How’s that for a title that grabs your attention? No, this isn’t some crazy perverted tale of me and some farm animals. I keep those things private. This is the second installment in our Chicago adventure. Like I’ve mentioned 74 billion times recently, I turned 40 this past summer. My birthday has always been an epic event for me, ask old friends and they’ll tell you I don’t have a birth “day” per se but more of a birthday zone. Said zone has always traditionally been a range of 10 days before my birthday and 10 days after my birthday. To mark the massive milestone of 40 though I extended it from February through to mid-September. What? I like my birthday, alright? It was also a great excuse to get away on two road trips of a lifetime. The first you’ve read all about when I hit up NYC with with everyone’s favorite primate; Sassy. But two years ago when 4 of us partied it up in Chicago we had our last dinner at Girl and the Goat. If I wasn’t already totes in love with The Windy City that night sealed it for me. In something of a drunken stupor that night I declared “For my 40th I am coming back to eat here no matter what.” And I did.
Pete and I had no plans for the whole earlier part of the day so we decided to do one of our favorite things to do on road trips: wander around and drink beer. Our feet took us back to a familiar spot in the Navy Pier and there was not a cloud in the sky so before we knew it we were on a tour boat meandering down the river that winds through the heart of the city with a guide describing all of the stunning architecture of Chicago. We took this tour last time around too but the weather sucked and the city was clouded in fog. Nevertheless, it gave us a great sense of the city and of the people that love their hometown. It was the perfect way to get all pumped up for dinner at The Goat. Oh, and they sell beer on this tour and that is an even more perfecter way of getting pumped up for dinner.
We headed to Goose Island’s brewpub right by the apartment after the tour and decided that we weren’t feeling more perfecter enough yet so we downed a nice blueberry ale there and had some sexy little snacks there. Ok, I had a giant burger and fries but whatever man, dinner was still 6 hours away. Now feeling perfectly perfectish we headed to our flat and popped open a few cold ones and chilled out for a bit. A look in the mirror around 19h told me I was now 27% better looking, more charming, and funnier so I knew this was as more perfecter as I was going to get. Onwards!
Executive chef Stephanie Izard has developed a fun concept and an interesting take on building a menu. All plates are meant to be shared and the menu is divided into 4 categories: Veg, Fish, Meat, Goat. Servers will help y0u figure out how many dishes should be good to fill you up and the coolest thing for me is that once you place your order they try to figure out the best sequence to bring out your dishes. Much like a chef’s tasting menu this format is fun because it allows you to try more than just a few dishes. We are two growing boys who need our food so we banged our heads together with our server and decided that 5 dishes should work just fine. We went with a dish from each category and also an order of oysters because, as the saying goes, love is never needing a reason to order oysters. Our sommelier, Ryan (possibly Brian-hey Chicago has lots of beer so stop judging me) came to the table and we immediately told him the same thing we told our sommelier at Blackbird: we want to have beer pairings with the food. We got that same kind of look too. Like, oh, you guys are trying to mess with me? Kind of, but also we just really like beer. It was obvious that trying to pair 5 dishes with 5 beers was going to be a bit too ridiculous even for us so we asked him to pair one fish dish and then a meat dish. Oh, and we ordered a 3 Floyds Alpha King on tap to start cause we can’t just sit there drinking water whilst we wait for food. What if I started getting less good looking as all that other beer wore off?
Oysters arrive first and do I really need to tell you that super fresh, high quality oysters with horseradish, bacon and preserved lemon is amazing? What? I do? Ok, super fresh, high quality oysters with horseradish, bacon and preserved lemon is amazing! One day I will sit down and eat oysters until I can’t open my mouth anymore. I would like to see how many it takes to actually fill me up. Tonight is not that night though. Our veg dish was roasted beets with green beans (and I think chicory?), white anchovy, avocado creme fraiche, and bread crumbs cause I am Ukrainian and if beets are on the menu and I do not order them my ancestors will haunt me. Do you know what it’s like to have ghosts complaining to you about their sore knee and how nobody calls them anymore? Not fun, so we got the beets. Not getting the chickpea fritters we had last time was one of the toughest decisions I have ever made in my life. I have skewed, messed up priorities. If I had to make the choice again I would have went with the fritters. While this was still a pretty solid dish my first serving of it was missing dressing and anchovy completely, leading me to believe it may have been omitted. Alas, the bottom half of the plate had everything there that we were looking for. I’m wondering if we were supposed to be instructed to toss this salad tableside or if the kitchen neglected to mix it up real good for us. The second serving of it was much better once everything was all thrown together.
Ryan arrives at the table with some Vander Mill Hard Apple Cider for us. Cider? Cider isn’t beer. Is the messee now becoming the messer? His justification is that it will work well as a palate cleanser from the heavy Alpha King and that it should work well with our next dish…Escargot ravioli with bacon, tamarind, and miso sauce. Ya, that’s right. There were some fried onion slivers on top there too and oh baby was this plate good! I’ve only ever had escargot ravioli once before and then it was paired with ox tail. In that case the ox tail took over the dish and the escargot was hidden waaay in the background. Here, on it’s own it was spectacular. The miso sauce allowed this dish to work much more like a wonton or dumpling soup than a straight up pasta dish. The crunch of the onions on top created a nice spectrum of textures on here. I could have happily downed a giant bowl of this as my main dish. Ryan was not in fact messing with us. The Cider was a light, refreshing drink that paired really well with the ravioli. I can now feel myself getting better looking. I don’t even need the mirror anymore.
Now with a few moments to just take in the place I take a look around and once again the vibe of this place, the decor, and the amazing tunes all make this just a super fun, laid back place to shove food into your face. We’re closer to the open kitchen here and this really is an impressive team. You know how birds can all seemingly magically fly in unison, making sharp turns together and diving as one? This team looked like it was working like that. With one magical brain just seamlessly pumping out sexy plates like it is not no thing.
Ryan is back again. He shows up with more beer. I like this guy. We get to talking about the craft beer scene in the city and when we mention that with it growing so much he must get more people asking for beer pairings. Nope. Much like last night, we are the first people to ever ask him that. But it’s clear now that the dude is stoked to be doing it. He pops open an Anchor Big Leaf Maple Autumn Red beer. This is some tasty stuff and it is a pretty bold beer. It’s gonna need a ballsy meat dish to go with it. So what shows up you ask? Boy, you guys can’t wait I see.
Up there with the most unique dishes I’ve ever eaten shows up a plate of duck tongues with tuna and black bean poke, crispy wontons and piri piri. We came close to also getting the kick ass beef tongue dish they make here but I thought tongue on tongue action with just the two of us might be weird. I wasn’t sure what to expect what with ducks being much smaller than any other animal whose tongue I’ve had in my mouth. It looked very similar to a fried seafood like clams or something and honestly had the same type of texture. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. This was a nice savory dish with a sneaky little heat kick to it from the piri piri peppers. The crispy wontons brought it all together nicely. If I had one complaint I would say they were a little heavy handed with the salt on this one but washing this down with the beer was just fine by me. I had a quick afterthought of how many ducks had to get their tongues ripped out of their faces mobster style to make this dish but that thought quickly passed when I looked at Pete and he seemed to be hurting.
“I’m hitting the wall man. Maybe too much beer today but I’m losing it here man.” Woah minute la. Pull yourself together man. One more plate. That’s it after that. No more beer. No more food. One more plate. You will never do anything as important as finishing this next plate and you know it. “Phatman, you’re right. You are a true inspiration to all of us dirtbags who are food crammers.” He really did say that even if it sounded like “Oh……………….God………………………he’s…………………………..bringing…………………….another…………………beer………………kill………………me……………..” He disappeared for a few minutes after that, hopefully to the washroom because when he came back he was like a new man. And yes Ryan did bring another beer even though we hadn’t ordered it. He wanted to thank us for the challenge and also thought this Dubbel Ommegang Abbey Ale would work wonders with our goat empanadas with blueberries and some kind of stuff. What? I was in pain at this point too and I can’t remember now what else it came with. There was still a hint of fear in Pete’s eyes but he is a sucker for the Belgian style of beer and with a good smack to his own face he steeled his will and ate and drank that last course with me. That was a classic case of The Meat Sweats if I ever saw one.
That goat dish was leaps and bounds better than the goat belly we had last time and that beer was up there with some of the better ones we’ve had so far here. No dessert tonight. There is simply, as the French say, no room. Then I says to Pete I says well we should hop in a cab to the aparment, maybe have some more beer. “Agreed”.