By Executive Chef John Zehnder, CEC, AAC, HGT
[PHOTOS] There’s no place better to be in the fall than Michigan! Autumn’s spectacular color displays combined with cooler temperatures are but a background for the rustic flavors and unique foods available for just a short time each year. I’ve always tried to cook seasonally to take advantage of what nature offers at its peak of freshness. I think that God intended it that way.
Here at Zehnder’s we celebrate the bounty of autumn by hosting some very special events. The first event is “SQUASHTOBERFEST”. On Tuesday, October 25th between 9 am and 2 pm, the Main Dining Room here at Zehnder’s will be the site of our annual cooking contest featuring all things squash. Contestants will face-off in three categories: The Great Soup Challenge, Savory Main Dishes and Sweet Surprises. This all day event is FREE and open to the public. In addition to watching the competitors prepare their dishes, we’ll have cooking demos and a few surprises to keep you entertained. Did I mention you get to taste all the dishes and get copies of all the recipes for FREE?
Our second event is my “Call of the Wild” dinner on Wednesday, November 2nd. One of my biggest complaints about young, talented chefs is that they prepare great dinners and don’t tell the attending guests the story and thought process that went into the selection of items on the menu. I think it makes a dinner more enjoyable if you know.
I call my menu a “tame wild dinner” in that the game items are prepared in a somewhat familiar fashion. Too many chefs take game meats and present them in exotic sauces and spices. When I prepare game dishes my philosophy is “keep it simple”.
Our five course dinner starts with duck wontons with a sweet plum sauce.
The soup course features rainbow trout bisque topped with whitefish caviar. Our salad course is highlighted by burrata cheese and heirloom tomatoes. The entrée is wild boar schnitzel with Michigan chanterelle mushrooms and garlic roasted artichoke. I’m always amused when I grocery shop with my wife at people who stand in front of the artichoke display in the produce department. The look of confusion is obvious. If you could read their mind, “what the heck do you do with those things and what do they taste like”. Well, at this dinner I’ll show you three different methods of preparation you can do in your own kitchen.
And…dessert is sour cream apple pie with black walnuts and shagbark hickory syrup. My source for black walnuts is an elderly Amish couple in Shipshawanna, Indiana who spend long winter evenings shelling the nuts by hand. Only the Amish have the patience needed to hand shell black walnuts. Shagbark hickory syrup comes from a 200 year-old Indian recipe. The recipe is a family secret, passed down and produced by only one family in Indiana.
Due to the nature of this dinner, it is strictly limited to 75 guests. Call today, spots are filling up fast! Cost is $55 per person. Call our Guest Services team to make your reservation at (877) 545-5578 ext. 450.
Squashtoberfest Photos from Previous Years: