Monday, June 11, 2012

Off the Map: They're Like Cheetos... Only Cheetos Are Delicious

Spicy Pork Rinds -- The Publican, Chicago, IL
The Publican

To give some idea as to the extent of the planning behind our foray to Chicago, Vodka had pulled together a ten-page, color-coded itinerary.  An itinerary so thorough and detailed and well-paced and exceptionally OCD that it would impress the Queen of England's Ladies in Waiting.

And then Avec came along and ruined the whole thing.
Ways to Make Vodka Hate You: Screw Up Her Scheduling
As it happens, we were scheduled to go to Avec at 3:30pm the day we arrived in Chicago.  After a full three hours of fasting, we had been more than ready for some chorizo-stuffed dates and a couple goblets of wine.

Avec, unfortunately, had other plans for us, as they had decided to CLOSE for a private event.  Close ALL NIGHT.  Leaving us stranded in the West Loop with no recourse and completely thrown off our itinerary.

We'll remember this, Avec.
This Is Grounds For an Automatic One-Star Demotion
Trying to maintain sunny attitudes, we wander a few blocks away to The Publican, which is also supposed to open at 3:30pm.  Figuring that Avec's failure will leave us with more time for the evening of eating ahead of us, we do not whine too much.  At least until The Publican won't let us enter because they're having a "staff meeting."
Here's an Idea, Chicago: Meet with Your Staff BEFORE YOU OPEN
Now, call us crazy, but if your website says you open at 3:30pm, YOU SHOULD BE OPEN.  No exceptions.  No "private events" or "staff meetings" or other such nonsense -- abide by your posted promises.  The hostess tells us to try again at 4:00pm, leaving us with nothing to do but wander aimlessly around the rather bizarre West Loop neighborhood.  When we find one restaurant closed after another, we begin to lose it; after all, does no one day drink in this town?!
For Goodness Sake, Stop Withholding the Cocktails!
On our belabored trek back around the block to The Publican, Ginger catches a whiff of chocolate in the air and is convinced, like a bloodhound, that she can find the source.  Following her nose to a wide set of double doors, we proceed to try to break into a club.  A club that does not open for another four hours and that is almost certainly NOT the source of Ginger's sudden sugar craving. 

You see what you're doing to us, West Loop?  You're giving us hallucinations.
Note to Self: Never Trust a Neighborhood Known for Its Pork Rinds
Finally, just after 4:00pm, we convince The Publican to allow us to sit on their sidewalk patio in order to procure Michael Symon's Best Thing I Ever Ate TOTALLY FRIED spicy pork rinds, and with any luck, some much-needed wine.
Quick, Someone Teach Us How to Turn This Water into Wine
It takes our waitress about thirty seconds to discover that she is not dealing with the brightest stars in the sky, as Vodka answers her question concerning which rose she would like with "the cheap one" and Ginger begins her version of the Spanish inquisition about the mystery scent of chocolate in the air.  When the waitress catches a glimpse of our itinerary, she inquires about our (nonexistent) experience at Avec.  Upon hearing about our plight, she encourages us to come back the next day, as she apparently "moonlights" at Avec... when it's actually open.

This offer will later prove to be the greatest mistake said waitress has ever made.
Note to Waitresses Everywhere: We Will Come Back and We Will Haunt You
Anyway, back at The Publican (or, as Vodka keeps calling it, The Pelican), we order the spicy pork rinds and the chef's selection of three cheeses.  As we wait, we discover that we are seated in the middle of Chicago's Meatpacking District, which makes sense considering the rinds we are about to consume, but is cause for a less than pleasant sidewalk cafe experience (Ginger may or may not swear that she sees a pig's foot resting in the street).
Well, This is "Scenic"
When our waitress (who either loves us or hates us -- it's extremely unclear) arrives with our cheese and cone of pork rinds, we stare at the neon orange pile of crisps skeptically.  Neither of us have really ever had a pork rind, so we're not sure what to expect.
We Don't Suppose We Could Trouble You for Some Dipping Sauces...?
Upon first bite, we find them crispy, crunchy, and tasting decidedly like a Cheeto.  And then Ginger makes a fatal mistake: "Smell it," she says.  "They stink.  Like pig skin.  Because they are pig skin."
And With That, Ginger Graduates from "How to Ruin Everyone's Appetite 101"
Vodka takes a whiff, and in an instant, her pork rind experience is ruined.  Reeking like a third-degree burn, the rinds also feature an occasional pig hair between bites, and we barely make it through one piece each before giving up the enterprise all together.
Michael Symon, What Were You Thinking?! We TRUSTED You
If you like pork rinds, The Publican's version is probably second to none.  We, unfortunately, find them oily, smelly, hairy, and entirely unappealing, and when our waitress comes around to ask if there is anything she can do for us, it takes every ounce of self-control for us to not blurt out, "Can you get these out of here?"
Oh, And Also Be a Doll and Go Grab Us Some Stuffed Dates from Avec
When our waitress finally escorts the rinds from our table, the cone is nearly as high as it was when it arrived (yet considering the serving only cost $5 -- "pocket change" -- we're not too put out).  It is of note that our waitress does not question or comment on the hardly-touched cone of rinds; presumably, this level of leftovers is common.
And This Little Piggy Went "Gross Yuck Blergh" All The Way Home
"I was going to ask her, 'Does anyone actually like these?' since she already knows I have issues," Ginger admits.  As it stands, we try to wash the rinds out of our memory with heaping servings of cheese, bread, and wine (the cheeses are all tasty enough, though too unmemorable for us to actually recall their names).
The Best We Can Say? At Least It's Not Pig Skin
The Publican Might Want to Start Springing for Larger Plates
We leave The Publican trying to cough any remnants of pig skin out of our mouths, and somehow, inexplicably, craving some Cheetos.

The Publican's Spicy Pork Rinds: 2 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment