We recently had a superb meal at Elizabeth, a restaurant in Chicago owned and operated by chef Iliana Regan. As is often the case, our Chicago friends have written much more insightful pieces about the restaurant then you’ll get out of me. Check out here, here, and here for an interview with Iliana.
Some of Elizabeth’s influences are clear. There are more than just shades of Alinea in the precision and focus of the kitchen during service (not surprisingly, Iliana worked the front of the house at Alinea). And Iliana’s New Forager cuisine is plainly the new world cousin of Redzepi’s New Nordic. But Elizabeth also feels like a deeply personal restaurant, one that just wouldn’t be the same without Iliana in the kitchen.
Perhaps one day I’ll be lucky enough to have had so many great meals that I will finally become sick of stuffing myself with twenty odd courses over four hours. Perhaps. Until that day comes, bring it on. Elizabeth’s tasting menu was everything I want in a meal like this: it was too long (but I didn’t want it to end), it was surprising at times (but comforting at others), and each course was memorable (but may of the details are are jumbled and hazy in recollection). If I had to pick a favorite course, it would be the sunchoke soup with cattail pollen bread served with bacon butter, honey, and strawberry preserves (4th down on the left). But the shrimp noodle (3rd down on left), the scallop, porcini and strawberry Cheerios in chestnut milk (3rd column, 3rd down), and the curry rice crispy with bear jerky (2nd column, 2nd down) are also in contention. Wait, did I mention the spruce soda (2nd column, 4th down)? The vinegar ice cream (left bottom)? The perfect bite of ribeye with broccoli mousse (left, 4th down)? How about the cabbage marmalade (right, 3rd down), which was so good it could revolutionize the bratwurst.
Leslie’s favorite of the night was the fish(head) course. Each table got a different piece of the fish and Leslie was so excited that we got the head. “I’m sure they give the head to the table they like the most” she said.
One of the reasons we chose Elizabeth was our burgeoning interest in foraged food, an interest which was sparked by a talk given by Sam Thayer at the Kickapoo Country Fair a few years ago. Truth be told, we found our meal to be more of a progressive cuisine experience than a foraging or farm-to-table one. This, I think, was largely due to the fact that it was the winter menu, and foraged food is thin on the ground (literally) in the Upper Midwest in March. Certainly the meal had a earthy, root vegetable-y vibe not really found in strictly modernist restaurants, but we are excited to go back in the summer when the forest floor will have a bit more to offer.
Winter 2014 Elizabeth Menu
Farm and Forest
Terrarium of What Deer Eat
Farm Carrots to Pop
Chicken Liver and Vegetable Tartare with Rose Vinegar
Vacuum Tea of the Forest Floor
Oyster and Borscht
Wild Rice Crispy with Bear
Tree Nest with Snail Roe
Aerated Potato with Osetra
Fried Woodland Mushroom
Vegetable Leather (Carrot and Beet)
Bread and Soup
Sunchoke, Cattail, and Elderflower Vinegar
Fish Head with Fiddlehead Ferns
Beef Heart with Cabbage
Ribeye with End-of-Summer Vegetables
Rose Sorbet with Quail Egg Yolks
Gingersnap and Donuts with Minus 8
Pate de Fruit and Chocolates
Apple Thumbprint Cookie
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