Last night, while tottering drunkards, some strapped with clinking beer can necklaces, stumbled by the floor-to-ceiling windows of ChoLon, Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, who resides in Chicago, Fruition exec chef-owner Alex Seidel and Lon Symensma, the owner-chef of ChoLon, were in Symensma's kitchen, safely secure from the ensuing debauchery outside.
Inside, the three chefs were holding their own mini beer festival, turning out course after course of some of the best food I've had this year, all paired with craft beers, one of which was a honey porter that Izard, along with Goose Island Goose brewmaster Jared Rouben, created specifically for last night's feast, which also benefited from the mixology talents of Brian Melton, who started the bash off with a duo of lovely beer cocktails.
Izard, who was here as part of a book tour -- she just released her Girl in the Kitchen cookbook, a compilation of recipes from her Chicago restaurant -- proved why she won Top Chef -- and Symensma and Seidel proved that, given the opportunity, they'd be formidable competitors.
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Herewith, the foodography from the dinner.
Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard preps in the kitchen of ChoLon for last night's food-and-beer-pairing dinner. My favorite dish of the night -- and one of my favorite dishes this year -- was Symensma's stunning "garden" salad, a forest of watermelon radishes, multi-hued melon balls and sugar snap peas arranged on a plate paved with an apricot dressing jolted with hot Chinese mustard powder. Izard's goat carpaccio dressed with a goat tongue vinaigrette. Fruition's Alex Seidel went the oceanic route for his starter, Kasshi oysters dotted with passion fruit gelée and pooled in a chile-ginger mignonette. For one of her main dishes, Izard prepared fennel-specked potato and rice noodle crepes topped with crumbles of lamb sausage and an apricot nuoc chom. Symensma's pork tenderloin paired with wild mushroom sticky rice studded with bacon. Symensma also created an almond-crusted duck breast sided with a cauliflower puree, compressed grapes, verdant micro greens and small squares of roasted squash. Seidel made crowds squawk in awe of his brown butter-roasted ostrich loin with celery root puree and a Chioga beet and honey crisp apple salad crowned with hazelnuts. For the dessert course, Symesma served a coffee-chocolate tart with condensed caramel and candied oranges. Izard's sugar high was a brown sugar cake with spiced chocolate gelato and a coffee-orange gastrique. Seidel's dessert, which I absolutely loved, was crème fraîche crepes accompanied by smoked blue cheese coins, black mission figs and an orange mustard seed marmalade.