Sunday, June 19, 2016

Restaurant Review: The Purple Pig - Chicago

If I lived closer. . . 

this would probably be a "go to" place

There are restaurants that I think about returning to when I am a tourist in a different city that isn't local. The issue is that when you are only somewhere once in a while you don't want to repeat restaurants especially in a city like Chicago with everything it has to offer. However, Purple Pig, well that's one I would return to because it was fun and the variety of small plates would make this a different experience every time.

Small plates. I'm a sucker for small plates. Call them tapas or appetizers. I really don't care. Small plates give you an opportunity to graze and to try different things without the commitment of a large plate. Chicago restaurants are pricey and this was no exception but with small plates you still can try a few more things than you usually do.

I'm not sure why this place is called the Purple Pig but it was funky, just like its name. They are big on charcuterie here (cold cooked meats) and cheese. I love cheese and I love me a cheese plate so that was enough to hook me in. My good friend, who is now a local Chicagoan (I don't know at what point you can call yourself a "native" if you are a transplant, can you ever?), suggested this place for us to meet up when I was in town last week for a conference. It was close to the hotel, and located on the Magnificent Mile.

You can tell that while this is in the heart of downtown, it has an eclectic group of visitors, comprised of both locals and tourists. It's jam packed and there are smaller tables inside but on the covered patio there is communal eating with a long high top table where you mingle with others. While that can be intimidating it gave me an opportunity to note what those around me were eating.

We started with the cheese. Mmmm cheese. You can pick one, or three (we picked three), to make a custom cheese plate from their variety of choices. They also have accompaniments, and you can pick two of those. For cheese we picked, a smoked Gorgonzola, Drunk Monk (cow's milk cheese rubbed with a dark brown ale), and Grand Truffiere (Camembert with little pieces of truffle). Like fine wines, these menu provided not only a description but where these cheeses originated from. Wisconsin, Connecticut, Wisconsin respectively) along with the texture of the cheese. For the add ons, we asked for a marsala jam and a fig spread. I don't know that a review on cheese would be relevant but they were all delicious. I routinely get fig spread at Trader Joe's for home use and this was definitely a step above. The marsala jam was outstanding.

We moved on to some of the small plates that they had to offer. This included a fried deviled egg. It tasted much like a scotch egg and didn't seem all that "deviled" to me but I think that is because the fried coating was the main attraction. It came with a kale salad studded with pistachios and sliced cornichons which was an interesting combination but really good. I liked the tang of the little bit of pickle with the sweetness of those nuts and it all went really well with the egg.

The salt roasted beets with whipped goat cheese was the showstopper for me. These were so fresh and the cheese with it was divine. I am not sure how to go about salt roasting the beets rather than the conventional roast but I also know how difficult and messy it is to work with beets so I figure leaving it to the experts might just be the way to go. However, Trader Joe's has roasted beets and I'm wondering if I could try my hand at whipping some chevre, perhaps the honey variety. The sign of a good dish for me is when I try to figure out how to recreated it at home. I am still thinking about these beets and it's been over a week! I just looked it up. Salt roasting is indeed a "thing" where you roast the vegetables while they are buried in salt. Don't tell my doctor, he would be upset, that I'm thinking about trying this.

We did order just one of the larger plates. This was ink squid, stuffed with sausage and some other yummy things. I think the presentation was just beautiful with these two swirls of sauces that I can't really describe but were so very good. This plate was a close second to the salt roasted beets. The squids were just a lovely texture and the stuffing was not overpowering but a good compliment in the dish. This dish did not scream "sausage" but was really a mild nice filling. I really wish I knew what the sauce was but let's just leave it as "delicous". Since I recently was watching the first season of Hell's Kitchen, I'm really impressed at the squid preparation. I know from Gordon Ramsey yelling at the two teams, getting these ready for stuffing would not be easy!

Now I would be remiss to not mention that this place boasts "cheese, swine and wine" and I didn't mention anything about drinks. I didn't partake in any wine but if you wanted to, there would be no shortage to choose from, even by the glass. Wines came from all over the world and were not limited to the usual geographic regions. They also have some very interesting cocktails but I stuck with a hard cider and called it a day. For me the food was really the main atrraction on this evening along with good company.

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