Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Off the Map: Undercover Overeater Cheapskates

Foie Gras -- Everest, Chicago, IL

This just in: Ginger has developed a sense of shame.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Ginger is in full panic attack mode about our upcoming reservation at Everest.  Due to some one-hour-before-reservation Googling, she has discerned that Everest is a Michelin-starred restaurant, and she is therefore convinced that we, and our desire to eat only foie gras on the premises, will not be welcome there.
Is This Served with Quackers?
While Ginger breaks out in a flop sweat over the enterprise, Vodka tries to figure out from where this new-found desire to avoid looking like morons has emerged.  It seems the word "Michelin" is Ginger's Achilles heel, because never before has she been so concerned about our Best Thing I Ever Ate dining practices.
Hey Ginger - Have You SEEN This Blog?!
In contrast, Vodka is having a hard time discerning just what the problem is.  After all, our reservation had been booked less than a week before and was hardly difficult to come by, so it is not like we will be taking up valuable restaurant real estate.  And even more importantly - what is the worst that could possibly happen?  In Vodka's mind, it is that we will arrive at Everest and they will tell us that such a la carte ordering is not possible.

In Ginger's mind, it is culinary incarceration.
Presumably, These Are the Statues With Which We Will Be Beaten in Everest's Jailhouse
Part of the problem with this scenario lies in the fact that Vodka had to leave her credit card number in order to make a reservation in the first place.  Therefore, she does not want to cancel at the last minute simply due to Ginger's peculiar current level of anxiety.  To get the whole thing over with, we decide to arrive at Everest ninety minutes prior to our actual 7pm reservation so that we can explain our situation without the judgmental stares of non-Early Bird Special diners.
Because Arriving Hours Ahead of Time Won't Make Us Any More Conspicuous...
Prior to this, Vodka had received two separate phone calls concerning the potential security situation at the Chicago Stock Exchange (at the top of which Everest is located) due to the upcoming NATO conference (which, by the way, is slowly ruining our lives, but that's a story for another day).  When we arrive at the Stock Exchange, however, we are not frisked or questioned or otherwise given distrusting glances.  Instead, the security guard checks off our reservation (of which there are approximately five total, completely confirming Vodka's suspicions that us showing up for duck liver is NOT A BIG DEAL).  We take two sets of elevators to the fortieth floor and wind our way through Tower of Terror-like empty hallways until we reach the nearly-empty restaurant.
Hey Chicago - Doesn't Anyone Eat at 5:30pm Anymore?
We are greeted by the host and Vodka launches into the explanation of how "we're only really here for the foie gras" (a word which she is mildly incapable of pronouncing, so she says it so slowly that one would think she were from Paula Deen's neck of the woods).
New Jersey Natives Can't Speak French
The host, much to Ginger's relief, says that this request will be no problem, and we are led to the practically barren dining room (which is known for its sweeping views of the city... although the shades are drawn, so there goes that amenity).  Our waiter, aka the kindest, most patient man on the planet, arrives, and we restate our foie gras-specific goal to him.  To his (and every subsequent employee's) great credit, he does not make us feel like idiots, despite the fact that we are now stationed in a Michelin-starred restaurant merely to eat a single appetizer.
And to Fill Up on as Many Freebies as Possible
Instead, the busboys bring us our glasses of wine with no sign of disdain, and our waiter does not flinch when we order only the foie gras with figs and the Maine peekytoe crab (though Ginger, again feeling shameful, is insistent that Vodka does not actually include the word "peekytoe" when she orders it).
As we wait for our "entrees," the waitstaff comes by with our complimentary plate of appetizers -- a spoonful of artichoke, a ladle of soup, and a bowl full of fish.  Ten points to Everest for providing free food to the cheapskates.
We're Sure Everest's Chef Is THRILLED to be Preparing These Delicacies for the Likes of Us
All Soup Should Be Served in a Measuring Cup
Looks Like Baby Food, Tastes Like Heaven
We lap up the three mouthfuls, each of which is exquisite in its simplicity, and are even more ecstatic when the bread boy arrives with a tray full of options.  We choose our respective slices and dip heartily into the provided butter, barely having time to finish before our "meals" are presented.
Bottomless Bread Basket? Color Us Thrilled
The foie gras, a thin square of liver separated by slices of figs, comes with two buttery pieces of brioche on which to spread it.
We'll Just Take Another Loaf of These, Thanks
Ginger doles out the portions and we take our first taste of Claire Robinson's Best Thing I Ever Ate FRENCH FAVORITE.  The foie gras itself is fatty and soft, a deceivingly pleasant texture considering what we are eating.
Let's Hope These Ducks Weren't Big Boozers
The interspersed figs are integrated well and add an underlying hint of sweetness, and the brioche on which it is spread is crispy on the outside but delicately chewy on the outside (it is all we can do not to ask for more in order to finish up our bowl of butter).
Is It Just Us, Or Does This Bread Look Like It's Levitating?
Overall, while foie gras is still not exactly our kind of thing, Everest's variety is one-hundred times more pleasing than we had expected (particularly because they served it to the likes of us in the first place).
Our New Rating System: 5 Stars Just For Allowing Us to Eat Here
The rectangular portion of crab is pleasant enough, if a tad on the bland side (Vodka, naturally, improves this situation via the addition of salt).  Green gelatin squares dot the plate in the place of herbs, which might have been enough to ruin the dish for us had we tried them to begin with.
Parsley Does Not Make for Good Jello
When we have had our fill of the crab and the liver, the staff clears our plates and brings around yet another tray of gratis goods: dessert.  A sampling of various sweet treats is presented (a "treat tray," if you will), and Ginger chooses the chocolate and peppermint creation, while Vodka sticks with the lemon cupcake (note: Everest does not call it a cupcake) and licorice cookie (note: Everest also does not call it a cookie).
For the Record, This Treat Tray Is Also "Unlimited," But We're Trying to Keep Our Classlessness to a Minimum
By this point, we are completely taken with Everest, but more for their level of accommodation and willingness to throw free food at us than for the taste of the foie gras itself.  Were the employees not so pleasant, Everest would be entirely too formal for us, even for a special occasion when we actually wanted to, you know, eat a full meal.  We generally dislike restaurants where the waitstaff has "rules" to follow (like being forced to place the plates on the table at exactly the same time, etc.) as it makes us feel uncomfortable, the irony being that we have no such qualms about coming to such a place in order to eat only the innards of a duck.
Whatever - It's Not Like We Didn't Inflate Our Bill with Wine
On our way out, the infamous bread boy, who seems to stumble over his words even more than Vodka does over "foie gras," escorts us to the bathroom.  Unsure whether or not it is a single restroom or one with various stalls, we stand outside of the door for entirely too many seconds contemplating this situation before actually... trying the door handle.  Inside, we find a roomful of separate stalls, all as empty as the restaurant in which is resides.  After dolling ourselves up, we skip out of Everest thanking the employees along the way.

Thanking them for a solid meal -- yes -- but more so for validating the fact that when it comes to copping to the non-Michelin-starred fools that we are, one should never, ever feel shame.

Everest's Foie Gras: 4 stars

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