Thursday, October 27, 2016

this is how it should be

Last night we had our last oriole 2016 meal - and you know by now that we think very highly of this restaurant - it is among the top tier of the Chicago high end dining scene.  And again- everything was absolutely perfect.  Most people are lucky if they have a meal like this once a year - many go through life without ever having experienced this kind of artistry in food even once. Recognizing that fact - Noah and Cara Sandoval and their partner Genie Kwon make sure that this is an experience at the pinnacle of dining.

recently the Chicago Chapter of the Chaine de Rotissuers held a Dinner Amical here and the professional photos show off some of the course so well I am going to start with those- with a shout out to the Chaine photographer- Lorenzo Tassone!  His photos really capture the magic of the Oriole dining experience...

the entrance to the restaurant outside and inside- we only go later in the evening so I am thrilled Lorenzo Tassone captured these great shots in some level of daylight-

you enter through a freight elevator which is a nice way of not disturbing the diners in the dining room - you are greeted in the vestibule - one side of the freight elevator is then opened and you start with a welcome cocktail - last night is was a warm mulled apple drink - perfect for the cold rainy day we had.  Here is a shot of the dining room on into the kitchen which is open for all to see how the food preparation is undertaken course by course..

here are Lorenzo's course photos - most of which we had again last night but there were a few change ups- it has been two weeks...LOL

the amazing cheese course- with raclette melted inside - YUM


So there are the professional photos - and now my less than professional ones LOL along with the menu - course by course-

we brought bottles of a 1981 vintage and a 1985 vintage (Noah is 81 and Genie 85 - along with Tory and Eden from the front of the house) after tasting these two to make sure they weren't flawed we sent them back to the kitchen for everyone to enjoy and then drank a 2004 Chassagne-Montrachet La Romanee from Girardin and a 1996 Morey St Denis - Les Ruchots from Arlaud - the red showed particularly well!

(not shown the 1996 Arlaud - Morey St Denis Les Ruchots - forgot LOL) 

because I have a coconut allergy my course was different than Phil's

Phil's caviar course and the next of the white wine courses-

the next section we ate the same things each course - there was one more divergence near the end of the savory courses-

this is the second place we ate differently - they are so genuinely concerned that you LOVE the meal that when (several visits ago) I gave my lamb to Phil they noticed and started to serve me an alternative to the lamb-

so another incredible meal with lovely people- they are on pins and needles awaiting the Michelin Chicago ratings - if it were up to me I would give them two stars! Actually they are probably working at a three star level but I like these people so much I wouldn't want them to have the pressure of three stars- especially in their first year with this new place....

Bon chance! and thank you again Noah, Genie, and Cara  and sommelier Aaron along with Tory, Eden and all the others in the front of the house, who made our meal extra special last night! You guys are celestial no matter how many stars show up when the ratings come out!

UPDATE: 11/2/16 Michelin annonced the Chicago dining awards and Oriole was given TWO STARS!!!! (on the same day the Cubs won the World Series!) It couldn't be more deserved... as I have noted in all of my posts about the four meals we had there this year.... Congratulations Oriole!!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

our closing films

So our last two films - at the small amount of time we could spend at the Chicago International Film Festival were tonight - and we were reminded of how great film can be when not slanted to the teenage boy audience-

The first film tonight was the story of Homaro Cantu -

Homaro "Omar" Cantu Jr. (September 23, 1976 – April 14, 2015) was an American chef and inventor known for his use of molecular gastronomy. As a child, Cantu was fascinated with science and engineering. While working in a fast food restaurant, he discovered the similarities between science and cooking and decided to become a chef. In 1999, he was hired by his idol, Chicago chef Charlie Trotter. In 2003, Cantu became the first chef of Moto, which he later purchased.

Through Moto, Cantu explored his unusual ideas about cooking including edible menus, carbonated fruit, and food cooked with a laser. Initially seen as a novelty only, Moto eventually earned critical praise and, in 2012, a Michelin star. Cantu's second restaurant, iNG, and his coffee house, Berrista, focused on the use of "miracle berries" to make sour food taste sweet. He was working on opening a brewery called Crooked Fork at the time of his suicide in 2015.

In addition to being a chef, Cantu was a media personality, appearing regularly on TV shows, and an inventor. In 2010, he produced and co-hosted a show called Future Food. Through his media appearances, he advocated for an end to world hunger and thought his edible paper creation and the miracle berry could play a significant role in that goal. Cantu volunteered his time and money to a variety of charities and patented several food gadgets.

Cantu graduated from the Western Culinary Institute (now a Le Cordon Bleu School) and spent the next two years staging on the West Coast. After about 50 such two-week to one-month internships, he was ready for a paid job. One day in February 1999, he decided to try to get a job with his idol, Charlie Trotter. "I made it my life's goal to become a sous chef for Charlie Trotter," Cantu remarked. "I literally just flew out [to Chicago] one day with $300 in my pocket and no place to stay". Cantu had no real plan to get employed – he simply showed up at Trotter's back door and begged him for a job. Trotter agreed to an interview the following day, and was impressed enough to give Cantu a job. Cantu worked his way up the ranks, becoming one of Trotter's sous chefs. On his days off, he began to explore new ways to prepare and present food.

In 2003, Cantu learned of a chef opening at a soon-to-open restaurant called Moto. The restaurant's backer, Joseph De Vito, was looking to do something a bit out of the ordinary, perhaps Asian fusion. When Cantu interviewed for the position, he pitched something really different. "This guy comes in with these little glasses, he looks like an accountant," De Vito recalled, "and started talking about levitating food. I walked away saying, 'Wow, that's a lot to take in.'" Cantu persuaded De Vito to let him cook a meal for De Vito and his wife. The seven-course meal, which featured an exploding ravioli and a small table-top box that cooked fish before the guest's eyes, won De Vito over.

When Moto opened in January 2004, guests were confused. People would come in looking for sushi and leave when offered a degustation menu instead, De Vito recalled. Enough people braved the menu, however, and soon the restaurant was discovered by foodies. Cantu quickly earned a reputation for shocking guests. For example, one feature was synthetic wine squirted into the glass with a medical syringe. Other innovations included edible menus and carbonated fruit.

Describing himself as a scientist at heart, Cantu emphasized unusual cooking devices and experimentation in his food. He would keep a tape recorder by his bedside to capture middle-of-the-night random thoughts to turn into new inventions. His kitchen included a centrifuge, a hand-held ion particle gun, and class IV lasers, among other science gadgets. His menus too showed off his zany ideas, with descriptions such as "surf and turf with mc escher" and "after christmas sale on christmas trees." At weekly brainstorming sessions, Moto chefs were prompted to come up with new takes on ordinary food by discussing how they could change foods they ate that week. Prototypes were created, and failure was encouraged. Within two years, Moto's crazy dishes had attracted the attention of The New York Times and Gourmet magazine, and Cantu had been asked to cook for Nobel Prize winners and molecular gastronomy pioneer Ferran AdriĆ .

Cantu's edible paper – a corn flow and soy concoction, similar to material used on birthday cakes – in particular attracted a lot of attention. In 2005, The New York Times ran a story on the paper. Burger King sent a group of executives to Moto to explore Cantu's edible paper invention and other ideas. Featured heavily in early Moto menus, the paper was fed through a Canon i560 inkjet printer filled with inks made out of food. It was then brushed with powdered seasonings to give it whatever taste Cantu wished to convey. In 2005, Cantu began experimenting with liquid nitrogen to flash freeze food and to give dishes unusual shapes and with helium and superconductors in an attempt to levitate them. A profile by Gourmet talked a "floating course" with a specially made silicone cube that became lighter than air when heated and was imbued with smoke to give it a varying aroma. Cantu purchased a class IV laser (the highest grade available) to cook the interior of fish while leaving the outside raw and to create "inside out bread" with a doughy exterior and crusty interior.

Initially, food critics were not impressed saying Moto sacrificed deliciousness in favor of cleverness. Other chefs were split, variously describing Cantu as a "faddish flavor of the month" or a "creative genius." Over time, guests and critics began to notice the quality of the food in addition to the odd presentation. A 2005 review by The New York Times Magazine declared.

Fellow molecular gastronomy chef Grant Achatz described Cantu as "an ambassador of creative food." Together with Achatz and Graham Elliot, Cantu helped earn Chicago a reputation as the center of the innovative food. Cantu took over ownership of Moto and earned the restaurant a Michelin star in 2012, which it retained until his death.

Cantu's second restaurant, iNG, was a "reboot" of an earlier idea for a restaurant called Otom that never got off the ground. It was focused around a concept he called "flavor-tripping" – the use of the "miracle berry" to make sour foods taste sweet. The restaurant lost money and was closed in the Spring of 2014. After iNG closed, Cantu opened a coffee house called Berrista focused around the same concept. At the time of his death, he was preparing to open a brewery/brewpub called Crooked Fork with his friend and former Moto manager Trevor Rose-Hamblin. In September 2016, Rose-Hamblin and another of Cantu's associates, Matthias Merges, opened the brewpub, now renamed Old Irving Brewing Company.

In addition to cooking, Cantu had a passion for inventing. He filed more than 100 patents applications, and signed deals with NASA and Whirlpool for use of his inventions. A 2006 Food & Wine article by Pete Wells declared that if he could put one dish in a time capsule to explain the food trends of the past year, it would be Cantu's cotton candy paper, not because of its taste, but rather because of the copyright notice on the paper. He explained: "If chefs in the future call their lawyers every time they change their menus, we'll be able to look back on this two-dimensional treat and say, 'This is where it all began.'"

Cantu created a business called Cantu Designs to license his food-related inventions. Inventions included new utensils, a polymer cooking box that allows food to continue cooking after it is removed from the heat source, and an edible printer he called the "food replicator" in homage to Star Trek. Cantu had weekly meetings with a Chicago design firm called DeepLabs. There, he brainstormed with engineers and design people on new food presentation and gadget ideas. With DeepLabs, Cantu marketed inventions such as a fork and corkscrew combination and a utensil-sized device that turned into a plate at the push of a button. Other collaborations included an fork-spoon-knife combination utensil, utensils that released aromatic vapors on the push of a button, and a prototype utensil with a built in heating device. Cantu's patent lawyer, Chuck Valauskas, said the chef had so many ideas that his primary duty was to filter the more impractical ones out. Cantu also converted Moto's office into a "state-of-the-art indoor farm to grow vegetables – complete with a vortex aerator". (above from wikipedia)

and then Phil joined me for this extremely fun film - somewhat reminiscent of Amelie with a dash of Grand Budapest Hotel - really cute and funny and well filmed- I can't say enough about how completely entertaining this movie was - physical and situational comedy along with a sort of fairy tale ambience that created magic in the way American cinema rarely does...

No modern comedy group has shown as much commitment to resurrecting the spirit of classic slapstick than Brussels-based husband-and-wife comedy duo Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon. They have performed for decades, but only brought their talents into feature-length film making in the last 10 years, with films like the wordless “Rumba” and “The Fairy” showcasing their commitment to a humor otherwise absent from contemporary cinema. Their lanky figures are ideal vessels for deadpan visuals that mine territory ranging from Charlie Chaplin to Jacques Tati. “Lost in Paris,” their fourth effort (and first without co-director Bruno Romy), continues that earnest commitment to the genre by tapping into the material’s appeal without reinventing it.

While the appearance of French screen legend Emmanuelle Riva in a supporting role suggests the filmmakers are moving beyond their own antics, “Lost in Paris” predominantly belongs to Abel and Gordon, once again playing would-be lovers in an eccentric story filled with bizarre turns. It starts with Fiona (per usual, the couple uses their real names) living in a remote, frozen region of northern Canada that looks like something out of Wes Anderson’s toy chest, where the wind blows all the locals around the room whenever someone opens the door. It’s here that she receives a desperate note from her senile Aunt Martha (Riva), complaining that a nurse has been attempting to lock her away in a retirement home. On a whim, Fiona heads to Paris — all it takes is a gentle push out of the snowy frame from one of her peers, and she’s arrived in the big city — and promptly falls into the conundrum of the title.

Fiona’s a walking punchline from the moment she gets to town, wandering the streets with an oversized red backpack sporting a tiny Canadian flag, but the humor turns melancholic when she finds her aunt’s apartment empty and she has nowhere to go. Things only get worse: she tumbles into the Seine on more than one occasion, loses her passport and her cash, and gains a pesky stalker in the process. That would be Dom (Abel), a Chaplinesque tramp who lives by the river and instantly falls for Fiona after he comes across her missing belongings. But even after offering his assistance to find her missing aunt, she’s mortified by his grimy, streetwise ways, although his persistence pays off.

“Lost in Paris” becomes a gentle romance about awkward loners with a shared tendency for disaster-prone antics, but the flimsy plot of “Lost in Paris” provides an excuse for Abel and Gordon to unleash their visual humor, which at best mimics Tati’s ability to turn the surrounding environment into a character itself. The couple’s initial courtship begins in one of the more prolonged and effective sequences, a clumsy pas de deux at a seaside restaurant where blaring music causes everyone in the room to bounce together to the same beat. Elsewhere, tangents include the disastrous effect of a wayward fishing line, and a cigarette that burns through a newspaper to create a peephole as Dom spies on Abel at a diner. There’s also a few moments of terrific comic suspense, including the threat of an incinerator and a wayward ladder at the top of the Eiffel Tower. No matter its wandering trajectory, “Lost in Paris” remains unpredictable until the bittersweet end. (above from Inide Wire)

I was sorry that I just didn't have time to see all of the films I had tickets for, but the location is somewhat inconvenient- in the Streeterville section of town where traffic and parking are a huge ordeal.  We wished it was still being held at the Music Box, Biograph, Three Penny locations of prior fests... but no one ever asks us these questions LOL- and when we did get there - generally the things we saw were worth the time and effort.

Now in the final days of packing and readying things for the trip south... we continue on the "farewell tour" and will be "running through the finish line" so stay tuned for more -