It was a great party! One of the most unusual culinary experiences I’ve ever had. And I shared it with fun-loving Tucson transplants from around the world.
The Celebration, at least for me, had its genesis when my friend Charles Hedgepeth announced, “Wanda Zhang is hosting a Man Han Imperial Feast at her Oro Valley Harvest Moon Restaurant on October 7 and I’d like you to join me.” This Feast had its origin in China a long time ago and was known as the grandest of all meals. Originally, it lasted for three days and consisted of over 100 eye-appealing mouth-watering dishes from every region in China. “Wanda will downsize it for Tucson,” Charley said, “but an 8-course meal orchestrated by world-class chef Yongdong (Tony) Wu, should be enough to wow you.”
Tony Wu has impressive credentials as he’s served as the executive chef at China’s Imperial Palace, has six Guinness World records, 33 gold medals and the world record for making 16,000 hand-pulled noodles in 60 seconds.
So it was with high expectations that my wife, Helen, Charles and his wife Barbara and I arrived at the Harvest Moon. We were greeted by the vivacious host, Wanda, who wore a stunning smile and a lemon-yellow silk dress fit for an empress. She escorted us to our assigned table where she introduced us to our tablemates, Bengt and Joy Carlson and Andy and Ramona Pereira. All four of them were born and raised outside the U.S.—Sweden, the Philippines, England and Canada and as lively and interesting a group of foodies as you will ever meet.
For the next three hours, we were dazzled and indulged with the best of Chinese cuisine. The show-stopping dishes for Helen and me were the Tai Chi Seafood Pumpkin Soup and Royal Mixed Vegetables.
Bengt claimed the Smoked Oolong Peking Duck was the best he’d ever had while his wife Joy raved about the Lobster Spectacular. Barbara’s said the Honey Pepper Australian Rack of Lamb was her favorite. Charles could not remember having a better dessert than the Dim Sum Imperial Palace which was a combination plate of pastry-like noodles topped with a thick blueberry sauce, rich custard and a big, sweet sugar noodle.
Each food dish was matched with a fine wine. And when Tony wasn’t cooking he would entertain us with his high-speed radish whittling to create lovely white roses for the ladies, cutting meat blindfolded or whirling long sheets of dough into delicious tasting noodles. It was truly a memorable feast—the best of times—as Wu and Wanda wooed our palates and eyes with the best of China.