Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chicago sidebar: Hot Doug's

Hot Doug's
The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium

3324 North California
Chicago, IL 60618
Phone: (773) 279-9550
Fax: (773) 279-9553

It is nice to be back in Sacramento after this wet weekend for my brother's wedding. "How wet?" you ask.

"O'Hare International Airport recorded 6.64 inches of rain Saturday -- breaking the all-time record of 6.49 inches set in 1987, according to the National Weather Service. Records have been kept since 1871."

Surprisingly, everyone was in good spirits and the wedding proceedings went rather smoothly.

Hot Doug's is a place that I attempted to go to at least two other times I was in Chicago, but was closed for vacation. They specialize in unusual sausages made from exotic meats. I had the Cognac and pheasant bacon sausage. How do you make bacon from a pheasant anyway ;)? It was good overall and not too gamy. The fries were crispy on the outside with nice color and moist and tender on the inside. I was expecting a little more duck flavor from the duck fat fries.

I had a good overall lunch, there are so many different sausages and flavor combinations that I will have to make a few trips to try the other specials. I think many other Chicagoan would agree with me as there is always a line out the door to this place.

Hot Doug's daily specials board

Cognac and bacon pheasant sausage

Can't remember this one.

Duck fat fries, yes duck fat

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Kitchen

The Kitchen
2225 Hurley Way # 101
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 568-7171

The Courtyard

The freshly baked bread.

It was crunchy on the outside and tender and warm on the inside. I think bread is always a good barometer of the restaurant overall. It is the little things that matter. If a restaurant cannot even take the time to bake (not necessarily make) their own bread or get it from a good local vendor then what other short cuts are they making?

Chef Randall Selland hypnotizing a lobster.
This was the first part of the demonstration dinner and sat at the bar so we had a good seat. He would show the ingredients and talk about some of the cooking techniques that were required for each course.

First Course

Maine Lobster Thermador with Squash Blossoms,Dungeness Crab, English Peas, Chives and Black Truffled Egg Yolk

This return to a favorite dish - with a new spin - takes our beautiful fresh Maine Lobsters in a Thermador-style preparation along with first-of-the-season delicate and tasty fried squash blossoms, which always add a hint of summer to our creations and are really pretty to boot. With the lobster, which has the piquant kick of a bit of mustard, we have fresh and tender Dungeness crab along with lovely English peas and baby chives, and then the piece de resistance – egg yolk mixed with decadent black truffles. Who can resist truffles and eggs? It’s one of life’s great pleasures. This dish is a delightfully decadent way to kick off the evening.

The next demonstration was creating a sauce using a wine reduction. I have no idea who this young lady was. Apparently it was her birthday and this was part of her gift to participate in the dinner.

Second Course

Fresh Porcini Mushroom ‘Pot Pie’ withParma Prosciutto Lardoons,Tri-Color Asparagus, Prunatelli Virgin Olive Oil, Aged Sherryand a Salad of Fried Artichoke, Frisee and Mizuna

Equally indulgent but with a totally different flavor profile is our second course, a savory house made potpie pastry literally overflowing with earthy and full-flavored porcini mushrooms and rich, hearty prosciutto lardoons. A great accompaniment to these flavors is the tri-color asparagus in green, white, and purple, which are at the peak of season. I love the combination of prosciutto, mushrooms, and asparagus, especially with a lovely Pinot Noir, which will undoubtedly be our pick to pair with this course. A bit of olive oil and sherry vinegar, and then a texture contrast with crispy fried artichoke and slightly bitter, crisp lettuces to top things off makes for a course that is sure to be a new classic.

Sushi • SashimiCrudo
This was excellent. There were many different types of sushi, sashimi and oysters and they even had real wasabi.

Third Course

Herb Glazed Liberty Duck Breast with Rainier Cherries, a Mélange of Almonds, Snow Peas and Peppers, Port Wine Gastrique and Ramp-Stuffed Morels

Glazed Duck Breast is one of our favorite things to prepare for you here at The Kitchen. It’s such a beautiful product we get from Liberty Farms over in Sonoma that it can easily outshine any beef, veal or pork dish in terms of complexity and depth of flavor. Moist, tender, and delectable, the duck is served with its natural perfect pairing, cherries, and then a mix of almonds, snow peas, and peppers for an overall effect that has a slight Asian flair. To finish, however, we take it back to French roots with a Port Wine Gastrique (a reduction that concentrates flavor) and woodsy Morel mushrooms stuffed with delicious ramps, or wild leeks. Come to think of it, we may have to do this dish with a Pinot Noir and find another pairing for the Pot Pie. Looks like Josh and Doug will have to put their heads together on that one.

Fourth Course

Monk Fish ‘Short Ribs’ with Wood Roasted Onions,Fava Beans, Crisped Potato, Parsley Rootand Cabernet Beurre Rouge

This final savory course is something absolutely unique. We are getting beautiful, dense, full-flavored Monkfish from the Atlantic that we are braising down in Cabernet and Veal Stock. Since Monkfish is a rich and hearty seafood, the effect is like braising down beef short ribs but with a new and unexpected twist that comes from the fact that, well, it’s fish and not beef. In keeping with the flavors and textures of braised meat, we are serving the Monkfish with roasted onions and fava beans and earthy, robust parsley root along with a rich but balanced red wine butter sauce, the Cabernet Beurre Rouge. The stunning final savory course will leave you more than satisfied.

Dessert Course

Warmed Delta Blueberry Cream Tart withElderflower and Vanilla Bean Essence,Cinnamon-Butter Ice Creamand Pecan Brittle Bits

Gorgeous delta blueberries from right here at home in the valley make for a dessert that is both familiar and new, at once reminiscent of long lazy summer days filled with picnics and parties and also offering the refining elements of elderflower and vanilla, followed by an unexpected and delightful burst of flavor from the cinnamon butter ice cream and pecan brittle. This dessert is scrumptious and divine – a beautiful combination of flavors that is totally decadent but not too heavy – perfect for summer.

Post dessert herbal infusions

I had a great experience overall. The food and service was very good and the wine we had was good. The atmosphere is fun and laid back and they will even give you seconds if you as for it. We had a second helping of the Maine Lobster Thermador that I thought they brought to us because they heard my dining partner wistfully whisper to me for another portion. I would have been really impressed if that was the case, but alas it was a mistake another couple asked for seconds, but they delivered it to us by mistake. C'est la vie.

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