Choucroute Dinner at Everest with “Mr.Chocolate” Jacque Torres
Wow! What a dinner. I’d never experienced true Choucroute until a couple of nights ago at Everest in Chicago. And what a delicious experience it was!
Here’s the scoop: Everest was putting on a $500/plate dinner to benefit Share Our Strenth’s No Kid Hungry program. Chef Joho of Everest solicited his long time friend and fellow Alsatian, Jacque Torres to do desserts. Yes, that Jacque Torres; the chocolate master, himself… the guy that pioneered bringing quality, artisan chocolates to the American public.
So, since Chef Jacque was coming in the night before, he convinced Chef Joho to make one of his favorite French comfort foods, choucroute. How I got one of the 20 seats at the table is beyond me… but I’m not asking questions!
We were greeted and escorted into one of the private dining spaces at Everest for Champagne and (pork-driven) hors d’ oeuvres.
First off, Everest is located on the 40th floor for the Chicago Stock Exchange building so, needless to say, the view is pretty spectacular. Lights blanket the floor below for what seems like, forever.
Then dinner happened. Chef Joho explained that you rarely see this dish in a restaurant because it is such a humble and homely meal. It’s essentially, all the cheap cuts of the pig, made into delicious bits to be served with a heaping scoop of sauerkraut and mustards. Here you see multiple different types of sausages, braised belly, tongue, boiled shoulder and a quenelle of minced liver. It was ALL freaking delicious.
For some reason, the blood sausage was brought out and placed on our plates separately. I have no idea why and I didn’t ask. It, too, was delicious. Crumbly and flavorful… you wouldn’t even know it was made from blood. No, really.
Apparently, Frenchies follow one rich course with another rich course. That’s where this stinky, creamy French muenster came in. They say that the caraway seeds are the classic accompaniment for muenster. It’s supposed to aide in digestion. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me like after an enormous pile of pig and a big fat hunk of cheese, I might need more than a couple little seeds to aide in my digestion. But I’ll take what I can get.
They poured 2 AMAZING Alsatian wines: a dry riesling and a semi-sweet gewurztraminer. At this point, I’d firmly decided that I need to go to Alsace. Soon!
AND, there was dessert. Ouch. These guys are afraid of nothing! It, too, was heavenly. A smooth and creamy frozen custard (yes, ice cream) with an inlay of candied fruits and brioche. Fab.
With an intimate party of only 20, the conversation was comfortable and casual. We talked about food, mostly, how they got their starts and what lead them to do what they do. They are both extremely sweet, kind and charming gentlemen (and you know, a French accent never hurts either!).
Chef Jacque, Me, Chef Joho
It was an absolutely lovely evening and I feel very fortunate to have attended!