Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr, it is getting CHIL-LY out there! I don’t know where you are reading this from, but in Chicago, it is a bitter 30 degrees F (-1.1 C). Some people fight the winter blues with a cup of hot cocoa or a hearty veggie chili. Me? I like to eat an entire cow. Preferably during the course of a single meal. Oprah ain’t got nothing on me! And what better place to eat an entire cow than Custom House, Shawn McClain’s upscale America contemporary restaurant that focuses on–what else?–MEAT! The restaurant is part of a trio of restaurants created by McClain (Green Zebra focuses on vegetarian cuisine and Spring is seafood/fish focused), but I wouldn’t quite call it a steak house. They focus on all bits of meat, from braised beef cheeks to bacon to sweetbreads. Adam and I were lucky enough to dine with two fellow food lovers and friends from work, which made the evening even more of an adventure. The more people means the faster it is for me to eat an entire cow. It is all about strategy here, people. And a bit a Gas-X. We started the meal with the veal sweetbreads from the first photo, and a Kobe beef tartare with toast and Parmesan gelato.
Now if you were to ask me on the street if I wanted some Parmesan gelato, I would probably kick you a few times and run away. But pair it with perfectly seasoned Kobe beef, and it’s magic. The sweetbreads were good, but not great. A bit chewy for my liking, but when it is tossed with bacon, dirt would taste good. We moved on to salads and soups, starting with the Caprese salad with watermelon. Let me just point out, I had this meal around a month ago, when tomatoes were still (just barely) in season. We also had a beet salad with bacon and candied nuts, and the butternut squash soup.
No photos of the soup, sorry! The salads were just okay…I sort of wish the beets had been pickled, because I find them so much more flavorful that way, and the bacon on my salad had clearly been cooked well in advanced and just thrown on last minute. It was cold, dry and limp. I cried a little. Oh, and by the way, we had wine with this meal. A lot of it. At one point, I think we even got the waitress to write down the wine we were drinking. Then we drank some more and lost the list. We tried to rewrite it, but then we drank some more and forgot the list even existed. A wine blog this ain’t. For the main, I had braised veal cheeks with marrows toast and tomato preserves. Delicious, tender, still not sure I’m a marrow fan, but I will keep trying it until I like it. After two bottles of wine, I’ll try anything, especially a conversation with the flower vase on the table. She’s lovely, and her name is Maude. She is also a vegetarian.
One of my dining mates tried the scallops, probably trying to wash away some of the cow flavor the last two courses provided. She was quite pleased with them.
Another dining mate had the bone-in short ribs. These were just as tender and delicious as my cheeks, sans the marrow.
Finally, Adam had a steak…smothered in bone marrow and deliciousness. This marrow I could handle because it was in proper proportion to the steak. Soooooo good.
And because we just hadn’t eaten enough farm animals for one evening, we threw in some pommes anna with pancetta and bacon roasted brussel sprouts.
And of course, thanks to the pork product, these dishes were just as good if not better than our mains. By this point in the evening, three bottles of wine down and what felt like a baby calf in my stomach, I was about ready to throw in the towel, which almost NEVER happens. It wasn’t my decision–the cow was calling the shots at this point. But my dining mates must have had metabolisms like a Chinese gymnast, because they insisted we finish up. We got a combination dessert platter and a combination cheese platter and glasses of port. I fricking love port, so I couldn’t say no. I also had three bottles of wine, so even if I did say no, it was probably a bit slurred and sounded like yes anyways. And I even remember what kind it was! A 10 year Porto Rocha from Portugal. It was caramely, buttery and the perfect end to a meal where I ate practically an entire cow and a few of it’s friends from the farm.
For dessert, there was a pumpkin tart thing, some doughnut fritters, deconstructed s’mores and something with banana and chocolate in it. For cheese, we had cheese. And other stuff. Did I mention the port? The rest of the evening is fairly a blur of taxi cabs and me making up songs about how much I love bacon. I would highly recommend Custom House to people with a great love of meat, or vegans that have just fallen off the wagon and want one last hurrah before they get back to their barley and millet. And for the record, I probably only ate like, 1/2 of a cow. Ah well. Something to strive for next time. ~LTG! ********************************************************************* Custom House 500 S. Dearborn St. Chicago, IL 60605 312-523-0200 http://www.customhouse.cc Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 5-9 p.m. Sunday