The Country Club of Detroit is adding visual appeal to its culinary creations through eye-catching use of glassware from a historic local company.
As detailed in C&RB’s February 2018 cover story (“A Shiny New Model at the CC of Detroit”), the Country Club of Detroit (CCD) in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich. underwent an $11 million renovation of its campus and Tudor Revival-style clubhouse two years ago, including its dining areas and kitchen.
That only added to the momentum for how the club’s food-and-beverage operation has grown under Executive Chef/Director of Food and Beverage Brian Beland, CMC, with F&B sales nearly doubling to now approach $4 million annually in the past five years. And with the renovation, which included the addition of an innovative “Summer Village,” CCD became an active year-round operation with more dining options for members, as well as greater capabilities for banquets, wedding receptions, and luncheons.
The growth of CCD’s F&B program has stemmed from more than just expanded physical facilities. The club’s culinary team also continually strives to display new creativity in both its menu offerings and dish presentations, as enhancements that can add distinction to dining at the club and become new sources of pride and satisfaction for both members and guests.
One example is how CCD now makes use of special glassware from a historic company in nearby Toledo, Ohio, to lend greater visibility to layered dishes and offer a contemporary aesthetic to the club’s dining service.
Beland—a member of the Advisory Board for C&RB’s Chef to Chef Conference who presented on establishing F&B standards at the 2017 Conference in Atlanta—saw new glassware being offered by Libbey® at the American Culinary Federation’s Chef Connect Conference and thought it would be a great fit for the club’s commitment to deliver excellence at every level of service. The club was already using Libbey stemware, so adding the glassware was a natural extension.
“Libbey has expanded its portfolio and is branching into an area of refined elegance,” Beland says. “It’s very easy for us to get our glassware matched, because the company has a good line of options and a long local history. And [adding the glassware] would help us provide uniformity in our service.”
CCD now uses the Libbey glassware “for small, two- to four-ounce portions of three to six bites, allowing us to do individual servings of a lot of things,” Beland reports. “That works well when you’re getting a lot of one dish out there for a banquet or reception.”
And the glassware has helped Amy Knoles, CCD’s Pastry Chef, add special appeal to desserts and other creations. “Libbey’s clear dishes allow me to really show off the layers and textures in a dish,” says Knoles. “It’s a great visual selling point. People see something and think, ‘I have to try that!’ “
The use of Libbey glassware has been a boon to production in the CCD kitchen as well. Since making a multi-layered dish can be challenging, Beland appreciates how having such presentable vessels for small, individual portions allows his chefs to place the layers directly into the dish. “We don’t have to mess with silicone molds,” he reports. “It’s increased our efficiency, and we don’t have as many hands-on people in the kitchen.”
Beland is also pleased with the glassware’s versatility. “We’re using it throughout service in the club,” he reports. That includes for both sweet and savory dishes, and Beland has been happy with how Libbey can provide several options of glassware that all “allow our guests to pick up the individual dishes and then move to a table or cocktail area and enjoy [them].”
Functionality is also important in service. “The challenge is always, how do you get something out there that always looks pretty and remains looking pretty?” Beland notes. “Putting [dishes] in individual vessels is the way.” The individual dishes, he adds, “have also been helpful in upselling something smaller, if someone wants something that’s just a few bites at the end of a meal, and not a big heavy dessert.”
Beland and Knoles also value the local aspect of using Libbey glassware, which has been produced in Toledo— about an hour south of Detroit, right over the Michigan/Ohio line—since 1888. They also find appeal in the traditional American values reflected by the company, which was originally founded in New England in 1818. The many breakthrough innovations that Libbey has celebrated include its status as the first to develop machine-blown glass.
“Libbey is pretty popular and pretty well-known,” says Beland. “[The company] now has so many more options in its portfolio and more modern options, as it’s expanded past general, all-purpose-style china.”
Knoles frequently takes advantage of being able to make the short drive to Toledo to visit Libbey’s factory outlet store. “I love having a store that I can walk into and look at all the different options,” she says. “That’s when I get new ideas and my creativity for new dishes flows. It helps me envision how I’d want something presented.”
It was at the outlet store, in fact, that Knoles found a candy dish-style piece that has become one of the CCD kitchen’s most versatile and widely used serving vessels.
Libbey’s clear individual dishes have also helped CCD’s Culinary Brigade, in both the front and back of the house, find new ways to expand the club’s globally inspired menus and service, by presenting a variety of textures, flavors, and visual excitement.
“We love the way the presentation [through glassware] can feature our ingredients,” says Beland. “We do some small chopped salads, where maybe you’d have a layer of hummus, a layer of greens, a beet layer, and maybe some petite herb garnish on top.”
For desserts, the glassware helps CCD diners see pops of the color of fruit, or nuts, when layered with white or dark chocolate. Sometimes Beland and Knoles even let the shape of the Libbey glassware inspire a dish, such as the Tequila Sunrise parfait that is served in a small martini glass and garnished with a maraschino cherry and a tiny popsicle.
Similarly, a variation of the club’s individual strawberry rhubarb dessert is served in a shallow tumbler, filled with chocolate mousse, then topped with whipped cream, fresh strawberry rhubarb compote, and garnished with a sprig of lavender and a chamomile flower.
“We do a lot of ladies’ luncheons, and there’s something about the smaller portions and individual servings that they love,” says Knoles.
Overall, says Beland, finding and presenting new touches through the Libbey glassware has gone hand-in-hand with the direction the CCD culinary program is taking. “Food and beverage has been a prominent focal point of the renovations that we’ve done to upgrade our member services,” he notes. “And having beautiful glassware plays an important part of our [enhanced] guest experience.”