Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sable Kitchen and Bar (Gastro Lounge) - Heather Terhune's Vision in Chicago

Recently my favorite hotel the Hotel Sax was all booked up in Chicago for one of my business trips.  I love this hotel because of one and one reason only... BIN 36 :)  A great restaurant in Chicago I have come to frequent.   Their egg breakfast sandwich is definitely up there as one of my favorite restaurant egg sandwiches!  They also serve Grayson cheese which is stinky stinky goodness.

Instead of the Hotel Sax I booked my stay at the Hotel Palomar.  When I checked in I noticed a place called Sable Kitchen and Bar that described itself as a "gastro-lounge" on the first floor.   Now I usually don't really enjoy the term "gastro" being used to describe a bar or lounge.   It just seems weird to me and it is a carry over form England where the standard pub grub almost has a mandated pub fare menu.  I feel like most "gastro pubs" just need to call themselves a restaurant and bar.  Gastro this and gastro that is a recent trend.  To be quiet honest I feel like describing a place I eat as gastro is just trendy and not meaningful in any way shape of form.  I mean gastronomy means "the art and science of food eating."  No duh if I am in a restaurant.  Why is there a need to describe a place with it?!??

Anywho!   "Gastro Rant" done....

Sable listed themselves as a "Kitchen and Bar" so despite some mention of the "gastro lounge" term I decided to give it a shot for balancing truth with trend :)

Now I had heard nothing about Sable and just discovered it out of convenience but it was clear to me that this place was either popular or trendy.    The place had a good amount of people in it and by 7pm getting a table or seat at the Kitchen or the Bar was kinda tough.  Luckily the Hotel Klimpton was kind enough to ensure I got a table at Sable to sit and eat as a hotel guest.

When I was seated the waiter handed me the menu and described it as "American Fare with a twist" and sat me right next to the exposed and on display kitchen.  I LOVE when restaurants put the kitchen on display.   I love seeing kitchens put out food and watching all the deliciousness come together.

The waiter explained that almost everything on the menu can be enjoyed as a full or half serving.   This was first signal that I was going to enjoy my meal.    Any place that advocates for smaller portions so you can order more things has a special place in my heart.   I mean tapas and sushi have been tremendously successful for a reason!  

I picked up the menu and my excitement started to build.   The menu was clearly something that they update seasonally and almost every item on the menu looked like something delicious, and creative or thoughtful.   The key to a good menu!

My eyes settled on something I was 1000% going to have to order as my appetizer...

Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds with Spicy Ketchup Glaze

Ummmm....YUM (!&@#

I friggin love when people put cheese curds on the menu and serve them in some melty form.  They are one of the perfect cheese vehicles for melting as they are all different shapes and sizes so each curd is a different level of melty.   I love when people serve them and Sable is serving them deep fried and with spicy ketchup.   I HAD TO HAVE THE CURDS! !*(@&#(

The Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds (I really cant say that enough) showed up and I attacked it!   I slipped into a melty fried cheesy heaven and didn't look back.   This thing was so amazingly delicious.   I won't go into too much detail but will say the following six words about this dish:



I mean I think that about covers it.   Oh and if you have never eaten a cheese curd dont wonder about what it is or isn't   It's just a piece of fresh cheese in it's most simplistic form.  They are yum.

Here is a pic of this delicious dish as the presentation was also spot on.

It was served up in a little basket with parchment paper which reminded me that I fried em.   This is the perfect way for someone to serve up fried food.   REMIND ME you fried as that is was I ordered it.  Xoxo Sable.

I also order a half portion of the Moroccan Spiced Almonds.   A simple and delicious dish.   Almond slightly coated in what I think was Ras El Hamout.  A great spice and a great nut.   You simply can't go wrong.   If you haven't tried this spice mix I definitely recommend it.    Vibrant, earthy, spicy and delicious!   Put it on some crunchy nuts and you win my heart :)  Once again Sable I am impressed.

At this point in my meal I wanted to meat the Chef.   This is someone who clearly knows their food and someone who also clearly enjoys their food.    I learned that the Chef behind sable is someone named Heather Terhune who I discovered is now appearing on the latest version of "Top Chef."   This is going to be a good meal.  Not because she is on TV (as most celebrity chefs are proof to the opposite) but because she is recognized and based on my first two dishes she is someone with alot of talent.  Oh Heather Terhune you are making my belly smile.   What did you have in store for me as an entree?!???

I picked up the menu again and began looking for my entree selection.    Winter has started to roll in so I was definitely looking for something that screamed winter is coming winter is coming.    I eyed my options and one stuck out as the one for me:

Grilled Venison with sweet potato, bitter greens, and a cranberry gastrique.

Um Yes!

Venison is one of those meats that screams end of fall, beginning of winter, family feast meal option.   Venison has a very special place in my heart as one of the chefs in my family always serves it for the holidays and it makes me think of family.   It is amazing how much our perception of food is influenced by how we are introduced to it.

My venison came and it was quite a beautiful plate.    Brown, Green, Orange, and Red.   I felt like I was staring at a plate of fall goodness.    Once again the presentation was impecable.   I prepared my first bite with a little bit of everything and layered it onto my fork the same way the chef layered it onto my plate.    Sweet potatoes first on the fork, greens second, venison on top and a dip in the cranberry gastrique.

I took a bite and I can only describe it as "right".   You first get the sweetness of the gastrique followed up by the silky goodness of the sweet potato.  Then you get hit with the venison game yum and it finishes with the bitter greens breaking through and rounding it out.   This was absolutely and undeniably delicious.   This is one of the most balanced and delicious plates of foods I have had in recent times.   Perfection on a plate.   Oh Heather Terhune how I now am becoming a huge fan of your food.

I finished up my entree and began to now dream about dessert!  I was in the mood for fall so I was hoping that the menu Heather put together for dessert had also been modified to reflect the season.   Low and behold it was!

I ordered the pumpkin panna cotta with candied pumpkin seeds and ginger bread cookies as my dessert with an espresso with lemon.   When I got the dish I wasn't quite sure how the chef intended me to build the perfect bite based on the plate.   I first tried dipping the cookie in the panna cotta and put pumpkin seeds on top.  This was delicious but it wasn't as complex and amazing as my previous dish.  I had to be doing something wrong.   My next bite I took a spoonful of the panna cotta with pumpkin seeds and stuck it in my mouth.   I finished it with a bite of the ginger bread cookie and suddenly the dessert began to make alot more sense.   The panna cotta was delicious and had wonderful texture but as all panna cottas are it needed something to keep me interested.   When I took a bite of the ginger bread cookie after the bite of panna cotta the peppery deliciousness of the ginger really came through.  It cleansed my palette and made my tongue feel like it was having a party.   This kept me eating and made the dish so enjoyable.

All in all sable is an amazing restaurant that puts out an amazing product.   The Palomar hotel better understand what they have going for themselves with Sable being a part of it.  The hotel was nice but I will book myself there again for the simple fact that I will get to eat at Heather Terhune's Sable Kitchen and Bar.

Next time you are in Chicago make the effort and go to Sable.   You will not be disappointed!

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