Restaurant Challenge: Fork or CHEESE!

Restaurant Challenge: Fork or CHEESE!

Cheese.  And, more specifically, cheese platters.  They are so good, and yet can be so, so bad for the waistline.  What’s a cheese lover to do?  Abstain from ordering a cheese platter ever again? NO!  It’s all about portion control and filling in the other parts of your meal with healthier, satisfying options….just like the hubby and I did at Fork one recent Saturday night.

Located in Lincoln Square, Fork is known for its spectacular wine bar (and flights!), innovative array of small plates, and excellent cheese and charcuterie platters.  We arrived early for our reservation, and when no spot could be found at the bar, a delightful waiter offered us a seat in the lounge area.  There we sipped very generous “2.5 ounce” portions of champagne (the hubby and I were celebrating actually being in the same city AND not working), and enjoyed not feeling rushed/pushed around as we waited for our table.

The rest of our evening had the same vibe – relaxed pace, generous pours (including drinks on the house when one drink came out late…totally unnecessary but definitely appreciated!), and friendly service.

Knowing we were going to split a cheese platter, we decided to round out our meal with healthier, small plates, which we also split.  At our waiter’s very good suggestion, we began with the ½ dozen oysters special.  The plump half shells tasted ocean fresh when eaten sans accompaniment but truly danced when topped with the vinegary and crunchy diced pickles served along side.

Oysters

Next we tried the mussels, which are available in two sizes and in two options.  We opted for the smaller portion and went with the Belgian mussels, a satisfying – yet light – mixture of white ale, tender leeks, fragrant lemon bay leaf and, of course, mussels.  The French mussels also looked delicious, but since they were made with cream and we planned to indulge in le fromage, we decided to skip it.  Finally, we ordered a side of the root vegetables, a winter wonderland medley of lightly caramelized parsnips, carrots, pearl onions, and intense garlic.

Mussels

So, how was the cheese (and charcuterie) platter?  Very good – a four out of five.  For the charcuterie we, again at our waiter’s suggestion, ordered the in-house made magret fumé (smoked duck breast) and beef pastrami, which was excellent when paired with Fork’s whole grain mustard.  For the cheese, we gave the waiter/chef carte blanche to surprise us with their selection of three cheeses.  Expecting an array of smelly, moldy, and blue tinted cheese to result from such free reign, I was somewhat disappointed by the tame choices that ultimately arrived on our platter: manchego, feta, and goat cheese.  Still, the manchego was sharp and with hints of pepper, delicious both on its own and when paired with the thin raisin bread served along side.  The feta was creamy and intensely flavorful, the definite winner of the night.  But the goat cheese was wholly nondescript, save for the overly peppery outside coating that seemed to try, desperately and without success, to make up for its ho hum flavor. Next time, and I am looking forward to coming back to Fork, I’ll pick my own cheeses!

Try Fork at 4600 N. Lincoln Ave.

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