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Big Jones--"Contemporary coastal Southern cuisine"

Big Jones--"Contemporary coastal Southern cuisine"
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  • Post #181 - February 3rd, 2011, 6:54 am
    Post #181 - February 3rd, 2011, 6:54 am Post #181 - February 3rd, 2011, 6:54 am
    P. Channon wrote:
    nsxtasy wrote:I grew up on the East Coast, in the days before FedEx when you had to be near the coast to get fresh seafood. Now I live in Chicago and enjoy fresh, delicious seafood at many restaurants here. Many of them are places like Big Jones which don't primarily specialize in seafood. But I also enjoy some of our best seafood restaurants - in the suburbs (Mitchell's Fish Market in Glenview, Oceanique in Evanston, Parker's in Downers Grove, Reel Club in Oak Brook) as well as the city (Shaw's Crab House, Hugo's Frog Bar). They are every bit as good as the better seafood restaurants on both coasts (where I frequently travel). And as already noted, not every place on the coasts is wonderful, either.


    Sorry, but you must be kidding...Mitchell's Fish Market in Glenview? :? :)



    Even though it is a chain Mitchell's serves very fresh seafood that is well prepared, I lived on the gulf for many years so I do know fresh seafood. The mashed potatoes that come with many of the dishes do suck though.
  • Post #182 - February 3rd, 2011, 7:00 am
    Post #182 - February 3rd, 2011, 7:00 am Post #182 - February 3rd, 2011, 7:00 am
    This thread is chock full of "I lived in ______ so I know ________ posts. I must admit that this kind of thing always sounds obnoxious to me. And I lived in NYC for 25 years, so I know obnoxious.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #183 - February 3rd, 2011, 7:01 am
    Post #183 - February 3rd, 2011, 7:01 am Post #183 - February 3rd, 2011, 7:01 am
    Okay thanks for letting us know what people should post.
  • Post #184 - February 3rd, 2011, 7:12 am
    Post #184 - February 3rd, 2011, 7:12 am Post #184 - February 3rd, 2011, 7:12 am
    EvanstonFoodGuy wrote:Okay thanks for letting us know what people should post.

    I was hardly suggesting that people should not post their credentials just because someone (me) finds it distasteful. If there's one thing I've proven here, it's that I don't believe one should hold back posts just because other people find them obnoxious.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #185 - February 3rd, 2011, 9:56 am
    Post #185 - February 3rd, 2011, 9:56 am Post #185 - February 3rd, 2011, 9:56 am
    Kennyz wrote:This thread is chock full of "I lived in ______ so I know ________ posts. I must admit that this kind of thing always sounds obnoxious to me. And I lived in NYC for 25 years, so I know obnoxious.



    Amen.

    Back on track, my wife and I are both fans of Big Jones, in particular brunch. Personal favorites include the crawfish boudin fritters, sweet potato soup and eggs new orleans. Their menu is also pescetarian firendly which makes it easier for me to drag my wife there.
  • Post #186 - February 8th, 2011, 6:15 pm
    Post #186 - February 8th, 2011, 6:15 pm Post #186 - February 8th, 2011, 6:15 pm
    P. Channon wrote:With all due respect to everyone here...it's just my individual opinion. I know many people who love Big Jones and it came highly recommended to me prior to my visit. I lived in Boston for 5 years and know good seafood...and quite frankly much of the seafood in Chicago is of Red Lobster quality. I've spent considerable time in Charleston, having dined at quite a few places there (Magnolia's, McGradey's, The Fat Hen, the Sanctuary, Tom Colicchio's restaurant at Cassique on Kiawah Island, etc... etc...) and I can say I understand quality low country style food.

    The reason I mentioned the time I had spent in SC in my post on Big Jones is that I was raising the possibility that it was at a disadvantage from the start considering all the very authentic low country food I had recently enjoyed.


    It is a disadvantage if you are coming here and comparing us to the dining experience at an expensive resort or downtown fine dining restaurant, because that's not what we are or are trying to be. It is my genuine desire to troubleshoot people's experiences and find out what is going on. We occasionally have cooks that don't work out. Did your shrimp and grits get cooked by a weak saute cook who didn't last long in my kitchen but unfortunately was here a short while? Probably. It's also possible that the style we cook it in is not to your personal taste, and I couldn't fault you for that. There's no accounting for taste.

    Either way, I hope after six months and seeing the overwhelmingly positive feedback about Big Jones, I hope you'll consider trying us again. With that thought, I would like to relate a story. Last year when I was at the Chef's Collaborative annual summit, Rick Bayless gave a speech that really resonated with me. When he opened Frontera he did so with the intention of cooking Mexican food with the true spirit of that great tradition - using the freshest local market ingredients he could find, and he had to do a lot of work in the early years getting those supplies lined up. What hit me was when he said and I paraphrase "it was hard to get people to understand that our food would not, could not taste 'just like it does in Mexico,' because we cook with Midwestern ingredients, and a tomato in Chicago just doesn't taste like a tomato in Mexico, the terroir is just different." But he believed, as I do, that to truly honor the spirit of Mexican cooking (Coastal Southern, not strictly Lowcountry,) he must cook with fresh local market ingredients. They were cooking Mexican food with Midwestern ingredients, just as I am cooking southern food with Midwestern ingredients save seafood, rice, and grits.

    We count legions of Lowcountry expats among our regular clientele and they too understand quality Lowcountry cooking. But, you have to have an open mind to understand what we're doing here and look at Big Jones for what it is and not compare it to McCrady's or any one of the other excellent high-end fine dining restaurants you mention. We are a mid-priced, neighborhood restaurant. If you'd like me to cook you the $25 version typical of the fine dining restaurants you mention, I'll be happy to prepare you one just as good. Ours sells for $16, and has a few less frills. Compare us to your moderately priced, $12-22 restaurants in Charleston, and you'll find we fit right in. But remember - our food won't taste exactly the same because it can't. But it will taste as good.

    I do bring some ingredients from outside our local area - I use the same grits as every fine restaurant in Charleston, Anson Mills, grown in the Carolinas and Georgia from 18th-century heirloom corn, at great expense. I bring Carolina gold rice, sea island peas, and fine grist corn flour for our dredges up from the Lowcountry, again at great expense. $4.50/lb for corn flour! That is not Red Lobster. I buy certified organic popcorn rice from a small mill in Arkansas because I care. That is not Red Lobster. I use the same quality shrimp most of Lowcountry fine dining restaurants use, though mine are from the Gulf. When I procure a Carolina wreckfish it boards a plane off the water before sunrise and is in my kitchen before dinner. That's the power of modern transportation. The same goes for any fish I buy. I care deeply about my ingredients, their sources, and their integrity. If you think my seafood is of Red Lobster quality, it is unfortunate because it is not true. I am one of only a handful of restaurants in Chicago that has committed to practice 100% sustainable seafood sourcing. That is not Red Lobster. I use 100% only pasture raised meat poultry and dairy and go to great pains to produce all of my own charcuterie in-house so I can be sure of the integrity of the raw meat I am using. That is not Red Lobster. I buy as much organic produce in the off-season as I can (as much as I can, not "when available" as some cynical restaurants say to avoid buying anything organic at all) to the point that my greens, citrus, fruits, and vegetables are almost all certified organic even in February when I cannot get them locally. That is not Red Lobster. I support over two dozen small farms in our local area over the course of a growing season and make all of my preserves, pickles, and condiments in house, again to be sure of the integrity of my raw ingredients. That is not red Lobster.

    I won't bore the forum any further with the "I'm from __________ so I know ____________" claptrap. I will say this - I grew up in a farming community in a farming family. We fished a lot for food and fun. We hunted too - deer, squirrel, rabbit mostly. Most families around us gardened and a lot still canned when I was very young. I know what a fish looks like, feels like, and smells like when it is alive, vigorous, and just emerging from the water. My fishmongers know this about me and know I won't take anything that's been out of the water 48 hours and to really make me happy it needs to be something arriving on a jet that morning. I know what an animal's flesh is like when it's still warm, the smell of fresh warm blood of deer, pigs, chickens, etc. as well as the look and feel of fresh meat right after slaughter. These things were rituals in my family. I know the smell and taste of a melon in the field that has just dropped its vine, the tru vigor of healthy lettuce in the ground on a cool wet Spring morning. I can go on. These things drive the cooking at Big Jones because this is who I am. I think we have a misunderstanding here and I'd love to know what I can do to get you to take another look at Big Jones.
  • Post #187 - February 8th, 2011, 6:26 pm
    Post #187 - February 8th, 2011, 6:26 pm Post #187 - February 8th, 2011, 6:26 pm
    rochambeau wrote:
    P. Channon wrote:With all due respect to everyone here...it's just my individual opinion. I know many people who love Big Jones and it came highly recommended to me prior to my visit. I lived in Boston for 5 years and know good seafood...and quite frankly much of the seafood in Chicago is of Red Lobster quality. I've spent considerable time in Charleston, having dined at quite a few places there (Magnolia's, McGradey's, The Fat Hen, the Sanctuary, Tom Colicchio's restaurant at Cassique on Kiawah Island, etc... etc...) and I can say I understand quality low country style food.

    The reason I mentioned the time I had spent in SC in my post on Big Jones is that I was raising the possibility that it was at a disadvantage from the start considering all the very authentic low country food I had recently enjoyed.


    It is a disadvantage if you are coming here and comparing us to the dining experience at an expensive resort or downtown fine dining restaurant, because that's not what we are or are trying to be. It is my genuine desire to troubleshoot people's experiences and find out what is going on. We occasionally have cooks that don't work out. Did your shrimp and grits get cooked by a weak saute cook who didn't last long in my kitchen but unfortunately was here a short while? Probably. It's also possible that the style we cook it in is not to your personal taste, and I couldn't fault you for that. There's no accounting for taste.

    Either way, I hope after six months and seeing the overwhelmingly positive feedback about Big Jones, I hope you'll consider trying us again. With that thought, I would like to relate a story. Last year when I was at the Chef's Collaborative annual summit, Rick Bayless gave a speech that really resonated with me. When he opened Frontera he did so with the intention of cooking Mexican food with the true spirit of that great tradition - using the freshest local market ingredients he could find, and he had to do a lot of work in the early years getting those supplies lined up. What hit me was when he said and I paraphrase "it was hard to get people to understand that our food would not, could not taste 'just like it does in Mexico,' because we cook with Midwestern ingredients, and a tomato in Chicago just doesn't taste like a tomato in Mexico, the terroir is just different." But he believed, as I do, that to truly honor the spirit of Mexican cooking (Coastal Southern, not strictly Lowcountry,) he must cook with fresh local market ingredients. They were cooking Mexican food with Midwestern ingredients, just as I am cooking southern food with Midwestern ingredients save seafood, rice, and grits.

    We count legions of Lowcountry expats among our regular clientele and they too understand quality Lowcountry cooking. But, you have to have an open mind to understand what we're doing here and look at Big Jones for what it is and not compare it to McCrady's or any one of the other excellent high-end fine dining restaurants you mention. We are a mid-priced, neighborhood restaurant. If you'd like me to cook you the $25 version typical of the fine dining restaurants you mention, I'll be happy to prepare you one just as good. Ours sells for $16, and has a few less frills. Compare us to your moderately priced, $12-22 restaurants in Charleston, and you'll find we fit right in. But remember - our food won't taste exactly the same because it can't. But it will taste as good.

    I do bring some ingredients from outside our local area - I use the same grits as every fine restaurant in Charleston, Anson Mills, grown in the Carolinas and Georgia from 18th-century heirloom corn, at great expense. I bring Carolina gold rice, sea island peas, and fine grist corn flour for our dredges up from the Lowcountry, again at great expense. $4.50/lb for corn flour! That is not Red Lobster. I buy certified organic popcorn rice from a small mill in Arkansas because I care. That is not Red Lobster. I use the same quality shrimp most of Lowcountry fine dining restaurants use, though mine are from the Gulf. When I procure a Carolina wreckfish it boards a plane off the water before sunrise and is in my kitchen before dinner. That's the power of modern transportation. The same goes for any fish I buy. I care deeply about my ingredients, their sources, and their integrity. If you think my seafood is of Red Lobster quality, it is unfortunate because it is not true. I am one of only a handful of restaurants in Chicago that has committed to practice 100% sustainable seafood sourcing. That is not Red Lobster. I use 100% only pasture raised meat poultry and dairy and go to great pains to produce all of my own charcuterie in-house so I can be sure of the integrity of the raw meat I am using. That is not Red Lobster. I buy as much organic produce in the off-season as I can (as much as I can, not "when available" as some cynical restaurants say to avoid buying anything organic at all) to the point that my greens, citrus, fruits, and vegetables are mostly certified organic even in February when I cannot get them locally. That is not Red Lobster. I support over two dozen small farms in our local area over the course of a growing season and make all of my preserves, pickles, and condiments in house, again to be sure of the integrity of my raw ingredients. That is not red Lobster.

    I won't bore the forum any further with the "I'm from __________ so I know ____________" claptrap. I will say this - I grew up in a farming community in a farming family. We fished a lot for food and fun. We hunted too - deer, squirrel, rabbit mostly. Most families around us gardened and a lot still canned when I was very young. I know what a fish looks like, feels like, and smells like when it is alive, vigorous, and just emerging from the water. My fishmongers know this about me and know I won't take anything that's been out of the water 48 hours and to really make me happy it needs to be something arriving on a jet that morning. I know what an animal's flesh is like when it's still warm, the smell of fresh warm blood of deer, pigs, chickens, etc. as well as the look and feel of fresh meat right after slaughter. These things were rituals in my family. I know the smell and taste of a melon in the field that has just dropped its vine, the tru vigor of healthy lettuce in the ground on a cool wet Spring morning. I can go on. These things drive the cooking at Big Jones because this is who I am. I think we have a misunderstanding here.


    rochambeau,

    Thank you for the very thoughtful response. As I stated before, what I said was only my opinion, and just because I had something that I didn't enjoy (obviously) doesn't mean everything is poor at your restaurant. I can only give my opinion on what I experienced, nothing more.

    Quite frankly, I wasn't planning on ever going back to Big Jones, but since you took the time to respond in such a classy way I'll do my best to make it back in the near future to try it out again.

    I'll let you know what I think after I make it back.
  • Post #188 - February 8th, 2011, 6:39 pm
    Post #188 - February 8th, 2011, 6:39 pm Post #188 - February 8th, 2011, 6:39 pm
    rochambeau wrote:It is a disadvantage if you are coming here and comparing us to the dining experience at an expensive resort or downtown fine dining restaurant, because that's not what we are or are trying to be. It is my genuine desire to troubleshoot people's experiences and find out what is going on. We occasionally have cooks that don't work out. Did your shrimp and grits get cooked by a weak saute cook who didn't last long in my kitchen but unfortunately was here a short while? Probably. It's also possible that the style we cook it in is not to your personal taste, and I couldn't fault you for that. There's no accounting for taste.

    Either way, I hope after six months and seeing the overwhelmingly positive feedback about Big Jones, I hope you'll consider trying us again. With that thought, I would like to relate a story. Last year when I was at the Chef's Collaborative annual summit, Rick Bayless gave a speech that really resonated with me. When he opened Frontera he did so with the intention of cooking Mexican food with the true spirit of that great tradition - using the freshest local market ingredients he could find, and he had to do a lot of work in the early years getting those supplies lined up. What hit me was when he said and I paraphrase "it was hard to get people to understand that our food would not, could not taste 'just like it does in Mexico,' because we cook with Midwestern ingredients, and a tomato in Chicago just doesn't taste like a tomato in Mexico, the terroir is just different." But he believed, as I do, that to truly honor the spirit of Mexican cooking (Coastal Southern, not strictly Lowcountry,) he must cook with fresh local market ingredients. They were cooking Mexican food with Midwestern ingredients, just as I am cooking southern food with Midwestern ingredients save seafood, rice, and grits.

    We count legions of Lowcountry expats among our regular clientele and they too understand quality Lowcountry cooking. But, you have to have an open mind to understand what we're doing here and look at Big Jones for what it is and not compare it to McCrady's or any one of the other excellent high-end fine dining restaurants you mention. We are a mid-priced, neighborhood restaurant. If you'd like me to cook you the $25 version typical of the fine dining restaurants you mention, I'll be happy to prepare you one just as good. Ours sells for $16, and has a few less frills. Compare us to your moderately priced, $12-22 restaurants in Charleston, and you'll find we fit right in. But remember - our food won't taste exactly the same because it can't. But it will taste as good.

    I do bring some ingredients from outside our local area - I use the same grits as every fine restaurant in Charleston, Anson Mills, grown in the Carolinas and Georgia from 18th-century heirloom corn, at great expense. I bring Carolina gold rice, sea island peas, and fine grist corn flour for our dredges up from the Lowcountry, again at great expense. $4.50/lb for corn flour! That is not Red Lobster. I buy certified organic popcorn rice from a small mill in Arkansas because I care. That is not Red Lobster. I use the same quality shrimp most of Lowcountry fine dining restaurants use, though mine are from the Gulf. When I procure a Carolina wreckfish it boards a plane off the water before sunrise and is in my kitchen before dinner. That's the power of modern transportation. The same goes for any fish I buy. I care deeply about my ingredients, their sources, and their integrity. If you think my seafood is of Red Lobster quality, it is unfortunate because it is not true. I am one of only a handful of restaurants in Chicago that has committed to practice 100% sustainable seafood sourcing. That is not Red Lobster. I use 100% only pasture raised meat poultry and dairy and go to great pains to produce all of my own charcuterie in-house so I can be sure of the integrity of the raw meat I am using. That is not Red Lobster. I buy as much organic produce in the off-season as I can (as much as I can, not "when available" as some cynical restaurants say to avoid buying anything organic at all) to the point that my greens, citrus, fruits, and vegetables are almost all certified organic even in February when I cannot get them locally. That is not Red Lobster. I support over two dozen small farms in our local area over the course of a growing season and make all of my preserves, pickles, and condiments in house, again to be sure of the integrity of my raw ingredients. That is not red Lobster.

    I won't bore the forum any further with the "I'm from __________ so I know ____________" claptrap. I will say this - I grew up in a farming community in a farming family. We fished a lot for food and fun. We hunted too - deer, squirrel, rabbit mostly. Most families around us gardened and a lot still canned when I was very young. I know what a fish looks like, feels like, and smells like when it is alive, vigorous, and just emerging from the water. My fishmongers know this about me and know I won't take anything that's been out of the water 48 hours and to really make me happy it needs to be something arriving on a jet that morning. I know what an animal's flesh is like when it's still warm, the smell of fresh warm blood of deer, pigs, chickens, etc. as well as the look and feel of fresh meat right after slaughter. These things were rituals in my family. I know the smell and taste of a melon in the field that has just dropped its vine, the tru vigor of healthy lettuce in the ground on a cool wet Spring morning. I can go on. These things drive the cooking at Big Jones because this is who I am. I think we have a misunderstanding here and I'd love to know what I can do to get you to take another look at Big Jones.

    Wow! I try not to be a cheerleader but this is one of the best posts I've ever read in these forums. On top of that, it reminds me that it's been far too long since I've been to Big Jones; a situation I plan on remedying soon.

    =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 #189 - February 9th, 2011, 4:14 pm
    Post #189 - February 9th, 2011, 4:14 pm Post #189 - February 9th, 2011, 4:14 pm
    P. Channon wrote:
    Sorry, but you must be kidding...Mitchell's Fish Market in Glenview? :? :)


    You didn't like what you had from there?
    Leek

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  • Post #190 - February 13th, 2011, 10:48 am
    Post #190 - February 13th, 2011, 10:48 am Post #190 - February 13th, 2011, 10:48 am
    I had pretty much written off Big Jones after my first couple visits there after a couple of sub par meals, but the missteps which plagued my first couple of visits have not reappeared in any way on my last two visits.

    Last night, I thought the cassoulet with house made sausages and duck leg was the star of the night. Sadly, it was not my order so I only got several spoonfuls, but it was really excellent and rich and I could have eaten it for hours until every last artery clogged.

    Market lettuces might seem a bit boring as far as salad orders go, but the lettuces were crisp, the flavors well done and not the least bit overdressed and it was the light introduction I desired.

    I cannot recall all of the components of the sweet potato soup (cornbread croutons, sage, and ?), but it was really delicious and ultimately, it was the sweet potato flavor which really emerged.

    Between appetizers and entrees, we were served cornbread, hot with a crisp exterior, which was delicious, particularly with the accompanying honey butter.

    As for the shrimp and grits, the grits were very creamy and delicious, the shrimp perfectly cooked and the tasso gravy tasty. But my only concern is that the grits themselves, with cheese and plenty of butter, are so rich that the shrimp/gravy portion of the dish needs to be bolder and more flavorful to avoid getting lost in the grits - just my opinion.

    Service was very good from the moment we walked in the door. A very nice evening in all.
  • Post #191 - February 28th, 2011, 7:41 am
    Post #191 - February 28th, 2011, 7:41 am Post #191 - February 28th, 2011, 7:41 am
    BR wrote:Last night, I thought the cassoulet with house made sausages and duck leg was the star of the night. Sadly, it was not my order so I only got several spoonfuls, but it was really excellent and rich and I could have eaten it for hours until every last artery clogged.



    I thought Big Jones sounded like a good idea on a sleepy cold late winter night and this dish was on my brain. Ideally i think the proper portion size is somewhere between a couple spoonfuls and the entire bowl, but i wasn't about to get any help from my pescetarian wife. Tender soft beans that weren't mushy and nicely spiced sausage and duck leg really hit the spot.
  • Post #192 - March 4th, 2011, 3:02 pm
    Post #192 - March 4th, 2011, 3:02 pm Post #192 - March 4th, 2011, 3:02 pm
    As I posted above, it had been way too long since my last visit to Big Jones, so earlier this week I (and a couple other LTHers) headed over there for a dinner, which, I thought, was outstanding.

    Image
    Corn Bread
    As good as always, served warm at the outset.


    Image
    House Pickles - red onion, golden beet, okra, chow chow, sunchoke (left to right)
    These vinegar pickles were tart and sweet, and went very well with a couple of the other appetizers we ordered. My favorites were the beets and the sunchokes.


    Image
    Yeast Bread (served with pickles)


    Image
    Charleston Shrimp Paste - house benne biscuits, pickled fennel
    Rich and savory, the shrimp paste went really well with the benne (sesame seed) crackers.


    Image
    Shad Roe - grits, andouille, beurre monte, house-made picalilli, chickory
    This was a special and it was nothing short of spectacular. The shad roe was light and crispy on the outside, with what looked to be a cornmeal crusting. The flavor of the roe reminded me a lot of chicken livers but it was lighter and a lot more complex. I thought it was paired very well with the buttery bed of grits, smokey chunks of andouille, sweet-sour picalilli and slightly bitter chickory.


    Image
    Citrus Old Fashioned - Noah's Mill Bourbon, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, organic citrus

    I really enjoyed this cocktail and the bar at Big Jones is truly impressive. The spirits list has grown tremendously since my last visit. What I enjoyed even more than this cocktail was my first one, which was the Chocolate Walnut Manhattan. It's made with Rittenhouse 100, walnut liqueur, Carpano Antica Formula and house-made Cocoa Nib Bitters. Those bitters matched up so well with the walnut and made for a distinctive but not overly sweet Manhattan. I have to say that those bitters were truly excellent -- far better than any commercial version I've tried.


    Image
    House-made Smoked Andouille - toasted baguette, Creole mustard, chow chow
    Having lived in Louisiana for a couple years and having made my own andouille dozens of times, Chef Fehribach's version is one of the best I can remember. I loved it when he served it at last year's Green City Market BBQ Festival and it was every bit as good this time around.


    Image
    House-made Smoked Tasso - toasted baguette, piccalilli, pickled mustard seed
    A really interesting take, in which there's a fair amount of sweetness in the rub. Still, it totally works because the sweetness is balanced off very well by some substantial heat. It's also distinctive in that it starts with a fresh ham, which is essentially pulled apart muscle by muscle. Each separate piece is cured, rubbed and smoked individually. This results in a flavorful and moist tasso, that doesn't necessarily have a lot of marbling to it. I'm going to ask chef for his exact recipe so I can attempt to duplicate it the next time I make tasso.


    Image
    Pork Terrine - toasted baguette, pickled onion, Creole mustard
    Deep, rich pork flavor and lots of interesting textures in those bits -- some pleasantly chewy, some entirely tender . A really distinctive terrine with a wonderful definition.


    Image
    Duck Liver Pate - salted watermelon radish, kumquat marmalade, rye croutons
    Chef sent this out for us and I'm very glad he did. I thoroughly enjoyed the complex flavor and creamy texture, and also thought the rye croutons were just perfect with it. I'm not typically a fan of kumquats and unfortunately, this marmalade did nothing to change that. Still, it was a terrific pate.


    Image
    Crispy Pork Belly - chow chow pancake, pineapple ketchup, pea greens
    Awesome pork belly that was crispy, unctuous and tender. I liked the pineapple ketchup, too but there was some dissention about it at our table because the other diners found it a bit too sweet.


    Image
    Crawfish Boudin - Acadiana crawfish, Cajun mayonnaise, frisee, picalilli
    I've had these fritters before and they're really flavorful. I really enjoyed the Cajun mayonnaise, too, which delivered an unmistakable bit of heat.


    Image
    Seared Jonah Crab Cakes - fried cauliflower, horseradish veal jus
    Great crab cakes made from big, really fresh-tasting pieces of crab. The fried cauliflower was sensational but other than broccoli, it's my favorite vegetable. :D


    Image
    Creole Cassoulet - house-made andouille, house-made chaurice, slab bacon, rabbit confit, crispy duck, white beans, bread crumbs
    We were full but we had to order this, just to try it. I thought it was awesome -- wonderfully rich and savory, and dotted with all sorts of tasty bits of sausage. The rabbit and duck were both terrific -- crispy and moist -- and the beans were tender without being mushy. The breadcrumbs were wonderfully crispy, too. As full as we were, we each had a few bites (ok, I had seconds) and packed the rest up. It made for an outstanding lunch the next day.

    Desserts -- especially the Gateau Na-Na and the Moon Pie -- looked good but we were just too full to try them on this night.

    This meal reconfirmed for me what a distinctive and special place Big Jones is. Ingredients are top-notch, dishes are well-conceived and execution is very high. They also happen to be putting out a menu that no one else in Chicago is even coming close to. Service, in this case provided by Andy, was exceptional. He was friendly, knowledgeable, helpful and enthusiastic. Big Jones has evolved quite a bit since my last visit and it seems to have gotten better in just about every way. It's refreshing to find a place that is so focused quality and also in constantly improving it. Chef Fehribach's vision is really coming through loud and clear at Big Jones.

    =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 #193 - March 4th, 2011, 3:18 pm
    Post #193 - March 4th, 2011, 3:18 pm Post #193 - March 4th, 2011, 3:18 pm
    Looks like a terrific meal.
    I really enjoyed this cocktail and the bar at Big Jones is truly impressive. The spirits list has grown tremendously since my last visit.


    I'm usually of a simpler mind when it comes to beverages, but I can still echo this sentiment about the bar at Big Jones. With all the hooplah around town about absinthe and the New Orleans craze creating an Herbsaint mindset, it's become hard to damn near impossible to find a place that has Pastis. Even good French restaurants typically have only Pernod, not Pastis. So I was thrilled to see a bottle on the Big Jones bar last week. Big Jones stays open all afternoon and has wi-fi, and there may be no better way to spend a working afternoon than to sip Pastis while lounging and snacking at Big Jones.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #194 - March 4th, 2011, 3:21 pm
    Post #194 - March 4th, 2011, 3:21 pm Post #194 - March 4th, 2011, 3:21 pm
    When I dined at Big Jones two-plus years ago, I was underwhelmed, but Ronnie's pictures suggest a more ambitious and interesting restaurant. If these preparations are typical, BJ deserves a revisit.
    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
  • Post #195 - March 4th, 2011, 4:52 pm
    Post #195 - March 4th, 2011, 4:52 pm Post #195 - March 4th, 2011, 4:52 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:I liked the pineapple ketchup, too but there was some dissention about it at our table because the other diners found it a bit too sweet.


    I was one of those LTHers accompanying Ronnie. I didn't necessarily find the pinepple ketchup too sweet, but I did fiund it a bit one-note. It could have used a little heat and/or some acid to balance the sweetness and work against the richness of the pork belly, IMO. Having said that, this is one of the very few faults (if you can even call it a fault) which I found with our meal that night. Everything really popped, especially that Shad Roe dish, which was truly spectacular! It's easy to forget how good Big Jones is. I'm hoping to get back there much more often.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #196 - March 5th, 2011, 11:11 am
    Post #196 - March 5th, 2011, 11:11 am Post #196 - March 5th, 2011, 11:11 am
    The meal @ BJ on Monday was alot of fun. Really nice pre dinner Winter sazerac. Dinner was good. Highlights for me were:
    - tasso, really nicely prepared
    - andoullie
    - jonah crab cakes
    - duck on the cassoulet
    - pork belly *
    - shad roe
    - pork terrine
    - shrimp paste

    Pork belly was nicely prepared, crispy exterior juicy inside. My problem was with the sauce, too sweet for me, I would have preferred a savory pork trotter jus instead. I am no cassoulet expert, but I preferred one I had at Maudes 2 days before. The BJs version seemed to have some muddled flavors. The crispy duck was great. Firsts for me - pork terrine, and shad roe.. interesting, and items I can see getting a craving for. Also loved the grits that were part of the shad roe dish.

    Overall I was glad I finally got to eat @ BJ, the chef has passion, and takes alot of extra steps in sourcing and preperation that impress me. I could see going back to repeat some items, and try some new ones.
  • Post #197 - March 5th, 2011, 12:02 pm
    Post #197 - March 5th, 2011, 12:02 pm Post #197 - March 5th, 2011, 12:02 pm
    Ronna and I had a nice dinner at Big Jones about a week before Ronnie and crew enjoyed the above-described meal. We were happy with the food, but not nearly as excited as Ronnie, Steve, and Jimsws. We were prompted to make the reservation for two main reasons: Chef Fehribach's recent, fantastic post in this thread and the promise of "Creole Cassoulet."

    See, I love me a good cassoulet. I can't help but order the dish just about every time I see it on a menu. This time, I was disappointed.

    Let's compare...
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Image
    Creole Cassoulet - house-made andouille, house-made chaurice, slab bacon, rabbit confit, crispy duck, white beans, bread crumbs

    Here's what we got:
    Image
    Creole Cassoulet - Nice pile of beans with occasional sausage crumbles, a few slices of pork tenderloin, and breadcrumbs. No duck, no rabbit, no bacon.

    It was a sad cassoulet, but the beans had nice flavor, and for me, a sad cassoulet is better than no cassoulet. I didn't know just how disappointed I was until I saw Ronnie's beautiful pictures. I understand that you've got to work with what you have on hand at any given time, but I am bummed about the clear inconsistency and the fact that I got the short end of the cassoulet stick.

    Anyway, leaving my cassoulet envy behind, the highlight of our meal was definitely this sweetbreads dish:
    Image
    Paneed Sweetbreads - Oyster puree, fried leeks, greens, absinthe gastrique
    The crispy-coated, tender sweetbreads were nicely complimented by the greens and the yin-yang application of oyster puree and absinthe gastrique underneath. Such a strange combination of flavors that worked unexpectedly well. It will be hard to skip this dish if I see it on the menu on a future visit.

    Service was solidly top-notch and the food was pretty good. We plan to return, but will hope for just a bit more joy on our plates.

    --Rich
    I don't know what you think about dinner, but there must be a relation between the breakfast and the happiness. --Cemal Süreyya
  • Post #198 - March 5th, 2011, 1:55 pm
    Post #198 - March 5th, 2011, 1:55 pm Post #198 - March 5th, 2011, 1:55 pm
    This returns us to the question of whether the restaurant knew that Ronnie and company were attending (the "cook for us" conundrum). This is a chef who clearly desires the good attention of this board. There certainly seems to be a large difference between the two cassoulets, and one wonders whether the R_S were available for all comers. (I am not among those who would object to any diner requesting or obtaining special treatment).

    I, myself, have some doubts as to choosing a restaurant based on the chef's literary prowess. Although I don't object to avoiding a restaurant for the same reason (viz, Kitchen Confidential). :lol:
    Last edited by GAF on March 5th, 2011, 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    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
  • Post #199 - March 5th, 2011, 2:20 pm
    Post #199 - March 5th, 2011, 2:20 pm Post #199 - March 5th, 2011, 2:20 pm
    GAF wrote: special treatment


    We call it "soigne" and it exists whether it's fair or not. To think otherwise is folly.

    If you've got an oz of class (and we know our boys do) it's not asked for or insisted upon. It's given freely from the establishment.
    Last edited by Jazzfood on March 5th, 2011, 2:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #200 - March 5th, 2011, 2:21 pm
    Post #200 - March 5th, 2011, 2:21 pm Post #200 - March 5th, 2011, 2:21 pm
    GAF wrote:This returns us to the question of whether the restaurant knew that Ronnie and company were attending (the "cook for us" conundrum).

    You seem eager to jump to this conclusion without having any real basis for doing so. I thought the difference in our cassoulets was more likely attributable to changing availability of ingredients, but I could be wrong.
    GAF wrote:I, myself, have some doubts as to choosing a restaurant based on the chef's literary prowess.

    A chef-owner's well-reasoned, articulate post evincing passion for his craft and a food ideology that I appreciate is not a good reason pick a restaurant for dinner? I strongly disagree.

    --Rich
    I don't know what you think about dinner, but there must be a relation between the breakfast and the happiness. --Cemal Süreyya
  • Post #201 - March 5th, 2011, 2:51 pm
    Post #201 - March 5th, 2011, 2:51 pm Post #201 - March 5th, 2011, 2:51 pm
    I certainly agree that in the week that passed between the two cassoulets it is possible that the chef got his hands on house-made andouille, house-made chaurice, slab bacon, rabbit confit, and crispy duck. On the other hand, if the chef knew who was in the house, Jazzfood might have been correct about the desire of the house for insuring a soigne experience. I wasn't suggesting that our boys demanded special treatment, but I wouldn't be surprised (granted with no evidence) if the chef freely provided it.

    The question is whether the house-made andouille, house-made chaurice, slab bacon, rabbit confit, and crispy duck remain or whether we should expect somewhat wan pork tenderloin. If Ronnie's dish is the "new normal" it speaks well for Big Jones, but if Rich's is what is served regularly, it is less impressive, although perhaps "good enough." As I am half-a-continent distant, others will have to judge.
    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
  • Post #202 - March 5th, 2011, 4:27 pm
    Post #202 - March 5th, 2011, 4:27 pm Post #202 - March 5th, 2011, 4:27 pm
    Fwiw, I made the reservation (on behalf of our group) by phone under my real name, so I doubt that they knew ahead of time who was coming, if that would even matter. I did this intentionally because I didn't want to inadvertantly express that we had any special expectations. Nor did I want the chef/kitchen to feel any need to give us special treatment. It being a Monday, I wondered whether chef Fehribach would even be there but in my mind, that didn't matter, either. A well-run place is well-run, whether the head chef is there or not. If he's truly a chef and not just a cook, the experience shouldn't depend on his physical presence.

    We ate our meal and never communicated anything about the fact that we post at LTH. I did, obviously, use my DSLR to photograph the meal. At the end of the meal, our server mentioned that he lurks here at LTH and thought he recognized us. Chef came out to chat with us at the end of the meal. I don't know exactly what precipitated that (maybe our server mentioned something, maybe the camera, maybe the ordering of cassoulet for dessert, maybe all 3 or something else) but I doubt very seriously that he whipped up batches of andouille and tasso in the moments after our server recognized us. I don't think he could have made those pickles, terrines and pates after we arrived, either. I doubt he slow-cooked and crisped up that duck in the 15 minutes that passed between when we ordered the cassoulet and when it arrived at our table. Nor did he buy a rabbit and confit it in that same amount of time. With the exception of the shad roe, every dish we ordered is on the regular menu. We never asked anyone to "cook for us." Nor did we even hint at it. Based, on what little I know about chef Fehribach, I'm fairly certain we got the best he had offer on the night we were there. Just as RAB did. It was just that our night looks to have been a better one.

    =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 #203 - March 5th, 2011, 7:05 pm
    Post #203 - March 5th, 2011, 7:05 pm Post #203 - March 5th, 2011, 7:05 pm
    The version posted by Ronnie above looks exactly like the version i was served on a slow early dinner last sunday.
  • Post #204 - March 6th, 2011, 6:45 am
    Post #204 - March 6th, 2011, 6:45 am Post #204 - March 6th, 2011, 6:45 am
    Ronnie's pics also make me want to try it again. It's a lovely space but the food, including the corn bread, has always been forgettable for me and my animal eating dining companions.

    Nothing wrong with it, but in that neighborhood I would not seek out BJ, nor would it be a destination for me, unlike GNRs Great Lake and Pasticceria Natalina (now only serving cannoli on the weekends :shock: ).

    I look forward to trying it again.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #205 - March 6th, 2011, 7:37 am
    Post #205 - March 6th, 2011, 7:37 am Post #205 - March 6th, 2011, 7:37 am
    *Edit

    As I wrote above, I will make it back to Big Jones soon because the chef posted a nice response to my criticisms and because the restaurant clearly has potential. If my 2nd meal is on par with my 1st meal there, I would come to see that it really is the restaurant, and not me.
  • Post #206 - March 6th, 2011, 12:04 pm
    Post #206 - March 6th, 2011, 12:04 pm Post #206 - March 6th, 2011, 12:04 pm
    P. Channon wrote:As I wrote above, I will make it back to Big Jones soon because the chef posted a nice response to my criticisms.


    This is what I really don't understand about this thread. I will grant that the chef is a fine fellow and a good writer and cares about the reputation of the restaurant. But why would you choose this restaurant as opposed to all the other excellent restaurants in Andersonville and beyond BECAUSE the chef wrote you a nice response. (It was a nice response).

    I went to Big Jones once and had a forgettable experience, despite the responses of the chef on this thread. I thought that he was a good human being, but his literary skills and his good intentions didn't overwhelm the memory of the meal. That is, until Ronnie discussed his meal, very persuasively. That discussion was about cuisine, not about intentions. I was thinking of returning for that reason, at least until RAB discussed the very same dish. What that discussion said to me was that if Ronnie was not getting special treatment, and I take him at his word, Big Jones is terribly inconsistent. The same dish was very different on two nights.

    I admire Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune (and now a memoirist), but I go to Prune (in New York) because of what she puts on the table, not because of what she puts on the internet.

    To clarify, I have no animus to Big Jones or its chef. My own meal was good and the restaurant was concerned about their recognized failings that night. We need more Southern-inflected restaurants. And Ronnie's meal and one of Rich's dishes seemed to be excellent. And I eagerly await any and all discussion of the dishes for whatever reason anyone chooses to dine.
    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
  • Post #207 - March 6th, 2011, 12:20 pm
    Post #207 - March 6th, 2011, 12:20 pm Post #207 - March 6th, 2011, 12:20 pm
    GAF wrote:
    P. Channon wrote:As I wrote above, I will make it back to Big Jones soon because the chef posted a nice response to my criticisms.


    This is what I really don't understand about this thread. I will grant that the chef is a fine fellow and a good writer and cares about the reputation of the restaurant. But why would you choose this restaurant as opposed to all the other excellent restaurants in Andersonville and beyond BECAUSE the chef wrote you a nice response. (It was a nice response).

    I went to Big Jones once and had a forgettable experience, despite the responses of the chef on this thread. I thought that he was a good human being, but his literary skills and his good intentions didn't overwhelm the memory of the meal. That is, until Ronnie discussed his meal, very persuasively. That discussion was about cuisine, not about intentions. I was thinking of returning for that reason, at least until RAB discussed the very same dish. What that discussion said to me was that if Ronnie was not getting special treatment, and I take him at his word, Big Jones is terribly inconsistent. The same dish was very different on two nights.

    I admire Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune (and now a memoirist), but I go to Prune (in New York) because of what she puts on the table, not because of what she puts on the internet.

    To clarify, I have no animus to Big Jones or its chef. My own meal was good and the restaurant was concerned about their recognized failings that night. We need more Southern-inflected restaurants. And Ronnie's meal and one of Rich's dishes seemed to be excellent. And I eagerly await any and all discussion of the dishes for whatever reason anyone chooses to dine.


    GAF:

    I agree that it appears that Big Jones is very inconsistent and consistency is the hallmark of a great restaurant. My response above reflects that prior to the chef's response, I probably wouldn't go back, but since he took the time to explain himself and defend his restaurant...I would give it another shot. I do to dinner in Andersonville often as I agree it has a wealth of great restaurants.

    If I go again, it won't be with a HD Camera in tow. I'm not saying Ronnie took a comp or did anything unethical, only that when you have a chef (and staff) who is obviously in tune with LTH Forum and other internet blogs it's foolish to think you will not bring attention to yourself and therefore extra attention. There are other places I'd like to try first here, but Big Jones clearly has potential...I just don't like the idea of walking into a restaurant hoping it's a "good" night to have dinner there.
  • Post #208 - March 6th, 2011, 12:29 pm
    Post #208 - March 6th, 2011, 12:29 pm Post #208 - March 6th, 2011, 12:29 pm
    P. Channon wrote:If I go again, it won't be with a HD Camera in tow. I'm not saying Ronnie took a comp or did anything unethical, only that when you have a chef (and staff) who is obviously in tune with LTH Forum and other internet blogs it's foolish to think you will not bring attention to yourself and therefore extra attention.


    Me: I'd go with the biggest, boldest, baddest camera I can lay my hands on. :lol:
    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
  • Post #209 - March 6th, 2011, 12:34 pm
    Post #209 - March 6th, 2011, 12:34 pm Post #209 - March 6th, 2011, 12:34 pm
    P. Channon wrote:If I go again, it won't be with a HD Camera in tow.
    No camera, check, no interaction with chef, check, no schmoozing, jokes or quips with the staff, check. How should one dress, tan slacks, light blue oxford button-down shirt, dark blue two-button blazer and penny loafers? ;)
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #210 - March 6th, 2011, 12:56 pm
    Post #210 - March 6th, 2011, 12:56 pm Post #210 - March 6th, 2011, 12:56 pm
    G Wiv wrote:
    P. Channon wrote:If I go again, it won't be with a HD Camera in tow.
    No camera, check, no interaction with chef, check, no schmoozing, jokes or quips with the staff, check. How should one dress, tan slacks, light blue oxford button-down shirt, dark blue two-button blazer and penny loafers? ;)


    That would be a start... 8) :wink:

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