The afternoon card players who fill the tables at Chicago's justly famed Casino club are tempted to forsake the most exciting game of bridge or canasta, even at a cent a point, by the exceptionally delicious and attractive buffet supper which makes its appearance on Thursday evenings. When husbands arrive from their offices, and cards are put aside, these delicacies will get the full attention of appreciative club members.
The Casino, which was founded in 1914 and has a limited membership of some 440 families and individuals, is unique in many ways. The present club building, a low, dark-gray structure designed by Chicago Architect Walter Frazier in 1927, still appears distinctive and modern-looking in its setting on East Delaware Place between Michigan Avenue and the lake. Inside, the club's original Empire décor of slate-black walls, various greens, terra cottas and off-golds, offset by palomino-colored satin sofas and raspberry-red hangings, is as strikingly handsome today as when it was created by Mrs. Rue Winterbotham Carpenter more than 30 years ago.
The club is the site of innumerable entertainments held in private dining rooms and in the ballroom on special occasions such as wedding receptions and debuts, and it is also a place for lunching or dining any day at all with families or friends. Speaking for the members, Casino President Mrs. John R. Winterbotham said: "Most of us consider the club a second home." And, just as at home, nothing is more important here than the quality of the food, which is watched over with great care by Club Manager Philip Van Hecke.
The Casino is fortunate in having the services of Chef Pierre Meunier (see picture above), an extremely talented Breton from Morlaix, who has been with the club for the past six years. The fare with which he nourishes the card brains of the members is a delicate, sophisticated and surprising cuisine nature—pure, digestible, deceptively simple food, the kind a very good cook makes in a private house.
Some of Meunier's special dishes which are enjoyed the most are paper-thin scaloppine of veal, cooked barely golden and served in a thin juice with Marsala and capers; paper-thin crepes rolled with a thin slice of ham over a duxelle of minced mushrooms, the crepes then covered with a light Mornay sauce (the dish is called pannequets √éle de France); alligator pears stuffed with crabmeat lightly tossed in a homemade mayonnaise made slightly pungent with Mister Mustard, chopped chives and a touch of Worcestershire; sweetbreads normande in Calvados; a superb gnocchi au gratin; and a fabulous homemade lemon sherbet.
The buffet selection shown in the photograph on the opposite page is comprised of the following:
Cold duck bigarade: The ducks are roasted first breast up, then breast down, on top of the abatis (necks, wingtips, giblets except liver), so that the skin will not be torn by sticking to the pan; they are made to glisten by brushing with a meat glaze. Slices of cold duck are served with a traditional bigarade sauce, the dish decorated with watercress and orange sections.
Breasts of chicken with kumquats: The breasts are carved off roasted chickens and lightly spread with a sauce made of the abatis, slightly thickened with arrowroot and flavored with Madeira wine. Kumquats (which are available in jars or cans) "marry very well" with this sauce, as the chef says.
Poached walleyed pike with sauce Dugléré: The small pike are simmered slowly in water with bay leaf, thyme and a little onion, served with the classic French sauce for this and other fish.
Poached Cornice pears with sabayon sauce: The pears are Cored from the blossom end, leaving the stem. They are then peeled, but with an inch or so of skin left on the bottom so they will stand upright for poaching in the oven in a pan of vanilla-flavored sugar syrup. Meunier makes his sabayon (zabaglione) sauce with Rhine wine instead of Marsala, adds a dash of rum just before pouring it over the cold pears.