Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Spectacular Evening with Chef Rick Moonen

In late October, Watermark Grill invited Top Chef Masters finalist Chef Rick Moonen ( to prepare a menu featuring sustainable fish. What a meal we enjoyed!

Chef Moonen defines "sustainable" as "not taking an active role in the extinction of a species." So everything he serves is either farm raised or fished in a responsible, sustainable manner. (I found it interesting that his definition doesn't include transportation distance; one of our selections started in Iceland.)

The menu (in collaboration with Watermark's Chef Tyler Horstmann):

  • Thai Style Shrimp Wraps and Lobster Corn Dogs (the corn dogs won our table's vote)

  • Oyster Martini with Black Olive Pearls (I would never have thought "gee, olives go with oysters." I guess that's why he's the Top Chef and not me.)

  • Grapefruit-Pomegranate Icelandic Arctic Char Ceviche (char is one of our favorites, and it worked surprisingly well with the acidic grapefruit)

  • New England Steamed Dinner with Alaskan Halibut (our favorite; rich, with potatoes and cabbage, and a light halibut on top)

  • Hapuka (a firm-fleshed fish) with Wild Mushrooms and Herbed Shellfish Vinaigrette

  • "An American Classic" for dessert (more on this later)

Watermark's sommelier paired each couse with a sustainable wine.

Chef Moonen is just as approachable in person as he seemed on "Top Chef." Before the meal began, he circulated through the restaurant, signing cookbooks and having his photo taken. He said this was his second trip to San Antonio. He made the Central Market hop tour a couple of years ago when his cookbook came out.

Most diners had not heard of Hapuka, a firm-fleshed fish that reminded me of swordfish. Chef Tyler explained that it's a deep water fish from New Zealand and Australia. It stands up well to the grill.

As for dessert....our "American Classic" looked like a burger, fries with ketchup, and Coke float. It looked like a dish that could have appeared on "Top Chef," and in fact Lynn (one of my dining companions) seemed to recall seeing it on the show. Only the Coke float was "for real," of course. Two light-as-air macaroons sandwiched some smooth chocolate for the "burger," and the "fries" were breaded and fried apple sticks with a raspberry coulis.

Chef Moonen's dining philosophy: "Enjoy. Smile. Laugh. Ask questions." Hard to argue with that. Come back soon, Chef!!

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