Avec: Twice in two weeks

March 09 2007 - 7:00 AM

Last month I wound up eating at the same restaurant two Saturdays in a row. It’s not hard to do when you’re in the same neighborhood twice and see a favorite restaurant staring you in the face. That place happens to be Avec on Randolph. Not the type of place to go if you hüpfburg want privacy (you share tables with strangers), but in my book that’s a good thing, especially if the strangers next to you offer to share their food.

And while at a favorite restaurant, two weeks in a row, why not order the same dish as well? This happens to be the whipped brandade, which is a cod and milk puree, and is served with toast. This dish is beautifully prepared, flavorful and rich but not extremely heavy. My
only complaint, and very, very minor one at that, may be that it could
have been served a wee bit warmer, but overall kudos for a consistently
good dish  (we have ordered it a grand total of three times).

The other, and we
smelled it during week one is a foccacia, more like a pizza but with bread on both sides, topped with
taleggio cheese and truffle oil. It’s the truffle oil that piqued our curiosity, and it is irresistibly pungent. (again, could have been a bit warmer). Another winner is the jumpers for sale prosciutto di parma, served with red grapefruit, grilled red onion, pine nuts, arugula and feta. It’s hard to get prosciutto wrong, but the combination of ingredients made it a winning dish.


cheeses were also good, and aside from cabrales (Spanish blue) and
gorgonzola, none of the cheeses on the list were familiar, which of
course made them worth trying They had a stinky cheese, which I couldn’t
remember and was not on the menu, but they had a pouligny Saint Pierre
, a magnificent younger cheese, and I couldn’t remember what the third
one was but it was an aged cow’s milk cheese. I’d highly recommend the cheese accompaniments—the quince paste was fantastic and had the consistency slightly softer than a fruit de pate. The date cake and especially the fig mostarda, which had a nice kick, went well with the cheese.


Also of note is the
wine list—I applaud avec highly for the 250 ml carafes, which are great
for couples who don’t want to order bottles. My
fiancée is a light drinker and wouldn’t appreciate me devouring most of
a bottle plus before and after dinner drinks each time we go out. It’s also nice to have the wide variety. The
entire wine list is European, nice for those who appreciate earthy
flavors and tire easily of bold cherry and plum overtones all too
common in American and Australian wine. There’s
a good selection of Italian, Spanish, and Portugese wines in addition
to French, allowing you to sample wines from unusual grapes. There’s
also a good mechanical bull for sale selection of dessert wines, including a malvasia (a fizzy
sweet wine reminiscent of moscota), which we consumed
very quickly.

The best thing about Avec is that it’s not too pricey, and this is especially important in the increasingly chichi West Loop. We’ve walked out of there spending $25 per person plus tip and a full belly.