Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cheese, Swine & Wine

Chicago is a friendly city. When you walk into The Purple Pig, a jovial small plates wine bar on Chicago's Michigan Avenue (the midwest's 5th Ave), you know immediately you are among your future friends. Communal tables, tidy little booths and an outdoor patio beckon to guests but to me the best spot in the house is at the marble topped bar looking into the shockingly small kitchen and within chatting distance to the charming, friendly but never obtrusive bartenders.
The unlikely downtown location on the first floor of an office building was once a FedEx office and never zoned for high powered gas restaurant stoves. So, the busy cooks at The Purple Pig expedite a daily changing menu of antipasti, smears (a collection of delicious spreads), fried items (including a hugely popular pig ear salad and an intriguing fried deviled egg) and a menu section titled "A La Plancha" though I saw no grill nearby. The Pig's menu by chef Jimmy Bannos Jr (second generation Chicago chef royalty) is a tribute to what heights recipe ingenuity and a proper prep kitchen -- preparing sauces and components of dishes to be finished "a la minute" -- can achieve. These are inventive but not unapproachable dishes.
The Purple Pig cures a few meats in house. I started with a tray of house-made sliced coppa and a tasty antipasto of baby artichokes, fingerling potatoes and peppery salami Toscana. I expected the artichokes to be warm but in fact the cold pickled salad made the perfect foil for fatty cured meats and crisp toasts.
I love the smear section. Everything in it sounds so tasty and just the kind of foods I like to eat. Delicious things with toasts. Deconstructed crostini. Savory deliciousness.
Next came a deliciously crispy plate of Morcilla (blood sausage flavored as in Spain and Argentina with a delicate hint of clove) with fava beans and sherry vinaigrette. 

Although The Pig describes itself as Mediterranean  the offerings had a decidedly Spanish flair, with a little Italian tossed in. Both countries that revel and excel in small tastes. 

Another Chicago restaurant tempted me with dessert. The soft serve machine behind the bar is hard to ignore. I couldn't resist the salted caramel with flakes of salt and brittle caramel on top. I quickly dug in and asked for a couple extra spoons for my new good friends seated next to me at the bar.  The Purple Pig is that kind of place.
Good ingredients thoughtfully prepared make for exceptionally delicious dining but a friendly atmosphere, a happy crowd and genuinely pleasant service make for a great restaurant experience. I love The Purple Pig.

No comments:

Post a Comment