Monday, September 16, 2013
Branching Out at Brindille
September 16, 2013, was an evening for celebrating growth and change, as recently elevated Bailli Mon Roldan began his inaugural season by welcoming 56 Chicago Chaîne members and guests to Brindille. The latest offering from Chef/Owner Carrie Nahabedian and her cousin, Restaurateur Michael Nahabedian, Brindille (pronounced brawn-DEE) brings an elegant yet comfortable French bistro to Chicago’s vibrant River North neighborhood. The word brindille translates roughly as a newly grown branch. In this case, it is a branch that has grown from James Beard Award-winning Chef Nahabedian’s Michelin-starred Naha, just two blocks south.
The restaurant’s inviting décor, with its focus on natural elements, provided the perfect backdrop for members to mingle and enjoy passed hors d’oevres, while futuristic light fixtures hinted at the culinary surprises to come. Two cases containing an ever-changing selection of handmade artifacts and natural objects from the chef’s personal collection gave the space a quirky intimacy.
The beginning bites, Brin d’Amour Corsican cheese crisps and a warm heirloom tomato soup, were paired with a Jean Milan Blanc de Blancs Champagne 2004 that balanced the flavors of citrus fruits with minerality. Served en jeroboam, the enormous double-magnum-sized bottles impressed the crowd.
The main event, a six-course tasting menu featuring several of Brindille’s signature dishes, highlighted Chef Nahabedian’s elevated approach to traditional bistro fare. For the first course, Nahabedian topped New Brunswick oysters with lightly cooked eggs brouilles and leeks cooked in cream to create a velvety texture that complemented the delicate ocean flavor. Oscietra caviar, which the chef playfully described as “Russian caviar, raised in Italy,” topped the dish, providing the perfect burst of sea and salt. The oyster-friendly Jean Milan Champagne also accompanied this dish, offering a smooth transition from the appetizers.
Leeks also featured prominently in the second course, where they were slow roasted and joined by early fall butternut squash, golden chanterelles, a soft-cooked quail egg, sheep’s milk yogurt, walnuts and brown butter in a celebration of fall flavors. Its golden color and hints of mocha aroma made the Domaine Yves Boyer-Martenot Puligny-Montrachet Le Caillerets 2004 a natural match for the dish.
Course three’s butter-poached lobster Brindille was a highlight of the meal. This homage to late summer featured fragrant greens, sugar snap peas and shaved summer truffles. Introducing the course, Chef Nahabedian noted that summer truffles grow in the same region of Italy as other truffles, but appear in the summer. “They lack the intensity of French Périgord truffles,” she said, “but as the season gets deeper, they take on a little stronger scent.” The accompanying wine, South African winemaker A. A. Bedenhorst’s White Blend 2010, presented complex flavors and aromas of fruit, cream, toast and straw that bridged the seasonal divide.
Next came veal sweetbreads and loin of rabbit, served with braised French breakfast radishes and golden beets and paired with Domaine Maume Gevrey-Chambertin En Pallud 1993, a profound old-vine pinot noir from this tiny, exacting vintner.
Between courses, the Bailliage surprised Bailli Emeritus Jane Tracy with a Chaine decanter. Accepting the gift, Jane once again demonstrated her own gift for expression. “This beautiful decanter represents much more than the generosity that you’ve shown to me,” she said, “but also what I have learned from leading the Chicago Chaîne – not just about food and wine, but about people who have an enthusiasm and a passion for gastronomy. I look forward to the future leadership carrying on the tradition of the Chicago Chaîne.”
The last savory course, a locally sourced Guinea fowl, was presented as a forcemeat preparation with foie gras, stuffed in Savoy cabbage and accompanied by Beluga lentils, cipollini onions and tamarind bacon. A Brindille favorite, the dish also featured the night’s surprise: cockscomb, cooked confit for 10 hours to achieve a surprisingly tender texture and a flavor that Chef de Cuisine Ali Ratcliffe-Bauer described as “just pure poultry.” Such a special dish required a special wine, and the Chateau Leoville-Las Cases 1988 – with its garnet-like color, dark fruit flavors and mellow tannins – did not disappoint.
For the final course, pastry chef Craig Harzewski offered a sweet dessert with a nod to a cheese course. His Paris-Brest pastry, stuffed with strawberries and blackberries, was served over a bed of fromage blanc and garnished with caramelized hazelnuts, rose syrup and a crown of spun sugar. A delightfully sweet 1999 Moscato Bianco from La Familigia de Robert Mondavi ended the meal on a light and playful note.
As the evening concluded, Chef Nahabedian presented her entire kitchen team and accepted an Award of Merit from Bailli Roldan. “The biggest thing that we have at Brindille is that no one wants to leave, because it’s like being in someone’s house,” she said. “We hope that you made our home your home this evening.”
Helene (Lanie) Freer, Vice Conseiller Gastronomique, offered a final toast that both acknowledged how far the Bailliage had come in recent years and looked forward to its own new growth: “To Mon, if he is half the Bailli that Jane was, we’re all in really great hands.”
Special thanks to amateur photographers Lou Stejskal, Gorman Cook and Christopher Lang for lending a lens and helping us capture this special evening.
We are pleased to announce the opening of our 2013/2014 season with a Chaîne dinner at Brindille, a luxurious French restaurant in the River North that opened to wide acclaim last April. Many members are familiar with Chef Carrie Nahabedian’s contemporary-American restaurant, Naha, which has flourished for over a dozen years just a couple blocks from her new venture. With Brindille, Chef Nahabedian has returned to her culinary roots, and she will reveal her love of France in the refined ambiance of this Parisian-inspired eatery.
Exemplary wines have been chosen from our cellar to complement a menu replete with luxury ingredients. I look forward to welcoming you to the inaugural event of our new season — it is certain to be an evening of elegance, grace and high culinary excellence. Space is limited to 50 so please sign up early!
Reception: 7:00 PM
Dinner: 7:30 PM
Dinner Price: $255.00
Dress Code: Business Attire, with Decorations for Members
Parking: Valet Parking