Category Archives: General

Thank You

“If you will it, dude, it is no dream.”

Today I was announced as one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2013 … holy shit.

This is a moment that I’ve wondered (read: obsessed) about for close to 15 years. I can probably count on one hand the number of days over those 15 years that I haven’t thought about BNC. It is a short, distinct list, compiled by a group that has a bird’s-eye view of the American culinary landscape. And it is, as Mike Sheerin puts it, “good company to be in.”

No part of what got us here has been easy. This past year, starting with the preparation for Cochon 555 (which eventually became our bitch), hasn’t been easy. I haven’t been easy.

First and foremost, thank you to everyone at Nightwood. Thanks for making this possible. You all are the reason that the restaurant works. You guys are the heart and soul of the place. You guys are the brains and the brawn. You guys are amazing.

I can’t imagine any of this coming to be without the amazing men and women in the kitchen that I have the absolute pleasure of working with everyday. Ben, Shae, Ron, Dan, Colin, Danielle, Alex, Pedro, Mollie, Martin, Dweezil, Sarah, Smelly, Coronado, Alemi, and Katie. You guys are true professionals who know how to not take yourself too seriously. I love you guys and owe you so much. Thank you.

Thank you to John, Anna, and all of the front of the house who put up with me obsessing over this for two years … sorry, won’t happen again ;)

To Jason and Lea, Matt and Kevin — thank you for giving our “style” time to work itself out (honestly, I still don’t know what it is). I realize that the growing pains were deep, and your patience didn’t go unnoticed.

I want to say thank you to all of our past and future co-workers, even the complete boneheads (you know who you are). You all contributed to making Nightwood what it is today, and what it will eventually become … all of the stones in a path are important.

Thank you to all of the farmers who make what we do possible. Stop being late.

To the stages who never showed up. Thank you. Without you, we are, thankfully, without you.

Thanks to Rob and Allie, Jenn and David, J.P., Paul, Paul, Steph, Abra, Huston, Mike Motobike, Yoni and Jenny, Dunc, Hunter, Brady and Heather, Pandel, Mike and Pat, Poli, Thai, G.E., Merlin, Korin, Team Sawyer, Steve D., Gregger, Roberto, and all of the Chicago (and beyond) cheffy community for the love, support, and advice … I owe every one of you a lifetime of debt. Thank you.

To all of our regulars and wonderful customers, (well, maybe not the guy who got drunk and screamed at me for his soup being tepid. Danny Devito impersonator, no kidding.) — you guys are the most important part of the restaurant. Without you we have nothing. Thank you and see you soon!

To all of the chefs and business owners that I’ve worked for, and, am still learning from; to all of my friends … thank you. See, I’m not a total fuck-up!

To my parents and my pain-in-the-ass sister … I don’t know where to start. You never gave up on me. You never made me feel like I should give up on myself. I love you.

To my daughter … Daddy did something to make you proud of him.

To my wife. You’re the most wonderful woman in the world. You are absolutely nuts, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We’ve had a crazy journey so far, and I think it’s about to get crazier. I can’t picture running toward that without your hand in mine. You’re my best friend, the love of my life, my teammate, my partner. I love you so much.

Sorry for rambling. Lotta love these days. This is crazy!!!!

Also, if you feel the need to make fun of me for this post, whiskey would be appreciated  ;)

JV

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Chai Bitters

A few weeks ago, two of our front-of-the-house staff members — Georgina and Eric — were busy at the bar making house-made chai bitters. I was intrigued by what I imagined would be a heavenly smelling concoction, so I decided to stick around and snap a few shots to document the process … just in case I ever wanted to try this at home.

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While bitters used to be marketed as medicines, today they’re used as flavorings in cocktails, as well as aperitifs and digestifs. The bitters are prepared through infusion or distillation, using aromatic herbs, barks, roots and/or fruits, which are not only used to provide that bitter/bittersweet flavor but also for their natural stomach-soothing qualities. So even though we’ve come a long way from this … its general medicinal qualities have remained constant.

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Though there are numerous types of bitters, it seems nothing could be more comforting and warming during these cold winter months than chai bitters. To start, Eric and Georgina used a mortar and pestle to grind several different types of spices, including: grains of paradise, Jamaican allspice and cardamom pods.

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Here’s Georgina grinding the spices and then adding them to a jar already filled with some star anise, cloves, a few cinnamon sticks cracked in half and wormwood herb.

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After that, Eric added a sliced vanilla bean, fresh orange peel and candied ginger. The vanilla provides a hint of sweetness while the orange peel gives it that natural bitterness.

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While the candied ginger also adds a certain level of sweetness (primarily because it’s candied!), it has always been known for its soothing properties — particularly calming an upset stomach.

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Eric finished it off by adding a high strength rum; he said it would sit and infuse for a few weeks … and well … it’s definitely been a few weeks.

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So whether or not you need a “cure” for jaundice, a loss of appetite, sour stomach, body aches, fever, sores, liver trouble or just general debility — bitters might just be your new best friend. Who knew drinking could be so good for you …

Now, who’s thirsty?


Valentine’s Day 2013

Is it just us, or did February come out of nowhere? It seems like we were just making (and breaking) New Year’s resolutions, and now, Valentine’s Day is less than a week away. If this holiday is catching you off-guard and you’re still looking for a unique – and romantic – way to celebrate, consider joining us for a decadent and comforting 4-course meal on Thursday, February 14th at $60/person:

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While space is limited, we do have a few tables available at this time. Please call the restaurant ASAP at 312.526.3385 to book your reservation or to be placed on a waiting list. With a menu this good looking (fish in butter poached lobster sauce? pan-seared steak? hot fudge sundae?) — it’s definitely worth waiting for.


Private Events at Nightwood

When the weather is this cold (and snowy) in Chicago, few things are more comforting than staying inside, and of course — eating. The good news is, you can partake in both of these activities at Nightwood by celebrating your next special occasion with us. Whether you’re getting married and want a unique dining reception, or a close friend is leaving town and you want to throw them a great going-away party, setting up a private event at Nightwood is easy and promises a memorable experience for you and your guests.

There are three main areas of the restaurant available for use, the first (and most popular) is the downstairs Wine Cellar. This cozy, candle-lit space provides a warm and inviting atmosphere — perfect for private dinner parties, seating anywhere from 8 to 45 guests.

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We also have the upstairs dining room available for luncheons (12:30-4:00 p.m.) during the week. This bright open space is a wonderful setting for baby/bridal showers, your next company event, or even a daytime wedding rehearsal.

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Lastly, consider using our covered outdoor patio —  weather permitting. This is a nice option for those seeking something a bit more casual and laid-back, not to mention closer to nature :)

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As far as pricing goes, here’s our basic structure:

  • Four-course family style dinner begins at $65/person
  • Three-course individually plated dinner begins at $55/person
  • Brunch and luncheon prices are TBD according to party size and begin at $35/person.
  • A room charge is applied to the total bill if the minimum sales amount for private events isn’t met. (*Click here for more information.)
  • A service charge of 20% will be available to the bill, pre-tax. Sales tax of 10.25% will be levied on the total bill.

Now, let’s talk food. We offer a variety of menu options (from family style to individually plated), and we’re always willing to accommodate guests with dietary/allergy restrictions. Because we are a true farm-to-table restaurant and buy directly from local farms, keep in mind that our menus are subject to change due to the whims of nature. Rest assured that the style and quality of our cuisine remains constant: simple, honest, handcrafted, and delicious. Here’s a sample menu from a private dinner hosted in October 2012:

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If any of this sounds appealing to you, be sure to call the restaurant (312.526.3385) to speak with our wonderful Events Coordinator, Anna Heerwagen. She will happily answer any questions you may have regarding pricing, alcohol/beverage options, seating arrangements, menu customizations, transportation, etc. You can also e-mail her at events@nightwoodrestaurant.com. In the meantime, check out our downloadable PDF, including a wealth of information that’ll surely put you one step closer to hosting your next special event with us.

We look forward to seeing you soon!


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