Two sold out dinners, and one sold out lunch made Windows on Aruba a culinary destination this past weekend when the restaurant hosted the Caribbean’s largest Michelin Pop-Up.
Food was prepared by nine top European chefs with 8 Michelin stars among them, and escalated from a welcome Champagne flute to 4 amuses, 3 starters, one main course and dessert, all with notable wine pairing.
No, we did not rush out to McDonald’s at the end of the evening. The chefs found a nice portion-balance, and I did not need to be carried out on a stretcher.
A few days ahead, I visited the kitchen to meet the stars. They were already knee deep in culinary foreplay.
Chef Francois Geurds was cleaning a huge pile of greens I did not recognize, picking out stems, saving the leaves. He explained those were foraged edible greens growing by the seaside in Zeeland, Netherlands, next to Crooked Waterway, De Kromme Watergang, a two Michelin star restaurant by Chef Edwin Vinke.
The fleshy leaves tasted a bit salty, they had a big crunch, Edwin uses them regularly in his kitchen to lend fish-dishes a more authentic aroma.
Then I met Edwin. A most attractive, finely muscled chef with perfect teeth and a network of tattoos, salt & pepper hair, looking more like an athlete than a chef.
He was transferring long seaweed fans into a 50-gallon stainless steel pot of boiling water. The dark green-brown slippery strands glistened as they disappeared in the pot among chunks of carrots and celery, Francois’ picked greens and a bowl of sea salt, I am not kiddin’, Edwin salted his pot generously, and continued to feed it mysterious leaves. He was working on his signature Codfish en Papillotte and its tom kha companion, served at his 2 Michelin star restaurant, in the westernmost and least populous province of the Netherlands.
When the Kabeljauw was served, the 2nd starter, it arrived at the table in parchment pouches, with scissors on the side and a tom kha espresso. The dish came with hand written instructions, Cut Me, and Marrit walked around to make sure we sliced the pouches open to reveal the poached fish, and did not eat the paper. She advised us to pour the soup over the fish, not just drink it.
It was fantastic.
The en papillotte is a classic food preparation, 4,000 years old, so simple, that nobody orders it anymore. It delivers a moist, lean and clean dish, just the way the best athlete among chefs, and the best chef among athletes likes it.
Francois’ signature dish, the 3rd starter, was his take on the popular local Stoba. After all, his mom is from San Nicholas, though he now lives and works in Rotterdam at the Michelin starred FG Restaurant and FG Food Labs. His Stoba FG married a popular Dutch beef cut, Sukade, with lemongrass, paying homage to his Surinam-Indonesian family roots.
Francois also came up with one of my favorite dishes of all times, nicknamed Black Beauty, when he slowly barbecued celeriac, on coconuts, in a Green Egg – the green-glazed, egg-shaped ceramic grill-smoker. Yes, the under-appreciated, often-neglected, unremarkable bulb, became black on the outside, smooth and creamy on the inside, and was served with a 43 herb & spice vinaigrette. I hope to have it again in my lifetime.
I did not meet Erik van Loo but his Dutch Lamb, the much-anticipated entrée, served at Parkheuvel, his Michelin starred restaurant in the Rotterdam area, was poetic, coated in marrow, green herbs and garlic, nestled between two giant, stripped nude, phallic, white asparagus spears.
Jermain de Rozario, offered the dessert as served deRozarion, his Michelin starred restaurant in Helmond, Netherlands. It looked like an artist palette, dotted with coconut cream, mango ice cream, pineapple and papaya. Weird, but a good-weird.
My Pepia-Est favorites were the Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, Legras & Haas Champagne from Chouilly, France, imported to Aruba on the occasion. We all loved it, and I hope Pepia-Est brings it in soon, for retail sale.
The Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Canvasback, from Washington State USA, is a story on its own. Wine maker Brian Rudin was on hand to charismatically speak about his vineyard, a member of the Duckhorn portfolio. The passionate, dynamic man left an impression, we would love to see him again on the island.
According to Alex Nieuwmeyer, Windows on Aruba will be hosting more unforgettable events, in the near future, he thanked his premium partners, and proud partners for making it possible. Finally, compliments to Dominique and Marrit for the excellent dining room service, as good as the food!
Let’s do it again, sometimes.