Last night, RAB, my mother and I attended the Slagel Farm pig dinner at Mado. An amazing family-style meal and a surprising value, even at $65 per person. We were initially surprised by not spotting any LTHers at our long communal table, but Vital Information was across the room enjoying the meal as much as we were. Jason Vincent (of Lula and soon to be the head chef at Lula's Pilsen venture) worked with Rob at Mado to prepare the dinner. Both Rob and Jason circled the room, answering questions about the various dishes.
SLAGEL FAMILY FARM
We were lucky enough to sit next to the farmers who'd raised the 181-pound pig we'd enjoy for dinner - - Louis John and Leslie Slagel, along with Louis John's younger brother. The Slagel Family Farm raises Duroc-Yorkshire pigs, as well as beef. Louis John's farm is about two hours south of Chicago in Fairbury, Illinois. They raise and process their own meat, and are very conscious about raising their animals in a humane and healthy way. Their pork is delivered fresh, not frozen (something you can't get, for example, at Green City). They are currently delivering their products to Chicago, including to some of LTHer's favorite locally-focused restaurants. But, they are looking to expand to other restaurants and welcome consumer orders.
I felt compelled to share information about the Slagel Family Farm for two reasons. First, the pork was delicious. And, second, Louis John is just a really nice guy. He cares about his animals, learning the latest about animal science. He also clearly cares that his customers get what they want, and by having their own processing plant, they are in a good position to make sure that happens.
The Slagel Family Farm is happy to ship orders - - but they also make frequent deliveries to Chicagoland. If anyone's interested, here's how to contact Louis John Slagel: 815-848-9385 or email@example.com
. Their website is a work-in-progress, and until it's completed, they encourage folks to call or email for information.THE FOOD
As great as it was to talk to the Slagel family, it was also great to enjoy the pig they'd raised. Here is last night's menu, nearly everything served family style and in abundant quantities:Charcuterie - mortadella, rolled pig's head, rillettes, and apple mostarda
. RAB and mom favored the mortadella. The rillettes were my favorite. The rolled pig's head was a bit too gelatinous for my tastes and too mildly flavored. The apple mostarda was also a winner. It seemed to be a simple blend of Mado's house made apple butter and seedy mustard. It worked.Antipasti - frito misto of heart, liver, kidney, and sage; and cured sardines stuffed with chorizo, date, and parmesan mousse with aioli
. This was probably the weakest course. The frito misto wasn't hot by the time I tasted it - - just small bits of chewy, fried parts. Nothing special. On the other hand, I really enjoy sardines, and unlike pretty much everyone sitting near me, liked this dish. They were large fried sardines with a bit of cheese inside and sitting in aioli. I didn't taste the chorizo or the dates, but there were unidentified green leaves inside the sardines.
Pasta - pork sugo agnolotti, braised cabbage, with pork liver and semolina dumplings
. This was one of the highlights of the night. Tender, tasty, juicy pork inside the pasta with wonderful slightly sour cabbage. The dumplings were nice and light, but they lacked any hint of liver flavor, despite containing a small amount of liver.Salad - warm lentils and chicories with pickled pork tongue and bacon
. This was also a winner and quite creative. The flavor combination was unique and wonderful. The lentils stuck to the lettuce. The bacon was chopped into nice chunks. And, the pork tongue was sliced thin and to me, was the highlight of the dish.Entree - polpette with sauerkraut, roast pork shoulder with cured olives, and greens with braised pork belly
. The polette were almost amazing - a little heavy handed on the salt. The sauerkraut, though, was a nice balance to the meatballs and quite good. I thought the shoulder was good, but not something I'll be dreaming about tomorrow. The greens, though, were pretty great, with a ton of pork belly mixed in.Desserts - shaker lemon pie, buckwheat cookies, and sour cherry jam tarts
.The shaker lemon pie was another highlight of the evening. Entire lemons were used, skin, pith and all. And, it worked. Of course, the pig also made its way into the amazingly light and flaky pie crust. RAB managed to snag and devour a second slice. It was that good. The cherry tarts were also punchy and delicious, but took a backseat to the wonderful lemon pie. Didn't try the cookies, as I was way too full by then.
Altogether, a great, memorable meal with great company. I will definitely echo Vital Information's many comments about what a special place Mado is. I can't wait to hear what the next family dinner is going to be.
Now I just need to work on getting hungry again so that I'm ready to enjoy tonight's dinner at Sun Wah!
[edited to correct grammar and keep RAB happy]