There were so many reasons to celebrate! Yes, June 14 was Flag Day in the United States, but our attention was drawn to matters of greater importance to the Chaîne Bailliage de Cincinnati.
Following a reception featuring G. H. Mumm Grand Cordon Brut Champagne, NV, enjoyed with a trio of delicious passed appetizers, Bailli George Elliott kicked off an evening worthy of celebration by unveiling a new 40th anniversary commemorative pin for the Cincinnati Bailliage. He also honored a member of the original 1981 Cincinnati Chaîne who was present at the dinner celebration: Vice Conseiller Gastronomique Honoraire Marilyn Harris.
Being able to dine at The Mercer restaurant was also cause for celebration. Closed for many months due to COVID-19, The Mercer had just reopened a few weeks earlier. Jon Zipperstein, who also co-owns Trio and Embers restaurants in Cincinnati with Gregg Pancero, was not able to join us to hear our in-person appreciation for making it through the pandemic. (Think super busy guy trying to restore three restaurants to pre-pandemic standards of excellence during a staff shortage!) Zipperstein’s restaurants were beneficiaries of Cincinnati’s “Helping Our Friends” initiative created to support local Chaîne favorites in getting through the challenges of the pandemic.
Our five-course meal was curated by Chase Blowers, executive chef for all three of Jon Zipperstein’s restaurants. Echanson Provincial Mary Horn’s wine committee selected excellent wines to go with each course.
What good is a summer meal without peaches? For our first course, a Panzanella salad of grilled peaches, heirloom tomatoes, and Buffalo mozzarella were perfectly seasoned with focaccia bread from local bakery Allez. A 2020 Chateau d’Acqueria Tavel Rosé (Rhône Valley) accented both the beautiful colors and bright flavors of the dish.
The second course offered a mélange of interesting flavors, one surprising bite after another. A soft egg was plated on polenta, then topped with Manchego fondue and hazelnut-poppyseed dukah. Local asparagus, in both fresh and shaved crispy preparations, adorned one side of the plate, while the other side featured a flavor pop from bonita flake. The wine selected for this course would likely have been a crowd favorite regardless of course pairing: 2018 Domaine du Pré Semelé Sancerre (Loire).
Our third and fourth courses featured red wines from Sicily and Burgundy, perhaps surprising choices to pair with chicken and seafood dishes. Our expert wine committee, experienced in these matters, keyed in on preparation rather than protein. And it worked so well! Paired with a roulade of chicken breast presented with ramp purée, English peas, and pickled ramps, a biodynamic wine from Etna Rosso (2017 Tornatore) was a new experience for most Chaîne members. What a beauty from Burgundy for our Lobster Rockefeller course! The youthful 2018 Domaine du Duc de Magenta Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Clos de la Garenne” was delightfully fresh and lively, keying in on the earthy notes of creamed spinach, light spice flavors from Pernod, and a creamy complement from a dollop of Hollandaise sauce.
To finish this excellent meal, our dessert was a lemon tart made with a sugar cookie crust. The filling of lemon curd was topped with torched meringue, plus a side scoop of Madagascar vanilla gelato. A honey-gold 2016 Chateau Coutet Barsac (Sauterne) brought out all of the flavors resonant in the lemon tart.
As the evening drew to a close, Bailli George Elliott introduced and congratulated co-executive chefs Corey Graham and Isaiah Barrett who prepared the terrific meal, as well as GM Matt Combs and the entire service team.
Kathy Merchant, Chargée de Presse Provincial – Midwest