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Vie - Blackbird lite? Even Better! [edited]

Vie - Blackbird lite? Even Better! [edited]
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  • Post #61 - May 20th, 2008, 7:54 am
    Post #61 - May 20th, 2008, 7:54 am Post #61 - May 20th, 2008, 7:54 am
    Having just visited the restaurant shortly before GAF, my impressions of Vie were positive. Below are the courses I had the pleasure of being served, detailed descriptions of my impressions of each can be found in the Vie set on my Flickr site.

    Although not advertised, my dining companion and I were treated to a wonderful tasting menu sent out to us by Chef Virant (I also got the wine pairings) and his more than competent kitchen.

    Image


    Amuse: House smoked trout beignet, green garlic aioli

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    First: Fried Lake Erie smelts, smoked paprika vinaigrette, pickled green tomatoes, picked herbs, local greens
    Wine: 04 Gramona, Cava, Gran Cuvée, Spain

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    Second: Seared monkfish, meyer lemon, capers, Spanish white tuna, arugula and marinated Wisconsin carrots
    Wine: 06 Francis Blanchet, Cuvée Silice, Pouilly Fumé, Loire Valley, France

    Image

    Third: Seared au bon canard foie gras, pistachio macaroon, Sicilian pistachios, pickled Michigan peaches, Michigan berry preserves

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    AND

    Third: Marinated au bon canard duck breast, rhubarb, candied walnuts, watercress, cracklings
    Wine: paired with a late harvest zinfandel (perhaps an 05 Seghesio, Old Vine Zinfandel, Sonoma County? - not sure)

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    Fourth: Cable's rabbit two ways: braised leg and seared loin, spaetzle, peas, sorrel, whole grain mustard braising jus
    Wine: 04 Domaine de Montmeix, Meursault, Burgundy, France

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    Fifth: Slagel farm pork combination, braised flageolets, City farm tatsoi, preserved tomato vinaigrette, house made artichoke caponata
    Wine: 06 Gypsy Dancer, Pinot Noir, Emily Ann, Chehalem Mt., Oregon

    Image


    Sixth: Yuzu sorbet

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    Warm caramel gooey butter cake, almond chocolate chip ice cream, almond lace cookie, almond toffee square

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    Molten chocolate cake, Tahitian vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, cocoa nib tuile

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    Frangipane and dried door county cherry tart, Illinois chevre sabayon
    This was an off menu dessert that was paired with an aged sherry. :)

    Image


    Focusing on the season, artisanal foods, and local harvest, Chef Virant's Seasonal Contemporary American cuisine relies on a few, high-quality ingredients. Chef Virant’s use of house made preserved fruits and pickled vegetables reminds me of Toronto's Jamie Kennedy, but at a higher level – I was able to taste the bright and fresh flavours trapped in the produce, some of them still crisp and snappy, all of them delicious and pure. In the pickles, there was a wonderful balance of sweet and sour; the preserves, trapped summer sunshine. I was surprised to learn that this is attributed to using techniques from Christine Ferber, but in retrospect, I can see why my palate was wowed.

    The tasting menu my dining companion and I had that evening was delightful, each course a successful pairing of excellent ingredients with simple presentations. No fuss, just very good and well prepared food. The dining room was non-fussy; the ambiance relaxed, modern and friendly. Our head server Thierry provided both my dining companion and I with a great experience. Not only did he engage in conversation with us, help guide our meal with our requests to the chef and the delightful wine pairings (which resulted in my being a little tipsy by the last course), but he also ensured that we had an enjoyable evening. At a couple points during our meal, Chef Virant did pay our table a visit to both greet and introduce certain plates (i.e. my non-chocolate dessert). We found him very kind and amiable, and confess to developing a little chef crush (can I say that aloud?). ;) Vie is an apt place for old friends with a taste for good food to gather, and a room I would return to on any special occasion to dine if it were not for its distance from Toronto.
  • Post #62 - May 20th, 2008, 8:24 am
    Post #62 - May 20th, 2008, 8:24 am Post #62 - May 20th, 2008, 8:24 am
    Great reports, Gary and Renka. I think I've come down with an acute case of Vie envy! :wink:

    =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 #63 - September 15th, 2008, 11:24 pm
    Post #63 - September 15th, 2008, 11:24 pm Post #63 - September 15th, 2008, 11:24 pm
    Vie Restaurant -- September 13, 2008 -- Localvore Challenge

    It had been too long since my last trip to Vie. So, last week, we took the initiative and made a reservation for Saturday night. As great as all my previous meals at Vie have been, this one was possibly the most fantastic of them all. The usual problem I have at Vie -- not being able to decide exactly which great-looking items to order -- seemed amplified to the point of ridiculousness. The additional wrinkle of dining there during the 2008 Localvore Challenge probably had something to do with this. 12 of 28 total items offered on the menu were comprised entirely of locally-sourced ingredients and several others, which were clearly local in spirit, contained no more than 1 or 2 minor components that were not local. This is especially impressive when you take into account the fact that every cured meat, every pickle and every condiment are made in-house at Vie.

    The dishes we tried -- and we tried a lot of them -- were universally delicious, imaginative and well-executed. The baseline for this meal was higher than the highpoint at many similarly-priced meals I've had in town over the past 2 years. And not only did this meal trump my previous meals at Vie but as the meal progressed, each set of plates seemed to reach a level above the previous one.

    Below is a pictorial recap, with some commentary, of our meal. In case it is not clear, * denotes one of the entirely local dishes to which I referred above. While in many cases, a picture cannot adequately tell the entire story about a dish, I hope that these images provide at least a clue as to how enjoyable our meal was. Frankly, I'm just about out of words when it comes to this restaurant. They pretty much fail to describe the joy that these plates delivered . . .

    Image
    Amuse of olive oil-poached shrimp with eggplant escabeche
    The kitchen sent out these delectable opening bites -- along with some wonderful Cava. The shrimp were tender and matched up very nicely with the eggplant.


    Image
    Yukon Gold potato Gnocchi with roasted broccoli, aged Wisconsin cheddar, creme fraiche, chives and bacon*
    A magnificently comforting dish that was executed so well. As perfectly as these ingredients go together, the dish easily transcended the sum of its parts.


    Image
    Slow-cooked Kilgus Farm Goat Leg with wood-grilled porcini mushrooms and crispy bone marrow dumpling
    It was a treat to eat this amazingly tender goat, along with some of the earliest porcini of the season. I've had this dish before at Vie but it was even more finely-tuned this time around.


    Image
    House-made Bresaola with pickled asparagus, shaved celery, hard-cooked egg and marinated radishes*
    Sous chef Nathan turned out this bresaola, made from bottom round, which was easily the best I've ever had. The sweet, salt and meat were all nicely-balanced. It carried an intoxicating aroma and a silky texture.


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    House-made Charcuterie plate: Mortadella, Salami and Pate en Croute with baby greens, pickled beets, apple butter and smoked cherry mostarda*
    Heaven on a plate. The charcuterie work at Vie is not only one of their strongest suits, it's the finest I've found in Chicagoland. Not only were the meats on this plate amazing, but the smoked cherry mostarda was insanely good. The kitchen's obsession with perfecting these items is the diner's delight.


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    Pate en Croute*
    This wonderful rendition is based on a recipe from The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley.

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    Mortadella*
    I know the lengths that Nathan, Craig and the other Vie chefs have gone to in an effort to perfect this mortadella. I cannot think of one aspect of it that could be improved upon.


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    Wood-grilled Octopus with semolina pasta, olives, grilled sweet & hot peppers, house-made vinegar and Spanish olive oil
    A taste of Spain. I loved the toothsome/tender octopus and the accompanying elements were in perfect unison. The pasta -- made only from water and semolina flour -- is, of course, made in-house.


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    Crispy Lake Perch with eggplant caponata, piquillo pepper, herbs and house-made soppressata
    I had no idea that perch and soppressata would go so well together. This was an inspired and absolutely phenomenal combination of flavors and textures.


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    Mint Creek Lamb Spare Ribs with Klug Farm grapes, lemon balm, wood sorrell and preserved meyer lemon vinaigrette
    If not for the vinaigrette, this fantastic dish would have been entirely local, too.


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    Roasted local Beets with wood-grilled chanterelles, lobster mushrooms, Werp Farm frisee and preserved spring onion vinaigrette
    Delicious salad that successfully showcased the spectacular beets.


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    Seasonal vegetable Minestrone: pearl pasta, summer squashes, grilled peppers, beans, local greens and tomato broth
    Another great dish that would have been entirely local, if not for one component -- the pearl pasta. Great flavors here. I never tasted minestrone and its components the way I was able to taste them here.


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    Local Heirloom Tomatoes with scallion vinaigrette and ricotta salata
    Wow! These tomatoes make you realize how completely worthless it is to eat tomatoes when they are not in-season. They were only lightly adorned. The additional elements accented -- but did not crowd -- the luscious tomatoes.


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    Gunthorp Farm Chicken 2 ways: wood-grilled thigh and country-fried breast with creamy polenta, City Farm tatsoi, Green Acres pepperonata and jus de poulet*
    A fantastic, inspired dish. It was hard to decide which preparation of chicken I like better because they were both sensational. The charcoal aroma of the meaty thigh was an eqaul match for the crispy, moist breast, which had been marinated in organic buttermilk for 48 hours.


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    Slow-cooked and wood-grilled Dietzler Farm Beef Brisket with Wieland Farm cranberry beans, olive oil-poached local tomatoes, marinated cabbage and pickled beans*
    Absolutely spectacular preparation in which the accompanying items were every bit as wonderful as the tender, smokey brisket.


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    Great Lakes Whitefish "en papillote" with fingerling potatoes, Swiss chard, heirloom tomatoes, sweet onions, white wine, butter and herbs*
    I don't typically like whitefish or this preparation and yet, after one 'tester' bite, I could not stop eating it. The fresh dill, razor-thin potatoes and chard supported and accompanied this great piece of fish wonderfully.


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    Slagel Farm Pork Combination: King's "Jerked" shoulder, crispy loin and braised belly with City Farm red kuri squash, Tuscan kale, local pears and pork jus*
    Holy f*cking sh%t! Really, this is one that words simply cannot describe. It nearly brought a tear to my eye.


    Image
    City Farm Tatsoi*
    A great, locally-grown side with a slight bitterness and a nice bite.


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    Succotash: local lima beans, sweet corn, Nichols Farm okra and roasted tomatoes*
    This was actually offered as an appetizer but we decided to split it as a side dish. It was, by a long, long margin, the best succotash I've ever eaten. The residual starch from the beans synergized with the moisture from the tomatoes to create a 'sauce' that -- I swear -- had addictive properties. Bring me a straw, please!


    After the onslaught of savory courses, we moved on to dessert. But first, a refreshing, house-made intermezzo of Rosé sorbet (which is not pictured here) was served.


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    Warm Gooey Butter Cake with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, honey crisp apples and caramel sauce
    Vie's glorious, signature dessert with a seasonal tweak. I absolutely love this dessert and this particular variation really spoke to me. I love the gooey cake, with its sweet, buttery flavor and dense, crispy edges.


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    Chocolate Malt with chocolate-dipped cocoa nib biscotti and whipped cream
    A serious malt that drove home what this often bastardized dessert is really supposed to be.


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    Warm Klug Farm Peach Crisp with Blue Marble yogurt ice cream*
    Holy smokes! The peaches in this crisp could not have been any better. They had a great "peachy" aromatic and the topping was perfecto.


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    Peanut Butter & Jelly: peanut butter mousse, Klug Farm Concord grape mousse, peanut cake and Concord grape jelly
    A great, tasty take on the old classic sandwich. The concord notes rang true and, needless to say, went very well with the peanut butter. The sugared, roasted peanuts scattered on the plate would have been a great dessert on their own.


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    Klug Farm Blackberry Panna Cotta with blackberry compote and vanilla cookies*
    Peak blackberries went into this compote which topped a perfectly-textured panna cotta.

    Also ordered but not pictured is a scoop of house-made Horchata ice cream which, ridiculoulsy, I had to try. It was amazing to have something so cold, served with so many other deeply flavorful desserts, deliver the accurate and intense flavor that it did. Really, masterful.

    Lastly . . .

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    Mignardise: Berry Gelee
    Not wafer thin, but I kind of wished it were. :wink: This was an intense final burst of berry goodness and if it had been any larger, I probably would have exploded.

    The fact that so many dishes on this particular menu had been created with the Localvore Challenge in mind, says a lot about the intensity, focus and 'joy of the game' in chef Virant's kitchen. They didn't just agree to participate, they took it upon themselves to fulfill the challenge in a way that completely re-defined it. We were just lucky enough to be there while it happened. Since this aesthetic lines up so closely with the SOP at Vie, the result was a super-charged version of the masterful cooking they already do there on a regular basis. There's still some time left in this year's Localvore Challenge. I suggest getting to Vie before it ends. Dining at Vie is always special but in my experience, this was an entirely new level for an already magnificent restaurant.

    =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 #64 - September 15th, 2008, 11:33 pm
    Post #64 - September 15th, 2008, 11:33 pm Post #64 - September 15th, 2008, 11:33 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Vie Restaurant -- September 13, 2008 -- Localvore Challenge


    Image
    Yukon Gold potato Gnocchi with roasted broccoli, aged Wisconsin cheddar, creme fraiche, chives and bacon*
    A magnificently comforting dish that was executed so well. As perfectly as these ingredients go together, the dish easily transcended the sum of its parts.

    =R=


    I do believe I'll be dreaming of this tonight, Ronnie!

    Beautiful pictures, wonderful report - Vie just moved to the top of my "splurge" list!
    "Baseball is like church. Many attend. Few understand." Leo Durocher
  • Post #65 - September 16th, 2008, 5:31 am
    Post #65 - September 16th, 2008, 5:31 am Post #65 - September 16th, 2008, 5:31 am
    Ronnie, first of all, lovely pictures, as always. In a place difficult to photo, you manage quite fine indeed. Now, I have to disagree slightly with your post. I understand what you are saying, to some extent about the Localvore Challenge and Vie fitting right in, but my wife and I dined at Vie a few days before the Challenge. While we did not come close to trying all that you picture, we did try some. My point, I do not find Chef Virant's menu so different, Challenge or no. That's just me. :)

    On other hand, I do agree that he seemed inspired, and the anniversary meal my wife and I shared was on par with the best Vie has offered. Our more "reasonable" meal included the octopus/pasta, the perch, the chicken two ways, the pork combo, and the gooey butter cake. Our only differences, our butter cake had a plum compote instead of the apples. We also had an apple pie and a Virant version of mac n' cheese, a/k/a spatzle with cheddar and bits of ham. With the appetizers, I found them a bit on the small side, but then the mains were so large and filling, it totally balanced out. Every last swear word you use to describe that chicken and that pork, I agree with. Maybe it was the spatzle, but the pork had a distinct Mittel Euro taste to me. Find that?

    A gem of a restaurant, thanks so much for the reminder!
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #66 - September 16th, 2008, 5:50 am
    Post #66 - September 16th, 2008, 5:50 am Post #66 - September 16th, 2008, 5:50 am
    Ronnie,

    Beautiful pictures of what sounds like a beautiful meal. Having just had dinner at Blue Hill in NYC, I'd like to get back to Vie soon for a comparison of the 2 restaurants, which are quite similar in their approaches to cooking. Without intending this as combative in the slightest, I will say that - as good as Vie is - my one experience at Blue Hill placed it in a different echelon. I'd be interested in hearing thoughts from anyone else who has been to both restaurants.

    Kenny
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #67 - September 16th, 2008, 6:33 am
    Post #67 - September 16th, 2008, 6:33 am Post #67 - September 16th, 2008, 6:33 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Image
    City Farm Tatsoi*
    A great, locally-grown side with a slight bitterness and a nice bite.


    Ronnie-

    Do you recall how that tatsoi was dressed/prepared? It looks like it was served raw. Was it with a basic balsamic viniagrette?
  • Post #68 - September 16th, 2008, 7:05 am
    Post #68 - September 16th, 2008, 7:05 am Post #68 - September 16th, 2008, 7:05 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Vie Restaurant -- September 13, 2008 -- Localvore Challenge

    Ronnie_S,

    Killer post, delectable pictures, delicious descriptions and infectious enthusiasm. I've not yet been to Vie and am seriously starting to doubt my culinary priorities.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #69 - September 16th, 2008, 7:10 am
    Post #69 - September 16th, 2008, 7:10 am Post #69 - September 16th, 2008, 7:10 am
    Wow amazing.

    A visual treat as always Ronnie.
  • Post #70 - September 16th, 2008, 10:09 am
    Post #70 - September 16th, 2008, 10:09 am Post #70 - September 16th, 2008, 10:09 am
    Vital Information wrote:My point, I do not find Chef Virant's menu so different, Challenge or no. That's just me. :)

    Well, I think we're saying the same thing. As I tried to say above, it's not a great leap between Vie's standard fare and the dishes that meet the parameters of the challenge. The difference is in the little details. That's why so many other items on this menu, while mostly local, were not technically part of the challenge. Still, at a place like Vie, where so many components go into each dish, making those dishes entirely local -- without sacrificing flavor or quality -- is no small feat.


    Vital Information wrote:Maybe it was the spatzle, but the pork had a distinct Mittel Euro taste to me. Find that?

    While we didn't have the 86'd spaetzle, I would agree. The Slagel Farm pork had tremendous flavor that conjured up memories of some home-cooked meals I've had in Czech Republic. I thought it surpassed even the fantastic Wettstein's pork that I've enjoyed at Vie many times in the past.

    =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 #71 - September 16th, 2008, 10:16 am
    Post #71 - September 16th, 2008, 10:16 am Post #71 - September 16th, 2008, 10:16 am
    Kennyz wrote:Having just had dinner at Blue Hill in NYC, I'd like to get back to Vie soon for a comparison of the 2 restaurants, which are quite similar in their approaches to cooking. Without intending this as combative in the slightest, I will say that - as good as Vie is - my one experience at Blue Hill placed it in a different echelon. I'd be interested in hearing thoughts from anyone else who has been to both restaurants.

    I've read a lot about Blue Hill but have never dined there. Since I've read nothing but positive comments and our opinions seem to line up more often than not, you've made me even more eager to do so.


    aschie30 wrote:Do you recall how that tatsoi was dressed/prepared? It looks like it was served raw. Was it with a basic balsamic viniagrette?

    I didn't ask but I think it was either slightly wilted or dressed with a hot vinaigrette, which had about the same effect. I don't think it was balsamic-based because it tasted lighter than that. Also, since the dish was part of the challenge, I'm guessing it didn't include balsamic. OTOH, maybe there is some locally-made balsamic of which I am not aware (wouldn't be the first time).

    =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 #72 - September 16th, 2008, 10:20 am
    Post #72 - September 16th, 2008, 10:20 am Post #72 - September 16th, 2008, 10:20 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:I didn't ask but I think it was either slightly wilted or dressed with a hot vinaigrette, which had about the same effect.


    I bet it was a warm vinaigrette because it looks *slightly* wilted. I get tatsoi in my farm box a lot, and I'm always looking for new ways to prepare it.
  • Post #73 - September 16th, 2008, 12:32 pm
    Post #73 - September 16th, 2008, 12:32 pm Post #73 - September 16th, 2008, 12:32 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:I didn't ask but I think it was either slightly wilted or dressed with a hot vinaigrette, which had about the same effect. I don't think it was balsamic-based because it tasted lighter than that. Also, since the dish was part of the challenge, I'm guessing it didn't include balsamic. OTOH, maybe there is some locally-made balsamic of which I am not aware (wouldn't be the first time).

    =R=


    And there is! Jim the Vinegar Guy who sells at Oak Park and a few other area farmer's markets makes a balsamic vinegars locally. Now, it's not a highly aged one, but it's decent enough. And local.

    As an aside, Rob Levitt of Mado told my wife this story. It seems that when the Localvore Challenge people came a-calling for a special menu, Rob said my whole menu is basically local. That did not quite seem to fit in with what they wanted, and Mado was not included in their list of approved restaurants. I'm gonna favor places like Vie, Lula's, Mado, Hot Chocolate, that will be just as local in the days after this Challenge as are for this 2 week period.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #74 - September 16th, 2008, 12:40 pm
    Post #74 - September 16th, 2008, 12:40 pm Post #74 - September 16th, 2008, 12:40 pm
    Vital Information wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:I didn't ask but I think it was either slightly wilted or dressed with a hot vinaigrette, which had about the same effect. I don't think it was balsamic-based because it tasted lighter than that. Also, since the dish was part of the challenge, I'm guessing it didn't include balsamic. OTOH, maybe there is some locally-made balsamic of which I am not aware (wouldn't be the first time).

    =R=


    And there is! Jim the Vinegar Guy who sells at Oak Park and a few other area farmer's markets makes a balsamic vinegars locally. Now, it's not a highly aged one, but it's decent enough. And local.

    As an aside, Rob Levitt of Mado told my wife this story. It seems that when the Localvore Challenge people came a-calling for a special menu, Rob said my whole menu is basically local. That did not quite seem to fit in with what they wanted, and Mado was not included in their list of approved restaurants. I'm gonna favor places like Vie, Lula's, Mado, Hot Chocolate, that will be just as local in the days after this Challenge as are for this 2 week period.

    Thanks, VI, for the 411 on the local balsamic.

    Also, fwiw, I'd add Prairie Grass Cafe, Frontera/Topolobampo and North Pond to that short list of places that consistently focus on local.

    =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 #75 - September 19th, 2008, 6:38 am
    Post #75 - September 19th, 2008, 6:38 am Post #75 - September 19th, 2008, 6:38 am
    Wow! I think I saw Ronnie there Saturday night. I figured the person taking pics was an LTHer.

    I decided to take my mom and my Euro-discriminating stepfather to dinner for my mom's birthday and from all the posts, figured they would like Vie (I personally hadn't been before). We enjoyed many (but not as many!) of the dishes as Ronnie, including the goat, octopus, brisket, and pork. I am jealous of the gnocchi -- I wanted that for the table but was overruled. I had the whitefish which was excellent and we all swooned over my husband's steak, which was covered with local tomatoes and absolutely divine. We also had a fantastic side of crispy parmesan spaetzle (which stepdad, who is German, pronounced "perfect.") For dessert we had the gooey butter cake, which I didn't think was amazing, but my mom's blackberry sorbet was out of this world. I absolutely loved the place -- can't wait to go back -- and even better my mom and stepdad loved it too!

    We paid about $250 for two apps, 4 entrees, 1 side, 2 desserts, 3 glasses of wine, 4 coffees.
    - Katie
  • Post #76 - September 19th, 2008, 9:28 am
    Post #76 - September 19th, 2008, 9:28 am Post #76 - September 19th, 2008, 9:28 am
    My husband surprised me with dinner at Vie last night for my birthday and our anniversary. Ronnie has already so eloquently discribed the dishes so I won't even attempt to top that. We had the Gnocchi, Wood grilled octopus (at our servers recommendation and it was spectacular), beef brisket, King's shoulder pork, and the chocolate malt for me for dessert. The chef sent out the beet salad and the vegetable soup and they were a wonderfully tasty surprise. Of course, the extra course put me over the top but I ate it anyway. Couldn't help myself! Everything was just as described. The only thing my husband didn't like was a cocktail that he tried but he's a martini sort of guy anyway. Besides the food, I love the vibe and energy of Vie. Paul Virant is so involved in every aspect of his restaurant and it shows.
  • Post #77 - September 25th, 2008, 9:45 am
    Post #77 - September 25th, 2008, 9:45 am Post #77 - September 25th, 2008, 9:45 am
    At the risk of piling on the praise, I had an utterly transcendant meal last night at Vie, well-worth the drive (about 20 minutes for me), to Western Springs. I had been wanting to try it for awhile, and I have to admit, it was ronnie_suburban's pictures that finally drove me to do it.

    What a complete, focused dining experience! As we all know by now, Paul Virant is absolutely dedicated to the locavore movement ("localvore" on Vie's menu). Eating at Vie is like a master class in eating local. The menu is an homage to local ingredients, and right now, Vie dedicates $1.00 to the Green City Market for every local plate you order, which is about 85% of the menu. The menu identifies the local sources of its ingredients, as well as makes generous use of pickles and preserves to which Vie/Virant is so dedicated.

    In light of this discussion about whether eating local is beneficial to either the environment and/or the economy, Vie proves that eating local is mostly about taste. I won't elaborate on the dishes ordered as Ronnie already has so well, but what occurred to me while eating is how each ingredient on the plate tasted so vibrant -- even a small piece of parsley stood out on the palate as such. Plum sorbet dessert amuse tasted like the plums of old. Pickles and preserves elevated dishes and demonstrated what these old techniques can do to enhance a dish. Virant himself stopped by the table a few times to get feedback and discuss certain preparations, and the joy and excitement he feels for what he does is palpable.

    Even though Vie is in the dreaded 'burbs [ducking as LAZ virtually takes a swing at me :) ], I would put this restaurant towards the top of my "fine dining/special occasion" places to eat. Only a few tables were taken last night. I hope this isn't the trend on the weekends as well; it would be a shame to see this restaurant go away although I accept and admire the risk that was taken by locating Vie in Western Springs.
  • Post #78 - September 25th, 2008, 1:12 pm
    Post #78 - September 25th, 2008, 1:12 pm Post #78 - September 25th, 2008, 1:12 pm
    I have not been to Vie in a couple of months, but my sense is that it is doing just fine. Things can be slow in the middle of the week, though that is not always the case.

    I also wish to say again that Vie does not have to be very expensive. It is possible to eat there for under $50 pp (though definitely not the meal Ronnie pictures) and one can eat quite well for under $100 pp. While this is not cheap, it is also not anywhere close to the most expensive spots. Perhaps this is partly thanks to lower rents in the 'burbs, or maybe Paul's genuine wish to keep the place friendly to the neighborhood?

    In any case, thanks for the reminder - it is time to go back and enjoy fall with Paul.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #79 - September 25th, 2008, 9:00 pm
    Post #79 - September 25th, 2008, 9:00 pm Post #79 - September 25th, 2008, 9:00 pm
    dicksond wrote:I also wish to say again that Vie does not have to be very expensive. It is possible to eat there for under $50 pp (though definitely not the meal Ronnie pictures) and one can eat quite well for under $100 pp. While this is not cheap, it is also not anywhere close to the most expensive spots. Perhaps this is partly thanks to lower rents in the 'burbs, or maybe Paul's genuine wish to keep the place friendly to the neighborhood?


    I think it would be very hard to eat at Vie for under $50/pp. With the entrees well into the $20s and beyond, if you add on a $10 glass of wine, adding in tax and tip, you're likely above $50, without starter or dessert. That is not to imply that Vie is not a value for what it is, I actually think the prices are quite reasonable compared to inferior City places, but you're more likely to hit the $75-$100 mark or even a tad beyond, per person.
  • Post #80 - October 7th, 2008, 8:00 pm
    Post #80 - October 7th, 2008, 8:00 pm Post #80 - October 7th, 2008, 8:00 pm
    We eat there fairly frequently, and it usually comes out to about 120-130 bucks, including tax and tip, for the two of us. We always have two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts, and we don't choose based on price. Usually only one glass of wine, though.
    Olaf
  • Post #81 - October 8th, 2008, 6:42 am
    Post #81 - October 8th, 2008, 6:42 am Post #81 - October 8th, 2008, 6:42 am
    The Vie newsletter for October announces:

    "By the second week of this month all of our meat entrees on the menu are created by using the 'whole animal.' The beef is the newcomer, raised on pasture in rolling hills outside of Elkhorn, Wisconsin on Dietzler farm. . ."

    It also promises, in keeping with the "whole animal" practice, they will be offering a limited number of hamburgers served with fries cooked in beef fat.
  • Post #82 - October 8th, 2008, 9:41 am
    Post #82 - October 8th, 2008, 9:41 am Post #82 - October 8th, 2008, 9:41 am
    ...what 'vie newsletter' is that. i check the vie website regularly and don't see any sign up for a newsletter, nor do i see (today) the info that gus just posted. what am i missing??? thanks, justjoan
  • Post #83 - October 8th, 2008, 10:59 am
    Post #83 - October 8th, 2008, 10:59 am Post #83 - October 8th, 2008, 10:59 am
    I don't remember how I got signed up for the newsletter, honestly, but it always intrigues me. Perhaps an email to the restaurant?

    An excerpt is below:


    Vie News
    Radishes
    October 2008

    In this issue...
    :: Radishes
    :: Vie Vino
    :: Al's Corner
    :: Meet a Vie Star: Scott Manley
    :: Upcoming Events
    By the second week of this month all of our meat entrees on the menu are created by using the "whole animal." The beef is the newcomer, raised on pasture in rolling hills outside of Elkhorn, Wisconsin on Dietzler farm. We just purchased one steer, an Angus/Hereford cross, dry-aged for 21 days with a finished hanging weight of 837#'s. This is a proud moment for me and my kitchen staff. We have been working towards this goal for the last couple of years.
    As more people are concerned with the source of their food and the humane treatment of animals, this approach seems spot on to me. Yes, the animal is still slaughtered, but it's done with respect for the animal and the food it provides. Utilizing every part of the animal shows our appreciation for the life taken that nourishes us. Understanding this as a chef and a person that eats meat is very important, leading to a more harmonious relationship with our environment.
    Two members of my staff deserve extra recognition for this achievement, my sous chef Nathan Sears and one of my lead cooks Craig Svozil, both have been instrumental in making this happen. Kudos to you guys and the rest of my stellar kitchen staff for making this happen.
    Look for the Dietzler beef entrée on the menu. Also, we will be serving a limited amount of hamburgers, that's right, you read that correctly. These burgers will be served with our homemade ketchup and french fries fried the traditional way, in beef fat. You gotta love it!


    Peace,
    PV


    "The only thing I have to eat is Yoo-hoo and Cocoa puffs so if you want anything else, you have to bring it with you."
  • Post #84 - October 8th, 2008, 11:29 am
    Post #84 - October 8th, 2008, 11:29 am Post #84 - October 8th, 2008, 11:29 am
    I think I signed up for the newsletter by filling out a reply card that was included with my bill, after dining at Vie.

    =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 #85 - October 8th, 2008, 12:16 pm
    Post #85 - October 8th, 2008, 12:16 pm Post #85 - October 8th, 2008, 12:16 pm
    thanks, i just emailed the restaurant. (celebratingvie@yahoo.com) to ask to receive the newsletter. am i right in assuming it's online, not snail mail? it's kind of weird that it isn't offered through the vie website. jj
  • Post #86 - October 8th, 2008, 12:35 pm
    Post #86 - October 8th, 2008, 12:35 pm Post #86 - October 8th, 2008, 12:35 pm
    Ronnie is correct -- A reply card that comes with your bill allows you to write your e-mail address for special events, news, and the sort. It is an e-mail newsletter.
  • Post #87 - October 8th, 2008, 1:47 pm
    Post #87 - October 8th, 2008, 1:47 pm Post #87 - October 8th, 2008, 1:47 pm
    i already received an email reply from paul virant. he is adding me to the email list. justjoan
  • Post #88 - October 8th, 2008, 2:00 pm
    Post #88 - October 8th, 2008, 2:00 pm Post #88 - October 8th, 2008, 2:00 pm
    I also receive the newsletter and have no idea how I got signed up-- but I'm very happy I did.
  • Post #89 - October 18th, 2008, 7:45 am
    Post #89 - October 18th, 2008, 7:45 am Post #89 - October 18th, 2008, 7:45 am
    A secret menu at Vie? What would that be, stuff they flew around the globe in the middle of winter to eat?

    No, there's no secret menu but there is one off-menu item that you might want to check out, available only in a very small quantity on Friday nights: a burger. Yeah, so? you ask. Well, it's a burger that right now is being made from bits of the whole steer they dry-aged at Eickman's in Seward, Illinois and butchered themselves.

    Accompanied by fries fried in the tallow from the same or at least similar beasts, this is very much a Vie-style burger, the pure, dry-aged-beefy flavor of the meat front and center with only minimal accompaniments: some pickled onions and ramps and a ketchup made in house from some of the small sweetish tomatoes that were in the markets a few weeks ago. Frankly, given the sweetness of the ketchup, I'd have liked the meat more salted and seasoned for contrast, but that's a minor cavil, the flavor of the high quality beef is what counts and it was terrific. The fries as dipped in that ketchup were mighty fine, too.

    It was also my first time having the Vie salad, a simple but outstanding mix of greens with two kinds of hearts of palm-- marinated chunks, like you remember from country club dining circa 1967, and shaved slices of fresh hearts of palm, nearly three inches across and more like daikon or something than canned HoP, all set off-- or I should really say, all made-- by shaved parmesan which just burst with bright and deep cheese flavor. Really, the best composed salad I've had in a restaurant in as long as I can remember, and I wasn't surprised when Paul Virant told us that they keep trying to take it off the menu and replace it, but they can never seem to beat it, and so it's lasted two years.

    Finally, I talked for a bit with Nathan Sears, Vie's sous and the charcuterie guy, about lardo, my own attempt at lardo-making having been somewhat less than satisfying. He brought out a few slices of theirs, which I found a little sweet-- it comes from a pig called a Crawford Sweet, and they use sugar in the cure-- but melted in the mouth giving off a complex mix of herbal and porky flavors. I am newly inspired, and may use the winter to attempt another go-round at lardoblogging myself.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #90 - December 24th, 2008, 3:08 pm
    Post #90 - December 24th, 2008, 3:08 pm Post #90 - December 24th, 2008, 3:08 pm
    Since it's been a few months since anyone posted about this splendid restaurant, I wanted to share our recent experience.

    We went on a Friday night at 8:30 p.m. a few weeks back and were surprised to find a barely half full restaurant. Given how wonderful the restaurant is and how reasonable it is when compared to so many downtown spots, I was sad to see it so empty on a Friday. One of the nice things about a half empty restaurant, though, is that there's no hurry and the server has time to spend with you. The service, while not perfect, was gracious, appropriate, informative, and friendly.

    RAB and I visited to celebrate my birthday. Given that I was in a celebratory spirit, and didn't have to drive home, my memories of the various dishes aren't super crystal clear. I'm hoping RAB will share his views, too.

    Because the apps looked more appetizing than the entrees, we decided to order a bunch of appetizers and only one entree. This would hopefully mean that we'd have room for dessert. We also decided to split the dishes up so that a bunch of dishes didn't arrive at the same time. (We'd recently had a negative experience at a pretty nice restaurant where three large hot appetizers were served simultaneously, leading to lukewarm second and third dishes).

    We paced the dishes so that we'd enjoy a bottle of white wine before moving on to the red. Vie has an interesting corkage policy - - any wine more than ten years old has no corkage fee ($20 for newer bottles). We brought a ten year old French Riesling which went well with the early dishes. We also brought a newer Corison Cabernet. The cab was even better than we'd imagined. Now that we're starting to accumulate a bit of wine, it's been great to take bottles to restaurants, both to save a few bucks and to have a good idea you're going to have a good bottle. Too often at restaurants, we've trusted the server/sommelier or picked a wine blindly, which doesn't always work out.

    Back to the food . . .

    We started with the charcuterie: speck, duck and turkey pâté, fromage de tête, sourdough crostini, baby greens, pickled spence farm ramps, apple jam, grilled tropea onions. The winner was the head cheese, followed closely by the speck. The pâté was surprisingly bland. The onions were missing.

    Next, we enjoyed the brandade cake and the scallops. The brandade cake was wonderfully pan-fried and piping hot upon arrival. Accompanying the cake were still slightly crisp spinach and tasty creamed leeks. A great winter dish. RAB preferred the diver sea scallops, which were served with a chestnut puree, sunchokes, preserved klug farm cherry, and a housemade lardo vinaigrette. The chestnuts and the sunchokes really sang for me in this dish. The vinaigrette, alas, got a bit lost.

    Our third course consisted of the pea soup and the gnocchi. It was a cream of split pea soup with house-smoked ham hock, rustic croutons, beer salami, organic crème fraiche. This was a seriously scrumptious soup. The salami was a great complement. Unfortunately, we could not see or detect any ham hock, so don't know if it was absent or somehow combined into the soup. The gnocchi appetizer was also a winner. It was served with apples, pork confit, and cheddar. Okay, so A Tavola makes better gnocchi. But, this was a wonderfully composed, tasty dish. And the gnocchi were good.

    Our entree was really the only miss of the night. We'd had a tough time deciding among the cassoulet, the beef tasting, and the lamb pot pie. We chose the cassoulet as our single main. Honestly, not so good. When I think of cassoulet, I think of a stew that's been cooking long enough for all of the flavors to marry. I think of the cassoulet that RAB ordered at Le Jardin Bistro in Manhattan. That cassoulet was so good that my vegetarian friend was twisting the rules and repeatedly requesting more of "just the beans." It was served in a metal pot, and full of porky goodness. It looked and tasted like it was made with love and had been cooked for hours. When I think of cassoulet, I think of Bourdain visiting Ruhlman in Cleveland and spending days making cassoulet.

    Alas, Vie's version wasn't even close. The sausage, ham steak, and bacon were sitting atop a bed of kale and beans. There was no indication that the pork had met the kale and beans prior to being dished onto my plate for serving. Sure all of the components (save the chewy bacon) were fairly tasty on their own. But, this wasn't a proper cassoulet, and it wasn't half as good as a traditional cassoulet. That said, the pickles that accompanied the dish were wonderful (especially the dandelion greens). And, everything we'd enjoyed prior was so good that we were okay with one miss.

    Dessert was good. We had horchata ice cream and warm gooey butter cake. We had a second dessert that was delivered accidentally - - the paw paw pudding - - which we didn't care for.

    We're already making plans to go back, now knowing that Western Springs really isn't that far. I truly hope that the half empty Friday night was an anomaly and that the restaurant is doing fine. Vie is too good to have to struggle or make compromises.

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