Friday, December 30, 2016

Nosh and Booze - Brunch

Every month, I plan for a brunch outing.  I pick a place, invite friends, and make a reservation, if necessary.  I have a soft list in my head of places in which I might be interested that I generally choose from, but this month, a friend told me that she had a reservation for a place for brunch that I could use I wanted to.  Nosh and Booze was on my radar and it looked interesting, so I decided to take her up on that offer.  Located in the West Loop in the former Vivo space, it is a long term pop-up for the group that runs AMK in Bucktown.  The group bought the space and have plans for it that they have not yet talked a lot about.  These plans will take some time, so they decided to open something up quickly while they were planning the permanent space.  Presently the space is pretty raw, with graffiti (art) covered brick walls and unfinished ceilings.  The floor is cement and the furniture is made from steel piping and finished wood planks.  The menu is cheffy bar/comfort food with a good selection of beer, wine, and classic and original cocktails.  I started things off with an IPA Jackass, a beer cocktail based on a Moscow Mule.  Served in a metal mug (it was not obviously copper), it contained Hophead Vodka, Ginger, Lime, Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, and a Mint Garnish.  It was both sweet and tart with a nice herbal flavor, floral hops, and a mint finish.  It was very refreshing and I really enjoyed it.
For my brunch, I had Chilaquiles.  Now, I will admit to being a little pedantic about Chilaquiles, because many people get it wrong.  At it's base, chilaquiles is simply fried tortilla chips cooked in red or green salsa.  Different things can be added, including, in this case, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Chorizo, White Cheddar, Pico de Gallo, and Two Eggs, Over Easy.  Tex-Mex Migas, while similar, are frequently confused with Chilaquiles.  Migas, while it also has tortilla strips in salsa with onions, and frequently, pico de gallo, it is also frequently served with refried beans and corn tortillas.  While this did have pico de gallo, which is unusual for chilaquiles, it did not have refried beans, and was not served with extra tortillas, so I would say that this was truly chilaquiles.  In any case it was meaty and spicy, with perfectly cooked eggs, and very good eggs. 

Besides the Chilaquiles, they had Chicken and Waffles, an Omelette, Frittata, Biscuits and Gravy, and a nice looking Hash.  Everything looked very good and seemed to be enjoyed by all.  I enjoyed brunch here and can hopefully make it here for dinner before they switch to their permanent concept.    

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sauce and Bread Kitchen, The Stew Luau

I enjoy going to Sauce and Bread Kitchen for their supper club, The Stew and have gone several times. mostly at Sauce and Bread Kitchen, but also at alternate locations.  The coffee shop/cafe itself is religiously local and seasonal and is the home of both Crumb Bakery and Co-op Hot Sauce.  While both of these are very good, their self imposed rules can be a little restrictive.  The Stew, their monthly supper club, allows them to break out and get creative and for this episode, they were very creative.  They did a spin on the food of a Hawaiian Luau (having never been to a Luau or even Hawaii).  Hawaiian friends of theirs that consulted on the menu development said that while some were pretty close to authentic, some were very creative.  In any case, the food we were served was very good.  We started out with a dish called Puri Puri that took a little work from the diner to put it together.  It consisted of very "balls" with very thin shells.  We were to crack them open to fill them with the Avocado Citrus Kissed Salmon and Sauce with which they were served.  The shell was like a very thin cracker, the salmon was very fresh and had a nice citrus flavor along with pureed avocado.  The sauce was like a Salsa Verde and added a tart spicy flavor.  It was a nice start with a very interesting dish that tasted really good.
Our next dish was called a Masubi Roll, but looked nothing like any roll that I might normally think of.  Having said that, it was similar in technique to a Maki Roll that you may find in a sushi restaurant.  It was an Onigiri Roll with House Made Ham, Egg, Rice and Umebashi Plum Sauce wrapped in Nori.  Onigiri is a roll with rice, and some sort of salted or sour food, and frequently, umebashi (salted plums), in this case the ham stood in as the salted portion and the Umebashi was served as part of the spicy sauce served with the side salad.  It was very different, but it did taste good, despite the burn. 
For our third course, we had Lau Lau, Braised Octopus and Poi (a tick sauce consisting of mashed and baked Taro root and in this dish, acted as a very thick sauce for the tender octopus) wrapped in a thick and edible leaf.  Served with the leaf were Purple Sweet Potato Chips.  While this tasted good, I couldn't figure out an easy way to eat it without making a mess.  As it was, I wrapped the leaf more tightly than it was served and ate it like a burrito, although more quickly.  While it did help somewhat, the leaf was tough, so it was tough to bite through, and the poi was very liquid.  The sweet potato chips were sweet and salty and provided a nice textural counterpoint to the leaf.

Our last savory dish was unusual in that it was a vegetarian dish.  Called Manapua, it consisted of BBQ Jackfruit in a Steamed Hawaiian Bun with Carrots, Pickled Red Onion and Grilled Pineapple.  Jackfruit is a large citrus fruit, with a banana/pineapple flavor, but it also unfortunately had a slight aroma similar to body odor.  The BBQ provided a sweet and tart flavor over the sweetness of the Hawaiian bun.  It had a nice crunch and other than the slightly unpleasant aroma, it tasted pretty good.
For our dessert, we finished off with Haupia, a traditional Hawaiian dessert consisting of Coconut Milk cooked with Arrowroot to make it thicker.  It had a texture similar to thick gelatin and was served with Pineapple, Passionfruit Curd, and Coconut.  It was sweet and tart from the passionfruit and pineapple and had a lot of textural variety.  It was very good and a good and interesting finish to a supperclub that I will undoubtedly enjoy again.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Land and Sea Dept - From Good Stock Underground Dinner

I mentioned that I like to do underground dining; going to a dinner served by a chef in a space that is not a restaurant.  I recently went to a dinner that was just about as underground as you could get (as far as the space was concerned).  Land and Sea Dept is a group that runs restaurants and lounges including Longman & Eagle, Parsons Chicken and Fish, Chicago Athletic Association, and Lost Lake.  They also host events in different spaces including the building in which their offices reside.  In the fall they host a series of dinners called From Good Stock in which they invite a chef to create a dinner in their space.  They make it an event by also inviting a DJ, bartenders, and artists to decorate the space.  For this dinner they invited brothers Ryan (Chef) and Matthew Poli (Mixologist) formerly of Chicago and now in Nashville running fine dining restaurant, The Catbird SeatScarpetta Wines was the wine partner and Fleur provided greenery to the space.  The space itself was something else.  Located on a side street in Garfield Park (that has no street lights) it is in a former candy factory.  There is nothing to indicate that this space was a former candy factory, it is a big open space with cement floors, brick walls, and a high ceiling in a former factory.  There was a bar at the front of the space where we picked up our Bienvenuto (Welcome) Cocktail which had Melleti Amaro, Carpano Antico Vermouth, Lemon, Peychaud's Bitters, and Fentiman's Tonic.  I like amaro and I liked this cocktail.  I was actually kind of surprised that it was less bitter than I expected (All of the alcohol in the drink is bitter).  It had some bitterness to it, but it was also sweet and had a tart finish from the lemon.  In the back of the room, the DJ was playing a lot of old school funk and disco and in the back corner on the same side as the entrance was the open kitchen.  There was art in the room, both free standing and hanging on the wall, but I was told later that they don't have as much art as they used to because the roof leaks and has damaged several pieces.  As far as seating was concerned, there were four long tables in the center of the room that could seat a total of 80 people.  The tables were decorated with greenery from the aforementioned Fleur which included a crown made from that greenery.  Most of the crowns were made from Sage, but there were a few made from Rosemary.  There may be a picture of me wearing the crown, but it will not be shared.  

When the dinner started, the crew introduced themselves and told us a little about the event.  When chef Ryan Poli thought about doing a large dinner party served family-style, he came up with the idea of a Roman feast.  The meal was billed as a three course family style meal, but each course had several parts, so we actually had closer to seven dishes over four courses.  After our opening cocktail, we had several bottles of Scarpetto Red and White Wines at the table to drink with our meal.  We started with a large plate of Antipasti which included Grilled and Marinated Vegetables including Zucchini and Brussels Sprouts, a couple of Italian Cheeses, Calabrian Chilies, Mortadella, Prosciutto, Fermented Beets, and Squash.  This was very good and I tried several elements, but I didn't want to stuff myself early.  We were then served Arancini.  They didn't call it Arancini, but Crispy Fried Tomato Risotto filled with Mozzarella Cheese is Arancini.  I have had several arancini balls, but I had never had it made with tomato risotto.  The tomato added another element to the dish and it was very good.

For our Primi, we were served two pasta courses.  The first was Spaghetti All'Amatriciana, Spaghetti served with a Tomato based sauce which contains Guanciale.  It tasted good, the tomatoes and gualciale were very flavorful, but the spaghetti was a little overdone.  With the other pasta course, I wasn't exactly sure what it was and with minimal lighting, it was kind of difficult to see.  It looked like a cake with a little sauce on the plate.  It had a crisp top and bottom with soft center and was very flavorful.  After looking at the menu, I saw that it was Gnocchi Alla Romana with Truffles and Celery Root.  I had never had Roman Gnocchi, but after thinking about it, really the only difference between Roman and regular Gnocchi is the shape and the crispness on the outside of the Roman Gnocchi.  The truffles were thinly sliced, but were an explosion of flavor and the sauce on the bottom provided a bittersweet finish.

The Secondi was made up of three elements on two plates.  The first, Bistecca Alla Bear Creek Farm with Cipolline in Agrodolce.  The beef was a Roast Tenderloin which was very tender, flavorful and juicy cooked to a perfect medium rare.  It was served with Cipollini Onions in a Sweet and Sour Sauce.  Cipollini onions are small and kind of flat so I kind of mistook them for mushrooms.  They were tender and sweet and went very well with both the beef and the agrodolce sauce.  The other half of the course was the Potato Gratin with Mustard Greens.  Potatoes and Cheese are a natural with beef and these potatoes were cooked perfectly.  The mustard greens added a little tartness which matched well with the agrodolce on the roast.
After our big family-style plates, our dessert was served individually.  In a small glass, we were served a Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Agrumato Lemon Olive Oil.  Agrumato is the process of pressing citrus with olives to create a flavored olive oil.  As odd as it might sound, it was actually very good with a the texture of a fine olive oil and a very nice lemon flavor.  The smooth texture went very well with the panna cotta and the lemon flavor paired well with the tartness from the buttermilk.  It would have been a fine finish if it were the end, but it was not quite the end.
I have to think the last drink was a last minute add on because it didn't exactly make sense with the rest of the dinner.  This is not a complaint.  Someone had gotten a hold of a firkin of Solemn Oath Big Pern, a Bourbon Barrel Aged Belgian Brown Rye Ale and it was very good with a nice barrel aged flavor on top of the coffee flavors of the roasted malt, but while it was a good drink to finish with, it didn't exactly go with the Italian theme.

In any case, this was a lot of fun and I did enjoy myself.  The food was very good and I ended up sitting next to one of the partners of Land and Sea Dept who was very interesting to talk to.  He actually mentioned a couple of projects in the works without giving a lot of detail that excited me.  This episode of From Good Stock was the last of the year.  I will have to remember to keep an eye out for this next fall because I definitely want to do this again.      

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Sunday Dinner Club - Three Floyd's Beer Dinner

I was recently added to the Sunday Dinner Club mailing list.  It is one of the most popular underground supper clubs in Chicago and you have to be invited on to the list.  They do multi-course dinners several times a year.  While I recently was able to try some of their food via a Takeout Night, this dinner, a beer dinner featuring Three Floyd's Beer was my first dinner in their event space.  Located above Honey Butter Fried Chicken, the entrance was not obvious as it is unmarked with the exception of the letters SDC at about chest height on an otherwise unmarked door.  The door is also locked, so you have to press the buzzer to be buzzed in.  Opening the door reveals a staircase immediately behind it.  At the first landing, the wall is decorated with plates of many sizes and colors.  Entering the room room there are three communal tables that will seat about 10 each, a wood floor, and two hanging lights that kind of reminded me of octopuses.  There were several wires radiating from a central hub that supported Edison lights hanging at different heights.  There was a fireplace on the same wall as the entrance (unlit on the night I went) with many cookbooks on the mantle.  There was a room off to the side where there was a coat rack and the kitchen was in a second room off to the side.  Things started out with the crew introducing themselves, welcoming us, and and telling us a little about both Sunday Dinner Club and Three Floyd's Brewery.  Our first course came out shortly afterward which were Chicken Fried Cheese Curds and Cauliflower with Lime Salt and Sriracha Aioli, paired with Gumballhead which is a Hoppy Wheat Ale.  The curds seemed pretty fresh because they still had a squeak even after the deep fry.  The flavor was medium, but the lime salt enhanced the salty sour flavor.  The Sriracha Aioli provided a nice spicy finish.
The meal followed a fairly standard progression with the soup following.  We were served a Pub Style Trout and Bacon Chowder with Rushing Waters Trout, Neuske Bacon, Fennel, Fennel Pollen, and Housemade Oyster Crackers, paired with Yum Yum Pale Ale.  The chowder was very flavorful with the bacon and the mild licorice flavor of the fennel.  The chowder was very creamy and the oyster crackers provided a nice salty crunch.  Yum Yum is also pretty hoppy as most of Three Floyd's beers are, but it also has a lot of malt which gives it a biscuit flavor.  Which went very well with the creamy soup.
After the soup came the pasta. which was also the seafood dish.  We were served Spaghetti and Clams with Cardamom, Garlic, and Parsley, and topped with Orange Brown Butter Bread Crumbs.  This was paired with Zombie Dust Pale Ale, a very hoppy pale ale that is not an IPA simply because the ABV is too low.  This dish and the pairing were probably my favorite of the meal.  The spaghetti was perfectly al dente pairing with the chewy texture of the clams.  The Cardamom, Garlic and Parsley went well with the hoppiness of the beer and the orange brown butter bread crumbs provided a savory citrus finish.
For our main course, we had a Pork Loin and Ham Roulade filled with Creamed Spinach and Kale, served with Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and topped with Apple Cider Jus.  This was paired with Three Floyd's first beer, Alpha King APA which paired with the roasted Brussels Sprouts and the Cider Jus.  The food was porky and sweet with bittersweet caramel flavors from the Brussels sprouts, tartness from the jus, and a little bitterness from the vegetables.
Dessert was pretty simple, but it had both the flavors of a very good dessert and hit all of the right comfort food notes.  We were served Chocolate Cake Doughnut Holes with a Coffee Glaze.  If you are going to serve a dessert with flavors of chocolate and coffee, it makes sense to serve a beer with flavors of chocolate and coffee.  Many stouts and porters with their roasted malts fit this description and we were served a very good member of this group, Alpha Klaus Christmas Porter.  It had a lot of chocolate flavor (although not much on the coffee front) and as with all Three Floyd's Beers, a lot of hops.  It was a good pairing and a very good finish to a fun and very good dinner.  It was my first official dinner with Sunday Dinner Club, it certainly will not be my last.     

Sunday, December 4, 2016


I have mentioned Knife before, having attended a few preview dinners at sister restaurant Fork.  I recently had dinner at the newly opened and aptly named steakhouse.  I did joke about the name and the number of utensil named restaurants are in Chicago, but naming a steakhouse Knife seems very appropriate.  The space is small, seating about 50 people and the vibe is both retro and rustic with a hardwood floors and walls, a maple colored wood bar and wood furniture.  There are several booths with half-round seats covered in white leather and the wood walls are laid in a chevron pattern.  The bar is in the back half of the dining area opposite several booths.  The entrance is through a hall that enters into the dining room in about the center of the room.  We were seated at a table in the front half of the restaurant although near the center of the dining room, so we were relatively close to the entrance.  The menu was printed on two large sheets, one for food and one for spirits.  The cocktail list was very interesting with the names of the cocktails coming from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and the definition of each sorrow was included on the menu.  In addition to these, they have beer, wine, and four classic cocktails that are made table side.  While Vermodalen (The frustration of photographing something and knowing that thousands of identical photos already exist.) did catch my eye, and was in fact ordered by my table mate, the obscure cocktail that I ordered was called Exulansis (The tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it).  It was made with Snap-pea infused St. George Botanivore Gin, Chamomile Syrup, Aloe, and Lemon Juice.  It did have a vegetal flavor from the snap peas, but the overarching flavor was very floral with a tart finish from the lemon juice.  It was a little more floral than I would normally drink, but it was pretty good despite that.
While there are several things on the menu that are not a steak, and considering the talented chef, Tim Cottini, I am sure that they would be very good, coming to a place that at its heart is a steakhouse and not ordering steak would have been a shame.  While the plan was ultimately to order a steak, I wanted to try an appetizer as well.  With that thought in mind, I ordered Oxtail Doughnut Holes which were served with Au Poivre Sauce.  The balls of deep fried dough were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside with a pice ofvery savory, tender and juicy oxtail.  They were good on their own, but the Au Poivre sauce added a nice peppery finish.

The steaks at Knife are dry aged in house and unlike many other places, it is unnecessary to order a giant steak that will feed two (or more) people.  The size of the steak is listed on the menu and while there is one large steak (28 oz) for two, most of the other steaks come in sizes between 6 and 12 oz and are priced accordingly.   All of the steaks can be ordered with a variety of sauces and additions, but they all come with a choice of frites or onion strings as well as a housemade Journeyman Steak Sauce and a Lemon Aioli.  There are also a variety of sides that can be ordered for an additional fee.  While I generally like my steaks Au Poivre, I ordered Three Medallions (Filet Mignon) that came with a Blue Cheese Crust (which came with the steak sauce, aioli, and my choice between Smoked Frites and Onion Strings, which was the frites) so an additional sauce was unnecessary.  On the side, I ordered  River Valley Mushrooms En Papillote (Cooked in Parchment) with Portobello, Shiitake, and Cremini Mushrooms, seasoned with Rosemary, Garlic and Bay.  Everything was excellent.  The blue cheese on the very tender medallions was very flavorful.  I would not normally use a sauce on a good steak, I did try it to taste the sauce.  The sauces were good, but unnecessary for the steak, and I used them more for the frites.  The mushrooms were also tender and flavorful with the spices really contributing to the flavor.  They went very well with the steak.

There were several things of interest listed on the dessert menu, but there was one thing that went to the head of the line when I saw it.  In one of the preview dinners, Chef Tim did a Baked Alaska for dessert using 151 Rum for the fuel for the fire.  When lighting one of ours at the table, he nearly set his face on fire.  Despite this mishap, it was a fantastic dessert in taste and presentation and he carried a variation over to the dessert menu at Knife.  This dessert, called The Gran Torino topped a Sponge cake with Raspberry and Pistachio Ice Creams and a Marshmallow "crust" that was roasted tableside on a cart similar to the cart that carried all of our food to the table.  When the Gran Torino arrived, it was topped with 151 Rum and torched to develop a nice char on all sides.  When it burned for a little while it was put out by covering it.  It was then cut and served.  It was fantastic and a great finish to a very good meal.  I really enjoyed dinner here as well as having the opportunity to talk to Chef Tim.  I would definitely enjoy a trip back and recommend it to my friends that enjoy a very good steak.   

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Dinner Club Takeout Night

There are many Underground Supper Clubs in Chicago.  Many do not have a concrete location and will change locations from month to month.  Some clubs also vary chefs from month to month.  What they all do is have an ever changing menu.  Some Supper Clubs, like Sous Rising and One Sister have become so popular that they have opened a brick and mortar location (42 Grams and Elizabeth, respectively) and one, Sunday Dinner Club, both opened a brick and mortar location and maintained an enormously popular Dinner Club.  The location of the supper club is in a constant location, on the second floor above their very popular Honey Butter Fried Chicken, which was invented at the supper club.  Sunday Dinner Club is very popular.  In order to go to one of their dinners, you have to get on their mailing list and in order to get on their mailing list, you have to know someone on the mailing list.  I have wanted to get on their mailing list for several years, but this year, I finally found out that I knew someone on the list who was nice enough to add me.  A few dinners were announced where I was already busy or it sold out before I moved, but they recently decided to do a Takeout Night (or as they called it, TriBecca's Cubano Cubano Takeout Night at HBFC).  There were know reservations to this event, if you were interested, you came to the rear of Honey Butter Fried Chicken and bought a dinner (sandwich, side dessert) for a very reasonable price, with alcohol (which was consumed at HBFC) extra.  The menu sounded good, so I decided to show up.  I ordered my meal and decided to order the cocktail special, a Cherry Cuba Libre, while I was waiting.  A Cuba Libre is one of the simplest cocktails ever, consisting of Rum, Coke, and a Lime garnish, so a Cherry Cuba Libre is a Rum and Cherry Coke.  The bartender was very generous with the rum which is nice as far as amount of alcohol per price paid, but when rum is not your favorite liquor, it's not so great.  I did drink it, but I would have preferred a drink a little lighter on the rum.
Dinner was served in a bag, so after I finished my drink, I went on my way.  In the bag, I got Executive Sous Chef Becca's Cubano with Mojo Pork, Neuske's Ham, Swiss Cheese, House Made Pickles, Chipotle Mayo, and Mustard Butter on a Ciabatta Panino.  For a side, I got a container (about 12 oz) of Rice and Sour Orange Black Beans, and a Mini Funfetti Rum Cake for dessert.  The sandwich was excellent.  The pork and ham were tender and flavorful.  The cheese was perfectly melted, the pickles were crisp, and the butter and mayo provided some good spice flavor to the sandwich.  The ciabatta panino had a nice crunchy exterior and a chewy texture and was substantial enough to hold the plentiful meat and cheese that was piled on.  Black Beans and Rice are good in any case, the sour orange flavor added a tart citrus flavor which made them even better.  The rum cake, though small, was dense, and had a lot of sweet rum flavor, in addition to the sweetness from the funfetti.

This meal was my introduction to Sunday Dinner Club (aside from a few trips to Honey Butter Fried Chicken) and I really liked it.  While I didn't see the normal space in which Sunday Dinner Club happens, I was able to experience the excellent quality of their food.  I will definitely return for other dinners.      

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Corridor Brewery and Provisions

The explosion of Microbreweries in recent times has provided for the idea of the "neighborhood brewery".  It's nice, when you are out, to be close to a place where you can stop for a beer, and possibly food, that isn't the same as everywhere else.  While some local places just serve beer, some also serve food, although the kinds of food served varies widely.  I was in Lakeview in the Southport Corridor around dinnertime recently and decided to stop into local brewery and taproom, Corridor Brewery and Provisions, which does serve food as well as brewing their own beer.  As can be gathered by the name, the place is long and narrow.  There is bicycle parking in front, as well as a sidewalk patio.  They are a sister brewery to the very popular Dryhop Brewers (although they brew independently of one another) and they are in a very popular area, so it can get crowded.  There are tables sufficient to seat about 50 people which you have to wait for, but the bar which seats about 10, is first come, first served.  I did come on Saturday night during prime time so there was about an hour wait for a table.  I prefer to sit at the bar when I am dining solo and there was a solo diner/drinker that was getting ready to leave, so my wait was less than five minutes.  As this is a brewery and taproom, I started things out with a beer.  While it was evening in the fall, I decided to go with Pale Afternoon, an East Coast Pale Ale.  It is pretty hoppy, at 70 IBUs, but is not considered an IPA, because its ABV is 5.4%, as opposed to the 7-8% which is the standard for IPAs.  While it was bitter, it was not one note and had many other flavors including citrus, passionfruit, pine and peach.  It was pretty crisp and actually kind of reminded me of a Kolsch, although more bitter.
While I was enjoying my first beer, I looked at both the food menu and beer menu to plan my attack.  Their beer menu did have several things that interested me and they did offer a flight of 6 - 5 oz pours, but I was not in the mood of drinking 30 oz of beer, so I decided that my next beer, when I was ready for it would be another 10 oz pour (They do pours of 10 oz, 12 oz, and then Crowlers, and Growler fills).  For my food, after looking at the food menu I decided that I would have a pizza.  Corridor's food menu consists of several shared plates including Croquettes, a Cheese and Charcuterie board, a warm Pretzel, and Mussels, several Salads, the aforementioned pizzas, and several sandwiches including the standard burger.  The pizzas served were 12 inch pizzas cooked in a clay hearth oven and included such things as Mushroom, Leek, and Goat Cheese, Chorizo and Date, and Steak and Chimichurri.  I went with a Clam and Bacon Pizza, which had Quahog Clams, Smoked Pepper Bacon, Garlic, and Oregano.  It was served with sliced lemons and I tried it with and without.  It was very good with a nice chewy crust and peppery bacon, but while there were plenty of clams on the pizza, they were fairly neutral in flavor unless the lemon was added.  It was a very good pizza and I would definitely have it again.
Sitting at the bar near the front gave me a good view of the dining and brewing area and I like what I saw.  The bar is at the front and runs back into the room with the brewing area at the back of the bar area.  There are some booths that begin where the bar ends that border the brewing area.  There are 6 - 5 barrel mixing tanks each on top of a fermenting tank.  They have a single manual canning machine for their crowlers (32 oz cans which are a half-growler size) located in the bar area with the taps, the record library, and turntable.  The bartenders provide their own vinyl and on the night that I was there, it was a mixture of classic funk, and Kanye West.  On the wall opposite the bar hang several classic European cycling posters as well as an old Tandem bicycle.  I really like that wall, but what struck me was the wall behind the bar.  Just a quick glance makes it appear to be wallpaper with an old classic design, which would fit with the general vibe of the place, but if you really look at it, you will notice rats, pigeons, parking meters, and fire hydrants.  It is still a very nice design, but with these things, it is a little odd.
I finished off the evening with another beer.  Sour beers have become pretty popular in the last couple of years.  They vary widely in style, flavor, and quality, which might be an argument to stay with one you like, but I use it as an argument to see what else is out there.  Corridor was serving a Brett Pale Ale (a Pale Ale fermented with Brettanomyces Yeast which imparts a sour flavor) called Funkadelic #5, so I decided to try it out to see how it is.  It was sour, but not overwhelmingly so with flavors of Mango, Pineapple, Grape, and Sour Apple.  I generally prefer my sour ales to be a little more sour, but this was pretty good.

I like Corridor.  They have a nice design and are pretty laid back despite their popularity.  Because they are so popular, I am not sure if I would bring a large crowd here, but if I was in the area and we were looking for some good beer and good food in a casual atmosphere, it would come under consideration.     


Saturday, November 12, 2016


On the surface, it may not have made a lot of sense to visit a new restaurant on the day that Game 7 of the World Series is happening, but when you consider that the place has gotten a lot of buzz and might seat 32 people at most, it makes a bit more sense.  Dixie is located in Wicker Park in the same place as the former popular and successful restaurants, Scylla (Stephanie Izard's first restaurant) and Takashi (Chef Takashi Nagahashi's (Slurping Turtle) namesake fine dining restaurant).  While I was sad to see Scylla close, I was happy with Takashi.  I am hoping that Dixie follows that pattern.  As far as design is concerned, there was very little change between Scylla and Takashi.  With Dixie, however, they made many changes, the primary being to move the entrance to the gangway on the side of the building.  There is a new front porch with rocking chairs and a door, but the door has a sign that says, "In the south, we always enter a restaurant from the side." with an arrow pointing to the gangway.  The new entrance is toward the rear of the building under a stairway to the cocktail lounge 1952 1/2 which occupies the space that the upstairs dining room once did.  The entrance is where the kitchen once was.  In it's place is a bar and lounge.  The original dining room is similar in shape to what it was, but the kitchen has been moved to an area formerly occupied by a bar (widened and lengthened) and there is counter seating looking into the windowed kitchen.  In the old restaurant, there was a stairway in front of the bar leading to an upstairs dining room and banquette seating on the opposite wall.  In the new restaurant, the stairway is still there, leading to the previously mentioned cocktail lounge, 1952 1/2, but the banquette seating has been shortened and small 2 person booths have been added.  There has been a table underneath the stairs and that still remains.  There are many knick knacks and pictures hanging on the walls.  My booth had several old newspaper ads which were interesting to look at.  Looking at the menu, I saw a lot of stuff that looked really interesting and good, so I decided to start with a cocktail (which is made by 1952 1/2).  As this is a Southern inspired restaurant, the cocktail list leans toward whiskey and they have a pretty extensive whiskey list.  While I will drink and enjoy whiskey cocktails, I prefer gin and they did have a nice looking gin cocktail on the menu, so that is the way that I went.  The drink I ordered was called James River (which is a major river in Virginia, starting in the Appalachians and ending in Chesapeake) and it had Hayman's Navy Strength Gin, Manzanilla (a sherry with the flavor of Chamomile (also mazanilla), a hop cordial (white liquor infused with hops), pineapple, and lime.  It was strong with a pronounced floral and botanical flavor which fit well with the hop flavor.  The pineapple and lime gave it a tart and tropical flavor and it all came together very well.
While I enjoyed my first cocktail, I decided on my dinner.  I started with a Deviled Crab Beignet which was Deviled Snow Crab in a light and crispy Bun with Collard Greens, Hidalgo Peppers, lots of Butter, and a Scallion garnish.  This was one of my favorite dishes this year.  The beignet was light, crisp, and buttery, with a very airy interior filled with plenty of shredded snow crab.  Hidalgo peppers are a close cousin to a Habanero  and while they are spicy, they aren't nearly as spicy as a regular habanero.  Spread around the beignet, they provided both color and a little spice which enhanced the overall flavor.  the collards and scallions provided some vegetal flavors to add to the bitter side of the dish.
My second appetizer I had previously tasted at the Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chef Ball and wanted to try it again.  It was a Southern spin on a very popular Mediterranean dish and was very good itself.  It was a Boiled Peanut Hummus with Boiled Peanuts (obviously), Carrots, Baby Cilantro, and Chicory.  Boiled Peanuts definitely have a different texture than roasted peanuts, but they also have a different flavor which is kind of a cross between chickpeas and peanuts.  The carrots were fresh cut and were to be eaten with the hummus like a dip (like they are with regular hummus) and the chicory and cilantro add some depth of flavor with some bitterness.

Before I continued with my entree, I ordered another cocktail.  I generally do not repeat cocktails and I wasn't in the mood for whiskey, so I explored the menu.  There was another gin drink, but I decided to do something different and ordered a drink called Grounds for Divorce.  It started with Aged Apple Brandy, Rojo Vermut (Spanish Red Vermouth), Bitters de Torino, Cream Sherry, Fig Bitters, and a Maraschino Cherry skewer as a garnish.  I will say that while it wasn't bad, there was too much of the wrong type of bitter.  I did finish it, although I probably will not order it again.
The chef behind this restaurant, Charlie McKenna, is originally from Charleston South Carolina, which gives him bonafides in the world of Southern Cuisine.  He has also been the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest Grand Champion at Memphis in May as well as finishing in the top five several years in a row, and running Lillie's Q so he also knows his barbecue.  I had no problem ordering the Barbecued Ribs on the menu here.  The ribs at Dixie were pretty different from other ribs I have had in the past, but they were still very good.  The ribs were smoked (as good ribs should be) were topped with Ground Peanuts and Scallions, coated with a light Persimmon Barbecue, and sat on top thinly sliced Persimmons.  The meat was tender and flavorful with a little resistance coming off the bone.  The persimmon gave it light sweet and tart flavor and the and the peanuts complemented the pork flavor. 
For dessert, I went with a Southern classic:  The Chocolate Chess Pie.  It had a Saltine Crust, used Sorghum Molasses, and had plenty of Whipped Cream on the side.  It was dense and sweet with a little saltiness from the Saltines and provided for a great finish to the meal.  While I am sad that takashi closed.  Dixie is a very good replacement.  I am very happy to have gone here and would gladly return.     

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Moody Tongue Tasting Room

While I will occasionally right about a taproom that does not serve food, to find a place that does serve food (although not meals) and is still worth talking about is special.  Moody Tongue Brewery has been around for about two years.  They did not offer tours, but they bottled, so in order to try one of their beers, you had to find it at a liquor store or at a restaurant that served it.  Their head brewer both went to Culinary School and to the Seibel Institute, so he is skilled in both food and beer, which is reflected in their beers.  They brew four beers regularly, Smoked Applewood Gold, Steeped Emperor's Lemon Saison, Sliced Nectarine IPA, and Caramelized Chocolate Churro Porter.  All of which are very aromatic and flavorful and whose names perfectly describe them.  Jared Rouben, the brewmaster, calls what he does culinary brewing, using the best ingredients and using them as a chef would, adding the ingredients at the best time to emphasize the flavors and aromas of those ingredients.  I have had all of their beers and whole they all taste very good, these are special beers that are best appreciated by pairing them with something.  All of the bottles come with pairing suggestions on them.  While they did not start with a taproom in their brewery, a taproom was always in the plans and it recently opened.  The door to the taproom is in a nook and is an industrial metal door with a host's station waiting a short way in. Guests are led to their seats and are left with a menu of their beer and food.  The room has painted white brick walls and is both modern and classic with a rectangular bar (also white) in the center of the room.  In one corner there is a bookcase and fireplace with armchairs and a small table in front of it and a fireplace beside it.  The bookcase has several books on both cooking and brewing and one shelf devoted to the very special glassware used for the beers.  There is another set of armchairs around another small table (like a salon) and a few dining tables.  The ceiling is unfinished and the lights hang over the bar.  There is no (obvious) TV in the room.  I was seated at the bar and was able to watch the bartenders work.  The tap is on the back wall opposite the bar, above the shelf where the glassware, very special leadless quartz that looks similar to a wine glass, hangs, and below a black glass wall.  The menu is laid out in one page with the four standard beers on top, the special batches that they presently have on tap, and their available food at the bottom.  I decided to start light and went with the Smoked Applewood Gold.  In style, it kind of reminds me of a kolsch, very light and crisp, but with a very fresh flavor of smoked applewood.
Before the taproom opened, Brewmaster Jared Rouben said that there would be only two things available on the food menu, Oysters and Cake and on the bottom of the menu, where food was listed, were oysters and cake.  The oysters were served in orders of 6 or 12 and served on ice on the half shell.  They are apparently flown in every morning and while they looked very good, I had come for the cake.  I had read before going that the cake was epic, so I wanted to be prepared.  While I expected a big cake, I was still surprised at how big it was.  It was a six layer German Chocolate Cake with Chocolate outer frosting and layers of Peanut Butter, White Chocolate, Coconut, Chocolate and Raspberry, and a Graham Cracker bottom layer.  There were two chocolate sticks, one white and one dark balanced against the point of the cake slice and a small chocolate Moody Tongue button as a garnish on the plate.  As far as size is concerned, it was about five inches tall and about five inches on a side.  It was rich, flavorful, and much more than I could eat in a single sitting.  While I did go with an obvious pairing with the cake, the Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter which went with it amazingly well, but I did still have some of the Smoked Applewood Gold, which went surprisingly well with the cake.

When I read that Moody Tongue would only be serving oysters and cake to pair with their beers, I did question the logic of that, but after seeing the space, and trying the beer with the cake, I will say that it works amazingly well.  I will have to return for oysters, but I will happily do that.