A great food and dining experience excites me! From finding restaurants to trying a new dish, I can’t get enough of discovering new tastes. But I recently found that it’s even more fun when someone else plans it all for you! That’s why I am absolutely THRILLED to share a culinary highlight of my #Priceless Chicago Experience, courtesy of IHG Hotels and MasterCard®.
…cue some jazzy music…
The evening began with a livery service from our hotel which is located on Michigan Ave., in the southern end of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. The accommodations radiate luxury and the architecture is simply stunning. We were transported to a private loft with an entrance so discrete that you would hardly know it existed. As we ascended to the second floor, tea lights graced every other stair. The risers were stenciled in a gray and white qua-trefoil which set the tone for its chic, yet swanky, styled dwelling.
The loft space was bright and elegantly decorated with faux fur rugs, crystal chandeliers, and a linen-covered dining table that sparkled with silver accents. The floor to ceiling windows drew me in immediately as my mind begin to wonder “when can I buy this place and move in”…but then I snapped back to reality. We started the evening with a glass of champagne (after all, fine dining must start with a fine cocktail), greeted our Chef, and went to the outdoor deck for mingling.
Oh! Did I mention that our dinner was being prepared by Graham Elliot? I was so excited that I immediately whipped out my camera and went for a che-lfie. He was very welcoming and didn’t seem to mind the start-struck antics. Graham is a recipient of three James Beard Award nominations, competed on Iron Chef and the first two seasons of Top Chef Masters, was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” and became the youngest Four Star Chef in the U.S., all before the age of 30. In 2012, Graham was inducted into the Chicago Chefs Hall of Fame, named “Chef of the Year”, and saw September 19th officially proclaimed as “Graham Elliot Day” in the city of Chicago by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In addition to running his restaurant: Graham Elliot Bistro in Chicago (currently closed for re-concept), Graham is also a judge on Fox’s MasterChef, and the Culinary Director of Chicago’s Lollapalooza music festival, and the author of his first cookbook, “Cooking Like a Master Chef”.
Let’s talk food, shall we? Our menu began with an amuse bouche. In French, it literally means “mouth amuser” and is pronounced “a myz boosh”. This is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre that is different from appetizers in that it is served gratis and according to the chef’s selection alone. The cauliflower in the Cauliflower Panna Cotta was pureed to creamy perfection, topped with a mound of caviar, and sprinkled with minced chives. The mixture of sweet and saltiness with differing textures were deliciously fun to eat. Wine pairing: Taittinger Brut La Francais – NV
The first course was an unforgettable presentation of “soup and salad”. It was plated with a curry marshmallow, raw vegetables, and pesto. A hot carrot mixture was poured into the dish and as I watched the marshmallow melt like a hot knife in butter, a phenomenal Carrot Bisque appeared before my eyes. As I stirred the content of my bowl to create an amazing swirl of colors, I almost felt like a chef. It was very creative presentation and thoroughly enjoyed! Wine pairing: 2015 Stag’s Leap Viognier
For the second course, we were served Seared Scallops with asparagus risotto, which was so good that I felt a spirit of Oliver Twist come upon me (…“Please sir, can I have some more?”). With two more courses to go, I am not sure where I would have put the extra helping…I just didn’t want to look back and think “I could have eaten that”! Wine pairing: 2016 Domaine Bunan Moulin Des Costes Bandol Rose
As the evening progressed and the wine flowed, we were served an entree of Sea Bass with roasted trumpet mushrooms, truffled hollandaise, watercress salad, and roasted fingerlings (not pictured). I was really living in the moment while periodically strategizing on how to convince Graham to be my new best friend and get invitations for Sunday brunch or backyard BBQs. The table conversation was in full swing and we feasted like royalty. Wine pairing: 2011 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon
Now I am really stoked because I’ve connected with new acquaintances on social media. And then….wait for it…. a Lavender Crème Brulee is gently placed before me in all its burnt custard glory! I had an administrative meeting with myself and quickly passed the “No Dessert Left Behind” act. Wine pairing: 2010 Chateau Haut-Sarthes Haut Montravel Moelleux
What a #priceless evening! I really enjoyed the experience and would love to share a little slice of it. You can win a brand new, autographed copy of Cooking Like a Master Chef by Graham Elliot! I am also giving away a digital kitchen scale and a $10 Amazon gift card. Three winners will be selected (one for each prize).
To enter, visit the giveaway page, follow me on social media, give the blog some love, comment below and tell me what is your favorite dish to cook. Then tell your friends to increase your chance of winning!