Holiday Gala Dinner at The Four Seasons

with Chef Stephen Wambach & Maître de Table Hôtelier Jann Kaiser

Monday, December 15, 2014 –

Reception: 6:30 - 7:00 pm
Dinner: 7:00 – 10:30 pm

The Four Seasons, Chicago

120 East Delaware Place
Chicago, Illinois

Event Price: $285 per person, all inclusive
Dress Code: Black Tie, w/ Decorations for Members
Parking: Valet Parking Available


Fabulous Four Seasons Fête


On December 15, 2014, sixty-eight members and guests of the Chicago Chaîne celebrated the holidays at The Four Seasons Chicago with host Maître de Table Hotelier Jann Kaiser, Director of Food & Beverage. During the 2014-2015 season, the Chicago bailliage is exploring diverse ethnic cuisines and new styles of dining, but for this black-tie event, we returned to our culinary roots with Executive Chef Stephen Wambach, whose mentors include famed French Chefs Marc Meneau, Jean-Michel Lorain and Claude Troisgros. The Holiday Gala Dinner marked the zenith of our gastronomic year, successfully drawing upon our global organization’s hallmarks of elegance, tradition and the finest gastronomy.

The evening started with a convivial reception in the former Seasons Restaurant space, now a ballroom with spectacular city views. Servers passed an array of delectable hors d’oeuvres.  Cromesquis “Marc Meneau” had a liquid filling of foie gras, Perigord truffles, port and cream enveloped in classic breading, the single bite providing an extraordinary burst of luscious liquid. Other mouthwatering morsels included tuna crudo with yuzu and whole grain mustard; bay scallop and Perigord truffle ceviche with zesty apple, lime and celery; coffee-rubbed venison, spiced squash and pickled red pearl onion on toast; and “everything bagels,” a gougère-like bite covered in sesame, poppy, onion, garlic, caraway and salt, filled with vegetable cream cheese. Adding effervescence to this extraordinary welcome was a 1999 Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs from Côte des Blancs. This 100% Chardonnay sparkler offered notes of rich, ripe yellow fruits, flower petals and nuts, with a creamy texture that exemplified sophistication and finesse.

Following the reception and toast, the meal commenced with a seasonal amuse bouche: perfectly cooked shrimp on butternut squash with foie gras sauce and a touch of nut oil, showcasing a beautiful balance of flavors and interesting contrasts. Course one was paired with NV Krug Champagne Brut Grand Cuvée, a full-style blend served in Burgundy glasses to capture its unique flavors and aromas, the result of blending around 120 wines from ten or more different vintages, some of which may reach 15 years of age. The roasted quality of the Krug matched beautifully with this dish, and its expansive nose of bread pudding and brown spices was balanced with assertive citrus and fine minerality. The choice of glasses inspired a murmur of recognition from those who had attended the previous weekend’s Mondiale du Vin event, “Wine Workshop 102: The Glass Matters,” where attendees learned that Champagne is best appreciated in a “tulip” burgundy grand cru glass.

The next course was a raw, sliced Maine sea scallop ceviche, a vibrant dish that awoke the palate without being too filling. Green apple, coriander and lime balanced the silky scallop, and a razor-thin celery shaving provided freshness and textural contrast. 2011 Soliste St. Andelain Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County paired exquisitely with the seafood, its light, crisp body bursting with layers of tropical fruit and good minerality in a lovely balance of New World fruit and freshness with Old World elegance and finesse. The third course was foie gras “bread & butter” with winter flavors and black pepper brioche. The melt-in-your-mouth foie contrasted with the crunchy zing of black pepper brioche, which had three seasonal accompaniments: blood orange gelée, apples cooked in passion fruit and cranberry sauce. The foie warranted a sweet wine, and 1998 Weingut Max Ferdinand Richter Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese was an excellent selection, with its flavors of honey, orange peel and spices and a lush mouth feel.

Two “surf and turf” courses were served next. First, Chef Stephen elevated a rustic French veal crépinette (a small, flattened sausage wrapped in caul fat and roasted) by accompanying it with plump oysters and sweetbreads in a bowl of decadent black truffle cream sauce and pickled salsify to balance the richness. A terroir-driven 2009 Rhys “Family Farm Vineyard” San Mateo County Pinot Noir exhibited finesse over power, and its gentle floral nose and graceful red fruit enhanced the sophisticated dish. Second, guests enjoyed delicate John Dory that contrasted with dark lobster mousse and chicken skin in an intriguing veal-based red wine sauce, which provided nice acidity and depth of flavor. A red wine pairing was selected: 2004 d’Arenberg “The Dead Arm” Shiraz from McLaren Vale proved to be a surprisingly successful match, showcasing a complex bouquet of leather, spices and pepper and an intense, full-bodied mouth feel redolent of black and red fruit.

Our sixth and final savory offering was wagyu ribeye accompanied by a marrow fritter and huckleberry bordelaise. Creamed Brussels sprouts on top of bacon added richness, and porcini mushrooms helped set the stage for one of the night’s oenophilic highlights: 1994 Château la Mission Haut-Brion. This 20-year-old Bordeaux from the Pessac-Léognan appellation was all about elegance, exhibiting classic tobacco, herbs and earth notes around a core of dark fruit. What a treat!

NV Champagne Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Demi-Sec offered an intense nose of ripe fruit with hints of brioche and praline that perfectly complemented our first dessert, pear with caramel, bourbon and raisin. Our eighth and last course was chocolate tart with coffee, Marcona almond and yuzu that was paired with NV Rare Wine Co. (Vinhos Barbeito) Madeira Historic Series Boston Bual Special Reserve. This moderately sweet wine highlighted the dessert flavors with its own palate of fudge, citrus and nuts.

Vice-Conseiller Culinaire Christopher Koetke provided exceptional food commentary throughout the evening, and Vice-Échanson Manfred Raiser delivered wine observations that were both thorough and impassioned, clearly demonstrating the exceptional care given to the cellar selections. All agreed that the evening’s food and wine pairings worked harmoniously together in a balancing act that heightened our gastronomic experience.

Bailli Mon Roldan acknowledged and thanked the terrific Four Seasons team. Maître de Table Hotelier Jann Kaiser and his right-hand man, Griffin “Rocky” Lawler, did a spectacular job orchestrating the service, while Chef Stephen and Pastry Chef Scott Gerken presented outstanding food. This holiday gala was in the true tradition of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs worldwide—a celebration of our organization’s French roots with fine French cuisine in a holiday atmosphere filled with our Chapter’s friendship and conviviality. Vive la Chaîne!


As we prepare for the holiday season and reach the halfway point in the 2014-2015 Chaîne season, let’s reflect upon the experiences we’ve shared over the last several months.  This season we chose to expand our vision and experience not only new and emerging cuisine but also new styles of dining.  We visited an old friend in a newly designed space with our dinner at Boka.  We dined in smaller groups, on consecutive nights at a hot new spot, Fat Rice, trading in our polished silverware for wooden chopsticks and our black-tie for jeans. The planning for our November feast at Chicago’s newest two-Michelin-Star venue, 42 Grams, began last season with underground dining at Sous Rising.  We’ve ventured off the beaten path a bit but now return “home” for the annual holiday dinner at the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel.

Working with Chef Stephen Wambach and our good friend Maître de Table Hôtelier, Director of Food & Beverage Jann Kaiser, we have selected a menu we are sure will please. We begin the evening with our customary champagne reception, toasting the winter season, followed by a spectacular dinner of food and wine paired in the Chaîne tradition.  It will be an 8 course dinner of elegance and celebration!

No stranger to Chicago, Chef Wambach comes to the Four Seasons with more than a decade of experience at some of the best restaurants on the culinary scene.  He headed Epic in River North in 2010 when it was named one of the best new restaurants in Chicago.  Prior to Epic he was Chef de Cuisine at Marc Forgione, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City.  As a young professional, Chef apprenticed at the 3 Michelin-starred L’Esperance in Burgundy and spent time working in kitchens in Hong Kong and Beirut.  Chef’s food focus is farm to table with the emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients.  He carries all of the trademarks of a well-traveled Chef showing focus and style.  From our experience at the tasting, we are sure you will agree, he understands the level of excellence we have come to expect at our Chaîne Holiday events.

Capacity for this event is limited.  Please sign up early. 


Mon Roldan