Archive for the tag “Charcuterie”

Chicago with Chanda! A divine dine at The Publican.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see my dear friend, Chanda (pronounced like “panda”) while she was traveling from California to Chicago for business.  Since Chicago is only ~90 miles from Milwaukee, we decided that we MUST meet up for dinner.  I made the, errr, easy (if not for WI construction and Chicago traffic!) drive to meet her at her hotel.  It took me about 2 hours and 20 minutes, but it was worth it to spend an evening with my friend.

From the hotel, we “Uber“ed our way over the restaurant.  Let me preface this by saying that we were not in the center of downtown Chicago – not Rush St, or even Michigan Ave.  We were in a slightly more remote location  – one which our driver even had a difficult time finding.  I mean, it was still Chicago, but a little off the beaten path, so to speak.  So it was a bit disconcerting as our driver took us through some alley ways and nearly got in an accident.  Chanda and I exchanged more than one “what the heck is going on?!?” look!

When we eventually reached The Publican, we entered a huge and beautiful restaurant.   Lantern lights hung from the ceiling, and large, interesting prints of pigs hung on the walls.

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In the center there were looong tables.  The edges showcased very private booths (with doors to close off your table!).  Chanda and I were seated at a table near the front of the restaurant – overlooking the now-closed outdoor patio and the street.

We were warmly greeted by our server, Nick, who was a total cross between George Clooney in his “The Facts of Life” days, and Adrian Grenier.  Nick also liked to get right down in our faces to explain the menu, the concept and how the evening would go.  I won’t lie, there was something mesmerizing about him!

Nick advised us that the menu changes frequently, and is organized from smallest dishes to larger plates (within each category).  He advised us to share 3-4 dishes, and to order all at once so he could work the proper timing out with the kitchen.

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Chanda was really interested in having the octopus, and I was totally game for that!  We also decided to try the charcuterie plate.  I asked her if she had any concerns with me turning my “contributions” over to Nick, and she didn’t.  Well…she wasn’t exactly keen at the thought of being served blood sausage, but we were willing to take that risk!

When I asked Nick to choose two dishes to compliment the octopus, and surprise us, he was all in!  With a confident nod of his head and a big grin, he walked away to place our order.

Meanwhile…the place got PACKED!  This was a Tuesday evening, and the restaurant is not small, so we strongly suspected that Chanda had chosen wisely!

We thoroughly enjoyed everything on the (half) charcuterie plate… genoa salumi, pork pie, head cheese, prune-walnut pâté, morteau sausage, pickles, and mustards. The fresh bread that was served alongside the first dish was delicious too!

Note: I apologize for the poor photo quality.  I should have adjusted my settings during dinner, but failed to do so.  These photos will not do the dishes justice.

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Next, we received the octopus and an apple salad (as chosen by Nick – though I admit that the dish had actually caught my eye on the menu).  The octopus (from the Sea of Cortez) was grilled to perfection,  and served with chickpeas, yogurt, lentils and fried shallots.  Amazing flavor!

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The Mick Klug Farm (St. Joseph, MI) salad consisted of apples, pickled squash served over a ricotta cheese “sauce” of sorts and topped off with almonds.  It had wonderful fall flavors – a very fresh taste!  And, it was nice to have a light “vegetable” dish.

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Following the octopus and apple dishes, Chanda and I were served the country rib.  This is from the Slagel Familly Farm in Fairbury, IL, and dear goodness… Just when we thought the dinner couldn’t be more delicious – it was!

The ribs are simply prepared, with cashews and apple vinaigrette, but the dish packed amazing flavor.

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Chanda and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and while we were comfortably full, we weren’t overly stuffed.  We just felt as though we completely enjoyed each other’s company as well as a phenomenal dining experience.

Chanda even convinced me to have a bite of dessert (I can’t recall the actual description, but it was basically homemade pizelles with caramel chocolate sauce between them, and topped off with powdered sugar). How could we go wrong?

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I hated to have to end the evening so quickly, but I did have 90 miles to drive back home – on a “school night”.

I do HIGHLY recommend a trip over to The Publican if you’re in Chicago and are looking for a great meal. And, if you’re fortunate enough to have Nick as  your server, feel confident that he knows his stuff and will make great recommendations!

Also, as previously noted, the menu changes frequently, so be prepared to be flexible.  The kind staff at The Publican allowed me to take both the dinner and the drink menus (since they’re printed frequently) with me.

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If you’ve been to The Publican, I’d love hear about the dishes you tried.  Please share you experience!

Cheers!

Ker

Singapore! Day 1 – Boat Quay and Robertson Quay

As many of you know, I’ve been silly excited for what amounts to my second “proper” vacation since I graduated college (it’s been a few years, folks!).  After a ridiculous itinerary full of flights on United Airlines (oh, how I miss the days when Continental existed!), including 20 hours of flight time with no wi-fi and no power outlets (rendering my laptop useless inside of 3 1/2 hours), I arrived into Singapore at ~1:30AM local time yesterday (the marker indicates where I’m staying in Singapore).    I’m here for two weeks, visiting with a friend who has been living here for ~2 1/2 years.  We don’t have many firm plans (at least that I’m aware of), but we do plan to golf and eat and drink our way through Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and perhaps Thailand.

Since yesterday was my first day here, Steve (aforementioned friend) wanted to keep things low-key, anticipating that my jet lag would hit on a moment’s notice.  Our plan was to hit most of the “touristy” stuff and to make sure I could snap photos of the “must see” sights of Singapore.

We set out on foot from Robertson Quay (pronounced “key”) and walked through Clarke Quay and over to Boat Quay. Neither Steve nor I are finicky eaters, so the most difficult part of lunch was making a decision as to what to eat!  There are endless seafood restaurants, British pub food, Thai and Indian cuisine, and more.  And, as we walked we got to check out the lunch fare – tanks full of live fish, lobsters, and the most humongous crabs I’ve ever seen – lined the sidewalks.  I’ll save a picture of those for when we have Chili Crab later this week.

We decided to stop at Forum Seafood.  Steve said they have the best seafood along the walk – and who am I to argue with the resident expert?  I surrendered the ordering process over to Steve, and in response to my challenge, he ordered several plates for us to share, and I have to say he did a really nice job!

We’re both pretty skilled with our chop sticks, so we tossed aside the provided fork and dove right into the Baby Kailan (sautéed greens, with garlic and butter).  I’m glad that Steve likes veggies as much as I do!  A good choice.

Then, it was on to the Mango Salad.  It was refreshing and delicious! Full of flavors, including peanuts, cucumbers, onions, red chiles, etc.

As you can see, we also dug into some Tiger Prawns, prepared BBQ and garlic style.  Both Steve and I were laughing about the fact that we’d later be sweating out garlic as we walked in the 88F/31C weather.  There was no shortage of garlic in our meal!

Finally, he had ordered the Bamboo clams steamed in butter and, you guessed, it…garlic!  However, our server came back to tell us that they had sold out of the Bamboo clams and she brought over a Venus clam to show Steve. He ordered one for each of us, and when they arrived…Dear Lord, those clams were huge!

The staff had attempted to cut the clams into pieces to help us eat them, but failed to fully slice mine.  I was left with this huge piece of meat and Steve was cracking up watching me try to manipulate that thing into my mouth.  It’s definitely not something a girl would want to order on a date! That said, although the first bite was a bit tough, the second and third bites were pretty tasty.

I admit that I didn’t help Steve eat enough…I left him with several prawns to finish.  It wasn’t that they weren’t tasty, it’s just that I was comfortably full, and I’m glad I didn’t overdo it.  We ended up walking, and walking and walking around the city/state.  I’ve included a handful of pictures at the end of this post.

After seeing so much, and enjoying a truly gorgeous day, we went back to Steve’s apartment and chilled for an hour and a half or so.  We may have each snuck a little cat nap in there too!

At ~8:30PM, we headed downstairs and scouted out Robertson Walk.  Ultimately, we decided to eat at Wine Connection, at a table on the street.  Luckily, Steve and I have very similar taste in wine, along with open-mindedness about food.  He ordered a bottle of the “2009 Terra Mater Limited Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon” to pair with our “choose 5 cheese and charcuterie” board.

For the meal, we chose Pecorino Siciliano (Italian), Brie de Meaux (French),  Gorgonzola Mascarpone (Italy), and Munster “Val de Weiss” (France) (because the restaurant was out of goat cheese).  Steve also chose Prosciutto de Parma to round  out the plate.

Hands down, our favorites were that happy little accident that was the Munster – a creamy, brie-like texture wrapped in the traditional firm casing, and the Gorgonzola – also somewhat creamy, but with a subtle flavor that kicks in over time.

The Pecorino was fine, but nothing too fancy.  When we caught a taste of the peppercorns, we both found the cheese to be much more interesting.  The Brie…now, that was another story.  Both Steve and I are big fans of Brie, but this one not only had quite a stench, but a taste to match it.  It was unlike any Brie either of us had ever had – and not in a good way!  We struggled to finish that portion.

We did not struggle to finish the wine, and had we had more energy, I’m confident we would have ordered another bottle.  I think we’ll be back before I leave to enjoy another round at Wine Connection.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures of the sites we saw during the day, including the famous “Merlion Statue“, the Marina Bay Sands, the Botanical Gardens, and a couple of other interesting spots.

The Merlion Statue, Merlion Park, Singapore

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel (yep, that’s a boat on top of the waves and towers)

Botanical Gardens as seen from the Sands SkyPark

The Ferris Wheel (“a ‘couples’ thing” according to Steve, since dinner is served on board!) and part of the Formula 1 race track that goes through the city.

Doesn’t every city have a floating soccer field?

Stay tuned for more adventures in Singapore and the surrounding areas! If you have advice on must-try spots, please leave a comment!

Cheers!

Ker

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