The Dordogne tourism board is in town for the week, and partnering with chefs Greg Biggers and Leigh Omilinsky (a Food & Wine People's Best New Pastry Chef nominee) to present the best ingredients from the Dordogne Périgord region in a Les Amis du Chef dinner with wine pairings this evening. The Cafe des Architectes chefs will be joined by Michelin-starred Chef Vincent Arnould from Perigord's Le Vieux Logis and Winemaker Daniel Hecquet of Chateau Haut-Sarthes and Chateau Puy Servain. Perigord truffles, foie gras, chestnuts, walnuts and strawberries have been flown in from France specifically for the dinner. Tickets are available for $150.
Biggers recently returned from a two week trip to France, landing in Chicago just in time to serve 500 covers for Easter brunch. He spent several days working in Leon, then drove across the country to the tiny village of Tremolat, population 600, in Dordogne.
"It was definitely a culture shock," Biggers says. "Everything's a little different from what we do here in Chicago. Chef Vincent [Arnould] is very, very technical. One of the biggest things I learned from being in his kitchen is he scales out everything, from salt and pepper to any spices. He's very precise and his technique is flawless. And I learned patience. Everything is four steps slower."
Biggers was also impressed by Arnould's use of his steamer. "It's a less aggressive form of cooking," Biggers says. "He used it in a lot of different applications, cooking meats using just straight steam. Like roasting duck breasts which was kind of new to me. I've steamed meats before, but the way he did it, he cold-smoked it, then marinated it, then cooked these huge Magret duck breasts in a steamer application at a very low temperature for a very long time, finishing them in the pan. It's almost like sous-viding,
As for Perigord's famous black truffles, Biggers had a chance to uncover a few late season ones with a truffle farmer and his dog. "I'd been dreaming about this my whole life," Biggers says. "The farmer was very exuberant and excited about what he was doing. He didn't speak any English, and I didn't speak much French but we understood each other very well."
Here is Biggers' and Arnould's menu for Thursday evening.
Perigord Truffle and Spring Peas
Fromage blanc, pickled spring onions
Foie Gras Vin Rouge
Smoked chestnuts, Perigord walnut oil, citrus
Magret Duck Breast
Duck fat poached potato, Golden morels, black truffle jus
Cabacou Crème Brulee
Tahitian Vanilla Sponge
Whiskey mousse, sour cherries, brioche ice cream