It was a "Grand" evening at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa when Grand Marnier, one of the world's most acclaimed luxury spirits, collaborated with the prestigious Council Oak Steaks & Seafood to create the exquisite Grand Marnier Dinner experience.  

Held in the Council Oak Lounge, Council Oak Steaks & Seafood and Grand Marnier created an innovative, Grand Marnier-curated, four-course culinary extravaganva.  Guests were treated to a special tasting menu from Council Oak, paired with a variety of cocktails from Grand Marnier and music from sultry singer Gloria West.  Diners also received a gift bag with a commemorative Grand Marnier Trio Set, a bottle of Kappa Pisco and other assorted Grand Marnier goodies.

Grand Marnier is a premium cognac blend created in 1880 by founder Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle.  While most are familar with the iconic orange-flavored Cordon Rouge, the Grand Marnier line has expanded to include other liqueurs including Grand Marnier Rasberry Peach, Kappa Pisco, Grand Marnier 100 and Grand Marnier 1880 that are perfect for mixed drinks and desserts.   

The evening began with a passed Hors d'oeuvres trio from the Council Oak kitchen, paired with a Grand Marnier Ruby Slippers Rasberry Peach Champage cocktail.  The trio of Ahi Tuna, Blue Crab Salad and Caramelized Peaches & Prosciutto incorporated sweet, fruity flavors that perfectly complemented the rasberry, peach and orange flavors of the Grand Marnier Rasberry Peach cocktail.

The seared Ahi Tuna was topped with a tangy Grand Marnier orange marmalade and sesame seeds and served on a silver spoon.  The tanginess of the marmalade balanced the sweetness of the tender Blue Crab Salad which sat on a bed of creamy purple potatoes.  After living in Georgia, I never say no to peaches, especially when combined with proscuitto and paired with a fruity champagne cocktail, topped with fresh rasberries!  Our culinary journey was clearly off to an extraordinary start! 

The First Course was a divine Ricotta Cavatelli paired with a Kappa Pisco cocktail.  A mouth-watering piece of Grand Marnier, brown sugar glazed, House Cured Pork Belly was accompanied by Blistered Tomatoes, Black Kale, Parmesan, Citrus Butter and housemade Cavatelli pasta.  This was definitely my favorite dish of the evening. I'm a huge fan of Council Oak's Bacon and this thick, tender cut of Pork Belly with hints of Grand Marnier mixed with the fresh blistered tomatoes and the rich citrusy sauce, combined with the Kappa Pisco cocktail, was pure heaven on a plate.  

After the first course we had a chance to catch up on our cocktails, chat with our tablemates and learn a little more about the history of Grand Marnier from Grand Marnier National Brand Ambassador Justin Cochren.  We learned the secret to the spirit are the special green oranges called Citrus Bigaradia which are picked at the Lapostolle family’s estate in Haiti.  The skins are dried in the sun before they are shipped to France, macerated in neutral spirit for three weeks and then blended in oak vats.  We even got to sample one of the Citrus Bigaradia oranges, shipped especially to the casino for the Grand Marnier Dinner, all the way from France!  We broke open the dried orange skins and the aroma filled the Council Oak Lounge! I gained a whole new appreciation for Grand Marnier and was ready for the next course.

The Second Course was a Charred Spanish Octopus served with The Perfect Storm Grand Marnier cocktail.  The Octopus was braised in red wine and served with Chickpeas, Smoked Almond Romesco, Charred Endives, Chili Oil and Hearts on Fire Microgreens.  The Perfect Storm, a cocktail consisting of Grand Marnier, instead of the traditional rum, Ginger Beer, Lime Juice and Bitters, was the perfect accompaniment to this summer seafood dish.

The main course was a spectacular Prime Veal Bistecca served with a Sweet Potato Agnolotti and Wild Mushrooms in a Summer Truffle-Brown Butter Sauce.  If you know Council Oak, they don't do anything small and the Veal Bistecca was a prime example, it was huge!  Perfectly tender with a Grand Marnier glaze, topped with a pillow of sweet pasta and balanced by the distinctive taste of the glorious truffles.

This prestigious dish was served with an equally prestigious cocktail, Grand Marnier 100.  Otherwise known as Cuvée du Centenaire, Grand Marnier 100 was first introduced in 1927 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Marnier brand. This cogniac is aged up to 25 years which results in an extremely smooth and balanced finish with intense orange flavors, the perfect accompaniment to a grand main course.

Our final course was the dessert course, Polenta Pound Cake served with Thyme Scented Crème Brûlée and Roasted Apricots and a "neat" glass of Grand Marnier 1880.  This dessert was outstanding! The grilled Polenta Pound Cake was a masterful mix of sweet and savory and was ideal for "dipping" in the creamy, carmelized Crème Brûlée.  

The Grand Marnier 1880,  a blend of Aged Premium Grande Champage, 91% XO Cognac and Wild Tropical Orange Parfum aged up to 60 years, was the only cognac "grand" enough to match this extraordinary dessert.

Unfortunately, this spectacular gastronmic event had to come to an end. Guests lingered over the last of the Grand Marnier 1880 and the sweet sounds of Gloria West while my thoughts turned to the next month's Council Oak dinner.  Make your reservations now because these monthly dinners are not to be missed!

Thanks to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, Council Oak Steaks & Seafood and Grand Marnier for another fantastic evening!