The Grand Finale
Many called it the best culinary experience of the event. The sold-out Closing Dinner at Gusto wrapped up an unforgettable three days in the sunny Algarve
he organisers of the Gourmet Culinary Extravaganza were faced with quite a challenge as to how they could ever top the garage party that took place the previous evening. While the Underground Culinary Extravaganza was undoubtedly the high point of the event, host Heinz Beck had a card up his sleeve for the Closing Dinner at Gusto: an astounding seven-course gourmet experience at the hands of chefs Claude Bosi (2 stars, Hibiscus, London), Paolo Casagrande (2 stars, Lasarte, Barcelona) and Heinz Beck (3 stars, La Pergola, Rome).
A feel of closure was in the air on Monday night, a lightness that came from three days of intense work from the Conrad Algarve team. But while relaxed guests were filing into the dining room after a pre-dinner cocktail created by the ever-professional bar team at Gusto, the atmosphere remained electric in the open kitchen as the chefs and their teams did what they do best: absolute culinary perfection.
And that is exactly what diners had the privilege of experiencing that evening, in what was one of the most exceptional joint dinners to ever take place in an event of this kind. Who said it was host Heinz Beck himself, who served up the first course: duck foie gras powder with coconut cream. The pairing for the opening meal came from hosting sommelier António Lopes, who selected a sweet wine, a fortified Villa Oeiras from Carcavelos. From the same chef, the second course was pan-seared tuna with cauliflower and caviar, paired with a wine selection from Nuno Jorge, a Santiago Alvarinho Reserva (2014, Vinho Verde).
Paolo Casagrande, the Italian chef from the 2-star Lasarte in Barcelona, was the second chef to present his creations. His first dish was a picture-perfect crayfish a la vanilla with celeriac, marrow soup, kaffir lime and bottarga, paired with a 2010 Royal Palmeira white from the Vinho Verde region, a selection from Miguel Martins. The chef’s next dish was equally outstanding, a malt and beet risotto with sweet gorgonzola and stewed eel, which sommelier Teresa Barbosa paired with a white 2011 Rebel from Bairrada.
The fifth dish was a juicy native lobster with pickled cucumber, nashi pear and Malaysian-style black pepper sauce, a wonderful creation from Frenchman Claude Bosi, who holds 2 Michelin stars at his London restaurant Hibiscus. A rosé was the chosen wine for the dish, the 2015 Manz from the Lisboa region, selected by sommelier Ricardo Morais.
Heinz Beck returned with the meat dish of the evening – capriolo (venison) with cream of chestnut and mushrooms, a warming winter dish that Joao Chambel paired with a 2011 Duvalley Grand Reserva from the Douro. A pre-dessert arrived to prepare the sweet-tooths, before Claude Bosi served his second and the final dish of the evening: an unusual tart of cep mushroom with a coconut sorbet, whose distinctive flavours were paired with a 10 Years Vieira de Sousa Tawny Port, a selection from Sérgio Antunes.
Widely praised as one of the finest food experiences of the event and beyond, the meal drew to a close, but not before the kitchen and front-of-house teams were congratulated with much applause. As ever, a feeling of camaraderie was well and truly present, among the chefs and the sommeliers, the organisers and the guests, many of whom took to the dancefloor in the Gusto lounge. It was an evening to remember to wrap up a truly unforgettable three days at the Conrad Algarve hotel in the Algarve, Portugal. Surpassing all expectations, the Gourmet Culinary Extravaganza stayed true to its word.
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