Hanging Out in Rockford: Wine, cigars, good food at the Rose

Brian Lynch is a hot shoe when it comes to food and wine. He’s made a life out of it. His main occupation is working for a high-end wine distribution company, one stage higher than the local distributors. He represents wineries to distributors all across the Midwest. Naturally, I was glad when he expressed an interest in doing a guest chef gig at the Irish Rose. Brian has a great reputation. Troy, my chef, was also excited about the prospect of working with him.

Just a week or so later, I was sitting with my friend Jim Thacker (Jim was the manager of new Mayor Larry Morrissey’s tremendously successful campaign. Since then, we have become close friends.) when he broached the idea of a cigar and wine dinner. I knew Brian to be conversant with fine cigars also, and I decided to try to put the two ideas together. I called Brian on my cell phone. The time was propitious, and he came right over. All the parties involved seemed to hit it off, and we picked a date about a month off.

Within a few days, Brian e-mailed me the prospective menu. After some consultation, we changed only one item, an elk shank, which had been my idea originally. I decided instead that we should have a big chunk of red meat to go with the wine and cigars. Everybody seemed happy with that. And so, with all that decided, here is the menu.

We’re going to start with appetizers, smoked trout paté, barbecue frog legs and Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in charred tomato broth (all items from Wabash Seafood): all of this is going to be washed down with Schramsberg Mirabelle. Sounds like a pretty good way to start. The following course is a terrine of fresh and smoked salmon (both fresh and smoked salmon from Wabash Seafood) with a parsley sauce to be accompanied by Gainey LTD Sauvignon Blanc.

Kicking into some heavier eating, we will tackle a pot roast ravioli (in homemade ravioli pasta, of course) in a horseradish demi (veal demi glacé from Chicago Game), accompanied by Grand Archer Syrah followed by my contribution, the large hunk of rare beef, a roasted prime top sirloin from Creekstone Farms (Sam’s Meats on Fulton Market), to be served with a traditional polenta with just a touch of truffle oil (truffle oil and arboreal rice from Maloney’s on Fulton Market) and some carrots that have been smoked in the Irish Rose wood-fired oven. Burgess Zinfandel will help this find its way to our stomachs.

The following course includes something I had never heard of—mache. I left a message on Brian’s answering service. “What’s mache?” It is a salad green. I found it at S&M in the International Produce Market at only $16 a pound. Yes, I said $16 a pound. This also will have truffle oil administered to it and will surround a piece of Liverot cheese (Chicago Game, ordered direct from France and delivered in two days at $50 for 3 pounds) to which has been applied a small amount of fig jam. I spent three hours driving all over the north side of Chicago looking for fig jam, and finally found it in the little import market in the back of Sam’s liquor. I have tried the combination, and it is quite amazing. With the cheese course, we will drink Clos Pegase Cabernet.

The final course consists of simple dried fruits and nuts (from Tuchten in the International Produce Market) and Grant Burge 10-year tawny port. All of this is $90 without the cigars (an option we devised for some of the women who want to come, although some of the women said they are going to smoke cigars) and $120 with the cigars. I don’t have cigar information at the time of this writing other than to say there will be three, and they will undoubtedly be very special.

If you’re reading this on Wednesday, Feb. 8, the day The Rock River Times hits the stands, we may have a few spots left; you can call me on my cell phone at 519-8646 if you would like to make a reservation.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are available on his Web site, IrishRoseRockford.com. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

From the Feb. 8-14, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!