Two Big Thumbs Up
I'm not saying I skipped eating yesterday, but a fairly light dinner of pasta with River Valley mushrooms and leftover beets (Genesis Growers) about did the it for me. My bloodstream was still oozing goose fat, the effects of Sunday night's family dinner at Mado. I'm stuffed.
As I've said before, as good as meals at Mado can be, there's no better way to enjoy the output of Chefs Rob and Allie Levitt than through their family dinner. The theme this time was goose, which like the wild boar previous, was procured by George Rassmussen of Swan Creek Farm. Rob Levitt managed to get the goose, or at least the goose fat, into most everything he served. Allie Levitt wisely restrained herself.
There may be no bigger attraction of the Mado Family Dinner than the all-you-can-eat buffet at the start of the meal. Call me crazy, but this is the one time I can eat as much of Mado's from-scratch (the starter's name is Francine) bread. OK, I'm pretty crazy about the sour cherry mostarda too; yea, and like the four year old a few seats away from me, I also very much enjoyed the goose liver mouse and goose rillettes. Of course one of us took two helpings. Rob mentioned that he had never worked with goose livers not of the fattened type before. So, you do not get that buttery foie thing. Instead, you get animal essence, like all the efforts of that goose had been channeled thought its normally operating liver to show its natural flavor goodness.
It takes much restraint to not simply gorge on charcuterie. I very much love Mado's next course, the vegetable antipasti. I am always so impressed and happy with the things they can do with a few ingredients. Mado seems able to slice up any vegetable thinly, dress it, and make it taste too good. They did this the other night with sunchokes and watermelon radishes. On the other hand, the roasted carrots got a bit of assistance from the goose cracklins.
We moved on to what some might call the primi piatti, which to others would be a meal and a half. Rob braised the lesser cuts of goose, the gizzards, wings, necks, and served it over polenta. To me, the goose tasted nicely Medieval, with some type of ancient spicing, but Rob insisted that it was really just the flavor of the goose as he used only a limited amount of rosemary and sage. My one complaint, the ratio of goose to starch. As good as the goose was, it was a bit too much compared with the polenta, but like I say, I'm also the guy hording the watermelon radish.
Rob places a salad course between his primo and secondo or main course. Frankly, it's always been an odd duck of a course (no pun intended!). Not that the food has not been good--I mean I loved-loved last dinner's apple-fennel-boar bacon salad, but I do not quite agree with the placement of this course. The idea of returning to a salad soon after similar vegetable antipasti seems, well, redundant. I'd suggest Mado put the salad after the main course as a palate refresher. (Me, I would still eat it if that's your fear.) On the other hand, no one much thought of this dinner's salad as a salad anyways. Big tubes of goose sausage about hid the frise component of the dish. Then, buried within, chunks of potato fried in goose fat. Really, this is about as ideal of a dish for my tastes as possible. All the things I like, matched in the ways I like. And like the braised goose, the goose sausage had a taste that said ancien cuisine, something to do with its course yet mushy texture (in a good way!).
Goose showed up in the main course, not just in the spit roasted breasts but in the turnips roasted in goose fat. I'm not sure which one I liked more. I do not believe any goose fat bolstered the carnival squash puree, but I liked that one a lot too. Now, cannot you see why a little green salad would fit in nicely about now.
Instead, we headed full bore into Allie Levitt's handiwork. The slices of sour cherry pie were not so big, but the pastry-ish crust was big in butter. There were two platters of the chocolate ginger cake, one with slices made from a bundt pan, one with slices cut in triangles. I asked Allie which one she thought contained more cake. She said the bundt type slices. Good, as that's the one I had eaten. I'm never going to be unhappy with sour cherry pie, certainly not one made from intense Seedlings cherries, but the spiced cake certainly thematically drove home the meal. An old fashioned dinner for sure.
I had about a third of a bottle of Limoncello with me, and all around me were very happy for its cleansing powers.
Mado's next family dinner will be a New Year's Eve extravaganza. Rob expects to make cotechinno. I've suggested he get some local caviar.
1647 N Milwaukee Ave
Two Thumbs Up!