Polaroid-Style at Au Cheval
We swung by the diner for some photos, but this time we came armed with an old instant Polaroid camera. We handed it off to the team at Au Cheval to see their viewpoint of the diner. The results were a mix of double exposures and singles exposures, abstracts and realism, familiar faces and unknown. The film is a reincarnation of the original Polaroid film called Project Impossible.
Two of the Polaroids shot by the Au Cheval team. A few more…
A Taste Around Town Hits Au Cheval
Prime your wine-tasting palate and come sample a sundry of wines; Taste Around Town is at Au Cheval from May 14-25, 2012. We are carrying three featured wines— see below for details— that are available by the glass or in a wine flight (the wine flight will consist of 3 ounce pours of each of the three wines) and the Taste Around Town menu has a suggested pairing for each wine.
After you’ve sampled, go to the Taste Around Town website http://www.bottlenotes.com/tastearoundtownchicago and enter your tasting notes from the wines. The site is a great way to learn about wines, discover your own taste preferences, and meet other wine enthusiasts. Look out for menus and informational flyers at the host stand! Here’s a peek at the three diverse wines we’re offering:
Naked Grape Pinot Grigio Varietal: Pinot Grigio Vintage: NV Producer: Naked Grape Region: California Production: stainless steel fermentation Taste: Lemon meringue, melon, green apple (fruits), acacia, dried honey, white tea (secondaries), light. Great pair with mixed raw vegetable salad, chopped chicken liver and mixed green salad. minerality, medium body, medium acidity, medium alcohol. Summary: Fresh, light and approachable. Great summer wine.
The Naked Grape is a negociant working in California. They produce 4 different cuvees that each focus on a single varietal. Their wines are approachable and a great value.
Muga Rosado Varietal: Garnacha (60%), Viura (30%), Tempranillo (10%) Vintage: 2011 Producer: Bodegas Muga Region: Rioja, Spain Production: fermented in large oak vats Taste: Fruits are soft & mello: watermelon, pineapple, white peach. Secondary characteristics: white flower, sage & thyme. Broad, stony minerality. Medium body, medium plus acidity, medium plus alcohol. Great pair with the omelette of the day, raw vegetable salad and salmon Summary: This rosé is rich, complex and mineral driven.
Bodegas Muga is one of the oldest, most historic wineries in Rioja. All of their vineyards are located in Rioja Alta, where they own 620 acres of vines. They ferment all of their wines in large, wooden vats that consist of a variety of oak types ( French, American, Hungarian and Slovenian). The winery is classic and traditional.
Saint Cosme “Les Deux Albion” Varietal: Syrah, Grenache, carignan, mouvedre Vintage: 2010 Producer: Saint Cosme Region: Cotes du Rhone Production: aged in concrete & large wooden vats Taste: Fruits: Blackberry, raspberry, black cherry. Secondaries: violets, licorice, black pepper, game. Broad, stony minerality, Forest Floor. Medium plus body, medium plus acidity, medium tannin medium alcohol. Dark, structured and mineral; more serious than most Cotes du Rhone. Great pair with the duck heart hash and bratwurst. Summary: This wine is rich, smoky and earthy; a full bodied red with dark fruits.
Saint Cosme is located directly North of Gigondas and has been making wine for over 400 years. Unlike most Cotes du Rhone, this wine is 100% estate fruit and aged in a combination of concrete and large wooden casks. The resulting wine has pure, dark fruit and a spicy minerality. This is an excellent example of terroir; earthy, spicy and gamey, all elements that can only be achieved in the Southern Rhone Valley. Even though Saint Cosme is a negociant, it prides itself on making quality wines that emphasize terroir. ‘Les Deux Albion’ is a cuvee composed of only Cotes du Rhone Village fruit and has the quality of a Gigondas.
Supporting Small Producers
If you’re interested in supporting small producers, like us, you’ll want to scope out the SMALL Showroom this Friday. Creators of local products will be demonstrating and sampling their products in a gallery-like space. Plus, each Friday during May SMALL Showroom will host promotional events, supper clubs and tastings.
According to its website, “SMALL is a new organization that promotes companies and individuals that make locally manufactured products and provide services to small businesses and creators.” Last weekend’s opening featured over 100 products from the likes of Few Spirits, Half Acre Beer Company, Koval Distillery, Bridgeport Coffee, Urban Belly Foods, and more.
The SMALL Showroom will open from May 4th to May 27, 2012 in the Co-Prosperity Sphere in Bridgeport and definitely seems worth checking out.
Co-Prosperity Sphere 3219 S Morgan Street smallma.org Hours: 5-9pm Admission: Free
The reigning queen of desserts, mille feuille.
With all the fun things to do in Chicago, don’t forget that it’s Mother’s Day this Sunday, May 13. What better way to celebrate than to bring Mom to Au Cheval for a little dinner?
From the pan to the bun
If you’re looking for something to do before tucking into dinner at Au Cheval in the coming weeks, we uncovered a screen print show that looks to be quite cool. Starting on May 11th, the lofted gallery space near the Damen Blue Line, Public Works, will host Pulled— a Catalog of Screen Printing. Pulled showcases a vast amount of work from over 40 designers around the world. While screen printing came into existence because of its necessary ability to mass produce, there is still vast artistry and creativity in each unique hand-pull of ink across the screen. Public Works writes on its website, “Pulled examines the explosive creativity loosed by a rigorous breakdown and buildup of layers, opacities, exposures and pulls.”
The show sprung from a book by Mike Perry, a Brooklyn based designer and artist. Pulled has traveled to LA, Brooklyn, Portland, and Cincinnati. The list of contributors is pretty cool, too: Ashkan, Deanne Cheuk, Maya Hayuk, Cody Hudson, Seripop, Sonnenzimmer and Marcroy Smith among others.
It’s definitely worth checking out, whether your an art buff or just a casual appreciator. And of course, they’ll be plenty to discuss over dinner.
May 11 — June 24
Public Works Gallery 1539 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Opening Friday, May 11th, 2012 – 7:00-10:00pm
This past week Au Cheval had a favorite Hungry Hound stop by to do a little filming for an upcoming episode of his show on ABC. We have a few behind the scenes shots to share as well some of the action on a packed Wednesday night. The Au Cheval episode will air in late April. In the meantime, you can catch up with Steve Dolinsky, aka the Hungry Hound on his [blog]. And if you haven’t been yet, come sample Au Cheval for yourself.
The Chow Hound himself setting up the table
On the Beer Menu: Founders Red Rye
While the beer menu at Au Cheval is a work of art in itself, a highly curated selection of so many fantastic beers to try, there’s one tempting red rye ale from Founders that might ring a bell. Maybe you’ve heard of Founders, noticed that they’re from the not-so-distant state of Michigan. But what you might not know is that the brewery isn’t just winning regional attention, the accolades from tastemakers are pouring in on a national scale. But it all started out quite differently.
Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers of Founders both quit their day jobs to “chase their dreams and open a brewery….” They figured, “if you’re going to live life, you ought to live it hard, without regrets.” And so they went to making beer.
At the start Founders was brewing, as they themselves called it, “well balanced but unremarkable beers,” which were stumbling along in the myriad of small craft beers. Nearing bankruptcy, Stevens and Engbers decided to simply make the beers that they wanted to make, but had feared might be less commercially palatable. Founders’ beers changed. The philosophy became: “We don’t brew beer for the masses. Instead, our beers are crafted for a chosen few, a small cadre of renegades and rebels who enjoy a beer that pushes the limits of what is commonly accepted as taste. In short, we make beer for people like us.” Things were changing— if Founders was going to go down, they were going to go down fighting, doing things their own way.
As it turns out the rest of the beer drinking community liked the rebellious streak, the in-your-face ales, the big body, and flavor that Founders had developed. The awards poured in. Ratebeer.com gave them the 2nd best brewery in the world, and several beers were listed in the top one hundred beers of the world on Beeradvocate.com. Founders came home with four medals at the 2010 World Beer Cup, and two medals at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival.
The red rye ale is malted with rye in lieu of barley. With heavy spice notes, rich mouth-feel and a brick-red tone to the ale, it’s as easy on the eyes as it is to drink. Founders red rye is brewed with no less than four varieties of Belgian caramel malts and 100% Amarillo hops. This is a mouthful you won’t soon want to forget. Pull up a stool at the zinc diner counter and order up a Founders Red Rye; it’s a great beer, period.
General Tso’s Chicken
Toward the top of the diner menu, well above the burgers and fried bologna sandwich; below the salads, lies a bellwether to Au Cheval’s international inspirations: General Tso’s fried chicken with dried chili and brown sugar glaze. An unusual dish at most diners, but not here.
An obvious tribute to Chinese cooking, the chicken is simultaneously unique and familiar. The simmering familiarity of fried chicken combined with the spicy and slightly sweet, tang got us thinking, who was General Tso; and why does he have an epoynomous chicken dish? So we started to dig, and discovered that history has eroded much of the obvious facts about the provenance of General Tso’s chicken. Although one thing is appears likely, General Tso, probably never ate his namesake chicken.
The dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang, or Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty general and statesman. Interestingly, his actual connection to the dish seems dubious. He is said to have enjoyed it, and perhaps his tastes helped to create the dish, but there are no recorded recipes from his time and his family seems to have no in-depth knowledge or recipes of the dish.
General Tso was born Zuo Zongtang in 1812, into a poor family in Xiangyin County, Hunan. After failing his official court exams seven times, he abandoned his civil servant and political aspirations, to study western political sciences.
In 1850 he became an advisor to the governor of Hunan during the Taiping Rebellion, and from there began commanding a small force of troops. His career continued to be largely successful thereafter, winning accolades and military victories until late in life. He appears to have been somewhat of an extraordinary general, who, according to the Washington Post, “had the top leaders of the Nian Rebellion executed with the proverbial “death of 10,000 cuts”). Eeks!
General Tso, it appears, did not embark on a career as a chef. Nor are there tales of him cooking of batches of his famous friend chicken for troops. Alas, it seems his greatest legacy was not of his own accomplishments. Unless you count a love of fried chicken.
The actual roots of the General Tso’s Chicken likely come from the 1949 exodus of chefs from China, first going abroad, and then coming to the U.S. in the 1970s.
The New York Times has reported that the recipe for General Tso’s chicken was invented by Taiwan-based Hunan cuisine chef, Peng Chang-kuei who had been an apprentice of a famous early 20th century Chinese chef. Peng was the Nationalist government banquets’ chef and fled with Chiang Kai-shek’s forces to Taiwan during the Chinese civil war. He worked as a chef until 1973 when he moved to New York and opened Peng’s Restaurant on East 44th Street in New York. Since the dish was new to American palates, Chef Peng Jia used common place ingredients to create the the house specialty, or so the story goes.
There are, however; claims that the chicken dish was invented at rival, Shun Lee Palaces on East 55th St. The restaurant lays claim to be the first to serve General Tso’s chicken; and credits the dish to a Chinese immigrant chef named T. T. Wang, dating to 1972.
Regardless of the actual inventor of the chicken dish, it is firmly planted as a staple food in Chinese restaurants throughout the United States; And with good reason— the sizzling hot, spicy and slightly sweet breaded and fried chicken is a masterpiece of deliciousness. Part of the experience is also the fun of getting a little messy. Eaten by hand, the chicken and its sauce has been know to coat the fingers and linger in the corners of the mouth. Fear not, General Tso’s chicken comes with warm towels to clean up, but finger licking is always welcome, too.
Une Soiree at the Diner
Au Cheval is cozy any night of the week, but last night with the warm winds outside, the awesome reel to reel tunes playing, and the smell of home-cooked food wafting through the air, the diner was extra chill. Here are a few shots from the evening.
La Trappe Isid’or: Homage to an Original Trappist Brewer
Among the over 30 beers on tap at Au Cheval is the stately Isido’or from La Trappe. This gem is a commemorative, special occasion beer— i.e. it’s one to try now, because it won’t last forever. This ale was created as a homage to the Dutch friar, Isidorus Laaber who was the founding monk of the Dutch Trappist brewery, Brewery de Koningshoeven in the Netherlands, which makes La Trappe.
So who are these Trappist monks and what makes them special? The answer is in the beer, friends. The Trappists are a monastic order of monks originally from the commune of Soligny-la-Trappe in North-West France. These monks ascribed to the 48th chapter of the Rule of St. Benedict: “for then are they monks in truth, if they live by the work of their hands.” Prizing self-sufficency, the monks took to producing beer, cheese and other products, which eliminated the dependency on alms.
In 1880, amid religious uncertainty in France, the abbot Dominicus Lacaes of the Trappist monastery Sainte-Marie-du-Mont in Northern France sent one of his monks to find refuge abroad. Friar Sebastianus Wyart was dispatched. On his travels, he found that the Netherlands would be an ideal spot to abscond, if necessary.
Although the remaining monks were never forced to flee, Wyart stayed on in the Netherlands founding the Koningshoeven monastery— which today is one of only seven breweries and the only Dutch monastery permitted to officially produce Trappist style beer. The rules surrounding Trappist products are expectantly stringent.
A beer can only be called a ‘Trappist beer’ if it is brewed at a Trappist monastery under the supervision and responsibility of the monks (there’s an official seal). And it must meet the following criteria.
-The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, by or under control of Trappist monks. -The brewery, the choices of brewing, and the commercial orientations must obviously depend on the monastic community. -The economic purpose of the brewery must be directed toward assistance and not toward financial profit.
The La Trappe Isid’or is described by the brewery as, “a lightly sweet amber beer with a hint of caramel. The beer tastes softly bitter and has a fruity aftertaste. La Trappe Isid’or is brewed with the self-cultivated Perle hop.”
And on an even more generous note, the brewery pledges “The profit of La Trappe Isid’or will go entirely to the co-friars in Uganda. Since they fled the violence in Kenya in 2008, they have had to start from scratch in Uganda. With the profit of La Trappe Isid’or, the community there will be able to build a new monastery and find a new source of income.” We’ll raise a glasses to that!
For more information about Trappists and Authentic Trappist Products, click here
For more information about La Trappe, click here
Creamy Sexy Blue
Crumbles of the creamy sexy blue cheese.
Could that be the name of a cheese? A good cheese? Shouldn’t it have a more traditional name? No, says Giles Schnierle of the Great American Cheese Collection in Chicago, which supplies Au Cheval with the cheese. Schnierle works with private label cheese-makers to create unique and traditional cheeses which he sells out of his Chicago warehouse. One evening, he and some cheese-makers and friends were having dinner, discussing cheese when the conversation turned to the blue in question. A woman at the table mused aloud, “That’s a creamy sexy blue.” And according to Schnierle, everyone at the table kind of stopped, and said, ‘That’s it, that’s the name!’ And so it is.
A round of the Creamy Sexy Blue
Working on the staff meal Matzah ball soup on the menu
And it just so happens that the Creamy Sexy Blue is part of what makes for such a decadent omelet at Au Cheval. The creamy texture and slightly salty tang of the Creamy Sexy Blue weaves its magic amid the eggs and sauteed vegetables with ease, making for a melt in your mouth experience that’s as comforting and cozy as a childhood meal, and as adventurous and epic as trip to Paris. Creamy Sexy Blue is also working its magic in the raw vegetable salad.
Hand-made brass candle-holders by Leah Ball
dubstuff asked: Where is your menu? THANKS.
Right now the menu is just in the restaurant. We’re working on fine tuning it and we’ll likely have the menu available online at a later point. Thanks for asking and hope to see you in for dinner.
— Au Cheval