The Fairmont Millennium Park

Holiday Dinner

Monday, December 14, 2009

General Manager Maitre Hotelier Andre Zotoff*, Executive Chef Brad Parsons


Fairmont Chicago’s Glamorous Holiday Feast Forecasts Innovative, Delicious Future

By Ethel Gofen, Officier Dame de la Chaîne

“If they asked me, I could write a book” about the fabulous Chaîne dinner December 14, 2009 in the Fairmont Ballroom. Every aspect deserves a full chapter: the stunning crystalline decorations, the rolling sushi carts and huge charcuterie station, the luscious passed hors d’oeuvres and stations, a ‘red carpet girl’ guiding guests down the red carpet to the reception, the hot all-girl jazz violin group’s entertainment, the conferring of honors on two longtime Chaîne members, and, most of all, the extravagantly luxurious dinner followed by a journey to the beautiful adjacent winter garden displaying a hedonist’s seductive fantasy of divine desserts.

A delightful surprise was the participation of Culinary Apprentice and Latin School junior Maxwell Cohen, who had won an essay contest on why he wanted a career in the culinary arts.  Large screens around the ballroom displayed intermittent views of the activity in the kitchen , with Max working alongside Executive Chef , Chef Rôtisseur Brad Parsons and his staff. Max also joined Vice-Conseillier Culinaire David Danielson in giving the food commentary, while Chevalier Erik Gould discussed the carefully-paired wines. This rising talent and the synergy of so many perfect tastes, sights, and sounds made for an exciting, unforgettable evening and signaled a promising future for culinary innovation.

The unique Aria sushi poppers were matched withan unpasteurized sake—-Namasake, Ama no To “Heaven’s Door” Tokubetso Junma—-while Louis De Sacy Champagne Cuvée Nue Brut Zero, an especially dry and natural champagne,enhanced the charcutierie and the passed macadamia nut-crusted lamb chops, goat cheese marbles, curry cauliflower latkes with salmon rillettes, and open faced lobster club sandwiches.

The glamorous entry to the seated dinner found a staff member standing behind each chair as the television screens played “Be our guest.” Sparkling centerpieces of crystal pyramids and globes amid glowing candles dazzled the crowd, as did swirling beacons of light dancing over the crystal chandeliers.  Bailli Jane Tracy welcomed everyone and introduced General Manager Maître Hôtelier André Zotoff, who toasted to a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2010 for all.

A wonderful “foie gras torchon” was nicely paired with Riesling Spätlese, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Mosel 2007, while the rich mushroom cappuccino topped with coriander foam was matched with Amontillado del Puerto Sherry, Lustau Almacenista. Innovation shone in Chef Parsons’ playful interpretation of cassoulet, here composed of wild striped bass with cannellini beans and duck confit, its complex flavors aptly balanced by Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Vieux Télégraphe 2007. The grand venison rack with port wine-braised cabbage and lingonberry demi-glace had two wines to complement its sweet and tart elements: Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 1985 and Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2007. Spirited preferences were expressed, but pleasure was universal. The aged Comté cheese served with a pear, fig and onion compotewas paired once again with the versatile Riesling.

Gastronomique National Hon.  Roger Tracy performed the ceremony elevating frequent dinner scribe Ethel Gofen to Officier Dame de la Chaîne.  Bailli Jane Tracy then presented a Bronze Star of Excellence to Vice-Chancelier/Argentier Hon. Aren Fairchild in recognition of his devoted service to our Bailliage. More kudos followed as the Fairmont staff were introduced and were presented with Chaine awards for a dinner of abundance, excellence, glamour, and festivity. 

A grand finale awaited in the next room, which also sparkled and shimmered, overflowing with the handiwork of Brian Schoenbeck, Executive Pastry Chef, and his staff. His buffet of small desserts bore intense, unusual and delicious flavors: Earl Grey crème brulée, sesame pineapple carpaccio, star anise chocolate spiced cake with ancho chile ice cream, and citrus “Pain-Perdu,” to name just a few of the roughly 15 varieties begging to be savored.

So many great moments and visual thrills—-from the flashy strapless dresses of “The Cover Girl Violin Group” to the beautiful gold dishes under the venison, the virtual cozy blazing fireplace that appeared at times on the television screens, and the breathtaking centerpieces—-made this the dinner party you wish you could have hosted for all your nearest and dearest, the ultimate holiday celebration, fittingly shared with discerning and joyful Chaîne friends.


The Chicago Chaîne holds its annual Holiday Dinner every year on a Monday in mid‐December at a prestigious Chicago establishment. This year will be very special as we return to the Fairmont Millennium Park Hotel, this time for our “Present & Future” theme Holiday Dinner. We have four professional members at the Fairmont Millennium Park led by General Manager Maître Hôtelier André Zotoff. The Fairmont team is promising a very distinctive event which is being planned with our usual attention to detail by the Chicago Bailliage Officers.

A six‐course culinary dinner will be preceded by a reception serving Fairmont Grand Brands cocktails as well as traditional Champagne. Hot hors d’oeuvres, cold canapés and sushi bites as well as a live cooking station will be featured. The dining tables will feature objet d’art centerpieces and magnificent linens. Young adults from The Latin School of Chicago, considering the culinary arts as a career, are competing through an essay writing contest “Why I want to be a Chef” specifically for our evening. The winners will come to the hotel to experience the kitchen with the hotel staff during the day, and will take turns in announcing each course to us.

Executive Chef Chef Rôtisseur Brad Parsons is clearly not going to disappoint and we can look forward to a contemporary mélange of culinary excellence and high tech animation. The Fairmont team is creating an unforgettable party atmosphere for us incorporating a fusion of decors as we move through a series of lush environments. Dessert will be served in a luxury winter garden “Chocolate” lounge where we can relax on sumptuous sofas and enjoy after dinner drinks together.

I have invited our Midwest Confrères to join us in what will be a big, unique and memorable evening.