I hadn't been to Vie since late June and with produce season now at its peak, I made a point of getting there this weekend. As usual, the meal was fantastic and I was so happy to taste the season, via chef Virant's vision. Typical of Vie, in addition to the plethora of fresh, local ingredients, a handful of premium ingredients from less-local sources was carefully incorporated into the globally-influenced menu. And happily, as I've come to expect, several house-produced ingredients were showcased, as well.
The meal started with a tasty and intense amuse of escabeche with grapes and arugula. It was a great, palate-awakening bite and unfortunately, I snarfed it down before I remembered to take a picture of it. DOH!
2006, Betts & Scholl Riesling, Eden Valley, Australia
With just 2 adults at this meal, one bottle was going to have to do and this one 'did' wonderfully. Nice fruit, good acidity and it paired well with many of the courses we enjoyed. This wine was added to Vie's list by Bob Bansberg (formerly at Ambria), who is currently 'guest-sommeliering' at Vie on Fridays.
Pan-seared, "hand-harvested" sea scallops with wood-grilled summer squashes, eggplant caviar, and Spanish olive oil vinaigrette
I loved these perfectly seared scallops, and the eggplant caviar and spears of wood-grilled squash provided nice counterpoints in texture and flavor.
Marinated and wood-grilled quail with arugula, roasted and pickled peaches, braised local knob onions and quail jus
A great combination and I loved the accent provided by the pickled peaches.
Yukon gold potato gnocchi with Wettstein's pork shoulder confit, fresh lima beans and parmesan sauce
There's nothing not to love about this dish, which really sang. Every element here was delicious and the house-made pork confit was remarkable.
Chilled gazpacho with peeky toe crab, finished with Truchard Vineyard olive oil
A great rendition of a classic summer dish. The soup was sweet with just enough acidity and the rich, aromatic olive oil complemented the tomatoes perfectly.
Salad of local lettuces, marinated and shaved hearts of palm, garlic-herb vinaigrette and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano
Even a simple salad can be compelling, as this combination of local lettuces was. The garlic-herb vinaigrette was particularly aromatic and satisfying. There was something very distinctive in it which I could not completely discern, possibly mace.
Kinnikinnick Farm heirloom tomatoes with fresh local watermelon, mint and house-made feta cheese
I love this combination and this version was well-executed. The house-made feta really took this salad over the top.
Sturgeon with tomato and pickled beans
The kitchen sent out this course for us and unfortunately, I don't know all the details. I'm pretty sure the sturgeon -- which was fatty and delicious -- was topped with roasted sungold tomatoes and slivers of pickled squash.
Day-boat cod combination: pan-roasted fresh and house-made salt cod with City Farm tomatoes, fresh soy beans, wood-grilled fennel and roasted almonds
I don't think I've ever had salt cod in non-brandade form, so when I saw this on the menu, I felt compelled to try it. The contrast between the fresh cod with its crispy exterior and moist, flakey flesh and the rich, braised salt-cod was terrific.
Chicken three ways: roasted breast stuffed with garlic butter, wood-grilled thigh, leg confit with local cranberry beans, Green Acres baby carrots and pickled snow peas
I loved each one of these chicken preparations. The wood-grilled thigh had supremely crispy skin and was aromatic with sweet smoke throughout. The breast and the confit were terrific as well and the baby carrots were phenomenal.
Marinated and wood-grilled "kobe" steak with bone marrow dumpling, roasted local romanesco, lobster mushrooms, red wine sauce and fried sweet onions
Succulent kobe beef, rich bone marrow dumpling, crispy fried onions . . . an unreal combination that was so delicious. I loved the romanesco, which is rather funky looking combination of caulilflower and broccoli. It paired really nicely with the beef.
Wood-grilled sweet corn and okra
A very nice combination in which the wood was the primary (only) seasoning. I'd never had wood-grilled okra before and it was not only delicious but also a great combination with the sweet corn.
Warm local honey-roasted peaches with sweet crepe, local peach ice cream and candied pistachios
An absolutely delicious dessert which showcased the wonderful peaches and chef Todd's mastery of them.
House-made sorbets of blood orange (front), horchata (back, left) and strawberry
These sorbets were all terrific but the horchata in particular could be packaged and sold by the pint. The scoops were topped with house-made shortbread that was delicious in its own right.
Warm gooey butter cake with mint-chocolate-chip ice cream, cocoa mint wafer and chocolate & mint square
In my mind, the gooey butter cake is Vie's signature dessert and it is one the best desserts served in Chicagoland. Here, it's paired with some well-executed minty items but I've had it paired with a number of different elements, over my visits to Vie. We were clanking forks as we "shared" this one.
Mignardise (clockwise, from bottom: sable, lemon gelee, caramel and peanut brittle)
Nice, sweet bites to round out the meal.
Service, provided by Jim, was fantastic and friendly, as always. We've had a bunch of different FOH'ers take care of us at Vie and as different as their personal styles are, one thing persists: excellence. I also want to mention our busser, Ignacio, because it seems that he's always taking care of us and he does a great job.
Again, I'm so glad that we got this one 'under our belts,' so to speak. I love Vie and the food they turn out never fails to please me. I'm probably not alone in my belief that dining there in mid to late August is a must. Ordering at Vie is harder than at any other restaurant I can think of because their menu is so filled with fantastic items. Our party could go back there tonight, not order one thing we tried last night and still be utterly compelled. In fact, I cannot rule out another meal at Vie before this produce season ends.