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Prairie Grass Cafe - Spring/Summer menu 2008

Prairie Grass Cafe - Spring/Summer menu 2008
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  • Prairie Grass Cafe - Spring/Summer menu 2008

    Post #1 - June 1st, 2008, 4:17 pm
    Post #1 - June 1st, 2008, 4:17 pm Post #1 - June 1st, 2008, 4:17 pm
    I recently had the very good fortune to be invited to a press dinner at Prairie Grass Cafe, where they were previewing their new Spring/Summer menu. As many of you who regularly read these forums might already know, I am a frequent customer at PGC and over my years of eating there, I've become friendly with the ownership/management. I mention this because I didn't pay for the meal that is pictured below (none of the attendees did) and I want there to be no misunderstanding about it. That said, I would happily pay for any of the food that we were served during this fantastic meal. As often as I eat at Prairie Grass Cafe (I pay full price there for meals about 50x per year), I was still astounded by how great the food was -- I truly enjoyed every dish we were served -- and how beautiful the plates were. I was also pleased to try some dishes that I'd never had before; items that I most certainly will order in the future, now that I've had a chance to try them.

    Aside from the immense talents of chef/owners Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris, and manager/mixologist Dan Sviland, the main stars of the show were local produce -- much of it from the Green City Market and the farms that supply it -- and a bevy of other local and regional, thoughtfully-produced ingredients which made the dishes especially delicious, and significant, as well. Wine selections were made by owner/manager Rohit Nambiar, who not only knows his grapes but also happens to be a FOH master . . .

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    Bounty of produce from various local sources


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    Lemon Basil Gimlet


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    Radishes with whipped butter, sea salt and baguette


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    Pizza with bacon, green garlic and Avondale cheese


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    Phyllo Strudel with spring onions and feta cheese over mushroom ragout (including morels)


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    Asparagus with La Quercia Prosciutto and Dijon mustard sauce


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    Ahi Tuna with baby bok choy, micro-green salad and spicy soy sauce


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    Wild Alaskan Salmon with warm pesto, radish, baby turnip and asparagus salad


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    Wild Alaskan Halibut with local sauteed potatoes and shallots


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    Parmesan-crusted Tilapia with creamed spinach


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    Lake Superior Whitefish with braised butterhead lettuce and basil remoulade


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    House-made sausages . . . bratwurst, duck, Greek, lamb (left to right)
    House-made sausages are always offered at PGC but of these particular varieties, only the lamb is permanently on the menu. Over the next week or so, they'll be offering a special in which the diner chooses 2 of the 4 sausages as an entree.


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    Crispy Boneless Chicken with Capriole Farm Goat Cheese & Potato Cake, braised greens and thyme sauce


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    Crispy Half-Duck over glazed turnips, raisins & herbs and knob onions


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    Bill Kurtis' Tall Grass New York Strip with grilled Nichol's Farm onions and local potatoes


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    Rhubarb Crumble with house-made vanilla ice cream

    3+ years ago, when I first learned that Prairie Grass Cafe would be opening, I was excited and cautiously optimistic. I would be great, I thought, to have world-class chefs cooking in a relaxed environment, so close to my home. Over that time, PGC has greatly exceeded my initial expectations and become my go-to place, my ace in the hole, when I need something delicious, wholesome and genuine. I can go there for a casual weekend breakfast or brunch. I can carry-out lunch for my office. I can comfortably have a family or business dinner there. I can even stop by for a cocktail after work. I say this not as a friend of the restaurant but as a friend of LTHForum.com . . . if you haven't been to Prairie Grass Cafe, you owe it to yourself to try it out.

    =R=

    Prairie Grass Cafe
    601 Skokie Blvd
    Northbrook, IL 60062
    847 205-4433
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #2 - June 1st, 2008, 4:53 pm
    Post #2 - June 1st, 2008, 4:53 pm Post #2 - June 1st, 2008, 4:53 pm
    Funny- I was going to write up something about our dinner there last night. My very brief reactions are that the food was good, though not mindblowingly good- just well executed and good for what it was. I started with the lamb roll and had the tallgrass beef special. My lamb roll was nice, simple, and very flavorful. My beef, however, was overcooked (it came out medium well bordering on well, not medium rare, and only somewhat warm, making me think that it sat under a warming light for a bit). The mushroom ragout served on the side was palatable. The service was ok, though the room is extremely noisy. My major reaction is that the menu is unfocused. There's a little of everything on the menu. I'd go back, though not really any time soon.
    is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
  • Post #3 - June 1st, 2008, 5:10 pm
    Post #3 - June 1st, 2008, 5:10 pm Post #3 - June 1st, 2008, 5:10 pm
    jpschust wrote:Funny- I was going to write up something about our dinner there last night. My very brief reactions are that the food was good, though not mindblowingly good- just well executed and good for what it was. I started with the lamb roll and had the tallgrass beef special. My lamb roll was nice, simple, and very flavorful. My beef, however, was overcooked (it came out medium well bordering on well, not medium rare, and only somewhat warm, making me think that it sat under a warming light for a bit). The mushroom ragout served on the side was palatable. The service was ok, though the room is extremely noisy. My major reaction is that the menu is unfocused. There's a little of everything on the menu. I'd go back, though not really any time soon.

    What I love about the menu is that it is quite varied but unified via the use of excellent, high-quality ingredients, many of which are locally or regionally sourced. Since that theme is so predominant, I've always considered the menu as being very focused.

    I can't really speak to the noise level but I've never really noticed it, as it's never interfered with my dining there -- not even during business dinners. Of course, I don't normally have those Saturday nights but even then, I've dined at PGC many times on Saturday nights and never found the noise to be an issue.

    I'm really glad you tried it, JP.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #4 - June 1st, 2008, 5:17 pm
    Post #4 - June 1st, 2008, 5:17 pm Post #4 - June 1st, 2008, 5:17 pm
    And I hope it's clear that it's not an overall negative review, but rather a, "ok to good" review. Also, if you can suggest one thing- they didn't have a spirits list for me when sitting in one of the back rooms- a spirits list would be really nice for the liquors that are always in stock.
    is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
  • Post #5 - June 1st, 2008, 6:25 pm
    Post #5 - June 1st, 2008, 6:25 pm Post #5 - June 1st, 2008, 6:25 pm
    jpschust wrote:And I hope it's clear that it's not an overall negative review, but rather a, "ok to good" review. Also, if you can suggest one thing- they didn't have a spirits list for me when sitting in one of the back rooms- a spirits list would be really nice for the liquors that are always in stock.

    I will definitely mention it the next time I'm in, especially because they do tend to have some boutique-type things on hand. For example, I know they have some North Shore Distillery products, as well as a few others but as a very occasional drinker, I'm not too familiar with the roster.

    And I know how hard it can be to send something back if it's not prepared the way you ordered it. So, if you kept the meat that you found overcooked, I completely understand. But if you had mentioned it, I'm sure they would have prepared you a new entree without hesitation.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #6 - June 2nd, 2008, 7:35 am
    Post #6 - June 2nd, 2008, 7:35 am Post #6 - June 2nd, 2008, 7:35 am
    I visited Prairie Grass Cafe for the first and only time about a month ago after seeing a play in the area (PGC is kind of far for me.) We had a drink at the bar and almost ate there because everyone was so friendly and we didn't want to leave. We did eat in the dining room, however and everything was spectacular. Not over the top, just really well conceived, using wonderfully fresh ingredients. I don't remember it being loud but one thing stands out and we still talk about it with our friends who were with us. At the table next to us, was 2 couples who ordered a bottle of red wine. After the taster tried her first sip, she said it was awful and sent it back. They then ordered a bottle of white wine. She took another sip, made a face (not attractive) and sent it back. This time, the waitress brought the sommelier over. He asked her a few questions about the style of wine she liked and I couldn't hear what her answers were but I did watch what he brought them. Champagne. She pronouced it "yummy." I was amazed at how gracious the restaurant was in accommodating this group.
  • Post #7 - June 2nd, 2008, 11:43 am
    Post #7 - June 2nd, 2008, 11:43 am Post #7 - June 2nd, 2008, 11:43 am
    Being at the same event that Ronnie referenced, I was pleased to be offered a wider range of dishes than even I would normally order (and certainly more than I could eat at one sitting).

    Jean Blanchard wrote:everything was spectacular. Not over the top, just really well conceived, using wonderfully fresh ingredients.

    One of the key features of this food is its simplicity, and I think it’s saying something when two chefs like Stegner and Bumbaris are able to restrain themselves and stand back to let the fresh, high quality ingredients shine through. Stegner, who was instrumental in the development of the Green City Market, has a lot of love for the local, and it’s clear that she and Bumbaris believe their job is to frame not overwhelm the natural goodness of what’s on the plate.

    Lake Superior Whitefish – not really a favorite of mine – was made much more interesting with basil aioli remoulade – just a very simple herbal counterpoint to a very subtle fish. The parmesan-crusted tilapia was excellent, but again, very laid-back, the seasonings dialed down to allow the relatively mild fish to stand almost on its own, complemented with a topping that I thought just hinted of the cheese.

    The sausage platter was beautiful. I very much enjoyed the rough-cut bratwurst with a major smack of mace and nutmeg.

    The duck just might have been the best I’ve ever had: very moist with golden crisp skin, full of duckiness. The Wife took one bite of it and said, “Oh yeah, that’s how duck is supposed to taste.”

    Some early reviews of this restaurant criticized the service, and it’s hard to judge the overall quality of service at a press event, when you can expect it to be about as good as it ever is, so I’m glad to see that others believe it to be good.

    I had not been to PGC before (it’s a haul for The Wife and I), but based on what I had read I was not expecting the range of fish. In a few months, Stegner will be going to Kodiak Island and will be posting on LTH and a blog about her adventures amid sustainable fisheries.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #8 - June 2nd, 2008, 11:52 am
    Post #8 - June 2nd, 2008, 11:52 am Post #8 - June 2nd, 2008, 11:52 am
    Looks good, its been awhile since we have been to Prairie Grass Cafe. I'm looking foward to trying out the summer menu.
  • Post #9 - June 2nd, 2008, 12:27 pm
    Post #9 - June 2nd, 2008, 12:27 pm Post #9 - June 2nd, 2008, 12:27 pm
    Ronnie - beautiful photos of beautiful food - I want to go back! :D
    Life Is Too Short To Not Play With Your Food
    My Blog: http://funplayingwithfood.blogspot.com
  • Post #10 - June 18th, 2008, 11:06 pm
    Post #10 - June 18th, 2008, 11:06 pm Post #10 - June 18th, 2008, 11:06 pm
    David Hammond wrote:In a few months, Stegner will be going to Kodiak Island and will be posting on LTH and a blog about her adventures amid sustainable fisheries.


    Sarah Stegner, Carrie Nahabedian and others are traveling around Kodiak Island, Alaska, and blogging about it.

    http://kodiakisland.blogspot.com/

    One of the objects of this adventure is to learn more about sustainable seafood which, one hopes, will find its way to Chicago tables and thence to our tummies.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”

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