Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fun Playing With Food in Chicago Part 2: The Gage

A funny thing happened on the way to the courthouse on Monday morning - the case stopped with a jerk and we fell off! Well, not exactly. But by 11am, Bob and I were excused from the proceedings for the day. We next considered lunch. Our food forward friend (and frequent Chicago visitor) Edsel had recommended The Gage, less than 3 blocks from The Silversmith. It turned out to be our favorite meal of the trip (or in a close tie with the Little Goat Diner) and it hadn't even been on our radar; but for the bad weather, we had many choices on the list ahead of it. Don't make that mistake if you visit this part of Chicago.

We were now a tad under-dressed for this beautifully restored, historic eatery, recently named as one of the top five Power Lunch spots in all Chicago. The restaurant has several dining rooms on 2 levels (with an elevator to make it all accessible), and we were made to feel warm and welcome. The Gage exemplified the marvelous service we experienced almost every place we dined in Chicago. When the more spacious deuce next to ours emptied before we'd placed our food order, our server was happy to relocate us and our beverages, on request. That move was shortly followed by a fabulous Michael Ruhlman moment, as one diner of the deuce that replaced us (two business ladies) ordered a Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken - how could you, when House Poutine with Braised Elk Ragoût, Stewed Vegetables, Curd Cheese, and Chips is on the menu for a mere $8???

House Poutine Braised Elk Ragoût, Stewed Vegetables, Curd Cheese, Chips
Best dish of trip. Period. The elk melted in the mouth and was not at all gamey, and the remaining ingredients harmonized perfectly with crunch, creaminess, and umami. Four diners could share this portion as an appetizer, but Bob and I bravely cleaned the dish without further assistance.

Bread Service
House-baked multigrain bread is accompanied by locally sourced cultured butter, with a drizzle of pink salt. Yes, we used it to clean the Poutine dish, and no, we were not ashamed.

Locally Crafted Sausages (House Made Rabbit, Garlic, Thyme Sausage, Smoked Polish from Bobak's), Crisp Potato, Brie
Bob's lunch was divine. Simple, but beautiful ingredients, perfectly prepared and smartly served. The Gage certainly knows it's way around game, as the rabbit sausage turned out by it's kitchen had a distinctive, but not gamey flavor. Ironically, Bobak's website informs us that the smoked polish was invented on, and named for, Maxwell Street. Whether the old Maxwell Street Market was involved, I do not know.

Lunch Special Sandwich: Duck Confit with Brandy BBQ Sauce, Onion, Arugula, Sauerkraut on Ciabatta

I hit the motherload with my choice of the "special" sandwich - special indeed! Silky duck shreds bathed in the rich but surprisingly light and tangy sauce, balanced out with the acidic sauerkraut, accompanied by gently dressed, crispy greens (the server offered potatoes as an alternate to the salad, but the first course had settled that consideration). Bob pronounced the half sour pickle delicious also. When we asked the server to wrap our leftover bread and butter (for a better breakfast tomorrow than the one we'd bought today), he instead insisted on sending us out with a fresh loaf and container of butter together with our entree leftovers. Well played.

I'd snagged an elusive reservation for Stephanie Izard's The Girl and The Goat for Monday's dinner - would we have the room to enjoy it? More Fun Playing With Chicago Food to come . . . .

The Gage on Urbanspoon

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