Tuesday, February 21, 2017 –
Celebrating Thirty Years of Everest
On February 21, 2017, eighty-three Chaîne Chicago members and guests joined legendary Chef/Proprietor Jean Joho to commemorate a momentous milestone: the 30th anniversary of Everest restaurant, epicenter of the Windy City’s finest French cuisine. The evening celebrated Chef Joho’s roots in Alsace, the eastern-most region in France where he believes the connection between food and wine is most profoundly intertwined. Members were elated to experience this conviction through a wonderful seven-course degustation menu selected from three decades of Everest’s epicurean delights paired with superlative Alsatian wines from the Chaîne Chicago cellar and Everest’s internationally acclaimed wine list.
Confrères ascended to the Chicago Stock Exchange’s 40th floor, where the black-tie fête commenced in a private dining room offering magnificent skyline views. Polished servers poured a pure Pinot Noir sparkler, Charles Sparr Crémant d’Alsace Rosé Brut NV. Its creamy texture, bright acidity and strawberry notes paired nicely with diverse passed canapés: Les Préludes d’Alsace included crispy escargot beignets, pickled herring rillettes and a tasty terrine of suckling pig.
Next, members moved into the elegant, art-filled dining room for the main event. The first course was “presskopf” of lobster and crab in aspic with Pinot Gris-flavored green herb sauce. Chef Joho reinterpreted the classic Alsatian terrine by replacing the traditional pork with shellfish that had been cooked in fine wine before being pressed and molded in a time-consuming and complex process. The legendary minerality and freshness of Alsatian wines was showcased superbly in 2011 Charles Sparr “Brand” Pinot Gris Grand Cru, which exhibited lovely lemon notes that elevated this remarkable seafood course.
Dinner progressed on a surprising Italian trajectory. Chef Joho lived and worked in Italy for nearly a decade, and when The New York Times declared his risotto the best in the United States in the early 1980s, keeping some form of his beloved vintage carnaroli (the “king of Italian rices”) on the menu was inevitable. Tonight’s incarnation incorporated Alsatian Chardonnay, plentiful herbs and escargot into the incredibly lush, velvety risotto. 2012 Baumann Chardonnay from the Everest cellar—the only venue in the United States serving this wine—matched beautifully with this course. This wine was unquestionably deserving of “Grand Cru” status, but this varietal is not permitted in AOC Alsace wines, a regulation that is currently under review.
The next offering paid tribute to Chef Paul Haeberlin of the Michelin three-star Auberge de L’Ill where Chef Joho started his culinary career as a 13-year-old apprentice in the 1960s (as did distinguished French chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Hubert Keller). A fluffy coating of beaten egg whites flavored with pike and nutmeg covered a salmon fillet accompanied by a decadently rich Riesling cream sauce. Two renowned Alsatian Rieslings enhanced this classic dish. Hugel Jubilee “Schoenenbourg” Grand Cru 2007 was bright and citric, offering grapefruit and herbaceous flavors with pronounced acidity and minerality. Confrères also savored Trimbach’s immortal “Clos Sainte Hune.” Although not classified as Grand Cru, this holy-grail wine is widely considered one of the world’s greatest dry whites. The 2009 vintage exhibited citrus aromas with a complex, creamy palate of lemon grass and pine with hints of smoke and intense minerality that complemented the salmon soufflé splendidly.
Perhaps the most mythical dish in French cuisine followed. Lièvre à la Royale, adapted by Chef Joho from the table of Louis XIV, required hares to be deboned and stuffed and cooked for nearly a day before being sliced and smothered in a blood-thickened sauce. This supremely savory game dish was paired with a 2014 Alsatian Pinot Noir, René Muré “Clos Saint Landelin”. Although ninety percent of the wines produced in Alsace are white, climate change has elevated the quality of its Pinot Noir, and there is even talk about bestowing Grand Cru status on the best. This delightful offering revealed notes of black fruit and spices that paired exceptionally well with this classic of haute cuisine.
The next course was a selection of Alsatian Munster, presented in both its natural state and baked. This strong-tasting and soft French fromage was made mainly from milk derived from the Alsace town of Munster where it was traditionally conserved and matured in monks’ cellars. This course was matched with a rich, slightly sweet and fresh 2011 Grand Cru Gewürztraminer “Eichberg” from Philippe Zinck; its candied ginger and tangerine zest notes provided a fine foil for the cheese.
The meal concluded with spice cake soufflé topped with powdered sugar and crushed nuts accompanied by “Beerawecka” style liqueur-marinated dried fruits and aged plum ice cream. A wine of impressive complexity and concentration elevated the dessert’s festive flavors and diverse textures. The 2000 Domaine Bott-Geyl Pinot Gris “Sonnenglanz” Sélection de Grains Nobles Grand Cru, which received 98 points from Robert Parker, was created using individually harvested grapes (not bunches) dried out by Botrytis, resulting in a rich, sweet wine with Mirabelle plum notes that proved a perfect complement to the soufflé.
Throughout the evening, Chef Joho provided insightful commentary about the Franco-Germanic food and wine of his native Alsace. Chambellan Provincial/Bailli Mon Roldan and Conseiller Culinaire Provincial/Vice Conseiller Culinaire Christopher Koetke also provided excellent observations about the cuisine and wine pairings.
Following the gastronomic tour de force, Mon thanked the outstanding Everest team and awarded Chef Joho a handsomely framed commemorative Chaîne plate. To conclude the nostalgic evening, guests lit lotus flower candles on each table while Mon presented Chef Joho with an impressive 30th anniversary cake, custom-crafted by Pastry Chef Toni Marie Cox of Toni Patisserie, to share with his staff after members departed.
For three decades, Everest has stayed true to upscale French fine dining, combining expertly prepared and inspired cuisine, remarkable wines and precise, detail-driven service. Members were delighted to pay tribute to Chef Joho’s legacy and to experience the extraordinary symbiotic relationship between Alsatian food and wine.