The most recent Chef’s Table event took place recently at the Standard Market Grill in Lincoln Park. The 25 guests were treated to a wintertime feast that left everyone tremendously satisfied and ready to return for a second visit.
The Lincoln Park location is the sister restaurant to Westmont's outrageously popular Standard Market and features the same quality of artisan, local, and craft selections. All of the ingredients are sourced from the suburban store, which counts the best local producers as its sources. Standard Market Grill features everything from freshly ground burgers to 24-hour steak. "Free Bird" isn't just a song with their antibiotic-free chicken wings and roasted chicken. Standard Market Grill is a celebration of food.
We started the evening with a round of cocktails featuring the Third Coast (North Shore Vodka, Fruitlab hibiscus liqueur, and Santome prosecco). Despite the cold evening, this light and refreshing (almost summery) cocktail was a lovely start to the event. After we had a chance to relax with the first cocktail, they brought out the second to pair with our first food course of the evening. This second cocktail was the Maple Bourbon Smash featuring Breaking & Entering bourbon (a new-to-me but awesome brand), maple syrup, fresh orange, fresh lemon, and soda. The cocktail was a hit, but became even better when paired with the Crispy Thai Shrimp (Laughing Bird crispy shrimp, spicy Thai dressing, lettuce cups, and candied sesame pecans). The little bit of heat in the Thai dressing was a great offset to the sweetness of the cocktail. The shrimp were perfectly prepared, crispy on the outside and still fork-tender on the inside.
The next course featured one of Standard Market Grill’s superb pizza offerings – Tuscan Kale Pizza. This one appears simple, but the combination of ingredients creates a wonderful complex series of flavors including roasted garlic alfredo, pepperoni, crispy kale, and aged Caciocavera cheese. Do yourself a favor and order this when you visit. As one of my dinner companions noted, “I could bathe in this cheese.” It’s that good. The pairing was what they described as an “Irish Manhattan” made with McFadden’s Irish whiskey, Carpano Antica, and a splash of grenadine. The drink, called a Redhead, was a perfectly-prepared Manhattan and was a nice companion to the pizza.
Course number three moved us into more hearty comfort food. The course consisted of the 24-Hour Steak Sandwich (bleu cheese, soft baguette, buttermilk garlic dressing, varietal mushrooms, balsamic caramelized onions, arugula and – of course – the tender steak marinated for 24 hours). For this pairing and the following course, Standard Market Grill offered us an exclusive wine – Pioneer Cabernet Sauvignon. This particular red was created in collaboration with the Barra Family Vineyards in Mendocino county, a blend of 80% Cabernet, 15% Merlot, and 5% old vine Petit Syrah. This was an awesome, full-bodied wine, but the star of this course was the tender, juicy, and intensely flavorful steak sandwich. Simple, but perfect for a comfort food craving.
For a second heavier course, we sampled the Asian BBQ Glazed Duroc Pork Chop with roasted marble potatoes, braised kale, and a soy-honey glaze. Again we paired with the cabernet. This was my personal favorite of the evening. The pork was prepared medium rare, tremendously tender, and the combination of flavors was perfect wit the wine.
But wait . . . there’s more!
Our final course, dessert, was a Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake served with seasonal berries and sweet cream. The berries had been macerated in creme de cassis and were a lovely piquant accompaniment to the chocolate. For me, the surprise of this moment was the pairing. They brought out glasses of Revolution Brewing “Boy Gene” Porter! I had not considered the concept of pairing dessert with beer, but this was probably the most perfect pairing of the evening. This porter is a rare variation of the popular “Eugene Porter” involving a local Chicago collaboration between Revolution Brewing and Dark Matter Coffee. The intense coffee flavors of the porter were amazing with the cheesecake.
For a final parting gift, they offered us a glass of Begyle Brewing “Flannel Pajamas” Oatmeal Stout. Many of the guests found this to be too bitter, and for a fan of “light” beers it’s not a great fit. For me, however, the roasted/toasted coffee and chocolate notes were a perfect ending to a wonderful wintry feast.