|Oyster a la Russe, the first course at Parker's commemorative Titanic dinner|
The past he referred to was April 14, 1912, when the R.M.S. Titanic trudged along its route to New York, carrying 2,223 passengers and crew. More than 1,500 would lose their lives after the luxury liner, operated by White Star Line, hit an iceberg and begin to sink.
The evening at Parker's marked the last supper aboard the R.M.S. Titanic. The occasion was an opportunity to delve into the culinary vault for what might have been served that fateful night.
We took our seats at the civilized hour of 7 PM. Many men wore tuxes. A few ladies wore gowns, even dresses befitting of the time. It was all about the dining. “You have to remember this was it. There was no TV,” said Brian Walshe, a guest and owner of Tobelos Vineyards.
The dining room’s vaulted ceilings, dark wood paneling, white tablecloths and white-gloved service embodied what first-class dining might have been like aboard the ship. The wines paired with the courses were of the varietals that were likely served. But no bread. “Bread was for second- and third-class service because it filled them up,” said Tice.
After the oysters we carefully slurped our consommé Olga, a beefy broth with a single sliced scallop and speckled with brunoise of celery root and English cucumber. We were encouraged to doctor our potage with a shot of sherry that was poured for the course.
There was chilled poached salmon with mousseline sauce, followed by a crispy succulent sauté of chicken Lyonnais - both courses served with a Brouilly that had the lightness of a Beaujolais.
John Coviello, the director of food and beverage, orchestrated the service. He directed the wait staff with discreet gestures, pointing to tables that needed to be served, nodding for a dish to go down, a plate to be cleared. The servers, all wearing white gloves, held their postures and kept their smiles.
The evening cruised along. A violinist and cellist played compositions that might have been heard aboard the White Star Line luxury vessel.
After a champagne sorbet palate cleanser, our waiter, Francesco, poured the 2009 Chateau Deyrem Valentin Margaux - by far the most elegant wine of the evening, big, open, fruity-with the simple yet elegant sirloin with Chateau potatoes and fresh green peas, cooked al dente. It was 9:07 PM. The evening was halfway through.
The asparagus vinaigrette followed the squab and watercress. Between the silky smooth, rich pâté de foie gras and dessert (yes, the foie gras was served near the end of the meal the way the French would have served it), one diner pondered: “Imagine having a meal like this and then having to get into a lifeboat.”
It was on the minds of many. “After dinner, that’s it. Man, it’s over,” said Walshe, visiting our table.
René Bousquet, a Chaine de Rotisseurs member who wore a purple ribbon around his neck, chewed on the impending fate: “For me it was a connection with the people at the moment,” he said. “How they were able to enjoy the meal, not expecting at all what was about to happen.”
On our tasting plate was a mini chocolate and vanilla éclair; the peaches in Chartreuse jelly. A shortbread cookie iced with the logo of the White Star Line sat in a cannelle of vanilla ice cream. One guest tucked a cookie into her purse, knowing it would be there in the morning.