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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Sous Rising Guesterant

I started exploring Underground dinners a year ago and haven’t looked back. Creative and exciting food, fascinating dinner participants, and the warm welcoming into these chef’s homes really make it a unique experience every time.

My favorite Underground, One Sister, became Elizabeth restaurant so I sought out to get my fix elsewhere. I recently ate at Thurk Underground (post coming soon) and last night dined at Sous Rising Guesterant with Chef Jake Bickelhaupt (veteran of Alinea, Schwa, and Charlie Trotter’s). He and his wife, Alexa, host the dinners in their place in Uptown. An open kitchen leading into the dining area allowed us to see Jake plate as well as converse with him and give feedback throughout the night. Alexa did an amazing job making us feel right at home, pouring our wine and helping serve.

We booked out the entire table of 8 with our Supper Club so we didn’t have the pleasure of meeting anyone new, but Jake and Alexa genuinely seemed excited to have us. Jake’s take on American cuisine combined molecular techniques — where needed — for surprise. The flavors were inventive and bright. Execution was perfect and the presentation — stunning. I’m looking forward to seeing Jake obtain his goal of opening a small BYO restaurant and dining with him again!

**I forgot my camera at home so these photos are all taken with my camera phone. For better pictures, visit: http://www.sousrisingchicago.com/gallery.html taken by Huge Galdones.

Trout Roe: coconut cream, white chocolate, pink peppercorn, pineapple

Trout Roe: coconut cream, white chocolate, pink peppercorn, pineapple

Kiwano: gin, horned melon, rosewater, hibiscus

Kiwano: gin, horned melon, rosewater, hibiscus

Soup: fingerling potato chips, pea, milk, tomato, tendril

Soup: fingerling potato chips, pea, milk, tomato, tendril

Salad: Spanish octopus, avocado, finger lime, coconut, coast of Maine kelp

Salad: Spanish octopus, avocado, finger lime, coconut, coast of Maine kelp

Winter corn: yolk, fermented black bean, Murray River salt

Winter corn: yolk, fermented black bean, Murray River salt

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Kampachi: Sake cure, pomelo, carob, banana, tapioca pearls

Gnocchi: hedgehog mushroom, black truffle, broccolini, pecorino

Gnocchi: hedgehog mushroom, black truffle, broccolini, pecorino

Palate cleanser

Palate cleanser

Black Pig: Kurobuta, Okinawan, chestnut, tamarind

Black Pig: Kurobuta, Okinawan, chestnut, tamarind

Uni: maitake, Asian crouton, black garlic, burdock root, kumquat

Uni: maitake, Asian crouton, black garlic, burdock root, kumquat

Beef: mango, aged soy, nori, yuzu kosho

Beef: mango, aged soy, nori, yuzu kosho

Tart: Calamansi

Tart: Calamansi

Sweet: Shortbread, root beer, prune, orange, vanilla, honey

Sweet: Shortbread, root beer, prune, orange, vanilla, honey

Caffeine: espuma, coffeeweed, cardamom

Caffeine: espuma, coffeeweed, cardamom