Last week when I shared with friends that I, along with other local media folk, were going to be treated to a tour and dinner aboard a Boeing 777 courtesy of Qatar Airways, the consistent word that came out of everyone’s mouth was “elite”. Elite: best, first-class, aristocratic, exclusive, gilt-edged, greatest, noble, selected, upper-class, world-class… you get my drift. I was surely in for a treat. “Oh my goodness, the first class is known for being unbelievable,” a frequent flier girlfriend of mine gushed. “Well, we aren’t going anywhere, we are just getting fed,” I admitted to her. And not that “just getting fed” is something Qatar Airways does, after all it is a 5-star menu that is offered to patrons via its Culinary World Menu.
And so, we weary yet giddy (what was in store for us??) travel writers, food bloggers, and even the elusive Tom Sietsema of WaPo fame sipped a quick cocktail at Dulles (after being picked up by a complimentary car service), then were sheparded through a proper ticketing, a full on security check and a walk on to the welcoming sitting plane (there was to be a take off after our dinner, we were cutting it close we found out later). Never before had the elite airline staged such a production.
There were some familiar faces in the small sea of media professionals, but there were many whom I didn’t know, which was nice, as we got to extend our network. As we came aboard, everyone pulled out cameras and smartphones and we snapped away at the seats, the flat screens, the gorgeous pristinely dressed and made up attendants, and of course, each other. We were encouraged to use #dinewithaltitude in our social media onslaught. The expansive cabin was filled with high energy and the sudden need to fly away, fly fly away from the national capital region (as I didn’t bring my passport, there was no way I could have hidden and gotten away with the post-dinner flight).
Now, back to the main reason why were were all gathered in the comfy Business Class seats (they only fly Business Class and Economy from Dulles): the five star menu which was designed by Chefs Nobu Matsuhisa, Tom Aikens, Vineet Bhatia and Ramzi Choueiri -chefs who collectively have earned a combined five Michelin stars. We were treated a multi-course meal, with choices, that was fit for a king and his court. We started with two select glasses of Champagne (“Why have one glass when you can have two?” said James Cluer, Qatar Airways Master of Wine, poetically from the front of the cabin). The white table clothes came out as each of the attendants smoothly showed us how to use the high tech A/V, then pulled out our trays, multi-tasking with grace and grandeur.
As we listened to James speak to the multifaceted process he and his team go through in order to find “the perfect” wines (including trekking up mountain tops with sherpas to make sure that the taste remained fine in high altitude – what? exactly), and how the selection was changed several times a year (one must not become bored when on board) we flipped through the extensive menu and chatted amongst one another. Our choices, clearly explained, sounding mouth wateringly tempting. I chose the black cod with lemon by Nobu, the pea and mint soup by Tom, and Tom’s poached chicken breast with lemongrass (to die for). We had baskets of a variety of freshly baked breads and of course, a nice bowl of hot nuts to start. By the 3rd course I was getting full (just like at any multi-course dining excursion) but it was all just to delightful to stop.
Time flies by quickly when you are getting treated like royalty even when not at 35,000 feet. We were kindly ushered off before dessert came (after all, they had real paying passengers to tend to!) but no one was let down. The entire experience was memorable and all of us were given a safe drive home in a town car.
While that was a true treat, I’d need to have someone really treat me to get me flying. Prices for Business Class from IAD to Abu Dhabi range from $13,277.04 USD for a round trip ticket.
Learn more about the wine process in the video below:
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a platform for profiling people who "make it happen" in the Capital region, reviews & topical blog posts. She launched Punch Enterprises, a connector consulting business in 2015 and Pacific Punch based in LA, in 2012. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, VA. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.