Thursday, May 17, 2012

Longman & Eagle


After sitting through hours of snowstorm delays from Seattle to Chicago in January, Longman & Eagle was a beautiful sight for sore eyes, a filling feast for a hungry stomach, and a fountain of flavor for a parched throat.  Nothing against left feet, but the second I walked into the place, I knew my trip to Chicago was going to start off on the right foot.


If I ever get to open up my own cocktail and small plates joint, I would take a lot of inspiration from Longman & Eagle, which happens to take a lot of inspiration, in decor at least, from what I would find in Seattle or Portland: wood paneling, flannel button-downs, repurposed bits of furniture and design, affordable prices ($8 cocktails!), and a very casual and friendly vibe.  This is not your typical one-Michelin-star restaurant.  Except when it comes to some very special plates of food.


Steph C., my friend Janice, and I started our 11:00pm snowstorm therapy session with a round of cocktails and a couple Warm Cheese Grougeres.


Like dark, savory Beard Papa pastry cream puffs, these aromatic grougeres' flaky, croissant-like exteriors opened up to a creamy, addictive Dunbarton blue Mornay sauce.  Although the sauce didn't flow out like a poached egg's yolk, the starch soaked up the warm, cheesy, and perfectly salty sauce like a sponge.  Basically, a cheese and croissant lover's dream.


Buffalo Sweetbreads were up next, featuring aerated ranch, hot sauce, Thumbelina carrots, and micro celery.  The sweetbreads were rich, melting in my mouth after crunching through their thoughtfully fried exteriors.  Where a standard ranch sauce would add more heaviness, the aerated ranch had a bright effect on each bite.  The fluffy creaminess of the ranch played well with the punchy, yet familiar hot sauce, while the micro celery and intensely flavorful carrots helped to complete this play on a standard basket of wings and celery.  So, so good, and probably my favorite of the night.


Not to be outshone, the Swan Creek Rabbit Pâté brought an impressive mix of spice, fat, meat, and acid.  The pâté came wrapped in a fatty layer of bacon, while the pâté itself had a noticeably peppery flavor, toothsome texture, and subtle gaminess.  The side of pickled giardinière vegetables sprinkled with mustard seeds and the whole-grain mustard brought some balanced and needed acidity.  Don't bother with the teeth-shattering crostini.  The pâté and pickled veggies stand perfectly fine without the bread, anyway.


I think the whole table agreed that the weakest dish of the night was the Pastrami Spiced Pig Head. This heavy cylinder of meat came with an unpleasantly gooey sauerkraut gnocchi, an unappetizing thousand island sugo, a hard-to-notice shaved pear-watercress salad, and a tasteless sprinkle of dehydrated rye.  While the concept of a delicious take on a pastrami sandwich was there, the largely-portioned pig and texturally deficient components made the dish too heavy and the experience lacking.  But on to bigger and better things.


Like the Wild Boar Sloppy Joe.  Hello.  Sure, this thing was heavy, and picking this up was nowhere near an option.  But this flavor bomb was worth every bite.  The ground boar was laced with a few leaves of fried sage and crispy onion, making the boar something I'd want to have as a ragu on a plate of pasta or a chili on a bowl of rice.  The soft brioche buns sopped up every bit of wild boar juice.  The pickled jalapeño brought more heat than acidity, which was bearable after a few, indulgent bites of the well-crisped and rich side of beef fat fries.  Things were getting dangerously heavy at this point, but we forged ahead.


The Roasted Marrow Bones were also very good.  Topped with some sea salt and red onion jam and accompanied by some sourdough crostinis, the marrow bones were simple, but delicious.


Few things latch onto my heart (I'm talking soul here, not fat) like bone marrow.  And this pair of bones was no different.  Rich, gelatinous, and flavorful.  The sweet onion jam was a perfect addition to each bite, but the sweetness and fattiness of the plate begged for some acid.  Regardless of this deficiency, we slurped up every last bit.  Unlike the earlier crostinis, these were soft and did a great job of scarpetta-ing up any greasy remnants.


The night almost ended with two relatively disappointing dishes.  The Hand Rolled Cavatelli was great for a few bites, but quickly became excessive.  The pasta was unfortunately overcooked, which made the pasta melt into a mush of rapini, chanterelles (a dish with chanterelles that I didn't absolutely love?!), artichoke hearts, truffle butter, grana padano, and matsutake purée.  Like I said, the flavor combination was great for the first couple bites, but after those bites, the dish became unbearably heavy.  Maybe it's because we had just eaten a huge sloppy joe.  Or maybe this dish just got lost in too many good things.


The other so-so dish was the "Steak and Egg."  The beef short rib was tender and good enough, but the tiring bordelaise sauce and undercooked farm egg and creamed spinach raviolo didn't ooze or contribute to the dish like I wanted them to.  The pickled ramps and mushrooms (the menu said black trumpets, but I think we got something more along the lines of hon shimejis) were tasty, but not enough to carry the dish.  I liked the concept and intention though.


The night ended with a bang, courtesy of their Maple & Bourbon Cornbread Pudding, flanked by a huckleberry compote, date-bourbon custard, charred olive oil ice cream, and smoked olive oil.  The cornbread pudding was just sweet enough for a dessert, but just light enough to not make the meal any heavier than it already was.  The custard was creamy and delicious with the bourbon toning down the typically intense sweetness of dates.  The charred olive oil ice cream was heaven.  Charred olive oil is a flavor I never would have expected to like, but the subdued olive oil flavors were accompanied by a notable nuttiness and flare that made this difficult to not like.  The smoked olive oil was subtle and delicious and the huckleberry compote gave each spoonful a welcome tartness.

Needless to say, the small plates were the way to go in both cost-effectiveness and flavor.  And despite the handful of misses we had that night, the hits were more than good enough to make me soar like an eagle and ensure that I will come here again.  The menu changes somewhat frequently, but thankfully, it looks like all the items I loved have reached a certain permanence on the menu.

Longman & Eagle
2657 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 276-7110
http://www.longmanandeagle.com/

GET: Warm Cheese Grougere; Buffalo Sweetbreads; Swan Creek Rabbit Pâté; Wild Boar Sloppy Joe; Maple & Bourbon Cornbread Pudding.

5 comments:

  1. Calling you out. There's no way you wouldn't have thought "charred olive oil" sounded delicious before we had this. I'm drooling at the phrase right now. (Great review, though. I want the sweetbreads and pate and sloppy joe again.)

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    Replies
    1. Hahahaha, I don't know. I guess I just thought it would be like heating up olive oil on too high of a heat or something. So good...

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  2. nice idea.. thanks for sharing.

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