Last week, we were invited to the Grammy Foundation’s kick-off for Chicago Bluesfest at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago. It was a total all-star blues jam, complete with killer sets from random jamming acts…Otis Taylor, rocking out with Anne Harris, and Joel Cummins and Kris Myers of Umphrey’s McGee (who also later played with Cathy Richardson.) It was super cool.
Pre-music, we went to dinner at Nightwood in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. David (the superdude who owns The Acorn) is a huge fan of this place, and had been itching to get us in there for dinner. We needed to eat early (5:30) so as to get to the event on time, which allowed us to pretty much have free reign of this super cool, incredibly well-designed space. And of course, David, knowing that we are all such food geeks, had us sit at the chef’s bar, to really get in on the action.
Nightwood is a true farm to table restaurant. They hand-write the menu every day, and use only local and seasonal ingredients. The wine list is well-edited–not too large, but well-rounded, and I nearly died when I realized the summer menu came with a giant list of dry rosés!
We all ordered different appetizers and passed them around, and everything was lovely. The hit for me, by far, was the Country Greens Salad with Spit-Roasted Mutton and Farro. It was such a complex combination of flavors and textures, yet tasted perfectly, deliciously simple. We all went our separate ways with entrees, and I kind of loved the Stinging Nettle Polenta with Oyster Mushroom Vinaigrette, Slow Poached Egg, and Stinging Nettle Puree. I basically begged B to get it (J is allergic to mushrooms and I don’t order them if I want him to taste) and it was fantastic. Here in SW Michigan we practically throw “get the stinging nettle the hell out of my garden” parties, and I have been fascinated by the growing trend of seeing this on menus. We got to talk to the chef about preparation and I am determined to saute my bear of a weed sometime soon! I LOVE when a vegetarian dish has this much complexity and richness.
Here’s what I loved about this place. Yes, the food was really good. Yes, it’s a gorgeous space. But I love the embracing of this kind of eating, and of this kind of cooking. It’s why we have gardens in our yards, and why even city dwellers are figuring out the best place for a window box herb garden. It’s good, it’s clean. And knowing that half of the ingredients I ate that night were literally grown in my “backyard” is a feeling once reserved for people lucky enough to dine at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry.
Oh, and one last gem of information? Order the Old Fashioned. Vintage cocktail with a great seasonal twist.