I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Hood® Cream. I received compensation for my time, but all opinions remain my own.
I was very excited to be asked to return as a 2016 Blogger Ambassador for Hood Cream. As an ambassador I attended, with several other bloggers, an immersion dinner hosted by Hood Cream. (Longtime readers might remember my review of last year’s Hood blogger immersion dinner.) The menu was again being created by Chef Chris Coombs at his Boston restaurant, Deuxave.
An entire meal with cream the star ingredient? Yes, please. My anticipation built as the night approached, what would we be eating? Last year the dinner was spectacular, and I was not surprised to find that this year’s dinner was equally so. Just look at the five course menu!
Did you know Hood Cream is located right here in New England? Chef Coombs has a long history with Hood Cream, including the fact that his grandfather even worked there. For a chef, consistency and quality are of the utmost importance, which is why he uses Hood Cream exclusively at his successful Boston area restaurants. Of course, these same qualities are what I look for in ingredients as a home cook.
As each course was presented to us, Chef Coombs gave some background on the creation of the dish, as well as how the cream was used. So fun for foodies, it was like a cooking show in real life. He was truly animated and enthusiastic about the theme, “Soiree for the Season”. He really showed a passion for finding the highest quality local and or sustainable ingredients. For me, it was interesting to contrast last year’s dinner, which was a summer inspired menu, to this year’s more autumn inspired dishes. Out with the tomatoes and berries, hello escarole and beans.
For the first course, we had crab imperial served in volauvent. In case you, like me, didn’t know, volauvents are hollow shells of pastry which can be filled. In this case the filling was crab imperial, a spiced warm crab salad. The pastry was light and flaky, and remarkably the filling was light too. It had just the right amount of cream to give a lovely flavor without being too rich. And I just love appetizers served in their own “dish”, so easy for passing around at a party.
The second course was New England lobster and cream sauce. New England is known for its lobster, and this lobster was cooked perfectly. If splurging on lobster, it certainly doesn’t need anything covering it up. The fresh seafood shined in this dish, and the cream sauce helped to add layers of flavor to the lobster. The sauce was flavored with lobster, cream, pancetta, celeriac and celery.
Third course was the classic comfort food favorite of mac and cheese, formally named Macaroni Quattro Formaggio. It was given a grown up twist of cavatappi pasta and several cheeses. I was officially smitten with all four cheeses, and the crunchy topping I could have eaten by itself. Macaroni and cheese sauce is traditionally started with a roux using flour to thicken, but Chef Coombs emulsified his sauce using cream cheese. That makes the sauce gluten free, but you would never be able to tell anything was different.
Fourth course was Colorado lamb chops served over creamy escarole and white beans. Escarole happens to be my favorite green. I know it is not the most popular choice, but kale has to to take a break every once and a while. If you haven’t tried it, then I would definitely recommend trying some cooked like this. Chef Coombs also used cream to adhere the herb and pistachio rub to the lamb chop. I’ll admit I would have never thought to use cream for that. What beautifully cooked lamb chops we ate, and they made a dramatic presentation. This dish really highlights the different ways cream can be used in the same dish.
Last but not least was the course I was most looking forward to, dessert! Served warm, sticky toffee pudding was absolutely irresistible. It was made with soaked figs that were pureed before being baked into the toffee pudding. Then the toffee pudding was soaked with a creamy toffee sauce and served with some fresh figs. Chef Coombs told us this would be easy to create at home using muffin tins, yet it would still be a showstopper. Can you just imagine serving this at the end of a dinner party? The guests will just go crazy for it. This is the most popular dessert at his Boston Chops restaurant, and it is easy to see why. He recommended rum raisin ice cream as an accompaniment.
I think this immersion dinner has shown, beyond a doubt, the versatility of cream. Chef Coombs wanted to show that dishes with cream do not have to be heavy and filling and he did that very successfully! Used responsibly and in moderation, quality cream will add an element of indulgence to your recipe like no other ingredient. Personally, I know when I want a dish everyone will love, I reach for a bit of cream. From appetizer to dessert, it is definitely worthy of any part of the meal.
If you would like to try recreating some of these recipes at home, I have good news! Hood Cream has updated their eCookBook to include these new recipes. The second edition of the interactive Hood Cream eCookBook is now available to download.