Friday, August 8, 2014

Ghosts of Meals Past V1: Blackbird, Dana Cree

Over the past few years, I have amassed quite a collections of photos - stuff that would have made it to the blog had I made any effort to stick with it. Now...I stopped taking notes a long time ago and I have very little recollection of the details but thats just fine. These 'Ghosts of Meals Past' entries will be mostly photographs and I guess whatever information that I can scrounge up. 

Im going to kick things off with a meal I had at Blackbird the last time I was in Chicago - the summer of 2013. Blackbird was where I had my first meal in Chicago and I have had many fantastic meals there since. Its always my first recommendation to people wanting a nice meal. Ive always thought it was the most consistently delicious, creative and exciting food available in the city. Its not the most cutting edge, or the fanciest - but frankly I think that its found a balance of things that eludes most other places. The menu changes often enough to keep it fresh, Ive never had a dud, the food is exciting and beautiful and thoughtful. And its very affordable for a restaurant of this caliber. 

Anyway, last time I was in town I was out on a little adventure with my friend Alejandra (who I'm sure I will write more about later when I visit her new bakery) when our sweet tooth struck. Where we were in the city, I can't really remember, but for whatever reason we couldn't find anything suitable. She asked me where we could find something good and Blackbird was the first thing that popped into my head. We decided to go with the spur of the moment idea and headed over there. When we got there and sat, it was obvious there was only one choice - order the entire dessert menu. These are the photos.

A side note - Dana Cree, the Pastry Chef at Blackbird is, hands down, one of the best Pastry Chefs in the country (read her ridiculously good blog here.) Seek her food out if you are in Chicago - its available at not only Blackbird but also Avec, and - if Im not mistaken, Publican Quality Meats as well. 

The meal started with the two cheese options. 

This dish was my favorite of the night, and frankly, one of my favorites in all of 2013. And look at it, its absolutely stunning. When they put this in front of us we both knew this was going to be a special meal.

This dessert was pretty great too. The ice cream flavor was bubblegum and made entirely with fruit. Im not sure if I am supposed to say what blend of fruits create the signature flavor probably have them all in your house right now. I only know what they are because of hints from a pastry cook at Blackbird & a careful eye on twitter.  Ive tried for a while to hit the mark in recreating the flavor and haven't quite hit the nail on the head the way she did here. It was remarkably 'bubblegum'.

While I don't necessarily remember the details of this one, I do remember a bit of the story. We were told that the plating inspiration for this one was something to the tune of weeds growing through broken wood or boards on a deck or something like that. And that throughout the menus life the weeds grew, meaning that they became less hidden and more prevalent. I remember liking the danish (yes, the pastry, its the swirly thing at 6:00) a LOT.

I guess thats all. I'm not sure if we can budget a meal at Blackbird this summer or not - but I sure hope so!

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