Monday, March 24, 2014

A first look at dishes from Randolph Street's Tete Charcuterie

Posted By on 03.24.14 at 12:45 PM

Pâté en croute with heritage pork, wild boar and foie gras.
  • Michael Gebert
  • Paté en croute with heritage pork, wild boar, and foie gras

Many of the restaurants that have popped up in the Randolph Street meatpacking district seek to create a little oasis of glamour in the midst of food-industry grittiness. Tete Charcuterie wants you to remember where you are and what they do for a living here.

The meat-focused restaurant, which is in soft opening now and will have its official opening April 7, is located in an old meatpacking facility which has been renovated to call attention to its bones—the thick wooden floors and iron beams of a decades-old plant. The menu of coexecutive chefs Thomas Rice and Kurt Guzowski deliberately evokes the food found around markets in places like France and Italy, food that takes simple cuts and scraps and turns them into artful, deeply meaty patés and sausages. Those dishes make no effort to hide their butcher-shop origins, so the restaurant doesn't either—the line and charcuterie cases are open to the dining room, and during service you may see the staff grinding and making sausage.

"Our place kind of works as a history of what this area once was," said Rice. "This is how our grandparents used to buy their meat and eat." In America of late, charcuterie is taken to be synonymous with salumi, or cured meats, but Rice says, "Charcuterie over in Europe, whether it's France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, [the butcher shop] is where they go and get their cold cuts, things like head cheese. So it's a much broader spectrum than just salumi."

The menu is focused on pork and beef, to be sure, most of it from local farms like Swan Creek and Slagel Family Farm. But it also includes things like chicken and vegetable terrines and seafood dishes (which Rice says will increase as summer calls for lighter fare). It also steps out of Europe in a Philippines-inspired dish (Rice's wife is Filipina) using longanisa sausage and garlic fried rice, and in one inevitable item on the sausage menu, a house-made Chicago-style hot dog with fries.

For now the patés and fresh sausages are made in-house, while the salumi is mostly coming from West Loop Salumi across the street. In time Rice and Guzowski plan to make everything themselves (Rice reeled off a list for me of things currently curing in back, from coppa to Wagyu strip loins). The fresh sausages make for plates whose accompaniments evoke those cultures—and get some vegetables in as well. All the offerings will follow the seasons and reflect what the farmers they buy from are bringing in at that time. The beverage program includes short lists of wines and beers chosen to complement charcuterie and reflect choices from the same regions as the food, while the cocktail list includes drinks named for events in the history of the opening in the restaurant (you'll have to ask about specific drinks such as the Two-Tree Days or the Enhhhhhh).

See an assortment of dishes from Tete's opening menu, and the transformation of the space in our slide show.

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