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#1
Posted December 4th 2011, 12:40pm
The Lake Effect at Chief O’Neill’s

Chief O’Neill’s was last posted about on LTH in 2006, and I feel it’s time for reconsideration, especially in light of the fact that our own Alan Lake (jazzfood) is taking over the kitchen.

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Having presided over the recent brief and shining moment of Pensiero – which for a while threatened to be great but which is currently suffering from a succession of chef blowouts – Lake has been the wandering paladin, the knight errant of kitchens; like Winston Wolf, he solves problems, and then he’s gone (leaving maybe just a little bit of blood behind).

About two days ago, Lake told me he took the full-time chef position at Chief O’Neill’s. What cinched the deal for him, he said, was his experience at the famous Shelbourne in Ireland, where he earned the kitchen honorific Underpants O’Malley (I have no idea what that means, but it sounds Irish and a little naughty).

“My goal is to elevate the food at Chief O’Neill’s,” Lake told me last night, and he has plans to cure his own corned beef and take the native simplicity of the cuisine and see what he can do by sourcing locally and applying to this traditionally simple food the skills of an accomplished fine dining chef.

As Achatz had his way with Thai street food, Lake wants to see how far he can push Irish pub grub toward a kind of haute Hibernian.

I very much enjoy Irish food (though I have it just once per year; you can probably guess when). I’m way ready to taste what this pleasingly simple stuff is like when handled by a chef rather than a cook, an honor that seems rarely bestowed upon this fine national culinary tradition.

Lake dons the green toque this coming Tuesday; at some point, it would be appropriate to have an LTH outing to Chief O’Neill’s.

Chief O'Neill's Pub
3471 N. Elston Ave.
Chicago, IL
773-473-5263
http://chiefoneillspub.com/
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#2
Posted December 4th 2011, 2:17pm
Congrats, Alan. This is great news. This place used to pretty highly regarded for its food but as Hammond mentioned, it's kind of fallen off the radar over the past few years. I can't wait to see what you've got cooking over at Chief O'Neill's -- I'll be in on Tuesday. :mrgreen:

=R=
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#3
Posted December 4th 2011, 3:11pm
I'm very excited to hear this! I've known Brendan for many years and will be looking forward to trying the food again.
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#4
Posted December 4th 2011, 4:24pm
LTH,

I'm very happy to be associated with Chief O'Neill's and feel the future will be bright. They're fine people (and musicians) that I related to very well over the course of our negotiations. I'm looking forward to helping them grow their business for all the right reasons. Reasons we've discussed in length and agreed upon. That said, it's the future that I'd like to focus on. Professionally, I'm not one to make quick changes. My game plan is to observe the status quo and respond accordingly. Our first priority is to elevate the food, which in an open for business restaurant, must be done judiciously.

A culture doesn't change overnite. It's not the same as opening a new place with new staff or reopening a project that's been shuttered. While there are things that will change sooner than later, it will be weeks not days before it will be noticeable to any degree. Lots of small things will become large in time. That's the grace we request. This is not an episode of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. While I'm sure I'll take my hits, it will be awhile before it really is my food, food that we intend to be the very finest of Irish cuisine incorporating wonderful Irish bounty coupled with the finest local provenance. That you have my word on. Our hopes are that your expectations will be exceeded.

Your patience and understanding are wished for and my love of our LTH community, unabashed.

Alan
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"In pursuit of joys untasted"
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#5
Posted December 4th 2011, 4:59pm
As an aside, GREAT thread title, Hammond!
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I used to think the brain was the most important part of the body. Then I realized who was telling me that.
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#6
Posted December 4th 2011, 5:57pm
Alan,

When in time you feel you're got a real winner, whether it be re-work of a current item or one of your own dishes, would you be willing to give us a heads up?
I would never ask you what to stay away from or to knock one of the dishes you feel isn't working, but I'd love to hear about something special you feel you've put the Jazzfood mark on for us to try.
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#7
Posted December 4th 2011, 7:28pm
I do consider Chief O'Neill's a place where children are welcome. Fresh vegetables and fruit as options for my child is something I always admired about the menu and I hope that continues....
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#8
Posted December 4th 2011, 11:52pm
I've got just eight words for you:

"Brown bread baked in a peat fueled oven"

If you can pull that off, you'll be a local hero for sure!

Buddy
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#9
Posted December 5th 2011, 11:42am
Great news! Will there be Jazzfood music later in the evenings?
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#10
Posted December 14th 2011, 9:12am
LTH-

Wk one: Spent the wk observing/helping/brainstorming. Sourced some new purveyors, including speaking to the Irish Energy Bureau about importing actual black peat from County Donegal to play in (cook with) as per LTH request. Thanks Buddy Roadhouse. MBH and GWIV have both contributed to the cause, sharing their Hibernian knowledge with me. We @ the Chief are planning on doing a New Years Eve prix fixe with a sampling of things to come (menu will be finalized today). My time consulting @ the Shelbourne in Dublin is coming in very handy. Using Irish traditional as a starting point but incorporating a contemporary approach is our direction i.e. using local purveyors ala Mint Creek Farm for all my lamby needs or sourcing 100% beef tallow for our chips... Desserts and Sunday brunch are priorities. A kickass new wine menu debuted last wk with over 30 by the glass. We will be pairing them w/the new menu items as they come out. @ this moment, we just want to get through a very busy holiday season (they do a lot of events here). We're tightening up or improving every minute to the point where we hope to be ready for Chief O'Neill's 2.0 sometime mid January.



Alan
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"In pursuit of joys untasted"
from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
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#11
Posted December 14th 2011, 10:09am
I look forward to it. This was a neighborhood place that I often enjoyed a comfortable meal a few years ago. Your ideas are exciting and innovative.
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#12
Posted December 14th 2011, 11:40am
My parents were from Ireland. At my mother's knee I learned a few simple rules to make perfectly authentic Irish food:

1. Get food.

2. Boil it.

3. I said boil it, dammit!
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#13
Posted December 14th 2011, 12:05pm
...and I heard "If it's brown it's cooking, if it's black, it's done."
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"In pursuit of joys untasted"
from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
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#14
Posted December 14th 2011, 12:52pm
My Irish grandparents boiled tea, the resulting drink was so strong it curled your toes.
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#15
Posted December 14th 2011, 12:54pm
Jazzfood,
Many thanks for your consideration as you start this new adventure. Mrs. Roadhouse and I are big time Hybernophiles. We visited the old country a few years back, and I can tell you, there's nothing more comforting or welcoming than the smell of a peat fire. Whether it's baking a loaf of brown bread or heating the room (usually both, I reckon), it's unique aroma draws you in and takes you to a happy place in your head. If you find cooking with peat is impractical, I recommend throwing a bit in the fireplace or even a few strategically placed incense burners scattered around the room. The molecular cooking crowd has proven the importance and value of smell as an element in dining; why not extend it to the humble, but deserving dishes of Irish cuisine?

Chief O'Neill's was a favorite hangout when they first opened. The rotation of chefs who made their way through its kitchen had varying degrees of success. We stopped going quite so often, mainly because the kitchen seemed to close earlier than met our needs. Plus they changed the music. I mean seriously, you've named your pub after the man credited with preserving traditional Irish music in America, and your pumping in jukebox rock and roll?!? Surely there's enough Irish music out there (not talking about the Clancy Brothers here, folks) to fill a night's worth of Guiness and Magners drinking and still have a whole new play list for the next night.

Jazzfood, I'm sure you will be one of those who makes a positive mark at The Chief. I'll give you a little more time to settle yourself and then come pay you a visit.

Best wishes and good luck to you!

Buddy

P.S. One of the most memorable meals we had in Ireland was at Monk's Pub in Ballyvaughn, a small seaside town at the north end of The Burren. A beautiful plate of smoked salmon, a basket of brown bread, a lump of bright yellow Irish butter, and a pint of Guiness was all we needed as we sat outside on the deck looking out at the Irish Sea and got to know some of the locals.

B.
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#16
Posted December 14th 2011, 10:17pm
Buddy: Monk's is one of my favorite pubs in the world!! I am planning to get back for a family wedding in September and Monk's is very high on the agenda. Thanks for the smile.
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#17
Posted December 14th 2011, 11:52pm
atomicman,
Most of our evening and (rare*) afternoon meals were taken in pubs. We had a pretty high success rate since we spent the entire trip on the west coast with fresh, locally caught seafood readily available almost everywhere. I did learn one lesson though about Irish pub cuisine: Never order anything off the menu that uses the word "goujon" in its description.

Buddy

*We seldom ate lunch because the B&B breakfasts were always abundant and varied. After starting our day with a bowl of European muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, a traditional Irish breakfast consisting of eggs, fried tomatoes, potatoes, Irish bacon, several different kinds of sausages, a basket of bread prepared that morning by your B&B host, and a bottomless cup of coffee or tea, we almost never ate anything else before six or seven that evening. And even then, we usually split an entree.
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#18
Posted December 15th 2011, 10:01am
BuddyRoadhouse wrote: I recommend throwing a bit in the fireplace or even a few strategically placed incense burners scattered around the room. The molecular cooking crowd has proven the importance and value of smell as an element in dining; why not extend it to the humble, but deserving dishes of Irish cuisine.


It's so funny to see other people do this! I always bring back peat and burn small amounts in an ashtray on special occasions. It really does evoke the feeling of home for me. Smell can be so evocative, I remember having dinner at Alinia 4 or 5 years ago and one of the courses was placed on a pillow filled with lavender smoke. As the pillow deflated the sent wafted out and I was bought to tears by sense memory. If you told me before it would have this effect I would have laughed at you.


BuddyRoadhouse wrote:P.S. One of the most memorable meals we had in Ireland was at Monk's Pub in Ballyvaughn, a small seaside town at the north end of The Burren. A beautiful plate of smoked salmon, a basket of brown bread, a lump of bright yellow Irish butter, and a pint of Guiness was all we needed as we sat outside on the deck looking out at the Irish Sea and got to know some of the locals.


I've never been to Monk's, but Moran's Oyster Cottage, not too far away is my pub of choice when I'm in the area. I'm really looking forward to following Alan as he brings the "Lake Effect" to Chief O'Neils
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#19
Posted December 15th 2011, 11:06am
Just received this via email...

NYE menu at Chief O'Neill's

Nice menu, Alan! :)

=R=
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"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

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#20
Posted December 15th 2011, 1:39pm
ronnie_suburban wrote:Just received this via email...

NYE menu at Chief O'Neill's

Nice menu, Alan! :)

=R=

And reasonably priced too (even more so considering it's one of the price-gougingest days of the year). Nice.
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#21
Posted December 15th 2011, 3:28pm
I almost never go out on amateur night but this is very tempting...
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#22
Posted December 17th 2011, 1:01pm
BuddyRoadhouse wrote:One of the most memorable meals we had in Ireland was at Monk's Pub in Ballyvaughn, a small seaside town at the north end of The Burren. A beautiful plate of smoked salmon, a basket of brown bread, a lump of bright yellow Irish butter, and a pint of Guiness was all we needed as we sat outside on the deck looking out at the Irish Sea and got to know some of the locals.


We were looking at the Atlantic Ocean ( :P ), but otherwise, same place, same meal, same lovely memories. Still have the coaster on my desk right now.

In fact, it's become the stuff of family legend and catchphrase. We drove around and tramped around all day in the cold and wind and wet and mud, finding half the places we wanted to see closed or inaccessible, half the time lost. Eventually we returned to Ballyvaughn in the dark, chilly and tired and hungry, and stumbled in to Monk's Pub, hoping it was not too late to get something to eat.

The next morning, a young man in a local shop asked us how our previous day of sightseeing had gone (because of course he knew what the weather had been like). We told him that most of it was frustrating, but that the evening had ended nicely with dinner at Monk's.

"Ah," he said. "T'was a good day, then."
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#23
Posted December 18th 2011, 12:28am
Looking at Google Earth, that body of water does indeed have a dual listing as both Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea. In our house we refer to it as the latter.

Likewise, there is no "London" attached to "Derry" when you pass though our front door.

It is remarkable how a group of unconnected travelers can share the same experience at a little known outpost in a rural dot on the map. Let's see what happens if I mention McDonough's Fish & Chips in Galway...

Buddy
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#24
Posted December 18th 2011, 12:47am
I dunno, I learned the Atlantic was off the West Coast of Ireland (and the Burren) and the Irish Sea was between Ireland and England/Wales.

I find the discussion of peat amusing, since when I visited some farm village museums in Ireland that had peat fires burning, I was struck by how throughly the smell permeated everything. Little did I know how much the smell was preferred to central heating....
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#25
Posted December 18th 2011, 12:34pm
Reservation made.
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#26
Posted December 18th 2011, 7:49pm
BuddyRoadhouse wrote:Let's see what happens if I mention McDonough's Fish & Chips in Galway...

I didn't make it there on my trip to Galway this summer, but one of my Irish friends just posted a picture of it on Facebook today!
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#27
Posted January 4th 2012, 5:48pm
God, I really hate the way this software 'EATS' your posts if you take too long to write them. Maybe the time out can be set higher (it is fairly easy to do) I usually do a copy before hitting the submit button, but for some reason, this time it didn't take. I had written a somewhat lengthy review of Jazzfood's NYE dinner at Chief Oneill's. I will try to re-create it from memory.

First off, I am surprised that nobody else has commented yet on Alan's NYE tour-de-force. I am sure there were other LTHer's in attendance. In brief, from start to finish, I would proclaim the dinner a success.

To start with, I had the Mache Green salad. Some members may remember from an earlier thread, that Alan and I share a fondness for this green leafy vegetable. The salad had a lemon vinagrette that was light enough to add some sourness, but not overwhelm the unique and subtly sweet nutty flavor of the Mache. Pieces of Chicory, Endive and other lettuces lent enough bitterness to contrast with the flavorful green. A light sprinkling of Sunflower seeds added the right amount of crunchiness. A slice of poached pear added yet another dimension to the dish. The salad was a wonderful experience in contrasts and the generous helping of super fresh Mache reminded me of why I fell in love with this unusual leafy green in Europe. It is also called Lamb's Tongue Lettuce and Corn Salad, and grows wild throughout the British Isles and Central Europe where it has been eaten as a winter vegetable since the 17th century. Besides being delicious, it is highly nutritious, containing vitamins A, C, folic acid (b9), calcium, phosphorous and Omega-3 fatty acids. Apparently immigrants brought the lettuce to Wisconsin, where it is still cultivated. Hopefully Americans will develop a taste for it, and it might replace the overused, tiresome and ubiquitous Arugula as chefs' favorite "exotic" green. My dining companion had the Potato Leek Soup with Shaved Truffle as a starter. The somewhat bland soup served as a perfect vehicle for the pungent (and generously portioned) truffle shavings. Without the truffle, the soup, though flavorful, would have been somewhat boring, but the precious fungus elevated it to a scrumptious level.

For entrees I had the Lamb Stew and my companion had the oddly named "Airline" Chicken Stuffed with Bangers . The stew was excellent. My father is Irish, so Lamb Stew was a fairly common dinner in my family. I have to say, Alan's stew certainly rivaled my mother's version, and the addition of Guinness Roasted Barley, put a unique twist on a soothingly familiar comfort food. Often times stew turns into a mushy sludge, but not Alan's. The vegetables remained intact retaining the faintest hint of crunch to them. The lamb was extremely tender, yet held together in chunks. I was a little wary about the addition of beer roasted barley to an already starchy dish. I don't think I have ever had whole kernels of cracked barley in a stew before, but I thought it added a wonderful solid foundation to the sauce and a sort of nutty chewiness. The grain absorbed the flavor of the lamb, yet still had a beer soaked malty flavor of its own. I highly recommend this dish to fellow home-brewers. The barley is much like what is left in the tun after mashing a wort. In fact, the next time I brew, I might try cooking some of the leftover grain into a stew. Surprisingly (to me at least), the stand out of the meal was the "Airline" chicken. First of all, I am not a breast man, much preferring the dark meat of the legs. Secondly, the name gave me horrific visions of the dried ersatz chicken breast served on plane flights. Once the dish was served, however, the source of the name became evident. The breast was wrapped around a sausage and had a bit of the wing section sticking up in the back, giving the concoction the appearance of an airplane fuselage about to take off (to me at least). The "aircraft" was nestled in a bed of chopped brussel sprouts and Coleman's mustard sauce. The flavor of the sprouts combined with the mildish mustard sauce complemented the mild but distinctively flavored sausage perfectly. It is one of those tastes that it hard to describe. It was definitely a case of the whole being much greater than the sum of its parts. The chicken breast wrapped around the moist and slightly rubbery sausage, made for a great contrasting mouth-feel. The sausage itself was very moist (bangers are higher in water content than many sausages, giving them a tendency to explode while cooking, hence the name) and made up for any dryness of the chicken breast. This was an imaginative and delicious dish, which I hope makes it to the permanent menu.

Not being a big desert person, I opted for the Stilton and Port option. I received a very generous chunk of creamy sharp (though a tad salty) cheese, a handful of whole grain crackers (not quite enough to accommodate all the cheese) and a healthy portion of a tasty port (whose name escapes me). I was perfectly happy with my choice until I tasted my friend's desert, the Banana Toffee Pudding. The desert was not really a pudding at all, but layers of caramelized bananas and a toffee syrup between layers of pastry. The dish was not nearly as sweet as the name implied, and was absolutely delicious. It was the type of thing you could easily wolf down in two bites, but instead nibbled on slowly to savor the flavor. My friend declared it "the best thing he has ever eaten" and I don't think he was being hyperbolic. Neither of us had the Rhubarb Oatmeal Crumble with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, but it looked wonderful. Oh yeah and, before I forget, the mini loaves of soda bread and sweet whipped butter served throughout the meal were both authentic and tasty.

All in all, the meal was wonderful (and a terrific bargain). It had the feel of familiar comfort food, but with a modern twist, exactly what you would expect "Haute Hibernian" cuisine to be. The ambiance of Chief O'Neill's was also warm and homey with seasonal decorations, which certainly added to the comfort level. The staff was absolutely charming and welcoming, and not at all condescending, although they were clearly excited about the new direction the place is going with Alan heading the kitchen. I felt very much at home and will certainly be back soon.

Good Job, Jazzfood! I hope you succeed in making Chicago the spawning ground of "Nouveau Irish" cookery in America.
Last edited by d4v3 on January 4th 2012, 6:49pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#28
Posted January 4th 2012, 6:06pm
d4v3 wrote:God, I really hate the way this software 'EATS' your posts if you take too long to write them. Maybe the time out can be set higher (it is fairly easy to do) I usually do a copy before hitting the submit button, but for some reason, this time it didn't take. I had written a somewhat lengthy review of Jazzfood's NYE dinner at Chief Oneill's. I will try to re-create it from memory.


Install the Lazarus Form Recovery into your browser. It's an extremely handy tool for recovering anything you type into a web form.
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#29
Posted January 4th 2012, 6:09pm
"Airline" chicken breast is the name if the specific cut, the breast with the wing drumette still attached.
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#30
Posted January 4th 2012, 6:38pm
JLenart wrote:"Airline" chicken breast is the name if the specific cut, the breast with the wing drumette still attached.
I never heard of that before. But it does make it look like a fuselage. I wonder what the origin of the name is.
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