The Ultimate Fundraiser

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - October 24, 2007
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Halekulani Executive Chef Yves Garnier
Halekulani Executive Chef Yves Garnier

When you think about it, the idea of an ultimate dinner is truly subjective. You might be one of the foodies who think that trips to the world’s best restaurants, like California’s The French Laundry, Spain’s El Bulli and Enotica Pinchiorri in Italy, are worth the cost - at any price.

Apparently, the best restaurant in the world is The Fat Duck in Bray, England, where a tasting menu costs upward of $500 (without wine) and specialties include snail porridge and bacon and egg ice cream. The ultimate dinner for four bank employees in England a few years ago landed them in the Guinness Book of World Records. Their pau hana night at a local restaurant resulted in a check of almost $90,000 - and they weren’t even charged for the food. Three of them later lost their jobs, reportedly because they tried to claim the bottles of Petrus they’d ordered as a business expense.

Fancy dining is all well and good, I suppose, but for me the pursuit of a great meal leads far more commonly to a restaurant with rustic fare, a passionate chef, lots of plates for sharing and an atmosphere conducive to talking for hours, than it does to rarified foods, foams and essences. My idea of an ultimate dinner depends as much on the people with whom I’m eating as it does the food.

But if fine dining is your thing, then the good news is that it’s time for Hawaii’s own Ultimate Dinner. Held during the months of October, November and December at The Halekulani’s La Mer restaurant, the Ultimate Dinner is part of a nationwide fundraising effort sponsored by Louis XIII, Remy Martin’s celebrated cognac. The nine-course dinner ends with a highly anticipated taste of one of the world’s greatest after-dinner drinks.

And while the dinner is pricey at $199 per person, a snifter of Louis XIII alone can often cost $150.

I wanted to find out what ultimate means to someone who has the dinner several times a year, so I called David Gochros, the brand manager of Remy Amerique here in Hawaii and got his perspective.

“For me,” he says, “the ‘ultimate’ part of this dinner comes from not just the incredible food, but the tradition and romance associated with the creation of the cognac. Because some of the blended cognacs that make up Louis XIII are over 100 years old, the person making it is never going to taste it. Most likely the first taste will go to the master blender’s grandson. There’s something incredibly romantic about that.”

And the romance is not lost on Yves Garnier, executive chef at Halekulani, who creates a different menu each year to complement the cognac. This year dishes include foie gras, fresh salmon and lobster, veal cheeks, medallions of sea bass, scallop and scampi, and filet of Angus beef. Proceeds from each dinner are donated to the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, and the menu can be ordered nightly until Dec. 30.

Certainly it could not be held in more perfect surroundings than La Mer, where seamless service was invented. But is it the ultimate? This year, I’ll try to pay more attention to the food and less to the company and let you know.

Happy eating!


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