Hi all- Brittany here! I am spotlighting on the blog this week to share a recent culinary experience with you.. So prepare to be hungry, because I am taking you on a culinary adventure to my favorite European country, España!
I had the pleasure of first meeting Black Bull owner, Daniel Alonso, and Executive Chef, Marcos Campos, when Molise PR, Chicago Public Relations Firm, collaborated on a FOX Chicago news segment to promote the wonderful Cuisine for Cancer charity culinary extravaganza that raised nearly $100,000 for ten local Chicago cancer charities. The event brought 25 restaurants together under one roof for a Latin-themed cooking competition- and believe me when I say I ate my way through every single one. However, one dish stood out to me, and that was the ridiculously flavorful Pork Cheek Taco from Chef Marcos. And to top it off, I got to chase it down with a swig of his homemade sangria. I knew I needed to make my way to the restaurant ASAP.
First, let me start by saying that Spain is very near and dear to my heart, having spent six amazing months traveling the country and studying the language. What is one of my favorite aspects of the culture? Why, the food of course. Tapas! Why didn’t you think of that, America? So when I decided to make my way to Wicker Park’s Spanish hot spot, I made sure to go hungry.
But I couldn’t embark on this food adventure by myself, so I enlisted the appetites of my good friends of WCIU You & Me This Morning, Courtney and Nika. As we arrived at Black Bull, we were greeted by our server Ray, who sat us at a table in the back of the restaurant and served us the first beverage course, a dry white wine that he explained would cleanse our palette for the meal ahead. The lights in the restaurant were dim, the walls dark, and there was a large bullhead on the wall surrounded by hanging Serrano hams. I instantly felt like I was back home in Madrid, hanging out with mis amigos at the local watering hole- El Museo de Jamon- where we often gathered to sip on cervezas and enjoyed endless tapas.
Chef Marcos soon emerged from the kitchen to greet us. We ordered a round of his amazing homemade sangria and he gave us a quick intro to what Black Bull specializes in. Courtney, Nika and I quickly decided to forgo our menus and put our meal into the hands of Chef. If he recommended it, we wanted to try it. And so began the most epic meal I can remember in my recent past. PSA: Every single dish was plated so beautifully, I almost felt bad digging in.. Almost.
First came the meat and cheese board featuring a selection of cured meats like Serrano ham (my personal favorite) and other Spanish meats that were similar to salami and pepperoni in addition to a smoked cheese with a sprig of rosemary that Chef Marcos lit up with his handy blowtorch! Dinner and a show, olé!
Next up, the Tataki de Atun made with Tuna Tataki, Salmorejo, black garlic aioli, organic tomato tartare and olive oil powder. This was followed by Corquetas de Pollo y Jamon Iberico, rougly translated to creamy Serrano ham and rustic chicken croquettes. The dishes kept coming and coming, and let me tell you, I was not complaining one bit.
The next dish was a special request by me because it is one that my “Mama”, which is what my roommates and I called our host mom, made us for dinner multiple times a week. That is the Tortilla de Patata, a Spanish potato omelet. YUM. I could taste the nostalgia.
Chef soon emerged with what was probably my favorite dish- taste and presentation wise. It was the Vieiras con Jamon Iberico- seared Iberico (bacon)-wrapped scallops, spinach cream and caramelized onions. This dish was served in three delicate sea shells and the spinach cream was SO good I wanted to eat it straight with a spoon. The scallop was seared so perfectly it melted in our mouth, and I could have died a very happy woman right then and there. But the meal was far from over….
Next up, another one of my favorite dishes (I should probably stop using that word, since I am now classifying every dish as my favorite…), the Paella! Note: Valencia, Spain, the ancient roots of paella, is also the hometown of Chef Marcos. As a proud Valencian, he prepares their rice dishes with only the most authentic recipes and ingredients, and like most chefs from “El Levante”, generally views all other paellas as inferior. Sorry, but I am with Chef Marcos on this one.
Chef served us his personal favorite paella, the Arroz Negro, seafood paella made with bomba rice, squid ink, monkfish, baby scallops, prawns and citrus oil. You may read this and be hesitant because of some of the ingredients, believe me, so was I. But my motto is to try everything at least once, and I promise you that you won’t regret it. TRY IT NOW.
Our last savory dish was an amazingly delicious pork cheek dish called Carrillada Iberica de Bellota that was so tender, it was like eating grandma’s homemade pot-roast but ten million times better. I consumed it so fast, I didn’t even give myself a chance to take a picture… My apologies. It was served with confit maitake mushrooms, potato foam and crispy leeks and I dream about it often.
Now, on to the dessert! And even though we were all so stuffed at this point that we couldn’t event move, how rude of us would it have been to not finish our dessert? As Mama would say “comé, comé!!” (EAT, EAT!) Chef served us two types of sorbet- a sweet coconut sorbet served in a half coconut shell placed in a martini glass, and a lemon sorbet served in a hollowed out lemon. They were the perfect end, to the perfect meal.
To sum this all up, you MUST get to Wicker Park IMMEDIATELY and let Chef Marcos spoil your taste buds. Black Bull is supported by a wonderful staff and is housed in an environment perfect for everything from intimate date nights to nights out on the town with the girls. Thank you so much to Chef Marcos, our server Ray and owner Daniel for a truly wonderful experience. I will be back soon.