Saturday, March 30, 2013

HARE-Y HOTSPOTS: Where To Indulge In Rabbit This Easter

Whether supping out or staying in, Luxe File Chicago’s got your fix for the perfect “other Easter” dish: rabbit. Known for its sweet, mild flavor, this scrumptious herbivore offers a tasty alternative to the classic holiday meal.

Here, a sampling of five outstanding Chicago restos whose well-executed, hare-apparent offerings you are sure to savor well after Easter is over. Peter Cottontail, you've been warned.

Billy Sunday: Like a big, blue Snuggie, the Jean Banchet Award-winning Matthias Merges offers up one of the city’s best, and most old-fashioned, options – a braised rabbit pot pie (below), stuffed with fresh fixings like carrots, celery, onions, and peas and potatoes in a rabbit gravy and topped with a melt-in-your-mouth buttermilk biscuit crust. Includes a side of roasted Cream of Wheat with mustard greens, tomatoes, and Pecorino Romano. $18. 3143 W. Logan Boulevard, 773-661-2485.

Filini Bar & Restaurant: Newly-minted chef extraordinaire, William Johnson, features a four-course prix fixe menu that spotlights rabbit ragù risotto with green olives and Grana Padano. $45 per person. 221 N. Columbus Drive, 312-477-0234.

Mercat a la Planxa: Craving Catalan cuisine? Head to Iron Chef Jose Garces’ tapas hotspot for a 3-course brunch, featuring Conill Coca, a braised rabbit flatbread with mascarpone béchamel, arugula, orange and hazelnut, and unlimited carving and dessert stations. $35 per person. After 5:00 p.m., tuck into Arroz a la Cazuela, a saffron scented broth featuring tender rabbit, Maine lobster, chicken, chorizo, shaved artichoke salad, and piquillo aioli, on the restaurant’s regular dinner menu. $14. 638 S. Michigan Avenue, 312-765-0524.

Moto: Chicago’s hometown hero, Homaro Cantu, flips this comfort food-style dish onto its furry head with Allium 2.0, one course on the restaurant’s 13-course Nightly Tasting Menu. Featuring rabbit roulade (rabbit farce and loin inlay wrapped in rabbit belly) and served with five-onion jam, pickled pearl onions, onion and garlic chips, baby leeks, confit green garlic, and onion ice cream. $175 per person. 945 W. Fulton Marketing, 312-491-0058.

Nellcôte: Executive Chef Jared Van Camp offers a creative take on an old Francophile favorite. Smoked bacon-wrapped rabbit loin and sausage served with braised red cabbage, housemade apple mostarda, and shallot-garlic rabbit jus. $13. 833 W. Randolph Street, 312-432-0500.

Prefer to skip the reservation and celebrate at home with close friends and family? Here’s one of our favorite rabbit recipes by chef/owner Chris Pandel of Balena and The Bristol. His secret behind this elegant and flavorful dish? Use locally-sourced meats and farm-fresh vegetables.

Rabbit Liver and Kidney Lyonnaise with Poached Egg and Frisée Lettuce
1 serving

For the Frisée Salad:
3 heads clipped frisée
1 tsp. minced shallots
12 rosemary croutons
1 tbsp. chive batons
½ oz. sherry vinegar

For the Rabbit Liver and Kidney Lyonnaise:
1 tbsp. butter
4 rabbit livers, cleaned and dried
½ oz. lardons
1 tsp. shallots, minced and soaked in red wine
6 butter-poached rabbit kidneys
3 oz. rabbit jus
1 pinch fines herbes, minced
Sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For Final Assembly:
1 hen egg, poached
½ oz. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the Frisée Salad:
In a metal bowl, combine the frisée, shallots, croutons, and chive batons, and dress them with the sherry vinegar. Let the salad stand while assembling the rabbit liver and kidney lyonnaise. NOTE: Vinegar helps break down the frisée.

Make the Rabbit Liver and Kidney Lyonnaise:
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a touch of butter and melt. Season rabbit livers with salt then add to the pan and cook to rare. Remove rabbit livers and add the lardons. Cook until crisp. Add the wine-soaked shallot, livers and poached kidneys to the pan. Deglaze with sherry vinegar and reduce until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Add the rabbit jus and bring to a simmer. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. When ready to serve, add the fines herbes.

Final Assembly:
Plate rabbit liver and kidney lyonnaise and top with the poached egg. Add olive oil to the frisée salad and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spoon frisée salad on top of the egg, rabbit liver and kidney lyonnaise.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nathan Huntington: Argent's New Chef Delivers An Inspired Menu With A French Twist

Can you keep a secret? When Luxe File Chicago first received the invitation to experience Argent’s revamped menu, we thought it would be a gluttonous affair. Instead, we were treated to a well-edited series of courses that revealed executive chef Nathan Huntington’s playful but studied approach to fine cuisine. 

Huntington, who took over Argent’s culinary reigns last summer, has taken his time rebooting the restaurant’s American-themed menu, giving it a distinctly unfussy, French feel. 

Start your engines. Gourmands will enjoy a range of gorgeously prepared dishes, some featuring welcome touches like foams and edible florals. Dishes of note include Hamachi Foie with Miso, Raspberry, and Sorrel; Beet Salad with Borscht, Black Quinoa, and Olive Oil; Escolar with Togarashi, Caviar, and Olive Oil; Foie Terrine with Cognac, Quatre D’Epices, Peanut Butter, Jam and Brioche.

Can't beat the meat. For the protein-hungry, there are a plethora of craveable options. Hanger Steak with Hedgehog Mushrooms, Gribiche, and Beef Jus; Heritage Pork Chop with Pomme Puree (Five Hour Whipped Potatoes), Baby Vegetable Salad, and Toasted Garlic Jus; and, for something seriously American, try the Fried Chicken & Waffle with Maple Syrup and Bacon-Maple Dip. Comfort foodies can tuck into the Burger D’Argent topped with American Cheese, Pickled Jalapenos, French Dressing, and Bread/Butter Pickles and served with Housemade Fries.

Here fishy-fishy! But it’s the pescatarian options that really shine. Scottish Salmon with Smoked Salmon Relish, Fingerlings, and Braised Greens; and Bouillabaisse with Whole Poached Lobster, Mussels, Grilled Prawns, Espelette, and Tomato Bubbles score high marks along with Striped Bass with Romanesco, Black Walnuts, and Champagne Bouillon. Not surprising considering Huntington’s history with L20, one of the county’s most outstanding seafood destinations.

Save room for a #totessweet ending. Dessert is more perfunctory. Huntington has opted to keep the dessert menu, at least for the present time, simple. The Chocolate Orb, an edible work of art, afforded one the meal’s standout moments when we first forked into it. Two words: Mexican piñata. There are some interesting interpretations using fruit, such pears topped with melted chocolate, and colorful macaroons round out the list of sweet offerings.

Yet for all the marathon-eating, we felt satiated. Not stuffed. “I like to cook food that makes you feel good after eating, not heavy,” Huntington confided. If that isn’t perfectly French, we don’t know what is.

The perfect 10. Here, we catch up with the handsome, talented toque, Nathan Huntington (pictured below) – he muses on mentor Laurent Gras, what sets him apart from Chicago’s all-star culinary community, and the food trend he wishes would just go away.

1. You’ve worked with some of the nation’s leading chefs and now your bold talent can be sampled in the flavorful dishes at Argent. What can your fans expect?
Every good chef has to be able to adapt to their environment. Right now, I’m at Argent where the concept is American fare. And because my training is grounded in classical (French) technique, I definitely bring that to Argent.

I love sauces and the discipline that goes into making them and that’s mostly because of my training. I’ve incorporated different sauces into many of my dishes at Argent. I’m always playing with them, changing them, trying to make them better.

2. Where do you go to find culinary inspiration?
From the local Vietnamese sandwich shop in California to a great Omakase in New York and Los Angeles, I find inspiration from many parts of the world in the type of food I enjoy eating day to day. I incorporate many ingredients from Japan, South American, Asia and Southeast Asia. There are no borders around what inspires my cooking.

Bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich 

3. Chicago is filled with exemplary culinary talent. What sets you apart from this close, but competitive, chef pack?
I know many of the chefs in Chicago and I respect each and every one of them. We are all very different in our cooking styles. Aesthetically and substantively, I like my food with fewer ingredients, especially on the plate—clean and uncluttered. But, I like these few ingredients to have assertive flavors—bold, bright, and sometimes a little spicy.

4. Which Chicago chefs/restaurants are on your culinary radar.
Thai Dang. His passion and excitement for Vietnamese cuisine is extremely high. And, he has an amazing discipline in the kitchen. He is one of the few chefs whom I’ve worked with who is taking a cuisine that is close to his heart and pushing it to higher levels that isn’t cliché. 

Embeya's Thai Dang

He’s applying his culinary techniques to his cooking in a way that preserves the cultural integrity of Vietnamese cuisine. And, it’s delicious.

5. Who has had the most profound effect on your work.
Laurent Gras, hands down.  I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him for so long.

Laurent Gras

6. Best perk of being an executive chef.
Teaching. I have the ability to have an influence on many people, not only in the restaurant, but in their life outside of work as well.

7. Top travel destination for gastronomic stimulation.
South America. I love the cultural mix of food that is prevalent in the Latino culture.

8. Food trends you hope will die/take off.
Gluttonous, overly rich food that should only belong on Man v. Food.

Man v. Food's Adam Richman

9. Words of wisdom you live by.
Do what makes you feel good. At the end of the day, you need to follow your own path and make yourself happy and not be too concerned about what is happening around you.

10. When you’re not in the kitchen, where would we find you?
Outside, on my Felt.

Felt Scythe 2008

Argent Restaurant and Raw Bar, 660 North State Street, at Erie Street (312-202-6050 or 

- Kerry Shorr, Contributing Writer for "24/7 City Secrets" on NBC5 Chicago

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Party Crasher: March 10-17, 2013

Mid-month fêtes are our favorite. Here is a collection of our favorite cab-to-curb celebrations that will have you playing dress up all week long.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What: Dose Pops!
Where: 435 East Illinois Street
Time: 10 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
$$$: $8 advance or $10 at the door. For more information and to purchase tickets, click HERE.
411: Check out the coolest threads and tastiest bites in Chicago. Everything is made locally including the DOSE-only shamrock shakes from Homer's Gourmet Ice Cream. Yum.

What: Martha Stewart’s Wedding Party
Where: Radisson Blu, 221 North Columbus Drive
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 
$$$: $110 for couples; $65 for guests. For more information and to purchase tickets, click HERE.
411: Saying “I do” was easy, now comes the fun part. Wedding bliss is the theme of this celebrity-studded white carpet extravaganza, featuring advice on dresses to dream honeymoons from a host of experts including Darcy Miller (pictured above), Editorial Director of Martha Stewart Wedding. Getting hitched never looked so good.

Monday, March 11, 2013

What: Mauritson Wine Tasting at Paris Club
Where: 59 West Hubbard Street
Time: 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
$$$: Free
411: Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, sommelier or just enjoy a good happy hour, head over to Paris Club for an elegant evening of Mauritson Vineyards wine tasting in the bar. To complement the tastings, light bites by Paris Club’s executive chef Alex Ageneau will be offered.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What: CrossFit Founder and CEO Greg Glassman: Preparing for the Known & Unknown  
Where: The Library, 190 South LaSalle Street
Time: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
$$$: $30 (includes open bar). For more information and to purchase tickets, click HERE.
411: Join Greg Glassman, Founder and CEO of CrossFit, who discusses his experiences as a successful entrepreneur and how he became a nationally renowned fitness sensation. Fans include Fox Sports host and Dancing with the Stars alum Erin Andrews (pictured above), who shows off one of CrossFit's basic workouts: a Burpee!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What: Mies Society 127th Birthday Dinner
Where: Illinois Institute of Technology, 3360 South State Street
Time: 5:30 p.m.
$$$: $50. For more information and to purchase tickets, click HERE.
411: What would you do if you were turning 127? The Mies Vander Roche society celebrates the architect's birthday with cocktails, refreshments, and a special appearance by Wiel Arets, the new dean of the IIT School of Architecture.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What: Dating For Queer Nerds Pi Day Celebration
Where: Will’s Northwoods Inn, 3030 North Racine  
Time: 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
$$$: $30. For more information and to purchase tickets, click HERE.
411: If Valentine’s Day left you without a plus one, it’s time to reinvent the romantic wheel and find a new singles scene. Nerds at Heart, a local matchmaking service for hetero and homosexual singles, is the common denominator for bringing intellectually-inspired singles together to get their cerebral flirt on.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What: Good Food Festival
Where: UIC Forum, 725 West Roosevelt Road
Time: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
$$$: $15 - $75. For more information and to purchase tickets, click HERE.
411: From kimchi challenges to fermentation fetishes, attendees enjoy locally-sourced cuisine and artisan products from 100 exhibitors, as well as a plethora of cooking demos from Chicago top chefs including Rick Bayless, Carrie Nahabedian, and Paul Virant.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What: CS Brides' Evening of Bridal Luxury
Where: The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, 160 East Pearson
Time: 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
$$$: $65 for Brides, $35 for guests. For more information and to purchase tickets, click HERE.
411: Elegance is in the air! Attendees enjoy a front row seat to Vera Wang’s 2013 Bridal Collection Runway Show, creative wedding design ideas by HMR Design Group, and get wooed by the latest conga line-inspired music, photography and video stylings from Fig Weddings.

Written by Sally Shorr