Monday, May 12, 2008
General Manager Colm O’Callaghan*
Sweet “Sixteen” Dazzles in Trump Tower
Chicago’s new Trump skyscraper may be unfinished, but its sixteenth-floor restaurant, only 100 days old, was totally ready to enchant Chaîne diners on May 12. Sixteen’s Australian-born Executive Chef Frank Brunacci deftly matched our wines with a succession of luscious dishes, revealing his penchant for modern American cuisine with international accents highlighted by what Chicago Tribune writer Phil Vettel has praised as “bold, muscular flavors.” Musicians serenaded as champagne and hors d’oeuvres were served on the seventeenth floor. We sampled prosciutto and basil-wrapped caprese bites, duck breast with fig jam and balsamic glaze, ginger sea bass ceviche, quail egg and caviar toast, and Gruyère cheese puffs, all accompanied by Champagne Demoiselle Vranken “Lucas Carton” en Magnum. Then we descended to Sixteen, gasping as we entered the dramatic 30-foot-tall dining room. Two-story windows revealed such spectacular views of the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, and Lake Michigan that one diner remarked, “It allows Chicago itself to come inside and join us.” Maître Hôtelier Colm O’Callaghan, Vice President and Managing Director of this Trump International Hotel & Tower, welcomed us and offered the traditional toast to our guests.
A magnificent Swarovski crystal chandelier illuminated each beautiful plating as we feasted on Alaskan king crab salad with marinated melon and vanilla oil; an amazing English pea soup with white asparagus, a ravioli square filled with liquid egg yolk, topped with sliced white truffle; delicate and aromatic smoked Tasmanian trout with beet confit ; tender lamb loin with glazed salsify and succulent morel mushrooms; Valençay goat cheese with cherry tomatoes stuffed with panzanella salad; and a complex chocolate dessert with fresh mint ice cream.
Vice-Conseiller Culinaire David Danielson and Vice-Echanson/Caviste Simeon Y. Roldan offered commentary on the food and wine, respectively. The wines provoked much discussion as we debated the pairings and then the relative merits of a flight of Château Pichon-Lalande 1982, 1985, 1988 (vertical) that brilliantly accompanied the lamb. Chef Brunacci had tempered the thyme-infused lamb jus accompanying the lamb to best suit these special wines. The trout course was paired with both Pinot Nero Bianco, Frecciarossa “Sillery” IGT, Oltrepo Pavese 2006 and Pinot Noir, Roar Wines Santa Lucia Highlands 2006. The dessert wine was Désirée, Rosenblum Cellars, the result of a winemaker commissioning a chocolate maker from Wisconsin to make a chocolate dessert wine. A Vouvray, a Verdicchio, and a Sauvignon de Touraine completed the selection of wines. Chicago Bailli Jane Tracy later exclaimed, “I can hardly believe we were still talking wine at midnight!”
After we applauded Chef Brunacci, his sous chefs and staff, Colm O’Callaghan conducted a rare question-and-answer session on the preparation of the dishes we were enjoying. We learned that the melon accompanying the crab timbale was cantaloupe thinly sliced and marinated in sweet white wine for one week with star anise and pepper enhancements. The trout had been smoked until the aroma gave a hint of smoke and then cooked in the oven for a mere 1-1/2 minutes. The beet confit was cooked like risotto for 2-1/2 hours with red wine. The lamb, prepared sous vide in a bag with aromatic herbs and butter, never goes past medium rare though it cooks for a very long time. Even if we too could pick our microgreens from the chef’s own garden, as he does, and knowing these cooking secrets, we would still be hard pressed to duplicate this splendid meal. A return visit to Sixteen is certainly at the top of my culinary wish list!