January 29, 2006

i think i have a new favorite restaurant ever

This weekend my friend ELF showed up with her fiance Mr. S and some charity-auction hockey tickets (uh, go Blackhawks!), and wanted to get a little taste of what Chicago could offer a traveling foodwhore. Not just any foodwhore, but one that's been living in Manhattan the last few years, making good progress through the restaurants there -- she's got a long list of places I must go when I next visit. So, duh, I took them to Blackbird.

Which did not disappoint. (At this point, after C's eaten there probably 10 times, maybe, I knew there was nothing to worry about.) ELF & Mr. S were digging the tasty deliciousness, and agreed with me about the atmosphere being strangely cozy despite the stark lines and cold color palette of the decor. Perhaps the Allman Brothers Greatest Hits on the CD player helped that along -- ELF's favorite part was that not only was she eating spectacularly delicious scallops and pork and fried capers, she was singing along to "Jessica" and bouncing in her seat. The restaurant gods were totally in the haus working their mojo for the ELF last night. And there's also the thought that Blackbird is in Chicago, not NYC, and simply by virtue of that fact we lose a lot of the more egregious pretentiousness that can afflict a restaurant as good as this one is. (I certainly couldn't say for sure, since my fine-dining in NYC consists only of a few trips to Babbo.)

We took a page from C's playbook and got a first course of the charcuterie plate to share, which was even more delicious this time than last: enough cocktails were consumed yesterday that I don't remember exactly what things were, but there was a savory salty sausage, a country-style pate with pistachios & a rim of lovely white fat, and crispy lamb's tongue, with some fabulous pickles cut into julienne. ELF & Mr. S are digging the extra starter course concept, and I suspect it may be repeated sometime in their near future. :-)

Second course was the venison pastrami again, equally spectacular as last time; another scallop dish, this time smoked scallops seared with brown butter, a couple shavings of black truffle, and marcona almonds, which were the flavor pairing that pushed this version over the edge -- chuck a few chopped marconas over your next seared scallop and see for yourselves, yum; and a seared foie gras with duck confit wrapped in crepes, with sweet bits of things alongside: a molasses-y schmear of sauce, some fruits & sweet winter veggies. And two homemade marshmallows -- too sweet really to go with the dish, but hilarious anyway, and delicious as a mini/early dessert course. They brought us a little glass of sauternes to go with this last dish -- we weren't sure if they do that for everyone, or if they just liked us for some reason, but it was very much appreciated, as it went perfectly with the dish.

We were drinking a chateauneuf de pape, which was good, but I am a lightweight these days and couldn't drink much of it since we'd spent the afternoon hanging out in the Green Mill and the fancy sky-bar in the W having cocktails and conversation. Maybe ELF will remember what the hell it was, so I can tell you all.

For mains we -- and I do mean we, since we did full-on plate rotation so everyone got some quality time with each dish; these are my kind of people, ELF & Mr. S -- had a pork combo dish with sauerkraut, involving braised pork belly, a sausage of some kind, tiny potatoes, slices of pink apple & quince, and some tasty mustard. We had lamb t-bones, which are adorably wee versions of cow t-bones, but just as thick, and perfectly rare inside and crispy outside, and surrounded by cranberry beans, a spiced yogurt sauce, some crumbled sausage that tasted like merguez, and fantastic sweet-pickled red onions. And we had the guinea hen in yuzu glaze, because I remembered how fucking fantastic was the one bite I had had of C's the last time I was at Blackbird. Oh my god. This dish is so so SO good, it's just ridiculous. The yuzu is like a meyer lemon only even more floral and a bit stronger, so it's perfect with the delicate bird and crunchy skin. The cauliflower was whole this time, not pureed, and there were also some fresh baby artichokes underneath, which were delicious -- is it baby artichoke time already in California?? Hot damn. Everything we had was great, but this poultry dish is the star, as far as I am concerned -- I couldn't get enough. Our server agreed with me; she said it was her favorite by far... and she was diggin' the Allman Brothers too, so clearly she is a woman of discernment and taste.

The waffles with chocolate and bacon were still on the menu -- the woman next to us got them, at which point I got all excited and barged in on her meal to tell her how yummy it was going to be -- but we ended up with papaya & coconut sorbets (with some marmeladed limes underneath, mmm), gingerbread blini with brandied cherries and buttermilk ice cream, and churros with peanut butter and fried bananas. And a glass of moscato di asti, because the ELF *hearts* moscato di asti.

I don't know how they do it at Blackbird, but whatever it is, just don't ever stop. YUM.

Posted by foodnerd at January 29, 2006 10:47 AM
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