Posts Tagged ‘Ribs’

Southern Cooking in the Windy City

April 4, 2010

Gary and I had scheduled a Monday morning meeting in Chicago that required us to go there Sunday. So we decided to make the most of inconvenience and go out for a very good meal that Sunday night.  And what a meal we had.

We knew about the meeting a month out so we had time to decide and get a reservation. So we created a list of possibilities and narrowed the list down to Table 52.  This is Chef Art Smith’s place in Chicago which features Southern Cooking. I have seen Chef Smith several times on Iron Chef America and Top Chef. He was Oprah’s personal chef,  recently cooked for Lady Gaga and President Obama and Michelle ate at Table 52 for Valentine’s Day so there was a really good chance it was going to be memorable. And it was.

Gary started his meal with the Southern Pickles. The dish came with several house-pickled cauliflower, carrots and okra with micro greens, onions, two kinds of salt, baguette, smoked gouda and jelly on the side. The idea was to make your own pickle sandwich out of the ingredients trying the different ingredients. I like participation dishes like this where you can choose your own combination of food so when Gary offered a taste, I went for it.  The pickled vegetables were tender and sweetly pickled but not to the point where the taste of the vegetable was lost or the crunch was gone. The rest of elements added interesting tastes of sweet jam and salty salts along with different textures of crusty bread, crunchy pickles and gooey jam. Combining the different elements of the dish was fun but we both agreed that although the gouda cheese was fine on it’s own we couldn’t find a combination that matched well with the cheese.

I went for the Beet Salad for my first course.  The salad came with nice portions of  two colourful beets, whipped goat cheese, thyme crumble and Myer lemon puree. For what I thought was going to be a simple salad turned out to be a very complex dish by the various combination of items you could put on your fork. The sweetness of the beets matched well against the tartness of the Myer Lemon Puree and the almost metallic flavour of the Thyme Crumble. The textures of the dish also provided a spectrum of densities, firm beets, semi soft Whipped Goat Cheese and thick puree.  We wanted wine with the meal and had our waiter match a glass of wine with each course. For this course we had Acustic from Montsant (Catalonia, Spain) named ‘unplugged’ in the same way that you find ‘naked’ (oak free) Chardonnay.

For Gary’s second course, he went for the classic southern dish Fried Green Tomatoes. The two large heirloom tomato slices were lightly battered and then pan-fried giving the tomatoes a light crunch with a soft center.  Along with the tomatoes came fresh greens, creme fraise and a light tomato puree.  Like an old married couple, Gary and I ended up sharing tastes from each others dishes so I can report this version of the southern classic was great.  The sweetness of the fried tomatoes contrasting nicely with the spicy tomato puree.  The crisp greens and silky puree matched well also.  For this course, our waiter recommended the Eyrie Chardonnay from Oregon. I found the wine to have a light oakiness and a little bit fruity. A nice match for both the Fried Green tomatoes and my dish.

For my second course, I also went for a southern classic in Low-Country Shrimp and Grits. I lived in Florence, South Carolina back in the 80’s so I tried grits many times but never became a big fan but when you are at Art Smith’s restaurant you give them another try.  It was great!.  These grits were Stone-ground White Corn Grits and so different from my memories of the 80’s.  These grits were more like a risotto than the cream of wheat memories.  These grits were nice and creamy as a whole but the individual grits still had a bite to them as in “el dente” pasta. A very nice consistency.  The Wild-Caught Shrimp were tender, sweet and well-cooked.  The Spicy Tomato Sauce contrasted well with the sweet shrimp and creamy grits. Basically a very simple dish but well executed with excellent ingredients.

For Gary’s main course, he went for the Fish of the Day special, which was Halibut. I forgot to bring my recorder to get all the details of the dish but from my memory, the fish was pain fried and topped with a variety of vegetables and greens.  I got to taste the fish and it was perfectly cooked with flakes falling off with just the touch of your folk.  Halibut is my favourite fish and Table 52 did it right.

For the main course we decided to order the Braised Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey as our side dish.  Collard Greens are about as “southern” as you can get but the smoked turkey was different twist I had not seen before. The more common version I had seen when I lived in the south was with ham hocks.  The turkey version turned out fine with greens taking on a light sweet taste of the turkey but not the saltness of the ham version.  The greens were well-cooked, infusing the turkey into the vegetable but stopping the cooking before turning the veggies into mush.  This was the best dish of collard greens I have ever eaten.

For my main course, I went for the Maple Sugar Short Ribs.  These were the most tender short ribs I ever had in my life. Just using your fork you could twist the meat and it would flake off into single strands of flavourful meat.  The carmelized maple sugar matched well with meaty flavours of the short rib. The dish came with red wine reduction that match well but I was so focused on the tender meat.  A potato puree was the matching starch and a carmelized onion accompanied the dish. Our waiter recommended the 2007 Cristom Pinot Noir to go with the dish.  I thought this was an interesting recommendation given Gary’s fish and my short rib selection but it ended up being perfect for both of us.  Not overcoming the fish and not under powered for the ribs.  Nice wine selecting Justin.

I have had the privilege to eat in several celebrity chef restaurants; Emeril’s, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, BLT Prime, Daniel,  over the years but one thing was always missing, the celebrity chef. Until this visit. Making several tours of the dining room during our three courses was owner/celebrity chef Art Smith.  He stopped at every table checking to see how the meal was progressing. I thought the treat of the evening was going to be this photo of the two of us but it got better when Art joined us at our table as the restaurant thinned out at the end of service.  They say that television puts pounds on you but this thinner and fitter version of Chef Smith has been dieting and exercising lately and looked the healthiest I have ever seen him. I wish I could say that about myself but after this great meal, I wouldn’t have much credibility would I. 

It gets worse, Gary and I agreed that we were going to pass on dessert as we were both pretty full from the three courses, wine and cocktails we had already consumed. But as we sat there with Chef Smith he had the staff big over some desserts for us to try.  First came the Smith Family Twelve-Layer Chocolate Cake.  Delicious, light and a great chocolate flavour. The cake came with Vanilla Gelato and Strawberry for contrast.

Next came the Peanut Brittle.  I remember peanut brittle as a Christmas treat during my childhood but this was the best brittle I ever had.  The thick rich harden caramel sauce was chock full of fresh Georgia peanuts.  I was amazed at how thick the brittle was.  It was very good and very sweet.

Finally Executive Chef John, formerly of Charlie Trotter’s restaurant, brought over Art’s Hummingbird Cake.  I had my share of cake when I lived in the south but never had Hummingbird cake.  If I had most likely I would still be in the south cause this is great cake.  Art make his version with Banana and Pineapple flavours three layers high all coated in Cream Cheese Frosting. Served on the side is a wonderful Vanilla Gelato.  It was delicious with all the different flavours going on and amazingly light.

We had a great chat with Chef Smith during our 30 minute sit-down talking about everything from the making of Iron Chef, his diet and exercise plan, to who’s cooking in Chicago he likes (and who’s he doesn’t) and where he likes to go hear the Blues in Chicago.  The evening ending amazingly with Chef taking us to his favourite Blues Club in Chicago and having a couple of cocktails listening happily to the blues.

It was an amazing meal that will, most likely, never happen again.  Thanks Gary and Chef Smith for a great meal and a great story.

Read other reviews about Table 52 here, here and here.

Table 52 52 Elm Street, Chicago, IL  – 312-573-4000

Swiss Chalet – A Canadian Tradition

September 15, 2009

When we moved to Ontario in the early 1990’s (boy does that sound a long time ago when I write it), we always went to Swiss Chalet at Christmas time and when my Mom visited us.  Swiss Chalet is a chain of rotisserie chicken restaurants that started in Canada in the 1950’s. They always had great chicken, crispy skin on the outside and moist sweet meat on the inside, great sides and great desserts.  Toblerone BarAt Christmas time, Swiss Chalet always offered a special chicken meal that featured the Swiss Toblerone chocolate bar as the dessert.  That combo is famous across Canada and when I updated my status to saying I was eating at Swiss Chalet, the first comment I got was about the Holiday Tradition. The boys (and my Mom) liked the Toblerone bars, the Swiss Chalet BBQ Ribs and the Treasure Chest they could get a toy from at the end of the meal so going there was a family affair to remember.

As Donna and I were driving through Saint John, New Brunswick, a wave of nostalgia (and perhaps hunger) hit us and we knew where we would eat that night. Unlike a lot of things these days it was how were remembered it so I thought I would share with you our flashback meal.

Harvest Special at Swiss ChaletDonna went for the Harvest Special and I went for the Chicken and Rib Combo.  The Harvest Special included a cup of Chicken Noodle Soup, a ¼ Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potato, Roll and Chalet Sauce with Pumpkin pie as dessert.  The soup was very good and gone before I could take photos. (Must be good eh?). The ¼ Roasted Chicken was all white meat and cooked to perfection – crispy skin on the outside, moist sweet meat on the inside.  The Mashed Potatoes were well cooked and creamy as required by the blogger’s wife.  The highlight to the meal or at least my son, Ryan thinks, is the Chalet Sauce. This dipping sauce is lighter than gravy but more flavorful and even a bit tangy. Dipping chunks of the Chicken into it, heck even chunks of the roll, causes one to wonder how they get the strong chicken flavor in there at the same time making it tangy. It’s a wonderful addition to the meal and would be sadly missed if not concluded. The Harvest Special did come with pie that we had packed for the trip home but it disappeared during the night with no reports on the taste. LOL

Rib & Chicken Combo at Swiss ChaletMy Chicken and Rib Combo came with the same ¼ Roasted Chicken Donna had but my dish came with ½ Rack of Roasted Ribs and a generous order of Fries.  The Ribs were delicious and fall of the rib tender. I usually like my ribs to stay on the bone but these are the exception.  The pork meat was moist and tender covered with a sweet tangy sauce whose recipe the Swiss Chalet people covet (but will sell you jars of it if you want LOL). The sauce doesn’t provide much heat in terms of spice but it matches so very well with the sweetness of the port that I bet hardcore BBQ fans in Kansas City and Memphis would enjoy.  I love the ribs at Swiss Chalet and hope you try them.

It was a fun meal for Donna and I remembering the Christmas outings to  Swiss Chalet and being comforted that the food was as good as we remembered it.

Read other reviews about Swiss Chalet here, here and here.

Swiss Chalet – 86 Consumers Drive, Saint John, NB E2J 4Z3           (506) 657-947


August 10, 2009

Duck Deli SignChowhound CW and fellow bloggers Lynne Goldman and Rich Baringer over at Bucks County Taste reminded me that the Duck Deli BBQ in New Britain has the Best BBQ in Bucks County. They aren’t the only ones, the other reviewers below and readers of the local newspaper have voted the Duck Deli the Best BBQ in Montgomery and Buck Counties. I have to agree they have great Pulled Pork Sandwiches, BBQ Wings and BBQ Ribs.

Donna and I visited the Duck Deli a few years back with the boys and had a great meal so when we drove thru New Britain last night I knew we should stop and get some take-out to confirm our impression.  I got a Pulled Pork Sandwich, 2 orders of BBQ Wings and a rack of  Baby Back Ribs.

 Pulled Pork Sandwich at the Duck DeliThe Duck Deli positions itself as the best North Carolina BBQ in Bucks County and although has local ownership it keeps true to the North Carolina BBQ traditions. Knowing that, I had to try the North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich.  I was reward with a delicious sandwich with the a generous portion of Carolina pulled pork made moist with their apple vinegar dressing. I had the Coleslaw on the side because it was a take-out order but I added the crunchy slaw to the sandwich before eating it thus giving it some crunch and some sweetness from the slaw dressing.

Buffalo and Western BBQ Ribs from the Duck DeliThe Duck Deli offers it’s BBQ Wings in orders of 5, 10 or 15 in either Buffalo, Honey or Western sauces. I got 5 of Buffalo and 5 of Western. These wings were a little different than the other hot wings reviewed here on the blog. These were BBQed over a wood fire as opposed to deep fried and you get the whole wing including the tip as opposed to just the two smaller sections. Both types of wings were fall off the bone tender and the different sauces either brought some heat or a sweet smokey flavour to the already mosit and tender chicken meat. The small slivers of Celery were crisp and perfect for dipping the creamy Blue Cheese Dressing. The dressing had nice chuncks of blue cheese making the mayo based sauce tangy. Very good BBQ wings.

Baby Back Ribs with Western Sauce at the Duck Deli

 The special that night were Baby Back Ribs with a choice of sauces. I went for the Western Sauce which the waitress said was a tomato brown sugar sauce. I ordered a full rack to go and they were the best ribs I have had since I left South Carolina.  These ribs had obviously been slow cooked on a wood-fire pit for a long time. Each rib had the remnance of slightly spicy dry rub. The almost fall-off-the-bone ribs still maintained some density making each bite a good chew as opposed to just falling apart. The western sauce brought some tang to the ribs contrasting nicely to the sweet moist pork flesh. One rack was not enough as the boys quickly smelled the aroma of the BBQ as we tried to secretly (LOL) unpack the take-out meals and the decented like locusts and ate up the ribs.  We will have to go back soon and we hope to see you there. 

I have added Duck Deli to the Best of Bucks Co – Top 5 BBQ. To see the orther making the list check it out here.

You should also know that the Duck Deli is offering All-You-Can-Eat BBQ on Monday nights for $17.95 for adults and half price for children. Check it out and let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Read other reviews about the Duck Deli here, here and here.

Duck Deli on Urbanspoon

Duck Deli – 524 E Butler Ave, New Britain, PA 18901-5304             (267) 880-1190

Homemade Ribs

July 26, 2009

Got the craving for ribs yesterday, so we went to BJ’s and bought three racks of Baby Back Ribs  in a ryovac pack for $2.99 a pound. I like to slow cook my ribs with a dry rub and then finish with a sweet BBQ sauce, so we started by making our dry rub by combining Paprika, Black Pepper, Sugar, Salt, Dry Mustard, Cayenne pepper, Cumin and Chili, Garlic and Onion powder.

Baby Back Ribs with Homemade Dry RubWe then rubbed the ribs and placed in the frig for 3 hours so the rib and rub flavours could mingle.We have a Weber Grilland no smoker so I pre-heated the grill to the lowest settings and placed the ribs on to slow grill for 3 hours. Cooked Baby Back Ribs

It was hard smelling the ribs slow cooking and not opening the grill and start eating but we waited the full time and were rewarded with three fine racks of ribs.  Each of the ribs had Serious Barkon them from the carmelization of the dry rub.  The aroma was great too, Intense Roasted Pork with slightly smokey chili background notes.

Baby Back Rib portions

I cut the racks into individual ribs and you could see the layer of dry rub, the moist ribs and charred under layer.  The dry rub had actually turned into a very flavourful crispy coating that actually crunched when I cut through it.

Coated Baby Back RibsI coated the individual ribs with warmed KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce. The BBQ sauce was sweet with a mild tang and a nice match to the sweet rib meat.  The crunch of the Dry Rub was a good contrast to the heated BBQ sauce.  The Cayenne pepper brought a nice heat to the ribs but did not overwhelm the rib meat taste. Donna thought the ribs were “nice and spicy” with a good rib taste. Not bad for homemade dry rub and a backyard grill. LOL.  I can’t wait until we do them again.

I used KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce to finish my ribs but what’s your Favourite BBQ Sauce.  Take the survey here.

I am still looking for recommendations for the Best of Bucks Co – Ribs Top 5.  Take a look at the list so far and recommend your favourites.