The latest edition of Scott Joseph’s Dinner Party was held in conjunction with Hemisphere, the classy restaurant at the top of the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport overlooking the MCO runways.
Guests arrived via the hotel’s private entrance on the airport’s Terminal B, availing of the complimentary valet parking (a feature always available to Hemisphere diners) and taking the elevator a few steps away to the ninth floor.
As we gathered – the restaurant was closed to the public for our event so we had the entire place to ourselves – we sipped on sparkling wine, then found our places at the elegantly appointed tables.
Executive chef Jeffrey Powell greeted us and gave an overview of the evening and wine expert David Arnold previewed the pairings. Both were available throughout the dinner to give finer details.
We started with what Powell cheekily called Shrimp Cocktail, though it was several tiers higher than the stereotypical boiled shrimp hanging from a martini glass. Instead, the impressively large poached shrimp were served on a pickled yellow tomato in a sauce of tomato and citrus caviar. The dish was paired with Long Shadows, Sauvignon Blanc Cymbal, Columbia Valley, 2020.
Our second course was labeled Papas & Pulpo – potatoes and octopus – and like the first course the name belied the dish’s complexity. A multi-layered potato pavé served as a platform for the tentacle of octopus, which was braised six hours. The plate was appointed with “cigars” of onions filled with chorizo fennel, olives, leek jam for a touch of sweetness, romesco verde, micro chives and nasturtiums for some color. A 2020 Chaleur Estate Blanc from DeLille Cellars, a Columbia Valley vintner that specializes in Bordeaux style wines, was an apt accompaniment. Although it was comprised mostly of sauvignon blanc, it was delightfully un-grapefruity and instead had pleasant notes of white peaches and herbs.
The fourth course followed a “forests of the Northwest” theme, with lamb chops crusted in leek ash and served with pickled blackberry charcoal yucca – a unique creation Powell credited to his sous chef – chewy muschroom, purple potatoes and a reduction sauce made with the wine that was paired with the dish. That was a 2021 Patricia Green Cellar pinot noir from the Ribbon Edge Estate Vineyard in Willamette Valley. It had full-bodied fruitiness and a slight smoky note that went well with the lamb and its delightful ash crust.
Dessert featured Black Forest cake, a dark chocolate glazed ganache with cherry jam and marinated cherries as well as chocolate-dipped meringue. Instead of going with a sweet pairing, the team chose a dry sparkling wine, Dundee Hills Brut from Domaine Serene. Perhaps the best pairing of the evening.
The Hemisphere staff does wine dinner often – you should check out the schedule here – so things ran smoothly and the staff worked efficiently.
I was an immediate fan of Hemisphere when it first opened in 1993 and I still enjoy introducing it to people, many of whom have no idea that it’s sitting at the top of the airport they pass through regularly. It has gone through changes over the past 31 years, but it’s still a wonderful dining choice.