My Communal Table

Topolobampo for the Top Chef Masters Finale Tasting Menu
October 5, 2009, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Restaurants | Tags: , , , ,

I do not know how many of you watched the Top Chef Masters series like I did. I loved seeing chefs that I have admired for years compete to win money for the charities of their choice. What was even more fun was to see a local chef, Rick Bayless, win the whole thing for a charity that helps support local farmers. When I heard that Topolobampo was recreating the winning meal, I knew that I had to go. All that I could think about was the look on the judges faces after they tasted the black mole that Chef Bayless said took him twenty years to perfect.

It was a months wait for our reservation and we had a choice of three different tasting menus( $85-90) with five courses each. My dinner companions are my neice, Jenna, and my good friend, Sarah. We chose the Top Chef Masters Finale winning meal, of course, and the Adventurer’s Tasting menu. They also could be paired with wines for every course for $55, which we chose not to do because of our morning schedules. I have to say that the sommelier at Topolobampo is top notch and I always feel that I learn something from her everytime I go there.

Course One: Top Chef Menu
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Hickory-smoked quail with Hickory House barbeque sauce. Iroquois cornbread croutons, spicy watermelon salad, roasted garlic slaw, chile threads.This was delicious. This is the first of many sauces that I would later dream about.

Adventurer’s tasting
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Hawaiian ahi tuna carpaccio and fresh Maine sea urchin with crispy tortillas, fresh lime and roasted garlic mojo. Fried leeks, avocado, sungold tomato. The sea urchin is always something I enjoy. This is an ode to fresh ingredients.

Course two: TCM
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Seared hawaiian ahi tuna in Oaxacan black mole with plantain-filled tamal, grilled nopal salad, roasted know onions, three nut crunch. It was worth the wait! The mole was so perfect. I have a friend that says, “Sometimes food is simply the vehicle for the sauce.” The mole was just so unique, so different, nothing that I could cook at home. It took Chef twenty years to perfect and you can taste it. I licked the plate with no apologizes.

Adventurer’s menu
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“Popcorn” sweetbreads with pumpkinseed mole. Roasted local turnip, fried plantain. Bayless garden microgreens. This was my other favorite of the night. This mole is totally different in character, but equally delightful as the black mole. The balance of this meal was perfect. Crispy, creamy, nutty, rustic, sour, and sweet. The greens were a perfect play with this sauce. I wish that Chef would knock on my door with a bowl of this made especially for me right now. Alas, no knock to be heard.

Course Three: TCM
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Black rice “a la tumbada” with maine lobster, tender squid, PEI mussels, grilled octopus and homemand chorizo in fresh tomato-jalapeno broth. Pickled vegetables, proscuitto pearls. Okay, you are tired of hearing about the sauces, but this rustic tomato sauce was another plate licker. Yes, I wanted to lick my plate, but did not. I had to talk myself out of it, okay? Black rice, proscuitto pearls… so different, so good.

Adventurer’s Tasting
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Pan-seared halibut cheeks with creamy squash blossom sauce. Fresh shell black beans, garlicky “wilted” spinach, Oaxacan string cheese, tortilla crunch.

Course Four:
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I would love to tell you that I had pictures of the next course, but I do not because this is when we spotted Mikhail Baryshnikov at the nearby table and started giggling like school girls. Jenna and I are trying to subtle as Sarah took his picture. It was so much fun. I am sure we were very subtle.
Overnight-brasied Maple Creek Farm suckling pig “pibil” with crispy pig’s foot, sour orange jellies, habanero-pickled onions, sunchoke pudding. Okay, the pig’s foot was deboned and formed in to a cylinder. Crispy on the outside and tender delicious on the outside. It was so good. I wa actually thinking that I wished that I could stick these tasty pork goodies in my son’s lunch box. He would be crazy for it. Also, I think this was the dish that Mikhail, baby, was eating.

Adventurer’s Tasting:
Rich, red chile-and-epazote broth with 72-hour-braised Tallgrass short rib. Corn masa dumplings, sour prickly pear, green peas, chayote. I have to admit where I am coming from… I have never met a slow braised piece of meat that I do not love and this one is no exception, then throw in dumplings… you will have me completely.

Course Five: Dessert, TCM
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Tart of Mick’s height-of-season peaches. Prairie Fruites Farm goat cheese (infused with Earl Gray) and toasted puumpkinseed frangipane. This was all delicious, but the peaches were the stars.

Adventurer’s Tasting
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Warm, nutty mesquite-bean with cajeta (goats milk carmel). Negra Modelo-poached Klug Farm pears and apples, dark beer chocolate. Vanilla ice Cream with some kind of salty crunch topping. Oh, oh, oh my. This was my favorite dessert. The cake was great, the carmel sauce was amazing, but what made me almost devour Jenna’s entire plate was the ice cream with the salty topping. It was just so good. I have had nuts on top of a sundae before, but this was different. The ice cream was homemade and godsmacking good, then you add salt and make it puurrrfect. What a beautiful ending.

In closing, I would highly recommend Topolobampo anytime. I have lived in Chicago for twenty years and it has always been a month waiting list to get in. Growing up in the restaurant business has taught me that no restaurant can sustain that long with out serving good food, attention to service, and being good to your employees. In this time of my life as a single mom trying to recreate her career, my restaurant dollars are spent with much thought behind them. I am so glad that I went, planning my night, asking some of my favorite people to join me. I need to get out more, but in the rare moments that I do, they should all be like this one. Bon appetit!


The Hot Doug Experience
July 20, 2009, 6:31 am
Filed under: Restaurants | Tags: , , ,

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Have you ever seen a long line to get in to restaurant and thought, “Nothing is worth that wait.”?Hot Doug’s Sausage superstore and encased meat emporium is truly worth it. They make almost every variation of encased meat you can imagine and on Fridays and Saturdays they serve french fries cooked in duck fat. This is the Friday line. I wonder how the line is on other days of the week? How is it in the winter? I have heard there are days when there is no line, but I have  met no one that has experienced this urban legend. There is always a line. We waited 2 hours! Make sure to have some good friends to hang with while you are in line. first food 033

We reached the register  and ordered six dogs, two duck fries, and three drinks ran us $45.00. It is cash only at this place. The Chicago Hot Dogs are only $1.75 and the Special Dogs average $7.00. Duck Fat Fries are $3.50.first food 035

This was spectacular. A ribeye steak sausage with horseradish cream sauce and crispy fried onions.first food 036

This is why we made the sojourn.  When I saw Anthony Bourdain gobble them down I have dreamed about it.   Foie gras and sauternes duck sausage with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse and sel gris. It was better then my expectations. It was rich,delicate and bold at the same time. Maybe we should have ordered a second…first food 037

OMG… we ate it all and I have no regrets. After a two hour wait, I am glad that it was so good. We also had a merguez lamb sausage with spicy harissa and goat cheese and an apple pork sausage with sriracha mustard and cumin smoked gouda cheese.

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Bathroom sign… sausages here.

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NO sausage… then go here.

Just thought that I would share.  Fun place. Great Experience. Wished there was one on my street corner. Kudos to the master sausage guy. Master Doug.