Spring Menu at One Sister Underground, Hello Elizabeth Restaurant

 

“I came up with this dish because I thought this is what a gnome would serve me if I was invited over to his house” is how Chef Iliana Regan of One Sister Inc. described the first of 25 courses served at her home.

And so the progression of whimsical genius and curiosity begins to show through each of Iliana’s dishes.  Rarely has a tasting menu felt so cohesive.  25 courses, each seamlessly blending avant-garde/modernist techniques with mostly midwest/seasonal ingredients, many of which were foraged or grown by Iliana herself. Each ingredient on the plate serves a purpose while pops of flavor come through when you least expect it.  Even the crowd pleaser course (whipped bacon fat, anyone?!!!) was so well rounded I was left craving a second beet marshmallow.

It is amazing how many of the dishes have been stuck in my head like a great song.  Many of the flavor combinations were unusual — combinations that proved impossible to “taste” in my mind.  Iliana’s skill in flavor pairing and creativity shine through each dish, such as pairing chicken liver with chocolate or creating a capsule of chamomile and cocoa nib that dissolves in mushroom tea. The vessels are also part of the fun — hanging glass orbs, owl mugs, licking the bottom of shot glasses and sucking the smoke out from underneath, and using your hand to impart the salt of a dish.

I am humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to join One Sister in its penultimate service, and I wait with bated breath for the opening of Iliana’s new restaurant, Elizabeth, slated to open end of this summer. I’m excited to say that Elizabeth restaurant is going to be a new extension of her home, described as a “dreamy log cabin”. I know she is currently growing, foraging, pickling, and prepping for her guests and I can’t wait to see what she serves us at her new “home”.

Spring Menu at One Sister

Parsnip Bubble Tea: Parsnip tea, Swiss chard beads, licorice gel

Hanging Course: “Ramps From Where They Came”

Marshmallow and Biscuit: Buttermilk biscuit with whipped bacon fat, black sea salt, ramp powder, beet marshmallow

Homegrown Salad: Arugula sponge, goat milk sorbet, sunflower seed sorbet, lavender honey, sunflower honey, pansies, pea shoots, sunflower sprouts

Ramps From Where They Came: Pickled ramps, pickled elderberries, wakame seaweed, soil (malt flour)

Enjoy: Potato “chip” cannoli with fava bean, lemon & truffle mousse, homemade mascarpone cheese and chive pudding

Asparagus and Quail Egg: Asparagus ribbon, chilled asparagus, soft poached quail egg, pickled strawberry

Zucchini Tree Nest: Zucchini squash, black pepper and tomato water “eggs”, perched in wheat grass

Carrots and Cashews: Blanched, dehydrated & shaved carrots,
cashew milk, roasted cashews, carrot top pesto

Chef Iliana Regan

1 Pill Makes You Larger: Cocoa nib and chamomile in a dissolving capsule

1 Pill Makes You Larger in Mushroom Tea: Cocoa nib and chamomile in a capsule that dissolves in mushroom tea

Herbed Ebelskiver: Buttermilk ebelskiver filled with house made parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme goat cheese, topped with apple cider vinegar powder & powdered sugar

Radish: Shaved and lightly sauteed radish, marinated daikon radish, home grown radish sprouts, dandelion stalks, fried radish tops

Rice Crispy and Bear: Puffed wild rice, cured black bear, Wisconsin cheddar, pink peppercorn

Chocolate Dashi: Dark chocolate dashi with chia seeds

Scallop and Peas: Seared sea scallop, ham, snap peas, yogurt, candied meyer lemon rind, freeze dried peas, pea shoots

Shrimp Noodles: Shrimp Noodles with toasted kale, garlic, parmesan, butter

Facebooking the Progression

Can’t help but lick the spoon…

Oysters

Your Hand: Bay smoked mussel, spinach, garlic, lemon zest, Iowa La Quercia prosciutto

Oyster and Mushrooms on Stone: Steamed Oysters, trumpet mushrooms, chick weed, dried ramp top, dried parsley, ramp top cubes

Roe, Salty, Sweet, Smoke: Cherry wood infused white chocolate ganache, marble rye crisp, BLiS trout roe

Beef Pho broth

Owl Mug

Chicken liver mousse: Chicken liver mousse encapsulated in dark cocoa, fennel pollen, madiera gel

Rabbit Ravioli: Rabbit rillette ravioli in red wine butter sauce & sauteed mustard greens

Adoration and amazement

Good to the last drop

Homemade Cheese course: Pork loin, grits, homemade sherry vinegar ricotta, puffed barley, shallot, foraged & pickled fiddle heads, pork blood reduction

Strawberries and Beets: Strawberry custard, graham crackers, dehydrated strawberries, beet petals, beet pudding, meringues, soft rind wisconsin cheese ice cream

Oatmeal: Oatmeal ice cream, oatmeal stout caramel, cherry and hazelnut crumble, cocoa cookies

Bite: Warm chocolate and almond donut

 

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Roasted pasta

Always looking for new inspiration and techniques to further our cooking, we usually take our search to the Ideas in Food book or blog. This simple, yet extremely affective roasting technique brings the pasta flavor to a nutty, toasty level that is surprisingly not on grocery shelves yet.

Pasta roasting in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes

Aerial glamour shot of the roasted pasta.

Roasted pasta soaking for 2.5 hours in water to re-hydrate. This cuts down cooking time. You can also further infuse flavor by using flavored liquid.

Finished dish: Roasted pasta with roasted pasta water reduction (Finished with some acidulated butter and thyme)

Close up

Sous Vide Cooking at Home

We recently purchased a Polyscience Sous Vide Professional immersion circulator and are super excited to bring our food to the next level! Sous-vide so far has made our meat super succulent and tender without overcooking. It’s easy, hands-off cooking and the results are well worth it. So far we have only made two proteins but more experiments to come!

Pork ribs:

Sous Vide Professional heating up to temperature (140 degrees for pork ribs)

Pork ribs in airtight, vacuum sealed bags with marinade

Pork ribs consistently heating at 140 degrees for 48 hours

Finished results after added sauce and light torching

Lamb Chops:

Lamb chops from Pioneer Wholesale Meats in vacuum sealed bags with marinade

Immersion circulator at work — 140 degrees for 1 hour

Voila! Lamb chops after a slight sear in the caste iron pan

Flavor Tripping at iNG

Nick and I are loyal supporters of anything Homaro Cantu and his people come up with at Moto and iNG restaurants in Chicago. For years we have watched them continually push the envelope with the format of dining, gastronomy and introducing new types of food, like the Miracle Berry, to change the world. They are constantly thinking about the bigger picture such as world hunger and health issues. From age six to nine, chef Cantu lived homeless with his mother and sister. This experience led him to want to fight world hunger and poverty  and to become a social entrepreneur.

Previously, Chef Cantu proposed using his invention of edible paper as a new form of advertising — “edible advertising”. Can you imagine opening a magazine and eating the advertisement! It was also meant to cut down on paper waste and put a dent in ending world hunger by having a single sheet contain much needed vitamins for an entire day.

I do think they are onto something big. Wanting to end world hunger with the Miracle Berry by making things that are bitter (like grass) palatable would automatically allow the abundance of some of our resources to become food for the masses. Another wonderful proposed method of use for the Miracle Berry is helping people with diabetes by using it to help their craving of sugar rather than eating actual sugar. I hope they succeed!

A few weeks ago, we tried their newest venture: flavor tripping with the miracle berry. It was a 6-course meal complete with pairings where the miracle berry was used to enhance or detract from certain flavor profiles. For instance, once you take the miracle berry, it tricks your taste buds into thinking you are tasting sweet instead of sour, or sweet instead of bitter. It also brings out umami flavors and rounds out dishes.

First course pairing: Honey nut cereal infused rum, honey, lemon, and frangelico cocktail served in a hollowed out lemon. Tasted like a white russian after the miracle berry!

Miracle berry pills:

First course: Mille-fuille: Puff pastry layered with lemon ricotta, apples, goat cheese ice cream and cider gastrique. Before the miracle berry, the lemon was more pronounced but after, the lemon ricotta mixture tasted like cheesecake.

2nd Course: Sweet Potato: Sweet potato “chain” with vanilla parsnip, puree of brussel sprouts, goat cheese, and balsamic, truffle marshmallows, and hazelnuts. Upon complimenting them on how delicious the burssel sprout puree was, we were let in on the secret that sans miracle berry  it was too bitter and kind of gross!

3rd Course: Baozi: Pork sausage with caramelized onions and homemade mustard (take on brats and beer). Served with a winter ale. The winter ale instead of being hoppy tasted like cream soda.

4th course: Turducken* bacon — Housemade turducken topped with bacon, a vegetable pave “bone”, horseradish puree topped with mushrooms, roasted brussel sprout leaves.  The folks at iNG and Moto do love a good “Road Kill”/”Massacre” themed plating.

*The Turducken was a slice of “deli meat” with Turkey/Duck/Chicken “Meat Glued” together.  Note the dark line down the middle is the duck.

5th course: Cheese course — Triple creme cheese ball with chives, fruit cake cracker, mulled wine reduction.

6th course: Figge rice pudding — Roasted and seasoned puffed rice, ornaments with apricot puree and cream — mixed together to make an instant figgie rice pudding.

Overall, everything tasted fantastic. They are still in the beginning stages of introducing the miracle berry so they had a few kinks to work out like explaining what the dish would have tasted like without the miracle berry. Right now the Miracle Berry pills are costly (about a dollar a pill), but I see a future dinner party in my future where we experiment with what it can do.

I always say food becomes boring once you stop experimenting and thinking of new combinations, forms, solutions, etc. Happy experimenting!

Best Things We Consumed in 2011

Oysters and Pearls at The French Laundry

2011 proved to be a great year for eating and drinking around the city of Chicago. Below are some of our top picks for the best food and drink we consumed (with a few thrown in from our San Francisco and Vegas trips). These are in no particular order and I’m sure I forgot a few!

Revolution Brewing— House-Cured Jowl Bacon Ragout, Barrel Aged Black Power Beer

iNG — Tuna poke; Short rib

Leopold — Smoked rabbit spaetzle

Kith & Kin (R.I.P.) — Fried chicken thighs, Smoked oysters
Chizakaya — Hamachi with bone marrow and garlic
Pastoral — Millenium Park bean sandwich
Sable Kitchen & Bar — Corn brulee
Saigon Sisters — Classic Bahn Mi
Spacca Napoli — Funghi wood oven pizza
Baconfest — Bacon rillette lollipop with maple bacon cotton candy lollipop (From Longman & Eagle); Bacon and foie gras moon pie topped with cayenne peanuts (From Big Jones); Cherrywood smoked bacon and black currant fruit roll up with bacon “cannoli” filled with maple bacon mascarpone (From Atwood Cafe)
Nightwood Restaurant — Wood oven smoked duck, Fried meyer lemon slices with caper aioli
Brown Trout — Wagyu with ramps and morels
City Provisions Deli — Ham sandwich on pretzel bread; Red pepper and humboldt fog quiche
Avenues (R.I.P.) — Alaskan king crab, Wagyu beef ribeye with ramps
Bouchon Bakery (Vegas) — Vanilla macaron; Pistachio macaron
Amy’s Candy Bar — Concord grape gummy bears
Next — Fillet de Sole Daumont, Supremes de Poussin (Escoffier Menu)
The Aviary — Blueberry
North Pond — Rabbit 3-ways (Spring menu)
Black Sheep (R.I.P.) — Mushroom Explosion
Sprout — Lamb medallions with pea puree (brunch menu)
El Ideas — Agnolotti: chicken/cornichon/brioche; Eggs: uni/char/scrambled/shrimp; Spanner crab: gnocchi/eggplant; Broccoli: Cauliflower/curry/cheese curd; Bourbon: pecan/coffee/tobacco — inspired by aunts drinking coffee and bourbon while smoking
Meaty Balls Mobile (R.I.P.) — Original Meatball sandwich
Wisconsin State Fair — Cream Puffs
Comstock Saloon (San Francisco) — Cheddar crackers with pepper jelly and cream cheese
Atelier Crenn (San Francisco) — Butter poached oysters with St. Germaine
Humphry Slocombe — Bourbon Coke Float: Bourbon caramel sauce/Secret Breakfast ice cream/coke
Slanted Door — Corn with chanterelle mushrooms
French Laundry — Oysters and Pearls; Poulard
The Butcher & Larder — Italian Sausage
GT Fish and Oyster — Shrimp and foie gras terrine
Koval Distillery — Spelt whiskey
Moto — Summer Breeze; Kentucky fried pasta/red wine puree; Cigars (Cuban, Philly Blunt, Monte Cristo)
Franks ‘N’ Dawgs — Seared swine pork sausage topped with white wine pickled pumpkin, grape & smoked onion relish, candied ginger & sage aioli & dijon mustard (Creation by Nathan Sears of Vie)
Fumare Meats — Montreal smoked pastrami sandwich
Festival of Wood and Barrel aged beer fest — Goose Island Manhattan Bourbon County Stout
Pleasant House Bakery — Mushroom and kale pie
One Sister Underground Dinner — Bubble Tea: Apple Pie/Bourbon; Pierogi: White Truffle/Cheese, Grilled Cheese Soup; 1 Pill makes you Larger and 1 pill makes you smaller (Chamomile and Mushroom); Ice Cream Cone: Bacon/Koval whiskey
Barrelhouse Flat — Old Fashioned
The Bristol
— Crispy pig tail with peanuts and coconut broth
2 Sparrows
 — Mushroom, leek, and kale quiche

FOODILY: “Food I love you”

Since we got our iPad, we have been finding new food related apps and websites that are useful. So far, my favorite recipe website has been FOODILY. After typing in an ingredient into the search bar, it pulls recipes from the bazillion food sites on the web and includes a picture and the source it came from. Then you can quickly scroll through the recipes and save them while you search. Another useful feature is customizing your search by including or excluding recipes with a specific ingredient. Sharing via Facebook and email is super easy as well. It’s smart, concise, colorful, and my new one and only recipe search tool!

Here’s a bonus tip: For a new way to quickly read a lot of information within a short amount of time, download the Pulse app to your phone or iPad. It changed the way I read my news every morning. Pulse takes your favorite websites and transforms them into a colorful mosaic. The app also makes it easy to share stories via email as well as Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Happy reading!

Own a Farm (without all the work)

I can’t remember how I heard about Community Supported Agriculture, but I’m glad I did. My husband and I selected Harvest Moons in Wisconsin who has a pick up weekly on Fridays at the LUSH Wine & Spirits store near us on Roscoe. We have had fun for the past few weeks picking up our box and utilizing the fresh produce inside. Last week it was spinach, lettuce, rhubarb, asparagus, cilantro, radishes, chard, and garlic scapes. This week brought us asparagus, strawberries, lettuce, beet greens, spinach, oviation mix, and swiss chard. I’d never even heard of garlic scape before and had never cooked with rhubarb! We chose to do the half share because they said the full share is more for 4 people in a household. I have to agree — the half share is forcing us to incorporate a good amount of veggies into every meal! Please read below for more information on why I think CSAs are worth it and how they typically work.

Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer:

Advantages for farmers:

  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

CSAs aren’t confined to produce. Some farmers include the option for shareholders to buy shares of eggs, homemade bread, meat, cheese, fruit, flowers or other farm products along with their veggies.

I think it’s better than Whole Foods and more convenient than going to a Farmer’s Market. For more information, here is the Harvest Moons website: http://www.harvestmoonorganics.com/CSA_and_Farmers_Market.html