Darlings! Did you think I'd forgotten about sharing our fabulous experience at Top Chef Stephanie Izard's Girl & The Goat? Of course not! As soon as I confirmed that we were going to Chicago after catering my nephew's graduation party in Detroit, I did not hesitate to book. But when I went to the restaurant's website, I was told to come back, it was too early to reserve a table.....so about April, I made one for Sunday night at 9:15 pm for June 24, the earliest time slot they had!
The DJ and I had enjoyed a wonderful time in Chicago, catching up with dear, old friends and now it was, already Sunday night, our last night in Chi-town, and in the morning, we would be on a plane back to Miami. I wanted our last night to be memorable.
What is it about Chicago restaurants that make many of them so warm and inviting? Perhaps its because so many of them have large, old fashioned wooden bars and fittings? The restaurant's main dining room was cavernous and was beautifully appointed with dark wood throughout and dimly illuminated with warm, comfortable lighting. Unobtrusive old school rock music was playing only loud enough to enjoy but not too loud that we couldn't even hear our own conversation.
The DJ pointed out that G&TG had a revolving door instead of a regular one, a feature we noticed at many Chicago restaurants. We decided that the intense cold and wind from their harsh winters was most likely the reason many restaurants had them instead of regular doors, allowing patrons to walk in without blowing the frigid air on the dining patrons inside. This addition added elegance and drama to the restaurant's entrance, the place looked welcoming, stately and classy.
We settled into our seats and instantly, a waiter appeared. I like that. La Diva gets mighty ticked off trying to hunt down a waiter, get his attention and then be kept waiting for her first drink! He offered us an extensive craft beer list and wines, of course, but I went straight for the cocktails and ordered a "Double Barrel" which included Old Forester Bourbon, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Bleinheim Ginger Ale, lemon and Angostura bitters. It was like an upscale version of The Manhattan, very tasty and very adult.
The DJ ordered the "Double Standard" which included Templeton Rye, Ransom Old Tom Gin, lemon and mint. We loved both of them....as they were strong and sophisticated without being "fruity." Strong enough for a man but I liked it too....(heh, heh...)
The menu was divided into three sections: vegetables, fish and meat. The choices were so unique and sounded unusually delicious. Additionally, we were offered a "specials" menu which included various oyster dishes, both raw and cooked, and a half a dozen goat items including goat liver mousse, goat carpaccio, goat shank and confit of goat belly.
We were told the best way to eat at the restaurant was to order multiple dishes to share. Uh oh. I could see this getting expensive....but honestly, the dishes started at $7 and then went up to $25 for a braised pork shank with most of the dishes' prices ranging between $13-$16.
We ordered four dishes, I knew I wanted to save room for dessert. But when the table next to us received a gorgeous plate of broccoli, I asked the waiter to add that too.
It was a wood fired broccoli with a rogue smoky bleu cheese in a light buttermilk dressing and topped with spiced rice crispies. YES. Like the cereal. It was heavenly, the smokiness of the grilled broccoli cooked to crisp tender perfection, the bleu cheese none to overpowering and the delightful crunch of the puffed rice. Surprisingly delicious, I vowed to duplicate the recipe at home.
Since you know La Diva is no slouch in the kitchen, whenever we go out, we like to order foods and dishes I don't make or made with ingredients that I can't easily get my hands on. This dish included a combination of tender grilled baby octopus, guanciale, fava beans and radish in a pistachio lemon vinaigrette. Of course it was delightful!
Then out came the diver scallops, only two, with braised duck, marcona almond butter, green papaya and green almond nuoc cham. I had never thought to put duck and scallops together but in Asia, they mix seafood with a variety of proteins all of the time, so it worked. Nuoc cham is a generic name for a Vietnamese dipping sauce. We were not disappointed.
I couldn't go to Girl & The Goat without ordering any goat and the goat belly confit with crab practically screamed to be chosen. I don't usually go for pork belly, as I find it much too rich for my tastes, but the goat was subtle in flavor and texture, not overtly fatty and was the perfect foil for the rich crab. Divine.
Every time The DJ and I looked at the menu, the "Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face" stood out amongst the meat choices. Pig face? Really? I HAD to ask the waiter his thoughts. He described the dish as a melt in your mouth pork entree full of texture and layers of flavor. We ordered it. The pork did not look like a discernable pig's face, it was meat from the tender cheek, over a cilantro reduction, tamarind sauce and a red wine-maple gastrique topped with crispy matchstick fries and a sunny side egg.
We were told to be indelicate when eating it and to "mix it up" for the best flavors. Naturally, La Diva needed little encouragement and attacked the plate, cutting it into bite size pieces and making sure I got a taste of everything on the fork in one bite. HEAVENLY. This was our favorite dish and one of those that you think about long after the meal....
Ahh, but I told you, I was saving room for dessert, for I knew that if Chef Izard's desserts were anything like her entrees, we would be delighted and surprised with a unique, sweet bite.
"Mom's Zucchini Cake" looked nothing of the sort! In fact, it was quite deconstructed for a "cake" and resembled more of a crumble! The broken cake sat atop a gorgeous marscapone mousse with a sweet lemon eggplant and tomato caramel. The dessert just sounded so wacky with all of the savory vegetables, we HAD to try it, I was curious how they would use these usually savory veggies in the form of a sweet dessert. It was easy to eat, tart and sweet at once, with a lovely, unique texture that one would not normally expect of your usual slice of cake.
The next dessert was a luscious goat cheesecake with a hazelnut crunch, candied beets and cajeta, a Mexican goat milk caramel. I used to hate beets until I learned how to roast them to bring out their natural sweetness and never would have imagined enjoying them in this uniquely more-ish dessert.
Full but not stuffed, satiated and delighted, we got a cab back to our hotel, dissecting each course in our conversation. It's not often that I find food that is unique without being insanely priced, especially when using high quality, artisanal and boutique farm ingredients and produce.
And so our last night in the fabulous food city of Chicago ended, Girl & The Goat etched in our memories as a new "must go to" restaurant for our next visit. Well done, Chef Izard!