Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Conference Days: The Awards Dinner

Our lively, action-packed conference culminated with a glittering awards dinner in the Grand Ballroom.  Everyone was dressed to the nines and we four reps of the Elms went in formal black tie ourselves.  The lobby bar welcoming guests was strikingly set with artisanal cheese displays and premium spirits and hosted by Nikki and Patrick.

 (photo courtesy of Kevin Morgan)

 Heat lamps dotted the outdoor steps; providing a warm corner amongst the spitting snow to take advantage of the bartop humidor. The butler-passed hors d'ouerves were all were seriously outstanding, so I'm spelling out the descriptions:

-  Roasted Beet Blini with Slow Poached Salmon topped with Chive Creme Fraiche and Flying Fish Roe (carried by cocktail server and banquet captain Marlene)
-  Bourbon-Glazed Pork Belly on Sweet Brioche with Smoked Tomato Chutney and Micro-Greens
-  Goat Cheese Croquet Topped With Spiced Pear Chutney
annnnd my favorite...
-  Mushroom Caps Stuffed With Antelope Sausage

Finally, we were ushered into the ballroom..

The Grand was stunning; featuring gorgeous table tops dramatically topped off with white lilies. Cobalt blue lighting framed the stage and the band.  We were welcomed and the night's awards were interwoven with the dinner courses.  The dinner was brilliantly executed and paired well with wines.

The first course was a flavorful lobster bisque, poured over lump crabmeat and paired with a Fess Parker Chardonnay.

 A dramatic second course was mixed greens with a pomegranate vinaigrette in a beautiful parmesan basket that was paired with a locally produced Fence Stile Chambourcin Reserve.

 Our intermezzo was a ruby red grapefruit Campari sorbet.  Seared Chilean sea bass (I have so missed sea bass) and a petite filet mignon in a black cherry demi-glace accompanied by stewed pear tomatoes, crispy rice noodles and a marvelous kohlrabi potato cake constituted the entree duet plate. The surprise wine with this course was an actual namesake pinot noir that matched the surname of our VP.

(photo courtesy of Kevin Morgan)

Dessert was a Chef Rodney-produced showcase best described with his own words...

              Flourless Chocolate Fudge Bar with Banana Anise Ganache with Salted Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut Tartlet and Orange-Scented Almond Tulle Creme Stack (Accompanied By Walnut Praline Sauce and Raspberry Coulis)

....or to paraphrase Rodney "a little bit glitzy, a little bit gaudy" or to directly quote me, " jaw-droppingly, swoon-worthingly good."
And so the party rolled on in grand fashion....

(photo courtesy of Kevin Morgan)

(photo courtesy of Kevin Morgan)
The awards were all well-deserved, but one took our breath away. The first gratifying moment happened when we brought the hotel staff out to thank them on stage.  Then, our leader Eric won GM of the Year for the company and Mr. Spoto's apt description of what an extraordinary person Eric is was so spot-on that it made for a very emotional moment.

The outpouring of emotion for Eric on all of our behalf was certainly genuine and possibly exacerbated just a bit from the collective exhaustion, but most assured heartfelt emotion it was. True to form (and Eric's character), he declared this a win for the entire property and all of the staff and it made for a perfect finale to a powerful week.

The band kicked up the tunes, the dancing commenced and the party was soon in full swing, complete with Mr. Spoto himself taking an opportunity to show his bluesy side; leading the band on a couple of tunes.

I strolled around the ballroom; taking in the action at the casino tables and soaking up a few minutes of feeling a bit 007-ish in classic black tie; sipping on a snifter of sublime 100-year-0ld Grand Marnier that I secured from the Viennese cordial and truffle display.

 The warmth I was feeling was less from the liqueur, though, and more from the overwhelming pride I felt for our staff, my fellow managers and the hotel itself for the unqualified success this conference was and the herculean effort put forth to ensure it was so.

Later that evening, I retired to my room, glowing from the great vibe of the evening.  Iz Kamakawiwo'ole's version of "Wonderful World" was wafting through the room from the clock radio and a thank-you card signed from the Elms staff was on the bed.  One more warm fuzzy to cap off the evening.

The conference was an inspirational and rewarding experience. Elms crew, you made us so very proud.  It's an honor to work with all of you.  Cheers.


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