What is not to love about great food that is well-prepared by a knowledgeable and creative chef?
But what about a five-star culinary experience with a knowledgeable and creative chef who comes to your home, brings everything needed, and prepares a four-course gourmet meal for you in your own comfortable surroundings?
That is just what I was honored to experience recently with dearest friends/neighbors Lew and Lynn Hilder. For Christmas, their wonderful children gave them a Creative Culinary Experience by Chef Benedict Zappone, of Haymarket, Virginia. Thoughtfully, their kids made it a four-person event so we could join in.
The idea is simple enough: “Our goal is to bring the world of five-star cuisine into your home, at your convenience, and to provide the highest quality local products, when available, for a healthy and positive culinary experience,” Chef Zappone says.
The Hilders had set their dining room in appropriate manner for a five-star dining experience. But Chef Zappone is so engaging and educational, we ended up dining in the close-to-the action comfort of the kitchen table so we could better communicate with Chef Zappone as he prepared the feast.
The dinner was as much a food, cooking, and healthy eating seminar as it was just pure culinary hedonism. Chef Zappone talked to us easily and in a down-to-earth manner about food, its proper preparation, and how he was preparing each dish. It was simply fascinating to hear and see this expert chef at work.
First course. Baby beet salad — mixed baby beets, braised artichokes, goat cheese, local greens, and sherry vinaigrette. Wine: Riesling.
Second course. Spring vegetable risotto with asparagus peas, fava beans, parmesan, and lemon beurre blanc. Wine: Sauvignon Blanc.
Third course. Butter poached lobster — Maine lobster with mango-jasmine rice, bok choy, and herb beurre blanc. Wine: Chardonnay.
Dessert. Passion fruit brulee with mango puree and fresh berries.
I am neither a competent nor experienced food writer, but to me, this was gastronomic heaven. Chef Zappone, who attended Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Pittsburgh, prepared a wonderfully satisfying meal, but his personality and wealth of knowledge so easily shared made the experience truly memorable.
Chef Zappone has worked at The Inn at Little Washington, working and studying under Patrick O’Connell, a multiple James Beard Award winner. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge Provencale in White Post, Virginia. His credentials are extensive, but whoever first said, “the proof is in the pudding” certainly had Chef Benedict Zappone in mind. It was an extraordinary and memorable experience.