In our recent post on Alinea, we explained that we were eating and drinking our way through Chicago to celebrate one of the BarFly’s milestone birthdays. Even though we live in a wonderful food city, we like to travel to dining destinations to check out the local culinary pulse, and Chicago definitely has a lot to offer. We decided to throw a little party for nine people at a restaurant long on our list: the Girl & the Goat, co-owned and helmed by Top Chef Season 4′s first female winner, Stephanie Izard.
We couldn’t say it better than their own description on on their website: “Girl & the Goat has been serving fun foods, craft beers, and making wine in a rustic and bad ass environment since summer 2010.” The name of the restaurant is derived from a literal embodiment of the chef’s last name: a French Pyrenean goat antelope.
On a personal note, we specifically chose Girl & the Goat to celebrate the female BarFly’s birthday because our joke has been that her epitaph would be “No Goat.” This was derived from our several year subscription to Marin Sun Farms meat-centric CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), where we were allowed to opt out of a single type of protein, and our monthly box always arrived with a large label of “No Goat” right underneath her name. It’s not that we don’t like goat, it was just a harder protein to properly cook for weeknight meals. So it just seemed appropriate to celebrate her significant milestone birthday with some friends at the Girl & the Goat (G&G).
Our party of nine was seated at one of their long communal tables, right next to the kitchen where we were able to catch all of the cooking action.
With a full bar, the cocktails they mix at G&G are the right way to start any meal as we perused the menu. Our party began with a full round of libations, starting appropriately with what they described as San Francisco’s answer to the Manhattan, The Foghorn (FEW Old Tom Gin, Cocchi Vermouth, Luxardo Maraschino, Orange Bitters). Since it was very hot that day, a Mint Julep derivative sounded like it would have the right cooling effect, so we also drank a Chicago Derby (Four Roses Bourbon, Demerara, Mint):
The main menu is divided into three sections simply labeled v (vegetarian), f (fish), m (meats), with each section containing nine to ten choices. They also have an adjunct menu listing bread, oysters and goat selections. Service was very friendly and helpful; our waiter informed us that all plates are served family-style, where two to three dishes per couple is typical. We quickly did the math and decided that nine dishes would be just about right for the nine of us, so we asked everyone at the table to select a dish that we double-ordered for everyone to share.
The waiter gave us his personal sharpie pen and invited us to send it and the menu down the table, so everyone could mark their selection. The birthday girl was throwing the party, so she decided on a couple of extra dishes (since oysters never really count.) We kicked the meal off with a round of “fried naked cowboy” oysters served with egg salad and capers. If we didn’t have nine other dishes coming, we easily could have re-rounded on this perfect surf and turf bite:
To make sure we had all tastes covered, we ordered white and red wine bottles for the table. Riesling is always an excellent food-friendly choice, and this bottle of 2010 Domain Weinbach Grand Cru Reisling Schlossberg was excellent and very dry. Spotting one of our favorite wine makers from Sicily, we naturally gravitated towards the 2010 COS Cerasulo di Vittoria, an excellent blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato:
Once the menu selection completed the round, it was very noticeable that this was a carnivorous bunch. Most items were meat-centric, where only one vegetable dish had been selected, so Birthday BarFly used her prerogative to add the “squash blossom rangoon,” where a courgette flower was brilliantly used in place of wonton skins to hold the creamy blend of crab and cheese. Toasted almonds provided a little bit of crunch, and the chive yogurt dipping sauce added a nice acidity:
The “pan fried shishito peppers” was the only vegetarian item originally ordered. Smothered in an umami-rich parmesan, white sesame and miso paste mixture, it was a marvelous update to the typical fried peppers. The only thing we may have regretted was that out of two bowls, not one of us got a spicy shishito:
G&G is a great place for offal dishes, and it seems our group didn’t mind ordering the nasty bits. The next dish that arrived was the very tender “braised beef tongue” served with thick fried masa chips and frisée dressed in a very tasty beef vinaigrette:
The “escargot ravioli” was also excellent: garlic and butter snails were given pasta shells. Bits of bacon and fried shallots accompanied the juicy ravioli bathing in a tamarind-miso sauce:
Marinated and grilled “kalbi beef ribs” were accompanied by sweet corn cobettes and grilled okra relish. This was an excellent fusion of Korean and midwestern American food:
The “skate wing” was one of the best preparations of this unusual flat fish that we have had a chance to eat. Pan-fired, it was accompanied by smoked potato and a soybean-sprout slaw. The fish swam in an apple dashi broth that was savory and very flavorful:
Not sure if we were disappointed or not, but the “wood oven roasted pig face” did not come with eyes or any other facial features. Rather, a crispy pork cake sat atop potato sticks and was hidden under the sunny side up fried egg. We were instructed that the best way to eat this is to mix all of the ingredients together with the tamarind and red wine maple sauces. This was a great example of a breakfast-for-dinner plate, and one that we would easily order for breakfast or brunch if they were open during those hours:
The “wood fired walter’s chicken” is another great example of using what are typically Asian ingredients in a decidedly Western dish. The moist tonkatsu sauce glazed chicken arrived with a small side dish of green goddess dressing and fresh baked naan bread:
“Crisp braised pork shank” arrived whole and daringly speared with a fork. The stonefruit kimchee was lightly pickled with a hint of spice. It also came with a separate helping of naan bread and buttermilk dressing:
It became clear why the fork was provided — it really was the only utensil required to pull the delicious and very tender meat off of the bone:
The last order was the birthday girl’s selection from the goat menu, “confit goat belly.” Served with lobster and crab and a fennel salad, we agreed that all surf and turf dishes should be this good. Earthy and decadent, it was a great way to end the savory part of the meal:
The entire table was very full at this point, having gone through 10+ dishes and at least seven bottles of wine. But the waiter supplied the celebrant with a Budino, flavored with toffee and bacon. It was so amazing that we found room to eat the entire bowl:
Our side of the table also had to try the bittersweet chocolate dessert that came with plump berries. We were glad we did, since this really was an excellent last bite:
It was a great place to throw a party for nine San Franciscans; we shall not soon forget the excellent meal we had at the Girl & the Goat.
Our experience showed why Chef Izard truly deserves to be a Top Chef winner. Her food fuses many different techniques and flavors from around the world. Each dish was unique and inventive enough that it really separates her cooking style from the rest of the pack. We had made plans to try out their more casual spot down the road a bit, the Little Goat, but we couldn’t envision walking there the next day as it was just too hot. Oh well, that just means we’ll need to plan another trip to Chicago.