by Rock ‘n Roll Ghost
2012′s Green City Market Chef’s BBQ Benefit just ended less than two hours ago as I write this. To say it was a rousing success is probably an understatement. Everything aligned to make this year’s benefit the best experience I’ve had at one of these mass cooking festivities. It also far outdistanced last year’s in temperature (last year was a friggin’ nightmare), in space to move (last year felt like you were being penned to eventually get slaughtered and sold at the market) and in quality of food.
Not that last year’s benefit for Green City Market (May – October at the south end of Lincoln Park, November – April at the Peggy Notebeart Museum) had bad food mind you, just more misses than hits. This year, out of thirteen dishes I tried, maybe one wasn’t “great” and another “not that good”. So that leaves eleven dishes I really enjoyed.
The best dish of the night was my very first. Big Jones wasn’t my intended first stop but am I damn glad I made it so. Paul Fehribach, Big Jones‘ Executive Chef/Owner put out a truly flooring dish of char-grilled chaurice (a cajun/creole sausage) with pinto beans and green tomato relish that makes me beg Fehribach to put this on his menu. PLEASE! Filled with flavor, juicy and tender, just perfection. Against my desires, I did not grab a second plate.
My second dish was very rewarding as well. Trenchermen‘s booth found Co-Executive Chef/Co-Owner Patrick Sheerin (his brother Michael is the other half of the Chef component) dishing out pig skin noodles with market vegetables. I could have gone back for seconds on this. Trenchermen recently opened and you can bet I’ll be checking them out soon.
Three Floyds had a really good duck sausage with a tangy, pickled slaw. The Gumball-Head beer they served with it was pleasant as well.
Old Town Social‘s housemade mini lamb hot dog with housemade goat’s milk yogurt and pickled cucumbers were a big hit, as was Nellcote‘s grilled flatbread (from house milled flour), heirloom tomatoes, preserved eggplant, basil and Brunkow cheese. Executive Chef Jared Van Camp, who heads up both restaurants (and is working on the company’s next venture, Leghorn, a fried chicken sandwich shop – oh boy…am I crying?) was on hand to oversee everything. It worked – both dishes made me swoon.
One Off Hospitality pooled all of their talent from avec, Blackbird, Publican, Big Star and latest venture, Publican Quality Meats for their beef barbacoa with sungold tomatoes, fresh farmers cheese on housemade ciabatta. The barbacoa, which Paul Kahan told me was cooked in the ground, was succulent and moist, but the star was the ciabatta. I gotta get over to Publican Quality Meats for a sandwich.
EL Ideas, Phillip Foss‘ place had smoked duck, turnip, yogurt and granola (and cocoa nib, I believe Foss’ second in command, Kevin McMullen said). Simpler than I anticipated. Than again, what I expected probably was impractical for a BBQ. Haha.
I’m going there tomorrow night for the first time, so I really wanted to see what Dale Levitski had going on at the frog ‘n snail table. The grilled skirt steak with grilled stone fruit, herb chimichurri and homemade ricotta was another high of the evening. His skirt steak was perfection. It’s not a cut of beef I’m often pleased with, but he did it right and proper.
Also good were Butcher and Larder‘s chicken hearts, a part of the chicken I’ll be honest in avoiding, so the fact that I liked it speaks volumes for Allie and Rob Levitt‘s talents. Leopold‘s rabbit sandwiches with pickled market vegetables was big on flavor, but a bit soggy. North Pond‘s charred corn bread, jowl pastrami, blueberry compote and arugala was about the closest thing to a dessert I tried and the blueberries and corn bread in particular were a treat.
The “Chicago style hot dog” Table 52 served up was certainly in the ballpark of being as good as the other sausages I sampled tonight, but had too much in the way of toppings and the bun was too small for the dog. The only true misfire was at Yusho. Their robata tofu was just…well…weird. Tofu’s hit and miss with me and here it missed big time.
So what have we learned here? Not much. Aside from the fact that there was a lot of good food at the Green City Market Chef’s BBQ Benefit. I left a lot more on the tables than I took. I wish I could have found the Vera table, Mark and Elizabeth Mendez‘s Spanish joint. Also never found Mark Steuer‘s The Bedford or the upcoming Carriage House, which would have really been something to try as Carriage House is working in similar territory as Big Jones. Walked around six times and never saw it. Did you? How was it? Leave a comment about it and anything else below.