Four Seasons Hotel

Monday, April 23, 2001

Mark Baker / S Kaplan*(Dinner & Wines) / Hans Williman* / Peter Simoncelli*



by Jane Tracy Vice-Chargée de Presse

A Succession of Trios and an astounding 106 years worth of fine wine formed the composition of the menu for the Chicago Bailliage’s Gala Wine Dinner at Four Seasons Hotel. Brandishing a triumphant menu with its symbolic Chaîne logo front and center, Chevalier Stephen Kaplan led raucous praise for Executive Chef Mark Baker, for the accomplishment and stunning execution of our April dinner. A vivacious array of trios, styled and invented with panache and a certain flamboyance had been the theme, accentuating the international nature of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. The main component of each course had been treated three different ways influenced by different cuisines, encouraging flow, balance and comparison not to mention 240 separate pieces served at each course. Chevalier Stephen Kaplan - partner in wine - had worked one-on-one with Mark Baker to build a menu showcasing a harmonious liaison between food flavors and nuances ensuring complete enhancement and balance of wines chosen. These wines came from Stephen’s own cellar which, in turn, allowed us the privilege of tasting seven wines from his private collection spanning three decades from 1975 to 1990, no wine being younger than 10 years old.

We welcomed as our distinguished guests for this spectacular evening Bailli Provincial Pete Hanowich, Houston Bailli Mark Bermann and Officier Mary Helen Bermann, Vice-Conseiller Culinaire Edward Pavelek and Dame Dolores Pavelek also from the Houston Chapter. Chevalier George Sape flew in from the New York Bailliage especially for the occasion. The Diplomatic Corps graced us and we were delighted to share the evening with The Honorable Jean-René Gehan and Madame Sophie Gehan - Consul General of France and his wife as well as national and regional executives from Four Seasons Hotels.

In the State Foyer Champagne Pol Roger Brut flowed and was enjoyed in conjunction with the presentation of an array of light vegetable hors d’oeuvres. “Good Things Come In Threes” provided an appropriate phrase for us all and this unique dinner opened in the handsome State Room with a Toast made by Houston Bailli Mark Bermann.

Vice Charge de Missions Honoraire Hans Willimann, General Manager of the Four Seasons, and his highly professional staffs had orchestrated an event of high culinary excellence illustrating discreet and precise service associated with this tightly run ship. Elegantly set tables of eight were inviting and Mark Baker’s developed sense of art led us down an adventurous path.

The first course was a trio of Foie Gras de Canard from Sonoma, Hudson Valley and Quebec each sample languishing in its shallow bed of fruits and sauces. They were paired with a 1975 Chateau Coutet; this 26-year-old first growth evoked a mild apricot/floral nose and possessed honest concentration. A sturdy Chateau Laville Haut-Brion 1990 accompanied the Trio of Sea Bass their provenance being Chile, Atlantic Wild Striped and New Zealand Blue - their flesh ranging from lucid to dense, each having its own sauce or broth. There was good acidity in this straw-colored wine, and we could identify a honey-melon-fig combination providing a long finish.

A copious Trio Intéressant provided an avant garde approach to serving veal cheek, ham hock and sweetbreads, each variation using a potato gnocchi, flavored with a wide array of herbs and sauces. Pairing a Chateau de Beaucastel 1988 Chateauneuf du Pape with this proved itself to be charming and accessible with good structure and ripe fruit. Both food and wine commentaries were delivered throughout the dinner by Chevalier Stephen Kaplan.

Simple spring vegetables and cabbage confit carried the Trio of Beef dish - Black Angus, Limousin and Georgetown Farm Bison. A match made in St. Julien, of course, brought to the Reidel glassware a dark powerful and rich Chateau Gruaud-Larose 1988 en magnum. This dinner was definitely a tasting exercise and it superceded eating and drinking per se. To have a 1988 Rhone followed by a 1988 Bordeaux was, to say the least, a subject of conversation. A Trio of Spanish cheeses with white truffle honey drizzled over the top enabled us to continue with the 25 year old Beaune “Les Marconnets” 1976 which held up extremely well.

Whilst awaiting the dessert course Bailli Roger Tracy commanded the attention of the room and invited Bailli Provincial Pete Hanowich to perform two surprise and unique elevations. Chaîne ribbons of Officier were bestowed upon Chevalier Stephen Kaplan for his outstanding work and contribution to the Chicago Chapter, and Chef Rôtisseur Commandeur Leo Waldmeier for stalwart support and contribution over many years. Leo’s legacy included mounting sixteen culinary dinners as Executive Chef of The Drake Hotel, the majority of which were grandiose Induction Dinners including our January 2000 Millennium Dinner. Ebullient support reverberated around the elegant State Room. This was capped off by TWO trios of desserts elaborately making the point.