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Beauty Is In The Detail

November 4, 2016

The Chapman House graces Rochester.

By Michael Haggerty

WE ARRIVED AT THE BEAUTIFULLY RESTORED CHAPMAN HOUSE to sample the menu. Our host, developer-owner Geoffrey Dancik, escorted us through the main entry hall crowned with an ornate barreled ceiling to a table in the first-floor main dining room. The interior of the building is graceful and elegant with dark hardwood floors and a color palette of grey and white.

He said he wanted to preserve the history of the Chapman House; that required several years of planning down to the finest detail. As and example, the spools in the bookcases surrounding the fireplace in the main dinning room are from the Western Knitting Mills of William C. Chapman, the original owner of the home.   

Dancik acquired the 8,200 square-foot Chapman house in 2011 and immediately started assembling a professional team to bring this century-old Rochester building back to life. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan and is familiar with architecture and real estate, as well as the importance of this building to the city of Rochester and its residents. Quinn Evans architectural firm of Ann Arbor was retained to oversee the planning and restoration of the building. They are a preeminent authority in preservation and sustainable stewardship with projects throughout the country. 

Further discussion regarding this magnificent building would have to wait as we were introduced to executive chef Chris Cason. Cason is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has honed his culinary skills at the finest establishments and under some of the best chefs in the Midwest including Roberts Streetside Seafood in Birmingham, Tribute in Farmington Hills and under Chef Takashi Yagihashi at the Michelin-starred Takashi restaurant in Chicago, before returning home to Michael Symon’s Roast. Chef Cason found himself at home in the Chapman House because of his appreciation of the detailed vision Dancik put in place. His commitment to using the ingredients sourced locally to supply the restaurant fit well within the vision and rounded out the staff at Chapman.

Dancik sat with us throughout the dinner and related the story of the house’s reconstruction as we moved through a magnificent tasting menu. Chef  Cason presented our first course of charred corn soup with poached lobster. Outstanding. The charred corn that came straight from Recovery Farms in Detroit gave the soup a fresh flavor and the lobster combined with it remarkably well.

Our second course was a gala apple salad, also seasonal, with chopped cashews, coconut, and grana padano Italian cheese, which is considered to compete with the king of cheeses, Parmigano Reggiano.

The first entrée course was the smoked pork chop with roasted Brussels sprouts, bacon, quince and pommes Robuchon, a potato that is boiled with the skin on and run through a food mill. The potato is finished with cubed butter and considered to be the finest mashed potato in the industry. 

Next we were served a Michigan blueberry house-made sorbet as a palate cleanser. Chapman House makes all their own ice cream on the premise; the flavors and creaminess are refreshingly different. The cleanser was the perfect precursor to our next entrée.

The sautéed skate wing served fanned over perfectly prepared risotto with corn, chanterelle mushrooms and sliced red grapes forced me to look at the chef with that OMG expression, you know, that look you have when there are no words to express what you are experiencing. This plate is proof that Chef Cason’s culinary team pays painstaking attention to the perfection of every dish. 

Our final entrée was sweet potato gnocchi, a vegetarian dish served with Tuscan kale, forest mushroom and Asian shishito sweet pepper. This is possibly the best gnocchi I’ve ever tasted. The pepper, most likely pulled from the chef’s experience in Chicago, enhanced the flavor of the gnocchi beyond anything I expected.

You would think that we’d be unable to address dessert at this point but I assure you that this was a tasting menu and although we were totally satisfied after several courses, Chef Cason arrived at the table with two knockout desserts that no one would refuse. The first was a chocolate coconut cream that looked like art on the plate. The second dessert was a warm almond cake with apple sorbet, the ideal fall dessert.

After dinner we were guided on a tour of the grounds and multiple levels of the Chapman House. In an effort to expand the kitchen and work areas, the basement was excavated approximately 2-feet. The expanded area provides a prep kitchen, wine cellar, mechanical space and employee locker room. Don’t feel bad for the chefs working in the prep kitchen though, as the room has large garden windows to allow natural light and enough functional space to keep the busy restaurant on schedule.

The exterior terrace along with a service kitchen will be open for special functions, weddings and corporate parties in the spring of 2017. The outdoor space will be sheltered and will accommodate up to 110 guests. All the exterior surfaces are tied to a sensor that detects snowfall and turns on radiant heat.

Dancik did his homework and purchased the best eco-friendly solutions from around the world. For example, the stacked fence along the back courtyard is filled with coconut husks to deter noise, a new technology and unique design imported from the Netherlands.

Congratulations to the members of the team who restored this Italian Renaissance mansion and turned it into a destination restaurant. A special thanks to Geoffrey Dancik for his unbelievable efforts in restoring the Chapman House to its purest state, a work that only someone with his expertise and passion could accomplish. NS

For more information:

The Chapman House

311 Walnut Blvd., Rochester

Chapman-house.com | 248-759-4406

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