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, 7:49pm, edited 1 time in total.