July 30, 2006

blackbird birthday

tallasiandude came to chicago to visit for my birthday -- yay! -- and i made reservations at Blackbird for us. He'd been getting a little tired of hearing me yammer on about how awesome it was, without ever taking him there. He's not generally excited about fancy-pants restaurants per se, but I knew he'd like this one... and he did. :-)

The amuse-bouche was not a soup this time, as it has been on all my previous trips, but rather a morsel of roast mackerel in a bit of broth with minced green olives and radish sprouts.

For wine, we followed the server's recommendation of a 2003 Alsatian Grand Cru riesling from Bernhard (and I only know this by looking at the photo), which was, as promised, lovely with the range of food we'd ordered, and nicely dry and almost sparkly. We got drunk, because we are getting to be lightweights in our old age. Hee.

Among the many reasons I love the tallasiandude is that he was completely down with adopting my new habit of ordering two courses of appetizers. So we started with a tuna tartare on a schmear of avocado with jalapeno, watermelon, heirloom tomato, what seemed to be strips of jicama (but were rather chewier -- we both couldn't figure out what they were), mache, and crushed coriander seed. And some sort of savory vinaigrette that I believe involved cured meat. This dish was freaking fantastic, with different explosions of flavor with each bite as watermelon met coriander met tomato met tuna. Damn. This one will probably be on the menu all summer, and it is worth a trip.

We ordered the suckling pig, which this time came with pickled ramps (woo, ramps!), rhubarb mostarda, braised chard, and a parsley salad in vinaigrette. I think this is the best version of the pig I've had so far, and it was extremely well prepared, too, with extramoist meat inside a very crispy crust. Yum.

We also ordered the duck breast + livers, but instead what arrived was smoked trout with roe and deep fried morels. The server told us there was a computer mixup, and to keep the trout while we waited on the duck... so bonus for us. The trout & roe was delightful, and how could smoked fish not be, really? The deep fried morels, oddly, weren't my favorite -- deep frying seemed somehow to overpower the mushrooms, though tallasiandude loved them utterly.

The duck did arrive shortly thereafter, with a fan of rosy breast slices flanking a row of deep fried duck livers nestled in a salad of cabbage, watercress, endive, chewy chunks of pancetta, and pickled sour cherries. The cherries caught me by surprise with their pungency, but once I knew what I was dealing with, I really enjoyed the contrast they made to the richness of the fried livers and the gentle meatiness of the breast. Tallasiandude thought they were a bit much, but I really dug 'em.

The two entrees were both fucking rockstars. Tallasiandude indulged an uncharacteristic yen for cooked salmon, and ordered the filet of pale king salmon atop a pool of creamy sweet corn and tender chopped broccoli, and topped with sweet dungeness crab and a tangle of baby greens and a bit of bacon. All these flavors worked shockingly well together, with the broccoli being the biggest surprise, perfectly complementing the crab and the corn and the fish and somehow serving as the flavor that tied everything together.

I indulged, period, in the pork belly. Holy crap! This is like a piece of bacon that went to finishing school -- a long meaty slab of crisp, well-seasoned pork belly with PERFECTLY rendered fat, with a salad of celery root & baby greens, a pool of tangy sweet-sour vinaigrette, and an outrigger of chanterelle mushrooms and tiny crunchy sweet-corn beignets in a drizzle of honey. Everything about this dish was perfect, delicious, pleasurable, joyful. This is why I eat.

We managed one tiny bit of restraint in our meal at the end, and shared a single dessert of dark chocolate mousse with sweet cream ice cream and a pile of fresh local sweet cherries, and a glass of rather nice port. But then there were the wee little sweets that come with the check -- one was a mini whoopie pie, one was a fruit jelly (yum), one was a dark truffle...

As we paid our bill, our server thanked us and told us we really know how to dine -- a bizarre and random thing to say, but a welcome compliment indeed. Since as far as I'm concerned, we really DO know how to dine... as do at least some of the other patrons of Blackbird, like the two men next to us, who were in raptures over some of the same dishes we'd eaten, and spent most of their meal alternating between gossip and discussion of fabulous meals past and present.

It was a glorious meal, made the more glorious by being able to share it with my sweetie-pie, and by having him love it just as much as I did. Yay.

Posted by foodnerd at July 30, 2006 12:09 AM
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