Though the tragic events in Paris on November 13th cast a shadow over À la carte Chicago, the spirits of my French colleagues gradually recovered as hope and determination replaced fear. One week later the 31st annual Passport to France event began with an uncorking of emotions in a celebration of French culture and resolve.
For more than three decades the French-American Chamber of Commerce Chicago has celebrated each passing season with the introduction of the first French wine of the year, Beaujolais Nouveau. What began as a gathering of Francophones and Francophiles celebrating the young wine has grown into an extravagant showcase of the best in French cuisine, wines, spirits, and culture.
Held at the historic and prestigious Union League Club of Chicago, this year’s event occupied two sumptuously appointed ballrooms hosting more than 50 Chefs, restaurants, and vendors offering the finest French indulgences in an atmosphere of friendship and celebration.
Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by the guest of honor, a 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau. Light in body but rich in fruit and offering a crisp minerality and fresh acidity, this year’s first wine was an excellent expression of the style and a reassuring way to start the evening.
For the next three hours we circulated through both ballrooms, greeting friends and colleagues while enjoying delicious contemporary French cuisine and a number of exquisite French wines. Sweets and savories mixed it up in a swirling experience of flavors. New to the event this year was the addition of a spirits lounge which offered guests a generous sampling of spirits from absinthe’s and cognacs to vodkas and pastis, and everything in between.
A shining example of why the French table is truly King of the culinary world, the Passport to France is a reminder that French cuisine evolved deep inside the gated mansions of the bourgeoisie, locked away from the French people until the revolution set it free and released the spirit of celebrating every day to the masses.