Monday, January 10, 2005
Lobster/Seafood Feast – A Spirited Change of Pace
Seafood lovers of the Chicago Bailliage gathered at the Westin Chicago River North Hotel on January 10, 2005, for a sumptuous “Harvest of the Sea Boil”. Instead of the usual black tie and evening dress, we arrived in business attire and donned protective aprons emblazoned with our Chaîne logo. First we snacked on wonderful seafood hors d’oeuvres with our champagne—-Kumomoto oysters with salmon roe, mussels, delicious miniature crab cakes, delicate sea scallop dumplings, smelts with malt vinegar, and fried calamari with marinara sauce.
Next, we moved into the newly opened private room of the Ember Restaurant where Bailli Heinz Kern welcomed us and Chef Rôtisseur Jean-Pierre Henry, Chef de Cuisine and Directeur de la Restauration, offered comments about the dishes we would soon enjoy. The toast to our guests by Commandeur Leo Waldmeier poignantly reminded us that as were enjoying the wealth of the seas we also remembered the tragedy from the ocean and wished a speedy recovery with ample food and water for the victims of the tsunami in South Asia.
Our printed menus were artfully singed around the edges, perhaps to recall cookouts of old. They announced our hearty clam chowder and wonderful crab and smoked shrimp flat breads. After these treats, we settled into the main business of the evening: a communal hot pot on each table constantly replenished with the most tender of shrimp, scallops, mussels, crawfish, clams, Maine lobster, spiny lobster, and Dungeness and Blue crabs. We cracked and twisted our way through lobsters from Australia, South Africa and our own prized catches from our shores. Plenty of corn on the cob, boiled potatoes, pitchers of melted butters, both herbal and tomato-flavored, and sticks of garlic/herb bread completed the feast.
This casual dinner was a delightful change of pace, with no assigned seating, family style service and the chance to try many different wines or perhaps a hearty König Ludwig Royal Bavarian Weiss beer with the various seafood dishes. Instead of the customary meticulous pairing of wine and food, diners sampled tastes of up to 29 wines as our Chapter finished many of the fine vintages remaining from past feasts in quantities too small for the entire group to enjoy. Bottles of Pinot Blanc and Riesling seemed especially popular choices with the lobsters and langoustines.
As the food kept coming, washed down with all those wines, spirits rose, and soon flushed diners could be spotted in shirttails, suspenders, and aprons bending over the lobster pot to pick out choice pieces. Claws were cracked and tiny forks delved into small crevices for the last bite of sweet lobster meat. Good manners prevailed, and no one went home hungry, thanks also to the latticed apple pie and cinnamon ice cream that topped off this convivial dinner. All agreed that this first Chaîne dinner of 2005 was different, a tad messy, and loads of fun.