24 March 2007

Regional Mexican Jazz

Rick Bayless operates the mecca of fine regional Mexican dining in the River North area of Chicago. Topolobampo, which has a
four star rating in Chicago Magazine, earned every one of those stars when I ate there the other night.

Bayless' culinary philosophy in vegetarian dining utilizes mushrooms in most dishes to create the sensation of umami that comes from savory meat dishes. The vegetarian options comes without the psychological baggage of eating carcass. Upon request, the chef can create a vegetarian degustation, which he did for me.

The first course was a mushroom empanada with cream and red chili sauce. The second course was a carpaccio-ed beet salad with Mexican gherkins and apricot salsa. The third course was a huilacoche enchilada with salsa verde, rice pyramid and fried onion strings. The fourth course was a fava bean suffle with a dark mushroom mole sauce topped with micro greens. Desert featured two bread puddings, an earthy ice cream cone bite and a cinnamon cookie.

The staff matched wines with each course. The restaurant offers outstanding cocktails such as a ginger mojito, a Tecate beer mojito that was more interesting than it sounds and a blood orange margarita, amongst others. The tequila list is a tome with about 100+ selections. The staff is exceptional and knowledgeable.

Explore images from dinner as well as the jazz concert that will be described following the Picasa link below.


The Hideout looks about exactly the way you'd expect a club called the Hideout to look. It's hidden away on Wabansia, surrounded by a metro vehicle gas station and machinist shops. Last night they hosted Honeyboy. Tonight, it was the Arp assault by Jim Baker alongside the improv stylings of Jeb Bishop, Kent Kessler and Michael Zerang.

I am unfairly biased in favor of anything with a Arp synthesizer in it. For example, if there was a toothpaste commercial with an Arp synth doing the background music, I would use that toothpaste. That being said, however, the show was a fertile ground for exploring the improvised dialogues of four veteran Chicago musicians.

Baker plays both synthesized piano and Arp. Bishop plays trombone with various mutes. Kessler plays a deliberately understated bass. Zerang plays a hodge podge drum kit and could be described as a percussionist more than he would be described as a drummer.

The group played two sets, and the only complaint I had was that I wanted more Arp. Despite my pathetic pleas for semi-modular analogue subtractive synthesizers, the show was a refreshing blast of energy that lifted me beyond the ordinary. Check out the pictures and video in the Picasa link above.

Topolobampo on Urbanspoon

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