Kitchen party!

By Patrick Stuart [email protected]

Guests from all over the Algarve converged on Vila Vita Parc this Saturday for a somewhat unusual event combining haute cuisine and fine wines.

The party was the high point of a four-day festival linked into the Rota das Estrelas programme, bringing Michelin-starred chefs together for gastronomic events around Portugal.

The closest comparison I could make to the concept of how the food and drink was served is a luxury version of street food. Anyone familiar with the concept of street food dining in Asia, where you go from stall to stall taking freshly-cooked food and grabbing a fresh juice or beer from a stall next door, felt quite at home. But the difference here was that the food being prepared came from top European chefs, who were there plating up their dishes and interacting with guests, as were wine producers from their respective country or region.

Guests were given an apron on arrival and the brief was to get in there and enjoy the fun. There were a total of eleven chefs heading up food stations, and guests could make their way from one to the other as they desired.

There were three distinct spaces: the ballroom featured six chefs and wine producers, whilst the nearby Bela Vita restaurant had a further three, and finally two more chefs were stationed in the kitchen.

Guests circulated between the three spaces, sitting down at tables or standing in the kitchen or elsewhere.

It was a real party atmosphere, with the 11 courses complemented by other delicacies such as pata negra ham from Spain and speciality Portuguese cheeses. Considering the standard of cooking and ingredients, and especially the fine wines and vintage Champagne on offer, the €175 per person price tag was actually very good value for money.

Chefs joining Vila Vita’s own two-star Michelin Hans Neuner of the resort’s Ocean Restaurant came from elsewhere in Portugal and as far away as Germany, Austria and Italy. From across the border was one of Spain’s most famous chefs, two-star Michelin Sergi Arola from Madrid and even closer to home was Dieter Koschina from Vila Joya here in the Algarve.

Outstanding wines included Cuveé Louis Vintage 1999 from the House of Vranken Pommery, and one of Italy’s top dessert wines, Picolit Vintage 2008 from the Livio Felluga winery in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.

The food and wine were served from 7pm until around 11.30pm, when things moved on to Vila Vita’s Aladin Bar for an after-party and dancing into the wee hours. What a night!