It was a magic evening Thursday night, July 25, as the Queen Mary hosted their Jack Daniel’s Dinner. The evening was created by Twain Schreiber, director of Food and Beverage for the Queen Mary. The menu was designed and carried out by Todd Henderson, the Queen Mary’s Executive Chef. The tasting portion of the evening was presented by celebrity bartender Eric “ET” Tecosky. As Twain said in an exclusive interview for the Examiner, “The Queen Mary is an icon, the greatest ship ever built. Pairing it with Jack Daniel’s, an icon in American distilleries, we are presenting the best of both worlds”. Combined, the sold-out evening for 100 lucky guests was one of those most special events you could attend.
The evening began in the Queen’s Salon with authentic Jack Daniel’s Lynchburg Lemonade, served in mason jars. This, combined with waitstaff passing lobster and caviar appetizers, set the tone for the evening. The Queen’s Salon, a beautiful room with rich woods and a theatre screen, was once the lounge for the first-class passengers. The waitstaff in their white and black formal serving outfits, along with crew members in their blue uniforms greeting the guests, provided the style of service that the Queen was famous for when she plied the oceans from 1936 to 1967. Shortly after, the guests were seated as the evening got under way.
Eric began the tasting portion of the evening with some advice. “Don’t inhale the whiskey with your nose”, he advised. “Instead, put your nose in close and inhale through your mouth, to get the essence of the aroma”. The first whiskey, a Special Limited Edition White Rabbit Saloon Jack Daniel’s Whiskey was then tasted by the crowd. Amid “oohs” and “ahhs”, the first glass of whiskey met with approval. Following that, the first course of dinner was served as music and videos about and from Jack Daniel’s played on the screen. The appetizer, Mo’s freshwater prawn and caramelized leek grit cakes with Corn Nage, was a combination of classic Southern cuisine with an upscale presentation and taste. The grit cakes, with a taste of sweetness from the corn grits and the caramelized leeks, served as an excellent base for the tender poached shrimp. The Corn Nage, a delicate broth that surrounded the dish, provided a nice backdrop of flavoring. This first dish certainly served as a great start to the dinner.
The second glass of whiskey arrived soon after the appetizer plates were cleared. This whiskey, the Gentleman Jack, had a more assertive nose with a fruity, spicy aroma taste to it. The taste, however, was smooth, a perfect counterpoint to the dish that followed. After the tasting, the second course was served. This course consisted of a pan roasted salmon with sweet potato-bleu cheese gnocchi, fried green tomatoes, arugula and a Jack Daniel’s maple bacon dressing. The maple bacon dressing gave the salmon a nice smokey sweetness to the dish. The sweet potato-blue cheese gnocchi were an inspired side dish, elevating the humble sweet potato to a culinary high.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey was the third whiskey to be tasted. Eric, or “ET” as he’s also known as, in his introduction told how this started out with a smooth blended whiskey and how it was finished at a lower proof. It was then combined with a honey liqueur to yield a smooth, aromatic drink that was not cloyingly sweet, but just had the essence of honey to finish the drink off. It went amazingly well with the third course, a Rick-yard style Angus New York Steak with Tennessee honey demi-glace and accompanied by a Yukon potato and dried fruit gratin, a poblano chili soufflé and finished with a cilantro compound butter. The rick-yard steak, created by Chef Todd, took the steak and grilled it in the style of the barbecues that they have in the rick-yard (lumber yard) at the distillery. It was grilled to a perfect medium rare and served sliced with the demi-glace which accented the steak’s flavor nicely. The meat itself was extremely flavorful and yet tender.
Twain Schreiber, in an exclusive interview, had talked about his experience with “Goose”, the personable tour guide and host at the distillery. As, Twain said, “No one knows exactly what Goose does or what his position is at Jack Daniel’s, but he knows more about the distillery, it’s operation and it’s history than any man alive”. Twain had done that as part of the Lynchburg, Tennessee visit that he had made to personally taste and select the barrel of Jack Daniel’s Barrel Select Whiskey that the dinner would end with. Twain tasted from three barrels to get the barrel he felt represented the Queen Mary the best, as well as bringing the perfect taste to the whiskey that would serve as the final drink for the evening. Shortly after the third course, a video was introduced that featured Goose talking about Jack Daniel’s life and the distillery. This was highly entertaining and elicited many laughs and much conversation from the guests.
The fourth whiskey was brought out. This was a real treat, an Unaged Rye Whiskey that was made from the first new recipe that the Master Distiller at Jack Daniel’s had created since Prohibition. Eric spoke about the uniqueness of it and then the guests were able to taste it. Surprisingly, it was extremely smooth, with a vanilla nose and a pleasant warmth that spread from the mouth to the entire body. It served as the beginning of the fourth course, an Appalachian Stack Cake with Apple Filling, Molasses Chocolate Ganache and wild berry compote. The smoothness of the unaged rye went very well with the rich dessert.
The final video was presented during the dessert, a compilation of highlights from movies where they mentioned or showed Jack Daniel’s. It included feature films from ”Talladega Nights” to John Belushi slugging down a bottle in “Animal House”. After the end of the video, guests were invited to adjourn to the Verandah Deck for a glass of the Jack Daniel’s Barrel Select Whiskey that Twain had personally chosen for the evening. Guests were also invited to enjoy a selection of cigars brought by Rocky Patel Premium Cigars. With the lights of downtown Long Beach in the background, the Queen Mary certainly served as the perfect venue for this dinner. Indeed, as Chef Todd said afterwards, “the guests had a great time, enjoying the dinner and drinks”. They did indeed, with the location, food and drink working harmoniously to provide the perfect evening for everyone.
The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Hwy
Long Beach, CA 90802