I wrote about Bryce Harper’s struggles today for Insiders, and about Twins prospects Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario yesterday. My post on Saturday’s Under Armour game should go up in the next 24 hours.
If you follow me on Twitter, you saw my photograph of 2 Sparrows‘ maple bacon donut, which is on the short list of the best things I’ve ever eaten, not just for the bacon, but for the absolutely perfect donut at the heart of the $4 dish. The maple glaze is very sweet, like pure maple sugar, so the donut beneath it has little to no sweetness of its own, instead shining for the crispy exterior and a soft, light interior. The bacon crumbled over the top is house-cured, with the salt well balanced with the glaze’s sweetness, and some texture contrast with the soft donut. I admit the plate seemed a little gimmicky, but the execution across the board is tremendous.
At 2 Sparrows in Chicago – maple-bacon donut: twitter.com/keithlaw/statu…
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) August 19, 2012
The duck confit hash was less successful, however, primarily because of texture – every item in the hash, which is mostly duck and sweet potatoes, is soft, with the duck actually the least so, even slightly tough in comparison to everything else in the dish. I also find duck meat in general and confit in particular slightly sweet, at least relative to any other protein, so the combination with sweet potatoes felt unbalanced.
My dinner with Old Hoss Radbourn on Saturday night was also a huge hit, as we went to The Purple Pig, a restaurant that promises “cheese, swine, and wine.” We went heavy on the swine, going for pork liver paté, fried pig ears, and the “JLT,” with pig jowl standing in for the bacon – as well as two vegetable dishes and dessert. Dish by dish:
* The pork liver paté was unreal – as smooth as a dessert mousse, with a pronounced smoky undertone and a thin layer of high-quality olive oil on top, served with thick slices of grilled country bread. The server even brought more bread so we could finish every last bit of the paté, and even though I’m not even a huge fan of liver, I’d order this again in a heartbeat. The dish is one of a handful of “smears” they offer, including one made from lardo, cured pork fat that melts into whatever hot item is underneath it.
* I would never have guessed I was eating fried pig ears if I didn’t know going in what we had ordered. They’re slow-cooked, julienned, then quickly fried like french-fried onion rings, served with fried kale, pickled cherry peppers, and a fried egg on top. The pig ears have just a hint of tooth to them, but aren’t tough, and the frying makes the kale crispy while setting its deep green hue. It’s like the perfect bar snack for food snobs like me – and with a Belhaven stout in front of me I had no trouble finishing my half of the dish. You can find the recipe if you want to try this at home.
* The JLT was incredibly awkward to eat, but when I could get all the flavors into one bite, it was masterful, with huge flavors all in perfect balance. The jowl is the pig’s cheek meat, cured like bacon but thicker and much more tender; those of you familiar with regional Italian cooking may have had it as guanciale. The heirloom tomatoes are sliced nearly an inch thick, which contributed to the construction issues, although they were extremely bright and provided the one sweet element in the dish. The duck egg … perhaps I’m a philistine, but I doubt I could have identified this as a duck egg rather than a chicken egg, and either way, a runny egg makes every dish better. The lemon aioli tasted more like a cold bearnaise sauce, providing the one acidic element, while frisee adds a slightly bitter note. As a whole, the dish has a complex mixture of colors, textures, and flavors, and if it was a little easier to eat it would have scored an 80 for me.
* The broccoli with roasted garlic and anchovy vinaigrette was another winner, with the broccoli also roasted and the umami-filled vinaigrette coating the vegetables (florets and I believe julienned stalks) perfectly, but without the fishy taste the description might lead you to expect. The charred cauliflower with toasted breadcrumbs, cornichons, and parsley was our least favorite of the five dishes, even though it might have been the prettiest thanks to the use of green and purple florets; the flavors were all muted and compared to the strong flavors in every other dish it felt bland.
* Both desserts were excellent; the mixed berry crostada had a textbook flaky/tender crust that could have stood on its own, while the salted caramel soft-serve ice cream was very smooth and had the complexity you expect from that flavor, even if it’s become a little hackneyed at this point. I’d take the crostada over the ice cream just because it was more unusual. Good call by Hoss on this place, especially since I figured there was even money we’d end up at a brothel.