Was this a dream?
“Victoria Palms has a new chef, and he would like to prepare different dishes for you to try.”
It was as if the sun peered through the dark clouds, the rain stopped, and the Hallelujah Chorus was emanating from the skies above.
I arrived at the Victoria Palms restaurant and new chef Erick Gonzalez came to my table a few minutes later, already having been bestowed with the brightest and freshest looking Cobb salad that I’ve seen in a long time. Its freshness was spectacular, like its presentation, and it was a great way to start off.
That was just the beginning.
One after another, Chef Erick sent the dishes out. For appetizers there were fried pickles with a chipotle sauce and smidge of pickled red onion, buffalo cauliflower with blue cheese crumbles and a deep-fried pork.
Throughout my delicacy of dining, I also partook in some pan seared salmon with baby marble potatoes and mango salsa, a delicate and amazing seared hanger steak with a demi glaze, mashed cauliflower and heirloom carrots, smothered pork chops, and local vegetable kabobs.
I made my way through most of these delicious creations and noticed one thing immediately, Chef Erick knows how to cook and knows how to pair or couple his dishes. For example, there were just a few pieces of the pickled red onion that accompanied the lightly battered fried pickles, but they accentuated the dish. They weren’t too strong where they overwhelmed the taste, something that can be difficult to do when using pickled foods of any sort.
Each dish was not only presented beautifully, but the combination of tastes couldn’t be any sharper. While there have been many tastes formulated on a plate, not once did they dissolve into one another. I could taste each individual item, as if each unto itself, and they always complemented the dish as a whole.
The hangar steak combined with the creamy mashed cauliflower won my heart. The tenderness of the perfectly sized slices of meat mixed with a fork full of the best tasting and textured mashed cauliflower I’ve ever eaten had the Hallelujah’s crescendoing through every delectable bite.
“I want to elevate the level of what we serve,” he told me. “I want to see what the customers want and give that to them in the best way.”
He certainly won me over. Even the Cobb salad with its mix of greens, chopped bacon, tomato, avocado and more created a delectable explosion of flavor that only intensified my insatiable hunger, wanting to know what else was on its way. The salad, like everything else, tantalized the taste buds, with mouthful mixtures of crunchy (bacon, lettuce) with smooth (avocado, blue cheese crumbles). The colors were so distinct in the presentation that it almost seemed a shame to mess with it… but just almost.
Then, just before the food coma started creeping in and I started fading out, I was presented with dessert – a warm bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. I have a firm belief about bread pudding – it’s either great or just not. This, like everything else, was beyond scrumptious and the bread mixed with the scoop of fresh ice cream as if they should never part one another or be seen in any other dish.
The trip was more than just a meal. It was a delightful culinary experience.