Come winter, I am a total shut in. Add a generous heaping of snow, ice, and wind, and this almost guarantees that nothing short of an absolute emergency will get me out of the house and only then, probably kicking and screaming. As it turns out though, there is an easier way. A much sought after dinner reservation with a friend I rarely get to see, will cause winter-averse-me to bundle up, chisel the inches of snow and ice off my car, and brave the roads downtown. Was it worth it? Probably, if for no other reason than I get to see an old friend who will soon be moving away. To my mind, good meals are as much about good company as they are about good food. The meal started off easily enough. Some glasses of wine, a beer, and an adorable loaf of homemade bread. We went with squash bread with pecan butter and apple spread. (Only after our first choice, a chocolate bread with ancho chili butter was shot down. We had a great server who was really honest about what was and wasn’t strong in the kitchen that night.)
From there, it was a pretty wild ride. The menu is divided into three sections (vegetable, seafood, and meat) but felt a bit overwhelming. Most of the dishes had a lot going on and it was hard to keep it all straight. We asked our server for some suggestions but found that a lot of her suggestions weren’t in line with the dining preferences of the group. And perhaps that’s where we went wrong in some places. We looked for interesting combinations around a favorite ingredient. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. One of the first plates was a runaway group favorite: chickpeas fritters, romesco, hazelnut hummus, sesame, and goat feta. This is the sort of dish that could convince an avowed carnivore like me to convert (back) to being a vegetarian. The hamachi crudo with crisp pork belly, aji aioli, and caperberries was more of a mixed bag. I liked all of the constituent elements but somehow together they didn’t work. While I love pork belly as much as the next gal, I found it strangely out of place here. (Yeah, I can’t believe it either…I mean doesn’t bacon usually make everything better?) The next plate though, fried Blaschke Island oysters with egg salad and capers, brought us back. Perfectly fried and cleverly plated, we even got a non-oyster eater at the table to try them. I would consider going back just to eat this dish again.
After that, a major flurry of plates and ingredients. First, kabocha squash ravioli with mushroom raisin ragout, brussels leaves, and shroom creme fraiche. The ravioli were fantastic but they felt sorta buried under all the other ingredients. Then, grilled skirt steak with chiogga beets, house pickles, wilted romaine, and salted goat milk caramel. This was my least favorite dish by far. I had a bite or two and had to pass. After that, a smoked goat pizza with an apple and cabbage slaw. I really liked this and plowed through a good bit of it even though at this point I was really running out of valuable stomach real estate. Finally, a dish of lamb sausage stuffed calamari with sweet garlic, sweetbread crisp, currant saor. Another dish that sounded interesting but somehow didn’t come together in the end.
At this point in the meal, I think we were all feeling pretty stuffed, but we had to at least look at the dessert menu, right? I mean, you don’t wait 6+ weeks for a reservation to an impossible-to-get-into restaurant, trek through snow and ice to get there and then NOT try a little bit of everything. We settled on the bittersweet chocolate with shiitake gelato and toffee creme fraiche for the group to share. In the end, this was a very good decision. The shitake gelato was super subtle and everything about this dish just played well together. After the disappointing skirt steak and stuffed calamari, it was really nice to end the meal on a good high note. I owe S a debt of gratitude for getting us in here and hope this isn’t the last time I see her. (She leaves soon for a 5 month globe trotting adventure with her husband. To say that I’m jealous is a bit of an understatement. After that, they’re moving to Minneapolis.) We’ve already talked about possibly meeting up in Paris next spring. Hopefully that happens over another very good meal.
The Girl and the Goat: 809 W. Randolph St.