June 15th, 2012

Girl and The Goat

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Pork, Restaurants

We were so lucky after our venture into The Aviary to have the opportunity to snag a couple of stools at Girl and The Goat. The brainchild of Stephanie Izard, the name originates from her French last name, which is a type of goat-antelope. She began her culinary career at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and then went on to Fermier Brasserie in Phoenix. In 2007, she opened Scylla, only to sell it on a whim when she got a spot on Top Chef: Season 4. She took home the top spot on the show, which allowed her to travel, taste, teach, and explore cuisine for a solid two years. To market her new concept, she initiated “Wandering Goat” dinners at undisclosed venues. With the buzz surrounding her mystery dinners, she opened her restaurant in 2011 under high demand, all the while earning a Food and Wine “Best New Chef” honor.

 Since The Girl and The Goat only takes limited reservations, we were reluctantly hopeful when we arrived. We were told it would be a 2-hour wait, but we could choose to wait for a table or stool in the bar area.  So we hung around the bar for a little while, ordered a few drinks and waited patiently (like vultures) for a table to open up. As luck would have it, three leather stools opened up at one of the lowboy tables in the bar area and we were on our way.

One of the highlights of the menu is anything made with goat. Goat is sourced from several farms near Chicago, including Kilgus Farmstead. While most restaurants employ smoking, braising, and sausage making for the majority of the goat on the menu, Girl and The Goat takes a different approach. Izard and her staff employ various methods of preparation as well as a wider array of cuts. You can find goat liver mousse, confit goat belly, goat carpaccio, and smoked goat rillette empanadas on her menu. Her desire to showcase goat in its different forms seems to set her apart from the crowd. By demonstrating goat’s versatility, she is bound and determined to put goat on the everyday plate.

Unfortunately, we were not able to sample our top pick, the confit goat belly, as it was sold out by the time we were seated (sigh).  So goes dinner…..

We started out with a fresh chickpeas in vinaigrette with crispy homemade cracker bread.

This was a nice little bit and was a nice way to start our dinner.  We were off to great start and eagerly await our next course!

Our next course was sugo, which was recommended to us by the people seated next to us at the communal table.  It was a goat, pork, and veal sugo (a tomato-based sauce with braised meat), house made pappardelle with pickled ramps and rosemary. The pappardelle was tender and the ramps added a tangy note.  It was a pleasant 2nd course. The third course was the chickpea fritters. These were garnished with fresh and cooked chickpeas, a peppery tomato sauce and a chredded slaw.

It was good but we were still waiting in dire anticipation of two other dishes that we ordered: crispy pig face and braised pork shank.

Crispy Pig Face: this came as one of the most highly recommended dishes on the menu (aside from that legendary confit goat belly).

I have to say that it was also pretty tasty, although a little chewy and very salty.

It was all a distant memory once we laid our eyes on the braised pork shank:

Talk about a flavor explosion! I think once we tasted this delicious dish, we forgot all about all the other things we ordered. The pig itself was fall apart tender. It was served with a spicy tangy sauce that we couldn’t put our finger on. Sweet-talking the waiter got the answer: gochujang, a Chinese kimchee sauce.  The pig shank was accompanied with homemade buttermilk dressing and fresh pita bread.  Although the pork didn’t really need the buttermilk dressing, it was perfect with just the kimchee sauce.

Three days later and still dreaming of crispy pork shank. Too bad Chicago is so far away!


June 12th, 2012

National Restaurant Association 2012: Whet Your Appetite On The Latest Trends

Posted in Food Shows

We had a lot of fun walking the floor at the National Restaurant Association show from May 4th-6th of this year. Always on the lookout for the newest trends, the following products were some of our favorites:

1. The Cecilware OJ200

The Cecilware OJ200 booth was one of our first stops. It’s a pretty awesome gadget. You put whole oranges in the top, and it automatically feeds, then slices and squeezes oranges for fresh orange juice. It can process up to 22 oranges per minute, making it a very efficient countertop model. I think we   were just as enamored with the guy in the rolling orange, so we snapped his photo. From the look on his face I am not sure if he was all that pleased. Oh well.

2. The Cookshack Pellet-Fired Charbroiler

It uses compressed wood pellets in a lower smoker box that heats and smokes meats simultaneously. It offers consistent flavor, and has minimal ash cleanup. According to the company’s website, it reduces ash accumulation from 30% to 3%. It’s been on the market since 2009 and is Cookshack’s best seller. They also sell residential and commercial smokers. It’s definitely an interesting piece of kitchen technology.

3. Cups, cups, cups! 

There were all kinds of ready-made pastry cups that work perfectly with sweet and savory fillings. There were also lots of cones on sticks that would make for great chocolate applications. One booth had savory cups in flavors like curry and basil Parmesan. They were cute and looked like Asian soup spoons. One definite bonus is that you can eat the spoon for a great “green” alternative!

 4. White Harissa Paste

This was one of my favorite tastes at the show. It tastes nothing like regular harissa paste, and is the first product of its kind in the marketplace. It has a very apparent rich garlic taste underlying the rich spicy chili flavor. You can taste the sunshine in the jar! This would be a great addition to any bean dish or  it could be used to make a beautifully balanced vinaigrette.

5. Ginger Vinegar

 Talk about an unexpected flavor experience! This vinegar is not your average vinegar. Of course, we thought it was going to be a tart, acidic, possibly tangy vinegar. I think the term vinegar does this product an injustice. It is sweet and gingery with a hint of rice vinegar. Further research on the website confirms the product content. Our first instinct was that this would be amazing in a cocktail of some kind due to its truly unique nature. Get out your wallet for this one, though, a 8.45 oz bottle retails for 49.99! Makes me want to come up with my own version!

6. FOMZ Zero Gravity Fruit

Another product we found very interesting was at the Canada-based FDR booth. It is an aerosol based all natural product. It contains fresh fruit and pure cane sugar. It is a dairy-free, alcohol-free, low fat solution to whipped creams. It was designed with mixologists and pastry chefs in mind. My personal favorite was the passionfruit mango flavor. Wish I could have tried the mixed berry!

7. Pretzel-Based Products

One trend that we found in full force at the show was the plethora of pretzel-based products. Anything from jumbo pretzels, pretzel baguettes, and pretzel rolls to pretzel bites stuffed with cream cheese, or pretzels coated in all myriads of flavors.

This last set of pictures is just simply for fun.

These were on display at the Mazzetta Company booth. Who wouldn’t want to climb on board a “ShrimpMobile”? These weren’t just display bikes either, some lucky company bloke gets to ride around on them in their free time, or maybe they let potential customers take them for a spin! The company had a great booth, and these bikes were definitely memorable.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this overview of the NRA show! Check back soon for the next adventure in food trends!

Allison & Bridget