Dinner with the chef: What do you serve a former White House pastry chef?
On April 14 a group of ten people from the Margaret Waterman Alumnae Group held a welcome dinner for Chef Roland Mesnier at Paesano's on Washtenaw Avenue. I was asked to be part of the group and I accepted without a second thought.
Chef Mesnier had been the Executive Pastry Chef at the White House for twenty five years serving presidents from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush. Along with preparing winning desserts for five presidents and countless heads of state, Chef Mesnier is known for his enormous wit and personality. He was in rare form that evening relating stories about the presidents and their families - the Carters hated peanuts, Nancy Reagan was a perfectionist, the Bush family were always very warm, Chelsea Clinton wanted to be a baker but tended to burn her sugar cookies, all the presidents had sweet tooths.
Some of these stories are told in his book "All the Presidents' Pastries Twenty Five Years in the White House."
How do you entertain such a distinguished chef ? Chef Isabella (Head chef at Paesano's) personally prepared a very special meal for our little group. I know that she was a bit nervous but her talent overcame the task.
Our dinner began with a fresh artichoke salad with arugula and spinach with shavings of Montasio cheese and dressed with a very light Dijon citronette dressing. The wine served was Colleventano, pecorino.
Next course was a morel mushroom risotto, scented with roasted garlic, which might have been the finest risotto that I have ever experienced. Chef Isabella is a genius with risotto. She knows how to achieve just the right texture. We had Corte alla Flora Rosso with this course.
Venetian cuttlefish stew, served with spring peas, ramps and ciabatta points was the fish course. The aroma alone made you swoon. Tenuta Roveglia from Lugana was poured with the cuttlefish.
For the main entree, we were served rapini-filled pork loin roll, with a Chianti reduction and truffled polenta. The accompaning wine was Molino de Grace, chianti "il Volano." By this time, my palate was exploding with sensual textures and flavors. Even Chef Mesnier smiled as he tasted his first bite.
Could we possibly have dessert after this glorious meal? What do you
prepare for world class pastry chef? We all eagerly awaited. Our very
able and congenial server, Allen Sheldon announced dessert - ginger
and lemon Tiramisu with rhubarb and strawberry sauce.
It was perfect--a light treat with the digestive powers of lemon and ginger. Even Chef Mesnier declared that it was a perfect ending for a fine meal.
I declared that it was a perfect celebration for my birthday. How do you top a celebration like that?
Marge Biancke is a regular contributor to the Food & Drink section of Ann Arbor.com.