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#31
Posted October 20th 2012, 3:18pm
I too was at the Thursday dinner GAF organized, and I'll admit I went in with lightened expectations. Perhaps that was because of some mixed reviews here, or perhaps the fact that I worry that some diners get carried away with new and lesser known ("underground" perhaps) restaurants that offer creative, modern techniques and clever plating. I was also concerned that dinner would be mostly focused on foraging, and less focused on the food. But I came away from Elizabeth smiling broadly, thinking that I dined at a restaurant that has the chance to achieve greatness, even if not quite there yet. So no, not everything wowed me. But some dishes truly stunned, at a level well above what most restaurants are doing. With further seasoning, I'm convinced Elizabeth will shine even brighter.

In terms of atmosphere, they've gone a slightly different route than El Ideas. Despite the completely open space, the room is a little calmer. The chefs work rather quietly, the music is for the most part in the background and not very noticeable (okay, except the very brief intro to White Rabbit, before I thought I heard the needle pulled off the vinyl), and there's a bit of an elevated service experience, particularly given the thoughtful cocktail and wine service. That's by no means a knock on El Ideas - they're just different.

There has also been tremendous consideration given to the overall dining experience - the room is nicely, though not expensively, decorated. Wood tables and mismatched chairs perhaps serve as a reminder of a farm, or foraging, element. And the array of beautiful serving pieces remind you that no details are ignored, that Elizabeth aims higher than most, and that they aim to touch every sense.

We ordered the owl menu (8-10 courses), although we were served 14 courses, including raccoon as discussed generally in the events thread post. I started with a terrific Old Fashioned, then moved on to wine pairings, which we shared (essentially, a half pour). Overall, I thought the wine pairings were excellent and clever. My only thought is that on my next visit, I would prefer to have full wine pairings, but I knew I had an early and busy morning at work the next day and didn't want to drink too much.

Our first course was called Apple Pie and American Caviar, an amuse of sorts. There was apple, spices and caviar. I did not quite find this course to be the best introduction for Elizabeth. I thought it was a little too sweet, and the caviar was slightly lost in that sweetness.

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Apple Pie and American Caviar



We moved on to the Trough of Tastes - a buttermilk biscuit, whipped bacon fat, a beet marshmallow and perhaps a fruit preserve of some sort that I cannot recall. It was suggested that we drag the biscuit through the bacon fat, though I first wanted to taste the biscuit, which proved to be delicious and light and flaky. The bacon fat was a great complement and truly tasted of pure bacon. And the beet marshmallow had the perfect texture, although I cannot say that the beet flavor shined through. Overall, there were some nice flavors here but I don't know that it all came together. And in terms of progression, I wonder whether this would not have fit better later in the meal, as we neared dessert.

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Trough of Tastes



Carrot Tea and Ginger was next, and though flavorful, I mostly remember tasting the ginger. I might have loved this dish had it delivered more carrot and a little less ginger. Though I love ginger, I wanted a little more balance. One theme throughout dinner was the beautiful service ware, and this tea cup (shown below) was just one example.

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Carrot Tea and Ginger - ginger chew pictured; pictured without table side-poured tea



Our fourth course - Pumpkin, Apple and Gravlax - perhaps provoked the most discussion, as pumpkin is not so universally loved. And then there was the leaf of crystal lettuce, something I had never heard of. And finally, the debate about the worthiness of the dried bean curd. There were elements of this dish I really enjoyed (mostly, the gravlax). But this dish just did not come together for me. I struggled to understand how to eat it and how it all fit together. And I really didn't like the dried bean curd, which was not so dry that it merely crumbled or broke; rather, it bent. I felt like I was eating a twig. The sum of parts was beautifully plated, but the overall dish just did not work for me.

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Pumpkin, Apple and Gravlax



After four courses, I was beginning to have some doubts. I was truly enjoying the company and the atmosphere, but nothing had wowed me. As if I was a character in a dramatic movie, my thoughts were stopped in their tracks. We were then served one of the best soups I've ever tasted, Celery Root Soup, and it was from this point on that the meal largely wowed me. The soup was so smooth and creamy, yet intense with celery root. Black walnuts delivered a nutty, sweet addition. And there was a freshness from radish. There was more than just celery root going on here, and it was all sensational (and I even think I'm ignoring an element or two of the soup).

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Celery Root Soup



The Cornbread and Trout Roe that followed stood only a small chance of success in light of the excellence of the soup, though it showed some promise. There was also some maple syrup and fruit I think. Where this small and beautiful bite fell short though was the cornbread, which was just a little too dry. Had they slightly undercooked the cornbread and left it a little soupy, this might have been terrific (maybe a tad more roe too). I enjoyed the combination of flavors, and I found the salty-sweet bite to pair well in between two very rich, savory courses.

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Corn Bread and Trout Roe



At course seven, the meal started to take on a decidedly more substantial feel. This course was Maitake Mushroom,
Cauliflower, Sweetbreads and Fresh Cheese. The cheese was a housemade mascarpone, which I recall having a slight lemony taste. I thought it was all cooked perfectly and there were some terrific flavors, but this course was a little dry for me, even with the mascarpone. I think some kind of reduction would have elevated this course from good to outstanding - it was so close.

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Maitake Mushroom, Cauliflower, Sweetbreads and Fresh Cheese



Elizabeth's Homemade Bread and Charcuterie is akin to calling the Baha'i Temple merely a house of worship. Luscious duck rillettes, toasted housemade brioche, pickled carrot and okra, and house-churned butter with beet powder. Every single component of this dish was outstanding, the lightly pickled vegetables cut nicely into the richness of the dish, and shame to anyone who leaves a speck of the rillettes or butter on the plate.

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Homemade Bread and Charcuterie



I cannot recall all of the components of Hen and Egg - I know there was chicken and chicken skin, a beautifully poached (or sous vide-cooked) egg dripping yolk, black truffle I think. But it was all rich, perfectly cooked and just delicious, not to mention thoughtful in its contrasting textures. The flavors were all so familiar, but the perfect execution and presentation really elevated the dish.

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Hen and Egg - top picture representing the presentation of this course



A gift to LTH, we were then served Raccoon Bolognese. Clever. I had never tasted raccoon. In your typical Bolognese, there may be veal, beef and pork. The raccoon might have lent a similarly complex flavor, though served like this I can only be certain it was not your average white meat. But this rich Bolognese, paired with a delicious creamy polenta, parmesan (and black truffle again, I think) was excellent. It could rival the outstanding Bolognese I've learned to adore at Merlot on Maple.

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Raccoon Bolognese - raccoon shown in bottom picture



The talent and array of skills in the kitchen continued to shine with our next course, Lamb and Fall Fixings. This might have been my favorite course. But interestingly, as I read David's comments, I'm reminded how personal food and food tastes can be. I was tantalized by the picturesque lamb, cooked sous vide and then seared, and deliciously tender. I was wowed by the addition of a lamb's blood sauce and lamb tongue. Then paired with root beer leaf, pumpernickel and cipollini onions, I was left almost speechless. So many familiar tastes, but also the less familiar (lamb's tongue and blood and root beer leaf). And fall fixings indeed - this dish sang fall in all respects.

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Lamb and Fall Fixings



The meal was now winding down, and we were taken slightly off course with what would appear to be a palate cleanser, Swiss Chard and Smoke Aroma. The swiss chard sorbet, served atop an upside-down glass, had a great, smooth texture and was delicious. Then turn the glass over to inhale the trapped apple-wood smoke. This was unique, but I also thought the residual smoke cleverly played into the next course.

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Swiss Chard and Smoke Aroma



Our principal dessert was Pears and Hazelnuts, but of course there was more going on here - bacon too I think. In any event, I thought it was delicious, nutty and not too sweet. The smoke from the previous course lingered and elevated the dessert.

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Pears and Hazelnuts - two pictures shown to once again highlight the attractive presentation



Finally, Bites - dark chocolate cookies, rolled in almonds, pressed and filled with what I think was Earl Grey-caramel. A very nice finish.

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Bites


Some of us finished with tea from Rare Tea Cellar. I thought the jasmine tea was excellent. Here are a couple more pics from Elizabeth, including the kitchen crew at work:

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I thoroughly enjoyed the company and conversation, and I realize that played heavily into my enjoyment of the evening, but I also believe Elizabeth is a very special restaurant, even though they may still be feeling their way in their early days. I thought five of the fourteen dishes were outstanding - the celery root soup, the brioche/rillettes, Hen and Egg, Raccoon and Lamb. A couple of other dishes I thoroughly enjoyed. There were also several thought-provoking dishes - in terms of presentation, preparation and ingredients. And service - including knowledge of the courses and wines - was also excellent, worthy of a special night out. Since this was my first experience with Elizabeth and because I never dined at One Sister, I can't offer thoughts on how the various menus compare, and I can't recommend one over another.

But I think Elizabeth is a special restaurant and you'd be wrong to ignore it. There is obviously a lot of talent in the kitchen, and I look forwarding to watching it grow. Big doings are happening in Lincoln Square, perhaps once unthinkable (in terms of price point), with Goosefoot and Elizabeth. In addition to my favorite Thai restaurants and my new favorite neighbor Monti's (Philly Cheesesteaks!), I'm very pleased to call them neighbors. And I can't wait until my next visit to Elizabeth - it will be soon.

Note: edited to fix typos
Last edited by BR on February 7th 2013, 7:35pm, edited 3 times in total.
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#32
Posted October 20th 2012, 3:38pm
Excellent review and photos; thanks for posting this! Your descriptions were so vivid I felt like I was dining there with you as I read.
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#33
Posted October 20th 2012, 4:33pm
BR, I am glad to have met you at our Elizabeth dinner and thrilled that you captured the meal so beautifully with pix and words. I have to talk with you about how you got such great shots with your Canon (I didn't have my big one with me that night, as we discussed, but I don't think my interior resto shots ever come out so good as these you posted; would like to know your secret).

Bravo.
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#34
Posted October 20th 2012, 4:38pm
I, too, thoroughly enjoyed our LTH dinner at Elizabeth the other night. I won't bother posting pictures since Brad did such a beautiful job. Having dined at the last dinner that Iliana did for One Sister I was worried that there would be a lot of overlap here but only two courses (the trough of tastes and the bites) were carried over from One Sister and both had an additional component from before. Like most people who have dined at Elizabeth I am very excited to see how it grows and I'm very interested in the forthcoming winter menus.

BR wrote:I thoroughly enjoyed the company and conversation, and I realize that played heavily into my enjoyment of the evening, but I also believe Elizabeth is a very special restaurant, even though they may still be feeling their way in their early days. I thought five of the fourteen dishes were outstanding - the celery root soup, the brioche/rillettes, Hen and Egg, Raccoon and Lamb. A couple of other dishes I thoroughly enjoyed. There were also several thought-provoking dishes - in terms of presentation, preparation and ingredients. And service - including knowledge of the courses and wines - was also excellent, worthy of a special night out.


I definitely agree with all of this. I would also add the mushroom/sweetbreads course to that list as I really enjoyed the flavor combination, even if a little dry. I will say that I loved every component of the lamb dish except the actual lamb loin itself. I found both my pieces of lamb to be laden with some sort of connective / stringy tissue that ruined the texture for me. I would have preferred it cooked more medium rare than rare to break some of this tissue down. Regardless I am still very excited to see what Iliana does next.

ETA: I also really enjoyed the carrot tea, although I found the candied ginger on the side to be a bit overwhelming; probably a good thing I waited to finish the tea before eating it.
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#35
Posted October 20th 2012, 9:44pm
Gonzo70 wrote:Excellent review and photos; thanks for posting this! Your descriptions were so vivid I felt like I was dining there with you as I read.

Thanks Gonzo70 for the very nice compliment - appreciated.



David Hammond wrote:BR, I am glad to have met you at our Elizabeth dinner and thrilled that you captured the meal so beautifully with pix and words. I have to talk with you about how you got such great shots with your Canon (I didn't have my big one with me that night, as we discussed, but I don't think my interior resto shots ever come out so good as these you posted; would like to know your secret).

Bravo.

Good to meet you too David. Thanks for the compliments. And really no secrets on the photos, but decent lighting at Elizabeth helped. I used automatic settings, no flash.



fropones wrote: I found both my pieces of lamb to be laden with some sort of connective / stringy tissue that ruined the texture for me. I would have preferred it cooked more medium rare than rare to break some of this tissue down. Regardless I am still very excited to see what Iliana does next.

Sounds like I had good pieces then, because mine were tender. I was also a little concerned about the lamb - I typically like it medium rare and have run into textural problems when cooked less than medium rare. Not quite sure though whether the issue was the temperature (I figured the sous vide cooking would assist here, but maybe a few more degrees would have helped) or just the pieces served to you.
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#36
Posted October 21st 2012, 7:19pm
I was pleased to have organized the LTH foray to Elizabeth, selecting the Owl Menu. I was surprised by the fully developed excellence of several of the dishes, and need to revise some of my previous comments, although it is possible that the shorter Owl differs from the longer Deer menu (and perhaps from the still longer Diamond menu that I have not ordered). The Deer menu (tried as a Friends and Family dinner) was very much in the style of modernist cuisine but with foraged ingredients. The Owl menu was much more a set of dishes, rather than a set of tastes, and while some of the ingredients were foraged, the emphasis on gathered ingredients was reduced. Rather than dishes that were notably for how they were plated, these dishes were cooked in place, and in this they were far more abundant and restauranty than the underground dinners at One Sister. Iliana Regan really can cook, and very well. The strongest dishes were the most substantial.

I fully agree with BR that the Corn Bread and Trout Roe was not a success. The corn bread pancake was dry and overcooked. I had previously proclaimed that the goat cheese pancake on the Deer Menu was undercooked, so perhaps I am to blame. So be it.

I was particularly impressed with the Lamb and Fall Fixings (a real dish with a creative set of ingredients), the Hen and Egg, the Sweetbreads and Cauliflower (a particularly beautiful dish), the Celery Root Soup (one of the finest soups of the year), and the Carrot Tea. The Swiss Chard Sorbet and Smoke Aroma (shades of Alinea) was also a thorough success, as was the modest but delicious homemade bread and charcuterie. Pear and Hazelnut in various forms (with bacon) was an excellent dessert. In contrast the Raccoon Bolognese was mostly notable for the fact that it contained raccoon. The Pumpkin, Apple and Gravlax was pretty as a construction, but without a startling mix of flavors. The first amuse (a sip of American Caviar and Apple Pie smear) was appealing, as was the bacon fat in the Trough of Tastes (although the other flavors were perhaps not strong enough).

I came away feeling that it some essential, but indescribable, way, the Owl Menu moved beyond conventional canons of Modernist cuisine (I first wrote post-modernist, but that term has its own problems). While there were excellent dishes on the Deer Menu (the Queen Anne's Lace dish, for example), I was even more impressed with this shorter menu, which might suggest that Chef Regan is more successfully creative with a larger canvas. A string of one-bites is too often exciting in one's imagination, but many times not the most successful strategy in practice. These were dishes, not mere canapes.
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#37
Posted October 22nd 2012, 7:25pm
GAF wrote:The Deer menu (tried as a Friends and Family dinner) was very much in the style of modernist cuisine but with foraged ingredients. The Owl menu was much more a set of dishes, rather than a set of tastes, and while some of the ingredients were foraged, the emphasis on gathered ingredients was reduced.


Although the concept of foraging is not new to me, the practice of it still blows my mind. What exactly is foraged, and from where?
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#38
Posted October 22nd 2012, 8:22pm
Looking at the Owl (which was my least favorite of the menus, though I enjoyed it) photos for the LTH dinner, it strikes me that a lot of the dishes have change in presentation and some have been added, while others omitted. The pumpkin and apple dish in particular looks a bit more refined than when I had it three weeks ago. She has said it is probably because her staff has solidified and become a smoother team.

Iliana forages a lot of the stuff herself and some comes from other local foragers. She also has a new blog post
http://thewoodlandladyandchef.blogspot. ... l?spref=tw
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#39
Posted October 23rd 2012, 1:19am
Can those who have been to both the Deer and the Owl comment on which you would go to if you could only select one? I'm very interested in trying Elizabeth, but know that I will probably only do one menu to start. Thanks!
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#40
Posted October 23rd 2012, 7:57am
It depends what you are looking for. The Deer menu is more focused on ingredients (gathered cuisine and in plating was more in the tradition of El Ideas), but the Owl menu is more substantial restaurant-type dishes. As a matter of food, I think I preferred the Owl menu (although I tried the Deer menu prior to the opening when the dishes were still being created, so this might no longer apply). So either one works. There is also a difference in cost and in time.
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Toast, as every breakfaster knows, isn't really about the quality of the bread or how it's sliced or even the toaster. For man cannot live by toast alone. It's all about the butter. -- Adam Gopnik
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#41
Posted November 18th 2012, 10:09pm
Loath as I am to use the board to hock tickets...

I have 4 tickets for the Diamond dinner this Friday (You know, the "Black" one) that I'd like to sell. Long story short, the out-of-town friends we were to share them with have been waylaid by flu.

I'd also be willing to sell them in twos...

PM me for details. Mods, I'll torch this post at the appropriate time.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.
-jim
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#42
Posted November 19th 2012, 11:45am
el refrito bandito wrote:Loath as I am to use the board to hock tickets...

I have 4 tickets for the Diamond dinner this Friday (You know, the "Black" one) that I'd like to sell. Long story short, the out-of-town friends we were to share them with have been waylaid by flu.

I'd also be willing to sell them in twos...

PM me for details. Mods, I'll torch this post at the appropriate time.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.
-jim


might i suggest, jim, that you start a new thread with "TICKETS FOR SALE", or some such thing in the subject line. putting this info in this thread might not get the notice you want. just a thought...
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#43
Posted November 21st 2012, 2:43am
New to the "Chicago Food Scene?" Certainly not! New to LTH Forum? Certainly not! New to posting? Well, online, yes!
I'm a recent Chicago inhabitant but I've been traveling in and out of this city for years. I've finally landed in Lincoln Park to be exact.
I've kept personal journals on food for a long long time, sharing my commentary with friends over casual dinners, family members, other lone travelers and so on. Having traveled for business most of my life I have a firm hold on what it means to dine with company and alone.
The alone part is one reason I felt so compelled to dine at Elizabeth. I would not be alone there, sitting at a table full of strangers may be horrific and magical at once. I can recall how many times I had wanted to dine with companions when I was far away and I simply could not. Therefore, it was more the latter than the former. Hence I made bought three separate tickets, one for each menu. I can attest that I've made some new acquaintances.
What I really wanted to quote was Ronnie's comment on Elizabeth, "that it isn't world class...yet." This is true, it's a very young restaurant. I highly respect Ronnie Suburban's love of food. I've gone to places in Chicago that I might not have gone to because of him. I often left those places having the same thoughts. The difference with Elizabeth, and why I felt to moved to reply is while not world class yet there is not a doubt in my mind that it won't achieve greatness. I've dined at every restaurant worth mentioning from Noma to Mugaritz, from Manresa to Per Se. I can say while not perfectly executed, it is flawless within its flaws. This restaurant is doing something I have never seen done. Having had each menu its common thread is clear: earth. I get it. I hope that Ronnie Suburban reads my post and revisits. I had the diamond menu a few weeks back and fortunately for me by the time I visited the Chef had unleashed more imagination and delivered more richness, confidence, and satisfaction than I think Ronnie had and I can tell from the pictures alone. I had 25 courses and most of the ones he had pictured where still there, tweaked clearly, it seems she heeds your suggestions. There was more substance, deer heart, more indulgence, and explanation I presume.
While I never got to dine at One Sister, several of my colleagues had and from what I could gather it was something spectacular. Something that most Chefs could not or maybe would not do in their own home. What intrigues me about this Chef is she has had no professional or culinary training. I suppose some would view this as a disadvantage or perhaps disregard her abilities. I hate to use the word genius so I won't but there is almost something of a savant nature within her. How does one play a piano by ear? How does one teach herself to cook by taste? Also I hate to compare her to Grant Achatz. It makes me shiver to think of Elizabeth and Alinea in the same sentence unless we are contrasting but to compare her to Grant is only to say the passion is clear however different their empires. Elizabeth and Alinea will never be alike. There is not the slightest resemblance even though there may be similar surprises (or not) throughout the dining experience. They only seem to have two things in common: a ticket system and a tasting menu. I've dined at Alinea almost every year since it's opening. I've seen it through Duffy, Pikus, Beran, and now the other fellow. I love Alinea for what it is. I adore Elizabeth for what it is. Together they are water and oil.
This also frustrates me to say but Chef Regan's beginning at Elizabeth reminds me of Chef Grant's beginning at Trio. The interpretations of what happens when something new or different comes to the surface are so exhausting. I believe I recall Trotter referring to Chef Grant's food being "on stilts." Regan's food is "not food," or "from the woods." There seems to be many misconceptions but having dined through the 80s, 90s, and today I have to say this is: All Real Food. It's not a hoax or smoke and mirrors. It's honest, straightforward cooking.
Regardless. What I'm getting at here is this will be a Chef that makes a mark in Chicago if not the United States and perhaps even the world. If she continues to push herself she will not only succeed but she will go very far. All tastings at Elizabeth have been more than worth the ticket cost for me but Ronnie Suburban is right, this is not going to appeal to everyone. This is food for the open minded. I look forward to posting more on this site. Thank you LTH!
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#44
Posted November 21st 2012, 6:56am
Milkmilklemonade01 wrote:The difference with Elizabeth, and why I felt to moved to reply is while not world class yet there is not a doubt in my mind that it won't achieve greatness.

Milkmilklemonade01 wrote:What I'm getting at here is this will be a Chef that makes a mark in Chicago if not the United States and perhaps even the world. If she continues to push herself she will not only succeed but she will go very far.
The two above quotes from your post seem contradictory, care to elaborate.

Looking forward to more of your reviews and interaction on LTH.

Regards,
Gary
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#45
Posted November 21st 2012, 10:30am
G Wiv wrote:
Milkmilklemonade01 wrote:The difference with Elizabeth, and why I felt to moved to reply is while not world class yet there is not a doubt in my mind that it won't achieve greatness.

Milkmilklemonade01 wrote:What I'm getting at here is this will be a Chef that makes a mark in Chicago if not the United States and perhaps even the world. If she continues to push herself she will not only succeed but she will go very far.
The two above quotes from your post seem contradictory, care to elaborate.


I read the first quote 3 times, and I'm fairly certain they meant "will achieve greatness".
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#46
Posted November 21st 2012, 10:46am
Apologies. This restaurant will achieve greatness.
Thank you Gary, I love your book by the way.
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#47
Posted November 27th 2012, 9:32am
I had the Deer menu on October 20th and the Owl menu on October 25th. I'd wanted to wait to write until I'd also tried the Diamond menu, but, as these things happen, it doesn't look like we'll make it back to Elizabeth until the new year so am writing now.

Above reviews are much better than what I could manage, so here were some of the highlights for me:

1) If you are deciding between the Deer and Owl menus, go with the Deer menu. I loved the Owl and will be back for it. That said, the Deer, with its central foraging theme is where Iliana really shines. Her playfulness introducing overlooked, foraged ingredients in new ways is why you dine at Elizabeth.

2) Iliana is the funniest chef working in Chicago. Two examples, one from each menu:

Deer menu: "Crab Apples and Hazelnuts" was crab apples prepared three different ways. Typical Iliana - unusual, foraged ingredient, complex cooking techniques, thoughtful combination of flavors and textures. Also "typical Iliana" is that with the slightest grin and under her breath, as she left the table, she mumbled "and foraged frog legs". Turns out the dish included phenomenally cooked, very delicate, frogs legs. She got a kick out of the surprise, and so did we!

Owl menu: "Cauliflower Mushroom, Cauliflower, Sweetbreads, and Fresh Cheese" - yes, the cauliflower, mushroom and sweetbreads all have the same look. The best part about it is that you can tell she knows it's hilarious and wants to start laughing, but, in her very quiet way, she holds herself together. The woman is a culinary comic genius!!!

3) Unusual ingredients - Like everyone else who lurks around the pages of LTHForum, I love food and don't shy away from unusual ingredients or presentations. I agree with Tyler Cowen, An Economist Gets Lunch, that meals are a finite resource in our lives, that we owe it to ourselves not to waste them and that unusual ingredients don't show up on menus by accident (they signal a chef's passion for a particular dish). Iliana had won me over at One Sister, but she sealed the deal when a boom box was brought to my table at the Deer menu playing the Beatles' Rocky Raccoon and then she presented us with Raccoon Bolognese. When she said that we didn't need to worry about the safety of the meat because the trapper that sourced the raccoon was a trusted friend, I have to admit that it occurred to me that maybe I should be nervous. It wasn't an adventurous dish in terms of flavor or texture, but the musical presentation and its novelty are why I was there. Also, it was delicious.

4) Scott - Unfortunately, since I had the Deer menu on October 20th, Scott, the BRILLIANT sommelier, has left. His enthusiasm for the wine pairings was contagious. When presented with the option, I nearly always get wine pairings. The pairings I had at Elizabeth were the best wine pairings I've had and Scott was a gracious sommelier. His presence is missed.

5) Table shift - This should be up in the "Why the Deer menu" category, but a fun part of the Deer menu was that about 2/3 of the way through, they moved us from our original table to the recently-vacated Owl table. I love stuff like that.

6) Collaborations and service - I love the way Philip Foss has each course presented by the chef who developed it and the way Michael Carlson has the whole team work service. At Elizabeth, Iliana presents most of the courses, but over the meal, you do get to meet much of the rest of her team. No big deal is made about who did what, but it's fun for me as a diner to see how the different chefs explain the various dishes differently. Service is also relaxed and attentive. This isn't Next where John would bring over an iPad with a picture of the raccoon shortly before it was trapped and be able to tell you what it had eaten for breakfast, but the Elizabeth servers are quick to check with Iliana when they don't have an answer (and she most certainly knows whatever it might be that you're looking for).

Go!!! Elizabeth is an incredible dining experience and not to be missed!
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#48
Posted November 27th 2012, 9:44am
Nice review, glad you enjoyed your meals at Elizabeth. It really is a fun, unique venue.
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#49
Posted December 8th 2012, 10:56pm
5) Table shift - This should be up in the "Why the Deer menu" category, but a fun part of the Deer menu was that about 2/3 of the way through, they moved us from our original table to the recently-vacated Owl table. I love stuff like that.


Hello. Could you please elaborate on why you liked this? We had a similar experience with the Deer Menu in November and I found the move awkward and somewhat disruptive to what had developed into a nice conversation amongst strangers. I'd like to be open-minded and positive, so I am curious about your take on it. The only explanation we received was "It is easier for the staff", seemingly because it is a table-length plus a foot closer to the kitchen.

This was one of a handful of service decisions that led to my overall disappointment in Elizabeth. (Others included not contacting us prior to our reservation, despite the website saying they would, and intentionally not offering pairings with some of the courses, including an almost inedibly fishy bite of roe.) It turns out we were there within days of Scott's departure, so perhaps they were thrown off kilter for a bit, and have since adjusted and improved; I hope so. Most of the food was good, and some was great, I just did not feel like the overall experience was on par with (not that many) other $700+ meals we've had.
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#50
Posted December 13th 2012, 8:46am
Nice review out today by Phil Vettel: http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/ ... 221.column
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#51
Posted January 2nd 2013, 2:54pm
Winter menu begins January 11th. Tickets are open for Jan 11th-Feburary 17th. The menus are full of local, foraged, preserved, new and old fashioned techinques, fun, and style. Owl menu is mostly sold out but don't be afraid to call to request the two top table. Thanks LTHers for your partonage. I love this site for its feedback and any kinks we or you may have experienced have certainly been addressed to the best of our ability. I've found all these conversations most helpful. Keep up the great dining and can't wait to see you all in 2013. Except for maybe the few haters :wink: :shock: :(
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#53
Posted January 14th 2013, 7:54pm


What is with reviews that seem to be written after one visit to a restaurant? Don't even understand. I guess a symptom of how money crunched media is these days?

Either way, I also have had some memorable communal table companions, at Elizabeth and elsewhere.
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#54
Posted January 14th 2013, 9:11pm
mgmcewen wrote:


What is with reviews that seem to be written after one visit to a restaurant? Don't even understand. I guess a symptom of how money crunched media is these days?


This is not a discussion for this thread, really, but why is it that everyone assumes that if a review is negative there was only one visit? (And I don't really read this as such a negative review)
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#55
Posted January 14th 2013, 9:33pm
This is not a negative review at all! He wastes a lot of time talking about his lame table mates (maybe they're talking about him, too, since he concedes his own lapses into lameness as well), but all the stuff about Iliana and her food is about as positive a take on any chef or cook I've read in recent memory. Even when he notes a bum dish or something he didn't like, he contextualizes it as a step in an already brilliant chef's ascent on the way to something even more brilliant. It's one of the first reviews I've read of Elizabeth, I think, that serves as a pretty accurate portrait of just what's going on in that space, for better or for worse but almost always, when you're talking about the food, in service of something ambitious and inspired.

Regarding single visits, my guess is the price but more pertinently the ticket system makes multiple visits pretty tough.
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#56
Posted January 14th 2013, 10:04pm
I too read the review as mainly positive (with most of the negative comments involving the reviewer disliking his tablemates, not the restaurant or the food). I think it is prudent for a professional reviewer to dine multiple times at a venue before writing a review; different story for amateurs - but since a professional review tends to carry a lot more weight IMHO at least two (and preferably three) visits is warranted as there can always be an off night (or on the other hand an unusually good night). I do not think the ticket system is an excuse with Elizabeth; while certain days sell out and the Owl menu often sells out, with just a little advance planning purchasing tickets is not difficult... yet. I think Elizabeth is such a great venue that with time tickets may become scarce, but for now the pricing may be a tad too aggressive for the longer tasting menus. While the food and experience is no doubt worth it, it is expensive enough that the potential number of diners who can afford such a meal is much smaller than for the Owl menu so until Elizabeth develops the respect of top tier restaurants it may be hard to consistently sell out the more expensive menus. With time I am sure Elizabeth will earn that respect as the potential for Elizabeth to become one of Chicago's top ten venues is certainly there (and it is already one of my ten favorites).
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#57
Posted January 14th 2013, 10:22pm
When publications review Alinea or Next, I don't think they are necessarily dining there multiple times.

That being said, the review is a narrative. You can change insignificant details in honor of the story. He could easily be combining multiple visits into "one" for the narrative.
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#58
Posted January 15th 2013, 8:26am
Vitesse98 wrote:This is not a negative review at all! He wastes a lot of time talking about his lame table mates (maybe they're talking about him, too, since he concedes his own lapses into lameness as well), but all the stuff about Iliana and her food is about as positive a take on any chef or cook I've read in recent memory. Even when he notes a bum dish or something he didn't like, he contextualizes it as a step in an already brilliant chef's ascent on the way to something even more brilliant. It's one of the first reviews I've read of Elizabeth, I think, that serves as a pretty accurate portrait of just what's going on in that space, for better or for worse but almost always, when you're talking about the food, in service of something ambitious and inspired.

Regarding single visits, my guess is the price but more pertinently the ticket system makes multiple visits pretty tough.



I agree. I do not think this is something analogous to Next. I mentioned the reviewers visiting only one time, which I object to whether the review is negative or positive, because that was the case with the Time Out review as well. Considering Iliana's trio-menu concept, which is part of what makes the restaurant distinctive, and the fact that it is not very hard to get tickets, I don't think this is ideal in a review. It also really doesn't talk about the food that much. Honestly, LTHForum can probably give a more food-focused view and there are several LTHForum members who have bothered to eat all three menus.
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#59
Posted January 15th 2013, 8:36am

What a fun read. I liked it.

I think he presents a pretty cool look into Elizabeth (and he is very complimentary of the chef) and also a pretty honest send-up of the "foodie"-nonsense on full display in so many places.
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#60
Posted January 15th 2013, 11:23am
jfibro wrote:I read the first quote 3 times, and I'm fairly certain they meant "will achieve greatness".

I'm pretty sure I'm not uncertain that this wasn't an unintended denial of an unworthy expectation that it would not underwhelm in the future.

Sorry. I know it's two months old, but I couldn't resist.
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