Just a bit behind schedule here, as we only got back from a long weekend in Chicago yesterday. And yes, we did some good eating there, so competition was robust for "B.T.I.A.L.W." honors. But for me, there was also a clear standout.
I am pretty much powerless when I see a tripe dish on a menu: I must order it. This is so even though I know that Mrs. F will not share it with me, having been burned once too often by my "I think you'll really like this one" pitches. (I have probably compromised our marital trust more by convincing her to try tripe dishes than if I told her I was concerned about the security of my Ashley Madison account).
Callos a la madrileña is a classic Spanish stew of beef tripe in a tomato broth, typically bolstered with chickpeas, chorizo and morcilla sausages. And I was happy to see it on the menu at Salero, a new modern Spanish restaurant in Chicago from Chef Ashlee Aubin.
It's a tough thing to modernize such a dish while retaining its soul, but Salero pulls it off. The tripe is grilled, its honeycombed surface blackened with char. Fresh green fava beans substitute for the typical chickpeas. Plump chanterelle mushrooms are an unconventional addition which feel like they belong. There's spicy, soft 'nduja sausage where there would typically be chorizo. A soft poached duck egg adds yet another layer of gooey richness to that gelatinous, sticky broth. It was the best thing I ate last week (and I didn't have to share a single bite of it).
(You can see all my pictures from the dinner in this Salero - Chicago flickr set).