ginger and salt

eat your heart out: girl and the goat.

Ever since I met Stephanie Izard via my television screen during her time on Top Chef, I have wanted to taste the food at her famed restaurant, Girl and the Goat in Chicago.  Everyone I know who’s been says that the experience lives up to the hype. Luckily, Cammie (my bff/pseudo sister/roommate) scored us a coveted reservation for six people (at 9:30 pm on a Wednesday, mind you) so we went directly from the airport to Chitown’s Restaurant Row to feast on any and all goat parts.

photo 1

photo 2

{The scene at the bar.}

Our table for six wasn’t quite ready when we arrived so we waited in the packed bar and ordered a round of drinks.  We were joined by Frannie (Cammie’s younger sister), Frannie’s roommate Chelsea, our dear childhood friend Kelsey, and her beau (and all-around trooper for enduring the requisite girl talk) Matt.

I know they say ‘Everything’s bigger in Texas’ but as visitors of this lovely town, Cammie and I kept pointing out how large things felt to us in Chicago. Big laughs, big hospitality, big blue cheese-stuffed olives in our bathtub-sized martinis. Similarly, the restaurant itself is so much bigger than I had expected. With its high ceilings and partitions, it has the potential to feel cavernous but this is surprisingly not the case. There are a couple of similar spaces size-wise in Seattle and while the chefs in these spaces are celebrated and the food is great, the spaces feel soulless and cold. However, at Girl and the Goat, it feels warm and alive – the kind of place you’d want to tuck into at the end of the day.

photo 3

{I do not remember the name of my cocktail, but I’m pretty sure it had bourbon, applejack, allspice dram, and candied ginger.  It tasted like autumn.}

photo 4photo 5

{Jam-packed on a Wednesday night. Also, note the psychedelic wall art.}

While I’m certain that each meal at Girl and the Goat is special, the dining experience has a fun approachability and casualness to it.  Around the restaurant you could spot people on first dates, celebrating a birthday with friends, or just simply enjoying a meal together.  Personally, my favorite part was that we got to write on the menus! Suddenly, I’m five years old again and back at Cucina! Cucina! writing on the butcher paper tablecloths with crayon, but it was a really fun process, especially as there were six of us.  Our server suggested we each select two things to share, so we passed around the menu and a pen and everyone had a go at it.  The only rule?  No duplicates.  Yes, of course I know this is a cheat sheet for the server, but it was also a cheat sheet for us as we enjoyed referring back to our marked up menu over the course of the meal as we looked forward to what dish would come next.

photo 1{The “Apple Smacks” Bread with Ginger Butter and Apple Sauce}

photo 4{Grilled Baby Octopus with Guanciale, Beans, Pistachios, and Lemon Vinaigrette}

photo 2{Falafel with Peanut Hummus, Cucumber, Apple Salad, Crisp Pita, and Marinated Mozzarella}

Let’s start with these three dishes.  There were three types of bread and spreads on the menu, and we went with the sweet variety.  The bread was chewy and the ginger butter whipped and heavenly, made even better with the apple sauce on top. The grilled baby octopus was also delicious and a fun dish to start out with. Guanciale, an unsmoked bacon, was paired with it and the two together made a wonderful, savory match.  I’d say the big surprise dish of the night was the falafel! It was crisp and fluffy and I absolutely loved the peanut hummus with the bright, refreshing apple salad and cucumbers.

photo 3

{Fried Pickles with Shallot Aioli and Yuzu Harissa}

Truly, is there anything better than fried pickles? Yes, there is. Fried pickles served with shallot aioli and sweet and smoky yuzu harissa. Ever since my trips to North Carolina in college to visit my girlfriends at Wake Forest, I have been mildly addicted to these suckers.   They are my salty, acidic, fried heaven. (Fortunately for my arteries, they are not as ubiquitous in Seattle.)

photo 5{Goat Heart with Concord Grape Jus, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Maitake Mushrooms}

photo 1{Confit Goat Belly with Bourbon Butter, Lobster n’ Crab, and Fennel}

Our server let us know right away that they were almost sold out of the goat heart, so Cammie fortunately didn’t hesitate and ordered one for our table.  I honestly had never eaten heart before and for some reason imagined it being much thicker and almost gelatinous in texture.  Our server told us that if we closed our eyes and tasted it, we would think we were eating an incredible filet, and he was spot on.  This goat heart in particular was so beautifully cooked and sliced among the juicy grapes and crunchy Brussels sprouts; it was truly a highlight of our meal.  The picture doesn’t even come close to doing it justice.

Similarly, the confit goat belly was just over the top decadence. I mean, seriously. Take a luscious piece of goat belly and then top it with lobster, crab, and butter.  Yep, it was amazing.

photo 3

{Sauteed Green Beans with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette and Cashews}

photo 2  {Diver Scallops with Pumpkin Brandade, Fried Brussels Sprouts, Spiced Pecans, and Pomegranate}

I was totally crazy about the green beans, our one vegetable dish of the night.  The fish sauce vinaigrette was addictive! I need to remember to use my fish sauce on vegetables at home more because man, was it good.  The scallops were equally lovely with their crispy, seared sides and the pop of each pomegranate seed on my tongue.

photo 5{Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face with Sunny Side Egg, Tamarind Cilantro, Red Wine Maple, and Potato Stix}

photo 4

{Crisp Braised Pork Shank with Butternut Squash, Shiitake Kimchee, Buttermilk Dressing, and Naan}

Unsurprisingly, we adored both of our larger plates.  The pig face, one of their most popular dishes, reminded me of something that would be on the menu at Animal in LA.  The creamy yolk, the tender pig, the dissolve-in-your-mouth potatoes.  Perfection.

The braised pork shank was massive, but you didn’t even need a knife.  The meat just fell away and we lost our minds dredging it in what was essentially a sophisticated buffalo sauce.  Long after the bone was dry and not a crumb of naan was left, we were all frantically searching around the table for anything, ANYTHING, to dip in the sauce.  Had the place cleared out by now (it was still pretty busy close to midnight) we would’ve been spooning the stuff into each other’s mouths.

photo (55)

{Apple Buckle with Oatmeal-Graham Streusel and Brown Butter Gelato and the Miso-Butterscoth Budino with Bacon Toffee, Glazed Pineapple, and Candied Cashews}

We were in full-blown vacay mode at this point so even though everyone claimed they were full, two desserts were ordered and within minutes of their arrival, spoons were scraping the inside of each dish.  The apple buckle was good and the brown butter gelato was great, but the real star was the budino.  The custard-like dessert had such complex flavors but didn’t feel fussy sitting in its little pot like a sundae.  It was salty and creamy with the right amount of sweetness from the glazed pineapple at the bottom of the dish.

All in all, our meal was wonderful. It didn’t feel rushed and there was never a noticeable lull between dishes.  From the fish sauce vinaigrette to the pig face to that pork shank, you really can’t go wrong.  Chef Izard is clearly giving the people what they want, and lots of it.  Try everything and anything, just make sure you get your goat heart order in early.

Girl and the Goat, 809 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL, (312) 492.6262, http://www.girlandthegoat.com, Open Nightly for Dinner Starting at 4:30 p.m., Reservations Highly Recommended

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7 comments

  1. Con

    T, I’m having major nostalgia (and hunger pangs) for the pig face and goat face!!! But @cameronclaire, wait to pull the trigger on the goat heart! A girl after my own, albeit human, heart.

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