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...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

We're Just Ordinary People, Part 9: Put a Bird On It (Brunch)

Due to the millennials' collective unwillingness to cook an egg on the weekend, brunch restaurants have been multiplying like slow lorises around Chicago*.

At 2 Sparrows they're hoping to catch your attention through locally sourced ingredients and innovative but approachable preparations. I walked in a skeptical and hungry amateur food critic and walked out a...well you'll just have to read and see.

To Start
–Maple & Bacon Doughnut–

Nobody knows how doughnuts came into being but what we do know is that they've changed my life. For the better. I eat doughnuts all the time. Bad. Good. Soft. Old. Whatever. I love them. At 2 Sparrows they've decided to make doughnuts somehow better (apply skeptical tone here). In this case bacon and its old buddy maple (syrup, frosting, hockey team) are the willing participants. It's not especially clever but I'll be damned if it doesn't work. The doughnut melted into fatty oblivion in my mouth, the bacon wasn't overcooked (I take mine medium rare) and the maple frosting was authentic and beautifully restrained in the sweet department.

–Foie Gras & Cherry Compote Pop Tart–

Stop. Before you even say it. I know how wrong foie gras is. I've done the research and, frankly, I look past it every time someone puts this liver schmear on a menu. It tastes so good and is so interesting when contrasted against other components that all of the PETA voices inside my head go silent once it's placed in front of me. The vehicle 2 Sparrows uses is a perfectly flaky pastry crust cut into a rectangle (a pop tart, I guess) and jammed full of sour cherry compote and that other controversial ingredient previously discussed. The result is playful and decadent with the big, bad foie gras playing the role of Salty Rich and the irreproachable cherry playing the part of Sweetie Sourton. Their chemistry is palpable.

Housemade Tater Tots–

The most important thing to know about tater tots is that they're delicious. The most important thing to know about 2 Sparrows tater tots is that they're huge, delicious, and served with a homemade ketchup. The most important thing to know about ketchup is that it was originally intended to be cat food (true story). And, finally, the most important thing to know about me is that I care.

–Eggs Benedict–

It is as hard to improve on eggs benedict as it is to understand why Steve Nash won't return my emails, phone calls and handwritten letters requesting that he hire me to be his personal assistant. Both are pretty straightforward and both are things you can't ignore forever... Steve. In the benedict you have bread, meat, egg, and the french mother sauce, hollandaise. Where 2 Sparrrows changes things up is it offers two sauces: one "red" (spicy, southwesternish seasoned), and one "green" (savory, mildly herbed). The red was better. The only real flaw in this benny was the punyness of the english muffin made it no match for the formidable sauce and thick cut housemade pancetta that accompanied it.

–Shrimp and Grits–

Fact: I order shrimp and grits whenever it's available. Fact: like pizza, sex, and Owen Wilson films it's always good but not always mind blowing. Fact: in most cases it doesn't have to be because, at its core, it's simple food. The shrimp and grits at 2 Sparrows was in fact amazing. Aside from the fact that it was so rich and huge that I couldn't finish it without slipping into a coma, I loved everything about this dish. The shrimp: plump, flavorful and well seasoned. The grits: strong willed, rich and elegant. The tasso ham gravy:...it was tasso ham gravy, just mull that one over for a while and see if you can guess what I thought. 

–Market Quiche–

My sources tell me that Watch The Throne was inspired by a particularly vibrant piece of quiche Kanye and Hova shared while sipping cups of liquid excellence in an unobtainium mine in the basement of Richie Rich's house. This quiche may just be that quiche. Fortified with green vegetables and finished with a lovely golden crust, this eggy delight satisfied like only a breakfast pie truly can. It was one of the best quiches I've ever had.

–Biscuits and Gravy–

Much like the aforementioned shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy is comfort food that's easy to overcomplicate. People who order biscuits and gravy want just two things: gravy and something else that eludes me at the moment. 2 Sparrows biscuit never collapsed under the relentlessly heavy gravy. The gravy itself was a touch under spiced and perhaps this is why the lovely herbed sausage was able to shine through. It seems like 2 Sparrows has a requisite helping of tossed greens on every plate and on this one I definitely needed it.

Brass Tacks
As much as I love breakfast foods (doughnuts are breakfast food, right?) it's hard to impress me with brunch. I'm happy to tell you that 2 Sparrows did exactly that. At a meal which included no alcohol (alcohol is a breakfast food, right?) I can honestly say that I left feeling a bit buzzed from all of the glorious food I ate. So, 2 Sparrows, and I mean this with all the love in my heart, put a bird on it!

*Let it be known that I have joined the cult of people who are fascinated by these venomous primates and will use any means necessary to reference them as often as possible. Even if these references don't work as metaphors/similes/thoughts.

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