avec – good food in Chicago

So I madeit to avec tonight. Wow.

It's definitely a hipster scene, which can put some people off, but for better or worse, I've become very used to that scene (in San Francisco), and it didn't put me off. I was seated at the bar, which honestly looked more comfortable than the tables along the wall. It's always a little interesting to eat alone, although I've become a lot more comfortable with that now that I'm older (and hopefully a little more secure). I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me who was also eating alone, who turned out to be an Italian wine importer for Chicago – so a great conversation ensued about Italian, French and Claifornian wines.

I had the olive plate, which was a great assortment but heavy on the salt. This went down with a carafino (1/3 of a bottle) of an Italian blend from Deviole called "Four Play" (not on the website wine list – it was a Sicilian wine), a nice smooth blend of what was (in my mind) a fairly rare combo of varietals. (Although I paid for a carafino what it costs for a bottle at BevMo, this place marks it up the way avec had it priced. Since I'm used to getting my wines direct from importer-retailers, $13 for this wine is a great deal, but $38 for this is not so much…)

In fact, a lot of the wines at avec featured some random and/ or rare varietals, and I was very excited about that.

Mr Wine ("Nick") left by the time my pizza came out, which was almost an hour later. If I didn't have a conversartion companion, I would have felt a little impatient, but this meant that I could move on to another Italian blend, Baglio Di Pianetto, "Ramione" – again a Sicialin, with that rich Sicily Nero d'Avola mixed with Merlot. The highlight of the meal was that wine with the pizza – salt-cured anchovy, mojo de ajo (garlic paste), fennel and basil on a light crust. Ahhh – now I understand thin crusts. I zoned out for a while there – everytime I finished a slice, I would discover more on my plate, and more wine in my cup – it was as if there was no end to a good thing.

I returned to my senses surroundings for the dessert – a chocolate pound cake with bing cherries (left uneaten – never been a fan) – and a final glass of Periquita – a Portugeuse wine that had the right amount of boldness and kick to reach through the fog my overindulged senses.

Strangely, as I was waiting for the train at Clinton, the nearest El stop, I could distinctly smell someone baking chocolate. Maybe it was a dessert flashback.

In any case, that meal made me kick off my sideline dream of writing an eating, drinking and cooking blog. Thanks, avec, for the inspiring meal. We'll see where this goes once the buzz wears off…..

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