.
I am going to describe and show you each dish. It is all well worth the read.
Amuses By Chef Urvin Croes.
A fried dough filled with Carne Mechada and topped with Guasacaca, a Venezuelan style avocado cream, topped with pickled red onion and micro greens. That one really brought me memories of home. I am Venezuelan and Carne Mechada, (pulled beef and then stewed) is one of the most traditional dishes in the country. The Guasacaca is beyond delicious, something that adds brightness, creaminess, and acidity to all the fatty and rich flavors of the beef and the fried dough. The perfect representation of the closeness of Aruba and Venezuela. A 5-star bite.
Talk about the craziest combination of things. Banana Bread, Chicken liver mousse, and probably the half of a back truffle shaved on top. It was CRAZY but it all worked. The banana bread was not really sweet but the fruity notes complimented very well the punchy flavors of the liver and the truffles. A mind-f*ck right from the get-go.
Annatto, the iconic red condiment and coloring ingredient from the Achiote tree is used to dye the tartlet that serves as a vessel for the Kerrie Kerrie, a saltfish preparation from Aruba and the Caribbean, in Venezuela we call it Cazón. Inside at the core, you can find a dollop of Egg Salad, another icon. All topped with orange crème, sweet potato and vanilla crème, and a creole sauce gel. I love the Kerrie Kerrie I knew it was gonna be a hit when they introduced the dish.
The wine pairings were made by Sommelier Kailo Vrolijk from Arion Wine Company.
For this course, Pasqua Romeo & Juliet Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry Rosé from Veneto Italy.
Bread & Butter.
For this event, T2 Pan Sourdough Boutique prepared a special recipe. A curry, garlic, and spicy pineapple loaf dusted with coconut charcoal. Pure insanity and richness. Accompanied by a hemisphere of butter dusted with tomato and herbs powder. The only bad thing about this is that we could not take a loaf home, that would have been the dream!
Amberjack by Chef Jason Howard.
A unique sashimi presentation by Chef Howard. Amberjack wrapped in Nori, served with rice chips, Scotch Bonnet (for heat!), Caribbean salsa, tomato oil, cilantro oil, local seaweed salad, and breadfruit puree. Topped with Ossetra Caviar. The elegance made dish.
Paired with Dr. Kontanstin Frank Semi-dry Riesling. Finger Lakes USA.
La Flor by Chef Urvin Croes.
La Flor is a Crudo of Hamachi and Otro, the belly from the Bluefin tuna, served with avocado, butter lettuce, pica di papaya, mango jelly, pickled chayote, celery roots crème, all layered and rolled into this delicate flower shape. Lays on top of oxtail consommé, added a few drops of Anatto oil, and crispy beef on top. I know it seems like a lot but it is so delicate, solo refined, and powerful at the same time. One the Urvin's best creations in my opinion.
Paired with Hampton Water Rosé. South of France.
Snapper by Chef Jason Howard.
Wouldn't be a Caribbean dinner without Red Snapper.
Steamed Red snapper served with fish foam, smoked Mackerel sauce, crispy salt fish, and confit cabbage. The charred bits on the cabbage gave it this depth of flavor that was so special. A composition made with iconic Caribbean staples taken to a higher level by the masterful hands of Chef Howard.
Paired with El Enemigo Chardonnay from Mendoza, Argentina.
Lamb by Chef Urvin Croes.
Here came the show. Before that stunning presentation, the rack of lamb came in a Barbacoa, an ancient way of cooking invented by the Aztecs mainly. They would dig a hole in the ground to slow roast small game beef, birds, and sometimes fish while covering in agave leaves and subjecting it to heat with hot coals and stones. Chef Urvin covered the rack of lamb with plantain leaves and coarse salt to barbecue it. At the table is presented like a brick that gets carved to reveal the bright green package containing the lamb. A true show.
Then it gets plated. Burned lamb fat powder, pickled pineapple, burnt pineapple veloute, guava glazed eggplant, Caribbean humus, spiced crisp, roasted local lions mane, and lamb jus. From the rustic to the fine dining right before your eyes. Guava, Pineapple... touches that brought it home to the tropics.
Paired with La Capilla Vendimia Seleccionada, Ribera del Duero, Spain.
Duck by Chef Jason Howard.
Duck breast stuffed with jerked duck farce served with an overripe plantain puree, marinated carrots dusted with jerk seasoning, duck stjus, and a plantain crisp. Here Chef Howard presents a technique of his own, where he created the Stjus, a fusion between the stew and the jus to get the best of both worlds. Here is where a classic duck, very familiar in fine dining, gets Caribbean'd!
Paired with Montes Folly Sirah. Colchagua, Chile.
Black Cake by Chef Urvin Croes
Not your typical Bolo Preto. A Caribbean black cake interpretation by Chef Croes served with a passion fruit gel, passion fruit coulis, chocolate tuille, rum and raisin ice cream, and Aruban eggnog sauce. Somehow reminiscing the holiday season from Aruba. I have now rediscovered my love for rum and raisin ice cream. Thank you, Chef!
Paired with Quinta de Ventozelo LBV Port. Duoro, Portugal.
Plantain Soufflé by Chef Jason Howard.
My compliments to Chef Howard for creating such a delicate dessert. Plantain soufflé served with sweet potato coffee and a rum and vanilla cream. But here is the kicker: The Sweet Potato Coffee! words that I had no idea one day would go together... truly insane. Chef Howard, you are up to something here. After a chat with the chef, I immediately suggested he should turn this into an espresso martini. Minutes later this arrived at my table:
Really Incredible. Of course espresso martinis with no creamy BS. The only way they should be had.
The official pairing for the dessert was Baron Philippe de Rothschild Mouton Cadet Sauternes Reserve. Bordeaux, France.
Here are some extra snaps from that night:
Of all things I could say I think the most important is to congratulate Chef Urvin Croes for being a shaker a mixer and a stirrer of the culinary scene in Aruba. I know this effort to put Aruba on the map for the culinary world is going to pay its fruits greatly. Thank you!
Chef Howard: Aruba hopes to see you again soon. Thank you!
Curious fact. Right after the dessert a massive downpour fell and farewelled us into the night.
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