I recently did a year-end summary in the vein of "Where the hell did all my money go?" over the last year.
Among the tasty nuggets that yearly makes me re-think how exactly I'm spending my money - like giving $700 last year to a restaurant that we don't even particularly love - I was a little shocked how little we went to new places in the city.
For non-vacation, non-BYOs in Chicago, it was Girl & The Goat, The Bristol, Big Star, Belly Shack and Epic Burger. That's it.
Aside from that, it was plenty of Blackbird, Avec and Ceres Table jammed between a flurry of BYOs, mostly Mado, Hema's, Semiramis and Indie Café.
For 2010, our food joys came from home food, our wine, Blackbird, Avec at times, Portugal, Ad Hoc and Chez Panisse in the Bay Area and Lola in Cleveland.
There just hasn't been a need lately for us to blow a good chuck of cash on pretty spaces with a grotesque mark-up on wine and food stylings that we can approximate at home for a fraction of the cost.
Purple Pig...is NOT...one of those.
I'd always been curious, been told ad nauseam by too many people to get there so we finally went under the auspices of "getting it out of the way!"
Some ancillary benefits/fortunate happenstances to our visit to The Purple Pig:
* $6 street parking for two hours downtown! Would have been at least $30 in a garage
* Open everyday from 11:30am to at least midnight (2am on weekends). Straight-through.
* Went at 1:30 in the afternoon on Monday. About 20% full. Glorious!
* Great service, inviting layout and if you're one to gripe about huge crowds, DON'T GO AT 8 ON A SATURDAY!
Speck Potato Croquettes (special)
Tuna & Lima Beans
Purple Pig Charcuterie Platter
Roasted Bone Marrow
Farro Chocolate Crema for dessert
2 glasses of Vilarnau Cava
250ml of Veedha Portuguese red
250ml of Alpha Estate Axia (50% syrah/50% xinomarvo)
250ml of Bodegas Enguera Pelta (80% tempranillo, 20% monastell)
250ml Skouras Saint George red (100% agiorghitiko)
glass of Lustau Amontillado for dessert
Pan-Mediterranean with flavors that show a particular love for Spanish and coastal Italian with a whiff of Greece all seasoned beautifully, using the nature and seasoning of each particular pork product to guide the way. Simple flavors with no overly complex preparation to cloud the main focus of each dish. You order tuna and lima beans, you get tuna and lima beans done well.
One of the best wine lists I've seen in a long time that thankfully averaged about 2.5 times retail. Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Greek. No French on this visit. Oodles of selections from each broken down by region and offer tons by the glass, quartino, half-bottle and bottle. The versatility is brilliant and, unlike one small criticism I've had at Avec, the glass/quartino/half bottle offerings are intriguing and abundant, allowing us to indulge the impulse to explore instead of settling on the seemingly small amount of offerings Avec has kept the same over the last few years.
I can't say that each menu item is the best incarnation I've ever had. The scallions were better at Mercat (the only thing we really loved there) but they were damn good. The roasted bone marrow wasn't going to beat the bone marrow at Lola (still one of the best things I ever ate) but this one was a solid second. The charcuterie platter didn't beat the refined delicacy of Avec's but this, by its sheer size and number of offerings, made for some great meat goodness (solid testa and great Catalonian fuet).
But there wasn't one false note. Anywhere. Confident cooking rules the air with never a feeling that the place wasn't, not once, trying to gouge anyone. Seemed like Scott Harris, Tony Mantuano and the Bannos guys just wanted to open a place where they can hang out and eat food they like and hoped other people liked it as well. In other words, the place seemed sincere at every turn.
Two-hour meal, all that food and wine, a great time all around and the final bill was $182.
That made us laugh. Tons of great with a side of great and one of the best non-BYO restaurant bargains we've had in a long time.