Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week 2017: Dinner at Avec

This is part of a series of posts about Chicago Restaurant Week 2017, held January 27–February 9. View all of this year’s meal recaps, or browse all Restaurant Week coverage from 2013-17.

Chorizo-stuffed medjool dates, Avec

Chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce

Best Bite: It’s hard to outdo the chorizo-stuffed medjool dates: they’re not only Avec’s most popular menu item, but are also among the most iconic dishes in all of Chicago. The sweet-spicy-smoky combination of dates, bacon, chorizo, and tomato sauce is just as unstoppable now as when I wrote about it in this blog’s very first week.

Brussels sprout panzanella, Avec

Brussels sprout panzanella with pickled raisins, calabrian chiles, and aged sheep’s milk cheese

Other notes: The Restaurant Week menu only had one option per course, but because it was a “greatest hits” approach, we weren’t complaining. The second course was an outstandingly balanced salad of shredded brussels sprouts, chiles, salty cheese, and raisins; the third a full pan of paella with head-on shrimp, chicken thigh, and tangerine aioli. Avec’s desserts tend to harness simplicity for maximum impact – these nutter butter squares, for example – and this evening’s creamy chocolate mousse with espresso crumble was no exception.

Chocolate cremeaux, Avec

Chocolate cremeaux with espresso cookie crumble and chicory creme fraiche

The details: Avec, 615 W. Randolph St., Chicago.

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Best Bites

This week’s Best Bite: Wood-fired Dutch baby pancake, baked egg & more from brunch, Avec

Wood-fired Dutch baby pancake with apple-rosemary compote and whipped cream

Wood-fired Dutch baby pancake with apple-rosemary compote and whipped cream

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: After a decade of being dinner-only, Avec launched brunch service last summer – an announcement that made the Chicago food world collectively squeal with delight. While I’ve already blogged about Avec’s legendary stuffed dates, which we ordered almost reflexively, the other stellar brunch plates merited a post of their own. The day’s special was the wood-fired pancake, a velvety stunner cooked in a cast-iron pan and topped with fragrant apple-rosemary compote and mounds of whipped cream. Its Dutch Baby–style texture was unbelievable. Meanwhile, the baked egg dish showed off Avec’s Mediterranean leanings. Its sauce was layered with surprising flavors: chickpeas, roasted peppers of all kinds, and salty feta, all begging to be sopped up with the bread on the side.

Baked egg with roasted peppers, chickpeas, guanciale, feta, and breadcrumbs

Baked egg with roasted peppers, chickpeas, guanciale, feta, and breadcrumbs

Marinated butcher's steak with squash polenta, charred radicchio, pepita pesto, and a fried egg

Marinated butcher’s steak with squash polenta, charred radicchio, pepita pesto, and a fried egg

Another favorite was the butcher’s steak, probably the most beautiful steak-and-eggs in history. The fried egg was perfect, and the steak, ultra-tender from the marinade, shone even brighter with bold accompaniments of charred radicchio, squash polenta, pesto, parsley, and crunchy pepitas. As hard as it was to see this meal come to a close, the indulgence of the stuffed dates at the beginning was evenly matched by the petite nutter butter squares at its conclusion. Don’t miss these: the peanut butter-chocolate base, subtle feuilletine crunch, smooth ganache, and a sprinkling of sea salt made it the ultimate last bite.

Nutter butters as a final bite

Nutter butters as a final bite

The details: Avec, 615 W Randolph St., Chicago.

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Best Bites

2012 Best Bite #6: Chorizo-stuffed dates, Avec

Each day in December, I’m celebrating my best bites (and sips) in 2012, posted in chronological order.

Chorizo-stuffed dates

Chorizo-stuffed dates

Why it’s a Best Bite: Avec is one of those Chicago restaurant staples where strategy and patience are involved: no reservations, little space, legendary wait times. We arrived early on a Monday evening, in hopes of fitting in a few of the small plates that I’d heard so much about before making it to our Restaurant Week reservation elsewhere. Fortunately, there were four seats left at the end of the sleek wooden banquette, and this was the first dish I knew we had to order. These dates have already garnered a lot of attention over the past several years (including this mouthwatering video from Eater), so I’ll just say that every component is incredible. The chorizo interior and bacon exterior pack twice the meaty punch, and sopping up that piquillo-tomato sauce with the fresh bread is exceedingly satisfying.

The details: Avec, 615 W Randolph St., Chicago.

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