Executive Chef Thomas Lents and the culinary team at Sixteen announced a menu for the spring season at the Michelin Two-Star restaurant at Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago.
Following the winter menu Dining In Progress, which tracked the evolution of fine dining, the spring menu upholds the overall focus on progress as a guiding theme for the year’s series of tasting menus.
The Spring menu, entitled Food in Progress: Assessing an American Food Revolution, examines the advancements in both agriculture and technology that enable convenient, affordable, and year-round access to produce and products that were limited by seasonality in the past. Additionally, it looks at the environmental and economic impact of mass production, fueled by the American palate.
“We’re in a position to take a stance on these issues,” explains Chef Lents. “Some traditional approaches to food production have proven to be wasteful and I think the restaurant industry as a whole is opening up to the idea that we need to have a conscience.”
Woven throughout the story of the multi-course menu is an emphasis on heritage and heirloom agriculture. Illustrating this focus, the dining experience commences with a vintage seed box filled with edible snacks that serve as the physical menu while also representing the menu’s sections: The Farm, The Sea, The Ranch, The Orchard and Dairy, and The Trade.
Each section includes multiple “Gifts from the Kitchen” courses followed by the guest’s choice of their main dish.
The Farm: Revisiting American Agriculture
The first of multiple “Gifts from the Kitchen” courses showcases asparagus, with the incredibly seasonal and elusive white asparagus served alongside a soup made from the ubiquitous green variety. These plates include Veiled Green and White Asparagus with Blood Orange and Curry and Comté Flan with Chive Flowers, Morels, and Asparagus Soup.
Subsequent courses pay homage to Dan Barber and Sean Brock, notable chefs advocating for sustainable and heirloom agriculture, with diners selecting from:
- The Third Plate: Barley Porridge, Escargot, Mustard Greens, and Juice
- The Revival of Lost Varietals: Carolina Gold Rice Congee, Sorghum, and Country Ham
The Sea: A Once Teeming Ocean
For the second section, courses represent various methods of aqua farming and sourcing, reflecting on the impact of aggressive farming practices as well as the increase of sustainable aqua farming.
Gift courses include Abalone, Dulse, Sea Grape, and Dashi and Potato Soufflé with Sturgeon and its Caviar.
Subsequent courses include:
- By Hook, Line, and Quota: Wild King Salmon, Crushed Favas, Fava Leaves, and Shiso
- Advancing the Aquaculture: Loup de Mer in Whey, Wild Dill and Fennel, Clam, and Parsley, Horseradish Emulsion
The Ranch: Weighing the Cost of What’s for Dinner
With American palates focused on ranch animals as the main source of protein, the courses in this section explore the impact of this affinity and the result of farming at an exponential rate.
The gift course features Smoked Squab with Sour Cherry and Sorrel.
Course options include:
- A Costly Convenience: Grass-fed, Dry-Aged Beef Ribeye, Fermented Ramps, Sprouting Alliums
- A Demand that can Drive Change: Porcelet, Roast Brined Carrot, Buttermilk, and Ferns
The Orchard and Dairy
Crafted by Executive Pastry Chef Aya Fukai, the dessert portion of the menu begins with gift courses that highlight the importance of following the seasonality of fruits for both farming and nutritional benefits.
- Preserving to Extend the Fruits of the Season: Mandarin and Avocado Sorbet with Freeze Dried Mandarin and Pistachio and Yogurt Cake with Blueberry and Lavender Jam
- A Choice in How We Find Nutritional Value: Crème Fraiche Panacotta with Rhubarb Compote and Buttermilk Chip and Toasted Milk and Strawberry Ice Cream, Poppy Seed Sable with Fresh Anise Hyssop
The Trade: Promotion of Equity in Partnership
The main dessert courses examine the growing utilization of free-trade practices and presentation techniques, centered on the ingredients of coffee and chocolate.
- Coffee: A Brighter Future from Bean to Cup: Pineapple, Verbena Mousse, Coffee Jelly, and Salted Caramel
- Chocolate: Addressing a Bitter/Sweet History: Chocolate Cremeaux with Sesame Cake, Blackberry, and Sudachi
The multi-course tasting menu costs $190 per person with a pre-fixe option available for $130. Wine pairings may be added for $125 and a reserve pairing may be selected for $750.