Sunday, February 23, 2014

Carriage House - Brunch

For brunch this month, I chose a place that sounded interesting to me but didn't realize until after the fact that, despite the fact that I had never been there, I was somewhat familiar with it.  We went to Carriage House, a restaurant in Wicker Park that features Southern Lowland cuisine.  The space is large and open with a rustic feel.  Located on a corner, it has windows on two sides and additionally uses hanging Edison lights that are framed with lampshade frames. The entrance to the restaurant is toward the back, near the open kitchen.  There is a long wooden bar with several shelves of liquor on display behind it.  Most of the walls are white, but some of trim and the dining room chairs are a blue green color that I think of when I think of old farmhouses and 1950s kitchen appliances.  Seating is at a counter along one window, one of three communal tables, one of several four tops, or a booth in the corner that will seat six which is where we sat.  Southern Lowland cuisine is that food that is served in coastal South Carolina and Georgia and bears a similarity to Cajun and Creole cuisine.  It will generally feature a lot of rice, seafood, and cornmeal.  In the case of the Carriage House brunch menu, it meant that the menu focused almost solely on savory cuisine.  There were some sweet elements to some dishes but there wasn't going to be a sweet and savory brunch.  I did start things off though, with one of the few things that were close to a sweet dish, the Cornbread, which was served in a cast-iron frying pan and topped with Apple Preserves and Whipped Butter.  The corn bread was crisp on the outside and had a coarse and slightly crumbly texture which was still kind of moist.  As far as taste was concerned, it was on the sweet side which the apple preserves and butter emphasized.  The dish was also garnished with chopped chives which brought things back to the savory side a bit.  It was a good start that was enjoyed by the table.

For my main course, I went with Shrimp and Grits with Hunter Gravy and Tasso Ham.  I like Shrimp and Grits, but a few years ago, I had some at Mindy's Hot Chocolate which blew me away and I am now forever comparing to.  The shrimp and grits here compared favorably to those I had at Mindy's Hot Chocolate.  The grits were buttery, creamy, and had a good texture.  The shrimp were tender, fresh, and flavorful.  The gravy was warm and added a salty and savory flavor, and pork improves the flavor of everything.  What I remembered after I left was that the Executive Chef at the Carriage House, Mark Steuer, was the Chef that handled the savory side of things at Mindy's Hot Chocolate.  While there were different things used in the two dishes (Cremini Mushrooms, Bacon and Tomatoes at Mindy's, Tasso Ham at the Carriage House), the shrimp and the grits were similar and very good.  Brunch here was very good and I look forward to returning sometime for dinner.

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