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Fall’s Must-Try Tasting Menus

A new season means new flavors for chefs to explore
November 5, 2014
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by Sarah Freeman

It's time to go all in on dinner. A new season means new flavors for chefs to explore, and for diners to enjoy via fall tasting menus at Chicago's finest restaurants.

42 Grams

As one of the most exciting restaurant openings of the past year approaches its one-year-anniversary mark, chef Jake Bickelhaupt shows no signs of losing steam. His fall menu emphasizes simplicity with layers of flavors designed to excite the palate. This means dishes such as A5 Miyazaki Wagyu marinated with housemade barrel-aged fermented soy sauce and grilled over binchotan coals as well as Skuna Bay salmon brined in a barrel-aged forbidden forest lapsang souchong tea.

“I wanted to perfect the art of simple cooking and honor culinary traditions and techniques from hundreds of years ago, while still making dishes that taste original and offer an element of surprise,” says Bickelhaupt. “I’m bridging the gap between ancient craftsmanship and contemporary, edible art, drawing from various cultures and customs that surround me in Chicago — the melting pot I call home.”

The multi-course dining experience can be enjoyed at the intimate chef’s counter or the communal table for $203. The restaurant is BYOB and wine recommendations are available online. Seats must be purchased in advanced though the restaurants online ticketing system. In conjunction with the new menu, 42 Grams released a video showcasing the seasonal offerings.

Acadia

Chef Ryan McCaskey is changing the way diners experience tasting menus with his latest fall lineup. “I like the notion that guests don’t necessarily know where the tasting menu begins,” he explains. “Guests have these five fun, small bites that come out quickly when they first sit down, and it gets them excited for the tasting menu progression to come.”

The assortment of four canapés, which includes a mini lobster roll and pig heart tarter, precedes a seven-course menu during the week and a ten-course menu on the weekends. The chef with deep roots in costal Maine, highlights fall ingredients such as squash with a butternut squash basted in in root beer liquor and accented by black garlic and herbaceous hoja santa. Other highlights of the menu include New Bedford scallops with parsley root, salsify and matsutake mushrooms as well as Australian Waygu with lobster, artichoke, maitake and sea beans.

The seven-course tasting with four canapés is available for $95 Tuesday through Thursday with the option of adding wine pairings for $75. The full 10-course tasting menu is served during for weekend service on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for $150 with the option of adding wine pairings for $105.

Sixteen

Food takes a back seat to the people preparing and serving the fall menu on the sixteenth floor of Trump Hotel & Tower. “The Faces of Sixteen” takes inspiration from those who comprise the day-to-day success of Sixteen — dishwashers, line cooks, sous-chefs, servers, hosts, farmers, purveyors and more. The meal begins with a set of playing cards showing different team members’ faces on one side and a dish inspired by that team member on the other, such as classic turtle soup finished with a touch of sherry, which is reminiscent of one captain’s time spent living in New Orleans.

The meal continues with the “Inspiration” section, which honors chefs whose work has influenced executive chef Thomas Lents’ cooking. These chefs include Joel Robuchon, the Dublin-based Kevin Thornton and Jean Joho. The “Connections” portion of the meal emphasizes the bridge between rare ingredients such as foraged matsutake mushrooms to be served with warm foie gras mousse, currant, duck heart and mizuna. The final section before dessert is “Relationships,” highlighting the importance of purveyors.

The 12-course tasting menu costs $185 per person. Wine pairings may be added for $125 and a reserve pairing may be selected for $185. A la carte options are also offered upon request. The team at Sixteen also created a video to explain the menu.

tasting menus