Monday, October 21, 2002
Principal Jacquy Pfeiffer
Union League Club & The French Pastry School In The Kitchens
The Chicago Chapter divided its October event up between two locations. The Union League Club of Chicago and The French Pastry School. The object of the exercise was to combine culinary excellence, education, and fun. Interactive participation was required as well as comparing and contrasting the foods offered.
At the Union League Club we were welcomed into Chef Rôtisseur Michael Garbin’s 6th Floor kitchen. Chef Garbin gave an introductory statement about this private city club’s kitchen with daily meal statistics and a succinct explanation concerning the logistics of juggling many different events covering broad parameters. The bright lights and warm temperature indicated that this was an environment where hard and knowledgeable work was accomplished. Broad selections of wines were displayed to complement the different tastings ahead and Chef Garbin explained the food stations that had been planned.
Five stations suggested that there would be plenty of opportunity to analyze and figure out personal preferences as well as to ascertain others’ opinions. The first station was hands-on where members assembled their own Inside Out Crabmeat and Gazpacho Martini. A Martini Glass was turned upside down onto a plate - Mesclun filling the bowl of the glass. Paper-thin cucumber slices were arranged on the base (now the top) of the glass and a miniature timbale mould placed on top. A moist Jonah Crab mixture was then pressed down into the mould. Removing the mould left a perfectly formed “crab cake”. Dill was available for decoration and basil flavored olive oil was drizzled on the outskirts of the base plate. We discovered that Jonah Crab is harvested from 100-200 fathoms down in the waters off the North Atlantic.
The Oyster Station displayed three different types of oysters. The Tata from New England, Cape Bretons from Nova Scotia and Bras d’Or from Canada. Lemons, a traditional shallot/vinegar mixture, Tabasco and Horseradish were available but many enjoyed the natural and unadorned experience. It was a good thing that Caviste Charles Lockhart had brought along a flinty 1997 Fief du Chant Baron Muscadet sur Lie.
The first grill station offered up three different types of beef. Snake River Farms of Boise Idaho had provided Choice, Prime and Kobe beef. Grilled medium rare, with nothing added to the meat, allowed easy comparison. Bite-sized cubes were the samples. Chef Garbin explained the different characteristics and pricing of these examples of fine beef. Mustards had again been provided on the side for those wanting to alter the sensation on the palate.
Colorado, Wisconsin (Crawford Farms) and Australian lamb comprised the second grill station. Miniature “chops” of each were arranged on white platters and evaluation continued with the nutty, grassy flavor of the Wisconsin emerging as the favorite. Again, the Chef had avoided marinates, pastes etc. The last station displayed five different winter squashes - Acorn, Butternut, Buttercup, Spaghetti and Delicado. Delicado won the competition and bowls of brown sugar, chives, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and candied pecans had separately been made available as condiments.
Jacquy Pfeiffer, Principal of The French Pastry School and winner of numerous prestigious Grand Prix including the gold medal in 2000 Beaver Creek National Pastry Team Championship provided a forum for us to perceive the complexities surrounding the work of the dynamic field of pastry, chocolaterie and confectionary showpieces. A six-month L’Art de la Patisserie pastry program together with a celebrity Guest Chef Program forms the basis for this School’s consistent success over the past five years.
Members of the school’s student body manned four stations and explained how each pastry, cake or candy had been prepared. Pineapples braised for four hours in brown sugar, butter and rum were served with almond cake and mango sorbet. Macaroons melted in the mouth. A wide range of dessert wines was available and lively interaction between members and students made for a different kind of event.
Then there was Scott, - with only two months in the kitchen as a student, he entertained us for many minutes by calmly blowing and pulling multi-colored sugar pats into shapes and sculptures. With Chef Pfeiffer at his side, this good-natured young man illustrated that the talent of learning confectionary art lies in the mutual respect between a dedicated educator and the zeal of the student pursuing his chosen passion. Upon leaving we were given a wrapped brioche for breakfast.