Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Chicago Over-Indulgence Tour

                                                                  Tommy, Bret and Jason at Navy Pier
Fact of the matter is, I love to eat and I love Chicago so coming off back-to-back meals at two of my favorite Chicago restaurants -The Purple Pig and XOCO – and…

a Double Decker Bus Tour of the city

a mega dose of Fox and Obel

a fantastic mix of food and drink at Navy Pier with an extended stay at Harry Caray’s. Well…this was the ultimate Chicago ride. The Chicago Over-Indulgence Tour.

I ate so much but I didn’t feel the least bit guilty. I still don’t. Once in awhile you just have to blow it all out and focus on the fun instead of the calories.

Saturday was all about eating and my willing participants – son Tommy and his friends Bret and Jason – are genuine foodies. Chicago is the equivalent of food heaven for them. There are no Fox and Obel’s in Oklahoma.

Bret is such a foodie that his solution to ordering off a menu at a restaurant that he hasn’t been to before is simply to order everything. And he did.

Here are the dishes we shared.

I can’t pick a favorite because I loved them all and each dish stood out for its individual flavor and ingredients:

                                                           Tommy, Jason and Bret chowing down at XOCO
Lunch: XOCO
When I think of great Mexican street food I no longer think of the carnita cart down the street from my apartment in Guadalajara (it was amazing) I think of XOCO!

The simple combination of fresh ingredients made the start of our culinary day a delight. From now on, whenever I eat here, I will always remember this indulgence.

Ahogada: Golden pork carnitas, black beans, tomato broth, spicy arbol chile sauce, pickled onions. – This classic was served with a sauce that sunk its teeth into your taste buds and just wouldn’t let go. This was a medium and it was super hot!

Pepito: Braised Tallgrass shortribs, caramelized onion, artisan Jack cheese, black beans, pickled jalapenos – this had delicious flavors and was the perfect combination with the caramelized onions and pickled jalapenos.

Pibil: wood-roasted suckling pig with achiote, black beans, pickled onion, habanero salsa – one of my favorite dishes at XOCO and love it with a slather of habanero salsa.

Cubana: Smoked Maple Creek pork loin and bacon, black beans, avocado, artisan Jack cheese, chipotle mustard. – A real surprise, I first thought that the pork loin was chicken it was so moist. Devoured in an instant and when Tommy wasn’t looking, I took a bite of his.

Milanesa: Crispy Gunthorp chicken, black beans, artisan Jack cheese, pickled jalapenos, tomatillo-avocado salsa. – This was the premium sandwich of the day. All of us were blown away by the flavor. I will certainly order this again…and not share it with anyone!

Goat Barbacoa: Oaxacan pasilla-tomato salsa, avocado, onions and cilantro – This was Bret’s first taste of goat and he was amazed at how good it was.

Goat is very common in Mexico and I still crave the cabrito al pastor at El Rey del Cabrito in Monterrey.

Guacamole & Chips: Frontera guacamole, just made chips – Don’t need to say a thing – one of the Bayless oh-so- heavenly classics.

Hot Chocolate: Xoco’s bean-to-cup is a process that starts with raw cacao beans from the state of Tabasco. They’re toasted, ground and sweetened before ending up in your cup.

We tried the Ultra: chocolate shot + whole milk and the Barcelona: thick, rich and say thick again. I would come here just for another cup it was that amazing.

                                                           Tommy, James, Bret and Jason at the Purple Pig

Dinner:The Purple Pig

Communal outdoor tables, a hilarious gathering of fraternity brothers (and foodies), flawless food and service (Kelly) and remarkable fall weather made for the height of celebration.

Pork Fried Almonds with Rosemary & Garlic – My least favorite but still truly delightful, these almonds were fried with a long, lingering hint of rosemary.

Lardo Crostini - Lardo is a type of salume made by curing strips of pig fat with rosemary and other herbs and spices. It is taken from the layer of hard fat along the pig's back.

Forget that the kids called you Lardo in school---this lardo melts in your mouth and is so delicious.

Pig's Ear with Crispy Kale, Pickled Cherry Peppers & Fried Egg – this is one of my favorite dishes at PP. The pigs ear is thinly sliced and fried with Kale then topped with a fried egg. Mix them together and you have a remarkable rendition of PM breakfast.

White Bait "French Fries of the Sea" with Lemon Aioli – This fried fish was presented as thin onion rings with an appetizing lemon aioli. It was surprising and had no fish taste whatsoever.

Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs – This was the star of the meal and Bret didn’t have to suck the bone to prove it.

Bones have been used in cooking for centuries to flavor soups and stocks, and the marrow inside a beef bone is where all the flavor is at. I’ll be trying to recreate this recipe in the coming months. Remember why I repeatedly snatched the bone the minute the beef roast hit the table when I was a kid.

Morcilla with Fava Beans & Bread Crumbs –Morcilla is a sausage made of pig's blood, rice and spices. We had this tapa in Spain but I think the Purple Pigs version of the recipe was even better.

Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes – Kelly (our server extraordinaire) said this dish was just like butter. I think Jason satisfied every food fantasy he ever had on the first bite.

Pork Blade Steak with ‘Nduja & Honey – This recipe in Bon Appetit was the one I cooked and posted on my blog a few weeks back. This version tasted just like what I made in my own kitchen. Love chefs who spill all of their secrets. Thanks Chef Bannos!

Espresso and Strawberry Soft Serve Ice Cream - I loved the Strawberry with an interesting topping of balsamic drizzle. I remember when my dad made homemade strawberry ice cream. This had that same creamy, light taste.

Sicilian Iris –Ricotta cheese and chocolate chips are the filling for this fried brioche. Warning: This dessert is SINFULLY delicious and my new favorite.

Died and gone to culinary heaven? Close.

Round II this weekend (Gourmet Chicago 2010)!

Bon Appetit!