Monday, February 07, 2005
Sandro Gamba - Executive Chef
Concert for Gastronomy – Sandro Style
The last few years have marked a renaissance for vibrant abstraction on the plate, especially amongst independent–thinking Chicago chefs, whose philosophy and expression complement those seasonal ingredients that are necessarily chosen to achieve that end. Park Hyatt Chicago’s Executive Chef, Sandro Gamba, wanted to chase away the “boringness of winter” by preserving and evoking the vivacity of summer. This is, in fact, what awaited the Chicago Chapter one bitter cold February evening.
The Champagne reception was held in the Library where General Manager/Maitre Hotelier Rick Segal welcomed us and we toasted our third Chaîne dinner in this fine establishment as well as celebrating their fifth year in Chicago. Labor intensive, delicate hors d’oeuvres were served with an André Clouet Grande Réserve N.V. which included cumin scented crab cakes and an unbelievable roasted chestnut soup flavored with white truffle oil.
NoMI Restaurant, within this contemporary hotel, has garnered rich and abundant reviews during its inception and the Art Gallery beyond during the following few hours demonstrated why. The menu’s symmetry was based on the most elementary of shapes; the most simplest of forms producing original results. Versatile ingredients juxtaposed with a freedom and artistic flair more than nourished the diners - they became a performance, be it the treatment of a classic sauce or a frontier-breaking combination . Great wine pairings added savory structure to the palate as well as a certain charming opulence, particularly the 1988 Chateau Figeac St. Emilion Premier Grand Cru, whose brick-colored highlights and remarkably long characteristics typified what a balanced claret should be. One of the endearingly touching things about our cellar wines is their serenity in the glass, and the competent hands of Sommelier Robert Jovic certainly facilitated this result.
Two wines had been chosen to accompany the spiced veal sweetbread dish, both possessing different levels of acidity which was perfect as we sampled the fruitiness brought into the dish by the quince and rutabaga. The wild striped bass with its leek jam, was so fresh that merely breathing out through one’s nostrils – mouth closed - unfailingly gave us the tang of the sea. But it was the goat and sheep’s milk fondue – the “concoyotte” or the “cancaillotte” with its astonishingly elastic properties that caused a stir. This Old Chatham cheese dish transformed into a warm gelatinous mass was then topped with a goat’s milk foam (remarkably resembling egg whites), and shaved black truffles. Baguette croutons accompanied the dish and were to be dipped into the fondue, snaring on its way out some mâche, truffle shavings and the foam. No small wonder the St. Emilion was brought out for this.
Resident Hotel Manager/Maître de Table Hôtelier Emmanuel Nony gave the food commentary which included details of some of the ingredients’ organic vendors, certain methods of preparation and in the case of the cheese course – how to eat it! Given the exigencies of the assembled professional contingent, this dinner made eloquent statements. During the accolades the ever dry-humored Chef Gamba explained that he had given each Sous Chef a responsibility for a particular course. This dinner gave us insights into where Sandro’s style and expression are right now.