Monday, February 17, 2014 –
Chef Ryan McCaskey and his team will treat us to his contemporary-take of classic American cuisine. Capacity – 60.
Savoring Sanctuary at Acadia
On February 17, 2014, seventy-two members and guests of the Chicago Chaîne experienced Chef Ryan McCaskey’s contemporary interpretations of classic American cuisine at Acadia, his Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant in the South Loop.
Acadia was the name given to a French colony in northeastern North America that included parts of modern-day Maine, where Chef McCaskey spent summers as a youth and worked as a sous chef and pastry chef in his late teens. The word “Acadia” is derived from the “Arcadia” region of Greece, long associated with being a “refuge” or “idyllic place.” Boldly venturing outdoors in the thick of yet another brutal blizzard, winter-weary attendees were anxious to shake the snow from their black-tie attire and decompress in this elegant culinary haven.
Our reception started in the lounge where René-Henri Coutier Brut Rosé Champagne flowed from behind the bar. This impressive bubbly exhibited delicious strawberry and cherry flavors and fine minerality that proved to be an excellent accompaniment to the hors d’oeuvres. Servers presented trays holding white porcelain pedestals, each cradling a quinoa crisp and classically seasoned steak tartar and smoked capers topped with grated egg yolk. Guests were also impressed by Chef McCaskey’s take on a lobster roll—chilled chunks of butter-poached Maine lobster were lightly dressed with lemon juice, chives and mayonnaise atop a bite-sized round of toasted pain de mie bread. Both offerings focused on the freshness of beautiful ingredients and heightened expectations for an amazing meal.
Following the reception, attendees selected one of the expansive 4-tops in the minimalist dining space with its soaring ceilings and neutral color palate. A screen of silver beaded strands hung from the ceiling to break up the sophisticated space, but all eyes focused on the activity in the semi-open kitchen framed by knotty wood paneling.
Led by Sommelier/GM Jason Prah (Best Sommelier winner at Chicago’s 2012 Jean Banchet Awards), the friendly and stylishly attired servers poured both an Old World and a New World white wine carefully selected from the deep Chicago Chaîne cellar to accompany the first several courses. With glasses now filled, Chevalier Demetri Azar led a warm and welcoming toast.
Chevalier Jamie Gerard provided insightful wine commentary throughout the evening. The 2008 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Télégramme was a fine wine when paired with the food. This Southern Rhône blend, comprised of 40% Grenache Blanc, 30% Roussanne and 30% Clairette grapes, exhibited notes of lemon zest and petrol with firm minerality. The 2007 Walter Hansel “North Slope” Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley was superb on its own and with the food, delivering rich honeyed lemon and green apple notes with restrained oak and excellent acidity. Jamie suggested trying to save some of the Chardonnay to let it evolve in the glass, and this wine just got more complex and delicious throughout the evening.
Next we were surprised with an off-menu amuse bouche of grated foie gras, Granny Smith apple spheres compressed with citrus, brown butter raisin emulsion and microgreens. This rich but bright and flavorful starter was a terrific start to the meal.
Our first course was tagliatelle, miso, uni, bottarga, Belgian caviar and microgreens. The perfectly cooked pasta was a superb showcase for these diverse luxury ingredients that melded harmoniously into an umami-laden excellence. Buttermilk biscuits were also served with European-style butter and black lava salt.
The quality and freshness of Chef McCaskey’s seafood was celebrated in the second course, comprised of lobster butter-poached at 138.5 degrees, seared sea scallop, Himalayan rice, hon shemeiji mushrooms, and coconut foam topped with micro basil and cilantro. Rich tom kha bisque was then poured tableside around the stunning dish. Acadia’s lobster and shellfish dishes have been widely acclaimed, and during his food commentary Chef McCaskey explained that these proteins are prepared less than 24 hours after being harvested off the coast of Stonington, Maine.
Our third course was Elysian Fields lamb loin with celery root gratin, red grape sauce and winter vegetables garnished with micro celery. Chef McCaskey secured a softball-sized black truffle from Rod Markus of the Rare Tea Cellar, and generous amounts were grated over the top of this delightful dish. Next came our beautifully plated cheese course, which contained Taleggio, baguette crisps, tomato marmalade, dehydrated black olive, olive oil and bitter mustard greens.
An Old World and a New World red wine accompanied the lamb and cheese courses. The 1994 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley was perhaps the oenophilic highlight of the night. After twenty years, this wine was still youthful, exhibiting a nose of black fruits and a rich, full-bodied palate. A 1989 Chateau Lynch Bages Bordeaux from Pauillac was also memorable; this very dark and opulent wine exhibited complex notes of dark fruits, tobacco, cassis and coffee.
Acadia’s Pastry Chef Thomas Raquel, fresh off his victory at the 2013 Jean Banchet Awards for Rising Pastry Chef, prepared a delicious dessert focused on the “Textures of Chocolate.” This complex offering had chocolate chestnut crémeux piped on the plate, a quenelle of sorbet made with single-origin Venezuelan chocolate, bites of airy deflated chocolate soufflé and a chocolate-cashew croquant accompanied by burnt wild oranges, huckleberry preserves and toasted cashews.
A fortified Greek wine accompanied dessert. The 2006 Muscat “Anthemis,” produced by the Union of Winemaking Cooperatives on the Island of Samos, was a wonderfully rich offering that tasted of pineapple, peach and orange. And, in a bit of a twist, we also ended the evening with a beautiful dark beer, Chicago’s own Goose Island “Bourbon County” stout. Its flavors of roasted malts, chocolate, charred smoky wood and bourbon proved to be a brilliant choice with dessert.
To conclude, Chef Raquel created three spectacular mignardises, each one more delicious than the next: chocolate cocoa nib whoopie pie filled with malted ganache; caramelized white chocolate and freeze-dried strawberry bark with cocoa nib and fuilletine; and a s’more bite—a chocolate bon-bon filled with graham cracker praline rolled in toasted marshmallow.
As the evening drew to a close, Bailli Mon Roldan thanked the Acadia Team and presented framed Chaîne awards to Chef McCaskey, Chef Raquel and Jason Prah. Acadia lived up to its name, providing us with a serene sanctuary in the midst of another snowstorm. Chef McCaskey and the Acadia Team delivered a dazzling dinner simultaneously to six dozen people, a gastronomic achievement that the Chicago Chaîne will long remember.