Vie Restaurant

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chef/Owner Paul Virant



by Ethel Gofen, Officier Dame de la Chaîne

Two years ago Paul Virant, Chef/Owner of Vie in Western Springs, dazzled our Bailliage with a glorious dinner fashioning local produce into memorably delicious creations. Our return visit on October 18 deepened our appreciation of his culinary magic. What a treat to pair some of our favorite wines with his imaginative dishes in this intimate setting!

An American theme meant American wines (some with roots in the Old World), and, in place of champagne, we were greeted with an original drink comprised of bourbon, Goose Island Sofie Beer, Berentzen Apfel corn liqueur, smoked apple butter, cane syrup and lemonade. House-smoked sturgeon, chicken liver mousse, chèvre beignets, chicken skin crisps, and other canapés whetted our appetites. Bailli Jane Tracy welcomed everyone and praised Chef Paul’s dedication to food preservation with in-house pickling and curing, his support of local and exceptional farms across the country, his relaxed approach, and his great sense of humor. Vice-Chargé de Missions Fred Lane toasted the members and guests with a poem.  A colorful terrine of local beets, sorrel, crème fraîche, and American sturgeon caviar was well matched with Roederer Estate Brut NV Anderson Valley. Next, crispy sea bass with cabbage and preserved mandarins was paired with Chardonnay, Hyde de Villaine Special Bottling Single Clone Selection, Hyde Vineyard Carneros 2003, en magnum. Flavors of caraway, coriander, and fennel and the buttery sauce paired beautifully with the acidity of this wine.  Pork loin and smoked ham with brussel sprouts and plums, all from Michigan farmers, matched with Merlot, Andrake Cellars Washington Estate 1999, made an exciting showcase for Chef Paul’s support of organic farms. Yorkshire hog skin can become delicious cracklings, we discovered.

Dry aged beef tenderloin from Dietzler Farm in Wisconsin was served over potato purée with a mix of parsnips,  mustard greens, and mustard béarnaise and was paired with Cabernet Sauvignon, Robert Mondavi Winery “Reserve” Napa Valley 1995. Chef Paul prefers to pair cheese with beer rather than red wine, and thus the artisan cheese course was accompanied by Saison, Goose Island Brewery “Sofie Belgian Style Ale” Chicago Illinois. A house-made organic cornmeal cracker and pumpkin butter garnished the “Holy Cow” cheese from Bittersweet Plantation Dairy in Louisiana. Finally, chocolate stout cake with dark chocolate mousse, toffee, and brandied cherries was paired with both wine and beer:  Late Harvest Zinfandel, Edmeades Perli Vineyard Mendocino Ridge 2005 and an Imperial Russian dark stout. Chef Paul offered the food commentary on his beautifully-orchestrated six-course dinner, while Vice-Chancelier/Argentier Simeon “Mon” Roldan discussed the pairings. Chef Paul introduced his staff to hearty applause, and Bailli Jane Tracy presented him with a Chaîne de Rôtisseurs decanter and a special bottle of wine from out cellar to fill it.


Two years ago the Chicago Chaîne made its first trip to VIE and to chef-owner Paul Virant’s highly acclaimed restaurant. His Western-European inspired seasonal American cuisine, emphasizing locally produced ingredients, has brought continued success, awards, and recognition.

Chef Virant’s intimate and emotional connection to the land and his great support of local and sustainable produce continues to be reflected in his artful flavor combinations and techniques. His predilection for presenting a progression of flavors on the plate that often combines sweetness with a certain acidity reinforces an aigre-doux skill that intrigues and surprises. Raised in a family in which respect for food – its seasonality, local production, preserving and pickling – was integral, helped shape Chef Paul Virant’s culinary philosophy.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Virant has worked in several of Chicago’s top kitchens: Everest, Blackbird, Charlie Trotter’s, and Ambria before opening VIE in 2004 when he was instantly catapulted to prominence.

Vice-Chancelier/Argentier Mon Roldan has proposed a selection of wines from our cellar and Chef Paul has created a six-course culinary dinner crafted around them, featuring ingredients sourced from Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Oregon.

The restaurant will be closed for our exclusive use.