Thursday, July 30, 2015

Interlude: Avec, Chicago

A few weeks ago, I was in Chicago for a week-long work trip. My head was so far immersed in Linguistics! the whole time that I barely pulled out the big hunk of a camera I insist on lugging around with me whenever I travel (hey, it's good exercise?), despite how beautifully green and vibrant and wonderful Chicago is during this time of year. Hydrangeas everyone! Flowers abloom! The riverside teeming with picnic blankets! The cityscape shimmering in a post-thunderstorm glisten! Intricate American gothic architecture! Fireflies at dusk!

I was so distracted that here are the only photos I managed to get at the Art Institute (which, by the way, was wonderful, and felt like I had stepped into Musée d'Orsay's sibling museum. 

On one occasion, I did manage to get my head screwed on straight enough to get my camera out, and boy, am I glad that I did. A good linguist friend of mine, who happens to also be an expert foodie, took a a few of my colleagues and me to Avec near downtown Chicago. Tucked away in a small storefront that is reminiscent of a hipsterised, wood-paneled version of a shipping container, the tapa-s style French/Mediterranean fusion was so, so good. I have major respect for restaurants that can put together flavor combinations that surprise, and there were definitely several fun moments for the tastebuds throughout the evening.

Above: bacon-wrapped dates and a watermelon-jalapeno-cheese salad.

Below was one of our favorite salads, with season-peak stone fruit and fava beans and this uber-creamy, light, fluff of cheese. We also had this sort of fantastical roasted cauliflower dish, where the top of the cauliflower was encrusted with whole mustardseeds and baked until black, The whole thing was sauced in this sweet honey glaze and layered upon a foundation of something like yogurt or cheese (I can't remember the details). This is a dish I'm soooo going to attempt to replicate at home. I'm thinking Thanksgiving.

To fill out the meal with a substantial "main", we decided on the freshly-made, nice and sardine-y squid ink pasta, coasted with panko crumbs. The sardine-lover in me adored the fishiness, though it proved too much for some others in our party. But hey, more pasta for me! :D We finished up the evening with a cheeseplate, of which I was most excited by the mounds of bright pink, translucent quince paste. Ah, sign this girl up for good quince paste any day.


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