Into the Woods….but not the movie

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One might think Elizabeth restaurant in Chicago is a little like walking into a scene from a movie, or at least a bit of a fantasy land.  You will see shelves of small animals in a forest setting along with whimsical toys and antique kitchen items.  Did we come to play or eat?  Turns out, we did both.  Elizabeth is one of the most fun and funky dining pleasures I have ever experienced.

Elizabeth shelves trio

My daughter Kristina and I had this unique experience thanks to our friends Rachel and Dan from Cuisinart. They know how to throw a party.  Even though this was months ago, Kristina and I haven’t stopped talking about Elizabeth.  

Elizabeth Cuisinart menu


Owner Iliana Regan grew up foraging and hunting in semirural Indiana where she grew up, and she has taken her childhood roots into her kitchen.  Regan’s fine dining could be called farm-to-table, but goes even beyond that to a “gatherer cuisine” if you will, along with modernist hints of gels, powders, and other items used for effect.  In the end, all the dishes have connections to the earth and enough for Regan to earn a coveted Michelin star for two years running.  (Of course I noticed the surrounding cookbooks, and asked Regan if she really used them.  She has and does.  Girl after my own cookbook-loving heart).

Elizabeth cookbooks with Michelin star


The table awaited our intimate gathering, all of us anxiously anticipating what would come out of the tiny kitchen that smelled like heaven.  Yes, that table took up the entire seating area and it was all ours for the night!

Elizabeth empty table

Elizabeth ceiling

The ceiling!


The chefs were busy in the kitchen.  Not much room to move around!

Elizabeth group of chefs in kitchen


Elizabeth owner plating

Chef Iliana Regan


We loved the antique cabinet off to the side of the kitchen.

Elizabeth antique cabinet


We sat down for some wine and were greeted by a friendly little owl.

Elizabeth wine with owl


Now it was time to actually go “into the woods” for our meal.  We started with “Snacks from the Farms, Woodlands, and Seas.”  It consisted of “carrots” that popped with a filling when bitten, and crackers and liver with a vegetable tartare and rose vinegar.  Wine was Serge Faust/Brut/Champagne/Vandiere, France.

Elizabeth snacks


The “Rock Courses” consisted of wild rice and bear meat!

Elizabeth rocks group


The “Caviar” course was an aerated potato topped with caviar, and served with 2011 Regis Cruchet/Vouvary/Noizay, France.

Elizabeth aerated potato with caviar



The next three items are considered “Elizabeth Staples.”  Served with 2010 Westrey/Pinot Noir/McMinnville, Oregon.

Elizabeth shrimp noodles

Shrimp Noodles

Elizabeth mushroom tea

Mushroom Tea

Elizabeth fried mushroom_

Fried Woodland Mushroom


The “Bread and Soup” included sunchoke, cattail, and elderflower vinegar.  Served with 2012 Lieu Dit/Cabernet Franc/Santa Ynez, California.

Elizabeth bread and soup

The chef poured in the broth.

Elizabeth owner serving



Elizabeth French wine


Now comes the fun part of the evening, what was called “Silly.” It was “Cheerios” but of course not as we know them.  They looked exactly like Cheerios but tasted like mushrooms and other flavors.

Elizabeth cheerios


We asked the chef who made the Cheerios how he made them…

Elizabeth black chef in kitchen


And he went into the back room and came out with these:

Frosting tubes, aka Cheerio cutters!

Elizabeth Cheerio cutters


Next up was “Kampachi and Foraged Greens”

Elizabeth Kampachi whole

Elizabeth Kampachi half


The last of the entrees was a “Ribeye and End of Summer Vegetables,” served with 2008 Casalone Bricco Morlantino/Barbera del Monferrato/Piedmont, Italy.

Elizabeth rib eye


At last come the “Sweets.”  The “Late Summer Berries, Yolks, and Preserved Rose” were almost too beautiful to eat.  Served with 2011 Matin/Cuvee Reserve/Gewürztraminer/Alsace, France.

Elizabeth summer berries


And just when the table was cleared and we thought it was over, there was more.  What they called “Bites.”

Elizabeth chocolate ball

A bite of chocolate,

and a bite of jelly.

Elizabeth jelly candies


We really didn’t want this night to end.  I don’t know when we have had so much fun.

Oh, wait; the food hasn’t stopped yet.  On the way out, we were handed these as a take home gift:

Elizabeth take home cookies


With apologies to Sondheim, and the last word on Elizabeth:

Tell your friends about it.

People will listen.


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3 Responses to Into the Woods….but not the movie

  1. January 9, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    This is the type of dinning I enjoy best. Everything looked amazing.

  2. January 13, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    What an ultimate amazing experience! Every little attention to details is obvious. I’m so happy you shared this with us, I can almost taste the experience!

  3. January 19, 2015 at 7:00 am #

    Fabulous food experience! Thanks for sharing.

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