When we moved to Chicago a few months ago, I have to admit I was nervous. Not because I didn't think we'd love Chicago, but because we signed a lease before I'd ever even stepped foot in the neighborhood we'd be living in. I'd gotten stuck in NYC with a cancelled flight after a business trip, and was unable to make it out to Chicago the weekend that the Monkey Scientist and our roommate came to look at places. Still, I trusted their judgement and I quickly realized how much I love our part of town!
One of the best restaurants in our area is the Southport Grocery & Cafe. A coworker had actually told me about it before I moved and I was not disappointed. Their brunch is top notch and their cupcakes are out of this world. And I moved from DC, land of cupcake shops. Plus they have a great little market with high end ingredients like jellies, pickles, sprinkles and real maple syrup. So when I heard they host a "Secret Supper" once a month, I knew I needed to get an invite. I grabbed 4 seats to the October party as soon as I heard about it (by joining their email list) for me, my bff, my roommate and the MS.
All of the food was really a step above anywhere we've gone lately. My favorite course was the clam chowder. Now I'm a New England girl, and this was some seriously good clam chowder. The liquid wasn't too thick and there was a great substance-to-liquid ratio. I hate when there are big chunks of potatoes in chowder, but these were perfectly diced and the texture was offset by crispy shallots. The clams were cooked exactly how I like them - just a bit chewy and not at all briny. Plus the sourdough bread bowl they baked upstairs was perfection. Sourdough is my favorite bread by far - I think I could live off of it. I couldn't ask for anything more out of this course (except for, well, more).
The main course was a Pork Confit and Orchiette served in a large mug. As the Monkey Scientist put it, there might not be anything better than a mug full of pork. It was topped with currants and a juniper gelee, and was mixed with local arugula and carrots. Some of our table found it a bit sweet, and I thought the sauce might have been a little heavy. Plus, cooked carrots just don't do it for me. It wasn't the highlight of the meal but it was really great nonetheless.
For dessert, we were served a pumpkin rice pudding with a black sesame lace cookie. I'm not sure I'd ever had a homemade lace cookie before, but now I'm determined to make them myself. They melt in your mouth and have the perfect bit of crunch. Sesame seeds aren't my favorite thing ever so I might experiment with other things I can put in the caramel if I make them at home. The rice pudding sitting below the cookie was great too. Rice pudding is one of my favorite desserts. To be honest, I think we all expected a little more pumpkin flavor, but it was topped with dried cranberries and candied ginger which was amazing. I loved the mason jar presentation, too!
The only thing I didn't capture was the special treat at the end of the meal. They had homemade Reese's, Three Muskeeter, Almond Joy, and Butterfingers that their pastry chef had whipped up for us. I think we all felt sweets overload at the end of the meal (OK everyone but me. I don't understand sweets overload until it's way too late) but they were absolutely delightful, albeit a bit melty. I especially liked the Butterfinger and thought the Three Musketeers was unique and delicious (the consistency was denser than the original). This was definitely a special dinner for us (we even got a bottle of wine, and we never drink at dinner), but I'm hoping we can go to another Secret Supper sometime (maybe if my folks come visit!). It was a blast!