CHICAGO On Saturday night, chef Homaro Cantu left the kitchen of Moto to prepare hors d'oeurves at the Museum of Science and Industry. The Columbian Ball, the museum's annual black-tie fund-raiser, raised $1.9 million this year and celebrated the permanent, rotating exhibition “Fast Forward... Inventing the Future.” Denise Hicks, manager of campaign events, oversaw the planning process. Jackie and Glenn Tilton, Diana Straussmann, and Jeff Smisek were the ball co-chairs, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel was the honorary co-chair.
The exhibition of honor celebrates innovators—including chef Cantu— in a variety of fields. While Cantu rolled up his signature “Cuban Cigar” dish, which fills collard-green wrappers with pulled pork, and is served in a smoking, ashtray-like bed of dried spices and liquid nitrogen, servers circulated with other unusual appetizers that included foie gras with Pop Rocks. Heffernan Morgan Ronsley's lounge areas had oversize lamp shades decorated with the same vertical stripes that appear on the exhibition's facade, and screens behind the bars showcased photos of the exhibition's subjects.
Another of the exhibit's featured inventors, Dickson Despommier, was in attendance as well. Despommier is the leader of the Vertical Farm Project, which aims to grow food in high-rise buildings. The project inspired the dinner's first course, aptly called “The Vertical Garden.” Created by Jewell Events Catering, the dish had an arugula salad set atop floating capsules of dry ice and a trio of appetizers that seemed to sprout from a bed of wheat grass. A butterfly-shaped Parmesan crisp came on the side.
Dubbed “Spark of Creation,” the dessert course included another dish from Cantu. The truffle-like item, called the “ACME Bomb,” was filled with graham cracker crumbles and cream, and had a small wick at the top. Servers illuminated the wick, and once it was extinguished, guests popped the quick-to-melt desserts into their mouths.