In the spirit of the changing of the seasons, Chicago restaurants are embracing spring dishes, cocktails and ingredients with vibrant florals!
Sometimes it’s the little things. And at Smyth, the arrangements are created by walking around The Farm, Smyth’s exclusive grow partner an hour south of Chicago, and clipping whatever looks beautiful at the time. In the spring, they consist of shorter plants and buds since the new growth is just starting, which will then transition into the showiest blooms and zinnias for summer. The fall starts to have dry flowers and leaves at mature growth and seed pods from milkweed, corn tassels and oak leaves are often combined for the arrangements. In the winter they cut sticks and evergreens such as pine, juniper, and spruce. Each seasonal arrangement combines the wild with the cultivated plants for an expression of The Farm at that time.
La Sirena Clandestina ties in spring with a cocktail list. Cha Calmante (calming tea in Portuguese) combines gin, chamomile tea, lime bitters and lavender and the Barba Grande shakes up bourbon, celery root liqueur, pineapple, lemon and bitters with rose hips.
At The Loyalist, head bartender Kirill Kuznetsoff switches up the cocktails as often as the menu upstairs at Smyth. New bar highlights include: The Root Of All Evil, a drink with a kick from the homemade fermented habanero honey which mixes with Pamplemousse, a grapefruit liqueur and tequila, and The Half-Demon, made with Japanese whisky infused with chamomile, amontillado sherry, genepy and red clover bitters
Fitting to this week’s time change, the Spring Forward cocktail at mfk.. A low ABV cocktail, it combines Lillet Rose with gin, St. Germain to give it a floral note and lime to brighten it up.
Transport yourself to a spring setting with the Garden Party cocktail at The Dearborn, where beverage director Sarah Clark and bartender Todd Reynolds have conjured a soda cocktail with juiced celery and cucumber made into a syrup, then steeped with tarragon and made into a soda, followed by adding the restaurant’s house DB Gin, St. Germaine and elderflower liquor.
New head bartender at Commons Club, Becky Dorsen, plays with Hibiscus flavors and Beefeater Pink Gin, with clove and topped with sparkling wine in the Love Potion No. 5. Vodka lovers will be keen for Mr. Tangerine Man, which combines Belvedere, Tangerine, Tarragon Honey, Herbsaint, and Chandon.
SPRING PRODUCE AND INGREDIENTS
Green and white asparagus makes an appearance on multiple menus, including Mark Steuer’s spring menu at Funkenhausen, Donald Young’s tasting menu at Temporis, and at John Shields's tasting menu at Smyth:
At Funkenhausen, Steuer takes a lighter approach to German food with lightly blanched asparagus that is tossed with radish, fennel, olive oil and lemon juice. They then make a tempura style beer batter and fry local smelt from Michigan until light and crispy. The asparagus are plated with the smelt, then topped with the salad of fennel, radish and herbs. Chopped hard boiled eggs, a few dollops of lemon aioli and herbed breadcrumbs round out the dish.
Chef Don Young uses white asparagus on a new variation of his A5 Miyazaki Wagyu beef dish on Temporis’s 10-course tasting menu. Formerly using celery root, Young features white asparagus from Holland seared and glazed with orange, white miso and an asparagus vinaigrette reduction. Then, shaved asparagus is pickled in rice vinegar and hazelnut mixture, with a white asparagus puree made with all peels and woody end peels are fermented to help hold the white color, cooked down in cream, pureed and strained. Then spooned onto the plate and served with some of the puree which as been dehydrated into powder and tossed with chicharrones.
At Smyth, Shields plays with textures and white asparagus as well. Some of the ingredient is steamed, some is fermented and shredded like crab, then seasoned with actual Dungeness crab, white asparagus cream and yogurt toffee.
The spring peas at Bar Biscay are combined with a homemade squid sausage and served with toast topped with housemade piperade, the popular Basque sauce.
New to The Dearborn’s spring brunch menu is a chanterelle mushroom & brie omelet, featuring seasonal black trumpet mushrooms (black chanterelles), fontina, gruyere, baby kale, and served with a bitter greens salad with radicchio and dandelion greens.
At the West Loop spot The Press Room try Braised Baby Leeks from Chef Jeff Williams with a brown butter emulsion and smoked trout roe and chives. The leeks have a green grassy flavor that’s complemented with the brown butter.
Finally, spring flavors are highlighted at Stan’s Donuts & Coffee through the new spring lemon LeStan, a seasonal take on their signature European croissant donut, from April 5 to Memorial Day, and with their Peep donut, a festive donut with a Peep marshmallow on top, available from April 5 to Easter.