Monday, April 03, 2006

A Visit from Sir Jeffington

Stephanie and I welcomed a visit from her cousin Jeff this weekend. He stopped off in Chicago for a few days on a cross-country (car) trip to Montana after graduating from medical school. Stephanie had to work, so I had the pleasure of showing Jeff around Chicago's many gastronomic hotspots. He arrived late Wednesday evening and was greeting with grilled Praire Groves Farm pork tenderloin and a bottle of Vino Nobile. The pork was the most tender I have eaten at home. Although twice the price of the grocery store brand, the added flavor was worth it.

Thursday began with a carbo load of bagels before a bike ride to the Loop to meet Stephanie for lunch at PotBelly sandwich shop. Jeff and I then toured Millennium Park and stopped off at Up Down Tobacco for some pipe tobacco and a gorgeous 100th Anniversary Davidoff cigar. I smoked the Davindoff last night with some Lagavulin 16, and it was divine.

But back to our trip. From Up Down we rode to the Goose Island Brewery. Jeff is a beer aficionado and wanted to sample the local suds. Everything was solid, but the highlight had to be the Barleywine brewed to celebrate their 2000th batch. It was excellent with a platter of sausages. We wobbled across the street to Sam's (the wine shop not the big-box store, although you'd never know from the size of the buildings) to admire the beer selection. We chose some unusual bottles to sample at home and I got into a heated debate about Trappist ales with the beer specialist (it turns out we were both right but I was more right than he was). After a wobbly bike ride home, we settled in for some Chicago-style pizza and a fabulous bottle of Rodenbach Grand Cru. There was some risk of this Flemish brewery going out of business, but they seem to be doing well. Michael Jackson, the beer writer not the pop star, once called this sour red ale the most refreshing beer in the world, and he couldn't be more right. What a treat!

Friday also began with bagels, but our butts hurt too much to try to ride bikes again. We drove to lunch at the infamous Hot Doug's (previously mentioned on these pages). Jeff had his first Chicago-style dog, and we added a smoked pheasant sausage, a ribeye sausage with roasted garlic cloves, and an unbelievably delicious toulouse sausage with saffron rouille. Jeff was sure getting his fill of encased meats. That night Stephanie made reservations at the Green Dolphin Street jazz club. Dinner was fairly good - grilled meats with a la carte sides - but a bit overpriced. The free admission to club softened this blow, however. The wine list was very strong in American reds, and there were even a few unusual deals. The music was superb and tremendously entertaining, as was the Ardbeg 10 I drank while enjoying it.

On Saturday we met some friends for a late breakfast at Lou Mitchell's, a Chicago landmark diner. The sausages and bacon were some of the best I have eaten, but this may have been due to the free doughnut holes they used to quicken our appetites. We then went to a vintage poster show ostensibly sponsored by Wine Spectator. Although the posters were amazing, WS had no perceivable presence. That was the only disappointment in an otherwise fascinating exhibit. By mid afternoon we were running out of steam, so we lounged around the house watching the rather boring basketball. Appetites were again whetted, however, by a couple dozen kumomoto oyster and bottles of stout. Stephanie insisted that we keep dinner light, so I made linguine with mussels washed down with a bottle of dry Aussie riesling. Very satisfying.

Jeff visit was a great pleasure. I was glad to introduce him to some of Chicago's best culinary offerings - mostly charcuterie and alcohol - and I was glad that he reacquainted me with pipe smoking. I purchased a new one, and I look forward to learning to smoke it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to thank Chris for entertaining Jeff while I was at work on Thursday and Friday -- including Thursday night, when I had to attend to a work dinner. We all had a grand time on Saturday, but I know Jeff's visit wouldn't have been the same without Chris to keep him company during the week.