Monday, August 22, 2011
Waaaay back in November, Mrs. Hackknife and I bid on a collection of restaurant gift certificates (imagine that) in a silent auction to benefit the Chicago Training Center (CTC), a charity in which she's heavily involved and I know I've mentioned in past postings. Lo and behold, we won the certificates and finally decided this summer that it might actually be time to visit some of the places that were involved. The first, Sheffield's, is a bar on (duh) Sheffield Ave. not far from Wrigley Field that just recently went through a sort-of rebranding as a casual barbecue joint. Prior to a Cubs game on a Sunday evening, we stopped in to nosh and use our $50 credit. The food wasn't bad; however, when we detached the gift card from its paper mounting, we discovered that it was only valid for a 2nd Sheffield's location (in the suburbs) that had recently gone out of business. The nice folks at Sheffield's #1 agreed to honor half of the $50, so all was not lost, at least not until we arrived at the game to watch the Cubs get beat down by the Yankees.
Which brings us to our 2nd freebie place, The Gage, a gastropub on Michigan Avenue across the street from Millenium Park. The Gage is very much in the mold of another of our preferred local eateries, the Publican, meaning many good beers and much to choose from as far as unique comfort food (sausages, poutine, duck and pig parts served in inventive ways, etc.). I'd already dined here twice and Mrs. Hackknife had been here an extra time with a client who happens to be chummy with the restaurant's owner, Billy Lawless; in fact, Billy introduced himself to her during their visit and told her to call him the next time she was planning on coming by. Business card in hand, Mrs. Hackknife dialed Billy up around 4 on the afternoon before our reservation and left him a message that we'd be by for dinner that night. This little perk managed to get us a quiet table in the back of the noisy dining room with two complimentary glasses of rose champagne (one of my favorites), courtesy of Billy (who, sadly, wasn't in the restaurant that evening). Nothing like starting the meal off on a high note. Anyway, we picked fried chicken livers with spicy mustard as an appetizer (listed as "snacks" on the menu) and they were delicious, tasty, but not greasy, washed down with a nice Belgian beer. Next up were an amazing venison tartare (including quail egg, capers, and a mustard vinaigrette) and a braised rabbit salad with crisp rice, eating both of which made me feel like we were doing our part to reduce the woodland creature population in our neighborhood.
By this time, we were beginning to fill up, but not so much that we couldn't tackle the evening's marquee dish: locally crafted sausages served with crisp potatoes mixed in brie. The first sausage was a house-made pheasant/scallion/thyme creation, while the second was a Polish wedding sausage created by Bobak's, a well-known local provider of quality Polish food. Both were great, but the wedding sausage was incredibly delicious, a blend of garlic and pepper flavors in a neat, smoky bundle. Once our waiter let us know that Bobak's retails it around town, I immediately started beating the bushes to find some for the Commissary (still looking, unfortunately). To help counteract the excessive consumption of meat at our table, we ordered a side of Brussels sprouts (served in bacon and brie, of course) that ended up being just a wee bit better than the sprouts I'd eaten in Asheville at Tupelo Honey the prior week. Desserts were a little anticlimactic, but just as good - we shared a chocolate and salted caramel ganache with toasted milk ice cream, plus a cinnamon brioche with marscapone ice cream and blueberries. All told, we spent every penny of our $150 gift card, plus $0.91 more (oh, and $30 extra to cover tip). Billy (or at least his staff, to be accurate) clearly did us right and we'll be back soon, possibly even before another silent auction....