During my summer of foodie fun, I visited a multitude of restaurants serving up all types of cuisines. I noshed my way through the fast casual sandwich and sushi market, devoured gourmet ice cream cone after cone, sipped on some of the most divine cocktails in locations with spectacular views of the city, and happily slurped my way through the best oyster offerings in the Midwest. Needless to say, I had a wonderful summer filled with fabulous experiences - I consumed countless amazing meals with friends and even added a few new restaurants to my favorites list. Now, I'm not trying to gloat or rub it in, but rather, I want to emphasize exactly how much good food I encountered, so you know that when I say today that my meal at Pierrot Gourmet was one of the best I had all summer, it must have been something *very* special.
Last month, I made my way down to the swanky Peninsula Hotel and met up with Ashley to preview Pierrot Gourmet's Bastille Day menu, along with some bites from their regular menu. Seeing as it was one of the hottest days of the summer, I have to admit that I was super grumpy and really wasn't prepared to love Pierrot Gourmet as much as I did... and let me just say that I didn't just love it, I LOVED it. Yes, in fact, I had such a wonderful experience, thanks to the combination of delicious dish after after dish and the lovely staff and service, that I'm actually reduced to typing in all caps to proclaim my love. That alone should tell you that I really mean business. ;-)
The lovely European-style café is filled with farmhouse-inspired decor, including the cutest little details tucked away on ledges in every corner. Despite being in a tourist-heavy location, it still manages to feel like a charming, cozy bistro in the middle of Paris.
Ashley and I kicked off our tour through the Bastille Day menu with two dishes that were not only my favorites of the afternoon, but hands down, my favorites of the entire year thus far! These Gruyère Gougères were absolutely divine (and I am not someone to use that word lightly!). While they were just a simple pate aux choux stuffed with oozy gruyère, these delicate puffs were so incredible that both of us moaned our way with delight through the entire plate... and yes, we cleaned off every single crumb!
Not to be outdone by the spectacular puffs, this Salmon Rillette served with baguette slices was so incredibly tasty that Ashley proclaimed it to be even better than the salmon spreads she sampled in Alaska last year! The warm, rich spread was perfectly complemented by notes of garlic and thyme (two of my favorite seasonings). We loved it so much that after noshing our way through all of the bread, we continued shoveling it in by the spoonful.
Of course, we had to pair our amazing food with some equally fantastic cocktails. Ashley chose the Sunshine Martini (apropos for the crazy hot day!) with citron vodka, Grand Marnier, orange, basil syrup, and sunshine bitters while I went with the Parasol, made with sparkling limoncello, Lillet Blanc, vodka, rosemary syrup, and lemonade.
After thoroughly devouring our delectable salmon spread, we moved on to two more highlights of the meal (are you sensing a theme here?), the first being the Bouchot Mussels. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a thing for mussels - if I see them on the menu, I have to order them. Finished with pernod, fennel, and fine herbs, these mussels were so incredible that I surreptitiously kept inching the bowl away from Ashley and closer to my side of the table so that I could sop up as much of the crazy addictive juices as possible with the crusty country bread. If I hadn't been in public, I easily could have tipped the bowl into my mouth in order to get every last drop. It really was THAT good!
We ended our tasting of the special Bastille Day entrées with the Seared Octopus with fennel pollen, smoked paprika, and the sweet, slightly smoky sunshine sauce. Let me just say that you should be happy Pierrot Gourmet decided to add this dish to their regular rotation; otherwise, you would have to wait an entire year to taste it. The octopus was perfectly seared (there's nothing worse than rubbery octopus!) and the bright, citrusy sauce enhanced the tender meat. I could easily think of a long list of ways to use that sunshine sauce - not only was it delicious, but it was a surprising flavor that I've never seen paired with octopus.
Before moving on to dessert, we sampled a few dishes from their regular menu, starting with this fresh Quinoa Asparagus Salad with citrus, kale, and roasted nuts, drizzled in a lemon vinaigrette. While I'm mostly over quinoa (I had too much of it in a short period of time), this tangy salad actually won me over.
We also tried their most popular brunch dish, the Popover With Chicken & Sweet Potato Hash with tomato, asparagus, mushrooms, poached eggs, and mustard mousseline. As soon as I tasted this light, fluffy popover, I understood exactly why it's so popular. While I greatly enjoyed the innards of the dish, the crusty, airy bread and creamy mousseline were what really made it a standout.
Finally, we moved on to the dessert menu where we first sampled their three special Bastille Day desserts. We started with the Chocolate Royal: chocolate mousse, vanilla crème, hazelnut sponge, hazelnut crisp, and coffee ice cream. As with every other good French chocolate dessert, this dish was decadent, rich, and obscenely delicious.
The Floating Island with poached meringue, vanilla anglaise, caramel sauce, caramelized hazelnuts was Ashley's favorite, thanks to the melt-in-your-mouth meringue and smooth vanilla anglaise.
As much as I enjoyed the first two desserts, the lovely and delicate Mille Crêpe Cake with macerated strawberries, Grand Marnier, and vanilla bean chantilly was the one that won my heart.
For our last round of desserts, we tackled a trio of Pierrot Gourmet's legendary ice cream sundaes: the Poirebelle Hélène with poached pears, vanilla bean, and chocolate ice cream, drenched in hot chocolate sauce; the Café Liégeois with coffee ice cream and whipped cream served table side with a shot of espresso poured over; and the Strawberry Romanoff with fresh strawberries macerated in Grand Marnier and vanilla bean ice cream, topped with fresh whipped cream.
My favorite of the three was the strawberry stuffed Strawberry Romanoff. If you're a strawberry lover, you should immediately run over to Pierrot Gourmet to snag one of these delectable concoctions, as they're only available through September!
As stuffed as we were, we just had to stop by the display case on the way out to ogle the beautiful desserts and stock up on some of the best macarons in Chicago!
You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Pierrot Gourmet at The Peninsula (and if you haven't already, you absolutely should!): 108 E. Superior St., Chicago, IL.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.