Scarfing Down Escoffier at Next

1 Jun

Pressed duck and potatoes at NextThe hottest ticket in town and I managed to get a spot.  Two at 9:30pm on a Saturday night.  Yes, a bit late for Mr Big and I for dinner.  But hell, it’s Next and I need to go!  I was so giddy to go.  Like going to a high school prom, even though our school did not have one.  Dressed up and ready for a true dining experience.  Mr. Big and I were ready, so ready.

We contemplated taking a cab or hiring a limo because we knew we would be libating, but we drove instead.  Mr. Big is fine, me on the other hand a few drinks and I am off to the races, too smiley, and way too distracted.  Next is located in the Fulton Market area of Chitown, alongside other restaurants such as the Publican, Moto, and the Girl and the Goat.  This area is very trendy and hot.  Oh, I can not for get Aviary, the second Grant/Nick project that opened up over two weeks ago.  Aviary is a modern bar and I hope to go there soon on an adventure with some friends.

Back to Next.  We find a close parking spot, and I am tagged in to parallel park.  Yup, that is my secret skill, I can pull any car into a tiny spot, and make it work.  It is a true skill.  We hop out of the car and scurry down the dark road to the restaurant while we battle the head wind trying to stop us and make my dress fly up.  The image of me in my poofy retro All-Saints black dress and kitten heels running is quite funny.  Then me holding my dress down just makes me laugh.  We walk up to a door that has a long line and I am pretty sure that this was Aviary, and it was.  I was greeted by the door man who was more like cool special forces to ask what I needed.  I meekly said, we are here for Next, we have reservations.  He talked into his wrist piece like secret service to indicate that we were here and he escorted Mr. Big and I to Next.  Yea, it was pretty neat and Mr Big got a laugh out of it.

We walk into Next, surprisingly light inside, I thought it would be a bit dimmer.  The place buzzed with life from the diners, the floor staff, and the kitchen that is encased in glass.  The hostess was very nice and asked me for my name and I offered my ticket.  Off hand she said you are fine you don’t look shady.  I think that comment set the tone for service for the rest of the night.  Refined but relaxed.

Our two top was nestled beside a gigantic wooden wall.  Meep, I wanted to see the kitchen, but the dining room was packed and I am fine with where we sit.  Beside us was a group of 4 talking about the worlds problems and how awesome they are, an all around arrogant table of we have and  you have nots.  Side note here.  I am actually more critical of diners at restaurants than I am of service or staff.  I find many diners disrespectful to staff and the chefs who prepare their food, especially when the diners truly exhibit arrogance and ignorance.  It is one thing to go into a place opened minded, but it is different when one expects certain items because the diner has social status or money.

Back to dinner.  So, we are ready for an Escoffier dinner.  I have briefed Mr. Big over the years on who this man was and how important he was and still is to the cooking world.  For god’s sake he document the framework of french cuisine and created the brigade system.  The server came over poured our bubbly and gave us our intro menu to Escoffier; and why Paris, 1906- Escoffier at the Ritz was selected for the first series of dinners at Next.  One reason: to pay homage to THE forefather of cuisine and dining.

The first taste that was presented to us was a gougerette with mornay sauce center.  A delicious pate a choux kiss filled with a smooth mornay center.  It was gone in one perfect little bite.  Actually, I would have enjoyed a few more of these little guys.  Then we were quickly transitioned to the spectacular platter of hors d’oeuvres.  This platter is a visual spectacular consisting of various shaped, textured, and technically different items.  Hors d’oeuvres is a French word that translates to “outside of the work” or “outside the main course”.  They are normally comprised of small bite sized items that are served before the meal and they are also associated with cocktail parties.

A silver platter was presented to us that held two of everything.  The platter had truffled eggs with salted cod, torchon en brioche,  soft boiled quail egg and anchovy, pork rilletes, rabbit boudin blanc sausage, salmon barquette, and a leek-mushroom bite.

Platter of hors d'oeuvres at Next

Looking more closely at this platter the truffled eggs with salted cod are a main highlight and could stand on its own as a starter.  Creamy, truffly, perfectly prepared salt cod served in a hollowed out egg shell. Perfect.  Next we ate the salmon barquettes and this was ok.  The pastry was thin, but the filling did not reach the expectation I had in mind.  I thought the ones that we made in school had a more balanced in flavor.  We moved on to the pork rilletes.  Delicious!  Seasoned very well, smooth, small fibrous portion of pork.  Yes, more please.  The soft boiled quail egg and anchovy was another beautiful one bite delight.  It is visually strong hors d’oeuvre and it matches in flavor.  The salt on the anchovy cuts the fat of the quail yolk.  I was looking forward to rabbit boudin blanc sausage, but it was overpowered by the crunchy toast beneath it.  The farce was smooth and seasoned well, but the bread prevailed.  Leek-mushroom bite is an interesting take on mushroom duxelle, not as creamy, seasoned extremely well, but the idea of making the mushroom farce and then using it as a filling with blanched leeks was very ingenious.  To cap off the end of this fabulous platter was the perfectly executed torchon en brioche.  What is there not to love about buttery brioche and torchon?  I could have this all night long with it’s fruit garnish.  This is an exciting platter and sets the tempo to this dinner.

Chicago Magazine has an up close look at each element of this platter.  Take a peek.

Next up is the turtle consomme that was garnished with paysanne vegtables.  Tradtionally turtle soup is garnished with sherry because it is poured into this soup; instead the soup was paired with a sherry equse wine (Domaine de Montbourgeau l’Etoile ‘Cuvee Speciale’ Jura 2005).  Another great play on this classic soup.  The consomme was presented tableside in a teapot by the server and he pours the clarified stock into the bowl.  Nice!  I hope restaurants return to serving consommes sometime soon.  They are a simple and classic soup that can be garnished so many ways.

Stop the presses.  The presentation of the seafood dish was incredible.  Introducing: sole and crawfish.

Sole crawfish dish at Next

Sole has sauce normandy, crawfish/sole forcemeat in crawdad head (which is blanched), stuffed mushroom with crawfish, breaded roe.  Amazing.  I could have had this dish all night long and drank up all of the sauce to go along with it.  A perfectly executed classical dish.

Next round: Chicken

Poussin, foie, cucumber, farce, and dill at Next.

Cooked  cucumber roll with chicken forcemeat and dill surrounded by a thin layer of salt pork and chicken with foie gras glaze.  Simple and very yummy.  I want to make the cucumber and chicken forcemeat part, BTW yes this component was warm.

Next Round: Le Quack

Pressed duck and potatoes at Next

The highlight of the dinner was this course.  The classic duck press dish.  Duck breast and leg perfectly cooked, demi glace sauce, potatoes with comte.  All around yum.  Another fantastic course.  Nothing to really complain about, but just a solid dinner thus far.  A great time and fab food.

Next: Salad, yes salad.

This salad was very pleasing to the eye because fo the colors and the edible flowers.  It is a a lightly dressed salad of nasturtium blossom, asparagus and radish.  Salads were normally served last to act as a digestif and a palate cleanser.  This is something that I would love to see come back into fashion.  I love salads at the end of dinner; light, refreshing, and cleansing.  All the flavors were fresh and smiles were had by all.

The forgotten course

No sorbet course for us 😦

No idea why.  It was listed on our menu, but we did not have it.

Next up:  Da Bomb! Boom!

This bombe is the bomb at Next

Yes, I need to write the bombe was the bomb!  It was.  You do not see this application all that often, unless you are formally trained by a french pastry chef.  I was.  This bombe was balanced very well it was composed of a cocoa shell, rum ice cream, chocolate center, a chocolate cookie bottom and rum-soaked cherries on the side.  I tend to dislike chocolate at the end of a large meal because I find it too heavy, but Grant and his staff can serve me anything.  They know how to deliver heavy items in a light way.

Nearing the end….

Time for coffee, the last part of our port and mingnardises: beet pate de fruit, salted caramel, cylinder of nougat, and almond stacks. The pate de fruit was great, but I really loved our extra gift from the staff. TORCHON!!!  Merci!!!

At the end of dinner we were escorted into the kitchen where we spoke with one of the chefs.  I babbled too much because of the amount of wine I had; plus I utterly adore Chef Grant and his vision.  I still shake my fist that I did not get a call back, but I still respect and pay homage to our current great chef.  The fact that Chef Grant and his staff selected Escoffier as the first dinner at Next means a lot to me.  It shows me that he gets it.  He gets the foundations of cuisine, the roots.  I am glad that I got to see a preview to this two years ago at Alinea, but now I got to see the real deal.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  A million times yes.  I love it and I want more of it.  A tribute to Escoffier is a beautiful way to launch a new concept by such a wonderful staff and visionary chef.

I must say that the most interesting part of dinner was the service.  To me it was very laid back.  The server presented the food and wine the way he or she saw fit.  If you had a question and were intrigued by the food they spoke more.  If not they gave a brief description and then walked away.  I could see that the dinner Mr. Big and I had was presented differently by the server at the table beside us.  I guess this is reading and adapting to your guests.  We tend to talk a lot and ask a lot of questions at restaurants like this.  Why?  Because we love the food, the vision, the service.  The whole experience!  Anyways….I know I will return to Next in the coming year for another fantastically presented and prepared meal.  If you do not make it out to the Paris dinner make it out to at least one. Fin.

Next
Paris 1906

Hors d’Oeuvres

Chateau d’Orschwir Cremant d’Alsace Brut

Potage a la Tourtue Claire-907

Domaine de Montbourgeau l’Etoile ‘Cuvee Speciale’ Jura 2005

Filet de Sole Daumont-1950

Olivier Merlin ‘La Roche Vineuse’, Macon 2008

Supremes de Poussin-3130

Chateau de la Liquiere ‘Les Amandiers’ Faugeres 2009

Carre d’agneau-3476

Michel & Stephanie Ogier, Cote-Rotie Rhone 2003

Caneton Rouennais a la Presse-3476
&
Gratin de Pommes de Terre a laDauphinoise-4200

Domaine Brusset “Les Travers” Cairane 2006

Salade Irma-3839

Sorbet Sauternes

Bombe Ceylan-4826

Qunita do Infantado 10 year Tawny Port

Mingnardises
Cafe-The 

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