Riverlife’s Party at the Pier is already the most anticipated fashion event of the summer: Something about the cool waterside party inspires the city’s most posh event-goers to chic out in the most covet-worthy clothes. (And, squad goals? Can we get into those Instagrams, please?)
However, this year’s “War of the Rosés” theme has the culinary team at the River’s Casino turning it up and turning it out. Get ready. The Party at the Pier just became a must-go fête for foodies.
Chefs Michael Shimek and Seungmee (MeeMee) Choi are focusing on three things: medieval cooking and methods, rose flowers and scents, and rosé wine.
Shimek is excited to show off, using some old-time techniques: “Smoking with hay was something we were interested in trying for this event as it is rooted in medieval cooking,” he says. “We used trial and error to get it just right.”
The banquet chef knows that guests will want seconds of the Medieval Custard Pie and the savory Roasted Beet Salad — both of which romantically feature rose fragrance and flavor.
However, his personal favorite are the Rose Wine Gummy Jewels. “I had never attempted to make gummy candy before, let alone one that contains wine,” Shimek says. “It was a very interesting and fun experience.”
We’re most anticipating his Deconstructed Sparkling Rosé: the grapes themselves contain carbonation and are centered on a jus that has the base flavors of a rose.
The desserts are slated to be equally show-stopping.
“One of the desserts, Pear Poached in Red Wine, uses the recipe taken from The Forme of Curye, an extensive collection of medieval English recipes from the 14th century,” Choi says. “The original recipe calls for making the syrup with Greek or Vernaccia wine. In this dessert, we used a Merlot and substituted mixed berries for the mulberries.”
The celebrated pastry chef is also working on a Chocolate Hazelnut Tart, finished with fragments of real, crystalized Damask roses.
But she’s most looking forward to serving her Rose Wine Parfait. “The white color of ginger panna cotta and red color of strawberry gelée represent the conflict between the House of Lancaster (Red Rose) and the House of York (White Rose). Rosé wine gelée represents the House of Tudor (Pink Rose), and signifies the end of war.”
Michael Shimek, Banquet Chef
Michael Shimek, a Grove City, Pa. native, is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in Pittsburgh. After graduation, Michael worked for the Waldorf Astoria’s Boca Raton Resort and Club in multiple culinary positions. He helped launch the exclusive Beach Club where he created culinary masterpieces for parties ranging from small intimate gatherings to large celebrations with up to 1,500 guests. In 2011, Michael moved back to Pennsylvania and joined the culinary team at Rivers Casino as the banquet chef.
Michael enjoys the challenge of mastering a wide variety of preparation techniques from around the world. He applies these skills at Rivers Casino to create unique wedding receptions that allow guests to celebrate their cultural heritage. Michael also uses his expertise to create one of a kind corporate functions and banquets that guests are sure to remember.
Seungmee Choi, Executive Pastry Chef
Seungmee (MeeMee) Choi was the valedictorian and the recipient of the Academic Brillat-Savarin from the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute School of Pastry Arts in 2003. Following her graduation, she worked at the Duquesne Club for three years. In May 2005, Seungmee joined Parkhurst Event Catering at the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh as a pastry cook. She has also worked as a pastry chef at the Hyeholde Restaurant, which was selected in 2008 by Gourmet Magazine as one of the most “legendary restaurants” in the United States. Seungmee returned to Parkhurst Event Catering as the executive pastry chef in 2012. In 2017, Seungmee Choi joined Rivers Casino’s culinary team.
Seungmee loves to create wedding cakes and plated desserts for celebratory events. She is especially talented at creating new cake flavors and textures and decorating freehand. She has participated in a number of local events, such as “Flavors of Pittsburgh”, which was hosted in 2013 by the American Liver Foundation. She also contributed to the “Seven Chef’s Dinner” hosted in 2012 by the Hyeholde Restaurant to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Seungmee Choi has participated in “Chefs Celebrating Chefs: A Tradition of Excellence” with thirteen other Duquesne Club alumni chefs.
In addition to her degree in pastry arts, Seungmee holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in childhood education from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. From 1988 to 1991, she worked as a researcher at the Korean Institute for Research in the Behavioral Sciences (KIRBS). She also taught at Chung-Joo National College as a part-time faculty member until she moved to the United States in 1996.