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Review Wed Apr 25 2007

A Study in Contrast: Wrigley Field vs. The Hopleaf

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While enjoying excellent seats at Wrigley Field on Monday, I was obligated to indulge in some gameday grub. I gleefully put back a few vapid Bud Lites and stuffed my face with a couple of brats that looked and tasted like they arrived to the ballpark in someone’s back pocket. But it’s all about tradition at ball games and if I hadn’t gone for the Bud Lite and hot dogs, it woulda been Old Style and peanuts. So, price aside, I had no complaints… especially since we split well before the Cubs’ inevitable collapse.

It wasn’t until later, at the Hopleaf Bar in Andersonville, that I had the opportunity to right the evening’s previous culinary wrongs. Still being a bit full from the doggies, I kept it light by ordering the famed muscles mussels appetizer and a pint of De Koninck Bolleke ale. The slightly fruity, slightly malty, crisp brew was an excellent foil for the succulent, nautical sweetness of the Hopleaf’s mussels.

(Continued below the flip.)

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Instead of the itty-bitty, rubbery, nubs that many restaurant-goers are accustomed to, Hopleaf serves up meaty, full-sized mussels in the tradition of a dockside eatery in Maine or Cape Cod. I had them prepared Belgian-style, steamed in white ale with shallots, celery, thyme and the biggest bay leaf I’ve ever seen.

It was about the time that I was finished with the mussels themselves and leisurely sopping up the leftover brine with big chunks of bread that I heard the news that the Cubs blew it again. This time they held out for a noble twelve innings until Prince Fielder put the nail in the coffin with a solo home run. That’s the Cubs for you. The loveable losers.

I’d realized that another Cubs breakdown hadn’t make me like them any less just like the remarkable mussels and Belgian beer at the Hopleaf hadn’t made me enjoy the Wrigley Field fare any less. Perhaps I’d discovered some kinda zen of situational appreciation… for a few minutes anyway. But someone brought up the idea of trying the CB& J (cashew butter, fig jam & morbier cheese) sandwich and I needed another pint of De Koninck anyway. So, by the time the bartender took our next order, any metaphysical revelations had been long forgotten.

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Raney / April 25, 2007 12:30 PM

Here's a free food photography lesson: Take the picture before you eat

BDIII / April 25, 2007 12:37 PM

I have almost a dozen pics of the grub. Felt that this captured the spirit of the post most.

Thanks for the lesson though!

rachael / April 25, 2007 1:35 PM

Just a heads up - your bicep is a muscle, but the above bivalve is a mussel. Those mussels at the Hopleaf are some damnfinetasty eats though....

BDIII / April 25, 2007 1:51 PM

Yow! Thanks Rachael.

Unfortunately, this means no spring break for the proofreader I keep chained up in the basement.

Rob / October 8, 2007 6:42 PM

Eerie. Just had the same exact meal this weekend when I was in town for the marathon. Completely agree though: a great combination and the mussels can't be beat.

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I was using Rick Bayless' restroom, I mused, staring up at the ceiling window that was projecting a heavenly beacon of light upon my less-than-angelic duties. I could barely distinguish Rick's faint murmurs through the orange walls, something about how...
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