Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All Quacked Up for Fall

The luscious duck gyros from Taxim. (Photo: Taxim)

I've always been a big fan of the duck, but until lately you could only find it on most menus in traditional form (Peking, roasted, smoked), and paired with rice, veggies and thick, rich sauces.

But that's all changing as more restos are using duck in unconventional ways this fall, from a casual BBQ joint shredding it and pairing with a sweet and spicy Caribbean jerk sauce to a trendy new Greek eatery putting a new spin on the classic gyro:

The guys behind Logan Square newcomer Brand BBQ Market want to set their spot apart from the hundreds of barbecue joints around the city. They'll offer the typical slow-smoked pulled pork and baby back ribs, but they're also introducing smoked tofu and pulled duck. Just think of how good that'll taste when you pour their homemade Caribbean Jerk sauce offering the perfect tang. One thing to note: They're BYOB for now.

Chaise Lounge's executive chef Cary Taylor is constantly tinkering around in the kitchen, stamping his deep Southern roots all over classic dishes. Right now he's offering a duck cassoulet, and he amps it up nicely with black-eyed peas and collard greens.

Gemini Bistro's decadent duck nachos. (Photo: Barry Brecheisen)

What's certain to be a fall fave can be found on the menu at Lincoln Park's Gemini Bistro, which is quickly gaining a name for its contemporary American menu engineered by chef/owner Jason Paskewitz. If you don't start with the duck confit nachos (with shredded duck leg, manchego cheese and mango salsa), you are definitely missing out on something sensational.

What we're totally intrigued by this season is the brand-new duck confit Shepherd’s pie on the menu at Stanley’s. It should come as no surprise, as the down-home hangout for Lincoln Parkers is known for comfort fare. This one includes garlic whipped potatoes, sweet peas, roasted red peppers, corn and smoked Gouda.

And the runaway hit at Wicker Park's Taxim is no doubt the duck gyro entree. A warm Pontian pita is stuffed generously with spit-roasted marinated duck, pomegranate glaze, fresh mint and walnut yogurt mousse.

The (Lynn) House Advantage

Lynn House, award-winning mixologist of graham elliot (Photo: graham elliot)

Who says only boy bartenders have all the fun?!

Award-winning mixologist Lynn House—who's also in charge of graham elliot's cocktail program—seems to be having the time of her life in her second career.

The former full-time actress recently won a place in the finals for the Alchemists of Our Age competition sponsored by Benedictine and Esquire. It's to honor the 500th anniversary of the liqueur created to revive Benedictine monks in 1510.

Going down in New York at the end of the year, each finalist will create a signature Benedictine cocktail, with the winner rewarded with a full-page spread in Esquire's January issue. All finalists will also be featured in the magazine.

And finally, House's signature London Calling, which has been on GE's menu since the restaurant opened in 2008, gets a spot in Gaz Regan's new book, The Bartender's Gin Compendium.

House deconstructs the classic British-originated Pimm's Cup by blending Plymouth Gun with Pimm's #1, using fresh ginger water in place of ginger ale, and infusing homemade apple butter (with apples from her garden!) with a light homemade apple juice. It's topped off with fresh lemon for acidity.

We'll take one, or two, or three!