Scott pulls out all the stops. From a decadent duo of cheesecakes one year; to a St. Patrick’s Day celebration complete with corned beef and cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, Irish soda bread, plus Irish beers with matching emblazoned pint glasses the next; and the tops this year – a gourmet four-course food and wine pairing menu, featuring an entree grilled in the hotel* parking lot. He “had some recipes he’d been dying to try” … the four of us more than happy to indulge him. We did our part by bringing the wines to pair.

Course 1: Brie en croute and a chilled, semi bite-y Spanish Cava. A wheel of Brie topped with caramelized apples and onions wrapped in puff pastry, brushed with egg wash and baked until golden – the cheese oozing out slightly at the first cut, perfect for dipping. Bulbs of sweet roasted garlic along side, served with rosemary crispbreads and slices of baguette. Tangy and slightly sweet but not overwhelming. An appetizer that is easy to prepare [although we didn’t have to do anything except ooh and ahh, moan a few times, wipe the cheese from our chins…], always a show-stopper.

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I said a second ago we didn’t have to do anything for the appetizer. That was it. Everthing else we were put to work for – it’s only fair we should earn our meal. My job was course number two. Apparently fitting for the dietitian to make the salad.

An herby lemon vinaigrette with blanched asparagus + jumbo lump Snow crab meat + chopped fresh parsley + roughly chopped pistachios + two ripe avocados + baby mixed greens. Served with a snappy Portuguese Vinho Verde. This salad was verdant and bright – a delightful mix of tart, fresh, creamy and crunchy. Even my seafood-eschewing sister ate and enjoyed some of the crab!

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The salad plates are clean, the wine glasses empty, and Scott interjects: “We will pause for a brief interlude before the third course… while I set up the grill in the parking lot…” Sending us all into fits of laughter, I fear fueled by the two bottles of wine we downed relatively quickly thus far. Once we’d calmed ourselves, the boys set to work outside. Scott’s new toy is a portable folding Coleman grill. In no time we had perfectly cooked halibut from the parking lot!

Course 3: Grilled herb and lemon-marinated halibut steaks topped with burst cherry tomatoes in a tarragon browned butter sauce, with smashed garlicky fingerlings and a warm spaghetti squash salad, heavy on the spring onion, feta and toasted almonds. Paired with a seductively smooth and full French Pinot Noir. This was first class dining. In the hotel lobby. And we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

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Not sure we could trudge on after that fantastic third course, nor did we want anything to spoil the wonderful taste in our mouths, Scott brought out the pièce de résistance…

Course 4: Three-tiered cupcakes of his own creation – recipe and preparation. The bottom – a family favorite – Bourbon soaked Derby pie, topped with a layer of cheesecake, then a chocolate ganache-like buttercream, and of course the crowning pecan. Paired with a California Petite Sirah Port. This course packed a wallop. A good wallop.

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So full but longing for more, we peeled ourselves off the seats, cleaned up and collapsed into our beds. Another incredible meal. Thanks, Scott!!

*Fortunately we’ve been staying at the same hotel for at least seven or eight years, so they tolerate our shenanigans.

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