Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#169 - Coco Pazzo, Gunthorp Farms Chicken & Melon-Queue-Rouge

What is Melon-Queue-Rouge? After thirty minutes of research on these here internets, my definitive answer is...I don't know. Don't know for sure, anyway.

It's chardonnay in origin. That's one fact that isn't disputed. Is it still chardonnay? Maybe. More a cousin by most opinions. It's red-stemmed, hence the name and only grown in the Jura region of eastern France with the Arbois AOC being its traditional home. It's also pretty rare even for the Jura wine geeks out there and typically manifests itself in a uniquely oxidative, sherry-like aroma and taste.

And it's not used to make vin jaune, a wine from the Jura that goes through a process similar as sherry, comes off like sherry but is made from the savagnin grape. Though the particular bottle we drank last night could be an approximation of such things as it did come off intensely sherry-like and winemakers in the Jura have been experimenting with the vin jaune style using chardonnay grapes, which MQR is...and isn't, really. And MQR usually comes off sherry-like and since I've never had one until last night, how do I know?

Confusing. Let's move on.

Gunthorp Farms in Lagrange, Indiana has a huge following among the chef-types in Chicago and rightfully so. They can't come more highly praised by anybody and everybody that brings them up for their tasty, fresh, sustainable and organic wares. We have eaten a good amount of their products in various forms out in the Chicago restaurant world and partook in other products in sliced meat form from City Provisions.

What we haven't done is go the whole animal route. Seemed right and proper to give a Gunthorp Farms chicken the Thomas Keller treatment, especially given the fact that the bird comes at the same $13 price for a four-pound bird (City Provisions) compared to a Trader Joe's chicken.

Appeared smallish for four pounds. Weighed it. Exactly four pounds.

For Thomas Keller chicken, that tightness and muscle was most likely the problem.

Here we had a very pretty bird from a great farm - sustainable, organic, all that stuff - cooked up and served with a mâche salad and tarragon vinaigrette with radish slices, Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve Cheese, a cheese similar to the tomme-style cheese from Savoie but made in Wisconsin, Kerrygold butter and LaBriola baguette.

A well-sourced meal that should have been, in the least, tasty.


Terrible bird for this preparation.

This is TK chicken, my friends. TK Chicken needs a fatty bird, it needs the sizzle that jumps off it at 450 degrees in the oven, that sizzle you listen to for an hour and realize that your oven will never be a clean oven again and that's entirely okay with you. TK Chicken needs that fat to baste itself and bleed deep into itself, turning it into something so goshdarn succulent that no other chicken will do. It needs that fat that creates a plume of smoke that engulfs the entire apartment.

It can't abide these birds that get all this exercise and sunlight and are fed proper, diet-driven feed. TK Chicken needs a bird that downs an entire bag of Cheetos while watching a Top Chef marathon. It needs that fat that only comes from years of sedentary, couch-loving behavior.

In other words, the chicken blew. Edible? Sure. I didn't want anymore after about eight bites, though. It wasn't TK Chicken.

It was just chicken. And that don't fly in this house.

Mâche, tarragon and radish = good. Cheese tasted like it came from a cow that ate grass all its life and then for one week decided that horse crap tasted like a good way. Sound foundation of grassy cheese goodness with a bit of a welcome background funk coupled with floral, moldy orange rind.

The wine served was the aforementioned melon-queue-rouge, the 2005 Jacques Puffeney Melon-Queue-Rouge Arbois ($32 - WDC) along with a completely forgettable 2009 Tasca d'Almerita Leone ($12), which I don't feel the need to chronicle.

Liquified nuts, nail polish remover, some gasoline and maybe a touch of pear on the nose. Huge acid on the palate with similar flavors from the aroma. Tasted younger than I expected from the nose with a little touch of lemon lift on occasion. Sherry-like in every way. Oxidized as all get-out. Not something I wanted more than a few sips of by itself but this one changed dramatically with food, settling into something entirely interesting, especially with the cheese and greens, bringing about a finish that came off less sherry-like and more like a chardonnay past its prime but entirely interesting to try. Comte cheese is the quintessential pairing according to many people. Maybe we'll give this one another go with that. I wasn't in love with it while drinking it. One-trick pony in many ways. But I certainly kept thinking about it.

Pairing Score: 60 Tough to go any higher with such a bad chicken experience.

Ever have a restaurant on your list of places you'd like to go for years? Coco Pazzo (300 W. Hubbard) has been on our list for about seven years now. Two days ago, we went.

It should have stayed on the list. It tasted Timid. For $300, I got a clam pasta I enjoyed, Mrs. Ney got a very fresh ricotta she enjoyed, we had a nice, cheap, dry bottle of Tocai that we enjoyed.

Other than that, we ate good food that never even briefly wandered into the realm of great, surprising, inventive, evocative or even marginally memorable. Nice enough staff and pretty enough space that, by 7pm, was populated with more older men in suits than I can ever remember dining among.

Certainly not similar to Vanity Fair's A.A. Gill's experience at the worst restaurant in the world but, for the money, stood up and screamed mediocre.

We can cross the place off the list.

Best that can be said.

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