with Chef-Owner Carlos Gaytan

Monday, April 20, 2015 –

1529 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622

Part of our Dining Around the World Series


Magnifique Mexique


On April 20, 2015, fifty-nine Chaîne Chicago members and guests enjoyed a culinary adventure at Mexique, Chef-Owner Carlos Gaytan’s acclaimed eatery. Chef Carlos gained national attention in November 2012 when Mexique earned a coveted Michelin star a few months before he appeared on Bravo TV’s Top Chef. After finishing fourth out of seventeen contestants, the charismatic chef gained legions of fans inspired by his story and food.

Chef Carlos was raised in a working-class family in southern Mexico. Interestingly, French recipes and cooking techniques took hold there during France’s occupation in the 1860s and became important to the evolution of modern Mexican gastronomy and Chef Carlos’ culinary career. As a youth, he assisted at his mother’s taqueria, sparking his culinary ambitions. Chef Carlos then ventured to the U.S. in 1991 where he worked in a series of Chicago area restaurants, including stints under celebrated French chefs at Bistro 110 and Bistrot Margot. In 2008 Chef Carlos realized his American Dream with the opening of Mexique, offering his unique blend of modern-Mexican cuisine infused with his unique blend of French techniques and ingredients.

The evening began with a festive reception throughout the warm and inviting space. Three delicious appetizers were passed: tostaditas (deep-fried tortillas) were topped with cochinita pibil—traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork marinated in bitter orange juice and annatto (a condiment and food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree)—pickled onion, mango and habanero chilies; crispy wild rice “chicharróns” were crowned with duck leg carnitas that had been braised for six hours and seasoned with garlic, thyme and rosemary; and silver spoons holding salmón curado accompanied by pickled cucumber and spicy “caviar” created with mustard seed, honey and red wine vinegar. Brut Rosé, Weingut Willi Brundlmayer NV, a fine sparkler from Austria, was particularly tasty with the salmon. Two excellent Mexican beers were also offered: Bohemia, a complex European-style lager, and Negra Modelo, a smoky dark beer that paired nicely with the spicy and hearty meat appetizers.

Chef Carlos then presented a special five-course menu showcasing dishes inspired by his diverse culinary background paired with Chaîne Chicago wines from around the world. Gazpacho blanco, a simple Spanish dish that was a big hit on Top Chef, had buttery cobia cured with lemon and lime zest (rather than citrus juice), purple potato foam and huitlacoche tortilla. The result was a refreshing and beautifully balanced offering that awoke the palate for the rest of the meal. A dry and crisp NV Emilio Lustau “Solera Reserva” Puerto Fino Sherry was an unexpected but wonderful pairing, showcasing hazelnut, apple, mineral and almond flavors and bright acidity that enhanced the fish course.

The second course was a classic French dish with a Mexican twist. Foie gras torchon was seasoned with Himalayan pink salt, chocolate and ancho chilies and accompanied by brioche toast and a tart tangerine and kumquat gastrique. (Chef Carlos learned how to use foie gras under his mentor Chef Rôtisseur and Executive Chef Michael Garbin while at the famed Union League Club of Chicago.) A sophisticated 2003 Sauternes from Château Myrat was full-bodied with a nose of honey and saffron and layers of fruit and honey flavors. The sweet, opulent wine served as a perfect counterpoint to the super-smooth texture and meaty richness of the foie gras.

Next, seared sea scallops were topped with saffron-crusted bacalao accompanied by boniato (also known as white sweet potato) purée and fried tomatillo caper salsa that cut through the rich components of the dish. A beautifully balanced 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from Anaba Wines enhanced the seafood with its tropical fruit and floral aromas and layered flavors of peach, green apple and honey.

The fourth course was pato al tamarindo—duck breast glazed with a sauce that Chef Carlos learned from his mother comprised of chipotle, orange, lime juice, tamarind and brown sugar. The plate was finished with pickled fruit, Swiss chard and bone marrow savory French toast to soak up the delicious juices. This course matched nicely with a lush Australian Shiraz-based blend—Yarra Yering Dry Red N°2 2003 exhibited terrific minerality, red fruit and fine acidity.

The meal concluded with a very traditional tres leches coconut sponge cake accompanied by a quenelle of guava de tequila ice cream, a simple coconut sauce and a dusting of Nutella powder. Dessert was paired with decanted 1995 Sauternes from Château Coutet that exhibited a nose of apricot and a bit of kerosene with a palate of ginger and caramel that complemented the dessert.

As dessert was being served, Chef Carlos told members about his culinary inspirations and provided fascinating food commentary, and Vice Echanson Manfred Raiser spoke in detail about the beer and wines served. As the evening concluded, Bailli Mon Roldan presented Chef Carlos with a bottle of the Yarra Yering and thanked him and the Mexique team for a terrific meal. Members departed delighted to have experienced Mexique’s remarkable fusion of Mexican and French cuisine.


Dear Confrères and Consœurs,

Please join us on Monday, April 20, 2015 when Chaîne Chicago once again “hits the road” for another Dining Around the World culinary adventure.  This month we will be visiting Mexique, the acclaimed restaurant of Chef-Owner Carlos Gaytan.  Chef Carlos has crafted a special 5-course menu paired with our wines and crafted beverages. 

Chef Carlos gained national attention in November 2012, when Mexique earned a coveted Michelin star.  He then went on to star in Bravo TV’s “Top Chef.”  After he finished fourth out of 17 contestants, the charismatic chef gained legions of fans inspired by his story and his food.

Chef Carlos was raised in a working class family in southern Mexico.  French recipes and cooking techniques took hold during France’s occupation of Mexico in the 1860’s and became important to the evolution of Modern Mexican gastronomy.  Working at his mother’s taqueria as a youth sparked his interest in cooking.  Chef Carlos left for the United States in 1991 to pursue the American Dream.  He worked his way through the Chicago area restaurant scene, starting as a pantry cook to line cook at the Sheraton North Shore Hotel.  In 1996, he joined the famed Union League Club of Chicago as Chef Garde Manger under Chef Rôtisseur and Executive Chef Michael Garbin.  In April 2004 Chef Carlos became the Chef de Cuisine at Bistrot Margot where he worked with renowned French Chef Dominique Tougne before opening Mexique in 2008.  This background has influenced the award-winning cuisine served at Mexique:  inventive, modern-Mexican, infused with French techniques and ingredients.

We’re very excited about this opportunity! Please join us for this journey!


Mon Y. Roldan
Bailli de Chicago