Norman Van Aken celebrated the eighth anniversary of Norman’s, his restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, Saturday with a grand five-course dinner. The sold-out event featured other chefs from the community, including top-tier talent Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s, Brandon McGlamery of Luma on Park, and James and Julie Petrakis of the Ravenous Pig. In addition, two of Florida’s master sommeliers, Brian Koziol and Andrew McNamara, were on hand to assist Yusuf Yildiz, general manager and wine director at Norman’s, with the wine pairings.
The evening began with a reception for the guests featuring Taittinger Brut Champagne and passed hors d’oeuvres. including Van Aken’s signature yuca-stuffed crispy shrimp. After a greeting by Van Aken and the introduction of the chefs, the guests were seated at the elegant tables. (Most of Norman’s regular tables and chairs had been replaced with banquet tables from the hotel to accommodate more guests.)
Continue below to read about each course and to see a video of what it looked like in the kitchen during the plating of Hunnel’s pork dish.
McGlamery was in charge of the first course, which included toasted marcona almond and spinach cappelletti pasta with Blue Foot shrimp, golden raisins and chanterelle mushroom agrodolce (sweet and sour sauce). A 2010 pinot gis from Etude in Carneros was the paired wine.
The Petrakises offered the second course of hickory smoked Irish trout, with white gazpacho, candied grapes, elderflower-scented cucumber relish and harissa oil. It was paired with a 2009 Domaine Weinbach Riesling from Alsace.
Above is a video of the scene in the kitchen during the plating of Scott Hunnel’s course of pork three ways.
Scott Hunnel joked that he was taking the pork course away from the Ravenous Pig team. He presented Kurobuta pork tenderloin, cheek and belly with verjus bacon vinaigrette, corn, creamy polenta and pickled ramps. Hartford Court’s 2007 pinot noir was a perfect match.
American wagyu beef, above, was the star of the fourth course from Norman’s chef Camilo Velasco. It was accompanied by achiote potato confit, tongue aborrajao and chimichurri. Planeta Nero d’Avola (2006) from Sicily was the wine pairing.
Roasted figs were featured on the dessert plate, along with nougat ice cream, Manjari chocolate, apricot and a sauce of port wine reduction. A 2009 Suri Vigin Icardi Brachetto from Piedmont was the wine.
Following dinner, guests were invited to the terrace for after-dinner drinks.
Norman’s Orlando is now Van Aken’s only restaurant. His Norman’s 180, which I reviewed a few months ago, closed just last week, on August 14th.