I get a lot of questions at Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook about how we change the menu and how the whole thing works. We have a few basic principles that we use to determine the changes we make to the menu.
One is that people come back to a restaurant because of "taste recognition". An example of that is every time I eat at Frontera Grill I order the tortilla soup. I really like the way it tastes and it's familiar and comforting.
So there are items on my menu that just have to be there. People love the
Crispy, Boneless, Half Chicken. They like that the skin is crispy and the meat is tender and juicy. I don't want to change how we make it.
However, I often change what we serve with it. Right now we are serving the chicken with white and garnet sweet potatoes that are roasted, peeled and honey glazed along with traditional-style stuffing.
This brings me to the second principle: The menu is seasonally driven. Most of what we serve on the Prairie Grass menu is reflective of what is happening in the midwest - right here, right now! There is no other place I'd rather be!
An example from the menu would be the duck with locally grown cabbage that is braised with caraway seeds and served with sauteed apples from "Nichol's Farm". We make duck sauce and finish it with an apple cider reduction that adds flavor and sweetness to the sauce.
During the wintertime beans and stews are often the most popular items on the menu. They are hearty and familiar. Our skirt steak is marinated with an ancho rub and is served with several different varieties of dried beans. The black beans are from "Three Sister's Garden".
The other beans are from a Wisconsin cooperative of farms called "Green and Green." They are a mix of different kinds of beans. This week we used Rattlesnake beans that are slender oval, brown speckled beans. They are a little like a pinto bean but with a more intense flavor. I decided not print that name on the menu.
The other bean I used from "Green and Green" is a rare bush bean from the "Slow Food Ark of Taste" list. It is called a Marrowfat bean. These heirloom beans have a meaty, bacon-like flavor and a creamy texture. I loved them and had never tried them before. They come from "Sprouting Acres".
I am not always an expert at conveying to the guests how much thought and care goes into sourcing, selecting and making the final decisions on what is on Prairie Grass Cafe. But then in the end the only thing that matters is if it taste good to you.
Along the same lines, we just change our Homemade Lamb Sausage preparation. We are now serving our "Mint Creek Farm" lamb sausage with lentils, shallots and concasse. We make the sausage here "in house". We add a little of Judith Schad's "Capriole Farm" goat cheese over the top for tangy flavor and some crispy shallots for texture!