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The Final Days of Foie Gras

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Avenues

108 E. Superior

312-573-6754

Now that the city council has voted unanimously to ban the sale of foie gras in Chicago, you have till July 26 to consume the force-fattened liver of a duck or goose. Till then you might spot Mayor Daley, an acknowledged fan of the delicacy, at one of these foie-gras-friendly spots. Or sample a Joe Moore (foie gras and Sauternes duck sausage with foie gras-truffle sauce and marinated goat cheese), currently the "celebrity sausage" at Hot Doug's (see listings)--named for the crusading 49th Ward alderman who made it all happen.

Yes, the "foielipop" is still on the menu at AVENUES. A dense, sweet, creamy disk of foie gras impaled on a stick and coated with Pop Rocks that send flavor coursing straight to your cerebral cortex, it's the signature showstopper in one of chef Graham Elliot Bowles's five ambitious tasting menus. It's hard to top a second course this flamboyant and just plain trippy, but several other dishes actually did: delicately roasted squab, for one, came dressed with a dark, smoky bacon and laurel-scented kalamata olive tapenade. Paper-thin rounds of slightly gamy kangaroo carpaccio, served with tiny "noodles" made of cantaloupe and cucumber, lime caramel, and an aromatic eucalyptus foam, were another winner. But despite all the experimentation Bowles has become famous for, my friend and I voted a simple beef tenderloin best in show: velvety and rare at its core, it was ever-so-slightly charred and dusted with sea salt. Not every dish made the finals: a single seared scallop over a sunchoke panna cotta was oddly monochromatic, and the mild flavors in a quintet of rabbit loin, leg, rillettes, bacon, and kidney were no match for the exquisitely fussy presentation. But my only real complaint is with the service. While our lead waiter was assured and impeccably helpful, the young, apparently inexperienced bench wasn't nearly as polished. Still, this gracious Peninsula Hotel dining room well deserves the buckets of praise heaped on it since Bowles, a vet of Trotter's and Tru, took over two years ago. --Martha Bayne

North Pond

2610 N. Cannon

773-477-5845

At NORTH POND along with the menu diners are given the mantra of the modern sustainability-minded restaurant: the ingredients, whenever possible, are locally sourced and organic and you will love them; the chef has close partnerships with area farmers and you will benefit. On the first page of the menu you're directed to the Web sites of relevant nonprofits. But while chef Bruce Sherman isn't shy about his principles, it's hard to eat here and disagree with them. The quality of his ingredients is evident in the meat: the farm-raised venison, braised for the leg and roasted rare for the chops, will win game converts--its flavor is deep and persuasive, and perfect with a red-wine-poached pear. The duck breast, cooked sous-vide (slow-poached in a plastic bag) is gloriously fatty, and the consommé it sits in is even richer. But North Pond isn't the blandly well-meaning restaurant that its rhetoric might suggest: the cooking's surprisingly adventurous. A slice of foie gras was matched with an equally rich cream parfait topped with huckleberries; with mache on the side, the dish could be seen as a clever synecdoche for an entire dinner. The duck's accompanied by a bowl of cardoon bagna cauda (a garlic-anchovy sauce); the venison sits alongside a coffee reduction. Dessert's wonderfully screwy: a white chocolate and coconut soup with scoops of key lime cream and mojito sorbet in the middle. The tastes clash, then meld together. Eating it feels like playing a new video game for the first time--only as you finish do you feel like you're beginning to master it. --Nicholas Day

Sweets & Savories

1534 W. Fullerton

773-281-6778

Situated between a Pennzoil and a taqueria on a stretch of West Fullerton, SWEETS & SAVORIES delivers occasionally over-the-top riffs on haute cuisine--a $17 burger ($10 on Wednesdays), for example, with foie gras, truffled mayonnaise, and arugula--in a nearly pretension-free setting (every Saturday chef David Richards sends baskets of food over to the Pennzoil in exchange for sharing a parking lot). Richards's menu changes frequently; current appetizers range from a seared foie gras with pineapple and a savory chocolate sauce to a foie gras-stuffed quail breast with confit leg and truffled potatoes to a crispy soft-shell crab with yellow watermelon and tomato salad. Soups and salads are good if familiar--French onion, vichyssoise, lyonnaise, roasted beet--but the entrees really shine: a succulent pan-roasted halibut comes with roasted-corn butter and lobster hash; rosemary-grilled pork tenderloin with a pomegranate barbecue sauce and a Roquefort-and-bacon potato salad. Sweets enter in with a changing ten-item-strong menu of homemade treats--toffee bread pudding, lemon-curd tart, warm Belgian fondant cake with Scharffen Berger cocoa sorbet. On Sundays there's a prix fixe brunch for $16; on Mondays there's no corkage fee. --Ulysses Smith

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rob Warner.

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