Anthony Bourdain and the Balvenie Rare Craft Experience

A La Carte Events & Catering had the distinct pleasure of helping produce the Houston leg of The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection Tour. Anthony Bourdain curated it. The two-day guided tasting event included samples, tastings, and demos. 1,800 Houstonians attended, 600 each night.

In addition to whiskey sipping, Balvenie’s skilled artisans provided an interactive experience for all. In fact, the artisans discussed their centuries-old professions, and the intricacies of how each craft contributes to every barrel of whiskey.   

To begin with, the Momentum Worldwide team work tirelessly through the night to transform Silver Street. Silver Street Studios’ is a large industrial venue, and they created a series of amazing interior spaces. And, the simple geometric cutouts and modern tubing worked perfectly. Specifically giving the event a cozy feel that fit very nicely with the Balvenie Rare Craft brand.

The Tour

On the first leg of the tour, each guest received a personal Rare Craft branded nosing glass. Then A La Carte Events & Catering’s bartenders treated them to Balvenie’s 12-Year-Old DoubleWood Whiskey. While enjoying the smooth and mellow single malt scotch, attendees mixed and mingled in the masculine lounge space, replete with leather seating.

Next, each group of guests moved into specific workspaces, set up with classroom style seating and notepads. The guests had a face-to-face Q & A session with each of the five hand-picked artisans practicing:

  • metal-working,  
  • printmaking/letterpress,
  • sculpture,
  • cooping,
  • and watchmaking.

In particular, talking to a 3rd generation Scottish cooper about his work really drives home the handcrafted nature of Balvenie’s fine whisky making.      

Tasting Rooms

Once the artisans’ sections were completed, it was on the Tasting Rooms. Here guests participated in an interactive sampling of each of the each of the single malts in the Rare Craft Collection. During the lively presentation, they learned the history and cultivation of each spirit, and how to properly partake to enjoy the whiskey at its finest.

In addition to an amazing (and free) evening, the guests that attended the second night of tours got an extra special surprise. Not only did Mr. Bourdain himself greet each group at their final Q & A session, he graciously stayed for a photos.

The Whiskey Lounge

At last, guests made their way to the Whiskey Lounge set up in the back of Silver Street. The A La Carte Events & Catering team got to impress guests with our scrumptious bites that were designed to pair with Balvenie’s whiskeys. On the menu for each evening:

  • Beef Tenderloin Canapes with Housemade Boursin, Caramelized Onions and a Drizzle of Red Pepper Aioli,
  • Baked Pancetta Crisps with Whipped Goat Cheese, Fresh Thyme, Thinly Sliced Pear and Dark Texas HOney
  • Leek & Gruyere Paninis,
  • Fig & Prosciutto Flatbread,
  • Truffled Mac ‘n Cheese Spoons.

In the meantime, everyone had built up quite an appetite, so the hors d’ oeuvres flew off the serving platters, keeping the A La Carte kitchen team very busy. 

The Best Part

Amidst the behind-the-scenes hustle and bustle of getting hot, fresh hors d’ oeuvres out to the Lounge guests, an amazing opportunity presented itself. Just as I was helping our kitchen staff plate a new platter of leek and gruyere paninis, I noticed Anthony Bourdain and his “entourage” (just his assistant and a couple Balvenie reps, he was definitely not in the diva category), preparing to leave after his last Q&A session.

As we do at all of A La Carte Events & Catering events, we want to ensure our host, not just guests, are taken care of. Hosts especially can get too busy to eat.   

With this in mind, I asked if Mr. Bourdain if he and his group would like to come into the kitchen for a few out of sight bites. He had been busy talking the entire evening and hadn’t eaten since lunch.  

They followed me over to our prep area. Cool as a cucumber (food pun intended) I described the menu, and they dug in. Soon satisfied full-mouthed grins followed.

Anthony chose the Leek & Gruyere Panini. After a couple bites and a moment to savor he replied, “Good” *short contemplative pause* “Very good!” Thumbs up followed.

He chatted with a couple of our staff members while finishing his the last few bites, then off he went, but not before snagging another full-size panini for the road. 

Of course, this particularly moment was the cherry on top of an amazingly successful three days, and definitely a career highlight.