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Vie - Blackbird lite? Even Better! [edited]

Vie - Blackbird lite? Even Better! [edited]
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  • Vie - Blackbird lite? Even Better! [edited]

    Post #1 - June 14th, 2005, 9:52 pm
    Post #1 - June 14th, 2005, 9:52 pm Post #1 - June 14th, 2005, 9:52 pm
    Took the family to dinner at Vie tonight, and it was a rousing hit. Tuesday night in suburbia and the place was full - see what being named a best new place, or whatever, by Chicago Mag can do?

    But let's start at the beginning. I went there knowing that Paul Virant had come from Blackbird, so I was watching for similarities, I admit. Kahan does a lot of things well, so I had hopes for Vie.

    First, the space: concrete floor, white particle board walls with art on them, exposed steel and conduit for a ceiling. A sort of an art gallery look, with pretty basic tables and steel chairs, or a less expensive version of the Blackbird look. All the exposed hard surfaces and the full room even gave it a bit of the noise.

    But it was all delivered with simple suburban friendliness from the staff, not urban cool. Different there.

    Decent wine list, too. Started with a glass of white Rioja, while the bride had some cava. Then I went to a pleasant Babich SB, quite fruity, finishing with a nice Moscato d'Asti.

    I honed in on the joke dish - bacon and eggs appetizer: "crispy braised fresh bacon, ...poached egg, creamy grits, vella jack cheese." Homage to Kahan, indeed - 2 chunks of braised, crisped pork belly with a lovely egg on top, sitting in a small puddle of creamy, cheesy, savory grits. A wonderful dish. It would have been slightly better if the yolk was runny, maybe, but it was a very good start.

    The bride had a tasty cream of asparagus soup. More asparagus than cream and butter on my palate. Son had the parisienne gnocchi with onions, peas, ham, radishes. Smokiness dominated this, and I was not overly fond of my bite, tho he said each gnocchi had a different set of flavors, and was quite happy. Daughter went with the lettuce, fruit nut and cheese salad, and deemed it very good as well.

    The bread was a buttery white with a chewy crust. Hardly needed butter, but they had found some sweet butter to go with it. Best bread service I have had in about a year, since a meal in Maine last summer.

    The main courses were a tiny step down in general, tho I can only speak for myself not having really sampled anyone else's. My soft shell crabs with a crispy rice cake, spicy fennel and cabbage slaw (kim chee with fennel, a touch of vinegar,and a very short fermentation period), cilantro pistou and aoli was beautiful and a real explosion of flavor. And it worked together pretty well, but the delicate sea flavor of the crab was lost.

    Daughter deemed her swiss chard, ricotta and pine nut raviolis a bit blah, tho the green garlic and roast tomato sauce got high marks. Son inhaled his herb-crusted halibut with sweet pea puree and brown butter, with a mound of mashed morels. I did taste one of the accompanying baby carrots with a touch of the peas and brown butter, and it was quite good. I suspect this was the best entree. Okay, the bride's grilled salmon with bacon, and gribiche vinaigrette looked pretty good, too.

    Desserts were good, but not great.

    The impression I came away with was Blackbird meets Provence. The seasoning was not quite traditional Provence, but the end effect was similar: aggressive seasoning, lots of great fresh vegies (usually forming the base of the sauces), and excellent seafood preparations, though usually with some bacon or pork belly for seasoning, plus grilled over wood to get that smoky flavor. Similar to Blackbird, though I think Paul Kahan favors Northern Italy, not Southern France and does not rely so much on wood grilling.

    And the whole thing cost $50 pp, before tip. Now I need to go back to Bistro Banlieue soon to figure out which place is best right now for creative and semi-haute cuisine in the Western Burbs. I can't think of any other serious contenders, though I will admit that the continued flow of good press about Courtrights has me wondering.

    Vie
    4471 Lawn Ave.
    Western Springs, IL 60558
    708-246-2082
    Last edited by dicksond on May 2nd, 2006, 5:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #2 - June 15th, 2005, 12:12 am
    Post #2 - June 15th, 2005, 12:12 am Post #2 - June 15th, 2005, 12:12 am
    Thanks for posting this, dickson. I've been somewhat surprised not to hear about Vie from you until now. I had the pleasure of digging ramps with Paul Virant and his staff, and ran to him again at Gourmet magazine's big event here last month (about which I haven't yet gotten around to posting).

    Both these experiences led me to believe it was a place well worth trying, with a chef and cooks who seemed to care about the things I cared about (food-wise) and put there actions behind it. Of course, it's not so convenient for me to get out to Western Springs to test my assumptions. I can say that the panna cotta served by at the Gourmet event was wonderful. And also that of all the ramp recipes I discussed with various food folks while picking, the Vie recipe sounded the best (smoked trout and some sort of ramp soup, I believe).

    Cheers,

    Aaron
  • Post #3 - June 15th, 2005, 9:01 am
    Post #3 - June 15th, 2005, 9:01 am Post #3 - June 15th, 2005, 9:01 am
    It is right on the rail line, and only a few miles south of the Wolf Road exit from the Ike. Happy to meet you there any time, AD. Might even owe you a dinner :), my friend.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #4 - November 2nd, 2005, 9:53 am
    Post #4 - November 2nd, 2005, 9:53 am Post #4 - November 2nd, 2005, 9:53 am
    Has anyone been to Vie Restaurant in Western Springs? I have heard great things about it and am wondering more about what the Chef Virant is all about? Any help, comments, suggestions...
    "I never let my schooling interfere with my education" Mark Twain
  • Post #5 - November 2nd, 2005, 10:28 am
    Post #5 - November 2nd, 2005, 10:28 am Post #5 - November 2nd, 2005, 10:28 am
    Hi,

    There are comments here and here.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #6 - November 23rd, 2005, 9:03 pm
    Post #6 - November 23rd, 2005, 9:03 pm Post #6 - November 23rd, 2005, 9:03 pm
    I had the pleasure of dining at Vie for the first time last night.

    For me, Chef Virant's cooking most vividly calls to mind that of Chef Paul Kahan at Chicago's Blackbird and Chef Odessa Piper at Madison's L'Etoile Restaurant. Like that of Chefs Kahan and Piper, this is tightly focused, produce-driven cuisine with particular emphasis on Midwest regional foodstuffs and foodways.* However, Chef Virant's cuisine would seem quite unique in that it is structured to include an abundance of house-canned vegetables, fruits, pickles, preserves, mustards, chutneys, etc.**

    With holiday related business I am short on time and cannot spare the details of our meal, but I would just say that two of last night's selections now vie (pun intended) for placement on my "top ten dishes of 2005" list.

    Two cocktails
    Three apps
    Two glasses of wine
    Two mains
    Two desserts
    Two cups of coffee
    _________

    $154 before tip, and worth every penny.


    If you have not been, go.

    Just go.

    I'll race you there.

    E.M.

    * Late season lettuce, braising greens, cruciferous vegetables, bushberries, as well as meats/poultry like rabbit, lamb, venison, and quail were on the menu last night.

    * Last night's menu included (amongst other things) dilled green beans, pickled apples, pickled leeks, and house-cured cherries. After dinner we were given a tour of the kitchen and the larder, the latter of which contained rows and rows of (filled) canning jars, decanting vessels, etc. If it were not for the sterile coolness of the room, I would swear that I was in my grandmother's farmhouse cellar. ;)
  • Post #7 - November 24th, 2005, 7:06 am
    Post #7 - November 24th, 2005, 7:06 am Post #7 - November 24th, 2005, 7:06 am
    I wil be taking the team to Vie for dinner in the next few weeks, and I will be sure to post a report. Chef Virant is a great guy, and every time I have had the pleasure to try his cuisine, I always walk away amazed at how simple and delicious it is!
  • Post #8 - November 28th, 2005, 11:22 pm
    Post #8 - November 28th, 2005, 11:22 pm Post #8 - November 28th, 2005, 11:22 pm
    Was at Vie the other night...Sampled every appetizer on the menu and let me tell you, they were a hell of a lot better than what I had at Del Toro last week for sure. Myself and two friends shared all appetizers and were definitely full by nights end. First we started with the Foie Gras (composed of seared foie, warm soft gingerbread cake, blood orange marmalade, and candied ginger vinaigrette) perfectly cooked and very bright flavors, next up was the merguez sausage (middle eastern lamb housemade sausage, with local arugula, spanish olives, and crispy panisse - some kind of chickpea puree then pan fried GREAT) overall probably the best sausage I have ever eaten, next we had local butternut squash soup with creme fraiche and spice bread croutons - the croutons were amazing and I would die to get the recipe, next up was the quail - wood grilled quail with huckleberries wild rice and grilled onions (this was the only dissapointing dish in the whole scheme of things, quail was undercooked but otherwise very interesting concept), next we had the gnocchi - I don't know how they do it but every gnocchi seemed to melt in my mouth I'm not sure if the Italians are doing it wrong but they could certainly ask Chef Virant about how to do it right (served with chestnuts, brown butter, ricotta, and local honey), next we had the Rabbit Ravioli - very interesting ideas here with braised rabbit as the filling, "melted sunchokes as the base, sauce finished w/ truffle butter and celery root brunoise for garnish (I will probably compare most meat filled raviolis to these from now on and they will probably fall short), next up we had the walleyed pike with creamed leeks, bacon and potato vinaigrette :lol: , and fried onions - fish was perfectly cooked and all flavors remind me of comfort food (overall a really good dish), next we had the pan seared sea scallops with almond cauliflower puree, cauliflower vinaigrette and candied almonds, once again we found the scallops to be perfectly cooked and the puree contrasted beautifully with the vinaigrette, that pretty much sums up the offerings besides two salads that we did not try (Duck Confit Salad, Local Market Salad) and I have to say that I will be returning to this place to have a more traditional dinner. Chef Virant is all about seasonality and locality and I believe the latter is helping define his restaurant apart from Blackbird...The kitchen here is really starting to hit it's stride and competes with most restaurants downtown as far as the food is concerned. Your missing great food if you don't get out to this place...

    www.vierestaurant.com (will only find sample menu here)
    "I never let my schooling interfere with my education" Mark Twain
  • Post #9 - November 29th, 2005, 10:16 am
    Post #9 - November 29th, 2005, 10:16 am Post #9 - November 29th, 2005, 10:16 am
    quesabes wrote:[N]ext up was the quail - wood grilled quail with huckleberries wild rice and grilled onions (this was the only dissapointing dish in the whole scheme of things, quail was undercooked but otherwise very interesting concept)[...]


    This, for me, was one of the standouts in our meal.* Yes, the quail was a bit pink at the bone and, to my mind, just perfect.

    quesabes wrote:[N]ext we had the Rabbit Ravioli - very interesting ideas here with braised rabbit as the filling, "melted sunchokes as the base, sauce finished w/ truffle butter and celery root brunoise for garnish (I will probably compare most meat filled raviolis to these from now on and they will probably fall short)[...]


    I thoroughly enjoyed this dish as well, and I generally loathe sunchokes, or "Jerusalem artichokes," as they are often called in gardening circles.

    E.M.

    * For me, the other standout in our meal was the Venison Loin with Preserved Cherries.
  • Post #10 - November 29th, 2005, 10:55 pm
    Post #10 - November 29th, 2005, 10:55 pm Post #10 - November 29th, 2005, 10:55 pm
    thanks for all the feedbeck on vie. i grew up in western springs and my parents still live there. they recently used a gift certificate that i gave them as a gift for there. they were content to find such a nice restaurant outside of the city. great idea to go for an appetizer meal to get a feeling for all the flavors, and so fun!


    kitty
  • Post #11 - February 15th, 2006, 10:49 pm
    Post #11 - February 15th, 2006, 10:49 pm Post #11 - February 15th, 2006, 10:49 pm
    Paul Virant and Vie are going to the James Beard House in New York next week sometime...Good to have the Chicago suburbs represented on such a grand scale. Congrats Chef Virant...
  • Post #12 - May 2nd, 2006, 5:45 am
    Post #12 - May 2nd, 2006, 5:45 am Post #12 - May 2nd, 2006, 5:45 am
    What a difference a year makes!

    In our ongoing efforts to sample the better dining establishments of the western burbs, the Bride & I wanted to try Les Deux Autres, but at noon on Good Friday they were not answering the phone. In fear that I might not get a table (when they called back at 3 or so, it turned out to be very much not the case, but the die was cast), I called Vie, who answered, so we "settled" for a revisit, a year later.

    It was a beautiful night to dine out in Western Springs - warm, and green. The Bride and I resided nearby back in the 80's, and she worked across the street, so we took advantage of the evening to wander about, seeing how things had changed (quite a bit) and stayed the same (a lot, too). The sense I got was of a town that had made an effort to look as if it has not changed in 50 years, while if you scratch the surface almost everything has changed. I suppose that is a definition of suburbia in many ways, but I am sure you are not here for my socioeconomic meanderings.

    Still, this all applies to Vie, as well. Superficially, when entering, the room is pretty much the same. But rather than looking like a set, thrown together for a play - more than a bit unfinished and raw - it has come together. Added dividers, new pictures, the room flows and feels better. And the service which had been of the friendly and amateur style, is now friendly and smooth. Professional, not amateur, but without any of the hipster style or haughty attitude one might get elsewhere. Refreshingly unpretentious, perhaps. (This part does not quite fit with my memories of the staid burghers of Western Springs, but I imagine that inside their impeccable, pretentiously unpretentious houses, they have relaxed, too).

    So I was in a great mood, hungry, looking forward to a meal, and feeling very welcome. And the food delivered everything I could want on a beautiful spring evening.

    A year ago, Virant seemed to be exploring, touching on his and Kahan's work at Blackbird, and seeing where it would lead - hence the original title of this thread. I had read the subsequent posts and noted the work with various ingredients, the canned and preserved produce, and seen how Virant's unique approach was being defined and refined. Here is how this has proceeded.

    In honor of the season, I started with the white asparagus - what could speak more of Spring? Fat little fingers, poached to tenderness, then finished with a cripsy crust of breadcrumbs under the broiler, a sprinkling of (house-cured) pancetta, sitting in a dollop of mornay sauce. Just exquisite.

    At the recommendation of our lovely server, I ordered the halibut next - poached in olive oil, with snails, garlic, mushroom, sunchokes, walnuts and parsley. Perfectly cooked fish in a hearty style that paired wonderfully with the older Chardonnay we had brought (and that was the server's challenge from me - give me a match for my wine, as I shared a sip with her). Earthy and light, robust and refreshing, it was a dish of contrasts that came together perfectly with the deft touch of the chef.

    The bride started with a cream of sunchoke soup, finished with truffle oil and lemon. (Yes, there does seem to be an obsession with sunchokes, but the attention is more than justified by the results). Creamy and refreshing, rich and earthy again, but not heavy. Then she had the brined, wood-grilled pork with the house preserves on display - choucroute, and pickles in this instance. Very good, even great choucroute.

    We finished with strawberries and cream over ice cream, since it was springtime.

    Good Friday is not such a busy night, so we were able to visit at some length both with the server, and chef Paul. Being reassured that the evening was an anomaly-business is otherwise quite good-we asked about the stafff (pretty much the same as a year ago, just better trained and more experienced now), the approach and business and more.

    Perhaps it was the beautiful evening, the leisurely, friendly and attentive service, but I think it was the food - more Alice Waters now than Paul Kahan, more about lovingly prepared produce than delectable riffs on pork. More French in style than Italian. That night, it approached perfection.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #13 - May 2nd, 2006, 3:16 pm
    Post #13 - May 2nd, 2006, 3:16 pm Post #13 - May 2nd, 2006, 3:16 pm
    Just a little side note about Vie -
    I grew up in Western Springs and returned to live with my parents after college two summers ago. While I was in between jobs I worked at Vie. I loved working there, although I soon realized I was not up to par with the other servers. It was a joy to work with Paul and the rest of the team during my short time there. I'm happy to have been a part of it.
  • Post #14 - June 13th, 2006, 10:34 pm
    Post #14 - June 13th, 2006, 10:34 pm Post #14 - June 13th, 2006, 10:34 pm
    Bump!

    Dinner tonight at Vie was wozzerific. :D

    I'll post details tomorrow, but I got the feeling that this will soon be my favorite area restaurant. In fact, I'm toying with the idea of only eating out at three places: Johnnies, Gene and Judes and Vie (it's a budgetary thing.)

    Rob
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #15 - June 14th, 2006, 8:49 am
    Post #15 - June 14th, 2006, 8:49 am Post #15 - June 14th, 2006, 8:49 am
    I've liked Vie more for its concept. I enjoyed more thoroughly an extended kitchen tour than what I ate. Until last night.

    There was no bad dish. Of course, Mr. Eat Local, I'm gonna swoon over a menu studded with Green Acres, Kinnikinnick, City Farms, Nichols, morels, ramps, walleye pike. You eat best when you eat local. Still, ingredients only get you so far, and last night the dishes were superior in technique and creativity.

    Walleye pike cooked just right--lake fish cannot get the rare treatment but this was taken off the grill just at the right time, just suburb timing; a tartare of beets and tuna, clever in the beets and tuna were about the exact same color, bound in a horseradish vinnegrette; a smoked chicken with pickled vegegabales and tuscan kale; the same lamb as last time, but yea last time was an abberation; ice cream to die for and a gooey-butter cake with a bit of sauterne to finish. A nice Virginia Cabernet Franc lubricated the rest of the meal.

    As I said, the execution of the dishes was totally exact. You could not have grabbed the nuggets of walleye any sooner, nor any later (really worth saying twice). Hushpuppies along side were crisp and greaseless. Of all the dishes, the best was the chicken, one were Virand put his noggin a bit more into the dish. It was smoked and grilled chicken, but the leg meat was treated almost as confit soft inside with a cracklin' skin crust. The breast meat was sliced very thin, on the bias for maximum surface, and intertwined with pickled snow peas (a Vie schtick is to use a lot of pickles) and a spicy vinnegrette. Flavors were just coming from every direction. It also went well with the cab franc, which kinda suspended the smoke in its weight.

    OK, I lie, maybe there was something better than the chicken. Vie makes outstanding ice cream. If you make strawberry ice cream from tiny hierloom strawberries, maybe you too could have ice cream this good. The ice cream was also heavy and dense, against the prevailing trend of semi-soft ice creams.

    The other thing about Vie, the whole staff know they are in a special place. They know they are doing something different and special. Other Chicago area restaurants talk about artisinal and sustainable and local but only Vie is really delivering. So, I think that sense of being part of something special rubs off. Even the busboys seemed to be proud of their service. All around, you are treated very well.

    If you come to Chicago for the avante garde, you should at least also take a look at the flip.

    Rob
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #16 - June 14th, 2006, 11:11 am
    Post #16 - June 14th, 2006, 11:11 am Post #16 - June 14th, 2006, 11:11 am
    VI,

    When you and I went, I thought dinner was fine, but I was not as blown away as I thought I'd be (I liked my quail, which was very good but fell short of superb). I've recommended Vie to friends in the area, because I think it provides a special experience, and I also believe it is going to get better. It is very possible, don't you think, that a place like Vie improves during growing season, when there's more coming up?

    I can't believe you dropped another $14 for a glass of that cab franc!

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #17 - June 14th, 2006, 2:14 pm
    Post #17 - June 14th, 2006, 2:14 pm Post #17 - June 14th, 2006, 2:14 pm
    David Hammond wrote:VI,

    When you and I went, I thought dinner was fine, but I was not as blown away as I thought I'd be (I liked my quail, which was very good but fell short of superb). I've recommended Vie to friends in the area, because I think it provides a special experience, and I also believe it is going to get better. It is very possible, don't you think, that a place like Vie improves during growing season, when there's more coming up?

    I can't believe you dropped another $14 for a glass of that cab franc!

    Hammond


    The main thing was, the cooking was just top to bottom better yesterday. I thought maybe it was Paul in the kitchen, but then I learned it was David again (Chef V taking the night off it seems). So, I'd lean towards we just hit a bad night, maybe they were spending too much time that day pickling ramps and not enough time cooking dinner 8)
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #18 - July 1st, 2006, 9:55 pm
    Post #18 - July 1st, 2006, 9:55 pm Post #18 - July 1st, 2006, 9:55 pm
    Beth and I made it out to Vie thursday evening and had a lovely experience. I had the quail+chevre+guanciale app and lamb rack/lamb sausage/polenta combo. Both were very good, especially the quail and rack of lamb. The sausage was a bit coarse for my tastes, which is not to say I didn't finish it happily. The quail was perfectly cooked and seasoned.

    Beth had fava and green garlic fritters with grilled asparagus/pickled egg/curry vinaigrette and porcini pasta with grilled porcini. She says she could have done without the egg. I thought her fritters were superb, and actually regretted my choice to some extent. She preferred my quail.

    She felt the porcini/porcini combo on the pasta was a bit too much mushroom. She would have rather had a good fresh regular fettucine instead of porcini fettucine.

    Desserts were raspberry clafouti with caramel ice cream and raspberry jam (mine) and a chocolate ganache tart with peanut butter ice cream (hers). To my taste, mine was way better. The raspberries were full of flavor and the clafouti wasn't too sweet. That said, the raspberry jam and caramel sauce were too sweet (to me) and overwhelmed the clafouti at points.

    Hers was far too sweet and rich for me... I'm not a big fan of the ultra-sweet desserts. But she liked it a lot. With regards to both ice creams, we felt the ice cream we make at home had a superior texture and flavor.

    It's a lovely space and the service was quite good. Chef Virant came out after our entrees to find out how things were, what desserts we were planning on, that type of thing. It was nice to see him making the rounds, and good to know he was in the house.

    With one beer (Piraat, a belgian triple IPA, really nice) it came to about $130 after tax/tip. Beth likes avec more -- more things to try and better people-watching -- but they aren't really comparable. I think it's a really wonderful restaurant, and I'd love to go back.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #19 - July 1st, 2006, 11:42 pm
    Post #19 - July 1st, 2006, 11:42 pm Post #19 - July 1st, 2006, 11:42 pm
    Vie is one of my absolute favorite restaurants. When a friend and I went on a Tuesday night, we were able to get a prix fixe meal including wine pairing for $45 each. What a bargain! We each added a salad which sent the price up a bit, but also nearly sent us over the too full edge as well. I believe that Paul Virant just plain knows vegetables as his dishes seem bright and fresh to me....definitely top 3 and in the burbs too.
  • Post #20 - July 2nd, 2006, 9:25 am
    Post #20 - July 2nd, 2006, 9:25 am Post #20 - July 2nd, 2006, 9:25 am
    I originally posted this over at eG but since I loved Vie so much, I thought I'd post it here as well . . .

    I must first apologize to the good folks of Western Springs because I’m about to further expose their biggest secret, their hidden gem. Of course, Vie is no real secret and chef/owner Paul Virant gets as much ink as just about any chef in the city of Chicago. The fact that the former Blackbird chef and Paul Kahan protégé is turning out inspired, craftsman-like cuisine from a kitchen 20 miles west of downtown, says a lot about his abilities. Chefs, of course, live in the suburbs, so why shouldn’t there be great restaurants in the suburbs? The folks at Prairie Grass Café, Carlos, Le Francais wouldn’t argue that great food cannot be found outside Chicago’s city limits. The fact is, Vie's success and reputation are not examples of geographical culinary relativism. Vie would be sensation in any venue.

    When our companion made our reservation, he mentioned to the person at the other end that we were coming in search of great food and that we were also doing our best to scout suburban foie gras preparations in advance of the City of Chicago’s upcoming ban. Of course, when you speak to a true professional, such conversations get converted into action. Our friend didn’t know at the time to whom he was speaking, but when our waiter arrived at our table with 4 foie gras appetizers -- which were not even offered on the menu -- it was instantly clear that the reservation conversation had been put to good use. It turns out that he had spoken with Vie's manager, the impeccably professional Gene Pellegrene.

    As much a highlight as the succulent and rich foie gras and crepe dish was, the meal just kept getting better from there. Vie's menu, at least on the night we were there, seemed too good to be true. It was actually hard to decide what exactly to order because so many of the offerings were so tempting. Because of this -- and the fact that we didn't know the foie was coming -- we decided to order first courses, salads, entrees and desserts. At each turn, the food seemed to best the previous course.

    For my appetizer, I ordered the Crispy Veal Sweetbreads with red beet jam, wood-grilled spring onions, arugula and a red wine vinaigrette. The sweetbreads were indeed crispy on the outisde -- perfectly so -- and delightfully tender on the interior. The accoutrements worked in perfect unison with them to create a truly memorable plate. I can't recall ever having a better order of sweetbreads. These trumped even the great ones -- served with pork belly -- I had at Custom House a few weeks back. To me, this dish said "Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts!"

    Vie is focused more on leveraging seasonality than just about any restaurant at which I've eaten in a long time. I passed on a few excellent-sounding appetizers but was delighted to try bites of them when they were served to my companions. The Ricotta and Herb Gnocchi with morels and sugar snap peas were simply out of this world; tender perfectly dense and delivering a focused richness to the palate. My wife ordered the Gratin of Morels and Ramps and it was even more delicious. What a pleasure it was to experience such fleeting ingredients incorporated into such delectable and seemingly simple preparations.

    My salad was a real treat: locally-grown, Nichols Farm Asparagus with fresh dill, thick shallot vinaigrette and parmesan crisp. This was a huge portion of tender spring asparagus in a sweet-tart-savory dressing that was just perfect with the generous accents of fresh dill. I loved this salad. And it was another seemingly simple preparation that clearly wasn't as simple as it looked. I've made hundreds of vinaigrettes in my time and not one of them was ever close to as good as this one.

    I also got a chance to share the salad of Mixed Local Greens which was stunningly fresh and tasty. These greens had been treated with great care, the Strawberry Vinaigrette was another winner and the Pinot Noir and Spice Poached Strawberries which accompanied it were like delicious little gifts. I loved this salad as well as a 3rd salad on the menu, ordered by my wife. It consisted of crisp Organic Romaine, fresh hearts of palm, anchovy dressing and parmigiano reggiano served with a piping hot piece fried bread. Really, it was hard to determine which salad was my favorite. They were all sensational. Of course, while we ate the salads, we were bombarded with the pungent and unmistakably intoxicating aroma of truffle. This is because the 4th person in our group ordered the Cream of Henrys Farm Sunchoke Soup, which also featured truffle oil, and lemon. The soup was spectacular too. Wow! With the early courses, we enjoyed a great bottle of Chardonnay; a Littorai 2003 - Charles Heintz.

    Entrees were compelling and completely over the top. Again, it was hard to decide exactly what to order. The choices -- trout, sturgeon, guinea hen, veal, lamb and hanger steak -- to name but a few, all sounded great. I decided on the wood-grilled Hanger Steak which turned out to be a fantastic choice. Needless to say, it was cooked perfectly to medium rare, sliced into medallions and served with harissa, grilled Wisconsin ramps, roasted garlic puree and fried spiced chick peas. Wow! It was such a cool dish and such an atypical preparation. I loved the chick peas and ramps and thought the sauce that formed on the plate -- harissa and beef juices -- was magnificent. Who needs potatoes and creamed spinach with their steak? This rendition of Hanger Steak actually tasted and felt completely Spring-like. It was a real eye opener for me. My wife ended up with Guinea Hen (pan roasted breast, braised leg and thigh) which was, also, startlingly delicious. It was served with some braised spring onions, sugar snap peas and organic baby carrots. All the components worked well together here but the hen was the star. It was so delectable. A few bites had me thinking that it was as good or better than duck leg confit. There is skillful cooking and there is mastery. This hen had been mastered. Unquestionably so.

    With our entrees we had a tremendous bottle of Domaine Mongeard Mugneret "Les Petits Monts" Vosne romanée premier cru. I'm sorry I cannot remember the vintage. But this was a great wine, and at least for me and my Hanger Steak, a perfect fit as well.

    Desserts, which are usually an afterthought for me, again had me scratching my head with delightful indecision. I opted for the Vie Split, a hand-crafted, house version of the classic Banana Split, featuring house-made ice creams (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry), sauteed bananas and caramelized peanuts. It was fantastic. But, even better was the Warm Gooey Butter Cake which was served with Lavender White Chocolate Ice Cream, Madeleines and White Chocolate Crunch. This was one of the best desserts I've ever had and certainly the best one I've eaten this year. The cake was warm, and gooey but with a perfectly light crunch on its exterior which was simply irresistable. I was totally full and could not stop myself from eating it. And again, I'm usually not even into sweets. With the desserts, the 4 of us shared a small bottle of light and refreshing Moscato d'Asti, which capped the evening pefectly.

    I really should add that our waiter, Thierry, was a total pro. His service was impressively thorough but never overbearing. He patrolled the room like the seasoned veteran that he was -- never out of reach -- but never on top of us either. I can't remember once looking up and not seeing him somewhere near us. We never lacked anything, never waited for him to reappear, never didn't have what we needed or wanted in front of us. Professionalism like this, I believe, is becoming harder and harder to find in the restaurant world. I tip my cap to Thierry, who worked hard to keep us happy yet made it look absolutely effortless.

    The kicker (and a great thing) about Vie is that it really wasn't nearly as far away as I thought it would be. The drive from our house in the northern burbs to the restaurant's door took only about 30 minutes. In many instances, that's a lot less time than it takes to get downtown from here. I realize that going north to south is much easier in this town than going east to west. But still, even if it took you an hour both ways to go to and from Vie, it would be time well-invested. There are so many "hot" places in city that are nothing but PR and sameness. But Vie is a restaurant that, while clearly off the beaten path, deserves to be considered a destination restaurant. There are big-time chefs in our fair City who couldn't hold chef Virant's sautee pan. If you haven't been to Vie, you're really missing out. I personally cannot wait to return there.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #21 - July 2nd, 2006, 10:55 am
    Post #21 - July 2nd, 2006, 10:55 am Post #21 - July 2nd, 2006, 10:55 am
    We had Thierry as well, and he really is everything you say. I suspect all of the staff there is just as good, but it was really exemplary service.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #22 - April 3rd, 2007, 6:10 pm
    Post #22 - April 3rd, 2007, 6:10 pm Post #22 - April 3rd, 2007, 6:10 pm
    As a huge fan and unending supporter of Vie, I was thrilled to learn (via this week's installment of Dish), that Chef Paul Virant will be named one of Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs of 2007.

    As for Virant’s reaction: “It’s probably one of the greatest things that’s happened to me in my life,” he said, but no way is it going to his head. How do you know? “Because my wife’s right here, and she wouldn’t allow it, for sure.”

    Way to go, Chef Virant!

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #23 - April 4th, 2007, 10:31 am
    Post #23 - April 4th, 2007, 10:31 am Post #23 - April 4th, 2007, 10:31 am
    I too am thrilled by the well-deserved recognition.

    Fortunately, I already have made reservations for a dinner next week, specifically the Spanish Wine Dinner, so I should be able to make a report next week.

    Don't want to gush too much, so I avoid posting every time I go, but I do enjoy Vie and find every excuse to go back. The funny thing is that it takes me about as long to get there from Naperville (30 minutes) as it does to get there from most other parts of the city. I know this because I used to live 5 minutes from where Vie is (before Vie was there, sadly) and I could get to most parts of the city and suburbs in 30 minutes or so because it is very convenient to the Tri-State, and only slightly less convenient to I55 and the Ike.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #24 - April 8th, 2007, 11:40 am
    Post #24 - April 8th, 2007, 11:40 am Post #24 - April 8th, 2007, 11:40 am
    Chef Paul Virant's recent national accolades have spurred me into finally writing up the meal that Cookie and I enjoyed at Vie two months ago. Neither of us had ever been to Vie before, although I had read a lot about. I entered the evening with very high expectations, which can often be a harbinger of disappointment.

    Vie's goals of locally sourced, seasonal, artisanal ingredients have become trendy goals. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a chef behind a new restaurant that doesn't consider seasonality and locality an important part of their menu. Unfortunately, there are very few restaurants that are committed enough to carry this philosophy successfully into their menu beyond one or two dishes. If I could eat free from grossly out-of-season dishes at restaurants that proclaim seasonality, I would never go hungry. Fall asparagus and winter tomatoes are all too common.

    We dined at Vie in February, which presents particular challenges for a midwestern chef dedicated to local seasonality. Where less ambitious restaurateurs would have tabled their philosophy for the season (except for a root vegetable stew or something equally predictable), Virant confronts his guests with the centuries-old fact that much of winter's seasonal food is cured from earlier harvests. The bountiful months were behind us and in front of us, so we enjoyed the the preserved harvest.

    The menu from this cold night in early February featured an array of charcuterie that would make Rhulman swoon; a variety of pickled and preserved vegetables and fruit; marmalades and jams; greenhouse winter baby greens; and fresh local beans, turnips, parsnips, and other root vegetables that brought the full round, flavor of winter.

    For my first course I had a coddled egg with winter black truffles, grilled bread, and a thin slice of house-made country ham. This was a dish that I could eat for breakfast daily and never tire of it. The richness and simplicity of a farm-fresh egg paired with the more aggressive ingredients of truffle and country ham made up one of the best dishes I've eaten a long time. I've re-lived it in my head nearly every day since I've eaten it.

    Cookie enjoyed a plate of seared scallops* with black rice and a pickled fennel salad. I tasted it and found it to be a well-conceived and expertly prepared dish, but not to my taste.

    My entree was a "cassoulet". Make special note of the quotes, which were on the menu, as this was not a traditional cassoulet. This mock-cassoulet was a hearty plate of roasted fresh bacon, grilled house-made pork sausage, braised beans, and roasted local turnips. When it was placed in front of me at the perfect angle for me to take in the beauty of a slab of roasted pork belly atop beans and turnips, I was surprised that I forgot all about my coddled egg. The dish was hearty, full of distinct flavors, and constructed with enough variety to keep you interested throughout every bite.

    My wife's entree, which I almost ignored due to my eye-popping plate of pork and beans, was a crispy fillet of sea bass with parsnip puree, roasted onions, and house-made guanciale--another appearance of Vie's focus on charcuterie. This was another dish that, while I tasted only a small bite, had a hard time seeing any flaw in.

    I washed it all down with a glass of port and some local cheeses while Cookie enjoyed Virant's signature dessert, gooey butter cake.

    I am often worried when I have high expectations. I know that I am the type of diner that is easy to please but difficult to impress, and when I have high expectations I fear that it will take a miracle to impress me. Virant impressed me as soon as I read the menu and continued to impress me throughout the entire meal. I look forward to returning soon.

    Best,
    Michael

    *It is important to understand that Vie's goal is not to exclusively serve locally sourced ingredients.
  • Post #25 - April 15th, 2007, 9:20 pm
    Post #25 - April 15th, 2007, 9:20 pm Post #25 - April 15th, 2007, 9:20 pm
    I had the good fortune to make a reservation at Vie for last night about a week before the F&W news broke. It had been a while since I'd been there and I began jonesing for it. I knew I wanted to get in as the earliest Spring produce (mainly ramps) found its way onto Chef Virant's menu. It's still a bit early for morels or the early SW Michigan bounty but I figured that mid-April would bring a few treats and I was right.

    Vie was bustling last night. I've always dined there on Friday or Saturday and the place has always been full. However, last night was the first time I'd ever seen Vie seating diners at 10 pm. Clearly, 'the news is out all over town.' We even spotted (and got to meet) the lovely young lady who got Vie onto Check, Please! Vie was hopping like I'd never seen it before.

    As I've said before, ordering at Vie is pleasantly burdensome because it's very difficult to choose from the spectacular array of offerings on the menu. I really believe that the depth of the menu added about 20 minutes to our dining experience last night because it was genuinely that hard to decide what to order. I ended up bypassing the very tempting ragout of burgundy snails with wood-grilled spence farms ramps, fava beans and organic creme fraiche because my wife promised she'd order the lamb (more on this later) as her entree, and it also included ramps.

    Skipping ahead just a bit, after we ordered but before our orders arrived, the kitchen sent out for us a delectable amuse of porcini tortellini with young almonds, that was terrific. The tortellini were sublime and the young almonds, which I'd never had before, popped in the mouth as if they had liquid centers. It was a great combination of flavors and textures.

    For my appetizer, I ended up with the buttermilk-soaked, pan-fried quail with poached quail egg, wisconsin watercress, spring peas, 'la quercia' prosciutto and balsamic vinaigrette. Needless to say, this was a winner. Not only was it well-conceived but the execution was flawless. The quail was perfectly cooked and its skin was wonderfully crispy. The spring peas were taut and tasty and they burst on the tooth. The sweet saltiness of the prosciutto accented the other components and tied them all together.

    I also got to taste the phillip green fried baby purple artichokes with spring garlic, slow-roasted garlic, honey vinaigrette and pickled peppers. These artichokes were out of this world and oh-so-tender. And while they were not local, they were picked and shipped to the restaurant personally, by a woman in Santa Monica, CA, with whom chef Virant is friends. It was a beautiful example of local and global living harmoniously, on the same menu.

    We shared a couple of salads that were both quite reflective of the season. One was comprised of wisconsin baby greens and shaved fresh and marinated hearts of palm. It was dressed with a garlic and herb vinaigrette and topped generously with shaved parmagiano reggiano. The other salad was chef Virant's take on a salad lyonnaise. Here however, the salad was comprised of wood-grilled dandelions, roasted parsley root, mixed greens and rustic croutons, dressed with mustard vinaigrette and topped with a single, crispy strip of house-made 'old school' bacon. This salad was phenomenal. Each individual component was delicious and the bacon was fantastic.

    A few months back, chef Virant told me that Vie would soon embark on curing their own meats and the glorious proof was in the pudding, or the salad, as it were. 'Old School' bacon refers to a process where the belly is cured and then dry-aged for an extended period of time before being smoked. This extra step of drying, produced a bacon that was even more intense in flavor than typical bacon, with its flavors actually concentrated. As an amateur charcutier who's cured and smoked belly into bacon dozens of times, this simple adjustment was something I'd never heard or read about before. It was an enlightening moment for me.

    There wasn't an entree on Vie's menu that couldn't have been my first choice, depending on mood. I could not categorically remove any of the choices like wild tasmanian king salmon, sturgeon, organic ny strip steak or bacon-wrapped and roasted chicken ballotine from contention. What I finally went with was the berkshire pork loin milanese, basted with butter and herbs and served with braised chickpeas, pickled garlic, sauteed rapini and spanish olive tapenade. I loved this dish. The pork loin had a perfectly crusted exterior and beneath resided the moist and succulent hunk of distinctively aromatic berkshire pork. The accroutements fit in perfectly with the pork and I have to give special recognition to the chickpeas, which really took the dish to an entirely higher level. I'd had chickpeas at Vie once before (with a hanger steak) and I've never encountered a chef who prepares them more perfectly than chef Virant. Their texture and flavor were just outstanding. Dry chick peas are not so easy to corrall but at Vie, they are routinely turned out in perfect form.

    Happily, I also tried my wife's entree; wood-grilled hill and vale farms lamb chop loin and braised neck ravioli served with spence farms ramps, wood-grilled local carrots, spring onion slaw and lamb jus. It too was sensational and I loved the ramps that had, in part, prompted my call to Vie in the first place. The corn-crusted sturgeon served on creamy byrd mill grits with wilted wisconsin spinach, house-made tasso ham and piquillo pepper vinaigrette was just breathtaking. Again, the components worked together perfectly and the slightly smokey undernote from the tasso was magnificent and inspired.

    For dessert, I ordered an updated version of an old Vie favorite. The warm gooey butter cake, which I would put up against any dessert served in the Chicago area, had been morphed into a warm, gooey, peanut butter cake that, if possible, even trumped Vie's original rendition of this St. Louis classic. It was served with a scoop of bittersweet sorbet, a light and crisp peanut wafer and an amazing chocolate and peanut butter fudge square. Awesome! My wife ordered fried banana creme patisserie with maple candied pecans cocoa-banana ice cream and creme fraiche caramel sauce. The patisserie were little donut-esque balls of banana which were moist at their centers and just outstanding. The ice cream was a perfect tie-together for this rich and compelling dessert.

    More than any of my previous meals at Vie, which were all fantastic, this was the best. Vie just keeps getting better. As my friend George said repeatedly during our meal, chef Virant does not rest on his laurels. This is so true. The menu keeps changing and evolving to reflect not only the season but chef Virant's seemingly unending inspirations. He takes risks yet the food feels effortless because the ingredients ultimately work so well together in creating perfection on the plate.

    It certainly helps matters that service at Vie is so flawless it's almost an afterthought. We again had Thierry waiting on us last night and were so glad to have him. But everyone in the FOH at Vie is knowledgeable, enthusiastic and helpful. Nonetheless, this food is so amazing, I'm not sure that anything could detract from its magnificence.

    The cat is definitely out of the bag as it pertains to Vie. It's no secret anymore and I have feeling that it will forever be a bit more difficult to get a table there. But it couldn't have happened to a more deserving chef, crew or restaurant. And if it means that I have to call a bit more in advance to get a table, I will happily accept it. This food is so brilliant, the thought of not eating it while someone who never has gets to do so, is almost as good as being at the restaurant itself. I'm thrilled for everyone at Vie and love the fact that in the wake of what is arguably the best press they've ever received, the food was never better than last night. If this restaurant were in the city, you wouldn't even be able to get a table there anymore. And again, it couldn't have happened to a more deserving group of folks.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #26 - July 8th, 2007, 10:00 pm
    Post #26 - July 8th, 2007, 10:00 pm Post #26 - July 8th, 2007, 10:00 pm
    I've been back to Vie a few times since my last post; most recently for a special, birthday-party meal for which chef Virant put together a custom, multi-course tasting menu -- with wine pairings. Of all my meals at Vie, this was, perhaps, my favorite. Below are some images and descriptions of the dishes we enjoyed . . .

    Image
    Wisconsin gorgonzola and thyme gourgere
    Light in texture, intense in flavor, these little bites welcomed the guests and activated their palates while cocktails were served.


    Image
    House-marinated herring with American sturgeon caviar, organic creme fraiche, pickled Chiogga beets and baby dill
    This fish had been 'curing' for 4 1/2 months and it was delightfully intense. The sweet, pickled beets and salty caviar actually highlighted some of the more subtle attributes of the fish. The creme fraiche was a great foil for those intense flavors and the aromatic dill added a perfect top note. This was served with an eye-opening sparkling wine; Gruet Brut (NV) out of New Mexico, of all places.


    Image
    Brochet Pyramide, aka Walleye Pike dumpling with fines herbes and crab butter
    I loved this 'fancy' version of one of my family favorites: gefilte fish. Of course, this rendition was exponentially better than anything Bubbe Suburban ever put out. Here, the dumpling was of a very fine grain and the dish was served hot. If not for the exquisite and herbacious crab butter, I might have missed the horseradish. :wink: This was served with a nicely-balanced 2004 Calera Chardonnay, produced -- without the distraction of much oak -- in Mt. Harlan, CA.


    Image
    Wood-grilled, house-made rabbit sausage with sweet onions, currant mostarda, local mustard greens and roasted-mustard seed vinaigrette
    This sausage was absolutely delicious, with a coarse grind, tight definition and a wonderful snap. I tried to ask the chef who made them what specifically was in them but my questions were deftly avoided. It was paired masterfully with a 2000 Franz Hirtzberger Gruner Veltliner from Wachau, Austria.


    Image
    Crispy duck breast with spiced cherry gastrique, roasted 'Nichols Farm' cauliflower, Klug Farm sweet cherries and thyme
    This tasty dish was a riff on an item served at Vie's stall at the Recipe for Relief event in October 2005, my first taste of chef Virant's food. Here, the dish was expanded upon quite successfully. This was a great combination and the complex spices with which the cherries had been infused picked up the duck perfectly. Roasted cauliflower is one of my favorites and it was a great element of this plate. The pairing for this dish was a phenomenal 2003, Burrell School, Veranda Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz mountains. Not only was it a great match for the dish, it was -- and I do not say this lightly -- the best Pinot Noir I've ever tasted. My friends at Vie tell me that the production on this wine is limited to about 200 cases per year. It's nice to have such friends.


    Image
    Pork Combination: Wettstein's pork epigram and pork shank confit with preserved porcinis, spanish olives and local arugula
    I'd previously discussed the concept of the epigram with chef Virant and was delighted to see it make an appearance on this special menu. It's essentially pork cooked in its own juices, much like head cheese. After it's cooked a long time it's then chilled in a mold, where it takes on a gelatinous texture. From there, it's removed from the mold and sliced into planks which are then breaded 3 times before being fried. When you cut into this tender cake, pork meat and concentrated juices spill out onto the plate and -- in this case -- onto the awaiting pork shank confit, preserved porcinis, spanish olives and arugula. This dish was, in a word, spectacular. The pairing here was a bold and well-suited 2002 Scherrer Winery Zinfandel from Alexander Valley, CA. I understand this dish might be making an appearance as an appetizer on Vie's menu.

    After the pork we were served a refreshing white wine sorbet in tiny little martini glasses, but I forgot to take a picture. After the sorbet, it was time for cake . . .


    Image
    Vie birthday cake
    This cake was beautiful and delicious. Pastry Chef Todd Feitl was worried that he might not be able to pull off a great-looking cake but he delivered in droves. It also happened to be delicious and the strawberries between layers and in the ganache were stellar.

    We were a group of 27 and service, provided mostly by Nathan (who was also the chef who created the rabbit sausage) and Susan, was truly phenomenal. Never once during the meal did a course arrive before its designated wine had been poured. Not once did a guest have to wait for silverware. Not once did anyone need to ask for their glass (of anything) to be refilled. It was textbook. My hat's off too, to GM Jenny Chai, who coordinated both the party and the Vie team, assisted chef Virant with the pairings and made sure that every guest was having great time.

    But most of all, it was chef Virant who was the star of this party. The menu was terrific, the execution flawless and the meal played like a great concert, the likes of which may only be heard once. I felt lucky to be a part of this party and knew as I savored every bite, that I was experiencing something truly special.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #27 - July 9th, 2007, 7:34 am
    Post #27 - July 9th, 2007, 7:34 am Post #27 - July 9th, 2007, 7:34 am
    Would I sound like a Rachel Ray lovin' dork if I said yum-o, but that's the first word that came to my mind!

    Do you use a flash when you take the pics? I tried once to take pics at a Vie meal and I was pretty vexed by the darkness. Now, I just enjoy the food. Still, your pics really capture what makes the place so special. Thanks.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #28 - July 9th, 2007, 7:40 am
    Post #28 - July 9th, 2007, 7:40 am Post #28 - July 9th, 2007, 7:40 am
    Thanks for sharing, ronnie. This meal looks like a textbook example of what makes Chef Virant's vision so wonderful. House-cured fish, house-made sasuage, and a restrained approach to quality ingredients. There's not a single course there that doesn't "speak to me".

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #29 - July 9th, 2007, 9:58 pm
    Post #29 - July 9th, 2007, 9:58 pm Post #29 - July 9th, 2007, 9:58 pm
    Vital Information wrote:. . . Do you use a flash when you take the pics? I tried once to take pics at a Vie meal and I was pretty vexed by the darkness. Now, I just enjoy the food. Still, your pics really capture what makes the place so special. Thanks.

    Thanks. No flash (except for the gougere pic). I shot these in RAW mode with a Canon 20-D (17-85mm, 4-5.6 lens). But you're right, Vie can be dark. I used a fair amount of post production to bring these shots around but I only adjusted them for brightness, not color.

    eatchicago wrote:Thanks for sharing, ronnie. This meal looks like a textbook example of what makes Chef Virant's vision so wonderful. House-cured fish, house-made sasuage, and a restrained approach to quality ingredients. There's not a single course there that doesn't "speak to me".

    I feel that way every time I dine at Vie. This food really does speak to me too and the 'craftsman-style' items that comprise some of the dishes -- and punctuate others -- represent the kind of cooking that I find most compelling. House-made items like sausage, bacon, pastrami, pickles etc. are rampant at Vie. More than anything else, that's what excites me so much about the place. Of course, the focus on small and local providers is also a major draw and the constantly-changing, highly seasonal menu is always full of great choices.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #30 - August 26th, 2007, 4:19 pm
    Post #30 - August 26th, 2007, 4:19 pm Post #30 - August 26th, 2007, 4:19 pm
    I hadn't been to Vie since late June and with produce season now at its peak, I made a point of getting there this weekend. As usual, the meal was fantastic and I was so happy to taste the season, via chef Virant's vision. Typical of Vie, in addition to the plethora of fresh, local ingredients, a handful of premium ingredients from less-local sources was carefully incorporated into the globally-influenced menu. And happily, as I've come to expect, several house-produced ingredients were showcased, as well.

    The meal started with a tasty and intense amuse of escabeche with grapes and arugula. It was a great, palate-awakening bite and unfortunately, I snarfed it down before I remembered to take a picture of it. DOH!


    Image
    2006, Betts & Scholl Riesling, Eden Valley, Australia
    With just 2 adults at this meal, one bottle was going to have to do and this one 'did' wonderfully. Nice fruit, good acidity and it paired well with many of the courses we enjoyed. This wine was added to Vie's list by Bob Bansberg (formerly at Ambria), who is currently 'guest-sommeliering' at Vie on Fridays.


    Image
    Pan-seared, "hand-harvested" sea scallops with wood-grilled summer squashes, eggplant caviar, and Spanish olive oil vinaigrette
    I loved these perfectly seared scallops, and the eggplant caviar and spears of wood-grilled squash provided nice counterpoints in texture and flavor.


    Image
    Marinated and wood-grilled quail with arugula, roasted and pickled peaches, braised local knob onions and quail jus
    A great combination and I loved the accent provided by the pickled peaches.


    Image
    Yukon gold potato gnocchi with Wettstein's pork shoulder confit, fresh lima beans and parmesan sauce
    There's nothing not to love about this dish, which really sang. Every element here was delicious and the house-made pork confit was remarkable.


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    Chilled gazpacho with peeky toe crab, finished with Truchard Vineyard olive oil
    A great rendition of a classic summer dish. The soup was sweet with just enough acidity and the rich, aromatic olive oil complemented the tomatoes perfectly.


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    Salad of local lettuces, marinated and shaved hearts of palm, garlic-herb vinaigrette and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano
    Even a simple salad can be compelling, as this combination of local lettuces was. The garlic-herb vinaigrette was particularly aromatic and satisfying. There was something very distinctive in it which I could not completely discern, possibly mace.


    Image
    Kinnikinnick Farm heirloom tomatoes with fresh local watermelon, mint and house-made feta cheese
    I love this combination and this version was well-executed. The house-made feta really took this salad over the top.


    Image
    Sturgeon with tomato and pickled beans
    The kitchen sent out this course for us and unfortunately, I don't know all the details. I'm pretty sure the sturgeon -- which was fatty and delicious -- was topped with roasted sungold tomatoes and slivers of pickled squash.


    Image
    Day-boat cod combination: pan-roasted fresh and house-made salt cod with City Farm tomatoes, fresh soy beans, wood-grilled fennel and roasted almonds
    I don't think I've ever had salt cod in non-brandade form, so when I saw this on the menu, I felt compelled to try it. The contrast between the fresh cod with its crispy exterior and moist, flakey flesh and the rich, braised salt-cod was terrific.


    Image
    Chicken three ways: roasted breast stuffed with garlic butter, wood-grilled thigh, leg confit with local cranberry beans, Green Acres baby carrots and pickled snow peas
    I loved each one of these chicken preparations. The wood-grilled thigh had supremely crispy skin and was aromatic with sweet smoke throughout. The breast and the confit were terrific as well and the baby carrots were phenomenal.


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    Marinated and wood-grilled "kobe" steak with bone marrow dumpling, roasted local romanesco, lobster mushrooms, red wine sauce and fried sweet onions
    Succulent kobe beef, rich bone marrow dumpling, crispy fried onions . . . an unreal combination that was so delicious. I loved the romanesco, which is rather funky looking combination of caulilflower and broccoli. It paired really nicely with the beef.


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    Wood-grilled sweet corn and okra
    A very nice combination in which the wood was the primary (only) seasoning. I'd never had wood-grilled okra before and it was not only delicious but also a great combination with the sweet corn.


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    Warm local honey-roasted peaches with sweet crepe, local peach ice cream and candied pistachios
    An absolutely delicious dessert which showcased the wonderful peaches and chef Todd's mastery of them.


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    House-made sorbets of blood orange (front), horchata (back, left) and strawberry
    These sorbets were all terrific but the horchata in particular could be packaged and sold by the pint. The scoops were topped with house-made shortbread that was delicious in its own right.


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    Warm gooey butter cake with mint-chocolate-chip ice cream, cocoa mint wafer and chocolate & mint square
    In my mind, the gooey butter cake is Vie's signature dessert and it is one the best desserts served in Chicagoland. Here, it's paired with some well-executed minty items but I've had it paired with a number of different elements, over my visits to Vie. We were clanking forks as we "shared" this one.


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    Mignardise (clockwise, from bottom: sable, lemon gelee, caramel and peanut brittle)
    Nice, sweet bites to round out the meal.

    Service, provided by Jim, was fantastic and friendly, as always. We've had a bunch of different FOH'ers take care of us at Vie and as different as their personal styles are, one thing persists: excellence. I also want to mention our busser, Ignacio, because it seems that he's always taking care of us and he does a great job.

    Again, I'm so glad that we got this one 'under our belts,' so to speak. I love Vie and the food they turn out never fails to please me. I'm probably not alone in my belief that dining there in mid to late August is a must. Ordering at Vie is harder than at any other restaurant I can think of because their menu is so filled with fantastic items. Our party could go back there tonight, not order one thing we tried last night and still be utterly compelled. In fact, I cannot rule out another meal at Vie before this produce season ends.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

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