Purple Pig…Again

cauliflower at the purple pig

With Chicago’s rich dining scene, I really shouldn’t be repeating a restaurant once, let alone multiple times.

But my business trips bring me to Michigan Avenue, a cab ride away from most of the places I want to try. Not that a cab ride should deter me, but sometimes it does. Particularly when I arrive on the later side, it’s bitter cold outside, and the Purple Pig is a block away from my hotel. It’s their fault really. If they didn’t serve such great food in such a cozy atmosphere so close to my hotel, I might be forced to go elsewhere. If they didn’t change their menu seasonally or serve so many vegetarian dishes, I might be dissuaded. However I’m not. It’s that good.

Tonight I tried the Charred Cauliflower with toasted breadcrumbs, cornichon and parsley. To my delight, it was romanesco cauliflower, that bizarre fractal vegetable that looks like a crossbreed of cauliflower and broccoli developed by a graduate student with a combined degree in botany and applied mathematics. Romanesco begs to be cooked at high temperatures. It’s sturdy buds not only withstand the intense heat, but transform in it; the mild vegetable retains some of its texture and develops a slight toasted flavor, which was enhanced with the olive oil dressed breadcrumbs that had been sprinkled on top just before it was put into the oven. The thinly sliced sour cornichons provide a tart contrast to the subtle romesco and crunchy breadcrumbs.

purple pig tuna and beans 2

As my second course, I had the olive oil poached tuna with Greek lima beans. For all of the contrast with the romesco, this components of this dish were uniformly, but pleasantly, soft and smooth.  The cubed tuna had been lightly poached in olive oil just until its outermost layer of flesh turned slightly white, but with slivers of its rich pinky-red inner flesh peeking through. Sparsely mixed among it were quarter-sized giant white greek lima beans that had been poached along with the tuna. Swollen to the point of bursting, these beans were velvety echoing the mouth feel of the rich meaty tuna. A generous dusting of finishing salt – simple sel de la mer – provided the slightest crunch and an ocean-y saltiness that made the tuna sing.

I enjoyed these both with cava rose, needing a lighter bubbly wine to balance the richness of both dishes.

With food like this, it’s hard not to repeat.


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