The Peninsula Chicago’s Lobby is traditionally an oasis of opulence, fabulous food and a refreshing pocket of calm in my weekday afternoons in between meetings as I bustle hither and yon in the Loop. But when this gracious space is transformed through their Chef Series dinners? The staff of the Peninsula manage to up their game beyond your imaginings.
Last week, in-house chef de cuisine Lee Wolen partnered up with Chicago chef Ryan Poli, chef and partner of Tavernita and Little Market Brasserie to create an astounding Mediterranean-themed five course meal that was off the hook.
Starting off the evening was a delightful first course of Hamachi Crudo, a delicate yet substantive combination of avocado, cucumber and jalapeno. The crisp cucumber was a clean counterpoint to the kick of the jalapeno. Pairing: Alois Lagerder Dolomiti Pinot Bianco, Alto Adige, Italy 2011.
I was a bit tentative about the tentacles that anchored the second course, but I need not have worried. Sweet, spicy and bright, this combination of grilled Spanish octopus, celery, chorizo and grapefruit was exotic yet accessible for the trepiditious diners among us (citing creative license to create this word because it includes Yours Truly). Pairing: Jean Luc Columbo Provence, France 2011.
As a fifth generation Irish lass off the boat, I must say that I’ve never seen potatoes look as beautiful as they did in the third course. Complementing the delicate slow poached Loup de Mer, the fennel provided the perfect refreshing notes. Pairing: Shaya Habis Verdejo Rueda, Spain 2009.
For the main course, we were treated to roasted Colorado lamb loin, perfectly seared and succulent. Accompanied by chickpeas and eggplant, this dish artfully combined culinary elements to provide just the right amount of ballast to the meal. Pairing: Clendenen The Pip Pinor Noir, Santa Maria, California 2009.
Dessert was an ephemeral confection whose pairing truly rounded out the totality of the course. The roasted almond panna cotta served with plum and thyme was a true topper. If the meal was a perfect date, this dessert was the light kiss on the cheek at the end. Perfection. Pairing: Samos Anthemis Muscat, Greece 1999.
Each dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. at The Lobby, located on the 5th floor. Tickets can be reserved by calling (312) 573-6695 or by emailing email@example.com
. A portion of proceeds will benefit the nonprofit organization Common Threads
DEETS: The Lobby at The Peninsula Chicago, 108 East Superior Street (between Rush Street and Michigan Avenue); 312-573-6760. The final dinner in the Chef Series is Monday, October 28: Guest Chef is Tony Mantuano, chef/partner at Spiaggia, Bar Toma and Terzo Piano with a theme being Truffles.