Monday, January 21, 2002
Induction Dinner at The Drake, Chicago
Shifts and changes in the way of culinary fads and trends do set the way for things to come. The January 2002 Induction Dinner at The Drake, however, remained neat and ordered in this time of uncertainty, opening the Chicago Chapter’s New Year calendar. Bailli Provincial Pete Hanowich came to do the honors and new members, transferees, promotions, elevations and awards took center stage. We might be forgiven, therefore, for supposing that - according to tradition - canapés and Champagne Laurent Perrier Brut NV en Jéroboam would be served in the Palm Court following the ceremony. They were.
It was no co-incidence either that the famous columns in the glittering Gold Coast Room appeared to complement the ivory-colored table linens patterned with a gold Regency motif. They did. Add hundreds of candles and the whole place shimmered. Liveried, white-gloved staff displayed their traditional professionalism and ninety-six diners were served without missing a beat.
Vice-Conseiller Culinaire Heinz Kern welcomed all new members with a Toast and the dinner opened with a Portuguese “Sushi” coupled with a wood-aged, slightly herbaceous Sancerre. This seven-course Induction Dinner continued steadily with a gratifying Frog Leg Soup. Officier Chef Rôtisseur/Commandeur Leo Waldmeier was about to unlock a secret path toward ideal transitions and artistic goals. Chilean sea bass upon a “reef” of melted leeks and lentils surrounded by the magenta beurre rouge, lent stark contrast to this delicately prepared fish, and the Domaine de La Voûte des Crozes, Côte de Brouilly 1999 kept the effect light and fruity. Farm-raised squab was the next striking composition - gamey, tender and rosy. The port wine reduction brought harmony to the dish, with the leg confit contrasting well. This chef knew the glory of vegetables as each course so far had included a broad spectrum of them. During his insightful wine commentary, Chevalier/Commandeur Pete Stiles noted that the Domaine Raspail Ay Gigondas 1999 had proved be an excellent foil for this game course.
The main dish of lamb loin was served surrounded by a thin layer of forcemeat, garnished with fennel and haricots. A Château Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 1981 was an impeccable match and we savored in silence its black fruit nose redolent of ripe berries. This wine’s aristocratic heritage blended and literally disappeared into the compelling flavors on the plate. The dinner meandered through to a delectable sweetness at the end with an open pear tart, a pineapple chutney made with ginger and dark rum and a honey/lemon poppy seed ice cream. Chef Waldmeier, visiting Sous Chefs, managerial and wait staff were introduced, followed by vigorous accolades that resounded around the hallowed columns of the Gold Coast Room.
Nicole Chanrion, Propriétaire