CHSO December 2014 : Page 158

[FOOD & DRINK] BITES KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL DEFYING CONVENTION, A LOCAL CHEF BRINGS ARTISANAL PRODUCTS IN-HOUSE. By Lisa Shames After Sofi tel Chicago Executive Chef Greg Biggers earned HACCP certifi cation (an intense food safety program), he wondered how he and the hotel kitchen staff could benefi t from all the hard work. “I decided I wanted to do everything we could in-house,” he says. “My team looked at me like I was insane.” Two years and fi ve permits later, Chestnut Provisions , which provides a variety of housemade products for the hotel, was born. “Every day, I looked at my chefs and said, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know what I got us into,’” says Biggers of the arduous project. Now that it’s well on its way, it’s a different story. “My team is so proud of what we’ve done,” he says. Beyond offering inspiration for new dishes at the hotel’s restaurant, Café des Architectes, and lounge, Le Bar, the housemade items will soon be available for retail. Here, Biggers offers the details behind them. 20 E. Chestnut Ave., 312.324.4063, sofi tel-chicago.com CAVE-AGED CHEESES Creating the cheese program was the biggest learning curve, says Biggers. “It was like a welder learning to be a nurse.” But once he and Executive Pastry Chef Leigh Omilinsky stopped simply following recipes and approached the process in the same way they cook—”by sight, touch, smell and taste,” says Biggers—their cheeses, including cave-aged brie, chevre and taleggio, got much better. JAMS AND PRESERVES “For the canning, I called chef Paul Virant, who literally wrote the book [ The Preservation Kitchen ($30, Ten Speed Press)] on it,” says Biggers, who estimates they have 1,600 jars of 40 or so different items ready to use. “We took the opportunity of the spring and summer months to can everything we could,” he says, including cucumbers, mushrooms, carrots, eggplant and caulifl ower. And they made plenty of jam too. Says Biggers, “You name it, we jammed it.” CHARCUTERIE For help setting up the charcuterie program, Biggers looked to the guys at Old Town Social, which was one of the fi rst Chicago restaurants to obtain permits for curing meats in-house. “We’re doing everything from soppressata to bresaola to lardo,” he says. Expect lamb and goat charcuterie soon. 158 CS DECEMBER 2014 THE DISH While the products are terrifi c on their own, they’re even better when used together. For this appetizer, Biggers pairs Hudson Valley foie gras with housemade Tomme cheese, pickled beets and garlic scapes, preserved gooseberries and pepperoni ($18).

Food & Drink Bites

Lisa Shames

KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL

DEFYING CONVENTION, A LOCAL CHEF BRINGS ARTISANAL PRODUCTS IN-HOUSE.

After Sofitel Chicago Executive Chef Greg Biggers earned HACCP certification (an intense food safety program), he wondered how he and the hotel kitchen staff could benefit from all the hard work. "I decided I wanted to do everything we could in-house," he says. "My team looked at me like I was insane." Two years and five permits later, Chestnut Provisions, which provides a variety of housemade products for the hotel, was born. "Every day, I looked at my chefs and said, 'I'm sorry. I didn't know what I got us into,'" says Biggers of the arduous project. Now that it's well on its way, it's a different story. "My team is so proud of what we've done," he says. Beyond offering inspiration for new dishes at the hotel's restaurant, Café des Architectes, and lounge, Le Bar, the housemade items will soon be available for retail. Here, Biggers offers the details behind them. 20 E. Chestnut Ave., 312.324.4063, sofitel-chicago.com

CAVE-AGED CHEESES

Creating the cheese program was the biggest learning curve, says Biggers. "It was like a welder learning to be a nurse." But once he and Executive Pastry Chef Leigh Omilinsky stopped simply following recipes and approached the process in the same way they cook-"by sight, touch, smell and taste," says Biggers-their cheeses, including cave-aged brie, chevre and taleggio, got much better.

JAMS AND PRESERVES

"For the canning, I called chef Paul Virant, who literally wrote the book [The Preservation Kitchen ($30, Ten Speed Press)] on it," says Biggers, who estimates they have 1,600 jars of 40 or so different items ready to use. "We took the opportunity of the spring and summer months to can everything we could," he says, including cucumbers, mushrooms, carrots, eggplant and cauliflower. And they made plenty of jam too. Says Biggers, "You name it, we jammed it."

CHARCUTERIE

For help setting up the charcuterie program, Biggers looked to the guys at Old Town Social, which was one of the first Chicago restaurants to obtain permits for curing meats in-house. "We're doing everything from soppressata to bresaola to lardo," he says. Expect lamb and goat charcuterie soon.

THE DISH

While the products are terrific on their own, they're even better when used together. For this appetizer, Biggers pairs Hudson Valley foie gras with housemade Tomme cheese, pickled beets and garlic scapes, preserved gooseberries and pepperoni ($18).

HOT PLATE

LIQUID GOLD

Having a culinary background, Mercat a la Planxa bartender Robert Nardone often finds inspiration for his cocktails in food. And this Michelada Catalan ($13) is no exception. For the cocktail, Nardone combines salmorejo (a Spanish puree made with tomatoes, raw garlic, shallots, vinegar and bread) with Estrella Damm beer and amontillado sherry. Lining the rim of the glass is a powder made out of the prized Spanish ingredient jamón serrano. "It's not the cheapest garnish, but it definitely gets people talking," says Nardone. Pigging out is encouraged. 638 S. Michigan Ave., 312.765.0524, mercatchicago.com -LS

Further blurring the line between cocktail and food, Nardone garnishes his Michelada with a skewer decked out with an olive, cipolline onion, roasted tomato and guindilla pepper.

To make the rim powder, leftover jamón serrano pieces are deep fried until crispy and then pulverized in a Vitamix. A quick dip of the glass in rendered jamón fat not only adheres the powder to the rim, but adds flavor too, says Nardone.

To add a Mediterranean feel to the traditional Mexican cocktail, often touted as a hangover remedy, Nardone drapes a jumbo prawn over the side of the glass. Feel free to dunk the crustacean in the drink, he says.

To cut through the intensity of the salmorejo, Nardone mixes in amontillado sherry. "It's nutty, and you get a bit of funk," he says.

MINI REVIEW

Counter Attack

Walking into Wicker Park's Dove's Luncheonette, I was transported to a diner I used to frequent in L.A. Not that the two look alike, mind you; rather, the One Off Hospitality crew behind Dove's has managed to perfectly tap into the essence of how this restaurant genre should look and feel. It's something they've gotten quite good at (see Big Star, Nico Osteria, Avec and the Publican for reference).

Luckily, Dove's doesn't just rely on its good looks (vintage photos, a piece or two from local artist Tony Fitzpatrick, stainless steel counter, cushy stools and an antique jukebox). The Southern-inspired Mexican food from chef Dennis Bernard, a vet of the Publican, is a winner too. Whether you stop by for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the menu stays the same, albeit with a few daily specials thrown in for good measure. You can't go wrong with chicken-fried chicken ($15), its skin ubercrispy even with a dollop of chorizo verde gravy on top. Pozole rojo ($11) comes in a deep bowl filled with tender chunks of pork shoulder and an earthy guajillo-chili broth. The coffee's strong, the cocktails even stronger, and the custom pie creations come from Hoosier Mama. Any questions? 1545 N. Damen Ave., 773.645.4060, doveschicago.com LS

Read the full article at http://digital.modernluxury.com/article/Food+%26+Drink+Bites/1874581/236402/article.html.

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