It’s Center City Restaurant Week in Philadelphia, a time when 100 downtown restaurants offer a three-course, $35 dinner menu, and that reminds me of a recent visit to Chicago. My last trip to the Windy City fell during the 5th annual Chicago Chef Week, prix-fixe dining at 75 of the city’s top culinary destinations, and I couldn’t resist taking part in the $22 lunch menu!
Choosing where to go was a challenge until I saw that the list included Publican Quality Meats, owned by James Beard Outstanding Chef Semifinalist Paul Kahan and visited by Anthony Bourdain on his Chicago layover. It also happened to be in the meatpacking district, an area of Chicago I hadn’t yet visited, so I set off on the mile walk from where I was staying in the Loop
to the meatpacking district.
[Under-researched traveler alert!] I was fully expecting Chicago’s meatpacking district to look like New York City’s — a hip, thriving neighborhood buzzing with bars, restaurants, and people. But while I was picturing this…
I got this…
a fully-functioning area with commercial meat sellers and very few visitors…well, until I got inside Publican Quality Meats, that is!
Each table of this warm, charming neighborhood cafe and shop was filled
with people eager to buy something from the butcher shop,
procure a treat from the bakery and gourmet market,
or settle in for a nice lunch from their seasonal menu.
For my first course, I ordered the beet and faro salad with roasted butternut squash, frisee, pecans, farmers cheese, and an orange brown butter vinaigrette.
I love when chefs let the ingredients speak for themselves. This dish was well balanced and each bite made my palate more and more excited for my second course — “Return of the Gyro”.
A braised pork belly, raita, escalavida, and pea shoots sandwich with calabrian chili vinaigrette on griddled flatbread,
each bite was better than the last. The pork belly was cooked perfectly and the sandwich was a fabulous mix of flavors and textures. At this point, you can imagine how excited I was for dessert!
For dessert, I was served a Hazelnut Paris-Brest, a classic French dessert that resembles a bicycle wheel
and was, well, disappointing. After such exquisite first and second courses, I found it a bit dry and lacking depth.
Now, I’m far from a James Beard semi-finalist, but I would have much preferred a different delicate French dessert with hazelnut, a Chocolate Hazelnut Soufflé! Soufflé should be served right out of the oven and, since guests order all courses up front, would be a great choice for a Restaurant Week or Chef Week…or your next dinner party!
- 2 tablespoons Frangelico
- 2 teaspoons espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 1/4 cup flour
- 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 8 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat to 375 degrees. Butter 8 ramekins or 1 soufflé dish, dust with cocoa powder, and place on baking sheet. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine Frangelico, espresso powder, and vanilla, stirring until the espresso powder is dissolved. Add sugar and cocoa powder; stir to combine.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat milk until steaming.
- Meanwhile, melt butter and oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook over medium-low heat, whisking, until the mixture is the consistency of thick batter, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks, one at a time, until incorporated. Whisk in the Frangelico-cocoa mixture.
- In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add salt. Gradually increase speed to high and beat until shiny and stiff, but not dry.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir one-third of whites into batter mixture. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites just until evenly distributed. Spoon the batter into the prepared dish(es).
- Bake until puffed and top cracks, 15-20 minutes for individual ramekins, 35-40 minutes for large soufflé. Serve immediately as soufflé will deflate upon removing from oven.
Serving Suggestions: Pair with vanilla ice cream or gelato and drizzled Nutella.
DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO CHICAGO: 678 miles
This recipe was adapted from Eating Well’s Kahlua & Chocolate Souffle recipe.