Thursday, September 22, 2011


As part of the festivities surrounding Mrs. Hackknife's recent promotion at work, she hosted a happy hour for her co-workers on a Friday evening not too long ago (yours truly got to tag along). Since my urbanite cousin P.J. and his lovely wife Megan expressed an interest in getting together with us for dinner to celebrate the promotion (and we were already in the city with some free time after the happy hour wound down), we made arrangements to meet up with them at a nearby restaurant that all of us had been wanting to try, Province, on Jefferson just north of Randolph Street. Province is the 2nd restaurant in town for chef/owner Randy Zweiban, who made a splash locally with his first place, Nacional 27, when it opened several years ago. Unlike Nacional (which touts itself as "Nuevo Latino"), this venture is trying to capitalize on the current farm-to-table culinary trend that's pretty much swept the continent (and may actually be reaching overdone status, IMHO).

We showed up a few minutes late for our reservation, but were seated pretty much immediately. The dining room is not particularly big (maybe 20 tables?) and the space is very modern/clean, with lots of straight lines and black/white decor interspersed with pink walls to liven things up a bit (as if to say, "we're serious, but still a little whimsical, you know"). The restaurant happened to be offering a special 3-course menu for a set price ($35, I think) that week in the run-up for the Chicago Gourmet Fest and this is what I opted to go with. Unfortunately, I wasn't taking notes and I can't seem to find said menu posted anywhere in the Great Ether, so I'm having a difficult time regurgitating the details of my meal. I can tell you that I badly misread the menu (something about how the ingredients were punctuated with each dish description led me to believe that they were separate options), so much so that it was a bit of a surprise when my first dish was brought to the table (it included pickled veggies, which I was expecting, plus smoked salmon, which I WASN'T expecting - fortunately, I liked what was there). I can also tell you that my 2nd course had some pork belly as a garnish (I thought I had ordered it as the primary component of the dish), plus a different protein (beef?) that stood in as the main attraction; again, it was better than good. My dessert was spot-on: a coffee and "donuts" parfait, consisting of mocha crema, chocolate ganache, coffee ice cream, and cinnamon churros (no, I didn't suddenly have a flash of insight - I was able to locate this on the Province website's menu, the one course of mine that's still out there). For libation, a Pimlico Grid (Pimm's No. 1, Hendrick's Gin, lemon-lime juice, ginger beer, and cucumber) sounded interesting enough to try, but wasn't all that great (I wouldn't get it again). Despite my mediocre cocktail, though, the remainder of our experience was enjoyable enough that we'd consider a return visit sometime.

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