Chicago recap: One giant progressive meal

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Chicago, as usual, was a blast with my fam­ily and degen­er­ate friends. Got to hit up the usual sus­pects, Sun Wah for Peking Duck, Den­geos for a gyro, and our peren­nial favorite, Seven Trea­sures for this:

This is braised noo­dles with bbq pork and won­tons, and I can’t find this dish any­where else but at this hole in the wall in Chicago’s Chinatown.

Also hit up some new (to me) spots with some degen­er­ates. La Sirena Clan­des­tina, the newest joint by John Man­ion, is South Amer­i­can, sea­sonal small plates that actu­ally made sense. The empanada of the day that I remem­ber most is the chicken pot pie, which com­bined homey Mid­west­ern fla­vors all tucked into a handy baked pack­age, served with a bright chimichurri sauce. (you have to for­give my shitty pho­tos, all I had was can­dle­light to work with)

The other high­light was the ceviche, served with home­made saltines. I want to say it was sword­fish. Did I men­tion I started the evening with negro­nis? But it was well-seasoned, prop­erly acidic and the crack­ers were ideal for the tex­tural play with the fish.

After a caipir­inha, and a few more dishes, we headed over to Girl and the Goat, where my friend had mag­i­cally scored a last minute reser­va­tion for two that we man­aged to fina­gle into four. This spot has of course been on every respectable food-lover’s radar, and I’d heard great things for the most part.

Oys­ters, along with a bot­tle of bub­bly, to start (of course). Mignonette (and I didn’t choke this time!) nice and plump, briny.

This is where it starts to become a bit of a blur. There was cau­li­flower (the photo is a lit­eral blur, so sorry.). Then this scal­lop, which was great. I think the first time I ever ate Stephanie Izard’s food was when she cooked at Sage at Aria, and she did a scal­lop dish that was killer. She did the same on her home turf, with a pump­kin bran­dade, crispy Brus­sels sprouts and pome­gran­ate. Really nice play on salty and sweet, with nut­ti­ness and crunch from the fried sprouts.

And then there was this.

Upon first glance, I was like, oh, there’s an egg on it, I must have loved it. But then I remem­bered. It was the pig face. Roasted rolled like a roulade (no, they don’t actu­ally serve it star­ing at you), the pork was crispy around the edges and ten­der and appro­pri­ately fatty in the cen­ter. Cut the egg over it, so that the yolk runs down the sides like syrup over pan­cakes… it’s fan­tas­ti­cally intense and rich.

I find that when I go home I often fall in the trap of going to the places that I miss the most, some­times at the risk of miss­ing new spots in a city that is full of new spots. I can thank my degen­er­ate friends for two restau­rants and five or so bars — all new to me — in one evening.

You really can go home again.

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