Sunday, November 9, 2014


While I like Evanston, I don't go there often because for me, it's kind of far and it takes some planning to get there.  I do make a point, though, to make a trip at least once a year for the Chicago Humanities Festival.  There are many cool restaurants there and since I will already be there, I make a point to try out a restaurant that I have not yet tried.  This year, the restaurant was Boltwood, an American restaurant named after the Freshman wing of Evanston Township High School by Executive Chef and Evanston native, Brian Huston.  Located in downtown Evanston, it was actually a little difficult to locate because it occupies the bottom floor of an office building and the sign is pretty unobtrusive.  The outer walls are glass as would be expected of an office building and the interior space is pretty open with the bar to the right of the room and the semi-open kitchen is in the back left corner.  The floor and tables are brown, and the walls that aren't windows are off white.  I arrived relatively early (on a Saturday night) and the place was already pretty busy so I sat at the bar.  I started out with some Popcorn, which is Boltwood's bar snack.  When I was asked if I wanted any, I told my bartender that I really didn't care for popcorn, but I would try it.  He told me to hold on to that thought and that it was addictive.  The popcorn arrived overflowing a cereal bowl sized bowl.  It was warm and tender and the bartender was right, it was very addictive.  It was the best popcorn I have ever had.  It was light and buttery with the right amount of truffle salt.  It had a salty flavor with a truffle funky finish.  I ended up eating about half of the bowl until it got cool and a little stiff (like most popcorn).
While I was enjoying the popcorn, I ordered a drink which gave me some more time to peruse the menu.  When drinking cocktails, my tastes tend to run toward gin.  The gin drink on the menu was called the Silver Lining and contained City of London Gin, Egg White, Velvet Falernum, and Grapefruit.  It was herbal, as most gin drinks are, with bitter and sour flavors and a very light foam head from the Egg Whites.  It was a very good drink and it kind of reminded me of a Last Word. 
The menu at Boltwood is divided into Bar Snacks, Meat and Fish, and Vegetables.  The menu is very much Farm-to-Table, meaning that it is fresh, seasonal, and local with very little waste in those products used.  As Chef Brian Huston worked under Chef Paul Kahan for many years, last as Chef de Cuisine at the Publican, a restaurant that focuses very much on local and seasonal.  I started things off with Grilled Brun-Uusto Cheese with La Quercia Prosciutto, Green Figs, Fig Jam and Arugula. The figs and the prosciutto brought a sweet flavor but the prosciutto was also savory which tied it to the grilled and bready flavor of the cheese.  The arugula brought a slightly sour and peppery finish and everything brought a different texture to enjoy.
The next course to arrive was the Grilled Delicata Squash with Black Garlic and Caperberry Gremolata.  I don't know that I have ever had Delicata Squash before but it was good.  It did taste generally, like many other squashes, but the flavor was also lighter and more delicate as the name suggests.  Gremolata is an herb condiment typically using lemon zest, parsley, and garlic.  The gremolata used in this dish had all of these things using black garlic instead of regular garlic, which is less pungent and has an additional caramel molasses flavor.  The caperberries, added a sour pickled floral flavor similar to that of capers but lighter.  Overall the dish was very flavorful, but it was also very light and delicate.
For my main course, I went with Dry Aged Duck Breast, Forest Mushrooms, Cipollini Onions and Dried Lemons.  I live duck and this duck was done very well.  The aging made it more tender and concentrated the flavor.  There were many mushrooms that added an earthy flavor.  The onions were sweet and tender and every bite gave a lemony flavor.
Having enjoyed my meal so far, I had to at least look at the dessert menu.  Looking at it, there were several dishes that interested me, so I asked my server for recommendations, she made a couple of recommendations, but then she said the magic words, "If you're adventurous, you should try the Thai Tea Float, with Chai Ice Cream, and Tapioca Pearls."  I was sold immediately, because most of the time I love flavors that will challenge me.  The dessert came out in two glasses with the tea, tapioca pearls, and ice cream in one glass and a glass of Soda Water on the side to dissolve the ice cream and to add a nice fizzy head.  The tapioca pearls were filled with beet juice which gave the tea a very red color.  I like Chai tea and this is what the ice cream tasted like.  When the soda water was added, it foamed everything up, but it was much less sweet than I had expected.  This was not a bad thing, it actually tasted very good, and it reminded me of a Boston Cooler.

I enjoyed my dinner here.  While the space is pretty low key, the food is very good as was the service.  Both bartenders were very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and were able to give me good recommendations and answer my questions.  I will definitely keep Boltwood in mind for a future trip to Evanston.



No comments:

Post a Comment