Category Archives: Sunday Brunch

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!


The Secret Behind Our Burger

Not to toot our own horn or anything … but our burger is good. Like, really good. And even for someone who rarely eats red meat — it’s pretty darn scrumptious. Maybe it’s the high quality ground beef we use from Slagel Family Farm in Fairbury, IL, or maybe it’s because we add our own house-made worcestershire sauce to the beef.

Ok, maybe it’s both.

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Every week, we receive our meat delivery from Slagel, which always contains ground beef. After all, the burger does grace the menu every day of the week — even on Sundays for brunch. The ground beef we use is made up of 85% lean beef, 10% pork fat and 5% beef fat, which is then combined with our special worcestershire sauce — which is the big secret behind our burger. Nonetheless, we can’t ignore the fact that we’re using super high-quality beef, so let’s get to that first …

Check out this bit of information from Slagel’s website; they talk about their beef and what makes it so good:

 “We raise Batavian cattle on a diet of grass, grain and alfalfa, hay and wheat straw. We do not strictly feed all grass or all grain to our cattle since we feel some variation in their diet is beneficial. Our cattle do not receive hormones or implants, so they must be fed for 18-24 months, which is considerably longer than industry averages. By combining this breed of cattle with properly managed production techniques, we result in premium quality beef which generally grades high choice and prime. This prime beef is then dry aged at our processing facility approximately 25 days to enhance the product quality even further. The carcasses are then hand-cut to order into steaks (which can be dry aged even further if desired), dry aged ground beef, roasts and many other cuts.”

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Even if you can’t get your hands on Slagel’s ground beef, try making our worcestershire sauce at home and adding it to your own burger the next time you’re grilling. It’s a bit of a process but totally worth it.

:: INGREDIENTS ::

(yields ~1qt)

  • 6 oz. fresh horseradish
  • 1 oz. sardine filet; soaked and cleaned of bones
  • 2 onions
  • 2 jalapeño peppers
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 3/4 tsp. coarse black pepper
  • 2 c. water
  • 4 c. champagne vinegar
  • 1 c. dark molasses
  • 12 cloves
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 lemon; peeled and chopped

:: INSTRUCTIONS ::

Add horseradish, sardine, onion, jalapeño, garlic and pepper to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Then, add the puree to a heavy-bottomed pot and cook until this mixture has caramelized. Be careful not to scorch the bottom! Once it has caramelized, add the water, vinegar, molasses, cloves, salt and lemon to the pot. Simmer over low heat and allow to reduce. Check the seasoning. Remove from the heat and cool. Then, blend it once more until very smooth. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks. This also freezes great!

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While other dishes have come and gone over the years, the burger remains a constant on our menu. I do suppose there’s something to be said about the simplicity of ordering a really delicious burger, even when it’s up against other intricate menu items like our milk-streamed brisket with cornbread polenta and a foie gras-tomato vinaigrette, or the spit-roasted half chicken with potato and honey-yeast gnocchi in a dried chili sauce.

Perhaps it’s that “safe” feeling you get when ordering a patty of beef stuck between two pieces of bread: there’s no guesswork — you know you can just sit down, eat something that’ll taste really, really good, wipe your mouth off, and call it a night. So, goodnight.


Wintertime Cooking

I was hanging around the restaurant last week and decided to take a walk downstairs to peek inside the walk-in cooler. Unlike the spring and summer months — when every nook and cranny is packed full with fresh produce — I came across lots of potatoes, salted meats, pickled vegetables, compound butters, Brussels sprouts, radishes and cabbage (just to name a few). Translation: it’s wintertime in the Midwest.

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Though our inaccessibility to certain types of produce year-round can make cooking for a genuine farm-to-table restaurant challenging at times, we accept it with open arms. Because we don’t have the luxury of living in an area where the climate is more temperate, it forces us to be creative, think outside the box and use the ingredients we do have in ways we haven’t before. Every day, the kitchen staff meets up to go over the menu, as it not only changes seasonally, but also daily. That’s what makes dining at Nightwood so unique.

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This time of year, we’re featuring heartier breads and biscuits, potato-based dishes, lots delicious fat (are you ordering the beef fat tacos for brunch today?), and comforting pastas, like our “one long noodle” that’s filled with carbonara and served with mussels, lemon and cured egg yolk. Here’s J.D., our pasta maker extraordinaire, rolling out the noodle:

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So while some might think wintertime cooking isn’t exciting, we beg to differ … just be sure to come on an empty stomach.

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Savory Tart Dough

If you joined us for brunch this past Sunday (1/6), maybe you were one of the lucky guests who ordered our savory tart. It was filled with a custard made from Clock Shadow Creamery quark, which was then topped with Brussels sprouts and a runny egg. Is your mouth watering yet?

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The good news is, even if you didn’t have the chance to try it at the restaurant, I stopped by Nightwood on Saturday while JV was rolling out the tart dough for brunch and snagged the recipe from him … so now you can make it at home.

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:: INGREDIENTS – SAVORY TART DOUGH ::

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. of each: dried dill, ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 c. cold, unsalted butter; cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 c. cold water

:: INGREDIENTS – CUSTARD :: 

(Note: This will only yield enough custard base for 1-2 small tarts. Multiply the recipe as necessary.)

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c. soft/fresh cheese (we used quark)
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

:: METHOD ::

On a flat, non-stick or floured surface, combine the flour, salt and dried herbs/seasonings. Then, using the “cut-in method,” incorporate the cold butter into the flour mixture (using your fingers or a fork) until it resembles chunks the size of peas. This will ensure a flaky crust. Now, take the cold water and slowly add it to the mixture, carefully incorporating it into the dough. It’s difficult to say whether or not you will need all of the water; you are basically adding it until the dough comes together nicely and isn’t crumbling into dry pieces. Be sure not to over-work the dough. Once you’ve achieved the right consistency, you can either separate it into smaller disks of dough if you’re making individual tarts (yields ~6), or keep it in one large disk if making 1-2 large tarts. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Now …  watch JV finish the tart here:

Also, note that the cooking times are dependent on the size of tart that you’re making. The small tart featured here took about 10-15 minutes to blind-bake, and then an additional 20 minutes or so to bake until the custard was set up. Larger, thicker tarts will obviously take longer.

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Please comment below if you have any questions about this recipe! Enjoy!


Potato Talk + Our Tots Recipe

Happy New Year, everyone! We thought we’d kick off 2013 by talking about one of our favorite ingredients: the potato. And if you’ve ever joined us for our Sunday Brunch, chances are you’ve had our tater tots. Customers are constantly stopping at the kitchen counter to ask how the tots are made and what exactly makes them so good compared to others. The secret: cooking the potatoes in a very specific way, which yields a flavorful result and crispy outer crust.

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Our executive chef, JV, explains how it’s done:

“The thing that I like the most about potatoes is that they never stop being productive. They’re like the vegetable equivalent of the egg. There are hundreds of known ways to cook them and I still find it exciting to contemplate new ones. Also, as with eggs, the time and temperature at which you cook them greatly affects the outcome. You can cook an egg at 145 degrees fahrenheit for 45 minutes and come out with a completely different result than if you shave off a few degrees and add a few minutes. It’s neither a recipe nor a ratio —  it’s a result. And even if it looks gross and tastes like shit, it’s a building block for something else — I promise.

Same goes for potatoes. You can end up with some gloppy, gluey mess (which is what, hopefully, you’ll be able to avoid after reading this) and understand something about potatoes and how they like to be treated. We figured out a while ago that cooking potatoes a couple of times, each time at a higher temperature, yields the most pleasing results. We always blanched our cut potatoes in hot oil first and then fried them a second time in really hot oil for crispy french fries, but I never really thought about why. The blanching seems to pull out most of the moisture so that the second cooking (the hot frying) could just concentrate on crisping up the exterior without all of that moisture ruining the crust. But what’s really going on is that we are using gentle heat to break down that starch that could eventually cause a problem, and then more aggressive heat to break down the remaining cells without any danger of the starch bunching up on us. Pretty lame and unscientific explanation; these guys can probably explain it way better: Harold McGee and Ideas in Food.

So, we started thinking about all of our potato dishes this way. At this point, almost four years later, there isn’t a potato in our kitchen that doesn’t get cooked at least twice. It’s a huge pain in the ass, taking the temperature of every single potato, but it does yield some tasty results. Like our Nightwood tots. Now, just to clarify, we are talking about your everyday, high-starch, russet potatoes. They are the workhorse in our kitchen. We love our little red-skinned new potatoes and German butterballs, but russets store the best, and they’re also available with consistent quality year round.”

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NOTE: please only fry these things if you have a heavy bottomed, deep pot. They cause the oil to bubble up quite a bit, and we don’t want anyone getting hurt!

:: INGREDIENTS ::

  • 2-3 large russet potatoes
  • Canola oil
  • Salt

:: PREPARATION ::

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Roast potatoes until they reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees F.
  • Let them cool to room temperatures and then refrigerate them overnight.
  • The next day, peel them and then grate with a box grater. Season lightly with salt.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to form little balls (you gotta really jam it in there!)
  • Put the balls on a baking sheet and freeze overnight.

:: TO FRY ::

  • Heat a few inches of the canola oil in a REALLY DEEP, BIG POT to 350 degrees F.
  • Using a big slotted spoon, gently lower the balls straight from the freezer into the hot oil.
  • Let them fry for a few minutes until they are golden brown.
  • Carefully remove and place on paper towels to drain the excess oil. Season with salt.
  • Once more — BE CAREFUL!

So, now you know the secret behind our tots. It might be a two-day process, but the end result is definitely worth the extra bit of effort. And if you don’t feel like making them at home, grab a few friends and come in for brunch (we’re open for brunch every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.)

… And you could even take some tots home with you :)