Monday, January 15, 2007
V-C Culinaire David Danielson* Executive Chef Calihan Catering
Champagne the Great!
“Let’s toast and unite in paying homage to the king of all wines!” So sings Count Orlofsky in Johann Strauss’ opera Die Fledermaus, serendipitously playing the week of our dinner, a fitting sentiment for the Chicago Chapter’s dinner January 15, 2007, which was held in the Chicago Civic Opera House. The Opera house, home of the Lyric Opera, is a grand, elegant landmarked Art Nouveau / Art Deco building, completed in 1929. It was a grandiose affair and an appropriate way to start the 2007 series of dinners and a first in the Chapter’s history.
We gathered for a Champagne Reception in the William B. and Catherine Graham Room on the mezzanine floor – an exclusive endroit in Chicago’s cultural circles and welcomed Mrs. Catherine Graham as our guest of honor as well as distinguished members of the Lyric Board. Such delights as frog leg ravioli with roasted garlic foam, oyster roasted in its shell and adorned with a 20 year old balsamic vinegar were part of a collection of enticing pre-dinner canapés.
The sight from the mezzanine of our tables below in the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Grand Foyer was truly breathtaking. Ten tables, with turquoise, satin linens, stood in the middle of this majestic room: 40-foot tall columns, topped with gold leaf-covered carved capitals, shimmering Austrian crystal chandeliers, elaborately stenciled ceilings, and gilt cornices oversaw us as we dined in this prestigious lieu. Calihan Catering owner Maitre de Table Traiteur Edward John Calihan III and our own Vice-Conseiller Culinaire provided a fabulous evening, matching the magnificent setting.
Chef David’s use of seasonal ingredients throughout the menu was evident and his epicurean passion shone through. Vice Echanson “Mon” Roldan had successfully paired each and every course highlighting the prominent flavors and accents of each dish. Touches of sweetness and color were provided by pomegranate molasses, saba vinegar, pomegranate seeds, and dots of the chive oil that surrounded the roasted squab breast wrapped in Savoy cabbage. The Lobster Bay Pinot Noir - Burgundian in style, but without the earthiness - was a foil to the gaminess of the squab, probing and highlighting the fruits in the terrine.
Rack of elk was served on this wintry night. It had been first gently smoked over cherry wood with rosemary, then roasted with cippolini onions. Quenelle-shaped chestnut purée and Brussel sprout leaves completed the dish. The 1990 Pomerol revealed a firm Bordeaux, yet soft with hints of creaminess enhancing the earthiness of the chestnuts and the sweet and sour of the huckleberries.
For the cheese course a petit pear held a surprise! A tiny pear, hollowed out and poached, was filled from the bottom with blue cheese and surrounded by a cloud of poire Williams foam.
Pastry Chef Pedro Gomez created a delicate, yet very chocolate dessert. “Pleated” chocolate phyllo leaves enclosed layers of chocolate cake and chocolate mouse. Candied fennel echoed the flavor of the licorice reduction. Butterscotch ice cream on a sugar tuile was a refreshing counterpoint to the intensity of the chocolate. A Chateau Suduiraut 2001 was poured. Chef Gomez, representing Calihan Catering, had recently won second place in the 2006 Pastry Chef of the Year Competition at the 17th Annual U.S. Pastry Competition. A remarkable evening made more so as it had all been prepared on site, with no kitchen!
Accolades were spirited, reverberating throughout the foyer, and with echos of Die Fledermaus drifting through the halls, we toasted the king of effervescence!