Friday, February 26, 2016

Sauce and Bread Kitchen, The Stew - Stuff Stuffed in Stuff Dinner

I have mentioned that I like going to dining events.  It allows you to experience something new in a familiar space.  I went recently, to Sauce and Bread Kitchen's supper club, The Stew in Rogers Park for their Stuff Stuffed in Stuff Dinner.  The idea sounded interesting and the preview menu that they posted looked really good, so I decided to attend.  Sauce and Bread Kitchen is a Coffee Shop/Breakfast place during the day, so the space is small and simple with a counter to one side and tables on the other side and in the back.  While the bar and furniture are nothing to write home about, there are a lot of decorations hanging and sitting on shelves.  There is also a very cool map of the midwest on the wall behind the counter with labeled pins showing where all of their food comes from.  I arrived just before 7 pm, when the dinner was supposed to start, and waited outside because SBK is not normally open at this time and it is kind of small.  When the doors opened, we were checked in and found our own seats.  I again sat at the counter, because I like the view from there.  As things started, the hosts/chefs came out to welcome us and introduce themselves and the first course, which was actually an addition to the menu.  The head chef would come out before every course to introduce and describe it.  We started out with a large spoon (big enough for one bite) with Coppa di Testa, something that they described as Pork Pate, but which more accurately could have been called Head Cheese, which was served with Cracklin (also known as a Pork Rind or Chicharron).  It was a big meaty and porky bite that was a great start.  It was simple, something that could not be said about later dishes, but it was simple done very well and it was a great start.
The first official course was Bao, a Chinese Steamed Bun, which was stuffed with a Shrimp and Pork Sausage, a Red Onion/Turmeric Pickle, Celery, and Aji Sambal Mustard (a hot mustard with fish sauce).  I love Bao.  They are soft and slightly sweet and are a good complement to whatever are put inside them.  The shrimp and pork in the sausage were both easily tasted and went together surprisingly well.  The celery added a crunchy texture that would have otherwise been a very soft dish, and the pickled red onion and the sambal mustard added both spice and a little fishiness which went well with the shrimp in the sausage.
The next course was Carpaccio and admittedly, I thought it a little odd, but not in a bad way.  I would also say that while I did like it, I would not say that anything was really stuffed anywhere.  It was a Seared Strip Loin served with Koji Cured Egg Yolk (Koji is the fungus used to cure soybeans to make Soy Sauce), Jalapeno Ice, and Pink Peppercorns served with Heirloom Lettuce.  While the cured yolk and jalapeno ice were on top, the strip loin and the lettuce were arranged such that either could enwrap the other and it could all be eaten like a taco.  The yolk in this "taco" had a consistency like gel and the jalapeno ice was just that, shaved ice flavored with jalapeno, so the entire thing was cold and spicy with a nice crunch from the fresh lettuce and the flavor of very good beef.
From Charcuterie to Asian to Italian, we then went to Jewish with a Matzo Ball Soup.  The Matzo Ball was stuffed with Duxelles (Mushrooms, Onions, Shallots, and Herbs) and floated in a Porcini Mushroom Broth.  It had a strong savory and funky mushroom flavor with some spice in the broth that gave it some heat.  I like mushrooms and this definitely had a lot of mushroom flavor.  The spice saved it from being a one note wonder.  It was a good dish, but it didn't speak to me as it did to some other people I noticed in the restaurant.
The dish that did speak to me were the Stuffed Beets.  We were served one Red and one Golden Beet, Roasted, and stuffed with Garlic Ricotta, topped with Peanut Miso Powder, and Lime Chili Peanut Crumble with Micro Greens on the side.  This tasted fresh and bright.  The beets were tender and sweet.  The peanut miso added some savoriness, the ricotta added a depth of flavor, but the chili lime peanut crumble was a flavor explosion.
We finished things off with a Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta between layers of Blood Orange Gelee and served with a Candied Blood Orange Chip and topped with Chocolate Crumbs.  Served in a small glass cup, it was a sweet and colorful finish to a menu that went all over the map.  The Blood Orange Gelee was sweet with a slightly tart finish that played off of the sweetness of the panna cotta.  The chip was chewy and bittersweet, with a little more tartness, and the chocolate provided a bitter contrast to the sweetness of the blood orange and vanilla panna cotta.  I really enjoyed dinner and I will definitely do it again.          

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