Holiday Gala Dinner at The Racquet Club of Chicago

with Executive Chef Chris Brand

Saturday, December 10, 2016 –


Holiday Fête at The Racquet Club of Chicago

By Todd Arkebauer, Vice-Chargé De Presse / Photos by Lorenzo Tassone

As snow turned the Gold Coast into a winter wonderland on December 10, seventy Chaîne Chicago members returned to The Racquet Club of Chicago for the Bailliage’s annual Holiday Gala Dinner. The black-tie affair marked the successful finale to our 50th anniversary year, drawing upon our global organization’s hallmarks of elegance, tradition and the finest gastronomy.

Confrères ascended the staircase of the exquisitely decorated classical revival building to the grand ballroom complete with toasty fireplace and live piano music. A team of servers made certain that flutes were filled with R.H. Coutier Brut Rosé Grand Cru Champagne, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with notes of red berries, mint, white flowers and wheat toast. Two delicious hors d’oeuvres were also passed: velvety pear and chestnut soup, served warm in demitasse cups, provided a comforting commencement to the festive evening, and airy profiteroles were filled with luxurious lobster salad.

Members then moved into the main dining room that was adorned with seasonal evergreen garland and thousands of tiny white lights. The first course offered by Executive Chef Chris Brand, who has helmed the RCC kitchen for nearly three decades, was seared coriander and fennel crusted Pacific corvina. The mild, flaky white fish was topped with Latin-style yellow pepper and almond sofrito, drizzled with chili oil, and accompanied by charred lettuce to provide textural contrast. This dish paired delightfully with 2009 L’Angevin Chardonnay, which revealed ripe citrus, toasted hazelnuts and spice characteristics with classic Russian River acidity.

Our second course was Chef Brand’s brilliant take on the classic coq au vin. The incredibly flavorful quail au vin was bathed in a rich red Burgundy wine sauce. The fowl, raised on an all-natural diet at Diamond H Ranch in Bandera, Texas, was stuffed with bread, mushrooms, bacon, garlic, mirepoix and herbs. With this dish, confrères had the opportunity to compare New and Old World red wines that were served side by side. The 1996 Burgess Cellars Merlot from Napa Valley was dark ruby red with flavors of red fruit, chocolate and baking spices, and the well-aged 1990 Château Bahans Haut-Brion, from the Pessac-Léognan appellation, exhibited a bouquet and palate of tobacco, leather and dark fruit with marvelous minerality and superb balance.

Chef Brand’s third offering was lean tournedos of antelope from Broken Arrow Ranch in South Texas. Nilgai antelopes, the largest species in Asia, were introduced into Texas in the 1920s and are truly wild and free-roaming on this enormous property. The venison was plated with huckleberries, a decadent cèpe mushroom gratin and Kabocha—a Japanese winter squash. An elegant and refined 2007 Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve from Domaine Serene in Oregon’s Willamette Valley showcased a lovely cherry and red berry core with earth notes and lively acidity that elevated this delectable game dish.

Fourth was an assiette of Roelli Red Rock cheddar cheese and accouterments. This naturally rinded cheddar had slight blue veining, mild flavor and a creamy texture. The cheese was paired with Lustau Solera Reserva ‘Don Nuño’ Jerez Dry Oloroso Sherry. The intense notes of caramel, almonds and spices in this fortified wine magically melted into the cheese, creating a longer, nuttier caramel finish that softened the cheese’s high-acidity.

Our dessert course was a luscious fig tart and honey lavender ice cream that was enhanced by a world-class Canadian ice wine from Inniskillin made with Vidal grapes harvested from Niagara Peninsula in 2006. The holiday dinner concluded with coffee, tea and mignardises before confrères returned to the grand ballroom for post-dinner mingling and an impressive selection of digestifs.

Bailli Mon Roldan acknowledged and thanked Chef Brand, Director of Member Services Luis Serrano, Director of Catering Melissa Zorio and the excellent RCC team for the memorable evening of fine food, wine and hospitality. 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!