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Tuesday, August 9

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Review Wed Dec 30 2009

The Purple Pig Opens on Michigan Avenue

Purple Pig CharcuterieThe Purple Pig, the latest venture by Chefs Scott Harris of Mia Francesca and Jimmy Bannos, Jr., and Jimmy Bannos, Sr., of Heaven on Seven, opens in the heart of the Magnificent Mile today. House-cured charcuterie and small and large Mediterranean-inspired plates make up the core of the menu served in the casual 70-seat space. The Purple Pig team welcomed family and friends to feast last night, a soft opening upon which I was lucky enough to stumble.

To start, house-marinated olives were gorgeous and rich, and the pickled carrots and onions with which they were served were crisp and bright. Salt-roasted beets with whipped goat cheese and pistachio vinaigrette were conventional though under-dressed.

The highlight of the antipasti we sampled were the freshly fried pork fat almonds with garlic and rosemary. Restaurants like The Bristol, Mado and The Publican have introduced to Chicago much porky deliciousness. If too late for this year, I can already see The Purple Pig's non-vegetarian nuts on "best of 2010" lists--a snack worthy of a cult following, for sure.

Charcuterie followed the antipasti. Coppa (like prosciutto but only from pork shoulder or neck), finocchiona (fennel) salami, Jamon Serrano, lingua agrodolce (sweet and sour tongue), Catalonian fuet (a very fatty Spanish sausage) and testa (headcheese) made up a well-rounded though conservatively-spiced array of meats, all cured in house except the Jamon Serrano and fuet. Delicate and nuanced, the testa, made from Berkshire pigs heads, was the most impressive of the charcuterie.

From the "Fried Items" section of the menu, sardines with fillets and bones separated and served together with a jam reminiscent of a loose lemon curd were promising but lacked depth of flavor as did the deep-fried deviled egg with yolk-B├ęchamel filling.

The Purple Pig groups its large plates under the heading "A La Plancha, Etc." Grilled sepia, a type of cuttlefish, served with toasted almonds and fried rosemary proved the strongest dish of the evening with its simple flavors and range of textures. Extra juicy chicken thigh kebabs with salt-baked then fried and smashed potatoes and tangy radish tzatziki proved another very strong, rustic ensemble. Less memorable, pigs tails braised in balsamic were fall-apart tender but overly sweet.

Olive oil soft serve with a dash of sea salt and gianduja soft serve with crumbled cookies melted very quickly but were otherwise a very pleasant way to end our meal.

In addition to antipasti, fried items and large plates, The Purple Pig also offers a variety of salads, smears, cheese and panini. Dishes range from $3-$17. The restaurant will also offer an extensive wine list, with an emphasis on bottles under $40.

Bannos, Sr., said he envisioned The Purple Pig to be a place where people might gather to enjoy simply a glass of wine and some almonds as much as a full meal. With its inviting space (and promise of a greened patio come warmer weather), friendly service, thoughtful and well-executed dishes and focus on value, the restaurant is well on its way to becoming a destination.

The Purple Pig is located at 500 N. Michigan Ave. It is open everyday from 5:30pm to midnight and will begin serving lunch in late January. As there may be changes in the opening weeks, call 312-464-1744 to confirm the hours.

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Jimmy Bannos / December 30, 2009 8:40 AM

Thanks for the GREAT REVIEW.I hope to see you again soon.Have a Happy and Healthy New Year.

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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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