Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Musing on Carols and Chestnuts

Although most people don’t actually eat them, let alone roast them over an open fire, nothing says Christmas like chestnuts. An expression of the kind of irony that makes real life so much funnier than anything imagined, the 1944 song that forever after linked chestnuts to Santa Claus, Jack Frost, and mistletoe was written by two Jews in July. Nonetheless thanks to the iconic holiday tune, chestnuts on the table are just the thing for getting into a December state of mind. You can do it in style downtown at Muse at the Ritz Carlton where they’re the featured ingredient on this month’s Farmer’s Market Menu.

Chef de Cuisine Constantine Vourliotis, recently promoted to head up the kitchen, has put together a three course tasting to show off the nuts’ unique qualities. It begins with a chestnut almond bisque, sea scallop, crispy prosciutto, and toasted brioche. The entrée is roasted chicken breast and braised thigh meat ragout with Brussels sprouts and chestnuts. And for dessert there’s chocolate chestnut torte with vanilla raspberry compote. The prix fixe dinner is available nightly for $30 per person, $45 with wine pairings until January except for Christmas eve, Christmas day, and New Year’s eve, (when there are other special dinners and overnight packages scheduled).

I ate at Muse in November when the Market Menu featured mushrooms, and was very impressed with the originality and quality of Chef Vourliotis’ food. So I have no doubt that his celebration of chestnuts will be exceptional. Throw in the glow from the fireplace that warms the room all winter and maybe the velvet voiced Nat King Cole providing a soundtrack and you’ve got the makings for a merry and memorable meal. Yuletide spirit is optional.

1 comment:

Christine Borne said...

I *love* chestnuts! I actually do roast them myself on occasion - you can usually get them in bulk at the West Side Market and Nature's Bin. They are delicious tossed with roasted brussels sprouts, chunks of butternut squash, and amish egg noodles - with maybe a few shavings of English cheddar and a real English cider alongside.

I have also been known to make a simple bread puddinglike concoction from chestnut flour (you can get this at Athens Pastries on Lorain and W. 25), raisins, sugar, and milk.

And then there's chestnut hot chocolate.....