Sunday, April 11, 2010

Going Rogue in Chicago Foodie Land

I am fortunate to have colleagues in a number of cities who appreciate food and enjoy eating out. If I breeze into town, there’s a good chance of a nice dinner with friends. That means I’m usually not forced to watch “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” alone in my hotel room, and for that I am truly grateful.

My colleagues in Chicago are a particularly hospitable bunch, but there’s also a friendly competition simmering there. A while back, they established a smart, sophisticated dining out club. And, they were just a little peeved when my colleague, Hal2010 and I established a competing club in New York. The result is that every time I pass through Chicago, they try to lure me to the dark side. Fortunately, the dark side in Chicago is truly delicious. Our recent culinary adventure is a good example.

No sooner have I arrived in the Windy City when I get an email from my friend Miss Tera. “Dinner plans?” she asked. Miss Tera has this kind of uncanny radar. I hadn’t even announced my arrival. I am amazed that all of this transpires via Blackberry and ESP and it takes me mere seconds to confirm. I am feeling virtuous and request a vegetarian menu. I have been going through withdrawal since Restoration Farm began hibernating in November.

Crazy Cook Liz Barrett (not a blood relation, although perhaps we are related by gastronomy) suggests the spot – Uncommon Ground at 1401 West Devon in Chicago. Here, locally grown is indeed on the menu, as Uncommon Ground boasts Chicago’s first certified organic rooftop garden. They’ve even got a collection of beehives and salad greens grown in the parking lot. Now, those greens are local.

With minimal preparation we are on our way. Apparently, it doesn’t take much for a group of hungry Chicago foodies to organize a dinner brigade.

Our cast includes Miss Tera, (right) a goat cheese guru and queen of the buckles and Hope (left) who favors underground dinners and is always ready to photograph food and share it on Facebook. Hope is a dyed-in-the-wool Chicago foodie and keeps pushing me to make a formal declaration of war against all New York gourmands.

Here I am with Crazy Cook Chef Liz who stars in a tasty vlog with a lazy, but brainy colleague who hates to cook. You should check it out. Someday I want to do a guest appearance.
We start with the Sweet Potato Fries and Goat Cheese Fondue …

And, then I move onto the White Bean and Butternut Squash Ragout …

Liz is crazy over the calamari, and Hope’s mussels are hot and spicy …

When it comes time for the entree, my carnivorous instincts kick in and I brazenly select the bacon-wrapped meatloaf, slathered with caramelized onions. So much for my virtue. Well, there are carrots on the plate. “Nobody’s judging you,” Miss Tera assures me.

Miss Tera’s fish and risotto dish is decorated with tender green asparagus and sprouts and signals Spring …

And, as if we haven’t eaten enough already, there’s still room for shortbread cobbler and s’mores pie. The charred marshmallow topping is sublime.


Miss Tera can’t resist texting Hal2010 and letting him know where I am. She even sends a taunting photo. My cover is blown and his surly response is unprintable.
But, going rogue never tasted so good.

©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

16 comments:

Julia said...

Sounds like a grand trip -- I think Chicago definitely has some great restaurants.

And I *LOVE* that greenhouse! Next winter, I need to try something like that again... the first few years I had a green house, I ended up having to chase it down the street if the wind gust too strong.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Next time we're both in Chicago, I'd love to tag along! I think you could eat out in Chicago every day of the year and never have a bad meal.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

How fun to have foodie friends in various cities. Especially those that are open to last minute invitations to explore good restaurants. Those that somehow know you're there are even better.

I find that foodies are very protective of their local restaurants much like sports fans are of their local team. No one, no where could ever have as good as they do. That is some greenhouse. Someone very resourceful came up with that one.

The meatloaf with bacon is over the top. When we go out to restaurants, my husband does all of the ordering for us. If I want comfort food, such as meatloaf, they always assume it is for him. Funny, huh? Guess ladies are supposed to order fish. Have a great weekend.
Sam

~~louise~~ said...

Well, well, well, going "rogue" certainly becomes you. It sounds like an epicurean feast was had by all.

Diner's clubs have been luring unsuspecting gourmands to the darker side since the beginning of time. Good thing you made it out safely stuffed!!! Everything sounds right on target.

Thanks for sharing, T.W.

Velva said...

A New York foodie and his Chicago foodie friends...Sounds divine.These cities are probably the best representation of what the U.S. has to offer the gastronomic world.

What a wonderful evening to spend with your friends. I appreciate that you took us on this food adventure too. Since, I live in Tallahassee, Florida this is most delightful.

btw, I am going over to check out your friends blog too.

Kalyn said...

Wow, everything looks so fantastic, but I must say it's the sweet potato fries that have me drooling the most. (If you ever make it to Salt Lake, I promise to take you somewhere very wonderful!)

Miss Tera said...

Oh TW, thank you for so completely capturing that great night! My Carolina Kitchen's observation made me laugh: while the Crazy Cook would disagree, Hope and I would gladly turn our backs on the Cubs before giving up on the Chicago food scene...and I have just the thing to back up my claim: a fig pain perdu with caramel sauce, right Crazy?

Mary said...

What fun to be able to gather with friends wherever you find yourself. Your meals look wonderful and it sounds as though the company is great. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Liz Barrett said...

Oooh, what fun to read about our culinary capers at Uncommon Ground. What a fun and delicious night that was. I'm still laughing at your initial request for "something vegetable-centric, something light" - and then your bold decision to go with the bacon-wrapped meatloaf. You're the best!

doggybloggy said...

you are one lucky camper thats for sure - looks like good food and good company!

Lori Lynn said...

Oh how fun for you! I will definitely try next time I'm in town. Passing it on to my brother and sister-in-law who live there. I went to Sullivan High School, that's my old stompin' grounds.
LL

veron said...

Going rogue when it comes to food is always exciting. Looks like you had a fantastic time and the food pictures are making me drool!

tasteofbeirut said...

This was such a fun read, I was chuckling all along at your witting comments (loved the "these greens are local") !

From the Kitchen said...

I've not yet been to Uncommon Ground but, after your delicious post, I think we need to give it a try. There are so many excellent restaurants in Chicago that we have a hard time choosing. Our most favorite place to eat is, however, at home and frequently with good friends at our table. I'm happy to have found your blog and look forward to returning.

Best,
Bonnie

Fresh Local and Best said...

Whoa! How cool is that rooftop garden and beehive in near the parking lot! Chicago is a delightful destination for food lovers!

Mad Me-Shell said...

I have to agree with Liz...I actually started cheering when you chose the bacon-wrapped meatloaf after asking for 'vegetarian' fare!