Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Chicago mountain climbing

OK - so anyone who has been to Chicago knows that you couldn't find a hill there to save your life. Coming from southern Ohio where hills can be mountain like I always said I couldn't live here if it weren't for the tall buildings - they give the appearance of something besides flat land... unlike Laura Ingalls Wilder - I have never looked for a house on the prairie... other than prairie dogs - which are pretty cute I have no use for flat grasslands- I was raised in green hills and green hills will be one of my two default landscapes of beauty.... the other being the water - from years and years of having family on Anna Maria island and the Gulf of Mexico... So- no desert brown, thank you!

Why - you might be wondering at this point- is she blathering on about hills and mountains? Because Sunday night we went to the closing night of "Alps" the most recent menu at the theater of food called Next Restaurant Chicago.

I would not list it as my favorite menu of the various ones we have attended- but I will say it was quite enjoyable and interesting in its storybook like approach to the food of the Alps.  In the entry a cuckoo clock hangs and snow shoes stand in the corner along with a poster of Chamonix... the air is scented with smoke as if from a wood fire.  When  patrons are seated, the tables (which are wearing their rustic wood tops) are covered with crocheted doilies.  A glass tea pot sits upon the table filled with herbs and around it hangs a tag with the story of stone soup.

If you are unfamiliar with Next- welcome to food as theater, narrative, sensation-al, experiential, thought provoking meals which change three times a year (called a season) as with theater you can buy tickets for a single meal or season tickets.  Each meal has a choice of beverage pairings - generally water, standard, or reserve pairings.  The beverages tend towards wine but include other things that may fit the menu of the "run."

So this menu was kind of homey- storybook Hansel & Gretel wander through the Alps- my complaint about it was that there was too much food at the table at one time- I think the individual dishes would have been better served if they had fewer things going on all at once. This was a different approach to a Next meal - which usually keeps the diner focused on smaller items and awes you with dazzling culinary skills.  If you want to see some of the prior meals - here are a few links-

http://blog.semifreelife.com/2011/06/we-win.html (our first meal: the debut menu Paris 1906)

http://blog.semifreelife.com/2014/05/chinese-modern-next.html (among our favorites - Chinese)

http://blog.semifreelife.com/2015/10/food-glorious-food.html (Terroir- wine focused menu)

http://blog.semifreelife.com/2013/11/next-bocuse-dor.html  (Bocuse d'Or menu)

http://blog.semifreelife.com/2014/10/the-emperors-new-clothes.html (Trio menu- least fave)

http://blog.semifreelife.com/2015/05/next-bistro.html (Paris Bistro - better in Paris)

http://blog.semifreelife.com/2015/06/two-thumbs-up-terrific-tapas-menu-next.html (Tapas- yum!)

but on to the most recent dinner - the first meal of 2016 season- Alps

First the full menu and reserve beverage pairings - then it will be broken down into courses with photos-

first courses-

below stones for the stone soup-

the finished soup- a bit on the salty side- not sure where their stones were gathered LOL-

the wine pairings from the Jura- always a good choice...

individual items from the course- among my very favorite - the game bird terrine- was terrific!

now you see why I said there were too many things on the table - this was all ONE course-

the next course-

here the standout flavor was the "liverwurst" top board - right hand side-

the pork belly schnitzel which should have been better but wasn't puffy like a real schnitzel in Austria or Germany would be- kind of dry - which seems impossible for belly...

the Raclette was traditional and had a surprise of fermented mustard greens below the cheese-

maybe the best course of the night - warmed chocolate with black truffles and crispy bits accompanied by green chartreuse... I have personal history with green chartreuse but was able to enjoy a small bit of it - as a digestive this is a terrific drink- if you and your friend drink several bottles over the course of even a long night- not such a great drink... actually sickening LOL literally... ahhh youth!  It was more than 25 years since I last drank green chartreuse and my drinking companion died more than 20 years ago a victim of the AIDS scourge that took so many incredibly bright and talented people from us.  But that glass was raised to my lips with a silent toast to Jon and good times we shared.

then on we went- into a new realm -

our neighbors were seated after we were but had no beverage pairings so they got ahead of us - giving us a preview of our next courses-

here is ours in sequence - smoking the arctic char under glass - and yes we did smell smoke on our clothes after leaving dinner later that night...

as our char was smoking we had an intermezzo of berries-

and an excellent Swiss wine- leaning toward Italian nebbiolo style - with a beautiful silky texture -

the char served-

and hidden under the wooden cooking board was a pot - with a luscious gravy/sauce for our main meat which became a terrific goulash - and was so yummy I forgot to take pictures of the hidden pot and the dish with the sauce served upon it... we just ate! LOL

the texture and temperature of the "salad" were wonderful but the flavor overwhelmed by the citrus elements - too acidic -

heading into the sweets-

really a very very good meal - but different from the previous Next menus- which is a good thing - they certainly aren't in a rut - I just wished this was presented over a few more courses so I could really focus on the specific things we were having rather than feeling like there were so many things at once...

next menu starts next week - South America--- should be interesting - especially if they focus on some of the amazing food coming out of Lima these days - with cutting edge preparations of fresh fresh fish and seafood... along with amazing protein options from Argentina -and the wines! (see prior posts of Argentina wine touring/tasting/eating etc... back in the earliest days of the blog...)

and they round out the season with an homage to The French Laundry- that will undoubtedly be an extravaganza and a HOT HOT ticket to procure on an individual basis...so plan ahead...

will give you the run down in late June on the South America menu - our tickets are for our June 26th anniversary dinner!  Stay tuned- we have lots to do before that day arrives....

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