Hey, remember how I razzed you a ways back for all those misspellings & malaprops on your website, insinuating links between linguistic & culinary carelessness? Well, smart as my mouth was then, it’s all the smarter now, the day after a meal that taught it a thing or 2 about the brains & brawn your kitchen crew actually possesses. So, you know, sorry about that, & thanks for all the grub.
Which in this case sorta means anything but, as our waiter, the kind of guy who clearly spends an inordinate amount of time making his own sunshine, indicated by reeling off all the nongrubby things chefs Olav Peterson (formerly of 1515, which I’ve never been to) & Travis Lorton (formerly, according to Westword, of Chicago’s Blackbird, which I have been to & deeply dig) are making in house: bread, bacon, charcuterie, pasta, pickles, ice cream; &, not so much in house as on it, they’re growing rooftop herbs & veggies.
Under the circumstances, then, how could we say no to the evening’s special, a charcuterie plate complete with duck pate, pork terrine, bacon brittle, 1 sunny-side-up egg, just-picked cress, pickled baby carrots, warm grilled bread & red-wine syrup?
We couldn’t, that’s how, & were all the gladder for that once we got a load of the layer of pure bacon fat atop the pate & the dollop of candied mustard seeds gracing the terrine. Though, due to the excess of salt exhibited by both meat products, it didn’t earn more than a B for execution, the phrase “A for effort” was made for dishes of its ilk. & the brittle was a kick in the teeth.
This, by the by, followed a basket of the delicious bread du jour, caramelized onion & parmesan—whose satisfyingly tight crumb bordered on that of pound cake—along with a dish of the infused oil du jour, roasted garlic, which our eager little beaver poured & peppered for us.
It preceded escargots in potato cups that had, we were told, been confited, i.e. I assume basically kept for a spell, in butter.
Snails have always struck me as the shapeshifters, or rather flavorshifters, of the molluscian world; these tasted of nothing so much as portobellos. The tarragon aioli was as heavily herb-perfumed as a pothead in a cloud of patchouli, only much more nicely so.
A crazy thing happened after that: I ordered chicken. You know, who besides Cherry Creek sleekazoids & the GI-dysfunctional ever orders chicken? But it sounded swell, all gussied up like my plate was the prom in mustard & balsamic & champagne cream atop a ham-&-swiss risotto cake. Better yet, it was, being crunchy & luscious in all the right places—just salty & tangy & rich enough. I have hereby rendered its goodness photographically, by applying some sort of artistic filter—”diffuse glow,” I believe, fittingly enough.
Lacking an equally compelling aura, unfortunately, was the dull, muddied vegetable pot pie, which contained mainly potatoes & mushrooms, devoid of any brighter bits—a few carrot coins, broccoli florets or peas would have added some oomph. It’s not like it’s the dead of winter on the Eurasian steppe where we nomads are foraging for the last remaining roots. (Then again, chicken & bacon would help too. Come on now, there’s nothing about the noun phrase “pot pie,” in all its stout-hearted charm, to warrant its yoking to such a meager adjective as “vegetarian,” is there?) The sharply mustardy dressing on the frisee was lovely, however.
The pie wasn’t the only letdown; I was also roundly bummed about the dessert special, a lemon–olive oil cake accompanied by candied kalamata olives. But that was a matter not of its inferiority but of its failure to get in my belly altogether; the Director was too full to split it & I was too full not to. With memories of a brilliant chilled soup of candied kalamatas I used to slurp up back in Boston burning in my brain, I settled for an admittedly dandy scoop of cream-cheese ice cream, refreshingly reminiscent of ice milk in texture & tinged with tartness.
Additional kudos for a shrewd wine list that includes the quirky likes of what happen to be some of my own fave quaffs—e.g., Emilio Bulfon’s Piculit Neri and Zamba Malbec—& excludes anything over $40. (Equally streamlined is the space, minimalist but comfy in cream & chocolate tones.)
A single shining kudo, too, goes to whoever finally spell-checked the menu. Details, details.