Carriage House focused on Lowcountry Southern
November 3, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Just because the space is new, and it happens to be in Wicker Park, doesn't necessarily mean everything about the menu at The Carriage House is going to be hip and trendy. If anything, it's a throwback. The "lazy man's old fashioned" for example, is inspired by a recipe book from the early 20th century, and the food is strictly Lowcountry.
"It's where I grew up. It's the coastal region from Charleston almost to Savannah, and it's called the Lowcountry because it's actually below sea level," said Chef Mark Steuer. "Lots of seafood, also grits, lots of corn; fresh tomatoes. Lots of greens.."
Steuer divides his menu into two categories. From the "traditional" side, South Carolina she crab soup, accented with sherry, blue crab and a buttermilk cracker. Also, shrimp and grits; a combo of Georgia white prawns with Steuer's childhood favorite.
"They're from a place called Geechie Boy Mills, which is just down the street from where I grew up. We get 'em shipped up in 50 pounds each of grits and cornmeal twice a week," said Steuer.
The dish is brought together by a rich, southern gravy, combining shrimp, pork, chicken and veal stock.
"It's called a hunter gravy, although all that means is it has bacon and mushroom," he said.
A picnic board hits all the right notes: eggs pickled in beet juice, country ham and freshly-baked cornbread.. plus Carolina shrimp and pimento cheese.
"It's cream cheese, roasted peppers, lots of herbs and spices and then cheddar just whipped together with a little bourbon and hot sauce," said Steuer.
From the "reimagined" side of the menu.. Luscious baked grits, oyster mushrooms and a soft egg, strewn with a truffle vinaigrette and shaved cheese. Also, a newfangled "pork & beans": smoked ham hocks that are braised, then formed together into terrine and crisped up; crowned by a soft-cooked egg, then showered in southern love.
"It's a Sea Island red pea succotash, with a little creole mustard vinaigrette and pickled okra. So it's kind of like taking the most simple "mom" food and elevating it with a lot of technique," he said.
So with Southern cuisine more popular than ever around the country these days, it hasn't quite fully penetrated Chicago just yet. However, with restaurants like The Carriage House focusing on Lowcountry, it's bringing in some new techniques, as well as some interesting ingredients.
The restaurant is closed Mondays. They'll also start lunch and brunch service very soon.
The Carriage House
1700 W. Division St.
restaurants, steve dolinsky
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