February 10, 2014 was a typical wintery day in the Midwest when the Cincinnati Bailliage got together at Orchids restaurant to do their best to interrupt the winter blahs. Orchids at the Palm Court is located in the historic Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel, a national historic landmark hotel built in 1931 in a French Art Deco style by Colonel William Starrett whose other works included the Lincoln Memorial and the Empire State Building. Upon entering the lobby of the hotel, we were immediately drawn to the rare Brazilian rosewood and marble decor. We accepted flutes of Besserat de Bellefon Cuvee de Moines NV and ascended to the mezzanine level. From here we were able to look out over the restaurant and take in the gorgeous frescoes, opulent murals on a ceiling many stories high, and German crafted metal sconces surrounded by floral motifs. Appetizers were passed and members caught each other up on what they did over the holidays. What a setting for the evening to come!
Maȋtre d’ Charles Redmond then ushered us down the stairs to take our seats. Anticipation grew as all members were very aware of the incredible skill possessed by Chef Todd Kelly. Chef Kelly first came to work at Orchids in 2006 and since that time has moved the restaurant to a level that has exceeded all expectations. He has earned 4 stars from Forbes Travel guide, 4 diamonds from AAA, and his restaurant has been voted the best restaurant in Cincinnati by Cincinnati Magazine for the last 5 years in a row. Moreover, Chef Kelly was personally awarded the coveted American Culinary Federation Chef of the Year in 2011-12. Needless to say, we have never been less than wowed by any event at this exquisite dining establishment.
Our first course consisted of a fluke and lobster salad which Vice Echanson Mike Monnin expertly paired with 2010 Maison Roche de Bellene St. Aubin Le Charmois Premier Cru. This was followed by a marinated beet salad with 2010 Maximin Grunhauser Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett. There was no doubt that Chef Kelly was two for two but could he sustain this level of perfection? Unequivocally, the answer was “Yes!” In my humble opinion, it only got better as the staff presented a foie gras course containing a marinated truffled quail paired with 2009 L Boillot Pommard Les Fremmiers Premier Cru. This was followed by roasted venison with Italian chestnuts, root spinach spice berries, and orange sauce paired with 2007 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino. About this time, I sat back and looked around at the our incredible historic surroundings and I could almost imagine what it might have been like to dine in one of the most treasured pre-WWII restaurants in the country. This momentary daydreaming was delightfully interrupted by our servers who brought out a decadent chocolate crémeux with coconut sorbet, whipped mango, and passion fruit. A perfect ending to a storybook evening!
Before leaving, Chef Kelly, Maitre d’ Redmond and their staff were presented to the delight of all. A resounding ovation was given to the entire team for a most memorable evening. Heartfelt thanks were also given to Bailli George Elliott, Vice Conseiller Gastronomique Marilyn Harris, and Vice Echanson Monnin for coordinating this phenomenal gastronomic and architectural experience.
Graig Smith MD, Vice Chargé de Presse