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A Cordial Invitation

The St. Regis Atlanta introduces Cordials in the Court, a new dining experience featuring innovative desserts and drinks.

By Gwyn Herbein | Photos by Sara Hanna

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Dating back to the Middle Ages, cordials—distilled alcohol that’s been flavored and often sweetened, also called liqueurs—have been enjoyed for centuries. This age-old tradition is still engrained in French culture; indulging in the cordial, or digestif, is a social gathering that both complements and extends dinner into a grander occasion. From rich chocolate to tangy fruit flavors, cordials often serve as a final gastronomic note to the evening’s meal, and lingering over these perfectly portioned drinks is a great way to wind down a night with friends or family.

Astor Court, at the heart of The St. Regis Atlanta, is home to the new Cordials in the Court program, which pairs cordials and creative desserts. | Courtesy of The St. Regis Atlanta

Astor Court, at the heart of The St. Regis Atlanta, is home to the new Cordials in the Court program, which pairs cordials and creative desserts. | Courtesy of The St. Regis Atlanta

In the spirit of these spirits, The St. Regis Atlanta has started a new tradition: Cordials in the Court. Opening Sept. 1, the program features exclusive cordials and distinct desserts, making the most of both seasonal ingredients and the imagination of Pastry Chef Michael Craig. The collection of both savory and sweet dishes and after-dinner cocktails served in the elegant ambience of Astor Court inside the resort promises to make this dining experience one that won’t soon be forgotten.

Since The St. Regis Atlanta opened in 2009, Astor Court has been the center of many of its dining and social experiences. From the daily afternoon tea to holiday meals such as Easter brunch, Astor Court is at the heart of the resort—where friends new and old come to relax, socialize and indulge in delicious food and drink. Overlooking the resort lobby and its beautiful crystal chandelier, Astor Court embodies the St. Regis’ approach to elegance. Those coming here to participate in Cordials in the Court enjoy the opportunity to end the evening on a high note, both in terms of the atmosphere and the menu.

Concierge Louis Wood is thrilled about recommending the new dining program for visitors to discover desserts that venture beyond ordinary, including sweet treats that incorporate bacon and even vegetables. “The Cordials in the Court menu offers an intriguing collection of handcrafted, seasonal dessert dishes and cordials combining worldly flavors with exquisite presentations,” Wood says.

Craig’s ability to seamlessly meld unexpected flavors, paired with the resort’s bespoke wine and liqueur list, creates an unparalleled evening worth savoring. Nowhere else in Atlanta will diners encounter the perfect combination of atmosphere, flavor and attention to detail.

Wood believes that this blend of ambience and captivating menu is what makes the Cordials in the Court program so unique. “The atmosphere of Astor Court provides an intimate space to share conversation, a sweet bite and one last drink before the evening ends,” he says.

 

 

Crafting the Concept

Dining programs like Cordials in the Court cannot come together without unparalleled chefs and staff members who are committed to creating dishes that are both innovative and elegant. Led by Craig and Robert Brandenberg, director of food and beverage at the St. Regis, the resort’s hospitality team worked together to develop the innovative concept, taking every detail into consideration.

When the idea for Cordials in the Court was taking shape, Craig used his influence to push his specialty, desserts, to the forefront of the St. Regis’ dining program. “I pitched my idea to the team in hopes of making The St. Regis Atlanta a dessert destination,” he explains. “All too often people may skip dessert, but that’s the perfect time to elevate the experience of the evening.

Pastry chef Michael Craig crafts innovative treats, making the St. Regis a dessert destination.

Pastry chef Michael Craig crafts innovative treats, making the St. Regis a dessert destination.

“… I have often thought of one day opening my own ‘desserts only’ restaurant,” Craig says. “It’s a unique and very niche market. It forces you to be more artistic to appeal to the true dessert connoisseur.” Craig’s reputation for creating desserts out of unlikely ingredients—like green tea—ensures that any of his new dining initiatives are not likely to be found anywhere else in the city.

Once Craig’s idea had been set into motion, his next challenge was to put together the menu. “When I was planning the menu, I took all facets into consideration,” he says. “I wanted the allure of unusual pairings such as bacon, morel and chocolate.” The results are truly inspired dishes that engage the taste buds in exciting ways. Bacon—in powder, cremeaux and candied form—comes together with chocolate mousse, hazelnut crunch and candied pinot morels for the perfect combination of savory and sweet. Even dishes that lean more toward the traditional flavors of the season, like strawberry and rhubarb, feature unexpected tastes and textures like sorbet and candied celery.

Bacon is among the unusual ingredients incorporated in desserts, creating a culinary adventure.

Bacon is among the unusual ingredients incorporated in desserts, creating a culinary adventure.

As with all of the St. Regis’ dining experiences, guests will be delighted by the attention to detail. For Craig, the presentation of the final product is every bit as important as how the ingredients work together. “Being contemporary in the presentation also engages people as they explore the plate,” he says. Craig feels fortunate to have been given complete creative control of this new dining program and has taken the reins on everything from creating the menu to acquiring new china on which to serve his delectable delights.

“I have been able to create an uncompromising experience for our guests,” he says. His one-of-a-kind approach to food and service supports the resort’s overall approach to dining, with a bit of a twist. “My style is that of enthusiastic fun and adventure,” he says. “I don’t think many restaurants in the area serve a dessert with an effervescent black currant garnish.”

Of course, Craig could not have done everything on his own, and he enlisted the help of fellow staff members to put the finishing touches on the program. “I held several tastings with various members of our food and beverage team to refine the final experience,” he says. “Occasionally, a chef may get stuck and not know exactly how to articulate one aspect, but an outside perspective will open a new door.”

 

Distinctive Drinks

While Craig’s menu of creative sweet and savory bites stands well on its own, Cordials in the Court would not be complete without a well-cultivated beverage menu as well. The cordials list includes such mixtures as The Muse, which combines limoncello, Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth, a splash of absinthe and flamed orange zest.

Cordials in the Court offers libations such as The Muse, which combines limoncello, sweet vermouth, a splash of absinthe and orange zest.

Cordials in the Court offers libations such as The Muse, which combines limoncello, sweet vermouth, a splash of absinthe and orange zest.

Other options take advantage of the resort’s vast stores of premium wine, port, sherry and other liqueurs that diners are unlikely to find anywhere else in Atlanta. The Deconstructed Beauty features Grand Marnier 150 Year and The St. Regis Atlanta’s exclusive 1.5-ounce Louis XIII Rare Cask 42,6, which promises rich flavors of nuts, dried fruits and smoky tobacco.

One of the menu’s highlights is a 2000 Château d’Yquem, a premier wine from the Gironde region of southern Bordeaux. This wine will be poured using the innovative Coravin system, which allows the wine to be enjoyed without disturbing the natural aging process through unnecessary oxidation. The system inserts a thin, hollow needle through the foil and cork and then pressurizes the bottle, which causes the wine to flow through the needle and into a glass. Once the needle is removed, the cork naturally reseals itself and the remainder of the bottle is never exposed to the outside air.

The St. Regis Atlanta’s beverage and dining programs seek to both take advantage of the staff’s creativity and willingness to go beyond what is expected, and also to entice guests with some of the best culinary options the city has to offer. Undoubtedly, Cordials in the Court will be no exception and staff members are excited about everything it has to offer. “It is a phenomenal complement to our timeless service traditions, and a continuation of the commitment to our discerning clientele,” Craig says. “The new menu is an evolution of a traditional menu. We are striving to create a new destination for the dessert and beverage enthusiast.”

In addition to meeting and exceeding the high expectations of St. Regis patrons, Cordials in the Court also will be yet another way for the resort to set itself apart from other local establishments. “Cordials in the Court is an innovative offering, which complements the St. Regis tradition of one-of-a-kind experiences,” Wood says. “It complements the current offerings by adding surprising and unexpected flavors at the end of the meal and evening.”

Cordials in the Court invites visitors to wind down their evening with an age-old tradition in a timeless setting. Additionally, with uncompromising service that can only be provided by the St. Regis, it’s sure to be an experience to remember.