Monday, December 17, 2001
Chef John Coletta and Wines: VCM Simeon Roldan
La Bella Caliterra
There is a culinary landscape, a geography of a dinner. It presents a highly visual set of dishes outlining and layering flavors and textures. Complementary wine choices add to the relief of this topography. The Chicago Chapter held its 2001 holiday dinner at Wyndham Hotel’s Italian Caliterra Restaurant in December. Executive Chef John Coletta, who has worked with such icons as Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse in France, designed a six-course menu using ingredients that did not stray from his fine sense of balance and abstract compositions.
An elegant reception took place in the comfortable bar area on the outskirts of the open dining room and a computerized slide show was presented during this time showing the best photos from Chaine 2001 events. Delectable hot and cold hors d’oeuvres were served on mini plates and included paillard of quail with truffle vinaigrette, seared tuna in a Polenta crust as well as a Carpaccio of aged angus beef. Two champagnes were served - a Laurent Perrier “Cuvée Brut Rosé” and a Drappier “Val des Demoiselles” Rosé Brut.
Deft wait staff gently encouraged us to our tables and the first course of a tender, warm female lobster was placed before us, cleverly arranged on a transparent rectangular plate. A soufflé of cauliflower “pannacotta” and a mirepoix of finely chopped vegetables was the garnish. Native Caviar added a briny zip. The Cameron Pinot Bianco Giovanni, Oregon 2000 was a delightful opening marriage.
Delicately seared Moulard duck foie gras followed served on a stark white plate with a deliciously sweet Pannetone, and an acidic blood orange tarragon Verjus. The Bonny Doon Muscat Vin de Glacière modeled in the style of Beaumes-de-Venise proved an excellent choice in that both the sweet and acidic flavors of the dish found solace in the wine’s structure. In purist Italian tradition, plump pasta came next filled with a demi-lune of calf sweetbreads bathing in an amber-colored, parmesan-pancetta broth. The Murphy-Goode Fumé Blanc ‘97, efficiently transitioned us from white to red in true Italianate style. The brussel sprouts and chestnut ingredients evoked the atmosphere of the season
A Piedmontese Berton Barbera d’Alba 1998 had been chosen to accompany the plat de resistance. Nature-fed venison, wine-braised Cipollini onions and an unctuous, dark red huckleberry sauce reminded us of the intellectual conception that had been wielded before our eyes. The succulent venison taken with the Barbera left no doubt that we were experiencing as close to taste perfection as you can get. Artisan cheeses were presented and took on the appearance of a flamboyant dessert. Gorgonzola masqueraded as a serving of ice cream, the marinated Goats cheese, and the sheep’s milk of the Pecorino contributed eccentricity to the Amarone della Valpolicella from Villa Bellini 1997. A fritter, petit meringue with curd, and marination gave us the pineapple degustation as promised and the Domaine de Durban 2000 Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise resembled liquid gold. Well researched and knowledgeable commentaries were given throughout by Vice-Conseiller Culinaire Heinz Kern and Vice-Chargé de Missions Simeon Roldan.
Vigorous accolades for Executive Chef John Coletta and his experienced team closed the beautifully conceived dinner. The plates had been poised and the panorama of dishes gave members discerning examples of this chef’s hard work and originality.