Thursday, August 12, 2010

The French Mountains of Illinois

Cafe Pyrenees, 1762 N. Milwaukee, Libertyville, IL 847-362-CAFE

My sister recommended it, adding that on Thursday nights the restaurant has a free wine tasting. As it was Thursday ... we toddled over. It was a long two blocks from the hotel, but it was also about 85 degrees and muggy, so we drove over.

Located in a newish (five years old) shopping mall, it looks deceptively small until you walk into it where rooms lead off of other rooms. There is also a patio for those who enjoy humidity. Due to Illinois law that you can't smoke within 50 feet of a doorway, you can't enjoy a cigarette.

The wine tasting was fun as the sommelier/salesman was interesting. After that, we were seated and ordered. We could have had Cafe Pyrnenees - chicken, duck confit, asparagus, peas, peppers, cherry tomatoes in a light cream parmesan sauce ($19) or the Duo of Duck sliced duck breast and crispy duck confit, quinoa and blueberry sauce ($24.)

Instead, we started with an order of traditional escargots (garlic sauce as opposed to encased in puff pastry) and the six snails arrived in little individual cups! Not the usual shells. Lovely, plump, earthy snails... and we used up all of the bread sopping up the sauce ($10.50)

Richie ordered beef Bourgogne ($24) and I decided to try the hanger steak ($17) having heard of this cut but never having eaten it. It came sliced with a generous pouring of shallot sauce over it. Now I understand the recent fervor about this cut -- it was delicious!

The other "hot thing" about Thursday nights is that bottles of wine are at half price. Thus we had a very nice Cycle Gladiator cabernet for $14 instead of the usual $28. It was sweeter than I usually think of a cab and went well with the shallot sauce on the steak.

* I looked it up - hanger steak is the cut that hangs from the diaghram of the steer. It's also known as "Butcher's Steak" because they wouldn't sell it, but take it home for themselves. Butchers are apparently crafty devils...

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