Calihan Catering

Monday, September 22, 2003

A special educational and culinary event in the Calihan Kitchens presented by Chicago Culinaire Heinz Kern

Maître Rôtisseur David Danielson



By Ethel Gofen, Dame de la Chaîne

A unique and wonderful dining experience began at 2.00 p.m. on September 22nd in the 8000-square foot kitchen of Calihan Catering Inc. when more than twenty Chaîne members gathered. They listened, watched and all joined in to work with the staff of Chicago’s premiere caterers - led by Executive Chef/Maître Rôtisseur David Danielson - on every dish planned for the gala dinner later that evening. The much larger group of non-cooking, eager diners arrived in formal dress at 7.00 pm for what would be a memorable feast served entirely within the vast kitchen. First, the gentlemen all doffed their dinner jackets and everyone donned custom-made black chef’s aprons emblazoned with the official Chaîne seal as the preferred attire of the evening.

The first courses were served at stations around the periphery and included a comparison of four different types of salmon: farm-raised Chilean Atlantic; farm-raised Organic Scottish; wild Oregon Sockeye and wild Chinook – each cold smoked, using the same recipe and process. The varied flavors and textures were evaluated each sampling gleaning fervent supporters. Landmark Sonoma County Damaris Reserve 1996. Nearby was a demonstration of the art of caviar making starring a local caviar purveyor using the Illinois Shovelnose or ‘hackleback’ sturgeon and an accompaniment of fine international vodkas. The informality was delightful and enabled the Chaîne’s volunteer chefs to tell friends all they had learned during their afternoon apprenticeship in the kitchen.

Next, a salad course featured the “wide world of lettuces” from ultra greens to micros and various shoots, paired with Château Graville-Lacoste Graves Blanc 1994.

Trios then became the theme of a more formal seated dinner, with three beautiful preparations of organically-raised Snow Lake trout – poached, sautéed and roasted; three delicious dishes featuring braised meats – veal osso bucco, curried lamb shank with figs, and duck ballotine, and then three innovative pastas – spinach and ricotta gnocchi, pappardelle with a rabbit ragôut, and goat cheese tortelloni. Multiple wines were paired with each course, including Haas Grand Cru Vaudésir Chablis 1986, Domaine Ann-Marie Gille Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru 1995, and Antico Podere Gagliole Chianti 1997.

Next a station of artisanal cheeses supplied by The Great American Cheese Collection, featured special finds of John Calihan, the company’s founder and President, that cannot yet be found in most food markets. A tasting of Grgich Hills Zinfandel Sonoma County 1994 enhanced the subtle cheese flavors. Finally, the pastry display was a decorative as it was delicious. Particularly eye-catching among the pastries was a nude female torso modeled from white chocolate that may have served as muse to the fine culinary skills exhibited by both the Chaîne and Calihan chefs that afternoon.

Tours of the kitchen and demonstrations of its state-of-the-art equipment gave all of us a new appreciation of the behind-the-scenes activity and sheer hard work that culminates in memorable dinners. This was one of the most educational and entertaining dinners we have had, thanks to the combined efforts of so many talented professional and amateur chefs.