Chefs Thomas Elliott Bowman and Ben Roche at Baume & Brix (Hilary Higgins/RedEye )
Spooked by the sight of blood, let alone the thought of eating it? Ingredients like blood, bones, organ meats and insects may seem more trick than treat to some Chicagoans, but in many parts of the world (and many parts of the U.S.), they're common -- even celebrated.
Mexican chef Manuel Bañuelos, who opened Oaxacan restaurant Mezcalina in the Loop in August, said that grasshoppers -- a high-protein, nutritious snack -- are considered a delicacy in Oaxacan cuisine. And Thomas Elliott Bowman, partner and co-executive chef at Baume & Brix, grew up eating fried chicken gizzards and livers as a kid in Oklahoma, where he could find them at every corner store.
"There are parts of the animal that get overlooked that are, in my opinion, some of the best," Bowman said.
That may be changing. The whole-animal movement already has swept New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, and Bowman thinks it's also come to Chicago. At Baume & Brix, which opened in River North earlier this month, he and co-executive chef Ben Roche are taking an "upscale approach to downplayed food" on the “Divide” section of the menu, which features large dishes that are meant to be shared. The menu isn't necessarily "head-to-tail," but they're including unfamiliar ingredients where it makes sense.
"When you serve offal or ingredients like that, and they're in context with everything else, and the entire dish makes sense, it's not a weird ingredient," Roche said. "It seems like a very natural part of the meal that you're having."
Still, Bowman admits he loves to push customers outside of their comfort zone. "We want the people who know [an ingredient] and really love it," he said, "but we also want those people who squirm a little when they see it, and then try it and go, `This is awesome.'"
Just in time for Halloween, we've unearthed 10 menu items at restaurants new and old that may accomplish just that.
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