Let’s pretend that I’m a fabulous storyteller with the ability to draw crowds in with over-the-top tales of grandeur and fabulousness. Or, we can pretend I’m ordinary and simply blessed to have been in the company of those who have absorbed the zest of life through their travels and personal encounters, then generously dispersed the best parts of these experiences through thoughtfully crafted dining events. Let’s go with the latter.
I’ve had the opportunity to participate in some notable dining experiences but the most recent one was more fun and energizing than I would have expected. The event was a media dinner hosted at Leaning Ladder in Woodstock, GA by Chef Juan Montier. He’s the force behind the words dripping from my fingers. I didn’t want to just write a post and say I ate this or that, although I fully intend to later. What I want is to convey is my appreciation for having had the opportunity to sit across from an energetic, personable and family oriented lover of family, food and life.
The anticipation started with a hand addressed envelope that I found waiting in my mailbox after a long day at work. Inside was an invitation describing the event with one word standing out among all the others. Spectacular.
From the moment I walked through Leaning Ladders’ doors, I knew the night would be special. Chef Juan Montier was behind a sprawling counter prepping with his wife Judith and son Austin assisting in the way family members do. I’m a softie for family support. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Another planning force behind the event was fellow food blogger, Chef Melissa Pelkey-Hass. She’s a southern gem and blogs at The Front Porch Gourmet.
With members of the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Society and friends in the media, we started the evening with Curried Shrimp with Golden Raisins and a cocktail offered most enthusiastically by Chef Montier. He’s a genuine party starter. The cocktail was a “Saketini” garnished with Lychee Fruit and Honey Ginger Balsamic Vinegar, proceeded a short time later by a teaser of Crab “Fingers” with Wasabi Roumalade and a Tuscan Herb Olive Oil drizzle. They were so good I had to try them ALL a second time. Don’t judge.
The salad that followed was a wonder. One might think greens on a plate is boring but these greens were far from drab. Our plates were topped with Arugula, Asparagus, whole Bamboo Shoots and a moment having Sesame Olive Oil, Ginger Dressing. You know salad is good when you want to take your finger and run it around the rim to get Every. Single. Drop of flavor. No, I didn’t do that but it was that kind of good.
Between courses, Chef Melissa took the opportunity to share some interesting facts about Leaning Ladder Olive Oil & Vinegar and walked us through a tasting of some of their blends. It was such an enlightening experience. The flavors were rich and inspiring. I could see using them at home to elevate a recipe we already consider a favorite.
While our group mingled and sampled oils throughout the store, Chef Montier worked his magic in the kitchen. His main course read like the synopsis of a good book. It grabbed our attention but the first
paragraph bite drew us in. When it was time to plate, he, his wife and son assembled the climax of the night’s story: Yucca and Potato Encrusted Chilean Sea Bass with Wild Mushroom Wontons in a Miso Broth with Seared Sea Scallops, Turned Carrots and Sesame Sauteed Field Greens flanked by a Whole Roasted Crawfish, finished with a drizzle of Garlic Olive Oil. See what I mean?
The warmth and many layers of flavor in this dish were pure comfort as was the entire evening. The event was relaxed yet the presentation of each dish demonstrated the refinement and elegance that the upscale Chez Montier brand exudes. This Food, Decor and Lifestyle Boutique is backed by Chef Montier’s 20+ years of experience in architectural training, interior design and gourmet cooking. His undeniable talent has been featured on “The View”, “Atlanta & Co”, “The Steve Harvey Morning Show” and “V-103 Morning Show” and has been enjoyed by high profile friends and clients like Diana Ross, Ce Ce Winans, Steve Harvey and Usher. As you can imagine, I feel pretty lucky to have luxuriated in Chef Juan’s culinary talents.
The finale to our Spring Media Dinner was a beautiful Honey Sweetened, Ginger and Lemon Granita bathed with Sicilian Lemon Balsamic Vinegar. What a perfect ending.
To learn more about Chez Montier or attend an upcoming event:
Thank you to Chef Juan Montier, Judith, Austin, Chef Melissa Pelkey-Hass and to all the generous sponsors (Leaning Ladder Olive Oil & Vinegar, TKGourmet, Sprouts Farmer’s Market, Astor Chocolate, Gimmee Jimmy’s Cookies and Southern Vines Distribution) who made this event so memorable.
Disclosure: The meal, drinks and samples enjoyed at The Spring Media Dinner were complimentary. I received no monetary compensation for this post. All opinions are based on my own personal experience. You can view my full Disclosure Policy here.