I ride my bike to the windy city's hidden gems, lost goldmines, new kids on the block, and old standbys then tell you what to think and what to order. Check, czech, Česká it out...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Oh, You Fancy Huh? Part 6, Perenniality Show (Brunch)

In this wonky era of the celebrity chefdom and over scrutinization of food, it's easy to elevate our expectations to ridiculous heights for everyday stuff like brunch. What started out as an easy way for dinner focused restaurants to turn the weekend's unused produce, leftover meats, tired servers, and worn out cooks into profitable daytime business during an otherwise slow part of the week has turned into a full fledged meal with full fledged followings and expectations.

But it would appear that Paul Virant of Perennial Virant is one of the few chefs looking to buck this long standing trend. The brunch menu at Perennial reflects much of the simple yet inspired seasonal cuisine that the dinner menu has received so much laud over. Our Saturday morning was as lovely as it gets this time o' year and the food was flowing as though it was... liquid food.

––Sticky Bun––
If the powerful and politically well connected industrial tycoons who run Cinnabon ever found out about this almost perfect confection-like breakfast treat then I might be fearing for Paul Virant's safety right now. Fortunately for him they have no idea of this website's existence (yet). Intense caramel flavor paired with candied pecans and a cloudish consistency to the bun itself are just three of the things I liked about this, the other eighty-seven will be published in my forthcoming sticky bun text book.

––Apple Bread––
For most of recorded history banana bread has been the, pardon the phrase, top banana of the fruit/bread class of baked goods. At last, there is a serious contender and she is delicious Golden Delicious...This apple and bread marriage was so moist it was almost as if it was summoning moisture from the air (a property called hygroscopy, common amongst sweet breads). Its puddingesque moisture was complimented by a spiced cherry compote and a house made whipped cream. It was a simple dessert but a good dessert. Also, we ate it at the beginning of the meal, like true hedonists. 

––The Sandwich––
In this case the sandwich (a bold move by Virant, naming it that) in question was a duck breast reuben with house made sauerkraut, Russian dressing (a.k.a., thousand island), gruyere, and some pickled vegetable accouterments for that acidic punch that is often missing from reubens of this type. The sandwich was robust, rustic and respectful (that statement is both accurate and alliterative at the same time). Sour and fat notes were big but balanced up front and the duck breast was beautifully tender.

––The Southern––
Another mysteriously vague name above another finely tuned and thoughtful brunch offering. The Southern is house smoked ham, spicy kale, poached eggs and creamy grits. The flavor comes mostly from mild mustard seed, the delicately smoked ham and those rich, emulsifying eggs. It was delicious and understated and the best flavor balanced plate of the morning.

––The Signature––
If looking at this picture doesn't make your mouth water then we aren't friends. At least not the kind of friends I thought we were. Breakfast doesn't get much more unhealthy than mushroom gravy, buttermilk smashed potatoes and a Dietzler Farm chicken fried steak, but it also doesn't get much more knee-bucklingly good. The devastating richness of the dish was accented playfully by rosemary and savory. Please drink water with this.

The easy thing to do would be to make an "average home boy" joke here, however the writing on this website is above such demeaning and trite humour (also, we spell humor the British way, because we're classy). Homeboys are fries. Let's just get that mystery out of the way. These hand cut fries are deep fried, salted and served with brunkow cheese curds. Refreshingly unrefreshing in a way that only bonafide midwestern food can be. It was greasy, salty, and I can still feel it in my arteries.

While coffee and orange juice are fine and good on most mornings, brunch offers the rare weekly opportunity where it's appropriate to consume cocktails before noon in public. Perennial's cocktail list is small but it is good.

Big Brass Bed– While there wasn't anything big or brassy about this slick combination of Lillet Blanc, Cocchi Americano, and Marigold liqueur there was a lot smooth golden flavor. The first two ingredients were at one time interchangeable as Cocchi was basically an Italian version of the the French quinquina Kina Lillet which in the mid eighties the makers of Lillet removed the quinine from the recipe. But I digress. What this cocktail is in essence is a light, slightly bitter and fruited appetite inducing wine. I would have drunk five of them if they didn't bring the food out so damn fast.

Paul's Brunch Punch #2– All this little dandy is is mutsu apple puree, spiced rum, and cayenne syrup. It tasted like boozy liquid apple pie. Which part of that sentence didn't sound good to you?!

Searching for a brunch that will blow your socks off seems like a fools errand to me. There's just too much emphasis in the food world on dinner by chefs, managers or owners and petulant food bloggers alike. However, even a modest amount of attention to brunch goes a long way as my experience at Perennial shows. Maybe it's my palate but it seemed to me that most of the food on Virant's brunch menu is heavy, I mean it's good but I felt weighed down afterwards. So next time you're at the LPZ or get out of your Second City morning classes early head over to Perennial for a brunch that'll make you break a locally sourced sweat.

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Perennial Virant

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