Best Things We Consumed in 2012

2012 brought some of our best food experiences yet — thanks to awesome newfound foodie friends and restaurants that arrived in our lives.  Underground dining proved to be a great way to meet new people and try ground breaking food. Looking forward to what 2013 has to offer!  Next restaurant is on the books as well as Sous Rising Underground and Thurk Underground and a preview of TMIP (Brandon Baltzley’s new restaurant). I’ll be sure to share.

Below is a compendium of the tastiest dishes and beverages we were fortunate to consume in 2012:

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One Sister Underground (Now Elizabeth Restaurant):
Spring Menu (see my full blog post on this menu here):
Beet: Marshmallow and biscuit with whipped bacon fat
Carrots and Cashews: Blanched, dehydrated & shaved carrots, cashew milk, roasted cashews, carrot top pesto
*1 Pill Makes You Larger: Cocoa nib and chamomile in a dissolving capsule
Rice Crispy and Bear: Puffed wild rice, cured black bear, Wisconsin cheddar, pink peppercorn
Chicken liver mousse: Chicken liver mousse encapsulated in dark cocoa, fennel pollen, madiera gel

Elizabeth Restaurant:
Owl menu:
*Carrot tea with ginger
Hen & Egg
Pear & Chestnut dessert
Deer menu:
*Tartare and Sumac
Salmon Cannoli
Forest Float
Porcini mushroom dessert
Diamond menu (see my full blog post on this menu here):
Foraged matsutake mushrooms and juniper powder on top of cinnamon custard
Loup de mer with apple cider gelee and sunchoke puree.
Oyster and Nasturtium (kumamoto oyster)
**Hamachi with fermented leek and fish sauce caramel (WINNER)

EL Ideas:
February Menu:
*Anise Hyssop:  Brussels/pecans/root beer
Ideas in Food collaboration dinner:
Sunflower seed risotto, porcini, and kombu
December Menu:
Octopus: eggplant / cardoon / garam masala
*Secreto: parsnip / horseradish / old bay
Wagyu: royal trumpet / sunchoke / leek

Thurk Underground:
Mushroom, dandelion, ricotta, and chicken skin
Cauliflower, cress, and egg yolk

iNG:
Christmas Menu:
Mille-fuille: Puff pastry, lemon ricotta, apples, goat cheese. honey nut cereal infused rum, honey, lemon, frangelico
Sweet Potato: Chain vanilla parsnip, balsamic, truffle, hazelnut
Easter menu:
April Showers capon, cauliflower, Tokyo turnip
Heavy Metal menu:
*Deep Purple Poutine: purple potatoes, aged cheddar, short rib
Back in Black: donut sauce, salted whipped cream, and espresso

City Provisions:
*Sasparilla stout
Jicama potato salad
Quiche

S&M Underground:
July Menu:
Poke
Sai Gog (Laos) – pork sausages, papaya salad
August Menu:
Matzo-Pot-Au-Pho: matzo, broth, carrot, daikon, leek, asian herbs

Girl and the Goat:
*Arctic Char with capers, ruby grapefruit
*Kohlrabi: fennel, almonds, shiitakes, pears, and ginger dressing

Acadia:
Mezcal old-fashioned with notes of tomatillo and grapefruit and a coconut-dill ice cube — created by Michael Simon

Carriage House:
*Venison tartare
Collard Greens
*Crispy Pork shoulder with grits and smoked plums

Ruxbin:
*Octopus dish with grilled with Chickpeas, Pickled Green Onions, Radish, Black Soybean, Grapes, Ginger-Scallion Vinaigrette

Next:
El bulli menu (see my full blog post on this menu here):
Chicken Liquid Croquettes
Cauliflower cous-cous with solid aromatic herb sauce
Potato tortilla, trumpet carpaccio
Foie gras caramel custard
Mint pond
Kyoto menu:
*Corn Husk (broth)
Matsutake Chawanmushi, pine

Graham Elliot (with Andrew Brochu):
Egg
Doughnut

Owen & Engine:
*Burger

Yusho:
Chicken liver takoyaki
Pig foot ramen

Lula Cafe:
Buccatini with brown butter and garlic
Chestnut, brie, and rosemary Strada

Chizakaya (RIP):
*Octopus beignets
Po Bao

Nellcote:
Robuchon mashed potatoes

Publican Quality Meats:
(PB & L) Pork Belly and Lamb Sausage sandwich

Namo:
Lobster pad thai

Balena:
Tagliolini Nero, crab, sea urchin, chili
Amaro cocktails

Barrelhouse Flat:
Remember the Main
Mamie Taylor

Schwa:
*Deconstructed Baked Potato Soup
Truffle Ravioli
Salmon/Grapefruit

La Sze Chuan:
*Dry chili chicken
Lamb with dry cumin

Machu Picchu:
Cancha (Peruvian fried corn kernels)

Bouchon Bakery:
Vanilla and Pistachio flavored macarons

Do-Rite Donuts:
Old Fashioned donut

Pecking Order:
Banana ketchup
P.O. sauce

Premise (RIP):
*Lapsang Souchong cocktail
Foie Gras pretzel

Fumare Meats & Deli:
Montreal Smoked sandwich

Pastoral:
Millenium Park Bean sandwich
BLTA sandwich

The Peasantry:
Chocolate chili fried chicken on a corn pancake

Pleasant House Bakery:
*Mushroom and Kale pie

Birchwood Kitchen:
Chickpea salad

Scofflaw:
*Fries
Guapichosa (“Secret” pork sandwich)
*”Dealer’s Choice” drinks

Nightwood:
Crispy pig ears with Habanero, maple, and cilantro

Alinea:
*Corn: Huitlacoche, sour cherry, silk
Chanterelle: ramps, asparagus, smoked date
Black Truffle explosion, romaine, parmesan

Browntrout:
Corn risotto

Revolution Brewing:
Mad Cow Milk Stout

Katsu:
*Matsutake tea
*Eel Chawanmushi
*Chef’s Choice Omakase

The Publican (Faviken Dinner):
*Arctic Char with matsutake mushrooms, apples, and fermented cucumbers

Scooter’s:
Peanut Butter and Jelly custard

Urban Belly:
Lamb and brandy ravioli

Trencherman:
*Celery gin and tonic cocktail
Pickle tots

The Savoy:
Truffle cocktail

Oiistar:
Pork Ramen

Longman & Eagle:
Chicago style Pig Face

Au Cheval:
Foie gras terrine with cherry sauce

In Montreal, Canada:
Jean Talon Market:
Ground cherries
Pintxo:
Morcilla (Spanish blood sausage)
Le LAB:
*Jerky Jack Lab cocktail (Cane sugar, bitter BBQ craft, Curacao Pierre Ferrand, Tennessee Whiskey Jack Daniels and sweet and spicy beef jerky)
Flaming S’More shot
Le Couteau (The Knife):
Coffee
Joe Beef:
Oeufs en Pot: Chanterelle mushrooms, bacon, chicken skin jus, soft egg
Bone Marrow with pickled vegetables and mustard
*Filet de Cheval a Cheval (Horse entrée)
*Au Pied de Cochon: Foie Gras Apple Tart

*Best of the best

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Fall Diamond Menu at Elizabeth Restaurant

Expectations tend to color how we perceive experiences.  Will Ferrell movies for me are a good example:  I find my enjoyment of his movies is inversely proportional to how much I expect to like it.  Excited for Talladega Nights: blah.  Ambivalent about Step Brothers:  HIlarious!

Of course, this is very true for dining.  I’m often scared to return to a restaurant that I tried a few years ago and loved.  So much of the experience comes not just from the food, but also the ambiance, the company, and the diner’s past experiences.  I think people tend to remember places more by the whole experience than a pure objective critique of the food.  It could be the first time I had (and loved) sweetbreads (and realized there was nothing “sweet” or “bread” about them) or a fantastic wait staff.  On the return visit if it doesn’t live up to my romanticized memory, I leave somewhat disappointed.

How does this all relate to Elizabeth Restaurant? My last One Sister dinner was one of the best meals I’ve ever had (Re: Spring Menu).  Obviously I was quite excited to see what Chef Iliana Regan would do with a full kitchen and a staff to work with, but as our reservation drew near, it struck me that there was a chance the menu wouldn’t live up to my high expectations (Re:  Mind Blowing).  After all, it is a pretty ambitious project: three 10-20 course tasting menus with no overlapping dishes and they were only a few weeks into service.

I had the pleasure of eating the Diamond menu, the longest menu of the three offered. From start to finish, the magical presence of Mother Nature mixed with creativity peppered with molecular techniques kept my mouth happy and my taste buds jumping for joy with anticipation for the next course.

Chef Regan, once again, succeeded in crafting many courses that were truly mind-blowing.  A few standout courses:

–Foraged matsutake mushrooms and juniper powder on top of cinnamon custard. The textures and flavors were unlike anything I had experienced before — anywhere.
–Loup de mer with apple cider gelee and sunchoke puree. I used my finger to get every bit of this dish.
–Hamachi with fermented leek and fish sauce caramel. This dish packs a giant flavor punch. Plate licking good.

Service is a highlight I rarely discuss, but the staff does a great job of welcoming and pampering you from beginning to end. It’s fine dining service in a casual environment. Wine pairings are also not to be missed. Scott Noorman has a passion for wine and it shows.

I’m happy to say that the transition from One Sister, Inc. to Elizabeth Restaurant seems flawless for Chef Regan. Again, I was a huge fan of the underground dinners she once held in her home and the food hasn’t let down at her newest “home” in Lincoln Square. Dishes on each menu change all the time — below were the courses served the night I went. Next month I am going to the Deer menu so I’ll be sure to post my experience of that menu as well. Looking forward to it more than words can say!

Apple Pie and American Caviar -- salty and sweet

Apple Pie and American Caviar — salty and sweet

Pumpkin Experiment -- Pumpkin gelee with cocoa nib consomme.

Pumpkin Experiment — Pumpkin gelee with cocoa nib consomme.

Serious about the details

Serious about the details

Arugula Salad Sponge with goat cheese ice cream and sunflower ice cream along with various herbs and honeys

Arugula Salad Sponge with goat cheese ice cream and sunflower ice cream along with various herbs and honeys

Round Pancake with homemade goat cheese and malt vinegar powder

Round Pancake with homemade goat cheese and malt vinegar powder

Terrarium: Brioche crumbs with pickled blackberry, lemon, and greek yogurt

Terrarium — Brioche crumbs with pickled blackberry, lemon, and greek yogurt

Foraged matsutake mushrooms and juniper powder on top of cinnamon custard

Foraged matsutake mushrooms and juniper powder on top of cinnamon custard

Oatmeal dashi

Oatmeal dashi

Loup de mer with apple cider gelee and sunchoke puree. I used my finger to get every bit of this dish.

Loup de mer with apple cider gelee and sunchoke puree.

Shrimp Noodles -- buttery and umami

Shrimp Noodles — buttery and umami

Oyster and Nasturtium (kumamoto oyster).

Oyster and Nasturtium (kumamoto oyster)

Brioche curl with lobster and duck liver sauce

Brioche curl with lobster and duck liver sauce

Hand Course -- salty goodness

Hand Course — salty goodness

Hamachi with fermented leek and fish sauce caramel. This dish packs a giant flavor punch. Plate licking good.

Hamachi with fermented leek and fish sauce caramel.

Duck Pho in owl mug

Duck Pho in owl mug

Iliana pouring the pho from a cute tea pot

Iliana pouring the pho from a cute tea pot

Heart with celery ribbons and pickled onion. The celery was outrageously flavorful.

Heart with celery ribbons and pickled onion. The celery was outrageously flavorful.

Deer bresaola with carrot top pesto

Deer bresaola with carrot top pesto

Dry Aged Ribeye with tongue -- this meat was ridiculous

Dry Aged Ribeye with tongue — this meat was ridiculous

Feta and herbs

Feta and herbs

Bacon ice cream with koval caramel in a homemade cone

Bacon ice cream with koval caramel in a homemade cone

Scott Norman muddling in the drunk trunk.

Scott Noorman muddling in the drunk trunk.

Related articles: Tickets for Elizabeth restaurant now on sale (chicagoreader.com)

 

Egg Bao with Pork Belly and Pickled Ramp Sauce

Awhile back, my friend Tom introduced me to the idea of pressure cooking eggs. After months of staring at a brand new pressure cooker, trying to figure out how to break it in and not blow up the kitchen in the process (there is really little risk of blowing anything up these days), I happened to be flush with eggs from my farmer Paul. I figured it would be a good time to toss ’em in the pressure cooker and see what happens.

Nerd Side Bar:  A pressure cooker @15 psi will boil water at ~120C/248F (depending on elevation and a few other factors). This, coupled with the alkalinity of egg whites, causes both the whites and yolk to undergo Maillard Reactions (aka the reason browned meat tastes so darn good!).  This results in a hard boiled egg that has the flavor of roast chicken (seriously).

Prior to embarking on this journey, I decided I should at least do some research. I came across this interview with Dave Arnold where he described how he (and his intern Ed) stumbled into something they called egg bread while trying to pressure cook just the yolks.  So, of course, I had to attempt some egg bread of my own.  I did have plenty of eggs after all. Did I mention I was roasting some pork belly?  I don’t quite remember what I had in mind at the time, but when someone (Paul) shows up bearing 5 pounds of pork belly, you find ways to use it!

Egg Bread Recipe:

  1. 6 large egg yolks
  2. 4.5g baking powder

Mix yolks and baking powder together until it starts to get a little thick.  Pour mixture into a ramekin (or any other suitably shaped dish) and place the dish into a steamer for 30 min.

The mix rises nicely and the texture reminded me of bao.  So quite naturally I cut my bread into vaguely bao shaped buns, topped them with a slice of the pork belly and made a pickled ramp dressing that I recalled from the Momofuku book (chopped pickled ramps + mayonnaise = delicious ). This recipe is also gluten free which was nicely noted by our friend Melissa McEwen!

*The more astute among you may have noticed the pressure cooked eggs didn’t quite make an appearance in the final product, but rest assured they did turn out quite tasty and make a rockin egg salad mixed with a little mayo and sriracha. Fill pressure cooker with just enough water to cover eggs, then follow your pressure cooker’s instructions to cook at 15psi for about an hour.

** I used this Pork Belly Egg Bao below to ‘cheat’ at an Iron Chef Sardine dinner party I attended.  This time I used a sous vide pork belly with a homemade sardine ‘katsuobushi’ shaved on top.

Egg yolk and baking soda mixture

Ready for steaming

Egg mixture steaming

Steamed egg bread ready for cutting

Pork belly from Paulie’s Pastures (not sure why this picture came out so yellow…)

Pork belly egg bao with pickled ramp aioli

 

Written and photographed by: Nicholas A. Hruza

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

 

El Bulli at Next restaurant

The El Bulli meal at Next was part museum, part history, and part homage. Many of the inventive items on the menu were created over 10 years ago which shows the genius and innovation behind Ferran Adria and what he did for the culinary world. He played with foam, spherification, and liquid nitrogen. He pushed captivating flavors and unusual textures. These influences are seen all over menus today. After trying to get into El Bulli in Spain for 5 years, I feel humbled and honored to have been part of Chef Dave Beran and Chef Grant Achatz’s interpretation.

Sometimes words can’t begin to capture experience or emotion, so hopefully our photos say a thousand words. The meal was exceptional — the food, the service, the techniques, and the consistent flow of surprises. In one word: inspirational.

Nitro Caipirinha with tarragon concentrate -- 2004

Nitro Caipirinha with tarragon concentrate — 2004

Sous chef making the nitro caipirinha in the middle of the dining room

Sous chef making the nitro caipirinha in the middle of the dining room

Hot/cold trout roe tempura -- 2000

Hot/cold trout roe tempura — 2000

Spherical olives -- 2005

Spherical olives — 2005

Coca of avocado, pear, anchovies, and green onion -- 1991

Coca of avocado, pear, anchovies, and green onion — 1991

Iberico sandwich -- 2003

Iberico sandwich — 2003

Golden egg -- 2001

Golden egg — 2001

Black sesame spongecake and miso -- 2007

Black sesame spongecake and miso — 2007

Chicken liquid croquettes -- 1998

Chicken liquid croquettes — 1998

Vials of Orange and Cardamom bitters to add to our Cava

Vials of Orange and Cardamom bitters to add to our Cava

Smoke foam -- 1997
Smoke foam — 1997

Carrot air with coconut milk -- 2003

Carrot air with coconut milk — 2003

Cuttlefish and coconut ravioli with soy, ginger and mint -- 1997

Cuttlefish and coconut ravioli with soy, ginger and mint — 1997

Savory tomato ice with oregano and almond milk pudding -- 1992

Savory tomato ice with oregano and almond milk pudding — 1992

Hot crab aspic with mini corn cous-cous -- 2001

Hot crab aspic with mini corn cous-cous — 2001

Cider

Cider

Cauliflower cous-cous with solid aromatic herb sauce -- 2000

Cauliflower cous-cous with solid aromatic herb sauce — 2000

Suquet of prawns --1988

Suquet of prawns –1988

Potato tortilla -- 1998

Potato tortilla — 1998

Trumpet carpaccio -- 1989

Trumpet carpaccio — 1989

Red mullet gaudi -- 1987

Red mullet gaudi — 1987

Half Acre Sanguis -- beer brewed with oranges and beets specially for the elBulli menu

Half Acre Sanguis — beer brewed with oranges and beets specially for the elBulli menu

Nasturtium with eel, bone marrow, and cucumber -- 2007

Nasturtium with eel, bone marrow, and cucumber — 2007

Civet of rabbit with hot apply jelly -- 2000

Civet of rabbit with hot apply jelly — 2000

Gorgonzola globe -- 2009

Gorgonzola globe — 2009

Foie gras caramel custard -- 1999

Foie gras caramel custard — 1999

Spice plate -- 1996

Spice plate — 1996

Spice plate match up game

Spice plate match up game

Mint pond -- 2009

Mint pond — 2009

Chocolate in textures -- 1997

Chocolate in textures — 1997

Chocolate donuts -- 2010

Chocolate donuts — 2010

Puff pasty web -- 1989 and Creme flute -- 1993

Puff pasty web — 1989 and Creme flute — 1993

Caffeine

Caffeine

"The Farewell" with passionfruit marshmallows -- 2004

“The Farewell” with passionfruit marshmallows — 2004

el bulli menu at Next

el bulli menu at Next

More on Ferran Adria: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferran_Adri%C3%A0

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