It was a passionate affair. It was intimate. It was soulful. Even the most eloquent gourmands grasped for ways to describe its sensual intensity.
“There are not enough words to express how you feel after a meal like this, how it excites you, how it captivates you, how it appeals to senses you didn’t know you had,” Monsour Taghdisi said. “It makes me want to go out dancing, but I have a 2-year-old I have to take to school tomorrow.”
Taghdisi was one of 90 guests at Triniti restaurant on Sunday taking in the Autumn Concerto, an eight-course tasting menu created by executive chef Ryan Hildebrand and sommelier Fred Zennati matched with live classical music selected by Mercury artistic director Antoine Plante.
Hildebrand featured innovative elements from Triniti’s fall menu including oxtail dumplings, shellfish bisque, chanterelle custard and souffle, while 15 members of Mercury: The Orchestra Redefined played period instruments including violins, violas, cellos, a violone and a harpsichord.
"There are not enough words to express how you feel after a meal like this, how it excites you, how it captivates you, how it appeals to senses you didn’t know you had.”
“It was mesmerizing, a truly memorable experience,” diner Brigette Larson said. “I’ve been in Houston 21 years and I’ve never been to anything like this. It’s a wonderful food experience with fabulous wine pairings and an orchestra — not Top 20 radio music, orchestra music!”
This is the second Mercury benefit dinner hosted by Triniti owners Chong and Faranak Yi. The couple supports Mercury’s educational outreach efforts and wanted to create an extraordinary event that would showcase the talents of everyone involved.
“We are so impressed with Mercury’s musicians and their dedication. They often perform free concerts for Houston school children to expose them to live classical music,” Faranak Yi said. “We just wanted to do something for Mercury.”
The evening was billed as a choreographed celebration, and it was executed with rhythmic and culinary precision. The servers would put down plates as the chef and the maestro explained the course. The musicians would start playing to cue the first bite.
“My goal for timing is about 12 minutes per course. We have one to two movements lasting anywhere from three to six minutes,” Plante said. “We try to encourage people to listen and enjoy the food while we play, and then after we finish we give people time to visit and talk among themselves and decide if it was a good match.”
“The first one was explorative. We had never seen it done,” said Hildebrand. “This time I had a clearer idea of how Antoine viewed things so I gave him dishes that had a story."
Hildebrand and Plante worked together for weeks to create the evening’s presentation. The duo also collaborated last June on the restaurant’s first musical tasting experience.
“That first one was explorative. We had never seen it done,” Hildebrand said. “This time I had a clearer idea of how Antoine viewed things so I gave him dishes that had a story, food that told a story he could expand upon, like the deviled king crab.”
To accompany that course, Plante arranged “Suite from Hell,” dance pieces from operas by the French Baroque composers Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Marie Leclair.
"I really feel like I understood the playfulness of this music with the food,” Taghdisi said. “There were bursts of energy in the music that brought out the bursts of salmon roe that was in the butter in my mouth. And the food was so good, I seriously want to have a full course of this, not just a tasting.”
The chef’s personal favorite course was the Wagyu flank — sweet potato and foie gras tlacoyo, Brussels sprouts and brandied peppercorn sauce. It was savored as soprano Ana Treviño-Godfrey serenaded the content crowd with “Oxygan una Xacarilla” by Mexican Baroque composer Rafael Antonio Castellanos. Godfrey’s performance garnered a standing ovation.
One guest, architect Chung Nguyen of MC2 Architects, relished the evening with unique perspective. He designed Triniti.
“We did think about acoustics but not for a concert like this. This is serendipity, a beautiful surprise to me,” he said. “It’s a dimension of architecture I haven’t experienced in my work before — the sound, the texture, the taste. For me, it’s magical. I’ll never forget it.”
Hildebrand welcomes the challenges of another musical collaboration.
“I love it,” he said. “To gain inspiration from another craft is the best way. To gain inspiration from architecture and music internalizes the creative process.”