Chicago Restaurant Week 2015: Dinner at The Bedford

This is part of a series of posts about Chicago Restaurant Week 2015, held January 30–February 12. Check out recaps from 2014 and 2013, or browse all Restaurant Week coverage.

The Bedford Dinner

Burrata & squash, The Bedford
Burrata & squash with apple butter, pumpkin seed granola, and basil

Best Bite: If there’s burrata on a menu, there’s a very good chance I’ll order it, but the way The Bedford paired the ultra-creamy cheese with squash was especially unique. A swipe of apple butter and crumbles of pumpkin seed granola made it almost like a sweet-leaning breakfast dish, and crispy basil added balance. I actually doubled up on squash with my main course, and am glad I did, because the nutty, cheesy, brown butter-soaked agnolotti was the height of comfort.

Roasted squash agnolotti, The Bedford
Roasted squash agnolotti with brown butter, cipollini onions, pecorino, and pistachio

Other notes: The other pasta option was also exceptional. A more toothsome noodle matched the hearty ragu, which smartly combined fennel and mint with the lamb. And the atmosphere is certainly worth noting: the restaurant is a converted bank vault, so it was fun to take in all the dramatic details.

Lamb ragu, The Bedford
Lamb ragu with paccheri pasta, fennel pollen, pecorino, and torn mint

The details: The Bedford, 1612 W. Division St., Chicago.

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This week’s Best Bite: Cauliflower pizza and gelato sundaes, Balena

Pizza with cauliflower, garlic crema, burrata, anchoïade
Pizza with cauliflower, garlic crema, burrata, anchoïade

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: I’m still daydreaming about an all-around outstanding dinner at Balena last night, in celebration of my roommate’s birthday, and could only narrow it down to these three favorite dishes. First, the pizza. The Neapolitan crust had the right amount of chew, and I loved the combination of garlicky cauliflower, gooey burrata (I admit, I’m a sucker for burrata), zingy preserved lemon, and underlying umami from the anchovy spread. But check out what’s on the plate underneath the pie: house-made Calabrian chili oil. Not only to add a little heat, but also to flavor those last topping-less bites of blistered crust? Game-changer. We made sure to request a to-go cup of chili oil to use on our leftover slices.

And then, there were the composed gelato sundaes. We had two – one of which came compliments of the kitchen with a birthday candle – and swooned over them both. The pistachio sundae was clean and unique, with delicate burnt orange. The rich, salty chocolate sundae, topped with peanut butter crumbles and the pastry chef’s version of “Magic Shell”, was making its menu debut that night; I have a feeling it’s not going anywhere. Each sundae also included a killer nougat candy component.

My new goal is to pair my next visit with a show at the Steppenwolf, right across the street.

Pistachio-orange gelato sundae
Pistachio-orange gelato sundae
Chocolate-peanut butter gelato sundae
Chocolate-peanut butter gelato sundae with “magic shell”

The details: Balena, 1633 N Halsted St., Chicago.