Plating rabbit porchetta @jaredvancamp #chswff

A video posted by Craig Deihl (@cdeihl) on

For such a meat-centric meal, it’s interesting that some of the highest praise was for the vegetables at last night’s Cypress Signature Dinner. Chefs Craig Deihl and Jared Van Camp (Old Town Social, Nellcote) of Chicago, pulled out all the stops to prepare a five-course meal that really felt like seven thanks to a four-dish appetizer. I should have worn my eatin’ pants.

Guests were immediately tickled by the hors d’oeuvres for the table: a shrimp bun, burrata and caviar (as if the creamy Italian cheese needed anything else to make it more decadent), hot cihcken and a biscuit, and, a mini Chicago dog. The Windy City natives at my table agreed the tiny street meat was done perfectly, complete with sport pepper, celery salt, a dill pickle, and NO ketchup.

After the first course, Deihl and Camp introduced themselves and as it turns out, the two worked together back in the day at Magnolia. In fact, Deihl hired Camp on the pretense that he had line cooking experience. “I lied to him,” Camp confessed. But what Camp lacked in prior experience, he made up for in hard work and the two chefs have been friends going on two decades now.

The obvious friendship made for a sympatico meal. Each chef traded off course by course. Camp offered chilled squid ink spaghetti alla chitarra with uni, king crab, chiles, pine nuts, and mint. The sea urchin’s fresh sea flavor lightened the dish that was paired with a “Demuth Vineyard” Anderson Valley Chardonnay.

For course three, it was back to Deihl for milk braised veal breast. While the meat was no-knife-necessary tender, it was the crushed peas that got my attention. That and the juniper gastrique which I believe my seatmate, Colleen Deihl (Craig’s wife), said were collected on Goat Island.

Milk braised veal breast, crushed peas, beech and shiitake mushrooms, lemon juniper gastrique #chswff

A photo posted by Craig Deihl (@cdeihl) on

Just to keep the meat going, rabbit “porchetta” came next. The roasted rabbit was stuffed with mortadella and served with the shining stars of the night, pickled baby beets so red they almost looked like strawberries. The blend of the salty rabbit against the beet tang was a pleasant bite.

Rabbit porchetta @jaredvancamp #chswff

A photo posted by Craig Deihl (@cdeihl) on

By the time Deihl’s smoked duck arrived, my belt felt like a straight jacket. I only managed a few bites of the protein’s accompaniements, farro verde and cabbage, because I knew pastry chef Andrea Upchurch’s dish was next.

To complete the meal, Upchurch created a roasted rhubarb creme caramel accompanied by a dish I’d just as soon use as face cream as eat: orange creamsicle semifreddo. The goat cheese like texture was absurdly good and I bet would make an amazing face mask too. Citrus has anti-aging properties, right?