I’m not entirely sure where to begin my report on our experience at Goosefoot.
Should I rattle off all the reasons Goosefoot is a unique restaurant? Or should I take you course by course through Chef Chris Nugent’s incredibly well thought out menu? Do I give you the inside scoop, straight from the chef’s mouth, on where to shop for groceries? (Oh, I’m onto you, all food obsessed people are constantly on the prowl for the best places to shop.)
I know! I’ll start by saying Chris Nugent has some sort of psychic ability…. he came out for a tableside chat during one of the dessert courses [that’s right, for all of the sweet toothed folks of Chicago, there are two of them not including the cheese course] and he flat out asked: you’re a soup person, aren’t you?
Sure, that could have been a shot in the dark, though that would imply that he randomly goes up to all his diners guessing, carnival attraction style, what their favorite dishes and preparations are…and since he’s not in the least socially awkward, it has to be that he has a 6th sense for taste.
It would explain plate after plate of visually stunning culinary innovation.
If I had to choose one word to describe Chris Nugent’s menu, it would be assiduous. Not in an overly fussy sort of way either. The vibe of the restaurant as a whole is laid back, casual and very upbeat. The celebratory ambiance could have stemmed from the 6 birthdays being celebrated that night, but I get the sense that Goosefoot is no stranger to birthdays. I’d imagine this is exactly the kind of place you would take a food loving friend for a festive meal. To my right were seated a chef (celebrating his birthday) and his date, and to my left sat a professor (also celebrating a birthday) with his wife.
But back to assiduity. The attention to detail within each dish, but also when it came to the conceptualization and orchestration of the meal as a whole, was astounding. It seemed as though each dish was meant to play off some aspect of the one before or after it. Clearly a lot of thought went into the menu planning, and it paid off. After not one but two amuse-bouches, we were taken on an intricate 8 course journey.
It’s true that you eat first with your eyes, and in some cases it was almost a pity to destroy the presentation by eating. But I sucked it up and ate every bite off every plate. My favorite courses were (unsurprisingly) of the seafood persuasion.
The lobster had a delicate curry sauce and was paired with flavors and textures (hubbard squash and licorice root) that meshed perfectly with the dominant flavors of lobster and curry.
The loup de mer (French sea bass) was also perfection on a plate. Perfectly cooked and served with a meyer lemon sauce with tapioca pearls and sunchokes. I only wish I could have requested a double portion!
Of the remaining courses, the angus beef was the most straightforward (not a bad thing!) The chestnut soup with white alba mushrooms and truffle essence and the quail with spiced beluga lentils as well as one of the dessert courses struck me as more playful and innovative. Each had elements that could have been featured on the pages of Modernist Cuisine. Hell, the soup has “smoke” listed as an ingredient. The cinderella squash with nougatine and spice meringue was also a prime example of how to use modernist techniques to play with textures without assaulting your diner with them.
Chef Nugent clearly knows how to innovate without intimidating and that’s sometimes a fine line to tread.
For those of you who read all the way through this post muttering “will she just get to where the chef buys his groceries?” that time has come.
Chef Nugent told me to check out Harvest Time Foods on Lawrence right next door to Goosefoot, and after my own trip there I urge you to do the same.