The Purple Pig

May 9, 2010 - I recently read an article quoting a West Coast chef who says a real chef does not need pork fat to produce good food.  If that is your personal philosophy, you should skip The Purple Pig.  It’s a pork emporium--bacon, sausage, and pork fat heaven awaits those who enter its hallowed halls.  Tempting would be an understatement.
It was the last night of our restaurant weekend in Chicago.  I was heading back at 6 a.m. the next morning and wanted to end my Chicago food weekend on a high note!   There were too many remaining restaurants to choose from so we went with the “progressive dinner,” a frequent approach Cheryl and I use to try out new places.  A glass of wine, a few appetizers to share and then it’s off to the next place for another round.  Let me just say, it’s a lot more fun than the sorority week version! 

We decided to hit The Purple Pig first.  It felt like (and sounded like) half of Chicago had the same thought.  The small restaurant is very casual in feel—cramped communal tables abound and it was noisy, noisy, noisy!  Luckily, as soon as we walked in, we were able to find three seats.  It took a few minutes, but once we had the wait staff’s attention, we were able to quickly order glasses of wine and a round of appetizers. 
Honestly, the individual glasses of wine were not particularly remarkable, but the breadth of the wine by the glass list and the nice glassware provided an option for all drinkers.  The food, however, was very memorable.  I think I have a fairly adventurous palate, but random animal parts are still a bit outside the box for me.  Nonetheless, we dug right in when the fried pig’s ear arrived.  The pig’s ear was sliced into small slivers and then fried with kale and pickled peppers and topped with a fried egg.  I have to admit—it was good.  But that may have been because I “decided” to pretend they were onion rings. 
The other new item for me was the roasted bone marrow served with an herb salad and toasted sourdough bread.  We scooped the bone marrow out and smeared it onto the bread rounds.  Tasted like crostini drowned in olive oil—the herb salad really added a bright note cutting through the heavy fat flavor. 
One more meat dish—milk braised pork shoulder cooked a la plancha (on a griddle) with some mashed potatoes.  The meat was very tender but I was surprised that the cooking method did not add any crunch to the dish.  With the mashed potatoes it was good, but the least interesting dish of the night.  
We rounded out the menu with a vegetable, fried baby artichokes with lemon.  I really liked the dish, although the lemon juice was a bit overpowering on the artichokes on the top of the dish.
There were more than a handful of other dishes I would love to try at The Purple Pig. In particular, their charcuterie and “smears,” their term for potted meats and cheese spreads looked amazing.  If I find myself in Chicago in the near future look for me on one of their barstools--it’s an experience I am looking forward to repeating.  Bring on the bacon!

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