Tuesday, August 7, 2012

been there? done that?

No matter how savvy any of us are - we can never say "been there done that" about everything.  Case in point: Last night's Chicago Gourmets dinner at Calihan.  Haven't heard of it? Neither had we! But let me say this up front- and then fill in the details- this was a flawless meal served with perfect wine pairing and held in an interesting setting that managed to be beautiful and industrial at the same time.

So now- more info on the evening.  Even having been city dwellers for decades we had to look up the address  and use GPS to get there.  The location is right smack dab in the middle of Goose Island (not the beer - or the brewery which is not on Goose Island at all) on Haines Street. Who knew?

We arrived quite quickly by missing the turn at Halsted and making the next turn at Hooker (see, another name you probably didn't have in the address book.) Right at the corner of Hooker and Haines is Calihan.  Why didn't we know Calihan? Well it turns out they perform their amazing feats of culinary magic behind the scenes.  "Dinner for 500 - no problem; dinner for 250 - a sweet spot; dinner for two - we do that too!" said Nash Calihan, manager of Operations at the incredibly decked out kitchen (in the culinary sense.)

Our group was joined by Nash, his father John Calihan (founder) and Michelle Brown (remember her name because it will come up again.) The meal was prepared by Molly Johnson (chef extraordinaire) and her outstanding team. And it was served by a crack wait staff headed that evening by Amy.

Flower arrangements were provided by CG's own Don Newcomb and the table settings made the "industrial" kitchen into a fine dining venue.  OK, I know by now you are saying- the food- get on to the topic of the food and so here goes:

First the menu:
We started with a group of passed and station appetizers as noted above.  There was spirited discussion amongst the members as to which was the BEST...LOL- they were ALL the best- but I have to admit to downing more than my share of the short rib and blue cheese hand pies. Phil spoke vehemently on behalf of the duck and the lobster rolls.  But I felt he could not relegate the epoisses with the cherry compote to fourth place... after a few rounds in the match we returned to our corners having called it a TIE and they all won as BEST.

above photo courtesy of Don Newcomb 

 above and below photos courtesy of Don Newcomb

above Chef Molly Johnson and Member (yes that is me- LOL) admire the lobster rolls

 above photo courtesy Don Newcomb

And while we were gorging on the fabulous apps we could also take a look at the wines selected by Nash Calihan for pairing with the awesome Molly Johnson menu!

All the wines are listed on the menu and each was just the right wine for the food pairing.  However, Nash had a treat for us - as we started with the amuse we had a cocktail of bitters, semillon and rye- a gorgeous color and fun taste to accompany the beginning course of the amuse bouche - brioche with quail egg topped with an Australian truffle.

my place setting above and below our special treat cocktail

above Chef Molly prepares the amuse and what follows are the evening's courses in all their glory:

This meal was note perfect - and that took the whole team to produce along with a "magic oven" and here is where Michelle Brown comes back into the story.  Michelle is the Regional Sales Manager for Rational USA, a German company that makes amazing ovens and she had installed one in the kitchen at Calihan.  This dinner was somewhat of the first run of prep for a larger group using this oven made by RATIONAL.  I would say my verdict on the oven was "SUCCESS!"

 Michelle Brown photo courtesy of Don Newcomb

John Calihan, Sharon Meyers and Nash Calihan (photo courtesy of Don Newcomb)

the service team (leader Amy is second from left) - Calihan has a summer intern program for foreign students (several of the service team were interns)

a BIG thanks to Michelle, Chef Molly, Nash and John (pictured here with Sharon Meyers one of the Chicago Gourmet event hosts (not pictured Don Newcomb)

Calihan does corporate events, weddings, special events and private parties from their 7000 square foot kitchen preparing high end meals with their creative culinary team- next time you have need for a caterer for 500 you will now know who to call!

All the work that founder Don Newcomb puts into these events -  let's find one with him in the picture as well....(far left- founder of Chicago Gourmets Club, Don Newcomb)

for further information on CG - www.ChicagoGourmets.org

for further information on Calihan - www.calihancatering.com

Thanks to all involved in making this a most memorable evening!

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