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Review Mon Mar 26 2007

Ghetto Gourmet: Delicioso!

Well, so much for a Saturday review; sorry about that. Here are some thoughts regarding the Ghetto Gourmet's current stint in Chicago. The short answer: Go, go, go!

The Prep CounterThese "underground dining experiences" are being held this time around in a stylish loft space near Archer and Ashland. We got there a little early on Friday, so we got to watch the last bits of set-up as 48 place settings were laid out and ingredients for the appetizer and entrée were broken down. As guests filtered in, the room became much noisier, and it was clear that several large groups had made this their Friday night plan. We brought just one bottle of wine, but some brought one for each course, making us wonder if we should run to a liquor store (the one bottle turned out to be just fine, especially since we'd be driving home).

IMG_1207.JPGThe appetizer, which appears on all four nights' menus, was "shrimp and grits." The grits in this case were a cold polenta with a warm roasted tomato sauce and a dollop of luscious, cool avocado cream, accompanied by a trio of sautéed shrimp and peach-habanero salsa. The cold polenta was unexpected but not unpleasant, and made for an interesting temperature contrast with the other parts of the dish. If anything, I think most diners wished it was a larger portion — although that would have ruined our appetite for the rest of the meal.

Next came soup, which I unfortunately couldn't get a good photo of in the dim candlelight of the room. Listed as a "312 Beer and Cheese Soup," this couldn't have been further from the thick Wisconsin cheddar soup most people are used to. The beer was married with a rich vegetable broth, and a combination of shredded cheddar, brie and manchego cheeses floated throughout, along with some amazing chorizo sausage and what we thought was ground chicken. After dinner, we spoke with Chef Efrain Cuevas, and he mentioned that the only meat was the chorizo — what we thought was chicken was actually the rind of the brie. The soup was easily the highlight of the meal. Chef Efrain was kind enough to give the recipe to One Good Meal columnist Cinnamon Cooper; watch for it in an upcoming column.

Sons of Susan, KitchenThere was an interlude between the soup and the entrée, during which the band The Sons of Susan performed hits from yesteryear, i.e., the Teens through the Forties of the last century. The crowd was well lubricated by then, and between the music and the bizarre black-and-white film being projected on the wall, it got pretty rowdy for a little while. Eventually, the entrée and sides were plated and everyone settled back down to dinner.

EntreeWhile the plating left something to be desired (hey, they did what the could with what they had), the entrée was very good. Braised pork with a honey-guava glaze, paired with a jicama-carrot slaw and yuca and sweet onion fritters bathed in a coriander-ginger sauce. The pork was a bit unevenly cooked — a little dry in some parts, moist and juicy in others, owing no doubt to cooking 48-plus servings in a tiny home range — but the glaze helped it along nicely. The fritters were fantastic: sweet and starchy with a little kick from the ginger. The slaw was a crisp, refreshing counterpoint which helped cut the sugary sweetness of the other items.

DessertDessert was delicious. Sweet and slightly salty buñuelos with honey and cinnamon formed a base for chocolate and banana mousses. The flat buñuelo was still warm, which quickly melted the banana mousse, but the combination was still divine; if a means of preserving the buñuelo's warmth while keeping the mousse cool could be devised, this would be a blockbuster dessert at any restaurant.

Tickets remain for the Monday and Wednesday dinners; if you're free either night, you should make the treck. Chef Efrain and friends plan to make Chicago a regular stop for "the Ghet" — the next visit will be in May. Sign up for Chicago event email announcements here, and keep tabs on the Chicago Ghet on this new blog.

(View my full set of photos of the event on flickr.)

UPDATE: Monday and Wednesday nights are now sold out.

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Tim / March 26, 2007 1:58 PM

Looks like Wednesday's event has sold out.

Andrew / March 27, 2007 2:16 AM

the film, as it happens, was _last year at marienbad_. truly surreal to pair this film with music by the sons of susan.

devon lorraine / March 28, 2007 3:19 PM

i went on saturday night, an entirely different menu... the chef's first name was johanna and the evening was excellent. a first timer, i also brought only one bottle of wine for two of us. i think that given the length of the event, 7:30 - 11:00, dipping into a second bottle might have been ok.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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