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C. Paul Luongo's Published Columns

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Diana Ross and the Paragon Restaurant

Mashantucket, CT
By C. Paul Luongo and Susan Bassett

Welcomed by a nearly sold out crowd, 63-year-old Diana Ross rocked the Fox Theatre with an energetic mix of favorites – covering her years with the Supremes, on her own and honoring women of song who inspired her.

Her entrance reflected a flair for drama, with her arrival on stage heralded by her own
cries of “I’m Comin’, I’m Comin’,” before she ascended a staircase in the middle of the stage to “I’m Comin’ Out,” dressed in a brilliant red off-the-shoulder gown and surrounded by a foamy red boa.

From that moment on, Ross’ performance was all business – solely focused on delivering the performance. Ross ran the tightly orchestrated performance like a well-oiled machine – covering nearly twenty songs and five costume changes in just over an hour. She didn’t acknowledge where she was or even comment on the enthusiasm and outpouring of love the audience offered – but the almost mechanical nature of the engagement did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm.

Backed by 2 vocalists and a 5-piece band, the Queen of Motown quickly brought the crowd to its feet with an invitation to revisit the good old days. Her repertoire covered the 40+ years Ross has been performing, hitting favorite after favorite, including “Baby Love”, “Stop in the Name of Love”, “Touch Me in the Morning”, “Sweetest Hangover”, “Love Child”, “Ease on Down the Road”.

Her band offered musical interludes between outfits – freshening up the old favorites with a Latin twist or a tribal beat, giving the audience an opportunity to linger just a little longer in those days of yore.

While the Motown, disco and soul numbers are full of heart-thumping rhythms and danceable lyrics, Ross’ singular talent came through near the end of the performance. Dressed in a white sequined gown and under a single spotlight, Ross delivered two Billie Holiday signature songs, stilling the crowd and demonstrating yet again why she is indeed one of America’s most treasured artists.


Par∙a∙gon (pār´ə-gŏn´) 1. a model or pattern of excellence. 2. the perfect name for the ultimate dining experience at Foxwoods’ Casino. Perched high atop the Grand Pequot Tower, Paragon provides an elegant venue for celebrating momentous occasions or success at the Baccarat table with superb food, attentive and skilled service and gracious atmosphere.

Paragon, one of the precious few AAA Four Diamond-rated restaurants in Connecticut, is the brain child of Chef de Cuisine Scott Micaelson, who spent 14 years at other Foxwoods’ eateries before designing and opening Paragon in 2000. From the starched white linens to the monogrammed china rimmed with platinum and hefty silverware to the slipper dining chairs, Paragon speaks of worldly indulgence – in good taste, of course. A recent visit was short, but delicious enough to leave us eager to return to experience more of the culinary excellence offered there.

Greeted warmly by the maitre’d, we were seated immediately at a table before floor-to-ceiling windows that provide a panoramic view of the valley below. Described as continental, Paragon’s cuisine reflects a mix of influences with a strong emphasis on organic, naturally raised foodstuffs. The menu, still in winter mode, was well in keeping with the fact that spring was still in hiding. The indulgence began with the evening appetizer special: a pound of Alaskan King Crab legs, steamed and served, of course, with drawn butter [market price]. Meaty, generous and presented in an elegant array, the shellfish provided a festive beginning. The second choice, a heady bowl of French Onion soup [$12] , seasoned with fresh thyme and Marsala wine, was thick with sweet flavorful onions. Topped by a large piece of thick, crusty French bread, covered in Gruyere cheese, the dish smoothed out the rough edges of a weekday and warmed body and spirit.

Warm, lavender-infused cloths were provided to wipe away any sticky residue and it wasn’t long before the steaming and aromatic main courses – Angry Lobster
[market price] and the Veal Chop “Elephante” [$42] arrived. The lobster was succulent and spicy, seasoned with browned garlic, fresh red chilis, cognac and a splash of pomodoro, tossed with a generous serving of fettucine, which unfortunately was just a little too toothsome.
The veal chop, was indeed an elephant-sized portion – barely fitting on the plate. Covered in buffalo mozzarella, pepperocini and pomodoro, the chop was just a little past the medium ordered, but the flawless balance of the sauce more than compensated – fresh, tangy and vibrant – it tasted almost of a sunny day in Italy.

An unexpected highlight was the spinach, sautéed with garlic – a perfect medley of earthy and intense flavors. The side dish selected was the quintessential seasonal vegetable – an asparagus and mushroom sauté in a brown butter béarnaise [$12]. The spears were well-trimmed and cooked with just enough rosemary to restore hope that spring may indeed arrive.

Time and capacity for rich dishes were limited and so dessert was not part of the experience at Paragon. If the winter menu’s sweet choices are any indication of promise, it’s likely that when the restaurant reopens on Mother’s Day after a kitchen renovation, those with a penchant for decadent flavors will find satisfaction at Paragon.