February started with a quick trip to Chicago, and by quick I mean flying from Seattle and then back home the same day. Luckily, this meant a chance for lunch in the Windy (and brutally cold) City, which turned into one of my favorite meals of the year. I pigged out at The Purple Pig. I loved sitting at the chef’s counter, watching all the food come out. It was so irresistibly delicious that I ate much more than I should have ahead of an afternoon lecture. Perhaps this salad of Castelfranco (radicchio), arugula, and sunchokes with hazelnuts and apple cider vinaigrette justified all the pork to follow?
From the “Fried” section, I had to try the pig’s ear with crispy kale, pickled cherry peppers, and fried egg:
Then, from the “Smears” section, this pork neck bone gravy with Calabro ricotta was heavenly:
By the way, I was solo, but having no trouble eating everything, including all the bread. The food was THAT good. Next, from the “A la Plancha” part of the menu, this absolutely succulent milk-braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes:
Finally, from the same section (for my “dessert”), my favorite dish of the lunch (along with the neck bone gravy): pig’s tails braised in balsamic:
Maybe my biggest lunch ever, but I kept thinking, “When will I be back in Chicago, and as good as this is, won’t I want to try another of the many restaurants here?” So I ate and ate and ate. Then walked down Michigan Avenue to do some work. Would you believe, though, that before I jumped on a train back to the airport, I stopped at Epic Burger? Someone recommended it, so I got the basic burger with cheese, and it was okay (good ingredients, made to order, and decent price)–though not quite epic:
After a full day of flying, I had to take off the next morning for a lecture on the Pacific coast in Aberdeen, Washington. There I made a stop at Anne Marie’s Cafe for coffee and a light lunch: tomato soup and half of an egg salad sandwich. Not nearly as exotic as The Purple Pig! But friendly enough folks (including the locals), and a wireless signal while sitting in the window with the sun shining:
Staying in state, I was off to the Willows Inn where I hosted a Sexy Feast dinner, but first a stop in Bellingham. Without any real food plans, a walk-around led to brunch at Little Cheerful Cafe. At this busy and funky corner cafe, my partner indulged her love of potatoes by ordering a big plate of California Browns with spinach, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and jack cheese (“you don’t need tight shorts, a fake tan, and an 8×10 glossy headshot to enjoy these”):
Faced with a list of pancake possibilities, I threw caution to the wind and let my server pick a favorite. Here I present my chocolate chip and peanut butter pancakes:
They were interesting to try and fun to eat–once. Coffee, please, as I needed the bitterness to balance the sweetness.
A few days later I flew to D.C., where some friends and I went to Jose Andres’ Jaleo in Arlington, Virginia. As these friends are vegetarians, Jaleo was a perfect place in offering a number of non-meat items. The experience was much as I expected: swanky and sophisticated, with lots of small plates to share. With good, clean flavors, the food was quite tasty, even if not as gritty as I usually prefer. Here’s some of what we tried, starting with apple and fennel salad with Manchego cheese, walnuts, and sherry dressing:
Soup (sadly, I can’t remember what type):
A look at the table, including a Spanish omelet/tortilla in the foreground:
I had to try at least one dish that wasn’t vegetarian:
For one of our desserts, we ordered flan:
The next day, I was up in Boston, hungry for late night eats. First stop was Myers + Chang. I would have loved to explore the eclectic menu, but this was just for a quick peek and an “amuse” of $1 Island Creek oysters and PBRs. The atmosphere was fun and the food intriguing. Starving, I did succumb to temptation and ordered one dish (can anyone identify this, especially as the photo suffers from the low-light conditions?), which only whet my appetite for a future visit:
Then it was on to the main destination of the night: Coppa. I knew it would be too late for the regular menu, but there’s plenty on the late night menu to satisfy, starting with crostini with beef tongue and beef heart:
Flavors were bold and bright, so I knew this would be a great meal. Next up: spaghetti alla carbonara with bacon, uni, and egg:
How about some wood oven-roasted pig’s tail with mostarda glaze:
My favorite dish of the evening, slightly reminiscent of what I had a week earlier at The Purple Pig in Chicago, was trippa alla Collinsville: tripe, beef tongue, and pork belly stew with squash and mozzarella. Wow. Three of my favorite meats in one ridiculously rich stew:
Again, I used all of the bread to scoop up every last bite of that delicious dish. Fabulous!