Monday, November 15, 2010

Girl and the Goat

The ever-changing menu

Cheese Garlic Bread with anchovy spread and pickled garlic 

Smoked Goat Pizza with Ricotta Cheese 

Pan Roasted Red Fish with Black Beans, Butternut Squash, Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms

Grilled Skirt Steak with Beats wilted Romaine and Salted Goat Milk Caramel

Grilled baby octopus, Serrano celery root, Braised pistachio, Red Bliss Potatoes

Lamb Sausage Stuffed Calamari, Sweet Garlic Sweetbread, Crisp Currant Soar

The bill for four, not bad at all.

Sorry for the blurry photos!!
Finally got to check out Stephanie Izard's Girl and the Goat! A 6-week reservation period should give you a hint that this place is booming. And if you haven't heard of Izard, she was Top Chef winner a couple seasons back. Her 1.5 million dollar 130-seat restaurant on Randolph Street's restaurant row sits along the likes of Blackbird, Avec and the former Marche. 

Walking into the space you can't help notice the flaming (literally) kitchen, front and center. The enormous (7,400 square feet) space is divided by burnt cedar plank walls which do an excellent job of breaking up the contemporary and rustic theme, parallel to Izard's palette.

We made our way to the bar while our table wrapped up. The bar itself echo's the contemporary vs. rustic with hanging jar lights, European oak and antique fireboxes behind the bar. A very cozy space to wait for dinner.  The bartenders and servers are down to earth and don't make me feel like a novice while trying to pronounce  names of drinks. You can find the most sought-after seats two tables set directly by the open kitchen where guests can sneak a peak at Chicago's top chef. And if your lucky,  she might stop by your table.

Finally, our table was ready. The menu changes often but the first thing that caught my eye was the goat pizza. My group of 4 picked out our dishes quite effortlessly- everything sounded amazing. The other favorite at our table was the lamb stuffed calamari, and skirt steak with goat milk sauce. But we did indeed love every dish. A bottle of Chinon later and many smiles our dinner concluded. The dishes speak for themselves and I'll let you go over the ingredients above. I think what I liked the most was the layering of flavors and rustic ingredients. Something comforting, yet sophisticated- much like the space itself. Overall I loved the decor (by 555 design firm) a very romantic and cozy place, and loveddd the yummy food.

One thing worth noting was that although the space was impressive I felt a slight disconnect from the Izard I saw on TV. It is easy to get swept away by the exterior (see paragraphs above) and forget that what should shine in a restaurant is the food.  Financially and legally, Girl and the Goat belongs to Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz, a duo who already own three other restaurants in Chicago (Boka, Landmark and Perennial). But thank god for Izard, because without the food all that would be left is a show room. I wasn't surprised to find out that she didn't own the place, I mean - its huge! The interior tries to pay homage to Izards rustic roots- but does so it such an outlandish way that it seems inauthentic.

I hate to spend so much time talking about the space and not the food and I hope when you go you can appreciate both aesthetics. One thing that is authentic is Izard's menu. And isn't that all that matters? I know that I'll certainly come back to try another round of dishes and drinks, and I look forward to the spring/summer menus, as long as Izard continues to stay true to her food.

Girl & the Goat on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hot Dougs


Guess where I went for lunch today!! Yup! Unless you're blind, you can't miss those sexy hot dogs pictured above. I LOVE this place. And I swear, if it wasn't so popular by word of mouth I'd still be here because I'm a sucker for a good hot dog. My affair with the hot dog started with Sahlen's Dogs (The official hot dog of the Buffalo Bills) back on Chippewa street downtown Buffalo. This tasty treat was served up on a nasty grill post-bar hoping the usual hot spots (Bottoms Up, Soho etc). After years of near vomit induced shots of Crown nothing washes down bar hoping remorse like a 2$ dog with the fixin's. Then I graduated to the Chicago-dog. A lesser appealing version of this fine treat at The Wiener's Circle (a Lincoln Park trixie favorite). The Chicago dog consists of whole tomatoes and pickles and florescent colored relish (ew). Not my favorite. And finally, there is the Los Angeles hot dog. This dog (served up on the side of the street by a little old Mexican lady) is wrapped in a crispy blanket of bacon (uncover your ears!! its true!!). The bacon-wrapped dog from LA is out of this world and like nothing I've seen before. I had dreams about it after I visited LA. 
So- in case you are ever in Buffalo you know to visit the lady on the corner of Chippewa by Soho, and if you're ever in LA go to Echo Park and pop your nitroglycerin pills. And if you are ever in Chicago go wait in line at Hot Dougs, (sorry Wiener's Circle I just don't get you).

Make sure you check the website first to make sure they are open (Doug Sohn must make bank because he takes vacations as he pleases!). There's a list of regular dogs (above) and a list of specials, as well as the daily celebrity dog. The regulars are around 2-4$ and the specials run 7-8$. That might seem pricey but with ingredients like foie gras, spicy alligator, turducken, and cognac it is well worth the extra bucks. Try to get there before the lunch rush (they open at 10:30) otherwise you'll be in line for maybe a good 20min (still not bad). Doug himself takes your order and the friendly staff bring it to your table.

We ordered: 
-Small Fries - they have duck fat fries on weekends 
-The Sonoran Dog: Jalapeno & Cheddar Hot Dog with Jalapeno Mayo,  Jalapeno Bacon, Pinto Beans, Tomatoes & Onions. 
 -Cranberry & Cognac Smoked Chicken Sausage with Fig Mustard, Cantalet Cheese and Truffle-Balsamic Cream. 
 -The Salma Hayek - spicy andouille sausage with everything on it 
-And the Keira Knightley- dude, i don't remember but it was awesome.

I usually order too much and can't finish my meal. But it's worth it to get at least 2 dogs and try the variety. What I really love about this place is how low-key it is. Doug just chills at the counter- the staff is super friendly, and all the customers appreciate him so much they are willing to take 2 buses and a train to get to the random location. It used to be located more centrally but outgrew its last location ( i think it was lakeview). I lie, I found out after this post they closed down after a fire in 2004. Bummer. So all in all Hot Doug's has some creative combination of dogs which speak for themselves. The reason so many are followers probably has something to do with how down to earth and friendly Doug is himself.

Now I'm hungry again.

Hot Doug's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wine Series - Cupcake Vineyards, Red Velvet

Lets start with this playful bottle of Cupcake Vineyards 2009 California. Be nice, this is the first time I've written about wine and I'm a novice. The Red Velvet is described by the seller as a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot and  Cabernet Sauvignon, reminiscent of a blackberry chocolate cupcake.
I love these pictures, I think they turned out great.

Remind me to take pics of the wine itself next time. I got a little excited and drank the whole bottle (with the help of a friend, of course) before I could chronicle the colors. The wine itself is very sweet. You don't notice it at the first sip but the more you smell and taste the sweeter it gets. It definitely fits the description of the label- cupcake, so you know you're getting something sweet.

Cupcake Vineyards is based in Monterey County, California. From what I know that area of California sees both the warm days, and cool frigid nights. The cool foggy nights are what slows the growing process letting the grapes mature slower than warmer climates. That slow growth and cool weather is what helps balance the acids and sugars more so than other regions.

The vineyard also has some other interesting wines like the NV Brut Rose Pinot Noir, which is described as a sparking wine with aromas of strawberries and watermelon. Or the 2009 Pinot Grigio Trentino, which is described as, "a nose that shows hits of pineapple, pears and sweet lemons". It almost makes you hungry thinking about this wine!! The red velvet did remind me of a chocolate cake, or even some dark blue berries. All and all a good wine to have paired with a burger or steak or even after dinner with other treats- a little to sweet to drink on its own. I think next time I'll try their 2008 Shiraz, which is described as a dark and inky garnet color with a nose of plums and blackberry jam. Yum! I think the bitterness of Shiraz will offset the sweet nicely.