Tuesday, May 20, 2014 –
Savoring Synergy at Les Nomades
Under the leadership of Bailli de Chicago Mon Roldan and Bailli de Lake Shore Bruce Foudree, Chicago’s two local Chaîne Bailliages held their first Joint Celebratory Dinner at Les Nomades on May 20, 2014. Eighty members and guests from both Chapters agreed this extraordinary celebration of friendship, harmony and pleasures of the table was a highlight of the season.
The evening was so successful because of synergy—working together to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Proprietor Mary Beth Liccioni and Cuisinier Roland Liccioni know about synergy. They forged both a personal and professional partnership in the late 1980s at Carlos’ in Highland Park before acquiring Jean Banchet’s Le Francais, which was recognized as the best restaurant in the United States under their joint direction. Chef Roland worked at Les Nomades (which Mary Beth purchased in 1993) from 1999 to 2004 and returned in December 2011. They are no longer married, but with Mary Beth graciously operating the front of the house and Chef Roland in the kitchen, dining at Les Nomades has risen to new heights.
The objective of pairing wine with food is to create an experience greater than the sum of its components—synergy again. Working with Chefs Roland and Mary Beth, food and wine gurus from both Chapters carefully selected wines to complement the French cuisine, which has hints of the Chef’s Asian roots and incorporates high-quality, seasonal ingredients. Like the two Chicago Bailliages, the evening’s food and wine pairings worked harmoniously together in a balancing act that heightened our gastronomic experience.
The celebration began on the first floor of the two-story, turn-of-the century townhouse. While attendees admired Les Nomades’ stunning, flower-filled Art Deco interiors, servers poured refreshingly elegant NV Duval-Leroy Champagne Brut Rosé, a 90%-10% blend Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This liquid sunshine showcased beautifully balanced flavors of white strawberry, dried cherry, rose petals and fine minerals and delivered a crisp finish.
Ending the reception was no easy task, as everyone was engaged in lively conversation, but ultimately diners were persuaded to take their places on their respective floors. It is always a challenge when dining at Les Nomades to decide which floor is prettier, the downstairs or the upstairs. Happily, for this evening the Chaîne occupied the entire restaurant and there were no difficult decisions to make in that regard.
The Baillis formally welcomed attendees, toasts were offered, and dinner service promptly commenced with plates of single bite delights—sweet fresh oysters on the half shell lightly dressed in mignonette sauce; cylindrical cucumber cups filled with a lightly dressed, chilled crabmeat salad; warm artichoke soup “shooters”; crisp croquettes of salmon topped with caviar; and bread rounds topped with house-made pork paté and a flower blossom. This quintet of hors d’oeuvres was accompanied by additional Champagne, its mouth-watering acidity working dual purposes: to complement the clean flavors of the oyster and crabmeat salad and to contrast with the creamy elements of the soup, croquette and paté.
The comforting first course was mitonnée of pork with celery root espuma. The slow-cooked meat was baked into a satiny, savory flan (reminiscent of Japanese chawanmushi) and finished with a crisp pop of celeriac foam. The chosen 2012 Michel Gassier Costières-de-Nîmes Lou Coucardie Blanc was a layered, full-bodied white Rhône, reminiscent of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, made of 59% Roussanne and 41% Viognier. This spectacular wine boasted ripe fruit flavors with aromas of pear, peach, honey and hazelnut. Notwithstanding its dense body, the wine did not overwhelm the delicate creaminess of the flan; rather, it enhanced the course’s delicate complexity.
Next, lobster ravioli with white asparagus sourced from southern France paid homage to spring. A thin layer of pasta enveloped sweet, melt-in-your-mouth lobster accompanied by a generous portion of decadent cream sauce. The tender caramelized asparagus spears were uplifted with crunchy raw micro-radishes from the Chef’s own garden—a beautifully balanced tug-of-war between sweet and bitter. Magnums of 2010 Domaine Barat Chablis, Premier Cru Les Fourneaux were poured with this course. Produced by a family that has been growing grapes for five generations, this classic Chablis offered oyster shell, saline minerality; flinty, steely acidity; and flavors of green apple and pear with a highly pleasing finish that cut through the rich seafood sauce.
Our next course further explored harmonizing cooked and raw components: sushi-grade seared tuna escabeche was served with delicate tuna tartare on crouton. The lush, smoky notes of 2009 Vincent Girardin Savigny-les-Beaune Vieilles Vignes enhanced the nuanced grilled fish flavors. Although young, this approachable wine had soft, well-integrated tannins and smooth ripe fruit that delightfully harmonized with this dish.
Next a surprising intermezzo was offered. Instead of traditional cold sorbet, Chef Roland presented warm, silky mussel cappuccino that performed more as a palate re-energizer than a palate cleanser. Appearing like a traditional cappuccino, a plump mussel floated in an herb-cream broth seasoned with diced carrots and finished with delicate mussel-broth foam. This dish packed tremendous flavor without being too rich, leaving diners hungry for more and heightening anticipation for the next course.
The evening’s superstar pairing was grilled wagyu rib-eye and 1989 Château Gruaud-Larose. The seared beef was bursting with flavor, its fat melting like butter and coating the palate with velvety richness. Topped with deep-fried ramps for textural contrast, the rib-eye was further lavished with viscous red-wine-garlic sauce reduced lovingly over three days. The robust intensity of the beef matched exquisitely with the subtle, unfolding complexity of this fully evolved Second Growth Bordeaux from St. Julien. Its color was clear ruby red with orange brick rim; the nose exhibited aromas of tapenade, dried herbs, leather, damp earth, meaty fruits and tobacco; the palate was medium-bodied with complex dark fruit flavors, hints of herbs, truffles, dried meat, and soft tannins; and the polished finish had a kiss of sweetness. The synergy of this food and wine pairing created a sublime experience truly greater than the sum of its parts.
The dessert—date pudding cake, passion fruit ganache, fresh mango and coconut-lime sorbet—balanced sweet and sour. The light, tangy coconut lime sorbet contrasted with the sweet pudding cake (similar to an Italian budino), passion fruit ganache and fresh mango. A superb 2005 Kanu Noble Lake Harvest from Stellenbosch complemented the final course. This botrytized blend of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc exhibited myriad flavor layers, captivating ripe tropical fruit aromas with a long, lingering finish.
Finally, Mary Beth—who has been ranked among the top-ten pastry chefs by Chocolatier magazine—presented her signature mignardises, including her famous “fruit bomb,” macarons, madeleines and delightful morsels of creamy, rich chocolate.
Commentary for the evening drew on the best that the two Chapters had to offer. Vice-Conseiller Culinaire de Chicago Christopher Koetke (who was Executive Chef at Les Nomades from 1992-1997) provided exceptional food commentary, offering special insights into the technical mastery taking place in the kitchen, and Vice-Échanson de Lake Shore Manfred Raiser provided wine observations that were both thorough and emotive, clearly demonstrating the tremendous thought and care given to the cellar selections and pairings.
Following dinner, the Baillis recognized the Liccionis with L’Académie Brillat-Savarin Medals, named after the world-famous French epicure and gastronome who wrote extensively about the pleasures of the table. L’Académie is both a discrete organization and part of the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs that is committed to encouraging understanding of foods and promoting excellence among its food industry professionals. Chefs Mary Beth and Roland will surely be magnificent representatives, as they never fail to deliver on one of Brillat-Savarin’s hospitality standards: “To receive guests is to take charge of their happiness during the entire time they are under your roof.” This evening was certainly no exception.
Mark Twain said, “Synergy is the bonus that is achieved when things work together harmoniously.” At Les Nomades, members and guests experienced the synergistic benefits of dining with a seasoned restaurant team, being served beautifully balanced food and wine pairings, and bringing two Bailliages together with newfound mutual understanding and respect. The event reflected the two Baillis’ determination to continue strengthening the bonds between the Chicago and Lake Shore Chapters and together showcase the many talents that their members bring to the Chaîne. Vive La Chaîne!
Cher Confrères and Consœurs,
In the spirit of La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the Baillis of Chicago and Lake Shore Chapters have joined hands to organize an evening of dining which should prove to be one of the top gastronomic experiences of this season. What better way to celebrate friendship and harmony than being tucked into a beautiful turn of the century townhouse, enjoying the pleasures of the table and the vineyards with fellow members. Please join us for a wine dinner extraordinaire –
JOINT CELEBRATORY DINNER (FOR FRIENDSHIP, HARMONY & PLEASURES OF THE TABLE) AT LES NOMADES WITH CHEF ROLAND LICCIONI & OWNER MARY BETH LICCIONI
222 E. ONTARIO STREET
CHICAGO, IL 60611
TUESDAY, 20 MAY 2014
Here’s a trinity that needs no introduction to our group: one award-winning Chef, one highly acclaimed owner and one beautiful restaurant. Owner Mary Beth Liccioni is closing the entire restaurant to host this Joint Celebratory Dinner. Chef Roland Liccioni has crafted a magnificent menu of five canapés followed by a six-course dinner that showcases his culinary style of classic French with an Asian accent. Wine gurus of both Chapters have carefully selected wines to compliment each course offering.
For this special evening we will once again depart from our customary “standing cocktail reception with passed hors d’oeuvres.” Upon arrival, guests will be offered Champagne only. The canapés will be individually plated for each guest and served with Champagne tableside, once guests are seated. Dinner service will begin promptly at 7:00PM. Please be prompt so as not to miss your course and disrupt service.
We urge everyone to sign-up promptly. We expect a large turnout and seating is limited. First come, first served.