I feel pretty confident that everyone reading this will agree in the following statement: one of the best parts of traveling is trying new places to eat. Even if you are traveling to a place you have been a hundred times before, there are always new and exciting places (assuming you are going to a city and not to the middle of BFE). This past weekend I ventured to Chicago to visit some friends who live there. I have been to Chicago so many times before I can’t even give you an estimate on number. This just goes to show that my earlier statement is true, every time I go I try a new place. This time it just so happened to be the tail end of Chicago’s restaurant week, needless to say, the great new restaurants were the place to be this past weekend. The first stop of the weekend was The Chop Shop (which I will be focusing on in this post, the others are to come later), known for having the best cuts of meats, as if the name itself doesn’t give that away.
The Chop Shop has an interesting set up, when you walk in you feel like you are at a deli, or a butchers. In fact, you are. The restaurant seemed to be pretty expansive, we were sitting upstairs, but it looked like they had a back room and a few outdoor patios for warmer weather seating. Their menu is just expensive enough not to be overwhelming. The specialties obviously include steaks and various chops, as well as charcuterie platters, with the butcher just down the stairs you can be sure the cuts are as fresh as it gets. I have been in a seafood mood lately, so rather than getting a nice rib-eye or pork chop, I decided to get mussels. They were served in a smoked tomato broth, andouille sausage, in a garlic white wine sauce. They were good, however, I feel that the smokiness of the tomato broth and the sausage combined added an almost weird flavor to the muscles. Not that the flavor was bad, just unexpected and I still can’t decide, days later, how I feel about it. The definite highlight of the meal was the chicken liver mousse that came with the butcher’s board. This is probably the best chicken liver mousse you’ve ever had, and if you have never eaten any chicken liver mousse before you need to stop reading this and run out right now to try some.
Now, onto the more important part, the wine. They have a decent amount of wines by the glass, but if you are going to buy a bottle their list is much more thorough. To begin, to have with our Signature Butcher’s Board, we started with a Spanish Garnacha, Breca Estate Bottled Old Vines Garnacha, 2012. The Garnacha grape, originating from Spain, is generally a more spicy and berry flavored grape. Younger wines will be a bit more fruity, while as it ages the wine will begin to have more leather or tar flavors. This particular bottle is a deceptively lighter red color, with ripe fruit and spicy aromas on the nose. The taste, however, is bold and rich, prominently of darker fruits with a little bit of pepper. You can taste a little bit of the oakiness, which is balanced with smooth medium tannins and acidity. Overall, a very good bottle of wine, perfect for drinking with a meat and cheese platter, I give it a 9.0.
Since most of us went for a more Italian theme with our entrees, mussels in a tomato sauce, gnocchi, and so on, we decided on a Chianti and chose the Rocca Delle Macie Famiglia Zingarelli Chianti Classico, 2013. It was a good wine to drink with food. With a red fruit palate and a little bit of spice, it was pretty dry but also a bit lighter than expected. It is a bright ruby red color, which was a little bit hard to tell in the dark or the restaurant after it got dark outside, so I could be wrong. It may have been a bit too acidic, but since I was drinking it with food, not alone, it wasn’t something that really bothered me. A good food chianti, I would say it’s about an 8.7. If you are ever in Chicago I would recommend checking out The Chop Shop, it has an interesting menu and a decent selection of wine by the glass and by the bottle.