Sky Full of Bacon

Avoiding the Super Bowl avec Avec

I have now successfully spent three of the last four Super Bowls at Avec.  (The year the Bears were in it, they closed, so we went to Quartino instead.)  This is pretty much the perfect day to do so; it’s not empty, but it’s certainly half as full as it normally is, so there’s room to sit, the staff is relaxed and willing to chitchat, all in all it’s the most civilized day at one of Chicago’s best, if busiest, spots.  (No, there’s no TV there.)

This year I had the added bonus of a slight acquaintance with one of the chefs— sous Justin Large, seen toward the start of podcast #6, the second mulefoot pig one— so I enjoyed a couple of extras as well as some of his guidance on what to order.  As it happens the menu at Avec has just been switched out with some new items, and I really enjoyed a couple of them and urge you to get there, sooner rather than later, to try them:

• Olives.  Best olives I’ve had since Spain.  Great olive oil for soaking up, too.

• Charcuterie— we got sopressata, another similar-looking large salami, coppa (very nice if less funky than Mado’s), and a smaller spicy salami.  This is less of a novelty than it was a couple of years ago on the local restaurant scene, and certainly more expensive than similar things at Mado or other places, but it still remains a first-rate plate of housemade stuff, and we hung onto the wine-tinged mustard that came with it for later use (even though we didn’t use it on the charcuterie, which it would have totally overpowered).

• Pork shoulder— Justin recommended two main dish type things, the first a crock with a hunk of pork shoulder braised in a winey sauce with garlic sausage, a couple of slices of beef tongue, and assorted wintry vegetables, with a little bit of horseradishy mustard baked on top of the pork.  I loved this, the broth was rich and robust and set everything else off really nicely (without making it all taste the same).  I highly recommend having this soon.

• “Chicken and dumplings”— His other recommendation was a dish of crisp-roasted chicken thighs with some livery dumplings, cabbage and other goodies in it.  This was quite good too, although I kind of feel like it needed to be an entree-sized portion, the chicken went quickly.  Maybe don’t order it to share, just get one for yourself.

• Rapini— a nice special of garlicky rapini.

• Molasses ice cream with espresso and currant shortbread or something like that— desserts didn’t sound that great, compared to the past, and I think we were just so-so on the dessert, partly because the espresso overpowered the fairly subtle molasses ice cream.

All in all, another terrific, solid and hearty meal at one of Chicago’s exemplary spots, which I am happy to return to at least one Sunday every January.

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