Monday, December 15, 2008Maitre Hotelier Edward H. Andrewsr*, Maitre de Table Hotelier Andrew Garjary* Executive Chef Rotisseur Hans Lentz*, Maitre de Table Hotelier Tamas Vago*
Winter Preservation Techniques Inspire a Holiday Feast
Throughout history, people have found ingenious ways to keep the ample foods of the harvest preserved for nourishment during the cold winter months. Creative chefs enhance these techniques for maximum flavor and even drama, as Executive Chef Hans Lentz so brilliantly demonstrated at a gala December 15 dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel. Each course featured a different technique of food preservation—-smoked, confit, pickled, cured, preserved, canned, distilled, frozen, sous-vide, marinated., and more. The “King Arthur’s Court” salon with its handsome stained glass, subtle candlelight, and tables aglow with dazzling glass pillar centerpieces filled with orchids, lilies, and whole fruits and topped with floating candles made a glorious setting for this holiday feast.
Hors d’oeuvres utilized smoked ingredients—-carnitas on rosti, soy-marinated smoked salmon, and a smoked-tomato cheesecake—-accompanied by Champagne, Gosset “Excellence” Brut NV,from the oldest champagne house in the world. Maître Hôtelier Edward H. Andrews III, General Manager of the Intercontinental Hotel, proposed a toast to us guests, to his team providing this lovely dinner, and to the joys of the holiday season. “Remember that recessions don’t last very long,” he purred. The first course showcased pickled and confit ingredients: white mackerel, baby carrot and turnip, a garlic pudding and a miso-cured egg yolk. These sharp, vinegary flavors were matched with Torrontés, Deneza Salta Argentina 2006. Next, a rich chestnut velouté with chestnut flan, pumpkin oil, and roasted chestnut illustrated cured food as its delicious Kurobuta pork belly had been cured in-house with salt and sugar. The Chardonnay, Walter Hansel Winery “Cahill Lane Vineyard” 2006 matched well with the richness of the chestnut and pork belly.
Foie Gras Royale utilized Hungarian goose liver to showcase canning and preserving methods, with saffron apple chutney and a duck confit wonton as succulent flavor accents. The Tokaji, Chậteau Henye “Prince Tamas” Aszű 5 Puttonyos 2000 was just sweet enough to set off the foie gras to perfection. Happily, as Director of Food and Beverage for the Intercontinental Hotel, he provided truly insightful food commentary, while Vice-Échanson/Caviste Simeon Y. Roldan discussed the wines.
A real intermezzo followed as everyone moved to another room for a tasting of root-inspired sorbets based on carrot purée, parsley purée and beet purée. Water rather than wine accompanied this example of distilled and frozen dishes. Turbot sous-vide was presented in its vacuum seal and opened by the servers. Deliciously aromatic, it was matched with Puligny-Montrachet, Louis Latour “Les Folatières 1er Cru 2001. To illustrate marinating, venison noisettes bathed in red wine were matched with two stellar wines from our cellar, both opened in the early afternoon, decanted and returned to their bottles:
Château Latour Pauillac 1988 and Échézeaux Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1990. We thus doubled our pleasure as we finished the seated portion of the grand dinner and moved on to dessert stations on stairwells and in the Hall of Lions. A massive croquembouche crowned the décor here as we enjoyed gingerbread pudding with eggnog, croquembouche, Christmas stollen, and a fabulous variety of crêpes and soufflés—-a perfect dream of a holiday dessert buffet. The digestifs offered with these sweets ranged from Port, Barao de Villar Colheita 1963 to Tequila, Cuervo “Reserva de la Familia” as well as sauternes, cognacs, and rum. I’m certain we were now as well-preserved as all the cured and pickled and marinated dishes we had so thoroughly enjoyed.
Maître Hôtelier Edward Andrews III introduced his team, whose platings and service had been spectacular, and Bailli de Chicago Jane Tracy presented Executive Chef Hans Lentz with a Chaîne plaque and decanter. Director of Catering Mark Rottman and Director of Food and Beverage Maître de Table Hôtelier Tamas Vago also received plaques. Finally, Jane wished happy holidays with their families to all the staff as we applauded their splendid gala dinner.