Saturday, March 12, 2011

Frontera Grill

My goal here is not to write a whole lot of reviews, but I couldn't pass this one up; plus, it fits into the theme a bit, as a restaurant that practices sustainability and buys from local artisans. 
"Our aim is to serve flavorful, artisanal food grown responsibly by people we know."  -   Frontera Grill:
On a recent trip to Chicago, I seeked out a restaurant I've been dying to try for some time now- Frontera Grill - owned by celeb chef Rick Bayless.  The restaurant radiates with warm colors and is very inviting.  It was pretty crowded so we hovered at the bar waiting for open seats, sipping our afternoon cocktails - mine was a tamarind margarita, and D. had the mescal margarita which i quickly switched over to drinking as well.  The mescal drink is so delicious - made with Del Maguay single village mescal, 10yr old brandy, peychaud bitters and limonada.  I'm not sure if it's the mescal or some hidden gem they add in that gives the drink a subtle smoky flavor.  A must try!
To start with, we ordered the Verduras en Mole Verde - a casserole of roasted chayote accompanied by local winter veggies simmered in a spicy green sauce with black kale, served with warm tortillas.  If you have never tried chayote, it's a pear shaped fruit with a firm texture and a taste similar to summer squash.  The heat in the decadently creamy  sauce sneaks up on you in between the subtle flavors of the kale and chayote, and the crunch from the pepita's. 
Next we tried a sampling of entrees and sides:  Pork tacos, grilled green onions, a trio of salsas, Platanos con Crema, and Tortitias de Regueson.   The pork tacos are very simple, black beans, braised pork (from Maple Creek Farm in Wisconsin) and house made guacamole.  Looking at the plate, it doesn't scream excitement, but togther it makes wonderful sense.  The meat was tender, juicy and fresh. 
The Tortitias were a special that day, and well worth it: little cakes of house ricotta wrapped in swiss chard, and deep fried.  They lay in a pasilla sauce (dark, smoky, chili sauce) and accompanied by a peashoot salad, jack cheese, and a crispy epazote  (an ancient Mexican spice that has a rich flavor - hard to compare it to anything I know, so you must try it for yourself!)  The plantains were a traditional side:  sweet, fried, and mixed with a mild a cream sauce; tasty but not nearly as satisfying as the entrees.  A nice way to end a fantastic dining (and drinking) experience. 

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