Monday, March 21, 2011
Maître Hôtelier Russell Menkes*, General Manager Maitre de Table Hôtelier Ann O’Riordan*, Catering Director
ADVENTURES IN THE DRAKE KITCHEN
Entering through the door of the Coq d’Or restaurant on the Lower Level shopping gallery of The Drake Hotel was the first step into what became a “back of the house” dinner. We have, over many years, experienced the opulence and grandiosity of this grande dame of Chicago and now it was time to go into the inner sanctum and the heart of this famed hotel – its kitchen. The aim is for us was to be assimilated into the atmosphere of the life of a hotel kitchen; to dine surrounded by the bustle of the chefs and sous chefs as they go about their business satisfying the banquets, the different restaurant outlets, room service, and on 21 March, the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs!
The Champagne reception started as we entered the kitchen from the Coq d’Or. We were greeted by waiters with trays of Pierre Peters Milliseme Champagne 1999. Family home for six generations, the Pierre Péters Estate is situated in the heart of the “Côte des Blancs” in the village of Le Mesnil sur Oger. It has been producing Champagne Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, since 1919. The words that best characterize most of its “blanc de blancs” vintages are: fineness, minerality, purity, lightness, directness, freshness and elegance. With glasses in hand we were escorted through the service areas to different stations, having hors d’eouvres at each one. Explanations were given about the flow of the product through the kitchen. We sampled Cipollini Onion Tartlettes with Nutmeg and Lardons, Seared Pepper Tenderloins with Arugula and Horseradish Crostini as we sipped out Champaigne and listened to the explanations. At the final station we watched as Miniature Lobster Soufflés were prepared and garnished with lobster tails a la Langoustine “Soldiers”. Maître Hôtelier Russell Menkes, the General Manager of The Drake Hotel, the newly‐inducted Chicago Chaîne member Maître de Table Hôtelier Ann O’Riordan, its Catering Director, and Executive Chef Baasim B. Zafar made sure that we had a clear picture of complex kitchen operations.
A long dining table decorated with green and white floral arrangements awaited us for a spring-enspired dinner. We began our culinary adventure with Berkshire pork rillettes , which had been marinated and cooked very slowly and served in jars accompanied with mini baguettes and radish garnishes. This sumptious course was paired with a Tablas Creek Vineyards “Côtes de Tablas Blanc” from Paso Robles 2004. The wine, like most wines of the Southern Rhône, is a blend of varietals, featuring the aromatics and fruit of the Viognier, the flavors and clean minerality of the Marsanne and Roussanne, and the crisp acids and rich mouthfeel of the Grenache Blanc. This 2004 is Tablas Creek’s third national release. It is made in a rich and aromatic style, featuring spicy aromas of herbs, stone fruits and minerals, followed in the mouth by apricot flavors, rich texture, yet with a clean minerality, bright acidity, and a long, clean peachy finish. We then moved to the next course of Great Lakes pike and diver scallops quenelles with a wild mushroom velouté. The delicate texture of this fish was enhanced by the velvety and creamy mushroom sauce, and complemented by the flavor of the Frank Family Chardonnay “Lewis Vineyard Reserve” Napa Valley 2007. The butter and oak notes of this wine paired well with forward mushroom flavors of this incredible course.
We then moved on to a young McFarland Farms Wisconsin pheasant, a unique presentation of pheasant encased foie gras, served on a bed of slices of bruleed apples and potatoes Anna with naural jus. Pieces of perfectly crisped pheasant skin added to the texture of this course. It was paired with Domaine des Perdix Vosne-Romanée 1996. This wine with its bright medium-to-dark ruby/purple color has sweet, floral, and cherry-infused aromas. The palate, while characterized by a very feminine elegance, is powerful and complex with ripe tannins and good aromatic persistence of candied cherries, plums, and great depth. As we moved along our culinary journey, we were presented with Crawford lamb, which consisted of slices of perfectly cooked loin and slow roasted shoulder. Here the traditional lamb mint sauce was re-created into a fabulous presentation of chickpeas in a pureed mint sauce garnished with fresh watercress. With this course we had a unique experience of comparison and contrast of two 1990 Pauillacs, Château Pichon Longeuville Comtesse de Lalande vs. Château Pichon Longeuville Baron. A remarkable vintage for Pichon Longueville Baron, 1990 is one of this estate’s two or three finest wines made in the last 40 years. It reveals an extraordinary bouquet of charcoal, incense, creme de cassis, blue and black fruits, and a hint of licorice as well as an impressively long finish. Pichon Longeuville Comtesse de Lalande, 1990, displays medium dark ruby color and an attractive bouquet of vanillin from new oak, ripe blackcurrants, and spices.
The cheese course consisted of cheese boards with three North American cheeses: Tournevant Chevre Noir from Quebec; Salemville Aged Blue from Wisconsin and Saint Rocco Brie from Michigan. They all paired beautifully with Château Smith-Haut Lafitte Rouge, Pessac-Léognan 1995. “Rich and medium-bodied, with an inner core of sweetness and an expansive mid-palate, this wine has low acidity, dazzling definition and purity, and a long, character-filled finish”, - Robert Parker wrote of this wine.
To finish off the evening we had a Charlotte Royale with swirls of raspberries and delicate cream underneath and accented by a piece of crisp pastry with swirls to echo the swirls in the cake. It was served with a first-growth Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 1995 and left us all happy that we took this culinary voyage with the famed Drake Hotel team!
Entering through the door of the Coq d’Or restaurant on the Lower Level shopping gallery of The Drake Hotel will be the first step into what will be a “back of the house” dinner. We have, over many years, experienced the opulence and grandiosity of this grande dame of Chicago and so now it is time to go into the inner sanctum and the heart of any hotel – its kitchen.
The aim is for us to be assimilated into the atmosphere of the life of a hotel kitchen; to dine surrounded by the bustle of the chefs and sous chefs as they go about their business satisfying the banquets, the different restaurant outlets, room service, ........ and on 21 March, the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs!
The Champagne reception will start as we enter the kitchen from the Coq d’Or. Explanations will be given about the flow of the product through the kitchen. At the Banquet line a second hors d’oeuvre will be served and so on.
We have always enjoyed solid support from The Drake, and General Manager, Maître Hôtelier Russell Menkes and his team are highly motivated to make sure our memories are as vivid at Executive Chef Baasim B. Zafar’s kitchen table as in the Gold Coast Room.
We have been working closely with newly‐inducted Chicago Chaîne member Maître de Table Hôtelier Ann O’Riordan, Catering Director whose broad experience and well honed palate assures a smooth‐flowing evening of new experiences, a unique insight and camaraderie.
We will be seated in a specially created space and our numbers are limited to 30.