The Westfields Marriott in Chantilly is known as a classy conference center and a place to hold special events such as proms and wedding receptions. But it also has an outstanding restaurant, Palm Court, and it's offering a special five-course meal with wine for Valentine's Day.
"We're going to hopefully establish a series of wine dinners quarterly, or more often, and get people to know we're here for dinner, Tuesday through Saturday," said Director of Operations Joe Danza of Virginia Run. "We think we have the product to make a fine dining experience."
THE VALENTINE'S dinner is Saturday, Feb. 12. Seatings will be every 30 minutes, from 5:30-9 p.m., with a maximum of 90 people accommodated. For the most personal and attentive service, just eight to 12 people will be seated at a time. And if they desire, they may spend three hours leisurely enjoying their romantic meal.
Cost is $75/person, or $105/person including five, 3-oz. wine flights. Call 703-818-0300 and ask for the Palm Court. (Packages including overnight stays and spa treatments are also available).
Executive Chef Michael Sullivan, who's been at Westfields for five years, created the menu, and new hotel sommelier Matthew Boettcher paired specific wines with each course. In fact, he's already made his mark on the place; he recently got rid of 900 bottles of wine and added 2,500 new ones.
In the past, the Marriott has offered an a la carte menu for Valentine's Day, but this will be its first fixed-price event on that day. Sullivan and Boettcher worked hard to develop the food and wine pairings and, said Sullivan, "People should really have fun." Added Boettcher: "We think we're the finest dining establishment around — and we believe we're also the best-kept secret."
They want people to come to Palm Court as a destination in itself and they believe this dinner is a step in the right direction. "The ambiance and beautiful decor has always been here," said spokeswoman Laura Van Eperen.
But, said Boettcher, "We're going to start using Valentine's Day and other events to highlight what we're doing. We think our wine, food and service will drive us." Added Danza: "We want to be traditional, but also branch out and give people an experience here that they can't get anyplace else."
For Valentine's Day, diners may choose between two, specific menus. One consists of scallops, bisque, endive salad, grouper and a poached-pear dessert. The other features pheasant, venison, endive salad, beef filet and a chocolate-raspberry dessert.
THE SEARED, fresh sea scallops are marinated with truffle oil, extra-virgin olive oil, a dab of garlic and lemon juice. That same marinade is the vinaigrette for the fennel slaw served with each scallop, and bits of fresh truffle serve as garnish.
It's paired with white wine — a 2002 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre. "You get that earthy taste of the truffle, and the Sancerre has a toasty flavor like vanilla," said Boettcher. "This is a dish we do a lot for private parties, and it's very well-received."
Yellow Tomato and Crab Bisque is made with onions, garlic, yellow tomatoes and a little Sauvignon Blanc, plus fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, chopped chives and basil. It's served with a 2002 Truchard Chardonnay Carneros and, said Boettcher, "They don't overripen their grapes. It's in the top 100 wines according to Wine Spectator, the leading wine-consumer magazine."
The Belgium endive salad contains baby Romaine lettuce, Seville orange sections and roasted pecans, served with a creamy nectarine dressing. Accompanying it is a 2004 Mulderbosh Stellenbosh Sauvignon Blanc and, said Boettcher, this "fresh, clean and crisp wine" goes perfectly with the greens and dressing.
The grilled grouper is seasoned with salt, pepper, fresh thyme and garlic and served over Fresh Artichoke Lasagna, with a balsamic reduction and roasted-eggplant vinaigrette. It's paired with a 2003 Chateau St. Michelle Eroica Riesling.
"We had the grouper as a special and it was very popular," said Boettcher. "It's so dimensional and was something we had to put on this menu — we all loved it so much."
For the Rosemary Scented Pheasant Breast with Ammarone Vinaigrette, pheasant slices are seared in olive oil, pepper and fresh rosemary and served with baby arugula, white asparagus and bits of Asian pear. It's accompanied by a 2001 Chehalem Rion Reserve Pinot Noir. Said Boettcher: "The earthiness in the wine brings out the rosemary in the pheasant."
Seared Axis Venison Loin is marinated in chervil, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. It then crowns a gnocchi potato cake made out of Yukon Gold potatoes, egg yolks, Parmesan cheese, chives, salt and pepper. Garnishing this dish is a caponata of eggplant, green olives, red pepper, balsamic vinegar and molasses. "It has a very rich and deep flavor," said Sullivan. It's paired with a red, 2002 Elderton Barossa Valley Shiraz.
Cedar Scented Filet Roulade is tenderloin beef marinated in garlic and olive oil, a little sea salt and cracked black pepper and then seared. It's roasted on a warmed, cedar plank, topped with duck foie gras with a veal demi glace and garnished with potatoes, Alba truffles, fresh rosemary, thyme and oyster mushrooms.
It's served with a 2002 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon. "People love Caymus; it has a cult following," said Boettcher. "People will pay $200/bottle for its special Reserve. This one goes for around $120/bottle."
THE PEAR dessert is made by poaching the pear in a syrup of sugar, water, star anise, cinnamon stick and Sauterne and marinated it overnight. It's then filled with Mascarpone cheese sweetened with confectioner's sugar and vanilla, served in the Sauterne consommé and garnished with raspberries and blackberries. It's served with a sweet, 2003 Selaks Ice Wine to complement the sweetness of the fruit.
The Chocolate Raspberry dessert consists of genoise chocolate sponge cake layered with chocolate Chambord (a raspberry liquor) mousse and covered with chocolate ganache, fresh raspberries and mint leaves. It's then surrounded by a Frangelico Créme Anglaise dotted with raspberry-coulis hearts.
"I think the pairing of the food and wine is exceptional," said Sullivan. "It would be a romantic, quiet evening for people to come and enjoy this sensuous food and wine in our Victorian dining room. They will walk away euphoric."