Monday, November 05, 2012
Culinary Standards Reach New Heights
The first-ever dinner at the Standard Club of Chicago thrilled some 70 Chaîne diners with a culinary feast in the grand tradition. Hors d’oeuvres passed in the gracious living room included Vietnamese seafood saté with Nuoc Cham sauce, luscious small foie gras torchons with pickled apricot, petite salmon cakes topped with borscht caviar, pork belly on sesame scallion pancakes, mini brisket sliders with horseradish cream, and cups of wild mushroom cappuccino—-talk about umami! These were paired with Champagne, Gosset Brut Excellence NV for a festive beginning.
As we progressed up a flight to the dining room, florist Tom Kehoe had lighted our way with candles on the stair wells, floating candles on the dinner tables, greenery walls that gave the feeling of being in an enclosed garden, and stunning table arrangements of unscented roses with cactus accents. There we were hosted by a great Chaîne favorite, Maître Hôtelier Steven B. Thompson, General Director of the Standard Club and longtime member of our Bailliage who had hosted us at the Intercontinental Hotel for an unforgettable grand holiday dinner during a heavy blizzard some years back. He toasted all the guests with an eloquent poem and expressed delight in this long-anticipated event. We were also graciously welcomed by Alison Pure-Slovin, the President of the Standard Club (and its first female President in its 143-year history!). Bailli Jane Tracy noted that V-C de Missions Fred Lane is a former Standard Club Board member. She welcomed everyone warmly, especially the new and prospective members.
Executive Chef Charles Lebar, who began his career at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago and then won multiple Mobil Four Diamond Awards while at the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, provided a flawless orchestration of sophisticated and delicious dishes as we gathered in the Dining Room. First, we enjoyed cauliflower panna cotta with a house-smoked oyster and sharp Asiago cheese crumbles matched with a golden sweet Chablis, Domaine Dublère Les Preuses Grand Cru 2007, a wine from Chevalier David Zimbler’s personal cellar. This was followed by veal sweetbreads garnished with crayfish and the lightest crayfish quenelle in a caper crayfish brown butter paired with Chardonnay, Kistler Vineyards Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast 2009. As we compared these two white wines, a red was poured—-Volnay, Domaine Dublère Pitures Premier Cru 2008—-to enhance to perfection the turbot with potato and fennel in a lobster bordelaise sauce. Many of us remembered turbot and sweetbreads as entrees we loved in bygone days. Chef Charlie excelled in the beautiful sauces with each of these dishes. The next course was a grand surprise of lamb served three ways, including succulent lamb neck osso buco, a roasted turnip stuffed with mutton sausage, and crisp lamb belly all garnished with a rich Perigord truffle sauce. The wine chosen to pair with this complex, fascinating dish was Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgess Cellars Vintage Selection Napa Valley 1993. Next, Hidden Springs Creamery Bohemian Blue, a Wisconsin cow’s milk cheese, was presented with grilled French butter pears and black garlic crackers. The accompanying wine was the Sauternes, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2001. The dinner narration was given by Vice-Conseiller Culinaire Chris Koetke, while Chevalier David Zimbler discussed the wines. In their zeal to find the best wine pairings for the sauces as well as the fish and meat they garnished, our wine experts took some of the sauces home after their tasting dinner to strive for perfection in these matches.
Finally, a beautiful Valrhona dark chocolate gateau with cherry almond crunch and a Kirsch eau de vie creameaux was paired with Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgess Cellars Napa Valley 1994, which encouraged a comparison of the 1993 and 1994 vintages of this vineyard. Bailli Jane Tracy thanked everyone who made this a dinner of elegance and sophistication, especially Chef Charles Lebar and General Manager Steve Thompson. They then introduced their staffs to much applause. Jane presented Chef Charlie with an engraved decanter and a bottle of the 1994 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon to fill it. To Steve Thompson she gave a Chaîne des Rôtisseurs platter and another bottle of the ’94 Burgess, calling him “a master of orchestration and management and motivation for all your team.” A well-fed but still adventurous group moved back to the Living Room Foyer for passed desserts—-cheese tarts, apple tarts, salted peanut chocolate ice cream bars, cherry cheesecake, pear baba, and more plus mignardises. Along with coffee, there were favorite digestifs and fine dessert wines at our disposal for a lingering taste of bliss.
Our November dinner at The Standard Club will be a classic culinary dinner in the grand tradition of the Chicago Chaîne. This fine city club was founded in 1869 and was the third private city clubhouse to be built in Chicago. In 1926 it moved northwards from South Michigan Avenue and established itself in the Loop and financial district. Its naming was based on the term “setting the standard” and what could be expected of Standard Club members in giving back through charities.
We will be welcomed by longtime Chicago Chaîne member Maître Hôtelier Steve Thompson, the club’s General Manager, who is very familiar with the orchestration and management of Chaîne dinners from his leadership experience throughout the hospitality industry in Chicago. We will also be welcomed by V-C de Missions Fred Lane who has been a member of the Standard Club for almost 50 years.
Executive Chef Charles Lebar started his career at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago during its golden age with the legendary Chef Fernand Gutierrez, George Bumbaris and Sarah Stegner. From there, he became the Executive Chef of The Immigrant Room at the American Club in Kohler, WI and received the Mobil Four Diamond award every year he was there. Chef Lebar has been at the Standard Club for the past three years as its Executive Chef. He is proud of his Hungarian heritage. We can look forward to a sophisticated evening where a broad spectrum of ingredients, methods and techniques have been brought together to culminate in what will be a beautifully balanced menu with wine pairings.
The food commentary will be given by our V-C Culinaire Chris Koetke, and the wine commentary by Chevalier David Zimbler.
The evening will end with after dinner drinks, mignardises and cordials in the magnificent Living Room Foyer where those members who wish to prolong the evening may do so.
This dinner will be an opportunity for potential members to experience the Chicago Chapter in a way that has established its reputation over its near 40 year existence.