Flowers are creating fascinations of a different kind at Hotel InterContinental this week (and until the end of May). At the lobby, guests are greeted by the stunning floral arrangements created by stylist Rachy Cuna.
Dried lotus flowers stand at attention beside a 100-year-old wooden statue of Buddha; a tower of red plates framed by chopsticks are adorned with blooms of seaweeds; jade bracelets hang on dried tree branches, while tea pots form an acrobatic stance on top of a compliant elephant statue and a scattering of rose buds.
It is a spectacular introduction to the gastronomic festival at the Prince Albert Rotisserie, where flowers have become not just ornaments but also part of the menu. After all, it’s May, traditionally observed as the month of flowers.
With that as inspiration, InterCon’s executive chef Anthony Page and general manager Christian Pirodon, himself once a chef and restaurateur in his native France, have crafted a menu that makes fine dining of edible florals such as rose petals, jasmine, squash flowers, lavender and honeysuckle.
Tomatoes are smoked over chamomile tea to create a subtly flavored warm consommé, on top of which float tarragon flowers, their tiny yellow petals tasting slightly of mint. Seared scallops are served with red and white rose petals and dill flowers which, to our surprise, have the pleasant bitterness of arugula leaves.
And then there are the fresh oregano flowers arranged like a garland over the Wagyu sirloin beef, served with rosemary-infused potato purée amid puddles of red wine sauce.
And for dessert, chef Anthony is especially proud of the classic lemon tart topped with caramelized walnuts, served side by side with basil-infused ice cream, all of which lavish the taste buds with a rich variety of consistencies and flavors.
Other fragrant-sounding dishes on the menu include: Thai-style banana flower salad; steamed pumpkin flowers; Peking duck with lotus root and flowers; and fried squash flowers with goat cheese, tomato confit and saffron gnocchi.
But even more sublime are the desserts, where flowers seem to play a more principal role: custard made with orange blossoms, ice cream infused with jasmine, lavender meringue with rose petal parfait, and chocolate sponge with crystallized violet petals. It’s like eating a beautiful garden amid the stately ambience of a five-star hotel.
The flower festival runs at Prince Albert until May 31. (tel. 7937000).
Here, Hotel InterCon’s recipe for rosemary potato purée (which I’ve adjusted for the home cook). It’s like upscale mashed potatoes and it makes an excellent side dish:
Rosemary Potato Puree
500 g peeled potatoes
Water, for boiling potatoes
1 tsp salt, for boiling the potatoes
½ c butter
½ c cream
½ tsp salt, for seasoning
Pepper, to taste (optional)
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
Cut the peeled potatoes into even-sized chunks. Put in a large stockpot and pour in enough water to cover. Add salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are soft.
Drain off the water and put the potatoes back into the pot over low heat to dry them out for about 3 minutes. This is a very important step to make the perfect puree.
Mash the potatoes with a large fork or a potato masher. Add the butter and the cream and season with the salt. Mix with a spatula until smooth.
Check for seasoning. If desired, add more salt and pepper, to taste. Just before serving, add the chopped rosemary and serve immediately.
Makes 3-4 servings.
(For more recipes, tips and stories, visit www.normachikiamco.com or facebook.com/normachikiamco.)
Chef Anthony does not recommend using a food processor for mashing the potatoes.
Make sure to cut the potatoes into chunks of even sizes so they all cook and soften at the same time.
When drying out the potatoes after they’ve softened, be sure to use only very low heat so as not to burn them.
Butter should not be cold. It should be at room temperature so it’s easier to blend it with the potatoes.
To finely chop the rosemary: Remove the leaves from the stems (discard stems) and chop the leaves in a mortar and pestle.
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