Green Zebra- Chicago, Vegetarian, and Pretty Good

Our first night in Chicago was the only night we had dinner reservations. In the weeks before our trip, all of the menus we looked at looked good, but it was clear vegetarian fare was an afterthought of almost every chef in town. I insisted that we dine somewhere Sean could order more than one or two things off of the menu, and he suggested Green Zebra, a restaurant he has a fond memory of visiting in the past with his sister.

Green Zebra is a vegetarian fine dining establishment that’s been open since 2004 and the chef/owner Shawn McClain won a James Beard award in 2006 for Best Chef Midwest. There’s a very calm, clean feel to the place, and we enjoyed a really nice, relaxing dinner.

We started with some drinks, of course. I ordered a Michigan cider, he ordered a glass of bubbly, and then a pint… par for the course.

Vander Mill Cider

I’m a huge fan of quality cider, and would LOVE to see even more of it on menus everywhere.  When done well, cider isn’t a sickly sweet slightly carbonated beverage. It can be a lower alcohol effervescent refreshing experience. Vander Mill Cider, on the menu at Green Zebra, is a nice, sessionable cider.

Our first dish was a Grilled Werp Farm Gem Salad with breakfast radishes, green almonds, and an onion vinaigrette.

Grilled Werp Farm Gem Salad

It was delicious. But, we had one tiny little fourth of a head of gem lettuce on our plate, served over arugula, which essentially represented 75% of the greens on the plate. Disappointing at the time, it became a topic of conversation over our similarly priced, yet 100% true to its name, gem salad the following afternoon at The Publican.

Next in line came Hen of the Woods Mushroom Pâté served with rhubarb compote, bread and butter fennel pickles, and bread.

mushroom pate

I’m not a fan of pate, so I wasn’t really interested in ordering this, but it turned out quite pleasing. He, on the other hand, really really liked this dish, so I feel comfortable saying this was a successful appetizer.

We decided to order a bottle of wine while enjoying the first two dishes. Then ordered the Burratta all Panna which was one of my favorite cheeses over freekeh tabbouleh, preserved lemon, Calabrian chilies, and grilled frisée. This was very nice.

Buratta

Our fourth dish was a taste of Black Bean Potstickers with orange suprême and shoestring carrots in a peanut-tamarind sauce.

Black Bean Potstickers

This was a good dish we enjoyed and almost didn’t want it to disappear from our table. I could have popped those little potstickers in my mouth all night.

Next came Creamy White Corn Polenta with garlic scapes, roasted cippolini onions, and kohlrabi salsa verde.

Creamy White Corn Polenta

All I can say is: dangerously good. There was a substantial amount of cream or cheese or both in this polenta to make it so amazingly delectable. I had to leave some of it in the dish just to cut the guilt of so much travel-eating going on this weekend.

Our last “dinner” plate was the Culver Farm Duck Egg with smoked potato purée, parsley, and sourdough bread.

Culver Farm Duck Egg

I must admit, I was disappointed with this dish. We both expected the duck egg to be a bit more runny, especially since the menu was clearly highlighting a local duck egg. The flavors were good and the parsley leaf pressed into paper-thin potato slices was a nice artistic touch, but for $12.50, I do expect the local duck egg to be treated like the royalty it is.

Our last dish was not just a disappointment- it was so memorable of a food experience I think we’ll refer to it for a while now. We ordered a cheese plate, which we almost always prefer to a sweet dessert. Our server was unsure which cheeses were on the plate, so she stumbled a bit before checking with the chef. When she returned with news of a goat, a cow, and an aged cheese, we said, yes, please.

cheese plate

The cheese platter was well presented, and the jams/chutney paired very well. But, our aged cheese was running like a river overflowing its banks out of the center. It was either too old, or too warm, both of which were disappointing for a place that should be on point from start to finish.

Overall, we had a pretty good dinner at Green Zebra. I’m glad to see a vegetarian restaurant in business so many years. It was full of guests when we were there, and I met a couple ladies in the restroom who weren’t vegetarians but were having a great time. So, they’re doing something right.

Green Zebra

1460 West Chicago Ave

312-243-7100

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill, Burlington, VT

I always enjoy a good meal on my trips to Burlington, and this trip was no different. Sean and I were staying at Homeplace Bed & Breakfast, and had a great discussion with Mariot the owner over breakfast. Mariot was explaining to us that up in Vermont local food is incredibly local. Restaurants source cheeses, meats, eggs, and vegetables often from within a few miles’ radius. Local doesn’t just mean local to the state or region. A cheese plate in Burlington, for example, is likely very different from a cheese plate in Brattleboro or Montpelier, Mariot explained. Before finishing breakfast I had already decided I needed some local cheese that afternoon.

We met one of Sean’s sisters for lunch in downtown Burlington and decided to eat al fresco on a gorgeously sunny September afternoon at The Farmhouse Tap & Grill. As soon as I flipped  their menu over, I was reminded of the morning’s conversation with Mariot:

Their menu highlights nineteen different local farms, the towns where you’ll find the farms, and what they provide the restaurant. It then mentions twelve local cheese makers. We just don’t see too much of this in Colorado…

As I was on a northeast cider tasting tour, I tried some cider on tap. Sean was all about local beer. I didn’t write down which ones we tried, so these will go unnamed.

The first thing I look for on menus at restaurants like this is pickles. Of course they had house made pickles!

Roasted beets and goat cheese, both locally sourced, were also on the top of my list for lunch.

The cheese plate was also fun. Sean picked a few from the menu to custom build a plate with some apple butter and jam.

Everyone was SO patient while I snapped photos, and then food was quickly devoured. Next came our actual lunch. Sean had the Farmhouse Veggie Burger with Cabot cheddar, house made kimchi, and pickled jalapeños with fries.

His sister Angela had their Misty Knoll Free Range Turkey Burger with Vermont farmstead Tilsit cheese, cranberry mostarda, arugula, charred onions, and fries.

And I went for the Farmhouse Veggie Sandwich with house made hummus, Landaff Creamery “Landaff” cheese, Jericho Settler’s Farm carrots, dill pickles, local sprouts, grilled zucchini, herbed yogurt, on Red Hen Bread. I, as usual, went with a side salad to complement my veggie sandwich rather than fries. I’m just no fun!

We had a great lunch on their beautiful patio, and I’d definitely go back.

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill

160 Bank Street, Burlington, VT 05401

802.859.0888

 

 

The Kitchen Table Bistro, Richmond VT

If you’re dining up in Burlington, VT, I’d suggest heading out to Richmond for a taste of The Kitchen Table Bistro. You won’t be disappointed.

On a recent trip to Vermont to visit my illustrious sister, Alison Ellis- proprietor and designer of Floral Artistry, suggested we (my mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law) enjoy a meal at The Kitchen Table.  This farm-to-table restaurant has been serving local VT fare for nine years, and we enjoyed their ninth birthday celebration menu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started with bread and butter (fantastically fresh and delicious bread and butter); a kale, cashew, and blue cheese salad; a beet and goat cheese salad; and the baby lettuce salad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, we tasted some toasts. Yes, more of that great bread, please. The roasted red pepper and Cremont (a Vermont cheese I had the pleasure of sampling from Boulder’s very own cheese shop, Cured), was a crowd pleaser. I also really had to try the foraged mushroom toast since I’m often inspired by local Rocky Mountain forager and write of Hunger and Thirst for Life.  Anyway, I’ve had foraging on my mind and if the menu says “foraged mushrooms” I’m going to order them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We washed this all down with some Illahe Pinot Noir from the Willammette Valley in Oregon, a place I used to adore calling home.  A good time was being had by all.

 Mom and sister (who’s super pregnant at this point) were across from each other…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dad and brother-in-law played catch-up, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then more food came out… the entreés.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mom ordered scallops, of course. She always orders scallops.  I had stuffed quail, and apparently gave up on taking photos because I don’t have my sister or dad’s plates.  I did, however, get a shot of the burger and fries.

And then it was time for dessert…

Delectable. Divine. Simply delicious. Especially when enjoyed with a tawny port.

The Kitchen Table Bistro

802.434.8686

1840 West Main St.

Richmond, VT 05477

Taste 10: Port Wine and Cheese Pairing

After purchasing a bottle of W & J Graham’s 2007 Vintage Port, I knew I had to get over to Cured for the quintessential port pairing: Stilton.  I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask owner and cheese connoisseur Coral Frischkorn for a couple other cheeses to enjoy with this fine port wine.  She suggested Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and Cremont in addition to a nice piece of Stilton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s one thing I’ve come to believe about Cured: They know their cheese, how to pair it, and will not steer you wrong.  That’s why we also picked up some spiced nuts the sell there at Cured from the kitchen of Mateo,  which is located a few doors down.

This made a delicious pre-dinner indulgence with a thinly sliced baguette.  I also had Patti Miller’s port jelly and prosecco jelly , so we had fun “Spreading the Booze.”

 

So, for my 14 tastes of how much I care, tastes numbers nine and ten (Port and Cheese, respectively) were  fun, interactive taste sensations.  I do suggest you enjoy a wine and cheese pairing at home sometime soon.  It turns an average night into a festive occasion. I’m already planning my next one…

 

 

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