The last weekend in April I was treated to a dinner experience at 2 Sparrows! While 2 Sparrows is typically a brunch joint in Lincoln Park, occasionally they host 4-course dinners in conjunction with a local distillery, brewery, or artisan in the Midwest area. With the end of April bringing about both bacon-fest and whiskey-fest, 2 Sparrows planned a “Bacon and Bourbon Bonanza” with Journeyman Distillery. I’ve passed by 2 Sparrows several times while they’ve hosted these dinners and longingly salivated outside their open windows.
Before the bonanza began Chef Gregory Ellis gave me the full run-down about the tasty menu for this event. Chef Ellis is so in love with bacon that he actually told me he has several pig parts tattooed on his body! I knew that the dinner was going to be good with a Chef so passionate about bacon! Chef Ellis and his partner/friend and 2 Sparrows Beverage Coordinator, Steven Fladung, celebrate the ingredients and products of local farmers, artisans, distillers and brew masters with a continually evolving food menu, an imaginative approach to brunch cocktails, craft beer pairings, excellent coffee service and more.
I’ve never been disappointed with a brunch at 2 Sparrows (besides finding out they’d ran out of the chilaquilles for the day), and so the following menu made my mouth water! I loved that the courses were themed based on the meals of the day! All the bacon was also locally sourced from Nueske’s Meats based in Wisconsin.
- Toad in the Hole – French toast, whiskey maple syrup, bacon crumble
- Midwest Maple Flip (W.R. White Whiskey, North Shore Eldergin, maple, lemon, egg)
Before the food came out we were presented with the drink that really set the tone for the first course. It tasted exactly like breakfast in drink form! There is something about maple syrup that just brings me back to my childhood kitchen where my dad would make pancakes or waffles every Sunday morning. The toad in the hole was certainly better than something similar I had experienced before with plain white or wheat toast. Again the maple syrup brought the whole dish together giving the bacon a candy/caramelized taste and went surprisingly well with the creamy eggs that were hidden inside.
- PB&J Grilled Cheese – almond, bacon, taleggio, frites
- Smoking Barrel (Buggy Whip Wheat Whiskey, Cherry Heering, Sombra Mezcal, organge, black pepper)
I have a confession, I was never a huge fan of PB&J as a kid because I hated that the jelly usually made one side of the bread soggy, so I was happy to learn that this PB&J was lightly toasted. This was far by the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich I have ever experienced! The jelly, taleggio cheese (that lends itself so well to fruity flavors), and the creamy almond butter were sandwiched in between two slices of homemade brioche, making sure that there was no sogginess in sight. I have to say though, that the bacon aioli that was served along with some of the best French fries I’ve ever had really stole the show. At the end of this course our table actually hoarded the aioli, in hopes that we could use it on something else in the meals future. We had to stop several servers from taking it away at different times. I recently became interested in drinks that have some smokiness to them and was thrilled to learn that the "smoking" aspect of the smoking barrel drink came from the Sombra Mezcal. The drink went perfectly with the taleggio cheese and the bacon in the sandwich.
- Fried Chicken – bacon braised collard greens, whiskey hot sauce, Wonder Bread
- Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade
The blackberry bourbon lemonade was definitely my favorite drink of the four-courses; it had that perfect combination of sweet and sour, making my mouth pucker just a little bit at the first sip. The fried chicken was absolutely amazing, it had the perfect crunch to it and the collard greens were wilted down to perfection, they even had some bacon tossed in there giving them a signature smoky flavor. Chef also prepared a whiskey hot sauce to go along with the chicken that had just the right amount of heat. I also have to admit that most of our table spread the aioli from the second course on our white “Wonder Bread” that came along with the fried chicken.
- Chocolate Bacon Brownie – French vanilla ice cream, whiskey caramel candied bacon
- Classic Manhattan
You can always tell when bacon has been sliced into little bits ahead of time and when it’s been crumbled after cooking in one slice. I loved that this bacon had clearly been chopped into little substantial pieces while raw and both cooked into the brownie itself and then drizzled on top along with the caramel sauce, giving it a more chewy than crispy consistency which I like when using bacon in baked goods. The consistency of a perfect brownie is very hard to get right without the brownie being too cakey and too fudgy, but this one had the perfect brownie consistency. Unfortunately I was so full I only had the manpower to finish a few bites. The Manhattan was in my opinion very strong, but of course that is what a Manhattan is. The menfolk at our table very much enjoyed theirs while a girlfriend and I just took a sip or two.
I would highly recommend attending one of 2 Sparrows dinners if you have the chance. I know I will most certainly be going back for a theme that interests me. All the members of our party were filled to the brim at the end and we all loved the Journeyman Distillery tastings that went on between most courses. Most 4-course dinner experiences at 2 Sparrows start at 7:00pm and cost a modest $60/person. And after my experience at the Bacon and Bourbon Bonanza, I can say that they are definitely worth the price. Even though you may have missed this bacon-themed dinner, 2 Sparrows is hosting a beer dinner with Lagunitas Brewing Company this coming Friday! If you don't have plans yet and are a beer fan, I would definitely check it out!