Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Executive Chef Hans Lentz and Executive Sous Chef (Paris InterContinental)
Vibrant Culinary Risks and Drama at Hotel InterContinental Chicago
The Chicago Chapter celebrated the Holiday season with a festive dinner at the InterContinental Chicago during Christmas week. General Manager Christopher Mander welcomed us to this magnificently restored 1920’s building and dramatized the holiday season with a broad spectrum of visually bold, brightly colored and culturally diverse dishes. This was not your classic holiday dinner but rather reflective of the extensive experience of Executive Chef Hans Lentz and his staff. Dishes were carefully chosen from many cuisines, all of which harmoniously took us through a sophisticated, cosmopolitan journey. Each course stood on its own and stimulated the senses; taste, smell, sight, and touch. The anthology of dishes with their international flair was balanced by the classicism of the new Executive Sous Chef Michel Buard recently arriving from Le Grand Hotel in Paris.
Guests entered the tall-ceilinged foyer of the hotel, up the curved and red-carpeted staircase into The Living Room for our Champagne reception. The energy level was high and full of expectation as we sipped Drappier Blanc de Blanc and savored many creative and delicious hors d’oeuvres.
Medieval King Arthur Court was the venue for the eight course feast. This dinner from other lands and cultures retained the purity and sense of each cuisine and also introduced a contemporary sensibility to the experience. Three very different Champagnes were paired unifying the diverse series of ingredients and added to the evening’s festivity.
Contrary to our usual practice of commenting following the courses, Vice-Conseiller Culinaire David Danielson and Vice-Echanson/Caviste Mon Roldan provided full descriptions before the dishes were served so that we might more fully appreciate the nuances of the Chefs’ intentions. As an example, the flaming charcoal which accompanied the pinewood smoked salmon was not there to be eaten or touched, but rather to provide a dramatic sense of its Norwegian origins, its accompaniment being an Aalborg Akvavit. Fire and Ice! Illustrating the harmonious melding of international cuisines, the main course of slow roasted Ouzi-style veal shanks brought us the classic main course that is traditionally served at royal weddings in the Middle East. The two very different wines accompanying this course allowed us to experience and discuss the merits of each. An exceptional 1988 Chateau Pichon-Baron brought a classical French aspect to the cheese course.
Champagne closed the formal dinner and was a perfect ending for the elaborate dessert buffet. The simple wisdom of good culinary choices, the bliss of discovering the intended flavor on the palate contemplating the wine’s inpact, means we are a thinking group. Our thanks were extended to Maitre Hotelier Chris Mander who introduced key staff: Pascal Forotti, Hotel Manager, Chef Rôtisseur Hans Lentz, Executive Sous Chef Michael Buard, Food and Beverage Director Tamas Vago and Director of Catering Ken Severin and their considerable staffs.