Chicago Hilton - Holiday Dinner

Monday, December 12, 2011



by Ethel Gofen, Officier Dame de la Chaîne

One of the most fabulous Chicago Chaîne dinners in recent memory was the Holiday Dinner where tradition conspired with contemporary to create perfection at the Hilton Chicago. The hotel recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation project which transformed this exceptional property from its traditional luxury to modern glamour. The Imperial Suites, created for Queen Elizabeth of England, were opened for our reception, and it was hard to decide if the gorgeous array of foods, the luxurious furnishings, or the breathtaking views over Lake Michigan were more beautiful. A choice of Hangar One Vodka shots perched in an ice sculpture supplemented the Gaston Chiquet Brut Tradition N.V. Champagne and culinary cocktails, while three incredibly delicious foam-topped soups, blinis with assorted caviars, a raw seafood bar, New Zealand lamb loin and Magret duck breast could have been awarded by themselves a best dinner of the year title. Still, we tore ourselves away from all these culinary riches—-mere preliminaries—-and moved on to the dramatic Grand Ballroom for a procession of six stunning courses. Silver and crystal candelabra bedecked with red roses and abundant rose petals gleamed with holiday welcome.

Highlights of the dinner included sweet Maine lobster with truffled chardonnay sauce paired with Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2006 en Magnum and served together with the same Chablis from 2005 for a comparative tasting, lasting through the next course of tomato consommé with pearl turnips and fresh basil. The Ahi tuna course was matched with Domaine Bertagna Vougeot Premier Cru Le Cras 1995, after which a sweet and savory palate cleanser of cucumber sorbet with edible thyme blossoms, orange supremes and wild flower honey was served in illuminated ice sculptures with an azure hue that cleverly matched the adjustable lighting of the entire ballroom. As the background lighting in the ballroom shifted to red, the hearty veal osso bucco with saffron risotto, root vegetables, and crispy leeks arrived, paired with Gianni Gagliardo Barolo Preve 1995. Tiny spoons were provided for enjoying the delicious marrow.  For the artisanal cheese selection—- a blue cow’s milk cheese and also a goat’s milk cheese with almonds and dried fruits from Wisconsin and a sheep/cow’s milk Hudson Valley triple crème from New York—-Château Pichon-Lalande 1990 en Magnum was poured.

The finale of this beautiful evening took place in the Normandie Lounge where a spectacular display of sweets and digestifs, an open bar, and live music awaited us. Bailli Jane Tracy introduced Directeur Général John Wells, and we applauded Executive Chef Mario Garcia and the entire team who created this evening of elegant service and heavenly cuisine for us. Conseiller Gastronomique des Etats-Unis Honoraire Roger H. Tracy performed an induction ceremony to welcome Chef Garcia as Chef Rôtisseur into our Chicago Bailli. Jane then awarded a Chaîne de Rôtisseurs bronze star to Maître de Table Hôtelier Edward Chen, Director of Operations - Catering for the Hilton Chicago, for exceptional service to our Bailli over a period of twenty years culminating in this magical night.


The theme of this year’s festive Chicago Chapter Holiday Dinner will be to highlight and showcase the emergence of the Hilton Chicago as a new destination in the South Loop. Multi-million dollar renovations have taken place, and we are in for a wonderful treat as this property undergoes a metamorphosis in style from traditional to contemporary.

Maître Hôtelier John Wells and Maître de Table Hôtelier/Commandeur Ed Chen – both long time Chicago Chaîne members – will host and pamper us from the time we set foot in the Great Hall or the Porte Cochere entrances, right up until we sink back into our car seats at the end of the eve.

As Chaîne members arrive, recognizable by our decorations, a welcoming glass of Champagne will be immediately given to us as we are guided to the brand new restaurant “720 South” followed by a brief tour.
The reception will take place in both the exclusive and newly modernized North and South Imperial Suites atop the landmark hotel. Traditional and contemporary hors d’oeuvres from live cooking stations will be served to us complete with a full platinum bar, culinary cocktails and Champagne.

Dinner itself will take place in the historic and most beautiful Grand Ballroom. Its décor will also reflect the theme of moving beyond tradition into contemporary. Executive Chef Mario Garcia has planned a festive culinary experience, alongside our pairings and cellar wines. Chef Garcia’s philosophy is one of seasonality, using the freshest of ingredients from sustainable farms and local artisans. Dessert will be in the Normandie lounge where we can relax and enjoy ‘les douceurs’, music and after dinner drinks. A convivial atmosphere between members and friends is planned.