The Golden Mushroom may have been the pivotal point in the Metro Detroit area in terms of a new wave of restaurants, where the emphasis on the chef was important. Chef Milos Cihelka started a new restaurant that created a maelstrom of restaurants with a concept of Nouveau Cuisine. Up to the time that they opened the doors, restaurants were places to have dinner, some were fancier, some had better prepared food, but menus were not exciting. All of a sudden, the chef becomes a focal point and people start noticing the nuance of the dish presented to them. The beginning of the age of “foodies” for the Detroit area, and it was a training school for many of the other chefs who opened up restaurants of their own.
The restaurant created a discussion among critics and diners alike, as the dishes were unique at the time. One of the greatest plates that I remember, most fondly, was not even on the menu, it had to be requested. It was the mushroom appetizer plate. Here was a plate of maybe seven different types of mushrooms, each prepared in a way to bring out the special taste and texture of each type, all presented on one large platter. It was an appetizer for two, very easily and a great way to start getting excited about the rest of the plates to be served. Up to this time, the only mushrooms that were usually seen in a restaurant were the small “button” type usually just sautéed in butter, which is still a great side dish for a well prepared steak. This can still be confirmed by dining at any of the many chain steak houses out there, from the ordinary to the top names.
It was the food, which drew the diners into the restaurant for dishes that had a little twist or dash to the preparation. All of a sudden, conversations would include the food, which had been just part of the background when dining out. It was also one of the first restaurants that attempted to feature wines and not just the great wines of the Medoc, to give the diner a well rounded dining experience. They were offering wines from this start up area known as California. They were letting people know that not every bottle of wine had to have the word “chateau” on the label. They were offering wines that they felt had merit and not just a name.
It was there, that I first really had a bottle from the winery of Ferrari-Carano of Alexander Valley (it was another valley, not called Napa). It was a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that was even more delightful and enjoyable then my go-to wine of the period known as Bordeaux Superior or even Haute Medoc. The wine world had just grown for me; no longer would I just have to study the wines of France, Germany and Italy, but now the New World as well. I am happy to say that I am still a student, except now the country lists have expanded, perhaps with no end in sight, which is a great concept.