Chicago is in the midst of stuff for your face week, more formally known as Restaurant Week. Until February 26th, more than 200 local restaurants are strutting their stuff with prix fixe menus to draw crowds and fill tables. With lunches set at $22 per person and dinner menus priced at either $33 or $44, it's an affordable excuse to try out all those restaurants that have been patiently waiting on your "to eat" list.
This weekend we decided to give Cafe Spiaggia a whirl. Located deep in the heart of the Magnificent Mile, the mood was set for an upscale experience as we approached the restaurant. With mouths watering and excitement overflowing we arrived at the casual dining side of the famed Spiaggia Restaurant and were greeted warmly and shown to our table.
Chicken Liver Mousse, Cranberry Compote, Arugula and Crostini
As I tend to do, I took one look at the menu and quickly chose items that seemed to have the most exotic ingredients. Since I'm still on my mission to eat (and hopefully enjoy) foods that might make others gag, I started my meal with chicken liver mousse. My previous experience with beef liver was a total disaster, so I'll admit this was a risky choice. But, as it turns out, chicken liver is much milder in flavor than beef liver and simply lovely when paired with cranberries and buttery toast. The dish was creamy and crunchy and savory and sweet. It was a perfect start to my meal.
Next up on my crazy protein tour was wild boar. Notice the bite missing in the lower right hand corner? It smelled so good I dug in before I remembered I was trying to document the meal. That's probably a good sign. The boar was tasty, but if I hadn't read the menu I'd have assumed it was pork shoulder or something much more pedestrian. The star of this dish was undoubtedly the gnocchi. I've had gnocchi a million times before and have always enjoyed it. But this time it was different. You know how on cooking shows the judges always describe gnocchi as "pillowy"? I always just assumed they were referring to the shape of the pasta. But they aren't. This gnocchi was the real deal. It was light and fluffy and tasted as though I was biting into the most delicious pillow one could ever imagine. NOW I get it. And I'll tell ya, gnocchi has moved way up my list of favorite, delectable treats.
It was cheflebraty Sarah Grueneberg of Top Chef: Austin. Can you even believe it? I mean she is in the top three RIGHT NOW and could be named Top Chef this week! For a reality television junkie like me, this was a big deal. The hubby tried to take credit for our encounter. Since this was our Valentine date, he said the Sarah sighting was part of my present. But I don't believe him and neither should you. As we passed her, I totally played it cool. I simply smiled at her and kept walking. The hubby was surprised I didn't stop and ask for a picture or even say, "Hello." Here's my explanation. If it had been any other cheftestant I might have made a bigger deal. But since Sarah's been such a mean girl this season, I was a little bit