Friday, March 15, 2013

The Purple Pig, Chicago

Cheese, Swine, and Wine

Purple Pig Chicago

The Purple Pig is located on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, but sits apart, entry gained by a short walk along the side of a building -- during nice weather an outdoor seating area is available, though the restaurant was not seating people there in the cold, even with a tent and outdoor heaters.

My first impression of the restaurant was one of surprise, as it seemed minuscule, with no room to stand, sit, or barely turn around. However, a mix of communal tables, seating at the bar, and some typical tables got quite a few diners into that small space. With the restaurant a 3-time winner of the Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand (2011-2013), even on a weekday evening the wait can be a while, so be prepared to enjoy some drinks or leave your cell phone number with the hostess -- they'll let you know when your table is ready.

The Purple Pig is a great place to send your taste buds on a trip around the Mediterranean, not just in their food options, but the neverending list of wines from countries rarely seen in a restaurant. Italy, Greece, Crete, Spain and others are joined by the French and more -- gutsy and far reaching, nicely done. For me, to start, the Luis Pato "Casta Baga," an orange sparkler from Portugal, with Laima getting the suggested Di Giovanna Nerello from Sicily. Two wines, two new varietals for my Wine Century Club project, and so many more on their menu, should that be an aim of yours as well.

Purple Pig Appetizers

The Purple Pig's menu is almost overwhelming in its diversity, with so many dishes that sound like must-haves, making it difficult to choose. I can't imagine how many visits it would take to try all the antipasti, cheese, charcuterie, salads, fried items, or smears, but after this meal, I'd be willing to give it a go.

But choose we must, so Laima got the Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs, on the advice of a coworker who had eaten here before. A large serving, this probably could have been a meal on its own and should definitely be shared. I wanted to order one of each of the vegetarian options, but limited myself to the Butternut Squash, Pumpkin Seeds, Brown Butter and Salata, the Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Pecorino Noce and Parmigiano Reggiano, the Salt-Roasted Beets, Whipped Goat Cheese and Pistachio Vinaigrette, and the Eggplant Parmesan Balls. Each tasty to a fault, only the shaved Brussels Sprouts fell flat to me, seeming somewhat lifeless and salty, though perhaps it simply paled in terms of the appetizer competition. Hands down the best combination for me was the Butternut Squash with the Alexakis Vidiano from Crete (how often can you drink a wine from Crete?! And another varietal for the Wine Century Club.). The wine went well with everything though, with a nice balance between acidity and fullness.

Purple Pig Entrees

Entree options were never-ending for Laima, more limited for me. The chef created a vegetarian panini for me, with a plain grilled cheese an option as well. The panini was good, but the garnish/side salad was amazing, with pickled veggies, greens and a tasty vinaigrette -- one of my favorite tastes of the evening. Laima's Pork Osso Bucco with Soft Polenta and Gremolata was tender, perfectly cooked, with enough on the plate to share, especially if ordered with appetizers.

Purple Pig Desserts

The dessert options, like the rest of the menu, are varied and range across the sweetness scale. We opted for the Panino con Nutella {Sweet Sandwich with Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, Marshmallow & Bananas} and the Sicilian Iris {Ricotta & Chocolate Chip Filled Fried Brioche}. Both were quite decadent, with each of us preferring one over the other, but appreciating each for its own merits. Dessert was accompanied by a Smith Woodhouse Vintage 2007 port for Laima and a Alvear ”Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927” sherry for me -- both very good with the desserts (likely able to stand on their own as well), with espresso rounding out the evening for me.

After this meal, it's clear why this restaurant is an award winner and filled with satisfied diners. A fun atmosphere, communal seating that allows you both to spy on and interact with others, a tremendous wine list, full bar, and food to suit many tastes (and to find new favorites), the list goes on and on. If you're on the Mag Mile, either visiting from out of town or simply shopping (window or otherwise), make this a stop on your itinerary and make plans to return, because there are simply too many good choices to do justice in one visit.

Menu, hours, and more information can be found on the Purple Pig website, by liking on Facebook, and by following on Twitter.

The Purple Pig on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: This meal was comped for review purposes. Some information was taken from the company website; all opinions are my own.

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