I had a lot of cool stuff planned for my three days in Chicago with Rocky last week; drinking, dining, and otherwise. What I was most excited about before we left home was our visit to The Aviary. Now that we’ve been back into our routine in NYC for a few days I’m looking back over our little trip and what I’m most excited about is..our visit to The Aviary.
The experience at the chef’s Kitchen Table is billed as a 10-course cocktail tasting with food pairings. That’s f*cking sweet. We arrived, curious and eager with anticipation, and were escorted to a small round high-top table in the corner of the kitchen, facing the pass.
Amuse. To start, an amuse of pisco, grappa, and pineau des charentes. Pleasantly fresh and mildly fruity.
Moon River Shrub. Huckleberry, champagne vinegar, white armagnac. A little tart and very viscous.
Sun Also Rises. Absinthe, sloe gin, cava, with Peychaud’s ice. Named after the Hemingway novel, a tribute to his drinking style, and in strong contention for my favorite of the night. A great balance of bitter herb and fresh botanical flavors.
Bowl of Chips: Polenta, lotus root, bonito, white rice with squid ink, nori, tapioca saffron, chicharron, white cheddar with yellow cheddar, and parmesan. The bonito, nori, and squid ink chips had honest flavors of the sea. The parmesan was light, crumbly, and strongly cheesy. The tapioca was luxuriously endowed with saffron.
Ginger. Shiso, peychaud’s, vodka. Ginger and lime made into a snow, courtesy of liquid nitrogen, with shiso, fresno pepper, and lemongrass. Rocky was told to add vodka and stir. The drink had a great ginger root spice.
Tea in Trinidad. Rum with rooibos, verjus, and benedictine, served warm. Holy smokes. I think this was the best warm drink I’ve ever had. Like a boozy tea with honey, but better.
Corn. Guacamole cannoli in corn flour shells with sour cream and fresno pepper. Great stuff. Full flavor guacamole in a super delicate shell.
Infernal Imagery. Barolo, maurin quina, rhum. Served in a smoky treasure box.
Lava. Mole, chocolate, scotch, rum. Sweet on the nose with a woody vanilla palette.
Potato. A warm potato custard covered with malt vinegar chips, chives, and black pepper. The malt vinegar was nice with the rich custard.
Rob Roy. Scotch with 1985 pedro ximenez served in a bag of lavender air. Like a dark, earthy, herbed caramel.
In the Rocks (second edition). Benedictine, vermouth, cognac, rye. A vieux carre on the rocks, served in a rock. Presented with a circular sling shot to place atop the glass and crack the ice sphere to release the cocktail.
Bacon & Date. With purslane, greek yogurt, and thyme. On a sumac and walnut base. Sweet and rich, broken up by the yogurt and thyme.
Aviary One, Aviary Nine. Two beers from a series made in collaboration with Evil Twin Brewing. ‘Plantation’ had citrus and stone fruit flavors with subtle creeping bitterness. ‘George T Stagg’ was smooth with berry and light wood.
Thai Mountain. Saffron, rooibos, maraschino, reposado. With orange peel and tonka bean. Served not quite hot. A great depth of warm spices.
Wagyu. With smoked paprika toffee, pumpkin seed, and yogurt. A bangin little bite.
Cranberry. Gin, rum, absinthe, allspice dram, lemon, rosemary, cranberry, orange, tea leaves, and apple served in a porthole. An incredible infusion that intensified with each pour.
Duck. Duck rillette sandwiched between hazelnut crackers with carrot, parsnip, and puffed rice. Fun, gamey little bites.
Avenue. Grenadine calvados and bourbon with passionfruit sorbet.
Lollipops. An assortment of ‘lollipops’: rice krispie and tonka bean, banana peanut butter, rooibos pate de fruits, malted nougat, raspberry with balsamic foam, coffee toffee, and chocolate hazelnut.
Foie Gras. With pomegranate, gingerbread, and charred onion. Delicious.
Root Beer. Rum and sassafras caramel with fernet and angostura foam.
Brioche. A burst of super buttery chocolate.
Snake Charmer. Yerba maté, ambergris, amaro, smoked whiskey.
Damn. That was a lot of booze. But an amazing and unique experience. The work The Aviary does is astoundingly impressive. From the obvious talent behind the pass to the super-cool floor staff. The creativity in the production and presentation of their cocktails and the attention to detail in the execution of service makes for an engaging, lively, and pleasant night of drinking. I was happy that throughout the night new glasses and ice cubes kept showing up to replace our water. I probably should have chugged a little more of it.
Date of visit: April 9, 2013
The Aviary. 955 W Fulton Market. Chicago, IL 312.226.0868 http://theaviary.com