I have been on the road for the last 6 weeks and am now feeling extremely zonked out both physically and mentally. I don't wish to get on another plane for as long as I possibly can! Travels take its toll but I have to admit it is sometimes not without its perks. I was in Chicago for the first time 2 weekends ago. I have possibly been to the US not fewer than 20 times over the last 10 years but have always only limited my visit to the immediate vicinities of New York City.
There only for a short weekend break, the snapshot I was exposed to was sufficient to have me yearning to be back for more. The limited culinary scene I was exposed to in Chicago was refreshingly exciting- it reminded me a little of Sydney. At the recommendation of Jared and Alice of EatADuckIMust, I sauntered off to The Purple Pig for lunch on my last day there. A stone's throw away from where I was staying in downtown Michigan Ave, I went into the restuarant without the slightest idea about its fame and their specialty.Touted as one of the Top 10 Restaurants In America by Bon Appetite (I found out later) , the resturant serves, as its gate (see photo) indicates, Cheese, Swine and Wine. The menu featured lots of pork, cured meats, smears and cheeses. The flavours and atmosphere were very clearly mediterranean / spanish. It soon became clear that most of the dishes came in the form of a substantial tapas serving. There were too many things on the menu which I was curious about but eating there by myself did not allow me to order too many variety. The 2 generous tapas portions of Calamari With Fregola, Radish, Cucumber and Milk Braised Pork Shoulders With Mashed Potatoes would have filled me up more than adequately. However, a table with just 2 tapas dishes was just too sad-looking... I had to fill it up with one more. The deep fried Pig's Ears with Fried Kale, Pickled Cherry Peppers and Fried Egg was their specialty which, as the very friendly waiting staff told me, people would come and queue for.
All 3 dishes did not disappoint. The Calamari Antipasta was light and refreshing. Eating fregola pasta for the first time, I thought they tasted a little like a cross between nuts and coucous. Mixed this up with the tender calamari and the crunchy radish and cucumber, the texture balance was quite brilliant.I could eat this everyday.
The Milk Braised Pork Shoulder With Mashed Potatoes would have you swoon at first bite. Briased to the perfect fall apart texture, the Pork Shoulder is comfort food at its best. Great luscious food like this is best shared with someone - the generous chunk of swine was too much for me to finish by myself.
The signature Deep Fried Pig's Ears lived up to its name. Crispy and savoury, it went brilliantly well with the runny egg yolk of the fried egg. I have always shunned away from the Braised Pig's Ears found in some Chinese restaurants but I am glad I went without reservations with this one.
This is definitely a restaurant I will want to return to... there are just too many interesting dishes on the menu which I am dying to try and this time round, I shall make sure I go with friends in tow!