People tell me that I have a reputation for hating everything. Though the pages of this blog already show that such criticism is unfounded, I’m devoting this whole post to a bunch of stuff I’ve had and liked recently. It’s the first beautiful Spring Friday of 2013. Here’s a little extra sunshine:
Jerk wings and festival from Jerk – Modern Jamaican Grill Food Truck. This truck is one of the first in Chicago to cook onboard, and they’re doing a fantastic job with a simple menu that uses just a grill and a deep fryer. Wings are juicy and fresh, and have hot, no-holds-barred jerk seasoning with an especially potent garlic component. Hand-cut fries are well-seasoned but a little limp and greasy. Skip those and opt instead for a side of festival - crisp, slightly sweet corn fritters that do a great job cooling down all that spice.
Smoked whitefish Caesar salad from Bavettes. Most of the time when people mess around with toppings on a Caesar salad, they ruin a good thing. The salty, slightly-smoky fish here was an exception. It tasted great and had a firm enough texture to hand up to the crisp greens. This was a well-executed salad with a little something to take it up several notches. This dish stood out even at a meal where I liked just about everything that was served (except the” creamed spinach”, which had cream and spinach, but was not creamed spinach).
Lentil soup at Salam. The food at Salam is generally much better than at any other local place serving similar food, and this soup is a real highlight. It has a refined, creamy, extra-strained texture you’d expect at a French restaurant, with lightness and balance unmatched by other lentil soups. I love it, and it’s my 3 year old’s favorite delivery food (mango lassi is a beverage, not a food).
Smoked salmon at Jam. I will never understand why Jam serves a piece of frosted chocolate cake as an amuse bouche for dishes like this, but recently I’ve been able to put that incongruity aside and simply enjoy the good things about the place. The smoked salmon dish is a real standout. House-smoked fish with great flavor and texture, a brilliant béarnaise sauce, crisp potato pancakes, gorgeous, gooey poached eggs, and some nice crunch from salsify slaw. A dish of beautifully contrasting colors and complementary flavors.
Granduca cheese from JP Graziano. This Sardinian pecorino is incredible. It’s hard and I suspect intended mainly for grating, but I’ve just been eating it straight with young, cheap Southern Italian wines. It’s very nutty and only mildly salty as compared with other pecorino cheeses, but what makes it so special is the underlying flavor of high-quality goat milk with complex, but not overpowering funk.