When you get an invitation from Chelsea Handler inviting you to a brunch with Belvedere vodka, it's not one of those things you really have to think about whether you want to attend. So before we really even knew the details, we signed on. Then we realized it was at Mercat a la Planxa to launch Belvedere's new bloody mary vodka and knew it was going to be a good time.
Little did we know it'd be a veritable who's who of Chicago's food and media scene. First, it was co-hosted by Bon Appetit's new editor in chief Adam Rapoport who said he's having a great time at the helm. There's been a lot of speculation about the second issue, and Rapoport apparently told some folks at the brunch that Gwyneth Paltrow will grace the cover. Rapoport, who dined at Girl & The Goat while in town, also told us that since he just took over and they're only about to release their second issue that their plans for an iPad app are pushed back a bit. But back to the brunch.
The event was called for 11 a.m. and it started filling up quickly. Mingling over fresh bloody marys and another cocktail comprising citrus and mint (as well as the spicy vodka), a robust crew of Chicago chefs, restaurateurs and media folk mingled, including Tony and Cathy Mantuano, Bill & Yvonne-Cadiz Kim, Rob and Kathleen Katz, Amanda Puck, CS magazine's Korey Karnes Huyler, Candace Jordan, Time Out Chicago's Kevin Aeh and John Dugan, Spiaggia exec chef Sarah Grueneberg and her fiance, Jaime Canete, sous chef at Terzo Piano, Michigan Avenue editor Susanna Negovan, John Ross and Chris Pandel from the Bristol, Takashi Yagihashi, Alpana Singh, Charles Joly, Adam Seger, Joshua Pearson, Brad Bolt, Lynn House, Blackbird group's Brian Houstin, Justin Large and Patrick Fahy and so many more.
Sitting down, we were presented with a single shot glass of the new spirit to showcase the flavors. It's made with natural ingredients and truly tastes like a bloody mary. The vodka already has been infused with tomatoes, black pepper, horeseradish, bell pepper, chili pepper, lemon and vinegar distillate, so all you need to do is add tomato juice. Or you can get crafty.
Mercat's celebrity exec chef José Garces flew to town for the event and served a four-course meal, each course paired with a special cocktail created by Belvedere's head mixologist Claire Smith. Belvedere president Charles Gibb said this was the third launch party out of four (London, NY and LA). And when he introduced Chelsea, she screamed from her table, "Shut up, Charles!"
Handler, who is in town for a book signing for her latest release, Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me, was with a gaggle of her comedians, including Heather McDonald, Josh Wolf and Brad Wollack, who will perform tonight at the Chicago Theater.
Let's get down to what's really important—what we ate and drank:
· First course: Sopa de chayote (smoked chayote squash soup with rosemary chicken sausage and aged goat cheese) paired with Belvedere Bloody Mary, grapefruit juice, honey, lemon juice and orange bitters
· Second course: Langosta con Ostra (butter-poached Maine lobster, Champagne oyster cream, Osetra caviar) with Belvedere Bloody Mary, tomato juice, merlot, worchestershire sauce and tabasco
· Third course: Costillas a la Riojana (slow-cooked short ribs, heirloom potato confit and manchego espuma) with Belvedere Bloody Mary, black pepper, simple syrup, lemon juice and Fever Tree soda
· Dessert: Hazelnut-marscapone gateaux with Belvedere Bloody Mary, pineapple juice, lime juice, orange bitter and smoked paprika