Is it just me, or is pork becoming hugely popular? Besides bacon, which seems to have always been a crowd pleaser, the whole hog is suddenly popping up on menus and playing a starring role across the city. Case in point: The Purple Pig.
Sure, bacon has been popular for as long as I can remember. There was a bar in my college town that served a free side of bacon on Tuesday nights. As a child, I declared myself a vegetarian, only to eat bacon the next day. Bacon has long been regarded as a food that can go on anything – cupcakes or eggs, chocolate or pizza.
I have had my sights set on The Purple Pig for a while, a restaurant that takes pork and pigs seriously. If you know food in Chicago, you probably have heard the hype. They serve every edible part of the pig, small plates style. With a slogan like theirs – Cheese, Wine, and Swine – you know this place means serious business. And what better excuse to go there than Rioja Week. Yet another week of prix-fixe meals at some of the best restaurants in the city. The deal: $25 lunch, $35 dinner, both served with a glass of Rioja.
Pork Fried Almonds with Roasted Garlic and Rosemary
Their menu is not limited to pork, though. They serve all kinds of delicacies with equal precision and expertise. The octopus was far and away the best octopus I have ever eaten. It was a flavor bomb in the most subtle way possible, and the texture was meaty, juicy, tender – not at all spongy or rubbery.
Rock Shrimp with Fresh Peas and Octopus with Acini di Pepe & Swiss Chard
The star of the evening was still the hog, though. If you know me, and you know that I was a vegetarian for 12 years (after the bacon incident in my childhood, that is), this next statement may shock you – brace yourself. My favorite dish of the night was the roasted bone marrow.
The rich, fatty center of the pig femur is luxurious and creamy. Spread it on toasted bread, sprinkle on some salt, and try not to eat it too fast.