The epitome of eating well with wine (and cocktails)… a snapshot of my tour through one of America’s best cities for food. Warning: content below does involve copious amounts of pig product consumed. Vegetarians beware.
Fashion excites me like lemonade on a hot day. Poor comparisons aside, I truly am very passionate about creating unique combinations and ensembles. These thoughts sometimes make me question a statement I give quite frequently, “I’d rather pay $1,000 to eat at French Laundry than buy a Prada purse .” This past weekend my Chicago food tour confirmed that eats over designer pleats would definitely be the way to go!
Enter Kristen, a fatigued and starving wine enthusiast that has worked her tail off all week in Ohio and will be visiting Chicago for less than 24 hours. Does she beg her guides to go on a boat tour to see the famous architecture? Will she attempt a Wrigley Field visit? Thankfully, been there and done that. Highly acclaimed restaurants were the artistic endeavors, self guided city tours, and taste of the local culture. Chi-town did not disappoint… The Girl & the Goat, Barrelhouse Flat, and Publican were our destinations. Not only did we eat like pigs but we chose this stout animal as the meat of choice for all three.
Something incredibly unique happened at Girl & the Goat. I’ve always known opposites can attract with wine pairings but have never unintentionally stumbled upon the following event… our red wine paired with the light fish and our white wine complemented the dark meat. We preempted the meal by choosing two glasses of wine for the three of us to sip throughout the entire meal. A Gruner Veltliner from Austria (think Sauvignon Blanc meets Pinot Grigio) and a red from Vaucluse (Mersellan/Merlot blend from France) graced us with their presence long before any nibbles reached the table. Our line-up consisted of a delightful starter salad with evalon, seared baby octopus, and pork shank. I’ve come to the realization that octopus serves as the perfect measure of how talented a restaurant really is. A fish I’ve engaged in far too many times as a rubbery and flavorless chew, has justified my notion that this creature is not easy to cook. Naturally, I had to order it and the Girl did not disappoint. I thought for sure the Gruner would carry us through to the main entrée but instead we opted for the Vaucluse with the octopus. A smoky edge to the dish drew us to the French blend on the table… they married perfectly together. As the shank arrived literally falling off of the bone, I almost ordered another glass of red. Thankfully my salivating taste buds and growling stomach delayed the process. A surprisingly acidic and tangy red sauce stood up quite nicely to the Gruner we had briefly visited while munching on the salad. Although we did not engage in goat beyond a cheese spread to start, I feel confident in our pork decision. Quite frankly I feel they should also open another place called “The Girl & the Pig”.
Somehow the spread described above just clearly wasn’t enough for the bottomless pits all three of us carried that night. We moved on at 1 in the morning for a night-cap at Barrelhouse Flat in Lincoln Park. One single minute in this speakeasy meets Great Gatsby type vibe and we knew it was cocktail time. As I’m sipping my classy whiskey concoction on the rocks, an informal basket of food arrives covered in sauce with pommes frites on the side. “Tyler, what the heck is this?” Oh you know, just some good ‘ol pork face to munch on for dessert. Savory and delightful it was!
Our Chicago tour ended the next morning at Publican. Maple infused bacon, so thick that it needed to be eaten with a knife and fork, now carries the status of being the best bacon I’ve ever had in my life. Silky yolks poured from the eggs while dancing around with local fresh produce and a bernaise-like sauce all over the plate. A zucchini ricotta bread garnished with mint cleansed the palate after a rich and delicious meal. We’re living in a food and wine revolution and if you’re not already partaking in it, I highly suggest riding the train. The track runs coast to coast and continues to amaze me with the beauty that lies in its path.