After a very sick couple of weeks, (flu season one point for you) all I have been craving as of late is warm, hearty comfort foods. In typical haute fashion, instead of mom’s kitchen, I turned to a few former Ritz chefs. Prarie Fire is the newer downtown extension of the wildly popular Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook (Northshore moms, rejoice).
Co-Chef/Owners George Bumbaris (21 years at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago) and two-time James Beard award-winner Sarah Stegner opened the restaurant to bring a more personal touch to their creations. While Prarie Fire is clearly more casual than the superlative fine dining of the hotel industry, the right veterans are behind the venture to ensure it’s long term success. With Stegner’s husband at front of house and her mother in the kitchen baking her “transcendent” homemade pies, you can actually taste the love in the food and making it a true family affair. A big proponent of Green City Market (both chefs are founding members and co-presidents) and local sustainable farms, the ingredients are selected to reflect the season and very apparent in all their dishes.
Wild Mushroom Soup (made from specially harvested organic mushrooms from River Valley Ranch, a dedicated Wisconsin mushroom farm)- Rich, creamy, satisfying and just what my poor throat was craving.
“Tallgrass Beef” Penne Pasta Tossed in a Basil-Tomato-Meat Sauce with Parmesan & Bread Crumb Topping– a very approachable and hearty pasta dish that in theory you could make at home, just with fresher, more high-end ingredients like broadcast journalist Bill Kurtis’ Tallgrass Beef. Tallgrass Beef was the first grass-fed, grass-finished beef served in many of Chicago’s finest restaurants like Rick Bayless’s locales and Charlie Trotter’s.
Center Cut Ahi Tuna Seared Rare Baby Bok Choy, “River Valley Ranch” Shiitake Mushrooms in a Spicy Soy Sauce- If you’re in the mood for a more refined option, all the sustainable seafood is sourced from Seafood Merchants, who have partnered with Shedd Aquarium to ensure quality and freshness in the Midwest.
Pumpkin Pie- I’ll be the first to admit I don’t even like Pumpkin Pie (or really any Thanksgiving food since I don’t understand why people like feeling like they just ate their weight in meat), but this filling and crust were so light, fluffy and rich I may have just became a believer.
Warm Sticky Toffee Date Cake- OMG. I have a horrible sweet tooth and this definitely satisfied it. What the presentation lacks in refinement it makes up in decadence- basically the dessert you dream about to compliment every salty/savory meal. The flavor and texture are perfectly in sync and an excellent nightcap. Just be forewarned, there will be a sugar high.
Sarah’s mom is allowed in my kitchen any day.
215 N. Clinton St. 312.382.8300. http://www.prairiefirechicago.com/