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.