Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spring in Chicago

I am speaking of both the weather and the restaurant -- one was cold and the other was warm and attentive.

The $55 per person menu at Spring in the Buckhorn district– four savory dishes and a dessert – offers an imaginative twist. It is not pre-set but rather selected and composed by the chef on an individual basis and based on items from the regular menu. If more than one guest of a party orders the chef’s tasting menu, all receive different items allowing everyone the opportunity to sample a vast variety of dishes.

There we were, 4 wonderful culinary women, sharing fantastic food, prepared by Chef Shawn McClain, a James Beard award-winning chef, and treated like queens by our wonderfully entertaining waiter, Jeff, and drinking sparkling Spanish cava in honor of my birthday (what an excuse) and just being alive.

We started with an amuse bouche, which was different for the fish eaters versus the vegetarians. The veg version -- a bite to be chewed and then sipped finished with a burst of flavor that was a sure sign of the delight to follow.

I wish that I could recall all that we ate but we had 16 different dishes and I was so focused on our conversation and the laughter that ensued, that I can only recall bits and pieces. Two standout dishes were the Spring Garlic and Potato Soup with pickled veggies hiding in the bottom of the bowl, and the smooth and silky vinegared barley underneath a dish made with octopus. I must get that barley recipe. Every dish was packed with flavor, some more exciting than others. The restaurant is known for its fish dishes but my friend Fran and I were served wonderfully imaginative vegetarian fare.

Desserts were delicious but a bit of overkill, as we were all quite sated. I ate just a bite of dessert. The small shots of hot chocolate were the perfect end to the meal.

When we were done, and said hello to Chef "McDreamy", as Jeff called him, he suggested that we eat at Green Zebra, the chef's vegetarian restaurant. I wish that we had had the time to do that.

Another trip to Chicago is in order but it will not be in the Spring -- it's just too cold for me there. And I guess that leaves out the latter Fall and all of Winter. But I do see Green Zebra on the horizon -- and another peek at Chef McClain would be pretty good, too.

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