Pictures and much gushing from Jose Garces’ ‘The Latin Road Home’ dinner

Robin Shreeves, Chef Jose Garces, Lisa Howard Fusco, John Howard Fusco at Amada | southjerseylocavore.com

My good friend, Kim, me, Chef Jose Garces, and Lisa and John Howard-Fusco at Amada inside Revel in Atlantic City.

Before I show you the amazing food that was prepared by Chef Jose Garces and his staff Thursday night for the dinner honoring his book “The Latin Road Home,” let me get this off my chest. I miss film cameras! I am horrible with digital cameras, and even the small point and shoot digital that I have that takes pretty good pictures just couldn’t handle the changing light of our table in front of the windows at Amada last night. You’ll see the photos start out really great and as the evening goes on, they get worse. And when you ask someone to take photos for you, since every digital camera is different, it’s very difficult for them to take a good shot. Okay, enough wining. I know I’m complaining about something inconsequential, but when you have an amazing evening and end up with crummy pictures of it, it’s a bit of a bummer.

The menu for the evening was prepared from Chef Garces’ The Latin Road Home. The cookbook focuses on recipes of foods from Ecuador, Spain, Cuba, Mexico and Peru. Each course was accompanied by a spot-on wine pairing. My date for the evening was my good friend Kim. We got their a little early and lost a few dollars to the casino, but enjoyed ourselves, giggling at times like girls because we really weren’t sure what we were doing when it came to slot machines. They seem like something that two intelligent, educated woman should have no problem understanding, don’t they?

The dinner was at Amada inside Revel in Atlantic City. The casino is stunning. We walked around a bit, looked in a few of the stores, checked out the menus of a few of the restaurants for future visits, and then headed to Amada for dinner. We were seated at a beautiful round table by the window. Shortly after the first course was served someone swept around into my side of the table and I found myself in a big hug with Eating in South Jersey’s Lisa Howard-Fusco. She and John were at the dinner, too, and the staff at Amada was incredibly accomodating when we asked if we could join our parties together.

Enough words. Let’s get to the pictures.

Yuca Bread with Queso Fresco and Guava-Chile Butter from Jose Garces' "The Latin Road Home" | southjerseylocavore.com

Pan de Yuca Y Mantequilla De Guayaba Y Chili – Yuca Bread with Queso Freco, Guava-Chili Butter

From the moment the meal started, we were blown away. The yuca bread and guava-chili butter were delicious and something completely different from any bread and butter we’d ever eaten.  Yucca is a root vegetable also known as cassava. It’s also what is used to make tapioca. Kim couldn’t rave about the butter enough, and she said several times throughout the meal that she was going to be making it at home.

Chef Garces' Tiradito De Lubina - Black Bass Ceviche from "The Latin Road Home" | southjerseylocavore.com

Tiradito De Lubina – Black Bass Ceviche

I’m not a huge seafood lover, but I could eat this every night. The bass was sliced very thin and cooked using the ceviche method, meaning it was cooked in something acidy instead of with heat, and the spicy red onion, garlic chips, and sauce that was on the dish were perfect.

Chef Garces' Crema De Quinoa De Zuleta - Quinoa Chowder with Sweet Corn from "The Latin Road Home" | southjerseylocavore.com

Crema De Quinoa De Zuleta – Quinoa Chowder with Sweet Corn

“This is the best quinoa dish I’ve ever had,” commented John. We all had to agree. It was pureed with a few chunks of corn left in tact. The bacon was so flavorful, and it was served with Aji Costeno, and Ecuadorian Hot Sauce, that when mixed in, made it even more scrumptious.

My photos of the next two courses were so poor that I can’t include them. We were served Enchilado De Langosta – Lobster in Spicy Tomato Sauce with a side of white rice and a little stuffed pepper. Much as I wish I did, I do not like lobster. I gave this a try, and still, don’t like it. I figure if Chef Garces prepares it and I don’t like it, I really must not like it. The others at the table said it was very good. I’ll have to take their words for it.

After the lobster came Carne Asada A la Tampiquena Con Arroz Rojo Refritos – Grilled Marinated Skirt Steak, Red Rice and Refried Beans. The skirt steak was incredibly flavorful and the rice and beans were delicious. I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, but then came dessert….

Chef Garces' Creme Catalana - Chocolate Custard with Vanilla Berries from "The Latin Road Home" | southjerseylocavore.com

Creme Catalana – Chocolate Custard with Vanilla Berries

The chocolate custard was prepared much like creme brulee. I am a creme brulee purist; I usually don’t appreciate anything but the traditional vanilla version. So I had to put creme brulee out of my mind, and once I did that, wow, did I realize this was good. The vanilla soaked berries with the rich chocolate custard were so satisfying. But wait, there’s more!

Dessert martinis from Amada | southjerseylocavore

A dark chocolate, a white chocolate, and an espresso martini.

Our waiter, Michael (who was friendly, professional, accommodating, and charming) brought us one of each of their dessert martinis to taste. We passed them around. My favorite was the dark chocolate that was a little reminiscent of a mudslide.

Chef Garces came out towards the end of the evening to greet us. He was very friendly, and he raved about his staff at Amada. Lisa asked him to divulge some information about his next “Iron Chef” competition that’s already done filming but hasn’t aired yet, but he wouldn’t give us any hints.

The evening was perfect from beginning to end. Great food. Wonderful company. Excellent service. A gracious host. We left happy, satisfied and with copies of “The Latin Road Home” in hand. The recipes are Latin cuisine, and I look forward to using local ingredients along with some specialty ingredients particular to Latin cuisine to cook from it all summer long. I’m not so sure I can cook as perfectly as Chef Garces does, but it doesn’t matter. It will all still be good.

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