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Avenues Restaurant To Get 2004 F&W Best New Chef


ChefGEB
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Elrushbo, there is not a jacket requirement.  I would, however, exhort you not to show up in khaki cargo shortds, sneakers, and a rumpled polo like the gent 3 tables over from me the first time I was there.

They didn't dare!! :blink::hmmm: Really, I'm shocked - shocked!!! Is this the same table that...?

(ue, there had better freakin be pics, and let me know when I can post my paean, I've been holding off so as not to spoiler)

wench... to be sure, there will be pictures.

Thanks for holding off on the paean - the rest of eGullet and I are eagerly awaiting your report... perhaps we can tag-team it like molto e and docsconz! :laugh: Patience, dear grasshopper - believe me, the anticipation is killing me!!

u.e.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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No, it's not the same table- the shorts dude was there the first time I went. From the snatches of booming conversation my mother and I could not avoid, he and his female companion were guests at the hotel.

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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Just received word of this delectable, newly-created Chef's Palate menu, by chef Graham Elliot Bowles, which will be offered at Avenues, starting this weekend. In face of the recent ban, you have to love the option to include foie gras with every single course:

CHEF’S PALATE

AMUSE

SCALLOP

apple, mint, rhubarb

foie gras custard

ASPARAGUS

bacon, egg, cheese

foie gras torchon

KANGAROO

lime, eucalyptus, melon

foie gras snow

FOIE-LAVA

phyllo, honey, pistachio

foie gras lollipop

RISOTTO

fern, nettle, grenouilles

foie gras emulsion

TURBOT

saffron, caper, raisin

foie gras vinaigrette

RABBIT

fava, artichoke, violet

foie gras mousse

BEEF

potato, spinach, merlot

seared foie gras

FROMAGE

arugula, beet, almond

foie gras brioche

CHOCOLATE

sel, caramel, raspberry

foie gras milkshake

MIGNARDISES

138

238 with foie gras

Graham Elliot Bowles

Chef de Cuisine

I just moved my next meal at Avenues from my "short" list to my "even shorter" list. :biggrin:

=R=

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... Just got back... OHYMGOSH... will update in the next couplah days... wench, we need to coordinate. Boy do I have pics.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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This is a quick post that responds to a question in the Chicago ban on foie gras thread.

While at dinner last night, Chef GEB told me that he was toying with the idea of offering a foied-out suplement menu in which foie gras would be included in ever course on the Chef's Palate.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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... chicagowench, I'm upping the ante and I'm going to start posting and commenting. This is just an opening volley to give you a little notice - so you still have some time to collect your notes and thoughts... :raz:

To the rest of you, this is my first time posting pictures on eGullet, so bear with me. I've released my entire set to public viewing on my flickr account, but felt I owed it to eGullet and myself to post here as well.

gallery_37441_2859_368850.jpg

My latest and third meal the Avenues was SPECTACULAR. We sat at the "Chef's Bar" overlooking the grill line where Chef Bowles and his staff of able sous chefs, Elaina, Carey, and Alex, absolutely overwhelmed my two guests and me with their *charm* and excellent food.

gallery_37441_2859_584763.jpg

(I love this shot of Chef Bowles and Sous Chef Elaina - whose face is distorted by the wine glass) The beverage service was also excellent. Joe was quick on the beverage accompaniments, affable and very knowledgeable. Because I'm a teetotaler, I joined one of my guests in the non-alcoholic beverage pairing, while my other friend took advantage of the wine pairing.

gallery_37441_2859_320995.jpg

... but more on that later.

My friends and I were greeted enthusiastically by the staff and Chef Bowles. We saddled (read: climbed) up to the Chef's bar perched above the line where we watched sous chefs Carey, Elaina and Alex prepare all of our dishes right before us.

Before the fun begins, we were first welcomed with red beet & Gruyere-stuffed gougieres

gallery_37441_2859_484726.jpg

... served with a selection of excellent breads, including one studded with hazelnuts and blueberries.

gallery_37441_2859_485108.jpg

Amuse

gallery_37441_2859_339023.jpg

Our amuse was an unctuous white asparagus custard with fricasse of Burgundian escargot and white truffle oil.

Taste: I was really expecting the custard to have a little bitter bite from the white asparagus. Instead, it was pleasantly asparagus-y and slightly sweet. The custard was more like a full-fat yogurt in texture - decadently rich and thick.... in a good way. The fricasse of snails was amazingly tender... not chewy at all. In fact, if you hadn't told me it was escargot, I may have thought it was rendered mushrooms (the dab of white truffle oil didn't hurt either!).

The treat in this amuse were the micro-herbs. Among the ones that my friends and I detected were dill, parsley, sage, and cilantro.

Okay... chicagowench... the gauntlet's been thrown. I'll be posting more when I have the time... in the meantime, I hope this provides an excellent tease...

By the way, Chef Bowles is off to NYC to celebrate his nomination for a James Beard award for Rising Star Chef. I'm sure that I'm not alone in wishing him the best of luck... not that he needs it, in my opinion! (Incidentally, Chef Bowles is the only one nominated from the Heartland).

Cheers.

u.e.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Nice start. I am looking forward to this. Aveues remains high on my list of places to try. With quite a bit of luck I hope to get there in June for the foie gras menu.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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Oh it is on! (Right after I congratulate ChefGEB on his nom, and wish him only fabulousness in NY).

So, to set the stage for my last visit to Avenues, picture this if you will. It's 85 degrees and you have a squally toddler on your hands as you hit nurseries out in the middle of horse farm country in MO. As you deal with the plaintive bellows of ME DO IT as your child tries to push a fully laden cart of plants about, your cellphone buzzes indicating you have voicemail. 3 minutes later, doing 65 mph down a two lane highway while you simultaneously try to unwrap a granola bar and dial your voicemail, you're treated to a polite, slightly breathily embarassed call from the hostess at Avenues, informing you they're very sorry, but they just can't seat you at the chef's bar the night you've got a reservation the next week, thanks to 'an incident', and would you like to reschedule. Calling them back gleans you no information other than an obtuse reference to 'upholstery' and 'catastrophe', and an assurance they'll try to seat you near the kitchen.

So, yeah, no chef's bar for me. *fistshakes at U.E.* As the back of my head was whinged with the rejected granola bar, accompanied by an aggrieved shout of 'no 'nola! GOAT CHEESE!', I mentally thanked god the entire restaurant had not shut down, and I had a night of peace to look forward to a few weeks hence. The hostess may well still be wondering what the hell that racket was.

I did not bring my camera with (precious handbag space was dedicated to my knitting, because who wouldn't want to challenge themselves to successfully knit on 5, size 4 double-point needles while downing a kir royale in the Penn's lovely lobby bar area?), but I did bring my weeeee notebook. At one point, I was asked if I was a pro. Pro what? Eater? Hell yeah. I demurred and allowed as how I just enjoyed a good night out, and the captain merrily informed me that's what they're here for.

My meal got off on the wrong foot. They buzzed over and presented me with a very similar prep to U.E.'s, except instead of red beet and gruyere the gougiere was stuffed with curried eggplant and...somethin. I can't recall the something, because as the young man finished his chipper recitation I trilled back, "And it would kill me." Turns out in their reservation system it had purged all the info on my allergies, and so there was a bit of a flurry and kerfluffle as they hurriedly renoted them and juggled some things. I have to hand it to them for quickly and efficiently dealing. And for having the sense of humour to come over and announce the next course as a 'tantalizing symphony of....' (fill in everything I am allergic to, in various oh so haute preparations). We all had a good laugh, and moved on.

So, onto the pinch hitter amuse, a watercress panna cotta. Shot out in a similar plating to u.e.'s, it was good but assertive (as watercress in that concentration can be), and the texture reminded me of a jello shot. (Shout out to the very highbrow table next to me, no, I was not giggling at your stories of renting the Taj Mahal to sleep there on your 30th anniversary, I was giggling at the thought of a jello shot in a restaurant like this.) This was one of the rare cases where the amuse would have benefited from the little treat immediately beforehand- I could imagine the curried eggplant would have been a good palate zinger and prepped one for the smoothness of the panna cotta and the crisp herbaceousness of the micro greens.

Tag, u.e., you're it.

Edited by chicagowench (log)

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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So, yeah, no chef's bar for me.  *fistshakes at U.E.*
The barstools they arrived an hour before my deriere settled in for a four-hour pleasure cruise! :biggrin: Fate just sometimes works in our favor!
Tag, u.e., you're it.

Right on... For the first course:

gallery_37441_2859_121133.jpg

What I call Upstairs-Downstairs Scallops and Caviar. I 'splain...

Diver and pickled bay scallops on bed of finely diced green apple and a sheet of malted sunchoke panna cotta. The plate is dotted with American sturgeon caviar and smoked shad roe. The scallops are garnished with micro-dill.

Chef Bowles has featured a "panna cotta" meat-dish (usually toward the beginning of the meal) everytime I have visited. This "Scallop" dish is its latest incarnation. (See here and here. This dish was nearly identical in elements to the first panna cotta (or baveroise, as it was called on that menu).

Taste: This is what I call an "upstairs-downstairs" kind of dish. I've notice a few chef's like to contrast haute with pedestrian - or simply jazz up otherwise low-end food (e.g. Boulud's foie gras burger, Achatz's famous "PB&J," etc.). Here, the conceit is high-end diver scallops with lower-end pickled bay scallops. High-end sturgeon caviar duals with low-end smoked shad roe.

Not only was this conceptually a fun course, but it tasted great too. I *LOVE* scallops and this dish did not disappoint. While the diver scallop and caviar were great, I was more smitten by the "low-end" products on this dish. I think it's because they both received unique treatment. The bay scallops had been pickled and had a taughtness and tartness to them that was just so different. The smoked shad roe tasted as if you magically rolled the ocean into a smoker and let it just deepen in flavor. I especially liked the textural counterpoints - the firm pickled bay scallops with the creamy malted sunchoke and crunchy bits of green apple - the smoky roe and salty-bitter caviar served as wonderful condiments.

Note, this malted sunchoke was a more gelatinized version of Chef Grant Achatz's King Crab course that featured a ribbon of "malted pasta."

gallery_37441_2859_384337.jpg

The scallops were paired with a Cucumber-Tarragon drink. This first non-alcoholic drink pairing surprised me. First, it was savory - slightly saline. Second, I was impressed with how prominently and well-balanced both the cucumber and tarragon stood out. Lastly, the flavors were very clean. The drink (as all subsequent drinks) was served from this novel "carafe" (I was told it was from Japan) which had a little cavity for keeping ice separate from the drink liquid to prevent dilution. Oh those Japanese - they think of everything. And pretty too!

gallery_37441_2859_310688.jpg

Next, Asparagus:

I can't imagine how I failed to take a picture of my favorite drink of the evening: Meyer Lemon-Jasmine. You'll have to take my word that it was *divine*... sweet-tart yet sublimly floral. The server told us that it featured brewed jasmine tea and, of course, Meyer lemon juice. Chef Bowles - have you considered carbonating it? I think it would be the ultimate teetotler's bubbly!

A single cooked asparagus stalk covered in a creme fraiche fondant and crusted with bacon bits. The plate is garnished with basil oil. A quartered sliver of confit of quail egg leans against the asparagus.

Taste: Chef asked me what I thought. I responded, "You lathered it up with creme fraiche and bacon, how could it not taste great?" And it did. The fat asparagus had been treated a creme fraiche facial and then studded with smoky and delightfully crunchy bacon bits. The confit'ed quail egg was really delicate - the treatment had rendered the yolk irresistebly creamy smooth. This was a delight to eat - especially paired with the refreshingly bright and floral Meyer lemon-Jasmine drink.

Note: Familiar plate?

gallery_37441_2859_126704.jpg

3rd Course: Kangaroo.

(Rollover Picture)

The tissue-thin carpaccio of kangaroo are adhered to the walls of this beautiful bowl with the help of painted lime caramel. Eucalyptus whipped cream anchors the bottom of the bowl, this dish is strewn with canteloupe and cucumber "noodels" and garnished with a dash of fenugreek.

Taste: This dish is the same "painted carpaccio" presentation from my first meal, which featured hamachi carpaccio. While the hamachi presentation was decidedly Japanese, this was decidedly Aussie. Silky tissue-thin carpaccio of kangaroo mixed in excellently with the floral semi-tart and sweet lime-caramel. I really enjoyed the combination - together with the woods-y perfume of the eucalpytus whipped cream. I only wish that I could taste the lime a tad more in the caramel. The strands of cucumber and canteloupe noodles added a refreshing melon taste. This sweet dish really benefited from the spicy kick from the orange-black pepper-infused drink pairing.

gallery_37441_2859_567168.jpg

Orange-Black Pepper juice: I would discribe this drink as orange "nectar" instead of juice. It was thick and very concentrated. The drink starts out smooth and nice in the mouth - and then the black pepper KICKS you on it's way down. Awesome infusion.

... this is exhausting...

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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For our viewing audience playing along at home, I was at Avenues approximately 2 weeks before u.e. Even so, our menus were different and some of the platings were different. Right from the start, in fact.

First course: Scallops

Whereas u.e. had pickled bay scallops in their prep, mine were smoked. Plated on the same style dish with malted sunchoke panna cotta (best descriptor I can give: a very thick, creamy 'fruit leather' of malt and sunchoke. Seriously, it peeled away from the plate in a chem-lab-experiment-gone-funky solid sheet) along with sliced sauteed sea scallop, tiny dice of granny smith apple, and house smoked shad roe. The plate was dotted with dill microgreens. I had selected a sake to go with the first few courses, and the refreshing zing of the sake played perfectly against the smokiness of the bay scallops and the unctuousness of the panna cotta. The textures all played well together - I had worried the smoked bay scallops might be a touch rubbery, and they weren't.

Second course: Duo of Asparagus

Again, conceptually a similar dish, but plated very differently. Mine featured 4 interlaid spears of asparagus (white and green), lavished with tarragon infused sabayon and crunchy bacon, accompanied by a goat cheese 'cloud' topped with half a duck egg. The asparagus was perfect- not overcooked to squishiness, but not so rare that it was too crunchy. I found myself trying to remember what the brekkie dish in the UK of asparagus dipped in egg is called (soldiers on horseback?); this seemed like the penultimate luxury version of it. I sometimes find tarragon to be overwhelming in delicate sauces and too licorice-y for my taste; not so here. The goat cheese cut perfectly across the fattiness of the duck egg, bacon, and sabayon in the mouth. It was somewhat maddening- in a jolly way- to try to get just a little taste of everything on a single forkful. So unbelievably good.

Huh, I can tell the kir royale had hit and the sake was beginning to, as my handwriting in my notes begins to go to crap right about now.

Edited by chicagowench (log)

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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For our viewing audience playing along at home, I was at Avenues approximately 2 weeks before u.e.  Even so, our menus were different and some of the platings were different.  Right from the start, in fact.

First course:  Scallops

Whereas u.e. had pickled bay scallops in their prep, mine were smoked. 

Hmmm... maybe I need to double-back to ChefGEB on this... I actually thought those bay scallops were smoked. I even asked sous chef Elaina if they were smoked - but she was the one that said they were pickled... :hmmm:

Second course:  Duo of Asparagus...

Huh, I can tell the kir royale had hit and the sake was beginning to, as my handwriting in my notes begins to go to crap right about now.

... Oh no, come on wench, it's only the 2nd course... you gotta keep up!

u.e.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Oh no, I've got 4 more pages of notes, they're just illegibile. Maybe after tomorrow morning's latte they'll make sense.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say you would so totally have known if they were smoked. Because mine tasted like gnawing on a scallopy chonk of wood.

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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Onward... sorry this is coming at such a slow and tedious pace...

Tomato-Basil pairing for the 4th Course.

gallery_37441_2859_5430.jpg

---------

4th Course: Langoustine, a.k.a. "Chips & Dip"

gallery_37441_2859_117464.jpg

This course featured a nice plump and fat langoustine crusted with plaintain dust and deep fried. The black bean-cumin puree and a unctuous avocado "salsa" (ie. guacamole) with a fried plaintain chip.

Taste: OHMYGOSH one of my favorite dishes that Bowles has created. This was really quite simple; he stylized it as "chip & dip." But, this was no ordinary chip & dip. The langoustine was very plumb and succulent and nicely crusted over with the fried plantain. I especially appreciated how the bits of plaintain clung to the meat - I hate it when the fried skin completely pulls away from the surface from cakey moisture. *Boo!* This, however, was rock star.

What really won me on this plate was the black bean puree, which had heft both in texture and taste. I lapped up every bit of the dark condiment which was smokey and dark with cumin. The avocado "salsa" seemed unnaturally buttery. :raz: Together, these two "dips" hosted a fiesta in my mouth.

Although I didn't appreciate the drink pairing by itself, with the dish, it made a lot of sense. The saltiness of the guacamole and other elements on this dish actually brought out the sweetness of the tomato - which was the missing traditional "salsa" flavor element in this otherwise true chip & dips.

---------

5th Course: Pea

gallery_37441_2859_416506.jpg

This was an English garden in a bowl. The diner is presented with a little gathering of fresh shelled peas and a tuft of pea shoots/tendrils with a creme fraiche ice cream nestled on top. The ice cream was dusted with lavendar buds. On either side of the dish are pink peppercorn dusted marshmallows. A cool pea consomme is poured into this bowl.

gallery_37441_2859_572096.jpg

Taste: Awesome. It was very similar, in fact to the first green pea consomme that I had at the Avenues a year before. However, this version I thought, was more successful in a number of ways.

First, this soup actually featured pea in three different forms: the freshly shelled peas, pea tendrils and the chilled pea consomme. Together, the diner was able to taste the plant, the sweetness of the peas and the cooling soup made from them. Texturally, you also have tender meaty peas and crunchy delicate tendrils along with the soup.

Second, I *LOVED* the creme fraiche ice cream dusted with lavendar buds. It added a nice creamy tang to the bright and fresh sweetness of the pea.

Third: I appreciated the fact that the marshmallows were left outside the bowl this time so that I could choose how to incorporate them into the meal. The pink peppercorns were novel seasoning. Unfortunately, the marshmallows were dry and chewy. Maybe I should have dunked them in the pea consomme? :unsure:

Note: There was no drink pairing with this soup.

---------

Cranberry-Thyme

gallery_37441_2859_57580.jpg

I smelled this juice before I tasted it. As I tipped the glass toward me, the scent of thyme hit me in the nose before the juice even made it into my mouth. It was intoxicating.

Yet, despite the smell, the cranberry dominated the taste. The bracing acidity of the cranberry provided the perfect counterpoint to cut through the rich and decadent...

---------

6th Course: Foie Gras

gallery_37441_2859_365360.jpg

Although the menu calls this course "Foie-lava" (a play on the Middle Eastern pastry "baklava"), I was presented with a duo of foie gras.

Unfortunately, the City of Chicago just passed an ordinance (April, 2006) that will prohibit the "sale" of foie gras in the city beginning later in July or August of the year. Chef Bowles told me that he's toying with the idea of featuring a "foied-out" menu with supplement in the neighborhood of $100.

"Foie-lava"

gallery_37441_2859_72384.jpg

Taste: This course was presented as "foie-lava" - a take on baklava. With that in mind, I had anticipated a honey-sweet and buttery-nutty treat. While all of the elements were very well prepared, together, they didn't cohere as much as I had hoped. While I'm not a sweet-tooth, I do wish this was sweeter. I may have been prejudiced by the namesake. The foie itself was perfect - silky, decadent and just this side of liver-y heaven.

I think everything would have been great had the honey reduction not completely dried and crusted onto the plate and therefore failed to mix with the other ingredients. I literally had to SCRAPE the honey off the plate to add it some to each bite. While the honey was dark and spicy - almost like spiced rum, unfortunitely , the hardened honey ended up just sticking in chunks to my teeth. As well, the dish wasn't as nutty as I had hoped or expected. I could see the nuts, but couldn't taste them... texturally, they got lost amidst all the crunchy strands of shredded phyllo.

"Foie-cicle"

gallery_37441_2859_383544.jpg

A single "foie-cicle" leaning against a rice krispy treat. Garnished with pop rocks. Rhubarb carpaccio. I call it the foie-cicle for a lack of another name. It's shaped like an icicle, yet isn't frozen. Ironically, the "foie-lipop" from my first meal was shaped like a lolipop but was frozen.

Taste: This foie-cicle was excitingly silkey. It had been "congealed" to hold its shape with the help of some gelatin - without feeling too jello-y. The foie maintained its luscious silky richness and a distinct foie flavor. The rice krispy treat was just that - tasted just like the kind you make at home, and made for an excellent sweet and semi-crunchy textural counterpoint to the silken-tofu-like foie. Also, a play on the "snap, crackle, pop" slogan of the Rice Krispy cereal three amigos, the foie-cicle was garnished with pop-rocks that literally "snapped, crackled and popped" as you ate it.

I'd have to say that although I liked the foie-cicle better than the foie-lipop, I preferred the spiced rice krispy treat Chef Bowles served with the foie-cicle, which was redolent with ginger/cinnamon-y spices... but then again, I'm a spicy person. :o)

My favorite foie presentation by Chef Bowles, however, remains the foie "Parfait" on my second visit.

Regardless of the form, eating foie by Bowles is an adult food experience that takes you back to your recklessly indulgent and simple sweet-toothed days of "kid-hood." This foie-cicle personifies Chef Bowles - terribly mature, refined and well-spoken yet displaying a prounounced streak of sweet and indulgent playfulness.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Second course:  Duo of Asparagus

Again, conceptually a similar dish, but plated very differently.  Mine featured 4 interlaid spears of asparagus (white and green), lavished with tarragon infused sabayon and crunchy bacon, accompanied by a goat cheese 'cloud' topped with half a duck egg.  The asparagus was perfect- not overcooked to squishiness, but not so rare that it was too crunchy.  I found myself trying to remember what the brekkie dish in the UK of asparagus dipped in egg is called (soldiers on horseback?); this seemed like the penultimate luxury version of it.  I sometimes find tarragon to be overwhelming in delicate sauces and too licorice-y for my taste; not so here.  The goat cheese cut perfectly across the fattiness of the duck egg, bacon, and sabayon in the mouth.  It was somewhat maddening- in a jolly way- to try to get just a little taste of everything on a single forkful.  So unbelievably good.

Not that I'm complaining about my asparagus... but I'm *envious* of your version! :raz: Goat cheese? Duck egg? oh....

------------

7th Course: Risotto

gallery_37441_2859_600359.jpg

Risotto of roasted garlic, fiddlehead ferns, stinging nettle and nuggets of grenoilles (frog legs). The risotto is topped with stinging nettle foam and fried stinging nettle leaves.

Risotto has also featured on every Chef's Palate menu I've had. (See here and here.).

gallery_37441_2859_261270.jpg

Taste: This was the glory of spring in a little pot. Meaty nuggets of cuisses de grenoilles luxuriated in a Parmesan-fortified risotto studded with crunchy tendrils of fiddlehead ferns and whole cloves of roasted garlic. Bits of stinging nettle leaves were threaded throughout. The crispy fried ones on top were great. Forest and earth. Frogs, ferns, garlic and nettle...

My only complaint about this dish was that the risotto was a little more soupy than I prefer. I like my risotto's a bit thicker, without being a congealed mass of glop. This one was more like a slightly thickened rice soup.

------------

Blackberry-Sage

gallery_37441_2859_226798.jpg

This pairing really packed a punch - not only in terms of flavor, but also in consistency. You can't tell by this picture, but the juice poured like tomato juice - thick with yummy fruit concentrate. I'm not usually a fan of sage, but I loved the use here - featuring in an awesome supporting role to the blackberry's sexy lead. This was paired with the following two courses.

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8th Course: Rouget

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So, like many of Bowle's dishes, the format's the same, but the preparation is different. Every menu I've had at the Avenue has featured a polenta, greens and fish course. (See the others here and here.) Yet, I never get bored with the dishes because the preparations are so great. Despite the similiarties, I'm able to appreciate the slight tweaks.

The rouget was served on a bed of polenta and cooked rapini. The plate is garnished with saffron oil and bits of pinenuts.

Taste: What truly made this course outstanding was the little hill of crispy fried rouget scales on the filet. They reminded me of the shell and heads of crispy whole fried prawns. The polenta was *PERFECT,* and, for the first time, I was actually able to discern the musky bitter flavor of saffron from the oil that hugged the polenta. I'm not sure what the pinenut added to the mix though.

Oh, and yes, of course, the fish... it was just as pleasing as a crispy pan-fried rouget can be.

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9th Course: Rabbit

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Five preparations of rabbit accompanied by confit of carrots and artichoke hearts stuffed with fava bean paste.

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1. Confit'ed rabbit leg: The meat was very soft and not stringy or grainy as I had feared. Curiously, both of my dining companions and I thought it tasted just like tuna salad. We couldn't figure out what it was that made it taste like tuna salad - as there was no discernable mayonnaise. Perhaps celery seed? I'm not sure. ChefGEB?

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2. Rabbit "bacon": I was expecting something salty or smokey and crispy, like crackling. Instead, this "bacon" was extremely tender and slightly sweet. It was definitely my least favorite of the five preparations.

3. Rabbit loin: A well cooked piece of meat. I can't say that I remember all that much about it.

4. Rabbit roulade stuffed with prune and lavendar: This was great, I especially appreciated the prune-lavendar stuffing.

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5. Rabbit kidney: This was by far my favorite of the five preparations. The kidney had been cooked on the outside but slightly rare on the inside. Despite being very offal-y, the kidney had a very clean taste - no doubt from its freshness.

Truth be told, my favorite item on this course, beside the kidney, were the fava bean paste-stuffed artichoke hearts. The confit'ed carrots weren't bad either.

Overall, a great dish - playful and tasty. And, a sight to behold!

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Miso-Mushroom Broth

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First, you can see (on the right) the thick consistency of the Blackberry-Sage pairing. I really was as thick as tomato juice.

I have to admit, this was my least favorite drink of the evening. I guess it's because I've always thought of miso as a warm condiment, I couldn't get over this savory chilled creation. In fact, I noticed that the savory drinks were consistently my least favorite of the pairings.

However, with the next two courses, the drink actually worked. Yet, still I mostly stuck with water during this phase of the meal. This was paired the 11th, 12th and 13th courses.

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11th Course: Char

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The filet of char sat atop a bed of Beluga lentils and was topped with a perfectly crisped rectangle of beautiful char skin. Chef told me that the fish had been poached in olive oil at a VERY LOW TEMPERATURE (he said that the poaching oil wasn't even hot enough to burn your skin) and it showed. The fish was immensely silky in texture - cooked on the outside but warm and raw on the inside. The fish was accompanied by cooked morel mushrooms and a red wine and fruit reduction.

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Taste: It was so refreshing to have lentils prepared well. Tender, soft and as Chef put it, "sexier in the mouth." Down with the gritty - give me sexy! Together with the silky fish and the crunchy skin, the textural play was outstanding. So too the flavors.

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The mos flavorful element on the dish for me was the red wine and fruit reduction sauce that was paired with the morels. I could have sworn that the morels had been cooked with vinegar - as they were slightly sour, but Sous Chef Elaina said that they were simply cooked down with oil and water.

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The skin was surprisingly thick and CRUNCHY - not just crisp. It was between chip and water cracker consistency and stunningly flecked with dots of bright apricot-orange - brilliant!

Overall, I thought the char itself, which is a rather delicate and silky fish (as it was expertly highlighted in Bowles's preparation), was a bit up-staged by the very very strong supporting cast in this dish.

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12th Course: Lamb

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Lamb rib chop "unravelled" served with flageolet beans and a smokey bacon-black olive paste. The plate is garnished with microgreens and plated with a minted lamb jus.

Taste: In a word: Smokey. The dark smokey-bitter bacon and black olive paste, dominated this course.

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The lamb was very well prepared. The chef had 'unpackaged' the lamb chop for more "surface area." (He also did this with the lamb chop I had the first time I ate at the Avenues). While I'm not sure what extra surface area I got from him cutting it that I couldn't get from cutting the chop myself, I didn't care. The lamb was great.

However, I have to admit that I was more intrigued by the oh-so-soft flageolet beans - which is especially ironic after I had just mentioned to the chef that when I lived in Europe last year, I got so sick of flageolet beans because of the ubiquitous cassoulet! :laugh: Chef Bowles gave me a reason to fall back in love with them! :wub:

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13th Course: Beef

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Beef atop a potato-horseradish beignet and wilted spinach. The beef was sauced generously with white truffle oil :wub: and a darkly rich full-bodied merlot reduction.

Taste: First, I have to say that the beef, despite the picture, was wonderfully reddish-pink in the center and immensely tender. This course was a great way to end our savory courses. Chef Bowles tried to seduce me again with white truffle oil, which he had liberally drizzled all around the food.

The merlot reduction was very exciting - as mentioned, very full-bodied, deep, rich, sweet and dark.

Despite the fact that the potato-horseradish beignet wasn't as horseradishy as the one I had a few months earlier (That was the only downer. :sad: See here.), I liked this beef course better than the lamb that preceeded it, which is uncharacteristic of me as I usually always like the lamb more.

... and now, a word from our co-anchor, wench...

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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Pictures are worth a thousand words. The food looks magnificent. I particularly love the presentation of the lamb. Nice job, U.E.!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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Janet Fuller has a piece about Avenues, chef Bowles and the foie gras ban in today's Chicago Sun-Times:

In the mood for some foie gras -- say, 10 courses worth?
Bowles started thinking up the menu the day after the Chicago City Council voted to ban the sale of foie gras -- the fattened livers of geese or ducks -- in Chicago. He said it's his way of thumbing his nose at a measure he and other chefs consider ridiculous

Chef thumbs nose at ban: 10 courses of foie gras

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

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I quickly read through this thread and perhaps I missed the explanation, but I'm intrigued with all the infused drinks/juices etc. you were given with the meal. Was this instead of a wine pairing or were they mere accompaniments to the dishes? Is this the standard things one should expect to receive at Avenues? Thanks

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ababern38.

The drinks are a non-alcoholic alternative pairing for your meal... I suppose one could do the wine and the non-alcoholic pairing, although I have no idea why they'd want to do this.

The non-alcoholic pairing is offered on their menu.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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ababern38.

The drinks are a non-alcoholic alternative pairing for your meal... I suppose one could do the wine and the non-alcoholic pairing, although I have no idea why they'd want to do this.

The non-alcoholic pairing is offered on their menu.

u.e.

Awesome pics and write-up UE. Very interesting beverages parings, how did you feel they stacked up/matched to the dishes? Have you seen that type of pairing offered at many other places?

I have seen it very rarely but hope it is a growing trend. I drink, but aside from a pre meal cocktail I prefer to lay off wine to better enjoy the food.

-Mike

-Mike & Andrea

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Thanks Mike NYC.

1. Did it enhance my meal? Yes, it most definitely did. But, then again, I believe that any beverage can enhance a meal - even water (as discussed on the Ulterior Epicure: Extreme Gourmet thread. I think the strongest pairings were the Cranberry Thyme with the foie gras course. As well, I thought the Miso-Mushroom (although I didn't care for the drink itself) really enhanced the flavor of the two (last two) red meat courses (lamb and beef). The other outstanding pairing was the Tomato-Basil and the Langoustine course ("Chips & Dip")

2. I actually have seen non-alcoholic pairings on quite a few menus. Most recently, I've seen it offered at Per Se and Avenues. If I'm not mistaken, Charlie Trotter was one of the first, if not the first to offer the non-alcoholic alternative. Unfortunately, my one and only visit to his restaurant was before that happened. I'm not quite sure if any other Chicago restos offer it: TRU, Alinea (I'm pretty sure they do), Moto, Le Francais, Les Nomades, Spiaggia... ???? Not sure.

I anticipate that my upcoming meals at The French Laundry and Manresa will feature such an option. I don't think Chez Panisse will... although Ame may... but those aren't in the Heartland.

I should check with ChefCAG to see if they have a non-alcoholic drink pairing at bluestem in Kansas City.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Great pictures and ChefGEB's food looks amazing..

How big is the dining room? and is this an open kitchen to the dining room?

BTW, yes, Alinea offered me non-alcoholic beverages as well.

"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

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