Thurk Underground

The broth was this good!

Always on the mission for flavor combinations that I’ve never tasted, plating I’ve never seen, and ingredients I’ve never experienced, I typically don’t seek out simple food unless it’s a perfect baguette, good butter, or something of the like. However, I’m beginning to understand that I totally missed the point of what simple can be.

I met Chef Justin Behlke of Thurk through my friend, Melissa. They met on LTH forum where she offered to host one of his Underground meals at her place. He previously staged at Noma and wanted to bring simple, focused food to Chicago without all the drama of kitchen hierarchy. And so Thurk was born. After speaking to Justin, his passion and drive captured me.

Below are images from my most recent dinner a few weeks ago. Still amazed how complex everything tasted, yet how simple the ingredients were. Flakes of Alaskan maldon salt popping through the soft texture of freshly made cheese make my tastebuds squeal. Light pops of vinegar carrots cutting through the pan-fried pig face and warm pork broth caused me to close my eyes and wish the moment would never end. These pops of surprise tell me that simple can be complex with the right chef behind the plate

And let’s be honest — this is as close to Noma I am going to get for a while.

Letherbee gin and Q tonic with thyme

Letherbee gin and Q tonic with thyme

Fresh cheese, honey, and thyme

Fresh cheese, honey, and thyme

Smoked trout pie

Smoked trout pie

Cured pork belly with lacto-fermented carrot

Cured pork belly with lacto-fermented carrot

Homemade sourdough bread and homemade butter

Homemade sourdough bread and homemade butter

Young kraut, egg yolk, basil (before the mushroom tea)

Young kraut, egg yolk, basil (before the mushroom tea)

Mushroom tea pouring over the kraut and egg yolk

Mushroom tea pouring over the kraut and egg yolk

Roasted beets, smoked sour cream, and leek ash

Roasted beets, smoked sour cream, and leek ash

Cheese dumplings with root vegetables

Cheese dumplings with root vegetables

Pig's head, grated carrot (before pork broth)

Pig’s head, grated carrot (before pork broth)

Chef Justin Behlke pouring pork broth

Chef Justin Behlke pouring pork broth

Pork broth

Pork broth

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Pork chop with brown butter, kale chips, and beer shallots

Pork chop with brown butter, kale chips, and beer shallots

Squash butter and milk sorbet

Squash butter and milk sorbet

Beer marshmallows, burnt honey candy, and biscuit cookie with tomato jam

Beer marshmallows, burnt honey candy, and biscuit cookie with tomato jam

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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