Wednesday, July 18, 2012

So, So Bad, So, So Happy

One of The Sister-in-Law’s was in town this weekend and The Husband and I decided to show her what Chicago is really like. We spent five days eating, drinking and site seeing all over  and showing the many amazing faces of our fair city.

Since it opened last year, The Husband has wanted to make a trip up to Bad, Happy Poutine. And as we were trying to show The Sister-in-Law some of Chicago’s finest, we thought a late lunch/early dinner of Poutine would do the trick.

So after wandering around Millennium Park and hiding out at The Art Institute to avoid a downpour, we hailed a cab and got dropped off in front of a tiny store front in the middle of an empty block on Orleans.

We walked into Bad, Happy a tiny shop that was half kitchen, half tall tables and one other couple was finishing up their food.  We sat down at the tables and looked at the laminated menu that was clearly marked “One menu per table” and grabbed the wax pencil to start checking off our orders.

For those are you who are unaware, Poutine is a French Canadian dish made with French Fries, topped with gravy and cheese curds. You may think to yourself, eeww, but you would think incorrectly.  I grew up with a family that was deeply rooted in Brooklyn, so going to Jewish deli’s was nothing new to me.  The Mother would often order French Fries covered in brown gravy, so the idea of Poutine dove tailed on that.

The owner and chef, Tom Kern, a burly man with a huge beard, walked over and shared the specials for the day: The Red Neck: Fried Mac and Cheese, Red Cabbage, Fried Okra Gravy and Pulled Pork and The Bastille (it was July 14th, of course) Escargot, Gravy and many other delicious French things. As escargot freaks The Sister-in-Law out a bit, we went with the Red Neck and The Good, The Bad, and The Happy (Pork Belly, Beef Cheek, Truffle Mayo, Foie Gras Mousse, Gravy, Fries, Curd and a Sunny-side up Egg). We also decided to wash them down with the Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake and  at the last minute I added BadHappy Birthday Cake Shake (to which The Sister-in-Law gave a sigh of relief and thanked me because she had wanted that one but didn’t want to seem gluttonous…obviously she hadn’t spent enough time with The Husband and me).

For whatever reason, we figured that two orders of Poutine and two shakes wouldn’t be too much for three people. We were so, so wrong.  From our table (or any table in the restaurant for that matter) we were able to watch the chef work his magic. Within fifteen minutes, our food was on the table, piping hot and ready to be dove into.  He informed us the shakes would come out shortly.  As he was back in the kitchen, whipping up something sweet to go along with our something salty, we dove in.

The Red Neck won Bad Happy an Eater award when it had initially opened, but was no longer a staple on the menu.  We understood why as soon as we took a bite.  The pulled pork was delicious, tender and juicy, and the red cabbage added a really lovely crisp bite to the rest of the plate that was doused in gravy and fries. The mac and cheese ball on the top was spot on, crispy fried on the outside and ooey gooey on the inside. The Sister-in-Law, a Mac and Cheese lover and a connoisseur of the fried variety, said that this was how all fried mac and cheese should taste.
The Red Neck

After a few bites of The Red Neck, we set our sights on The Good, OH.WOW. The saltiness of the gravy, mixed with the earthiness of the truffle mayo and the richness of the foie was spectacular. I’m not an Egg on my Food type of gal, but even I had to admit, it was a perfect addition to the dish.

The Good, The Bad, and The Happy
As we were moaning with delight, our first shake came out.  The Birthday Cake looked like a cake in a cup. Our eyes became saucers and I took the first sip from what I had initially thought to myself was a huge straw. Upon my first taste, I understood why he used bubble tea straws. The shake had huge delicious chucks of cake batter inside the cake batter ice-cream and covered in whip cream and rainbow sprinkles was so damn happy to look at.  It was sweet, but not teeth hurting sweet and it was a meal on its own.

The BadHappy Birthday Cake, note the large straw

Just as we thought it couldn’t get any better, our final item came out; a tall shake, toppling over with flaming marshmallows.  The Chef placed the shake at our table and we all just stared at it for a few moments, watching the flames flicked off the charred Marshmallows. We looked at him with our eyes in awe and he nonchalantly said “It’s the best way to get a good char on the marshmallows” and walked away. WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!

The Husband, a Peanut butter lover, took the first sip and promptly told us that we would hate it and that we really shouldn’t even try it. For as much chocolate and peanut butter that was in the shake, it was perfect. Neither of the ingredients was overpowering and the added bonus of the tower of charred marshmallows on top was fabulous.  Covering the marshmallows with the shake and then popping them into your mouth was a perfect bite.

We sat in silence as we ate and drank, reveling in the delicious feast before us. We were all thankful that we hadn’t had breakfast or lunch before coming, and planned on not even attempting dinner. This was more than enough food for three meals.  When we finally were able to lick the last of the plates clean (there was no way we were leaving Truffle Mayo or Foie Moussee behind), we profusely thanked the Chef and wandered outside, thinking to ourselves “That was so many levels of bad for us, but we are just too damn happy right now to care.”  Obviously the chef thought of a perfect name. 

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