10 Course Dinner at Graham Elliot in Chicago
On Tuesday @GrahamElliot tweeted that he was giving away a dinner to a blogger on Twitter. There were new items on the menu for fall and @GrahamElliot wanted the blogger to take photos of the meal and tweet and blog about the meal. Well guess what?!? I was chosen as that one lucky winner!
I am not a food blogger, I am a Leyla Blogger, I write about my life, but I do love food and I like taking pictures of food and I L-O-V-E @GrahamElliot. I loved him at Avenues and I love him now and I plan to love him when he turns into a Grahamwich too. In fact, I once ate Head Cheese because of @GrahamElliot at a pig event in Chicago - and I don't eat pig.
I arrived at 7:15 p.m. and was greeted by a friendly hostess. I wasn't sure what to say to her, so I said, "Hi. I am the, uh, Twitter girl, winner, person" in an unsure voice. I was relieved when she knew what I was talking about. My dad, who was my date for the evening, was already there. He had gone home after work and put on his sport coat. I tweeted the fact that he was going home to change and @GrahamElliot quipped back.
Enough babble, on with the meal!
We were seated and the lovely and talented Sarah was our server. They started us off with two glasses of champagne and the foie gras lolli pops. The reaction on my dad's face was great when the pop rocks started to crackle in his mouth.
Next up was the fig brulet with whipped balsamic and house made ricotta along with crumbled marzipan and micro-arugula and arugula puree.
Onto the baby caesar salad with gem lettuce (which is a hybrid lettuce of butter and bib), white Spanish anchovy, parmesan fluff and marzipan stuffed twinkie. Though the menu changes frequently, because the caesar is a favorite, the caesar never comes off the menu.
We were still on the cold dishes but headed into the savory section of the evening.
Venison tartar with juniper aioli, huckleberries, savory granola and yogurt ice cream with pine essence.
My dad made an observation. He loved the venison, loved the yogurt ice cream but he did not feel that the granola "matched" - it was too much for him, he felt it was a bit unnecessary.
To be paired with our next dish, the buttercup soup, the beverage director, Michael Simon, paired an interesting concoction. Coconut water & ginger syrup mixed with Two Brothers Ebel's Weiss.
The buttercup soup is a bisque style soup - compressed buttercup squash with toasted coconut, pumpkin seeds, yellow curry marshmallow and kefir lime.
It just kept coming and coming, each dish was just as lovely as the one before. We were next presented with pheasant sausage with Wisconsin cheddar risotto. Grapes & apples with a fried cheese curd & pheasant confit. It was shoot me now good! It makes you feel sorry for people who are not eating it, it is that good. Just thinking about it now, I can almost TASTE the cheddar risotto.
Pan seared white fish with a cous cous cake, red pepper coulis, Cuban oregano (it is fresh oregano), fairy tale eggplant, finished with lemon bubbles
My dad's favorite dish was next, the seared scallop. Under the scallop is persimmon puree, salsify and enoki mushrooms. Italian endive (braised) walnut pudding, gooseberry salad (in tomatillo family) on top of the scallop. Vanilla coffee gastric au jus. If you look in the picture, you will see a little walnut colored dollop - that is the walnut pudding. I would eat a bowl of that walnut pudding right now given the opportunity.
The third seafood dish was the arctic char. It was served with mustard spaetzle, carraway vinaigrette, pickled beets, dill creme fraiche and pumpernickel.
One of my favorite dishes of the evening was the seared chicken breast with root vegetable and black truffle. The chicken came from JIDORI farm, which is a Buddhist farm that raises their chickens in the most humane way. The chickens are shipped no more than 24 hours after being slaughtered. They won't even sell their chickens to just any restaurant, they have to be approved by the farm.
We had finally progressed to the red meat portion of the menu, skipping the suckling pig because I don't eat pig. The Korean short rib with house made kimchee, pureed kimchee, fermented black bean barbeque sauce, pickled enoki mushrooms, watermelon radish scallion crepe and micro cilantro.
What did we think about this unusual dish? I loved it, my dad not as much. I loved this dish because of the multitude of contrasting flavors, how they all stood up and danced on my tongue. My dad, who is not a big meat eater, was not a huge fan and couldn't really describe why.
It was almost a relief to move onto the dessert portion of the evening. We were very full at this point, everything was delicious, but it time for dessert as we were almost on hour number four of our sensational dining experience.
We received another drink, this amazing shocu and black plum and agave cocktail with black currant and lemon.
Poached pear with caramel and cider. Served with maple ginger ice cream, brown butter hazelnut chai cake with caramel syrup.
Pistachio Panne cotta with coco nibs, morello cherries and morello cherry gelato (gelato made in-house), butter tweel (butter cookie shaped like a lemon rind) blood orange gel and fresh pistachio and pearl sugar.
Indoor smore with dark chocolate ganache, house made vanilla marshmallow house made graham cracker peanut butter ice cream and salted milk chocolate foam. You heard me, I said, PEANUT BUTTER ICE CREAM.
Our Overall Impression?
We loved it. The service was impeccable. Sarah, our server, was sweet and tremendously hospitable, the beverage director, Michael Simon, he was a joy and his pairings were unique and recommendations were spot on. And finally, Merlin Verrier the chef de cuisine was a gentleman and his food was magic. He came out to our table three times and asked us about our meal, he seemed interested in our genuine opinion, he was humble and a true professional.
We enjoyed our meal so much that my dad extended an invitation to chef, our server Sarah, to Michael the beverage director to come to his home where he will make them and up to 12 of their staff a Turkish style dinner - traditional and contemporary cuisine. Now, we just need to find a date where we can accommodate all of them.