City Winery Chicago Serves Up New Spring Menu!

We are thrilled to announce we’ve introduced our new spring menu at City Winery Chicago, after months and months of testing new recipes and experimenting with new flavors for spring and summer. The menu also lists new wine pairing suggestions for each new dish.

As warm weather approaches (it will be here eventually, right?), we replaced some of our heartier, heavier dishes with lighter, more refreshing items that are perfect for sharing and enjoying with a crisp summer wine.

New charcuterie plate on the City Winery Chicago spring menu.

Here’s the scoop on a few of my favorite new items:

• Green Gazpacho (green tomato, honeydew, cucumber, cubanelle peppers, Marcona almonds). This soup is perfect for those hot summer days and warm summer nights on our outdoor patio. The flavor profile includes cool and refreshing mint, fresh crisp cucumber, a touch of sweetness from grapes and honeydew melon, toasted notes from the Marcona almonds and a little heat from cubanelle peppers.

• Baccalao Fritters (served with orange-fennel aioli). These flavor-packed fritters are a light and fluffy combination of whipped salt cod and potatoes, lightly fried and teamed up with a creamy aioli made with fennel pollen and orange zest.

• Grilled Merguez (Aleppo pepper yogurt, apricot-almond couscous, grilled red onion). My hope is this dish inspires images of Morocco. Merguez is a spicy lamb sausage found throughout The Middle East and Northern Africa. We make ours in-house from lamb that is hormone and antibiotic free. The complex flavors come from a range of spices and herbs, most notably paprika, garlic, roasted red peppers and our own wine made in-house. Accompaniments add to the experience: lemon mint couscous to temper the heat, grilled red onions to bring out more of that “grilled on a street cart in Marakesh” vibe and a smoky Aleppo pepper yogurt sauce to add a complex zing.

• Cheese Plate – Three perfect cheeses make up our new cheese plate, Petit Billy (pasteurized goat, aged three weeks, France); Sartori MontAmore (pasteurized cow, aged 20 months, Wisc.); and Roelli Red Rock (blue-veined cheddar, pasteurized cow, aged two months, Wisc.). Each has its own voice but they come together in perfect unison. The “Petit Billy” has a chill lactic tangy flavor that brightens up the palate with hints of lemon with the texture of cheesecake. The MontAmore has a soft, creamy texture with the added bonus of a crystalline crunch. The “Red Rock” takes everything we all love in aged cheddar and introduces blue veining into the mix, giving the cheese a slightly musty and earthy finish.

• Charcuterie Plate – Our new charcuterie selection features three hand-crafted cured meats all made from humanely raised animals without antibiotics or hormones. Fermin Chorizo Iberico is an all-natural Spanish-cured pork with garlic, pimento and paprika. Smoking Goose “Gin & Juice” is lamb with juniper and orange zest. And no, this selection wasn’t made just because Snoop Dogg is one of the kitchen’s favorite artists but because of it’s a funky combination of flavors that mesh with the natural gaminess of the lamb. Creminelli Mocetta is beef with cracked black pepper that is a smaller version of bresaola and has no casing. It’s one of the few beef products in Italy’s salame arsenal. This recipe has been in the Creminelli family since the 1600s (according to family legend) and is made by drying the salted meat.

We’re really looking forward to having you join us and taste these and all the other great new items on our spring menu. Please share your thoughts and feedback!

- Executive Chef Andres Barrera

New cheese plate at City Winery Chicago.

 

The Art of Food and Wine Pairing

Here at City Winery Chicago, it’s imperative that we perfectly pair food and wine. I work hand-in-hand with our sommelier, Rachel Speckan, to taste our wines and look for flavors and notes that I can pair with food. This spring, I’ve been working closely with Rachel to pair new menu items with her selection of new seasonal wines. As you may have noticed, our menu is laid out as a guide for food and wine pairing—starting with sparkling and whites working on down to reds—to make it easier for guests to make selections.

One new wine we are offering is a sparking wine called Jane Ventura, which is a Cava from Spain. After tasting the Cava, I knew what dish on our new spring menu to pair with it—fried smoked chicken served with a pickled watermelon salad. The effervescence of the sparkling wine stands up to the smokiness of the chicken while the sweetness of the wine goes nicely with watermelon.

We also tasted another new wine, Mercouri, which is a Chardonnay from Greece. It is briny like the sea, so I wanted to pair it with our new scallop dish, which is a pan-seared scallop with celery root and apple puree. The wine complements the natural sweetness of the scallops.

One new red we’re offering is The Loop, which is a Cabernet Sauvignon from California. We have a new lamb offering for spring that we’re really excited about, and I knew I had to match it with the wine’s deep red berry flavors. The homemade lamb merguez is a slightly spicy sausage served with cous cous, toasted Marcona almonds and a roasted red pepper yogurt sauce.

If you want a “sneak peak” of these dishes, we’re currently running them as specials to try them out, so come on in and let us know what you think!

– Chef Andres Barrera

Wine-Infused Flatbread Pizza Dough

Because we are a fully functioning winery, our kitchen has access to unusual ingredients from the winemaking process. A big advantage is I have a constant supply of wine “lees” and wine at my disposal. One very unique dish we make is our flatbread pizza dough, which we infuse with “lees.”

Wine lees refers to the dead or residual yeast that settles to the bottom of the vat of wine during fermentation. We use the white lees from white wine. The result is a flavor similar to sourdough, and you can actually detect the taste of wine in the dough. In case you were wondering, red wine produces a pink wine lees that, yes, will change the color of dough to purple and more greatly affects the flavor of the dough, so we steer away from using red wine lees.

Other than the addition of lees, we make our dough as simply as possible with only yeast, water, salt and high-gluten organic flour. It is mixed at various speeds for different times and proofs overnight.

We offer three different flatbreads made with this dough, our most popular being the Wild Mushroom Flatbread. The base is a bechamel sauce made with goat cheese, and we use a nice variety of mushrooms: velvet pioppini, Hen of the Woods, Honshimeji, oyster and nameko.

For our flatbreads that feature red sauce—such as our Margherita and Salame Flatbreads—our red sauce is a no-cook sauce. We use DOC San Marzanos tomatoes and mill them through a course food mill and only add salt to taste. San Marzano tomatoes are known for their bittersweet flavor as well as being less acidic than regular plum tomatoes.

Be sure to check out our flatbreads next time you’re in!

Andres Barrera

Purveyor Close-Up: Rain Crow Ranch

This week, I want to take you behind the scenes into our kitchen to discuss one of our favorite purveyors—Rain Crow Ranch, a great family-owned farm in southern Missouri. Rain Crow supplies all our beef, and it is 100% grass-fed, free-range, and hormone & antibiotic-free.

The taste and quality of the beef is exceptional, but we also appreciate that all of their animals are treated humanely. It really comes through in the product. The cattle are born, raised and finished on open grass pastures, and the family is truly passionate about providing the healthiest, safest and highest quality beef possible.

I like to use the beef for our City Winery Sliders because it tastes like a real no fuss, no muss burger. An order of our sliders includes three mini all-beef burgers, served with lettuce and tomato on pretzel rolls. I don’t add a lot of fancy ingredients to the burgers and like that the natural beef flavors can stand on their own. On our new spring menu, we will be offering the sliders on a light brioche bun.

Another popular menu item made with Rain Crow beef is our Braised Short Rib. The short ribs are braised in red wine and stock at a low temperature in the oven for close to six hours. They are served over creamy rosemary scented polenta and topped with a tangy tomato chutney. It’s an elegant, delicious dish.

These are two of our most popular items, thanks to Rain Crow Ranch. The sliders are a big hit with kids, too, and are great for sharing and even hearty enough to be an entree. Even if you are a vegetarian, this meat will make you wish you weren’t! I’m exaggerating, but you are missing out if you haven’t tried these menu items!

- Chef Andres Barrera

You Can Go Home Again…and I’m Happy to Be Back!

Welcome to our weekly food column. We will be writing a new post each week with the latest on our menu, specials, food and wine pairings, our chefs and more at City Winery Chicago!

For the first installment of our weekly food column, I want to take a moment to introduce myself and tell you how thrilled I am to be here at City Winery Chicago!

I’m a Chicago boy who took a great detour working at some wonderful establishments in NYC, including City Winery New York, but now I’ve come full circle by returning to Chicago to be your executive chef at City Winery Chicago.

My passion for food and cooking started as a young boy growing up in Marquette Park on the South Side. I was inspired by the great chefs I watched on television, such as Jeff Smith, Martin Yan and Julia Child (I was also intrigued by Jack Tripper from Three’s Company and the Swedish Chef!). I learned the basics from my mother, grandmothers and aunts, cooking with them from the time I was 10 years old. My love of food and cooking continued to evolve as I attended Le Cordon Bleu here in Chicago, where I studied classical French and Italian cuisine. I then moved to NYC, where I learned precise cooking and perfect plating techniques at the renowned Capital restaurant, worked slinging pizzas at the famed Franny’s in Brooklyn, then headed up the kitchen at City Winery New York.

I’m now happy to bring all of these experiences to the menu at City Winery Chicago. I love the challenge of creating a menu inspired by the wine producing regions of the world while also making food designed around our customers, many of whom are here to enjoy music or to dine in the bar with friends. I love creating sharable plates that are delicious and delight guests. A personal favorite of mine on the menu is our seared scallops with a carrot puree and bacon chutney. Another dish I am really excited about is an item we currently are developing for our spring menu called faux marrow. Conceived by my executive sous chef Kevin Coulter, this play on bone marrow is a vegetarian dish made from a variety of hand-foraged mushrooms we source from a great local purveyor. Be sure to come in later this spring to check it out!

I look forward to serving you and hope you enjoy your dining experience at City Winery Chicago!