Chicago's Girl and The Goat

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 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 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!

Life's a bowl of cherries for La Diva: sweet black cherry bourbon

La Diva's updated version of the classic whiskey sour! Click on the photo to enlarge, you big ol' drunk!

Reposted from original date 9-26-10

Darlings! If you've been reading this blog for a while now, you know of course that La Diva is a big ol' boozehound.

Ah, yes, when did IT all start for La Diva?

It started for me in the fifth grade when my gal pal Penny came over to my house with her Barbie blender along with a couple of miniature bottles of whiskey her parents absconded from a recent flight to Las Vegas. La Diva and Penny decided to "play" bartender and made whiskey and cokes. After sloshing the "cocktail" about in the toy blender, we took a timid sip and then proceeded to gag. But, we didn't throw the drinks out. We sipped them slowly......and finish drinking them we did.

This was an isolated incident of curiosity. La Diva didn't really try drinking al-kee-hol again until I was 16 and my neighbor and BFF Rochelle experimented with over-proof rum and coke with disastrous results. But, that's another story for another time.

I like to play mad scientist and infuse my booze. I've been doing it for years but usually only with vodka as it's such a bland base without any really distinct flavor and can really take on the essences of the fruit or spices I'm using. But, after a recent trip to the grocery and seeing the lovely sweet black cherries on display, La Diva got the idea of ....cherries....bourbon.....mmmmmm!

Here's what I did:

  1. Buy 1.75 liters of an inexpensive whiskey. Not scotch though as scotch has too much of a strong, smoky taste. I used Early Times bourbon.
  2. Pour into a large container. I use a plastic container with a lid and spigot (for easy tasting!)
  3. Wash a pound or so of fresh, ripe sweet black cherries. I cut them in half to help release their juices. I didn't take out the pits.
  4. Leave in the back of the refrigerator for two weeks. Try to position it so it's out of sight otherwise stray deejays will sample the product every day and you'll be left with none to make drinky-poos with at the end of it's curing time.
  5. After two weeks, drink!

Result: Mmmmmm! The cherry taste is quite subtle but it is undeniably there!! You can still taste the bourbon but now it has a tinge of sweetness to it, very nice indeed. The bourbon is now colored bright red and ready for ingesting as a shot, cocktail or simply over ice as DJ Nevah L8 tried it for the first time in the photo above! (yes, you can click on this photo too, darlings!)

So now La Diva had liters of this sweet cherry bourbon, what to do with it? As you are now probably quite aware, La Diva is all about "working" with what she's got. Into the fridge I went and found I had a bit of lime juice I had squeezed fresh for cocktails the other day...and that was about it.

How about instead of an old school whiskey sour with lemon, we do a cherry bourbon lime sour instead? A tasty twist on a classic cocktail.

La Diva garnished her drink with a matching impatiens flower. Just make sure you use a flower garnish that is not poisonous. Oleander is NOT recommended.

La Diva's Cherry Bourbon Lime Sour cocktail:

In a shaker filled with ice pour:

2 oz. cherry-infused bourbon
1 heaping teaspoon powdered sugar
1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 dash of egg white

Shake vigorously until ice is broken down and all ingredients are well mixed and cocktail is frothy. Pour into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with two cherry halves (warn imbibers about the pits!)

Dee-lightful, darlings! This libation is sour with a touch of sweetness and VERY REFRESHING! And, as an added bonus, you may pass out those drunken cherries as "Cherry Bombs" as eating a few of those deadly blasts of liquored fruit is equivalent to doing a shot!

So tell La Diva, darlings, what would YOU do with this divine cherry-infused bourbon? Or better yet...when did YOU have your first drink of alcohol?

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