Monday, September 3, 2012

Night At the Four Seasons

It's not often you find food with a sense of humor, never mind hotel food with a personality. But Chef Kevin Hickey, of Allium at the Four Seasons, manages to capture both with his menu. Matt and I had the pleasure of dining there last Saturday.

We started with the cheese lavosh, a flat bread that came held up by a hanger. Our server encouraged us to break off pieces without regard to the mess we would make—encouragement that would be very much needed, as we had just walked through the polished marble lobby of a freaking fancy hotel. Seriously, the Four Seasons is nice. The lavosh was delicious, and unlike Cafe Spiaggia's cheese bread did not taste like a Cheese-It.

We followed it up with the bison tartare. It was my first time eating any kind of tartare, and I'm glad I chose this place to try it. The bison was rich and had a complex flavor. The chips added a crunch, the soft-poached eggs more richness, and the mustard some spice. It was really well balanced; our only complaint was that there wasn't enough chips to accompany the big pile of meat we were served.

Post-tartare came our main courses. Matt had the wagyu skirt steak. He said it was very well cooked and based on the one bite I tried, I agreed.

I still preferred my order, however, the Wisconsin walleye. Matt doesn't like seafood so I make a point of ordering it most of the time when I eat out. I had never had walleye before (it was a night to broaden some horizons) and it tasted fine. The succotash beneath it was the real star of the show. Loaded with bacon, ham, corn, as well as other delicious tidbits, it was a different experience every bite. The chow chow, a pickled relish, was more sweet than pickle-y, but I enjoyed the sugar on top of the fish & veggies.

For dessert we order a couple of small things. First was the lemon-basil marshmallows. Lemon and basil is an excellent combination if you've never tried it. In particular, I recommend Giada's Italian Lemonade. The marshmallows were about what you would expect, both sweet and pillowy.

Matt loves lemon, so we got some lemon bars, which were fine. The real standouts on the dessert menu, at least as far as the critics are concerned, are the miso-butterscotch milkshakes and the smores. We weren't up to such a large dessert, though, and I appreciated that Allium offered some smaller sweets.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More cupcakes from Martha

This time, the red velvet cupcakes, which with blue sprinkles became Fourth of July cupcakes!

They were cute and got good reviews from my coworkers.

Book Review: American Grown

Some may regard Michelle Obama's new book with weary cynicism for its oh-so-conveniently timed release. But if you can manage to set aside any misgivings you may have for the pandering nature of America's electoral process, you'll find your efforts well worth it. The release date may be politically motivated but the content of American Grown is both charming and relevant. It details not only the First Lady's (and friends') work creating and maintaining the White House garden, but also the history of the White House's relationship to agriculture, community garden efforts across America, and Michelle Obama's campaign, Let's Move, that encourages kids to get out of the house and exercise.

These topics are of course especially relevant given the problems associated with the American diet. I think the last major study I saw stated that by weight, the U.S. made up 33% of the world population, while in numbers we comprise only 5%. American Grown hearkens back to a time when the U.S.'s food culture wasn't primarily made up of things like cheeseburger-flavored potato chips and doritos shell tacos (which sound disgusting, by the way, and no one can convince me otherwise). It includes tips for planting your own garden, whether you live in the city or the suburbs. The chefs of the White House also provide a handful of recipes to help you get started eating healthily. I tried a couple of them out.

First was the corn soup with grilled vegetables. To create this, you first cut the kernels off of corn (if anyone has any tips for how to get the kernels not to go everywhere, I'm all ears) and boil the cobs to make a corn stock.

Then, you puree the kernels and cook the puree in a saucepan. After a while, the kernels will gelatinize. This happens when the starch in the corn absorbs water and swells. The mixture thickens, and then you can add stock to thin it out. I added a little too much, and since for whatever reason you weren't supposed to let it boil (it's NOT primarily a cookbook) the final product wasn't dense enough to support the grilled vegetables.

However, it still tasted good. The combination of corn and thyme in particular was delicious.

The macaroni and cheese with cauliflower puree turned out better and was easier to make—a good dish for a weekday evening.

And as if the pictures of children gardening and fruits and vegetables weren't cute enough, the First Dog, Bo, shows up occasionally. His main duties in life are apparently (when he's not investigating the White House garden) sitting for pictures and being groomed.

But hey, he does his job well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mid-day ice cream run

Never have I felt closer to an ice-cream hawker1—I'm literally standing two feet away from a cooler propped up next to the JBar entrance of David Burke's Primehouse, surrounded by co-workers who have followed me for ten blocks for supposedly great ice cream. I've dragged them there with promises of delicious and unusual flavors. It had better be worth it, or I'm going to be much reviled around the office.

Photo courtesy of Joyce, associate and amateur photographer extraordinaire

And it was! I had the old-fashioned (as in the cocktail) cone, comprised of bourbon brown sugar ice cream, orange sherbert, and bourbon-soaked cherries. It was one of the best ice cream cones I've ever had (although still not as good as Jeni's) and generous with the bourbon. You can try similarly unusual flavors every Friday from 3-5 at DVP's pop-up ice cream shop in River North. In addition to the old-fashioned, so far I've seen flavors like black velvet, margarita, boston cream pie, dreamsicle, and more. My coworkers have already repeatedly shown interest in future visits. I just hope the margarita flavor comes up again...

Find out the flavors for each week on twitter!—@DBPrimehouse

1 A Google search of 'what do you call someone who makes ice cream' revealed this as the most amusing answer.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chicago Beer Week at Nellcôte

It's been a couple weeks since it happened, but our experience at one of the hottest new restaurants in town was interesting enough to warrant a late post. Matt and I went there for the glorious time of year know as Chicago Craft Beer Week. I'm not much of a beer drinker but Matt likes it and occasionally I'll find something that I enjoy.

The interior of Nellcôte was gorgeous and you could definitely tell that they had invested a lot of money in it. I think the last number I heard was around a million...well spent on antique wallpaper, designer furniture, and candelabras (actual candelabras, with candles, mounted on the wall). It was a little on the overly-trendy-but-somewhat-lacking-in-personality side, which for some reason always makes me feel self conscious. I think it's because I feel like I'm encountering society as a whole rather than an individual, and suddenly there's an overwhelming pressure to conform.

Fortunately, the food on the whole was tasty enough to allay any fears about Nellcote being a haven for the glitterati, although you wouldn't have guessed it from the first course. We started off with an asparagus shooter, and if that sounds disgusting, well, that's because it was. It was cold and a little oily and just generally unpleasant.

Thankfully, we soon got our drinks, two cherry lambics, the special beer for the night. They were very good, although Nellcôte can't take too much credit for that.

And post-shooter, the food was very good, especially the bread. Apparently they mill their own flour and make all the breads and pastas in-house, and major props to them for doing so. We had a selection of three breads, (baguette, brioche and focaccia) and all were deeply flavorful and tasted really different from one another, despite having a superficial resemblance. Following that we shared a taleggio, scallion, and pancetta pizza, more than enough for two people. And finally, to top it all off, we shared pineapple, chocolate and coconut sorbet, all three flavors of which were delicious.

Having gone back afterwards and read some of the critical reviews, it seems like Nellcôte is very well regarded for its breads and pastas and not so much for just about everything else. If you were to go, I'd recommend sticking to the rolls and spaghetti.

So tapioca is kinda gross

All right, so tapioca may not be gray. In fact it's a very nice shade of white but that doesn't preclude it from being gelatinous and downright weird.

In a previous post, I had mentioned that I was going to try a recipe for dulce de leche tapioca. I went through with it and, despite having a tub of uneaten tapioca in my refridgerator, I'm glad I did so. The tapioca tasted good but the texture was sticky and just kind of odd. Perhaps it would be enjoyable for others, but definitely not for me.

The only thing I really liked about trying out this recipe is the process in which the dulce de leche was made. Dulce de leche, meaning milk candy, is a sweet spread made by cooking milk and sugar. The end result is thick and rich and has a slightly nutty flavor.

To make dulce de leche you could, if you were so inclined, carefully cook the two ingredients together for over an hour, all the while monitoring it and adjusting the temperature to see that it turns out correctly. Or, if you're like me and don't feel like doing that, you could buy a 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk and boil it unopened for 3 hours. You just have to make sure it stays covered with about an inch of water the entire time and that you don't burn yourself at the end of it, and ta-da! You have dulce de leche. Stir in some salt and other flavorings (e.g. cinnamon or vanilla) and bam! You have flavored dulce de leche. It's so easy and really cool.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I won a cookbook!

OMG, I'm like totally buggin!

Last week I mentioned that I had entered in a minor contest to win a cookbook via, and I won! I get Cooking with Chocolate: Essential Recipes and Techniques, nominated for a James Beard Award for last year.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sauce Magazine contest entry

You can go to the contest here. They asked their readers to tell them about a time where they mastered a difficult baking challenge that they never thought they could. I rarely run into things that I think I can't master without proper time and resources, so my subject's a little lame. However, I think it's the best written entry:

The first few times I attempted to make meringues they tasted ok but I despaired of ever making them beautiful. The ones I had created were lopsided, inconsistent in size and despite the best of efforts and the lowest of temperatures still managed to brown in the oven. I stuck with them, however; whenever I had some extra egg whites would whip up a batch and practice my piping skills. Now the ones I make can be much prettier—although my favorite thing to do now is to deliberately misshape and stick candy eyes in them for Halloween monster meringues.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What the heck is...


I had never really thought about it before but I ran into a recipe for this...

...the other day, and it looks amazing. Not at all what I had imagined tapioca looked like. For some reason, the color gray comes to mind.

Anyway, so what is tapioca? Well, it's a kind of starch derived from the cassava plant. Cassava is originally native to the Americas, although now it is grown widely in Asia and Africa, and its name derived from the Tupi-Guarani (native people to South America, also originated the word Jaguar, which is cool) word tipioca. To get it you take the roots, which look kind of like potatoes, and grind them up. The water is drained from the pulp, carrying along starch and presumably other small particles of stuff, and that residue is dried up to produce tapioca, which can be in the form of flakes, seeds, or pearls.

Other uses for tapioca besides pudding? Apparently it's popular in Brazil to make tapioca pancakes, "buttered and rolled". I have an idea of what to do with the any leftovers I might have...

Also, there exists what sounds suspiciously like a tapioca cartel.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Green thumb

I have one. Check it out.

When these little guys get bigger, I'm going to hack off their limbs and eat them!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The devil came up to Chicago...

…by way of Georgia. He was looking for a soul to steal but got all nostalgic and decided to look for some down-home southern food instead (not Paula Deen’s Kitchen). His first stop was at the Roost southern food truck downtown because, unlike our aldermen, He Who Avoids the Light understands the socioeconomic value of free enterprise and unfettered innovation. There he ordered some Brunswick stew, which he was delighted to find came with a delicious, salty, and tender biscuit. The stew itself was also good—it mixed chicken and pork, corn, onions, and other tasty bites for a slightly spicy and warming meal. Unfortunately, as Satan was eating he bit down on a small piece of chicken bone, followed by a couple of bits of cartilage. You might think that the devil would be into that kind of thing, but it actually made the meal a little less appealing.

His desire for southern cooking thus left unsatisfied, Satan then made reservations at Big Jones up in Andersonville. There he ordered a Faulkner, a whiskey and egg-white cocktail reminiscent of Big Star’s drink menu.

There was more whiskey. I can't remember which kind.

To accompany it he had the shrimp and grits, a wonderful concoction of well-cooked shrimp, scallions, mushroom and tasso gravy, and buttery grits.

Satan also had a couple of bites of the dry-rubbed ribs special, which was tasty but unevenly spiced. Still, the shrimp and grits were such a wonderful representation of a classic southern dish that the Devil was able to return to his normal duties, unburdened by a longing for the past.

Before I forget, there were also more biscuits, this time with honey butter.

Dinner last night

Since Matt did the dishes, my evening was freed up to post about what I made last night. Thanks, Matt!

Up until yesterday, I hadn't really done any cooking in a week (between work and general laziness, there wasn't any food to cook), so I thought I would go all out and make some technique-heavy dishes.

First up (well, it wasn't really first, but I made it first because it had to chill) was some pâte de fruit, or French fruit jelly candy. Pistacia Vera back home in Columbus makes great pâte de fruit--it was the first place I tried it, and actually one of the few places I've ever encountered it (never having actually been to France). Pâte de fruit isn't like your typically gummy bear--the fruit almost barely holds together, creating a wonderful smooth and luscious texture. The fruit flavor is heavily concentrated, too, which makes even a tiny piece go a long way.

To make it, you cook pureed fruit with sugar. The pectin, a polysaccharide that occurs within plant walls, acts as a gelling agent and causes the puree to, well, gel. Pectin levels in plants vary depending on the type of plant in question, the stage in its growth cycle, and the part of the plant, so depending on what you're using to make pâte de fruit, you may need to add either powdered or liquid pectin, or different ratios of fruits naturally high in pectin in order to achieve a satisfactory result. After the puree/sugar mixture is set, you can cut it into pieces and roll it in sugar.

Yesterday, I made some strawberry pâte de fruit. I wasn't able to find a recipe, so I ended up sort of winging it. I used two pounds of strawberries, hulled, pureed, and strained for seeds, mixed in a little less than two tablespoons powdered pectin (strawberries have very low levels of pectin), and half a cup of sugar. I then cooked them together for a little bit, then added 1.5 more cups of sugar a let boil for a while until it thickened. You're supposed to use a candy thermometer and be really precise, but I don't have either a candy thermometer or a lot of patience with this kind of thing. These recipes aren't exactly new, and presumably people in the time before the candy thermometer were able to make jellies sans catastrophe. Anyway, as the mixture is boiling you can see it getting thicker, and after what I deemed was the appropriate amount of time, I pulled it off of the stove and filled a small cake pan, then stuck it in the fridge for a couple hours.

Cutting and sugaring the candies is probably the most fun part. They always turn out so beautiful!

As for the winged recipe, it actually turned out really well. The pâte de fruit was maybe a touch too loose, it could have used a little more pectin, and about a half cup less sugar (maybe more--it was pretty sugary). I might have to try two different batches and see how each change would affect the final product, or three different including the possibility of incorporating the two changes at once (which would then account for any interaction the sugar and pectin might have).

I didn't eat candy for dinner, although I wouldn't have minded doing so. Instead I made sweet potato gnocchi, with lemon sage brown butter and parmesan cheese.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nutty donuts, part deux

Found myself wandering over to the do-rite donuts again this week, this time to try their pistachio donut, which I had my eye on the first time I went in. Here it is, in all its glory.

It was a cake donut, a type of donut that I feel should officially be banned from the breakfast register. Cake is not good deep-fried. It's not bad, in the way that any thing deep-friend never really tastes that bad, but it's dense and a little hard, even when done particularly well (which this one was). Donuts should be light and airy. The pistacios were delicious though, so one thumb up and one thumb down. We'll call it a tie.

Score-to-date: 1,0,1.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

St. Patti's Day and Magnolia Bakery

Being not Irish at all and having only a vague idea what St. Patrick's Day is intended to celebrate (much like many other Americans), I didn't have a lot of plans for this holiday. However, I do love themed things, so a St. Patrick's Day cupcake, from Magnolia Bakery, was right up my alley.

This was my...fourth time eating at Magnolia Bakery? I don't know why I keep going, other than that it is one of the few places downtown I know to get a (adorable) cupcake (outside a Starbucks). The cakes are delicious but the frosting doesn't have enough flavor and the options available in Chicago are pretty limited (they have a lot more old-timey American type flavors on their website, but I never seem to see them). In this age of bacon donuts and miso-butterscotch milkshakes, a vanilla cupcake seems deadly dull. Which wouldn't be such a big deal except that you're paying $3.00/3.50 for a freaking cupcake and are simultaneously inundated with Magnolia merchandise (you've got to make me want the thirty dollar apron...)

Final verdict: not worth it, but not sure where else to go in the loop. A Google search reveals plenty of other options--I'll let you know how those pan out.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Return of the Queen

This Sunday found Matt and I at the Logan Square Kitchen, watching a documentary on colony collapse disorder to benefit the Chicago Honey Co-op. Yes, it was my idea, although Matt seemed happy enough to go along with it. I find him hard to read, so I'm never quite sure how much of his seeming contentedness is sprung from genuine interest or a desire to make me happy.

But enough about him--this was about the bees! Ever since I spent a summer studying nutrient paths through garden ecosystems I've been interested in bees and their kinfolk. I looked into it a couple years ago and found that it's actually legal to keep bees in a lot of major cities--including Chi-town. In fact, they keep hives on the roof of city hall. Back then I lacked either the funds or the free time to do anything about it, but now that I'm a big-time, big-city business woman, I think I would like to spend some of my leisure resources on agriculture.

The movie was shown at the Logan Square Kitchen. It was a snazzy little event space; I wish I had thought to take more pictures. I had a chance to meet the owner, Zina, and thought she was nice enough. Matthias Merges of Yusho and Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe whipped together some snacks for the weekend. I'm guessing this all took place on Friday because the time I took a bite of my bee cookie it was kind of stale (although still adorable).

Matt's tapioca "nachos" were better.

The movie itself was very interesting. It went over a lot of the history about bees, mostly focusing on the recent outbreaks of colony collapse disorder in the United States. It's been a few years since the outbreaks started and scientific research has pretty much narrowed it down to the use of systemic pesticides in farming. The bees feed on plants that have been sprayed with these pesticides, then bring them back to the hives where they infect the other bees and cause long-term compromising of bee immune systems.

A few of the "experts" the documentary interviewed were not very impressive--like some hippie Greek scholar saying that CCD is nature's way of telling us we need to re-embrace the mother-goddess. But they also had Michael Pollen, author of In Defense of Food, who always has interesting and insightful things to say, so in the end it was hit-or-miss.

I got the feeling the representative from the co-op leaned more towards the hippie-dippie side of things, so I'm going to do some outside reading before I commit to anything.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Momofuku Milk Bar II: Banana cream pie

In a previous post, I relayed the results of my first foray into Milk Bar territory with corn cookies. I got the recipe for Christina Tosi's banana cream pie from the second issue of Lucky Peach magazine. At this point, I should probably just buy the cookbook, but I think I'm going to put it off some more while I save up some money and figure out what I want to do with the next few years of my life.

Here it is, or just a slice of it because I forgot to take a picture before half of the pie got eaten. Next time I'll omit the yellow food dye. Ms. Tosi feels like the pie is an ugly beige color without it but I think the crazy yellow color is a lateral move. I'll also add more gelatin, because the pie didn't hold together that well.

Verdict: chocolate crust + bananas + cream = delicious.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Not nearly as decadent as it sounds

So, Do-Rite Donuts opened up last week about three blocks from where I work.

It's a beautiful thing, much more so than the humble, stamped bag would lead you to believe. And yes, that is bacon served on top of a doughnut right under here.

This is Do-Rite's Maple Bacon Doughnut. To be honest, the bacon didn't really do anything for me outside the usual range of oh-my-god-bacon, if that makes sense. I also could have used a little more maple, and about a thousand of the crullers because they were great. I think next time I'll go for the pistachio doughnut. Although if Do-Rite gets any more popular, things are going to get ugly, fast, owing to their four square feet of space. People don't do well crammed together like that. It's only week two and already the lady behind the counter was glaring bloody murder at a particularly slow customer. It's ok, lady. Be happy there's a limited number of folks behind the counter.

Restaurant Week II: France finally wins a war but it isn't a big deal because it's against vegetarians and also it's a food war

Restaurant week 2012: Round Two--The Bistro Voltaire. A classic french restaurant located in the scenic river north area with random and infrequent references to French philosophers in its cocktail list and decor. Go figure.

But why does France (finally) win something you ask? Well, mostly because their food was better. It was less ambitious food than Green Zebra, but at the end of the meal I was a happier camper.

Anyway, to begin I started off with that French gross-out-the-Americans classic, Escargots de Bourgogne, or snails in garlic herb butter served with puff pastry. It was presented in this wonderful little dish with six different wells for the snails, filled with the butter and topped with perfect cylinders of puff pastry. As most things drench in melted, flavored butter, it was delicious.

Matt also started the meal on an adventerous note, ordering the Terrine de foie de poulet, or chicken liver mousse terrine with cornichon (French mini pickles), cherry, apricot, pistachio chutney, and mustard with a toasted baguette. It was stomach-achingly rich but a small small of the mousse, balanced out by the lightness of the bread and sweet/tangy combination of fruit and mustard, was soul-satisfying in a way that only French food can be.

Second course for me was Parisian gnocchi with roasted whole mushrooms, winter vegetables, and buerre noisette. To make beurre noisette, or brown butter sauce, butter is melted in a pan until it the milk solids separate and fall to the bottom of the pan, where they darken and take on a nutty flavor. Then the parts are mixed back together. Together with the gnocchi and vegetables it was a comforting dish for a winter evening. Matt's choice, Coq au vin, or chicken braised in red wine, hit a similar, warming note.

Our desserts, Vanilla crème brulée and Gateau au chocolat (a molten chocolate cake with espresso ice cream and candied vanilla bean), were of a piece with the rest of the meal. French, not at all new or exciting, but for the first time in our two day showdown, I was ready and eager to steal as much of Matt's food as he would let me. And damn did it feel good having all that fat in our tummies walking back to the train.

So go France! This ones your's, guys. Savor it while you can.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Restaurant Week: Green Zebra

This year's restaurant week began with a trip to the Green Zebra (I'm not sure if it actually requires the definite article, but I like the idea of there actually being a physical, green quadruped). It is supposed to be pretty cool, a place that focuses mainly on grains and produce (with the occasional foray into meatdom).

On our first go we walked past the place because they didn't have a sign posted outside (which was of a piece with the rest of their ambiance), but on the second try we managed to get into the door. We waited for a few minutes as the hostess ignored us and did something or another about three feet away, which was kind of irritating.

Post-hostess, the service was great. The inside was very cool--everything was themed without being gimmicky. The walls were painted various shades of green, with moss paintings hung on the wall. Lights under a series of ferns created plant-patterned shadows on the ceiling, which I thought was a cool effect.

After all the buildup, the food was a little disappointing. We went for the restaurant pre-fixe menu and shared all of the dishes (with the exception of the root vegetable pot pie). The bread(kind of) was popcorn dusted with unevenly with cocoa powder and some sort of spice. It was weird.

After that, I started with the Zingerman's Burrata with crushed almond pesto, red quinoa, and a black pepper/crème fraîche cracker. This dish reminded me almost of sushi, with the mild, cold cheese standing in place of the fish. To contrast there was a crunch of almonds and quinoa (my first time having quinoa) and a cracker.

Suddenly realized these pictures make the portions look bigger than they were. I should've included a reference. Seriously, they were small.

The other option for the first course was the crispy sweet potato dumplings served with salsify purée, blood orange, and toasted black sesame. Every little element on the plate had it's own purpose, and all went together beautifully, but there was just a little something missing.

Maybe it was the teeny tiny portions they served. Understandable, and plenty of food for a female of my size. Matt, who has about a foot on me, was less happy. Regardless, if you couldn't scoop enough of small puddle of puree onto your oh-so-chic skinny fork, it detracted significantly from the dish.

The second course consisted of a carrot-coconut soup (probably my favorite dish of the evening) and celery root and potato croquettes. The soup was served with what I thought was ginger, and what Matt thought was pineapple, and what turned out to be Jicama and a cilantro foam. It was pleasantly spicy and has sweet notes from the coconut and carrot to balance it out. I didn't get any of the cilantro.

A note on foam: at this point it time, foam on any dish may seem to many people to be overly pretentious, but when it was first introduced by Ferran Adria in the nineties, it was a unique and innovative way to introduce flavor to a dish without weighing it down. GZ's food is vegetarian, however, and doesn't include a lot of fats or oils, so what was the point of the foam? It would have been better to just have some sort of sauce or cream, something that would have made the meal a little more substantial overall.

The croquettes I also thought were very good. They were served with smoked black walnuts, picked onions, and a pea tendril salad. The walnuts added a nice smokiness to the dish (understandably), the salad a nice crunch, and the pickled onions an awesomeness. Seriously, they were great. They were pickled in what I believe what red wine vinegar and were wonderfully acidic and crunchy. My only complaint was there were maybe three or four small slivers of them.

The third course consisted of sage spaetzle and sunchoke risotto. The risotto was very good, just creamy and buttery and delicious. The spaetzle didn't have enough sage at all and suffered from the same issue as a lot of the other dishes--what few samples of the flavor elements(roasted cauliflower, crispy kale, almonds, brown butter) there were were hard to get on your skinny fork at once.

For dessert we had a Chocolate Pavé with crème fraîche ice cream, peanuts, and sea salt as well as a Meyer Lemon Tart with toasted meringue, orange tuille, and I think a few dots of some cherry reduction. I was a little baffled by the pavé. It tasted a lot like a reses peanut butter cup (so of course it was good) but I had a hard time placing it with the philosophy of the restaurant, which supposedly celebrates "purity of ingredients." A technique heavy dish does not do so. Replace the crème fraîche ice cream with vanilla and the entire dessert would be completely unremarkable. Matt liked the lemon tart (I didn't think it was lemony enough) but I thought it faced the same problem that the pave did. How are a meringue and a tart a celebration of the ingredients?

For a place that is supposedly produce-focused and charges high prices for small portions, I was expecting something a little less forgettable. The most recent news clippings posted on the website are from 2008 and the head chef apparently has some other projects going on, so I get the feeling that maybe GZ has fallen by the wayside. In GZ's defense, we were eating off a pre fixe menu in a period where I'm sure they get a lot of unpleasant customers looking for a deal. Plus it's the middle of February in Chicago, a hard time for any restaurant to source ingredients. I might be inclined to visit again (in the summer), to see if I had a better experience.