Restaurants

King's County Tap's New Fall Menu on Full Display

October 31 2015 - 1:49 AM

Almost by accident my first visit to King’s County Tap occurred.  It was a sunny summer afternoon, and a group of us from softball wandered over from our nearby field into the Lincoln Park restaurant in search of postgame food and beer.  One glance at the menu – scallops, lentils, farm-fresh and rather gourmet items – announced that this eatery was hardly going to cater to the tater-tots crowd which dominates much of the Lincoln Park bar scene.  The local-heavy craft beer list communicated the restaurant’s seriousness of purpose: this place was seeking sophisticated palates.  I left knowing that a return visit, one in which I was sporting something a bit more refined than dusty athletic gear, was in order.   2015-10-08 20.38.42 (1)

Accordingly, when given the chance to return to King’s County for a prix fixe dinner showcasing their fall menu, I jumped at it. Or, you could say that I walked into it.  Given that each of the six courses would include a beer, wine, or cocktail paring, I hoofed it to King’s, a decision which ultimately enhanced the dining experience by heightening the establishment’s “neighborhood” feel.    This is the essence of their vision, as implemented by Chef Chris Bromley.   They aim to challenge palates with unique takes on cuisine, and provide a comfortable dining experience with a touch of gourmet, all while maintaining a comfortable, casual atmosphere.

Our courses were flavorful dishes built upon simple, sustainable ingredients.  Starting us off was the chicken-liver mousse with fig mostarda and walnuts.   A pleasant but not overwhelming saltiness in the mousse awakened the palate, which had a firm-yet-supple creaminess which, in chocolate-pudding-like fashion, made you anticipate each bite.  Prosecco succeeded as a sensible pairing with the creamy mousse, as its slight sweetness and acidic bite freshened the palate.  Round two, the beet tartare, which was mealy, like beet mashed potatoes or beet grits, was thoughtfully balanced out with pickled fennel, giving the dish a healthy crunchiness and a refreshing hint of tang.  Spanish white wine is a near-foolproof paring option, and the chef intelligently backed his beet brainchild with a pleasantly dry Campus Reales Airen.

2015-10-08 21.57.22Course three began with an unexpected and startling turn: beer.  Lagunitas Imperial Pilsner ushered in this round with a creamy texture, a touch of sweet malts, and a lively hop bite.   This helped counterbalance the rather complex accompanying dish, a skillet stuffed with white beans, octopus, and lamb sausage.  Overall the dish functioned like an English country dish, with the beans supplying the texture as would potatoes in a shepherd’s pie.  This certainly displayed the chef’s desire to provide the expected neighborhood crowd with a twist on something that still seemed accessible and familiar.

Next up was the night’s winner, a roasted sturgeon fillet which was as tender as a soufflé and smelled wonderfully of tomatoes.  Goose Island, The Ogden, a Belgian trippel, brought playful fruitiness and crisp acidity to rich lakefish.  The side accompaniment of leeks and fennel saffron was akin to a relish.  Fifth was the New York strip backed by dangerously flavorful cheddar polenta that carried a cream-sauce texture.  This portion was graced with shitake mushrooms of which I could have eaten an entire pot.   Paired with this course was the wine of the night, Ippolitio 1845 Calabrise, an Italian red.  Its dark color, violet flavors and aromas, and round mouthfeel were entrancing.

2015-10-08 22.12.08We finished the menu schedule with a dark chocolate chess pie, which enchanted the palate with a crunchy crust that gave way to a silky, brownie-like interior.  And to top it off, quite literally, was salt-and-pepper ice cream. Devastating and unfairly so.  A unique cocktail, which was sort of a licorice-flavored, low-carbonation soda, this provided a smooth undercurrent to the dense off-sweet pie.

Physically, King’s County feels open and spacious, like a modern cabin.   Huge windows keep you connected to the outside world, and there’s ample outdoor seating when the weather permits.   Hey, this is Chicago, you know.  But on one of our many cold nights, there’s a long, roomy bar for cozying up, and 16 craft beers are regularly tapped.  At night the lighting is moderately dark; you can see across the room but the atmosphere isn’t cheapened by overly bright lighting.

I’m informed that the restaurant’s name is, in part, an ode to the artists of Brooklyn.  Fortunately, King’s County’s owners decided on painting the Chicago restaurant canvas with a rather elegant and quite comfortable eatery.

–          M. Sheppard

King’s County Tap

2576 N. Lincoln Ave.

Chicago, IL

News & Features

Sustainable Suds – PenGuin Hops

October 21 2015 - 10:09 PM

The Shedd is teaming up with Revolution brewing to create s sessionable pale ale with Shedd Aquarium grown hops. I’m not sure if these are a specific type of hops or a new “Shedd hop” but as it’s described as “light in both color and aroma” The Shedd hops are blended with hops at Revolution for the brew. Best part is that $1 from each purchase goes to the aquarium. The release party October 28th! Here’s a link for tickets.

News & Features

Chicago Magazine's Secret Supper

October 08 2015 - 9:00 AM

This week I attended Chicago magazine’s Secret Supper. What’s a Secret Supper you ask? Well, it’s a private dinner hosted by Chicago magazine at one of the best new restaurants in Chicago. What’s the catch? Diners purchase tickets to the dinner in advance but don’t find out the location until the day of the event. This week’s dinner was the third Secret Supper after the success of the first Secret Supper event at Momotaro in April 2015, and the second Secret Supper event at Salero in August 2015.  The location for the third Secret Supper was Community Tavern in Portage Park. The boutique steakhouse was featured in Chicago magazine’s May issue as one of Chicago’s Best New Restaurants.

The restaurant was warm and inviting and on a chilly evening, it was just what we all needed. Community Tavern is a French-leaning steakhouse, set in a rustic-chic space. The restaurant differs in both ambiance and price from its nearby sister restaurant, The Portage, which serves new American, Asian-influenced food.

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The five-course meal developed by Executive Chef and Partner Joey Beato (Spring, Momofuku Ma Peche, Green Zebra) and Chef de Cuisine Matt Saccaro (Autremonde, Tizi Melloul, Anteprima) featured a little bit of everything including shellfish, fish, and meat.  To help wash it all down were two specialty cocktails featuring Tito’s Handmade Vodka, as well as a pinot noir and sauvignon blanc from 90+ Cellars.

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Course one featured a Kusshi oyster with Tabasco, orange and chive. One slurp and it was gone. The oyster had a nice, clean finish and I enjoyed the citrus notes.

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The next course was definitely the most decadent, a foie gras torchon with peach and Riesling jam, herbs de Provence, and brioche toast points. This was quite a generous serving, each bite richer than the last. The jam made for a fantastic pairing (note to self: must recreate at home) and the bread was a perfect carrier. The herbs were a necessary pop of freshness to cut the heaviness of the foie gras.

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Our second seafood course was a lobster boudin with shaved squash, pistachio, tarragon and sabayon. This was my favorite dish of the evening because of the fresh aroma of the lobster, and the play between the savory squash and lobster, and sweet sabayon. I would never have thought to pair squash with lobster but it worked very well.

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Our main course, course four, featured rare sliced New York strip steak atop a bed of pureed potatoes, root vegetables, and bordelaise sauce. One of the most noticeable components of the dish was the flavor from the smoked sea salt sprinkled on the steak’s crust. The bordelaise also was fantastic; my only wish was that I had more steak to soak up every last droplet of the sauce. This dish paired nicely with the 90+ Cellars pinot noir.

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Lastly, we enjoyed a Paris Brest, a French pastry made of puff pastry filled with praline cream and topped with candied almonds. The praline cream was fabulous, as was the crunch from the candied almonds. It was a nicely sweet and not-overly-heavy way to end the meal.

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If this Secret Supper sounds right up your alley then you’re in luck! The fourth and final Secret Supper will be held November 9th and the location will be revealed that day.

For more information on Chicago magazine’s Secret Supper please visit the Chicago Magazine website here >>

Note: I received complimentary tickets to the Secret Supper to facilitate this post; however all opinions expressed are my own.

News & Features

My 5 Best Tips for Chicago Gourmet

October 02 2015 - 9:00 AM

Are Chicago Gourmet recaps leaving you hungry and envious? I’ll do my best to avoid that. Chicago Gourmet is an incredible event, but it’s incredibly overwhelming if you’ve never been before. There are far more people and things going on than you’d ever expect. From unlimited wine, to tons of restaurants, vendors and cooking demonstrations, there really is a full day of activity. There’s just no way to fit everything in or leave without feeling a bit full. Here is the one recap you’ll read that is more of a “how to” for next year.

    1. Don’t arrive starving
      I’m not saying to come from lunch. I would recommend eating enough for breakfast so you aren’t completely ravenous when you arrive. The lines can be rough, and you don’t want to arrive hangry or be tempted to gorge on the first thing you see. This was the advice that was given to my on my first year attending and I was grateful for it.

 

    1. Try somewhere new
      It’s tempting to walk by a line and say,  “I’ve never heard of that place. I’ll skip it.” Or more often I’ve seen a restaurant that isn’t known for having the best food compared to others, so I”ll skip it. It will really surprise you the places that go all out at Chicago Gourmet. I’ve consistently found that some of the most random spots will serve up the best dishes. This year, I really enjoyed the spinach dumplings and quinoa salad from The Berghoff Restaurant.

 

    1. Check out the cooking demosThe Berghoff
      I know it’s hard to tear yourself away from all that free food. But when else are you going to get up close to Emeril, Rick Bayless or Paul Kahan? The setting is fairly intimate, with unique demonstrations and time for questions. Even better are the demonstrations not on the main stage. They often give out some of the best food of the day. I was lucky enough to try pies from both Hoosier Mama and Baker Miller this year, and they were two of the best things I ate all day.

 

    1. Prioritize what you try
      I hate wasting food myself. But it’s sort of unavoidable at this kind of event. Don’t get guilted into eating everything on your plate or even taking everything as you walk through the line. Try something you wouldn’t normally taste. If  you don’t like it, there’s no harm done.

 

  1. Divide and conquer
    It’s tricky to go with a group of people because everyone wants to do something different. If you can stick with one other person, try to maximize your time. Have one person wait in line while the other picks up some wine samples. Report back to the rest of the group on if a line was worth waiting in. And definitely scope out other peoples’ plates to see what looks good. Don’t be too shy to ask where they got something and if they’d recommend it.

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Did you go to Chicago Gourmet this year? What’s your favorite Chicago Food event?

News & Features

6 Bold Bites at Chicago Gourmet 2015

October 02 2015 - 9:00 AM

The 8th annual Chicago Gourmet took place this past weekend in Millennium Park and I have to say, it was its best showing yet! The three-day event highlighted Chicago as a culinary destination and featured endless Master Sommeliers, wine, spirit, and beer-makers, as well as city and suburban chef talent. There were special events, cooking demonstrations, food and wine seminars, book signings, and of course more samples than you could dream of.  I was one of thousands who attended and I consumed even more calories to bring you what I think are the best of the best.

Here are six dishes that stuck out as the best and boldest from Sunday’s tasting:

1) Scallop ceviche from Tanta

I headed directly for the Supreme Lobster & Seafood Co. Tasting Pavilion upon my arrival. Little did I know, I’d be spoiled by one of the first bites I tried. The scallop ceviche from Tanta had amazing citrus flavor, was super fresh, and included nice pieces of hominy.

Tanta's Scallop Ceviche

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) “Tirami-choux” from Travelle

Travelle gets kudos for their creative name, a take on a tiramisu with pate a choux cream puff, Mascarpone mousse, espresso granache, and coffee shortbread. They also were gorgeous!

"Tirami-choux" from Travelle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Sweet corn grits with tomatillo chicken from Charlatan

Chef Matt Troost whipped up dishes for Charlatan and Three Aces, but I was partial to the Charlatan dish, a helping of sweet corn grits with tomatillo chicken, apple hot sauce, and toasted pumpkin seeds. The dish was hot and I loved the tender chicken with the crunch of the pumpkin seeds.

Sweet corn grits with tomatillo chicken from Charlatan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Venezualan Arepa from Longitud315

With so many Chicago restaurants at Chicago Gourmet, I have to give a shout out to Longitud315 from Highwood. The South American fusion restaurant had a wonderful presentation of these Venezualan arepas with chicken, salsa, and pickled red onion.

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5) Pork Belly from Fat Rice

When does Fat Rice not steal the show? As part of a booth sponsored by the Macau goverment, Fat Rice was cranking out new dishes every hour on the hour. When I stopped by, they were serving peri-peri chicken, as well as pork belly with tamarind, shrimp paste, and palm sugar. Holy moly was it delicious!

Pork Belly from Fat Rice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6) Boar, pork meatball from Ada St.

One of the last bites I enjoyed while I had long reached the point of being stuffed, was the bison, goat, and pork meatball from Ada St. Chef Joanna Stachon served these babies with napa cabbage and creme fraiche.

Bison, goat and pork meatball from Ada St.