Salpicón and Lookingglass Alice

Nick is returning to the University of Illinois next week.  I just bought my ten-ride Amtrak ticket and intend to see him frequently, however it will still be an adjustment.

I wanted to plan something nice before the semester started, so I arranged to take the day off from work and made some reservations.

We had been meaning to dine at Salpicón and this seemed like a fine occasion to do so.  We began with Salpicón Margaritas, made with Herradura Silver, Gran Torres and fresh lime juice. As an appetizer we ordered the special, Flores de Calabaza, pictured above.  Three zucchini blossoms were stuffed with goat cheese and epazote, dipped in a light batter, sautéed and served with a roasted poblano cream sauce.

For his main course Nick ordered the Tinga Poblana — grilled Brookfield Farms pork tenderloin in a spicy roasted tomato-chipotle sauce with chorizo and potatoes, served with a cool avocado-tomatillo sauce.

I ordered the Chiles Doña Queta — a poblano chile stuffed with huitlacoche (earthy corn
mushrooms), fresh corn and zucchini, served in a roasted poblano cream
sauce and an ancho chile filled with potatoes, Chihuahua and cotija cheese with a sweet-spiced roasted tomato sauce.

Huitlacoche were new to me.  This fungus grows on corn and has a very different texture than most mushrooms.  The exterior is almost like a cooked pearl onion, while the interior is soft and mealy. Considered a delicacy in Mexico, these mushrooms are apparently considered a disease (and called "corn smut") in the rest of the corn producing world.

Everything we ordered was delicious. I think we were both mildly underwhelmed with the margaritas, but perhaps only because they are always touted as the best around.  The most outstanding part our meal was the same for each dish — the sauces.  All were distinct, complex and complimented the dishes well.  Their website has a small section of recipes that I am interested in trying. 

(Photo courtesy of the Lookingglass Theatre website)

After dinner we walked to the Lookingglass Theatre for the play Alice. Nick has been mentioning his interest in this play for sometime.  He and I both enjoy theater quite a bit, but oddly had never been to a play together before.  The Lookingglass Theatre is housed in the old water tower pumping station and is a really neat space.  I thought it was a great production with an incredible cast.  I believe that Lauren Hirte, the actor who played Alice, may be one of the strongest women I have ever seen.  Not only did she perform incredible acrobatics during the production, but also carried full grown men in several scenes.  She was a pleasure to watch, as were the other four actors in the production.

It was a fun date and I would recommend one or both of these events to everyone.  A 5 p.m. dinner reservation allowed us plenty of time to leisurely walk the mile to the theater with time to spare before the 7 p.m. production.  We are meeting a group of Nick’s friends at Small Bar this weekend for a more typical goodbye event, but I am glad we were able to find time to do something new together.

show hide 3 comments

Brendan Mackie - Hey, there’s an article about corn-smut here, if you’re interested:
(The author doesn’t really have an open mind, let’s say. But it’s funny.)

jen - russ was just introducing me to the concept of corn smut the other day. i think their stalks in the garden are growing some…

Terry B - What a lovely evening, Gemma! Being a true carnivore, Nick’s entrée really looks amazing to me. But like too many Americans, unfortunately, I don’t generally think of the terms upscale and Mexican cuisine in the same sentence. Yeah, I know–Rick Bayless, Adobo Grill, etcetera. This review makes me think maybe I should.

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