Quail at the Hopleaf

Vaughn and I traversed the north Chicago streets to one of our favorite food and drink joints: the Hopleaf Bar on North Clark.

We started with their specialty: Belgian-style mussels steamed in Whittekerke white ale with shallots, celery, thyme and a bay leaf. One of the best parts about the dish (besides the delicious mussels) is the broth leftover in the cast iron pot. The broth is best sopped up with the pain d'epi that they serve up along side (a french baguette that is snipped with shears to look like a wheat stalk). With this I had the Three Floyd's Alpha King pale ale.

For my entree I had the pan-roasted quail with morel mushrooms, fava beans, asparagus, whipped potatoes and an Ommegang/bacon sauce. I was blown away. I've never had quail before (vegetarian since the 10th grade), but I would describe quail as a cross between turkey and duck, and all that big flavor in such a tiny package. The meat was juicy, sweet and rich. The Ommegang and bacon sauce paired beautifully and added another layer of flavor to the dish. Usually I love a big helping of dense, chunky, flavorful mashed potatoes, but the silky-smooth whipped potatoes were a much better match with the rich quail meat. I paired the entree with the Atomium Grand Cru, a delightful beer heavy on the orange flavor and aroma with a hint of coriander.

We ended our evening with dessert - a rarity because we usually stuff ourselves. We had the lemon curd served in shortbread tart cups laced with rosemary and a little dollop of strawberry rhubarb. I'm a sucker for lemon curd and this desert was delightful. The tanginess of the lemon curd, sweet and tart combination of the strawberry rhubarb, and the fragrant herbal flavor of the rosemary was refreshing. So long chocolate cake drenched in chocolate and more chocolate!

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