Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Food Notes from the Windy City: Frontera Grill

Frontera Grill has been on my list of must visits for years; I finally had my chance when an 8:45 am call yielded one of the evenings last reservations ( did I mention the phones start ringing at 8:30 am and sell out within 1/2 hour.

Susannah and I met my good college friend Jane Corey Holt and her husband Doug in the bustling bar, filled with folk art and a lively crowd. We started the night with a few Blood Orange Margaritas- the perfect combination of tart and sweet.

We started our meal with a series of ceviche:

Ceviche Fronterizo:lime-marinated Hawaiian blue marlin with tomatoes, olives, cilantro, jícama and green chile

Ceviche Yucateco: steamed organic shrimp and calamari tossed with lime, orange, habanero, avocado, jícama and cilantro

Seaside Cocktail of shrimp and lime-marinated cod

And continued with a Queso Fundido, an artisanal melted Jack cheese with garlicky roasted peppers, homemade chorizo sausage and oregano.

For the main course I had Pato al Pasilla, an adobo-marinated wood-grilled Gunthorp duck breast in spicy pasilla-shiitake mushoom sauce; served with queso añejo mashed potatoes and grilled green beans. Wow... this is not the Mexican food I was weaned on. This is some high brow, tasty eats. Susannah had an equally great dish, Pollo en Estofado Almendrado: green chile-marinated Gunthorp chicken in Oaxacan estofado (anchos, toasted almonds, roasted tomatoes, capers, olives, sweet spices) with great-big chicken tamalón and pickled jalapeño-watercress salad

Bayless made his way around the restaurant and it took some will-power not to ask for a signature on my menu.

We alse munched on Verduras en Escabeche: homemade pickled jalapeños with carrots and cauliflower- a Mexican version of the Italian anitipasto favorite-Giardiniera .

For dessert we shared a homemade ice cream sandwich- a sweet finish to a wonderful meal.

Just three days later, Rick and Deann Bayless' groundbreaking Mexican restaurant received the 2007 Outstanding Restaurant Award from the James Beard Foundation on Monday at ceremonies in New York.

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