I just encountered the most memorable experience at the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia. My longtime friend, Ken, and I always seem to have the most enjoyable encounters when we travel together. As usual, we began our evening at the luxurious bar of this historic hotel, where we were served, and entertained, by the handsome “master of cocktails,” Fous Gamby. While enjoying the ambience and grandeur of our surroundings, we were invited to take part in the hotel’s new experimental tasting series that was about to make its debut during our visit. Beginning on July 24, and occurring every other Thursday, until the end of summer, chefs Matt Hiebsch and Stephen Wilson will entertain 10 guests at the communal table of 10 Arts Bistro Lounge, with a different them for each experience. Tempted by the scrumptious menu, we accepted the invitation, quickly canceled our reservations at another restaurant, and managed to secure the final two spots at the table. What a providential opportunity!
Seating began promptly at 7:30 p.m., with personalized menus at each place setting, and a touch of sophistication in every detail of table décor. Feeling as special as a young child who just received her first personalized item, I quickly tucked the menu that displayed my name into my clutch. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only guest who smuggled home the special keepsake. I was most impressed by the immediate and attentive service that we received by all of our servers, and the presentation and explanation of each pairing by such talented chefs made the $75.00 fee seem as though this “fine dining” experience was underpriced. The theme for the first tasting was “Tequila,” which went perfectly with “National Tequila Day,” also celebrated on the 24th of July. I’m not much of a “Tequila” fan, but the tasty concoctions paired with each course made me a “Believer.” The creativity and artistry of both Chef Matthias Hiebsch and Pastry Chef Stephen Wilson brought a round of applause upon completion of five most delicious, satisfying courses.
Along with the unique menu of Ceviche Mixto (Jalapeno Margarita), Spanish Sardines (Watermelon Aqua Fresca), Pozole Verde (Michelada), Lamb Shoulder Barbacoa (Tamarind Margarita) and Key Lime Pie (The Cockroach), every guest was able to view the preparation of each culinary option, through live stream video, displayed on the large flat screen, suspended above our table. To my knowledge, I don’t know of any other restaurant that would allow its customers direct access to the kitchen while meals are being prepared. There was also a special request made by one of the guests, in which our gracious chef, Matthias Hiebsch, quickly made the appropriate accommodations. What an incredible dining experience!
If perfectly paired portions, tasty margaritas, exceptional service, and the most exquisite atmosphere weren’t enough, the expeditious bonding of ten strangers over the course of one hour at an “impromptu” dining experience, had to be what sealed the deal on reserving our spots for the next Experimental Tasting at 10 Arts Bistro and Lounge. Within moments of taking our seats, we instantly connected with our table mates, sharing life stories, future plans, business cards and lots of laughs. Genuine friendships were formed, and the evening with our new friends continued well into the early morning hours, as we toured several other “hot spots” in the city. The only regret of the entire experience was leaving behind my elaborate 10 Arts party bag at one of the dance clubs before catching the last taxi home. Each guest received a goody bag of complimentary items from our “Tequila” tasting. Whoever found my bag…I hope you enjoyed! I guess I’ll have to be more careful with my party bag at the next tasting on Thursday, August 7. Who will join me?
Staff Writer: Kerin Kondraki