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Thursday, November 30

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Review Wed Jul 28 2010

There Is Actually Goat on the Menu

"That's her!" I pointed and whispered, as if I were afraid she could hear me. There was obviously no way that chef Stephanie Izard could hear me over the racket of clanking dishes, hissing burners, and shouting chefs at her new, much-anticipated restaurant, Girl & the Goat, right in the heart of the Randolph Street restaurant scene. And she was pretty focused on whatever she was doing anyway -- she didn't move from her spot right outside the kitchen, just open enough to provide a good show to any customers eating in the restaurant (some lucky patrons get to sit at a table directly facing the kitchen so they can watch Izard all night long).

As the first female winner of "Top Chef" (fittingly, during its season set in Chicago), young Izard seems to have done well for herself. Nine days into the opening, when I went with my fellow foodie friend, Heather, the only available reservation for two on a Wednesday night was 9:15pm. We barely had to wait more than three minutes before we were seated.

Exposed brick, wood pillars, and dim lighting give the large interior a rustic but funky feel, kind of like a ski lodge. The tables, made of butcher blocks, are set minimally -- the napkin is wrapped in a cardboard napkin ring illustrated with a cartoon billy goat. Despite Izard's celebrity, the restaurant feels homey and comfortable.

Our server, casually dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans -- the "uniform" -- came up to us and leaned down. "I'll be your third tonight," he quipped.

He suggested ordering two or three plates per person -- the standard order, according to my prior research. The menu is split into three sections: meat, fish and vegetables. To be fair to all formerly living creatures, Heather and I ordered two from the fish (seared scallops and crisp skate), one from the veggies (roasted cauliflower), and one from the meat (had to go with the smoked goat pizza). Although I was tempted to order the crispy pig face, I couldn't bring myself to order the crispy pig face.

I felt far away from Heather when we first sat down across from each other, but very close to our fellow diners on either side. No biggie, though -- after one deliciously strong drink, we were able to diminish the space between us by just talking louder (sorry, fellow diners). I had the Tempest, a blend of ginger syrup, rum, lime and a Caribbean sugar syrup, Falernum. The first sip was odd -- I couldn't quite place the flavor, but when Heather had a sip, she noticed how strong the ginger flavor was. "It tastes like gingerbread," she said. Exactly -- it was like a cold, alcoholic gingerbread.

We got bread first, which you have to order separately and pay $4 for. But it's bread with a twist. We ordered the Fat Bread, crusty, warm bread served with liver butter and a tart plum compote. I figured my first experience with liver would go down smoother if it was mixed with something I love: butter. It melted as soon it was spread and soaked into the bread in a way that made me forget I was eating internal organs.

We then got our second course -- the kitchen decides which plates go best together and serves them at the same time. The scallops had chunks of braised veal and a sweet almond-butter sauce that I could eat by the spoonful, and the cauliflower was one of the best vegetable dishes I've ever eaten. With sliced pickled peppers, it had a kick to it, and the pine nuts added crunch.

Izard seems to have perfected the texture of her dishes. Our next course -- the skate and the goat pizza -- each had elements of crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth-ness that made me understand what Tom Colicchio means when he talks about full textures and depth of flavor, which I once thought was totally pretentious (and probably still is, but I'm drinking the Kool-Aid). Even though we were already nearly full by this course, we ate every bit of the salty skate (a cartilaginous fish belonging to the family Rajidae in the superorder Batoidea of rays, if you didn't know that already) with grilled calamari, and the very-thin-crust goat-meat pizza with a tart cherry sauce. We can all be girls and the goat at Izard's place.

Finally, we got to dessert. I could barely eat another bite, but somehow, Heather and I scarfed down the goat-cheese bavaroise, kind of like a goat-cheese cheesecake, topped with crunchy oats. Hidden in the middle were a soft brown-sugar cake and blueberries -- the bavaroise alone was kind of tangy, so you need to dig your spoon in deep and get some of the cake and berries all in one bite.

We left feeling full and satisfied -- and I was expecting to spend a lot more than $50 each on the check, so my wallet felt pretty satisfied too.

Girl & the Goat
809 W. Randolph St.

Photos by Heather Wick.

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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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