Nov 022014
Lamb Tostada | Nana

Braised lamb tostada served with 5 Rabbits vida y muerte

When Karen, all-around good egg and occasional contributor to Chicago Bites, suggested we go out for dinner on November 1, I was all for it. I like having plans for the Day of the Dead and Nana in Bridgeport is a favorite spot.

However, in the hub-bub of weather shifts, political attack ads, and holiday-avoidance, I completely spaced the part where dinner was in costume. Sigh. Karen looked smashing as a bruja version of Slash, whereas I snuck by with a combination of fancy mask and bad intent.

Smokey Pumpkin Soup | Nana

Smokey pumpkin soup with a spicy apple-rita.

Turns out dinner really was worth dressing up for. Nana’s owner, staff, and chef put on a four course spread with drink pairings that was easily worth twice the $40 per person price tag.

The meal started with a pumpkin soup topped with a salsa and dotted with cacao. Most pumpkin soup renditions I’ve had are thick, creamy, and a little too sweet. Not this one. The savory-smokey layer infused every bite and bloomed with sips of the peppered apple-rita.

Orange Rice Pudding | Nana

A mug of pumpkin atole is the perfect foil for orange rice pudding.

Since the entire restaurant was served at the same time, there was a bit of a delay between courses. I didn’t mind because we had a great view of the owner as he concocted the drinks. The next course was paired with a caramel-infused brew from 5 Rabbit, Vida y Muerte that he rimmed with cinnamon and sugar.

It was a successful pairing with a delicious tostada of braised lamb topped with feta. The roasted peppers came into sharper focus and were accented, not overpowered, by the sweetened hops. It was my favorite dish and I only hope it stays on the menu.

Flautas | Nana

Flautas paired with a fruit-y tepache.

Tepache, a fermented beverage made of pineapple rinds and flesh, got dressed up for the next course. Dotted with hibiscus-laced chia seeds and a spritz of mescal, this evil-looking drink was light and fruity.

Once again, it was a perfect extension of its pairing — flautas stuffed with duck confit atop a creamy avocado poblano sauce. The duck was amazing, not at all greasy and packed with flavors I’m still analyzing the next day. I honestly don’t know what witchery was at work in the kitchen, but it was amazing.

Tepache | Nana

Bloody-looking chia seeds float in the candlelight.

After three successful course, I was prepared to be disappointed by dessert, rice pudding — not my favorite. Nuh-uh. Bewitchment was the aim.

Steaming mugs of pumpkin atole, a recipe of *the* Nana, were served first. Nutmeg, cardamon, and a touch of cloves accented the drink, which held the heat and flavor all the way to the bottom. It was served with orange-flavored rice that took on more sweetness and flavor with a date-paste concoction that made me magically love rice pudding. Every last bite.

Day of the Dead

Ya’ll come back next year.

This was one of the best meals I’ve had for $40. My next trick will be to get on Nana’s mailing list so I can snag a reservation for the next restaurant-wide event.

Nana is great for brunch and lunch as well as dinner and special events. Visit them at 3267 S. Halsted.

Oct 252014

Drink up! It’s time for hockey!

During the 2013-14 hockey season, I tried 101 different craft beers — one for each game the Chicago Blackhawks played. It was such a great experience that I decided to do it again for the 2014-15 season.

The rules are simple: a new-to-me brew must be quaffed on game day, and though it must be a craft brew, it doesn’t have to be from Chicago. Have a recommendation? Please share!

Sour Bikini | Evil Twin Brewing Game 1: Stars vs. Blackhawks (2-3 W/SO)

At some point over the summer, the BF and I took a roadtrip to Michigan and came back with a growler of Funk in the Trunk from Odd Side Ales. We didn’t know it at the time, but it would start a quest for beer that had the same balance of sour & oaky elements that made this brew so drinkable.

I am pleased with how Sour Bikini from Evil Twin Brewing stacked up in comparison. It has a lighter bodied feel, but the combination of zesty lemon flavors and hops made me wish I’d discovered it earlier in the summer. This is a refreshing warm weather beer that almost makes me want to turn back the clock to muggy weather.

Shipwrecked IPA Game 2: Blackhawks vs. Sabres (6-2 W)

Our roadtrips did not end in Michigan — we also made it to Door County to view the autumn scenery and, of course, to bring back as much brew from Wisconsin as possible. I felt strongly that we should try beers made from the area, so we loaded up choices from Shipwrecked Brewing out of Egg Harbor.

Because I’m still a fiend for the style, their eponymous India Pale Ale was the first selection we tried. While there were some nice, herbal notes to the beer along with a nutty backbone, but I found the finish too bitter. Fortunately, mix and match was the name of the game when we selected samples from this micro-brew so we get to try again.

Extended Play | Lakefront Brewing Game 3: Blackhawks vs. Flames (1-2 L/OT)

Ah, Lakefront Brewery, how I love thee. Though I’ve had many of the year-round brews, for some reason Extended Play escaped my notice.

I’m happy to report that oversight has been corrected. This is a great session IPA — light bodied with decent carbonation, nice citrus notes balanced by bitter hops, and clean finish. This is the beer I’d reach for if my first choice sucked. I plan to stay stocked because with approximately 100 beers to try, you never know when you’ll need back-up.

Indiana Amber Game 4: Blackhawks vs. Predators (2-1 W/OT)

The next two brews were from business trips the BF took to Indiana. I’m okay with blind picks from the Hoosier state — there are no shortage of good breweries over the border. The first choice was Indiana Amber from Oaken Barrel Brewing Company.

Biscuit notes were present in this malty beer, though brown sugar flavors were represented throughout. There was nothing objectionable about this beer, but it didn’t particularly stand-out either. Easy to drink, nicely carbonated, but not worth seeking out on its own.

Rooftop IPA Game 5: Blackhawks vs. Flyers (4-0 W)

Rooftop IPA from Bloomington Brewing Company is apparently named for a rock quarry feature in the Bloomington area. Having gone to college in an area surrounded by rock quarries, I can’t say that any would have inspired an homage in beer form.

Perhaps I should visit this one because I really, really liked this beer. A solid IPA with a hoppy kick underpinned by a nice, malty structure defines the experience succinctly. More hop-phobic friends probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much, but then again, most of them wouldn’t jump from a 65 foot overhang either. More for me.

Naked Selfie | Baderbrau Game 6: Predators vs. Blackhawks (3-2 L)

The Baderbräu folks set me up with a six-pack of Naked Selfie to share with friends during the game.

I’ve tried the rest of Baderbräu’s catalog, and this by far the most interesting beer they’ve produced. This Black India Pale Lager is carried by roasted malts and finished with light hops. There’s little sweetness to the brew which finishes remarkably clean. They recommend pairing it with strong cheese, but I think it would be remarkable as a beer bread. I’m going to try that and then share my Naked Selfie loaf with the world. Be on the look-out.

Round 1 Beer Rankings
1) Extended Play, Lakefront Brewing
2) Rooftop IPA, Bloomington Brewing Company
3) Sour Bikini, Evil Twin Brewing
4) Naked Selfie, Baderbräu
5) India Pale Ale, Shipwrecked
6) Indiana Amber, Oaken Barrel Brewing Company

Want to follow my beer & hockey choices in real time? I keep the action live on both Instagram & Twitter. See you next puck drop!

 Beer  Comments Off on Craft Beer & Hockey: Season Opens with a 6-Pack
Oct 242014
Goosefoot Food & Wine

The sign that teased me for months.

Usually I’m a patient person. I can wait out the rush of new, exciting, must-try spots to enjoy the latest dining experience at my own pace.

Often this is made easier by a daily commute that features a dull, familiar routine up and down Western. The one exception was the tease of brown paper and bold lettering for the new Goosefoot Food & Wine shop.

I twitter-stalked the Goosefoot account and craned my neck every time the bus passed the storefront. I. Could. Not. Wait!

Goosefoot Food & Wine

Stock up on high-flatutin’ goods.

Though I managed to miss opening day, I popped in over the weekend to see if my (im)patience would be rewarded.

It was, to be quite honest, a mixed bag.

Lincoln Square already has an abundance of fine food & wine opportunities including Provenance Food & Wine, Gene’s Sausage Shop, and Fine Wine Brokers, not to mention bakeries and restaurants galore. If you want to compare super-close options, then Harvest Time Foods up the street is also a worthy stop.

Goosefoot Food & Wine

Can’t get a reservation at the restaurant? Buy the chestnut soup next door.

What does Goosefoot Food & Wine offer?

Well, for those of us who have been unable to score a reservation or to repeat an experience at Goosefoot, the store has select to-go offerings from the menu. I speak, of course, about the to-die for Chestnut Soup. It’s been two years since I last tried it, and I still remember every bite.

Want to savor the memory? A little carton can be yours for $9.

Or if your fond meal-time recollections include the hand-painted chocolates, a box of four can be had for $12. Even though the candies are on display under glass, the selection of available chocolate for sale is random.

Goosefoot Food & Wine

These hand-painted chocolates are for display only.

Other items for sale include an almost expected range of fancy packaged goods like pastas, crackers, syrups, and granola. For those with fortunate reservations for dinner but the inability to recollect that Goosefoot is a BYOB, the shop is open late enough to pop-in for a compatible bottle or two or three with dinner.

I spied a beer-making kit on the shelves, but found the craft beer selection limiting. I understand that it takes a while to build relationships with breweries, but a hyper-local choice shouldn’t have been too hard to procure — hello, Half-Acre, Begyle, Finch? I hope to see the choices move beyond Goose Island.

Goosefoot Food & Wine

The interior is spacious and a bit sterile.

I quizzed the staff a bit about the selections, chocolates, and saved my most important question for last: How do I get a reservation at Goosefoot?

I would tell you, but I need to try it first. Hopefully patience will be rewarded again!

Gala Apple

Candied apples? Yes, please!

Goosefoot Food & Wine is located next to the restaurant at 2656 W Lawrence Avenue. The store is open 1 to 10 p.m. daily.