Monday, May 10, 2010

Making the Porcine Scene

Posted By on 05.10.10 at 12:50 PM

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Now that I'm sporting a Beard award, my my home-schooled palate and I are fielding way more dinner invitations. Saturday night I attended a Clandestino dinner in the basement archives of Blind Pig Records, Chicago's venerable indie blues label.

Clandestino is a monthly "underground supper club" organized by ronin chef Efrain Cuevas, who's found a creative way around the crushing overhead and daunting risk of establishing his own bricks-and-mortar restaurant. Participants book a place at the table via Clandestino's Web site but don't learn the exact location of their night out until the day of same. The delicious and perpetually surprising five-course menu was predicated on the useful sacrifice of a single free-range pig (reportedly fully actualized and happy in its lifetime), with Cuevas making use of every masticable porky shred to feed his 42 hungry subscribers. Everything was good, but I was especially taken with his trotter noodle soup with barbecued pork loin, pickled ramps, and rhubarb—and not just because I was able to rack up some foodie-savoir points by explaining to my fellow clandestinos what a ramp is. Dessert, an anise-hyssop root beer float made with handcrafted root beer (pink, no less), was likewise awesome.

The setting, in the unfinished basement of Blind Pig Record's unassuming corporate HQ at 2935 N. Milwaukee, gave the whole affair a cozy early-Christians-in-the-catacombs vibe, except with shelves of archived master tapes lining the walls instead of the fleshless grinning bones of the Silent Majority. The atmosphere lent itself to making friends with strangers. Halfway through the dinner we took a break upstairs to catch a great set by Blind Pig recording artist Guy King, who, like most great blues artists, hails from a small town in Israel. It turned out that Mother's Day this year was also Robert Johnson's 99th birthday, and King did good things with some of that great man's canonical songs.

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