My dear friend hosted Thanksgiving this year in D.C. Among everything else she served at the feast, she made several different gravies but told me she liked the pepper tarragon gravy the best. Although I was not in attendance, I am certain she is absolutely correct. Take it away, D.C.!
"...This gravy is easy. Make a good roux with the combination of butter and flour and add in white pepper. Add half beef and half vegetable stock. The roux to stock thickness is based on texture you like. Add a heaping tablespoon black pepper. Simmer 10 minutes. Add about 1/4 cup dried tarragon. Stir and turn off heat. Pepper and tarragon to taste. It's one gravy best to make early and let sit overnight in fridge and reheat. Flavors really blend. If too peppery add a teaspoon of sugar or more tarragon. If too sweet add some balsamic. I often add balsamic just for depth. It was an accident correction that's become a favorite!"
I went to Chicago to be with a friend and her family for Thanksgiving but Baby and I also managed to hit the toddlin' town and eat out! Nothing as divinely decadent and extraordinary (or expensive) as Alinea during a previous trip. No, these ventures were considerably more conservative but still delights in their own individual ways.
Public (formerly known as Ambassador East) is an historic hotel in the Gold Coast neighborhood, filled with memories of legendary luminaries past and present who have visited and dined at the atmospheric, soothingly lit Pump Room restaurant, currently helmed by master chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Taking a cue from such folks, we pulled up a cozy banquette there too.
The Quick Bites:
Belvedere martini with blue cheese stuffed olives; these garnishes are quite popular in the windy city apparently. I was more than happy to follow suit several times
Salmon on a crispy rice cake; the freshest fish imaginable will quite reel you in and may possibly warrant another order
Kale salad; a managebly minty, lemony daily dose of healthy greens
Fresh tagliatelle curls of pasta; with a light Meyer lemon cream sauce and ground black pepper
Fried organic chicken; scrumptious in a buttery hot sauce with a side of greens
Thick, creamy mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts with pecans; both were wonderful sides that left no room for dessert.
The Pump Room at Public Chicago is located at 1301 N State Pkwy, Chicago, IL, 312-787-3700, PublicHotels.com.
The Girl and the Goat was a real charmer. Evidently, it is quite difficult to secure a reservation as I learned from the locals--but I merely picked up the phone like the old days (instead of any of the broad online reservation sites) and spoke to an actual human being at the restaurant. Fancy that! It was a snap to request a rather exclusive table for two ringside at the bustling kitchen only a week before. Executive Chef Stephanie Izard offers a heavy menu to be sure but it is much to her credit that everything appeared so enticing and exciting that we ordered much of it. Nevertheless, the food is all carefully considered and went down the hatch with a satisfying vigor. I hardly needed to eat until much later the next day!
The Quick Bites:
Pretzel bread; with onion cream cheese and grilled, frilly enoki mushrooms, this was easily devoured
Italian sausage bread; with fennel and stout butter and a perky pickle relish
Goat liver mousse; apple butter, mushroom relish and buttery crumpets was a perfect storm
Goat carpaccio; tiny orbs of smoked trout roe and an olive-maple vinaigrette furthered the onslaught
Wood-fired Wiley Point oysters; why not? They arrived warm, served with a slight influence of horseradish aoili, bits of bacon and preserved lemon rind (seen below)
Escargot ravioli; proper, stuffed pockets, gently tempered with a tamarind-miso sauce
Fried duck tongues; presented with strips of crispy wontons and a clever pairing of cubed tuna sashimi and black beans
Miso-butterscotch budino; a winner for dessert with bacon toffee, petite cubes of glazed pineapple and candied cashews
Apple buckle; okay, we ordered this too as a conclusion to our mad flight, with oatmeal-graham cracker streusel topped off with a scoop of brown butter gelato
Until Next Time:
Something called ham frites with cheddar beer sauce
Braised beef tongue with beef vinaigrette and salsa verde
Grilled beef heart with sweet potatoes and eel! The Girl and the Goat is located at 809 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL, 312-492-6262, GirlAndTheGoat.com.
Beatrix in the West Loop neighborhood was our grand finale, at least for the moment, for this particular visit. Despite the general hubbub of the crowd, our evening still managed to be intimate, even as we leaned in closer over the table to chat with an old friend and hear ourselves. The "New American" menu is solid, inventive and not overly fussed over.
The Quick Bites:
Deviled eggs; with potato salad--a must try! I ordered before the waiter even asked if we'd like something to drink (we eventually found the Californian Rickshaw pinot noir to be most supportive)
Enlightened Caesar; furthered with a Greek yogurt dressing
Chili and chocolate glazed salmon; at once curious, inspired, outrageously and unexpectedly good--my favorite dish of the year
Caramelized pork shank; a highly suitable cider reduction and a mash of sweet potatoes
Skirt steak; medium rare, with sturdy fries and green, grilled shishito peppers on the side
Pumpkin chiffon pie; a wonderful, autumnal treat
Tall, Dark & Handsome chocolate cake; the menu says "just try it" and I suggest you do too.
Until Next Time:
Pot roast with spaghetti squash
Turkey and sweet potato "neatloaf" with braised kale and vegetable gravy
After weathering a soul-shredding career as a theatrical agent that lasted entirely too long, Mr. Sherwood left his stable of actors from the stage and screen and went on to pursue his literary aspirations. He is currently the dining editor for Next magazine (nextmagazine.com) where he writes a weekly restaurant review column which also features Manhattan's best food and drink recipes from the finest chef's and bartenders on the island. In 2010 he was published in Foodista’s Best of Food Blogs Cookbook. He toiled as web editor for industry leader Interior Design magazine for several years and has also written for New York magazine, Travel & Leisure and Woman’s Day.
A proud graduate of the University of New Hampshire, one of the nation’s top drinking schools, Mr. Sherwood also studied voice and theater abroad at Regent’s College, in London’s historic Regent’s Park, and at the Royal Academy of Music. He spent a year at Hunter College in Manhattan.
Mr. Sherwood recently published his first novel, the pale of memory, available on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and iUniverse.com. He is in the midst of writing a second.
Twitter/tweet/twat him @kaleidabox