Allure Of Private Dining Will Remain After the Pandemic
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Allure Of Private Dining Will Remain After the Pandemic

The 5-star soiree is here to stay.

By Tracy Kaler
Mon, Jun 7, 2021 1:18pmGrey Clock 5 min

During the height of Covid-19, private dining was an alternative to sharing a restaurant meal with loved ones. But even as the pandemic dwindles and eateries welcome guests again, intimate, five-star hospitality remains in high demand.

“People are eager to reconnect with family and friends, and there’s no better way to do that around the table than with great food and wine,” says James Henderson, CEO of Exclusive Resorts, an elite vacation club based in Denver, Colo., with locations across the globe.

While private dining has long been associated with celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries, guests are gravitating toward intimate environments for everyday occasions as well. “Casual private dining experiences are starting to play a larger role in the hospitality industry, and I think these experiences will only continue to grow in popularity moving forward,” Henderson adds.

No matter the circumstances, the allure of private dining lies in the intimacy, exclusivity, and extraordinary experience that accompanies it, according to Brian Mommsen, founder and CEO of Resident, a New York-based company hosting bespoke dinners in unique venues. Launched in 2018, Resident collaborates with Michelin-trained chefs from Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, and other top-tier New York restaurants to curate upscale events for small groups.

Since March, the startup has collaborated with Exclusive Resorts to offer its members multi-course food and beverage tastings in the vacation club’s Residences at Park Avenue Place in Midtown Manhattan. A member can host a table for up to eight guests for US$2,000. Resident’s chef-driven menus include dishes such as roasted corn, prosciutto, miso, and grits; carrot mousse tartlet; and Long Island crescent duck with lentils and cabbage.

While the chef presents and tells in-depth stories about each dish tableside, an expert sommelier describes the wine and dining guests participate in the conversation.

“We have found that guests thrive on the opportunity to personally interact with our talent, learning about their inspiration for each course firsthand, and getting to know the face behind the food, which is an impossibility at most restaurants,” Mommsen says.

Resident, a New York-based company hosting bespoke dinners in unique venues, collaborates with Michelin-trained chefs from Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, and other top-tier New York restaurants to curate upscale events for small groups. Resident

David Pan and his wife, Tillie, of Orange Beach Concierge, based on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, have hosted intimate dinners for years. But due to the pandemic, the duo has restructured their well-received Chef’s Table to bring the concept to their guests, rather than have their guests coming to them.

Pan believes the attention put into each menu, the locally sourced ingredients and thoughtfully paired wines, along with dining in the comfort of one’s own home, all contribute to the appeal.

With an uptick in business over the past year, his team hosted more than 100 private dinners in 2020 and they’re on track to triple that number this year.

“We predict a heavy increase in 2021 and beyond, and from what our booking calendar looks like today, we are posed to beat 2019 bookings which was our most successful year in the history of our business,” Pan says. His menus include jumbo lump crab cake, goat fromage salad, and sous vide filet mignon with sable rice. Experiences range from US$175 to US$250 per person.

Lawrence Fairchild, proprietor of Stones Wine, Perrarus, and Fairchild Napa Valley, is set to debut House of Perrarus: A Stones Wine and Michelin three-star experience at his picturesque California estate. Deemed the “Hermés of wine” due to the exclusivity of his bottles, Fairchild offers his 95 to 100 point wines to members only, but will make them available to the public at his afternoon soirées, beginning in June.

The winemaker and the acclaimed Single Thread Farm—a farm, inn, and three Michelin-starred restaurant in Sonoma County—will curate five seasonal small plates paired with his wine collection: one Chardonnay, three Cabernet Sauvignons, and a Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc blend.

“This idea stemmed from our clients’ desires for a more private and tasting dining experience,” Fairchild says. During the mid-day fête, guests can sit indoors or outdoors, depending on their preference. Cost is US$500 per person with capacity up to 10 guests.

In October, Chef de Cuisine Michael Vitangeli premiered The Chef’s Table at Scarpetta in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Rooted in Italian tradition, the six-course interactive dinner is personal for Vitangeli. “My grandmother Emelia Vitangeli played the largest role in shaping my culinary career, so it only made sense that she influence the Chef’s Table experience itself,” he says.

Last summer, Chef Yann Nury outfitted a 1971 Airstream Safari and hit the road, cooking up warm weather-inspired fare for small groups. Courtesy Yann Nury

Vitangeli’s menu features homemade burrata, hand-pulled pasta, porchetta (pork belly), among other classics, plated alongside wine pairings presented by sommelier Kyle Asato. Staged in a dedicated dining room, the six-seat table overlooks the famous fountain show and Scarpetta’s kitchen, providing guests “a show from kitchen to table.” Vintangeli shares details and history on the dishes and wine to create a familial atmosphere. The cost is US$200 per guest.

The private fine dining trend has become more of a moveable feast, too. Last summer, Chef Yann Nury outfitted a 1971 Airstream Safari and hit the road, cooking up warm weather-inspired fare for small groups. His customized dinner parties start at US$15,000 for 12 people.

Although he and his team had always catered on the road, both domestically and abroad, they had never prepared gourmet dishes in a food truck. However, the chef considers the mobile kitchen to be a condensed version of what he had done before: focus on local delicacies and ingredients.

“It is in our DNA to bring our food and culinary experiences all around the world, but when Covid came, all this stopped suddenly,” Nury says. “I had to find a solution to stay afloat, but also to stay relevant.”

The French chef outfitted the Airstream with 19th-century oak floors, Charlotte Perriand lighting, Gaggenau appliances, a wine cellar, French copper pots, vintage Michelin guides, and fancy tableware before heading up and down the East Coast. In 2021 and beyond, Nury plans to spend summer in the East, fall out West, and winter in Florida, but he remains open to any destination.

“I believe it is the future of fine dining, a world that no one has paid enough attention to,” he says about the private dining trend. “It is, in reality, the ultimate luxury of culinary experiences.”

Reprinted by permission of Penta. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: June 5, 2021


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Savvy travellers who plan their trips around dining at their destination’s most in-demand restaurants know that securing a reservation at a top Paris eatery isn’t an easy proposition on any given day.

Come the Olympics in July, when the city is flooded with tourists, one would expect the jockey sport to snag a table to be that much more intense. But that’s not necessarily shaping up to be the case. As of mid-May, Parisian insiders such as hotel managers, restaurant owners, and local luxury concierges reported that inquiries at sought-after spots were no higher than usual, foretelling a potential opportunity for visitors looking for a fine-dining experience during the games.

The time to book falls over the next few weeks given that many top spots don’t take reservations until one month before the dining date.

The Michelin-starred Jean Imbert Au Plaza Athenee and Le Relais Plaza, both at Hotel Plaza Athenee and helmed by the renowned French chef Jean Imbert, are two examples.

Francois Delahaye, the COO of the Dorchester Collection, a hospitality company that includes the Plaza Athenee and a second Paris property, Le Meurice, says that his regular guests who are visiting for the games and Parisians who frequent the restaurants know not to call too far in advance of when they want to dine.

Further, he doesn’t foresee reservations being a challenge at either venue or at Le Meurice’s two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse.

“Booking for the restaurants won’t be an issue because people are planning meals at the last minute,” Delahaye says. “Also, the people who are in Paris specifically for the Olympics are here for the games, not to eat at restaurants. They’re not the big-spending clientele that we usually get.”

Delahaye doesn’t expect the kinds of peak crowds that descend on fine dining during Fashion Week each spring and autumn, for example, when trying to land a seat at the three eateries is nearly impossible. “People are fighting to get in,” he says. “You need to book through your hotel’s concierge, have an inside source, or be a hotel or restaurant regular.”

Several Paris luxury concierge companies echoed Delahaye’s perspective

Manuel de Croutte, the founder of Exclusive & Private, says that Paris regulars probably aren’t planning a trip when the Olympics transpire—from July 26 to Aug. 11—because they want to avoid the tourist rush. “We’ve gotten some reservation requests from people who’ve heard about us but not nearly as many as we usually get when the very wealthy travellers are here,” he says.

During peak periods like the French Open or Fashion Week, de Croutte says that his job entails making bookings for travellers who don’t have any other way to get into buzzy or Michelin-starred establishments.

“You’re unlikely to get a table at a see-and-be-seen place without knowing someone,” de Croutte says. “No one picks up the phone or answers email.” He says his team has established relationships with managers and owners of many of the hot spots in Paris and often visits them in person to land tables.

Exclusive & Private’s Black Book of Paris restaurant recommendations for Olympic visitors span a broad range, from casual bistros to fine-dining.

Michelin eateries include the three-star Le Gabriel at La Reserve, the two-star Le Clarence near the Champs-Elysee, and the two-star Le Taillevent.

Spots without a Michelin star but equally notable are also on de Croutte’s list: L’ Ami Jean offers traditional and flavourful southwestern French cuisine, Allard is a brasserie from Alain Ducasse, and Laurent serves French food to a fashionable set.

“My favourite neighbourhood for restaurants is Saint Germain de Pres,” de Croutte says. “You’ll find unassuming but chic names with excellent food and a great vibe. You can book with these places directly if you’re here for the Olympics, but don’t wait until the last minute because they will get filled.”

He also cautions that some Paris eateries are asking for nonrefundable prepayments for reservations during the Olympics.

“Be sure you want to go before committing and ask about the refund policy if you are charged,” he says.

Stephanie Boutet-Fajol, the founder of Sacrebleu Paris, says her bespoke travel company charges a lump sum of about US$750 to make all the restaurant bookings for the Olympic period, though the price varies depending on the dates and the number of restaurants that a client requests. “Reservations around the closing ceremony are harder to come by because that’s when more elite travelers are coming to Paris and want the chic restaurants that are always difficult to get a table at,” she says.

Meanwhile, chefs at some Michelin-starred restaurants share that they have tables available during the Olympics and welcome travellers to their establishments.

Thibaut Spiwack, for one, behind the Michelin-starred Anona, serving modern French cuisine, and the culinary consultant for the popular Netflix series Emily in Paris , says that he is open for reservations.

“My team and I look forward to sharing a culinary experience with new clientele that I hope will remain in their memory,” he says.

Spiwack suggests that travellers check out other worthwhile restaurants where he himself dines. For terrific wine, there’s Lava, and for Italian, he likes Epoca where the pastas are “divine.” Janine is the best bistro in town, and Prima wins for a pizza fix, he says.

“You have a lot of restaurants in Paris to pick from,” Spiwack says. “You just need to determine where you want to go, and book as soon as you can.”