Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm supposed to be on vacation: Sipping in the Second City pt. 1

Well, not vacation exactly. Last week I was out in Chicago because the kid bro is all grown up now and starting college. Between the Target runs, lugging around luggage and shopping for school, more often then not I came back to my hotel room in the evening only to collapse on my bed, my dogs barking.

I hadn't been in Chicago for about three years so you'd think when I did have a few scant hours to myself, I'd go visit the old campus up in Evanston. Head out to Navy Pier. Check out the sites or something. Nope, I figured I'd eat and drink what I could.

August 20th — Blackbird

I wanted to buy my brother a "grown-up" dinner. You know, to congratulate him on getting into college and to commemorate the fact that he was one step closer to the real world and he better enjoy the next couple of years before being thrown out on his butt into the rat race. And, well, I just wanted an excuse to visit Blackbird.

This was the first time brother had dined in a place like this ever. He actually balked when we got to the restaurant with a stricken look on his face, then looking at me dubiously he said, "I don't know if I want to go in there."

As we were being shown to our table he whispered to me that there was an Aston Martin parked outside. Once we got seated he looked around then shook his head and snickered.

"What's funny?" I asked.

"Everyone here looks like they belong here," he answered, which made sense in a weird Yoda way.

Throughout the evening it was a little fun watching him react to things. Like when I finally coaxed him to try the butter on the bread he took a careful bite, then slowly chewing looked up at me with a mild look of awe and nodded his approval. The best reaction, though, was at dessert. Though he kept protesting he was full I got a dessert and made him share it with me. Slicing a milk chocolate fritter in half, he put the piece in his mouth. Then not saying anything he put his fork back on the table.

" something wrong?" I asked.

"Just eat this," he answered, not looking up.

I ate the other half of the fritter. "Ooh, that's good."

"It's not just 'good'!" he said exasperated. "How the hell does chocolate taste like that? What right does it have tasting like that? tastes tastes like chocolate! Like chocolate really."

The first cocktail was the Blackbird Orange off the seasonal cocktail menu is made with Tanqueray Gin, Mathilde Orange XO, Averna and lemon. It went very nicely with the crispy veal sweetbreads with cashew butter, rye waffle, black mission figs and black olive honey we started off with.

The BB Julep was a combination of blackberry brandy, lemon, mint and fresh berries that was sweet and fruity and very food friendly. The Mas Amor (Partida Resposado, cilantro, yellow chartreuse, watermelon and black pepper) threw me for a loop at first. I sniffed, took a small sip, then put it back down mildly puzzled. It wasn't bad, it did have a taste of watermelon, but it wasn't exactly watermelon. What was this? I swallowed some water and took another sip. "Ooohhh," I though as I realized that the combination of all the other ingredients, particularly the herb flavors from the chartreuse, was giving this cocktail a particularly tea-like flavor. That's what it was; this cocktail actually tasted like a herbal fruit tea with no tea in it.

"Damn, that's pretty cool," I thought.

Other food items consumed:
Grilled Wagyu flatiron with artichoke kimchi, buttermilk spaetzle, chicory and apricots

Seared Tasmanian sea trout with cherry molasses, kohlrabi, baby turnips, forbidden black rice and salad burnet

Milk chocolate fritters with apricots, soy and rice milk sorbet

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