Monday, November 22, 2004Sofitel Water Tower,Westin Michigan Avenue, The Peninsula, The Four Seasons Chicago and the Hyatt Regency Chicago
Chicago’s Grand Kitchen Tour – A Night of Bubbles
On 22nd November five of Chicago’s leading hotels welcomed the Chicago Chapter into hallowed territory in the heart of their kitchens. Seven Champagnes had been selected to accompany each of the culinary repertoires the first of which, a Drappier Brut Carte d’Or NV, popped its cork on the hotel-bound bus.
The banquet kitchen of the Chicago Hilton & Towers welcomed us for a superb selection of hot and cold hors d’oeuvres that included Seafood Mojito, fresh duck liver profiteroles, oysters, pan seared foie gras as well as veal medallions flambéed in Navan Vanilla Cognac. Vice-Conseiller Culinaire Hon. /Executive Chef Thierry Meissonnier and Chef Stephen Henry knew how to start the party particularly with forty turkeys hanging in wait for Thanksgiving. One could not overlook the co-incidence either, that both the Drappier Champagne of bus fame and the Arlaux Pere & Fils Brut both flirted with the notion that with or without food, they were able to dart across the palate like capricious butterflies.
The second bastion of Chicago hospitality was the Westin Michigan Avenue. Here we got a glimpse of what it takes to effectively organize and produce thousands of platefuls of food. We were greeted with enthusiastic energy by Executive Chef Patrick Howard who explained how the flight of three foie gras was prepared. One of them, en torchon, had been marinated for 24 hours and poached in Gewürztraminer. The Mumm “Joyesse” Demi-Sec NV worked perfectly with all three preparations. Executive Sous Chef Pete Peterossi animatedly answered all questions and allowed us to inquisitively explore the nooks and crannies of his terrain where we found a notice as follows: “Please save any mushroom scraps, pieces, odds and ends for stock. Give everything to Joe!”
The Peninsula Chicago’s Food and Beverage Director, Maitre de Table Hotelier Jonathan Crook welcomed us into the muted tones and atmosphere of this leading international hotel. Hugh stockpots of fumée and court-bouillon bubbled away, their distinct aromas winding their way around the kitchen as we were given a tour and explanation of the hotel’s scope of catering. Sitting up at the kitchen bar in “Avenues”, Chef Rôtisseur Terry Crandall, Peninsula Chicago’s Executive Chef, and “Avenues “ amazing new Chef of ten weeks – Graham Elliot Bowles – prepared live sea scallops with vanilla braised endive along with John Dory that had been perched upon a polenta cake with capers, raisin chutney and brown butter. The Drappier Champagne Cuvée Charles de Gaulle 1992 maximized our pleasure.
Things did not stop here – this culinary throng then headed out the door and onto the bus down Michigan Avenue to the Four Seasons Hotel. Tall stainless steel tables, dressed with place settings or draped fabric to the ground tied with a bow ‘around its waist’, flowers and glasses, beguiled us into Executive Chef/Chef Rôtisseur Robert Sulatycky’s gastronomic haven. Chef’s pride was palpable as the tender roasted loin of antelope with chanterelles and truffle jus wafted in front of our noses and devouring eyes. “Chef Robert” spoke to us about The Meat, epitomizing the modern celebrity chef whose work has attained long-term value and influence.
The Sweet Ending took place at 10 pm sharp – as planned – at the Hyatt Regency Chicago Pastry Shop. We could not have wished for a more dramatic ending . Pastry Chef Alain Roby had taken part in a two-hour special on the Food Network called EXTREME PASTRIES. Carved, solid chocolate sculptures 5ft. tall that Chef Roby had created during the televised show were available to us as part of our tour, each one announcing a dessert station. A sitting Gorilla Jane offered up tropical fruits; Santa proffered Christmas Pudding; the Astronaut, recently landed on the moon and complete with Old Glory, served up weightless blueberry cobblers and fools and the Iguana Dinosaur made sure that we went home with our ration of chocolate mousse and timbales – all this aided by a Drappier Brut Rose “Val de Demoiselles” NV and a H. Billot Brut Rose. What a night!