Keepin’ It on the Q.T.

Last weekend we took another trip. This time to the midwest. It was a secret trip (and still is sort of). I can’t divulge much at this point except to say that the food in this town knocked our socks off. So did the people, the beer, the wine and the prices of properties. We’re almost sold.

It’s rare to find a restaurant that is something special and different these days. But we found one on our trip. At The Cooks’ House, there are about 16 seats in a tiny little room, a hostess, a chef, a waitress and a sous chef. It’s all very intimate and feels like we are all part of an inside joke on the people walking past this place. The chef is married to the hostess. Their menu is determined by what’s the best looking stuff in the garden outside of the little one room restaurant. The chef went back and forth between kitchen and garden with a handful of peashoots and other things to add at just the right moment before serving our dishes.

Let's just say the place has interesting art work...

They offer 5 and 7 course tasting menus but given that hubs and I are extremely anal, we came up with our own tasting menu. It turns out that we picked almost all of the items off of the tasting menus to try. We started with some fresh baked bread and because they don’t have a liquor license, they have an extensive menu of non-alcoholic drinks. I got what turned out to be the best sugar-free root beer I’ve ever had. Hubs’ orange creme soda was delish, too. While sipping on our sodas, we were offered a small plate of some kind of pork terrine that was a small dollop that had the consistency of a pate. Around the pate were some tiny pieces of sesame crackers. Not really an amuse bouche in the formal sense but close enough.

Not quite an amuse bouche but small and tasty anyway. Pate with sesame crackers.

Next came our soup and salad. Hubs and I split both. Surprisingly, the smoked rabbit salad was one of my favorite dishes of the night. I would never call myself a rabbit fan (or eater), but it didn’t taste like anything I’ve had before. It was smoky and salty and I think the key was that there wasn’t too much of anything. Even the dressing was just for taste, not heaped on liked usual.

Celery and leek soup. Some kind of ham garnish in the middle.

Salad with fresh garden greens, smoked rabbit and root veggies.

Next up: beet and beet greens risotto with shaved dark chocolate (how could I pass this up?) and heirloom totamoes with olive oil.

Beet and beet greens risotto with shaved dark chocolate.

Heirloom tomato salad with olive oil, salt and pepper.

The tomatoes were heavenly. The beet risotto was the essence of beets but somehow the risotto seemed too al dente to me. I was shocked to find that the risotto was my least favorite dish of the night.

By this point, we are looking at each other thinking a few things:

In-between courses and excited for the next delicious dish.

This place is freaking delicious! and I’m probably ready to be done eating.

But we forged on with our last course. Wow. I got the grass fed beef and hubs (big surprise) got the pork belly.

Pork belly with poached duck egg, greens and chickpea puree.

Grass fed beef with pea shoots and some kind of buttery salty (in a good way) sauce.

I must say, hubs’ chickpea puree was spicy goodness. He was more than happy with his pork-egg combo. My beef was cooked medium rare to absolute perfection. I gave one medallion to hubs and ate the other. The combination of beef, pea shoots and the sauce was almost surreal.

Obviously we hated the food here.

They offered desert and we had to pass. I’m not a big desert at restaurants kind of person. I felt like my beef dish was like a desert. They ended up giving us these to go home with:

Our little sack of plums for an after dinner snack.

We actually saved those for breakfast the next morning and instead had a glass of this:

We were shocked to find this rare bottle of wine from one of our favorite (and most interesting architectually) wineries in La Rioja.

A 2004 Reserva we found in a little market in town. It was shocking because when we visited this winery in Spain, they were not shipping any of their wines overseas. We took this as yet another sign that this town might be for us.

All of the restaurants we went to over the weekend were actually really great and eclectic. I couldn’t believe how busy these places were on a Thursday night after 8:30pm. I assumed it would be a ghost town but happily, I was wrong. We were given some souvenirs to take home with us. I am still working on mine:

Loaded caramel/candy/chocolate/nut covered granny apples. As big as my head.

Times, they might be a-changin’. Stay tuned.

Yogi says,

If you don’t love where you come from, you can’t love where you are going.

Too true.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Keepin’ It on the Q.T.

  1. So exciting and mysterious! (The plans, not the meaty stuff you guys consumed, although that looks quite fancy!)

    I can’t wait to hear more about this adventure and am even more convinced that you and the “hubs” are uber cool. Seriously 😉 What a fun friendship!

    • We do have fun together–thank god!

      I wonder if people think I eat a ton of meat. Funny because I actually don’t love eating meat in everyday life. But when we go out, I will usually at least try most things (though there are some limits on my adventurousness with eating!).

      P.s. you are so sweet to call us cool. I’m going to revel in that for the rest of the day!! (I know, I’m a total dork)

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