A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a preview dinner for the newly launched Sunset Menu at Freds at Barneys. If you recall, I had my first visit to Freds earlier this year with my lovely blogger babes Ashely and Gigi; since then, that cozy restaurant with the perfect views of the always bustling intersection of Oak and Rush has become one of my favorite brunch spots. While you typically wouldn't find a see-and-be-seen spot on my favorites list (Freds is in one of the swankiest areas in the city after all), the restaurant is one of those special places that manages to strike a perfect balance between elegance and comfort (with delicious food, of course!). It's the ideal spot for a lighthearted girls brunch, a sexy date night, a business lunch... or really, anything in between, thanks to the new Sunset Menu.
The Sunset Menu consists of late afternoon snacks that pair perfectly with cocktails (yes, I've worked my way through much of the cocktail menu at Freds and yes, it's glorious!). The new offerings are meant to cater to those in the after work crowd or those looking for a break after a long day of power shopping. It's also fitting for those who might want to share a light early dinner on the patio. Executive Chef Mark Strausman designed the menu to highlight dishes that incorporate fresh, local ingredients with an emphasis on healthier fare with a decadent twist.
How gorgeous was this table setting?! The restaurant was filled with soft lighting and fragrant peonies as far as the eye could see - it was the perfect respite from the cold, rainy afternoon!
This gorgeous wall-length fireplace separates the kitchen from the dining area; as always, I flocked to it, both for a bit of cozy warmth and as a way to spy on the kitchen (as I mentioned in the last post, I'm nosy!).
We started the evening with some bite sized nibbles, cocktails, and visit to the juice bar (the juice offerings are non-alcoholic, but you can always opt to add a shot!). My favorite of the three was the Oak St. Sunrise, made with fresh squeezed orange juice, grapefruit and pineapple, and topped off with a dash of Michigan cherry juice.
Truffle Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (*swoon*)
BLT Bites: cherry tomatoes stuffed with bacon and lettuce
Mini Pancakes with caviar and crème fraîche (Gigi, Jessica, and I could not get enough of these delicious little bites!)
My favorite signature cocktail of the evening: the Wallflower, made with orange juice, vodka, rose hips, and St. Germaine (a super refreshing, more floral version of a Screwdriver).
Vegetable Plate with Vegan Raw Cashew "Cheese" Dip (sun-dried tomato, turmeric, and olive). Each of the dips had a hummus-like texture; I especially enjoyed the slightly salty sun-dried tomato dip.
The beautifully presented Tuna Tartare served over picked carpaccio with pickled ginger. This dish was so lovely that after photographing it, no one at the table wanted to be responsible for destroying it! Thankfully, the allure of the delicate, succulent tuna finally broke us down and we dug in like the savage food bloggers we are. ;-)
Executive Chef Mark Strausman working his Instagram!
Beef Sliders with Truffle Pommes Frites. Having previously sampled their Truffle Pommes Frites, I was thrilled when I saw they had made their way to the Sunset Menu (seriously, they are SO good!). They paired especially well with the simply-prepared, flavorful sliders, enhanced with a bit of tomato and pickle.
The Sunset Menu includes a variety of vegetarian and vegan offerings, including the Vegan Salad, which was packed with heirloom beans, garbanzo beans, black quinoa, and hunks of creamy avocado.
Farmers Market Pizza with mushrooms, zucchini, spring onions, garlic, and local goat cheese
Ba Da Bing Pizza with crumbled Italian sausage and roasted peppers (a nod to Chef Strausman's New York roots)
Bugsy's Pizza with black mission figs, onions, and blue cheese
It was almost impossible to pick a favorite between the pizzas because I enjoyed them all for varying reasons, but ultimately, Bugsy's Pizza won my heart, thanks to the combination of the creamy, pungent blue cheese and sweet figs atop the crispy thin crust.
Even after all of the other delicious offerings, the unanimous favorite at our end of the table was the Focaccia Robiola, stuffed with Italian cream cheese and truffle oil. Sweet, savory, creamy, salty... this little focaccia had it all! In fact, it was so delicious that after devouring one basket, several of us were shamelessly contemplating how sneak a basket or two into our purses to take home for late night snacking purposes.
Finally, we ended our wonderful meal with a sweet treat: Mini Churros with a chocolate fudge dipping sauce and an Italian Almond and Fig Gelato. In my book, you can never go wrong with churros and gelato!
You can sample the new Sunset Menu for yourself at Freds at Barneys, 15 East Oak Street, Chicago, IL (6th floor).
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.