Yesterday, Bill & I had brunch at a small Andersonville restaurant called Vincent. Until Tuesday, we’d never known it existed. Tuesday, though, the folks behind the Restaurant Intelligence Agency ran a contest on Twitter for “a basket of dutch goodies” from Chrissy Camba, the Chef de Cuisine at Vincent.
Here’s how I think it works: every Tuesday, they feature a chef who is registered with them (or, at least, I think that’s a requirement), interview them over the course of the day, and then run a contest involving that chef. That’s certainly how it worked this time. In my case, they asked us to guess which celebrity would Chrissy Camba most like to cook for, with the hint of this celebrity is the nephew of a legendary film director.
For fun, I’ll let you guys guess too. Though my dutch goodies won’t ship well. Also, I want to eat them. So, if you’re in Chicago & guess correctly, you can come to my house & play board games tonight & help me eat said goodies.
When Camba said the goodies would be ready on Sunday, I took a look at the Sunday brunch menu & felt an abiding need to stay for brunch in addition to picking up a basket of dutch goodies. Of course, I forgot my good camera, and my mediocre camera. So you guys get cell phone photos.
My plan, after looking at that menu was to eat the “Uitsmijter”. It just looked too good to pass up! So, of course, I totally passed over it for a chance at one of the day’s specials: bone marrow (which I’d never had before), two eggs, a homemade salt bagel (nom!) and spring onion cream cheese.
So, why’d I switch? The chance to try something totally new was a big push to have the special. But the salt bagel was what put me over the edge. No one but Bill knows it, but I have been in love with a salt bagel since Flying Star was “Double Rainbow” (aka: a very long time). Worse, Flying Star hasn’t sold them in years1! Thus, I have had a long quest seeking out the perfect salt bagel.
I have to admit, I was pretty excited to try the bone marrow2. It’s kind of weird sounding, but I’ve wondered about people (and animals) eating it since I was a kid (it came up in books a lot). I’ve tried to see it in chicken bones after a chicken dinner (I wasn’t able to tell if I was looking at it). I’ve heard a bunch of other people, recently, rave about how delicious it is. Most of all? I had no clue what I was getting into, and there’s some excitement in that.
Since I love the guy, I offered Bill the first little taste of everything on my plate. Knowing what eggs taste like, he declined the eggs, but tried everything else. He told me I’d enjoy my meal immensely, though bone marrow wasn’t his thing. He said it was “like meat jelly”.
Yes, but DELICIOUS meat jelly. Man, that was weird but tasty. I probably will order it again, somewhere, but I won’t drop everything to have it. On top of that, the bagel was fabulous and the cream cheese was lovely & light. I didn’t eat much of the eggs, to be honest. They were a little more cooked than I wanted them to be (which was no surprise – solid white & totally runny yolk seems to be difficult), but still tasty. It’s just that there was so much to eat.
Because, of course, Bill loves me and let me try his meal. And, because he loves you too, he’ll tell you about it (and our surprise!).
Bill here. I maintain I didn’t say it was like meat jelly, for the record. I’m pretty sure that honor goes to our waitress.
The other special of the day was a russian meat pie, filled with hard-boiled eggs and chicken confit. That doesn’t exactly sound like my thing, but for some reason it spoke to me. It came with what I was told was a prune, beet and walnut salad.
The verdict? The pie was reasonably tasty, though not oh god why haven’t I had this before-inducing like what was going on across the table from me. I was quite confused by the salad through the meal: I couldn’t detect any prune, nor walnut, in there. There were certainly beets, but what the heck was I eating? I didn’t manage to ask our waitress until the end of the meal, when she looked at it and said “oh, that’s not what I expected at all. Just a minute!” and went to ask. It turned out to be another beet-based salad with peas, potatoes, carrots, and some kind of light dressing. I possibly would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been taking each bite as a “what’s wrong with my tastebuds?” quiz. Oh well.
However! We got two extra surprises with our meal. First off, before the meal, we each received a pork bitterbal (Wikipedia says this is the right way to make bitterballen singular), along with a small pile of greens and some mustard. Tasha really liked hers. I liked mine well enough, but wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about it as she was. The waitress described the insides of the ball as “like tuna salad, but with pork instead of fish”. I couldn’t place what the greens were dressed with, but it was pretty simple.
The second surprise was, along with our two meals, the Uitsmijter that Tasha and I were both interested in! The waitress said that the chef insisted we should have it as well. We were pretty happy about this since we both wanted to try it, but were a little overwhelmed by the amount of food at the table. A different couple would have said “well, we’ll just eat part of all of them”. This couple? I’m wishing we had a picture to put here of the table full of empty plates. We pretty much decimated all of it. The Uitsmijter was by far my favorite dish there, and I will probably order it again when we go back. Interestingly, there were things about it that each of us didn’t like (too much cheese for her, the brown sugar bacon a little too sweet for me), but I think it was the winner between us3.
Too much food! And a big basket of goodies (next post) to take home!
Okay, truthfully, the food was wonderful, but I wanted to take a moment to thank the staff for being so nice to us.
We came in right as they were opening, and everyone was very friendly. They became even more friendly when they realized I was the contest winner, but even before that the host seemed genuinely delighted to have the first customers of the day.
When she had a moment, Camba came out to say hello & congratulations, and it was a lot of fun to meet her briefly & have her tell us about the food in our basket.
Our waitress, whose name I sadly don’t recall (grrr to me), was friendly, professional AND had a recommendation on where to get another fabulous salt bagel (her husband is as big a fan as I am, apparently). She took excellent care of us, chatted with us (hence the salt bagel recommendation) and did it all without looming over us or neglecting her other tables. In fact, I overheard her take a drink order from someone who was utterly waffling on tea (iced or hot, what kind, we’re happy to make it for you) without blinking.
The single busser was very quiet, but efficient & friendly. Even with a copious amount of food, we were never overwhelmed with dishes. Also, he smiled a lot, which always makes me like a person more.
Again, I understand that this was not a totally “normal” experience, since most people coming in aren’t there to pick up their winnings from a twitter contest & meet the chef de cuisine. That may mean that we got better than average service in addition to being given an awesome extra entree, but I suspect not. I suspect they really are just that good, just from watching the team with other tables.
Since I expect to go back, I imagine I’ll know eventually.
1 To be fair, it’s possible they sell them regularly. Just never when I’m in Albuquerque. Which I have visited every season since I left 9 years ago. Boo.
2 Even though I wish they did, I’m probably lucky my parents don’t read this blog. I’m afraid one or both of them would be utterly grossed out by this & possibly claim I must be an alien switched at birth with their daughter. Which, come to think of it, wouldn’t be all that different from my growing-up years. Only difference is that, back then, they made that claim when they felt I was being too picky or unadventurous.
3 We paid for our drinks and ordered meals. The Uitsmijter & bitterballen were given to us, the bitterballen explicitly as we were the contest winners. It was all delicious.