Stephanie Izard poses for a picture with Hector, the goat pinata. (Via Twitpic)
In case you didn't know, The Wandering Goat is the traveling dinner-party series hosted by former Top Chef champion Stephanie Izard, in anticipation of the eventual opening of her West Loop restaurant, The Drunken Goat, in early 2010. Last night, Izard and friends threw the first of six dinners in a beautiful backyard near the United Center (the home of socca chef/owner Roger Herring), and we were there to catch the action. All in all, it was a heck of a night that went well past the scheduled closing time. In classic Our Town fashion, we loved...
1. Stephanie Izard. And not just because of all the great food she prepared. Izard has built a reputation for being extremely genuine and just plain nice, and that all came through during the evening, as she (as well as fellow Top Chef alum Lee Anne Wong) spent time talking to pretty much everyone at the party, discussing everything from goat skulls (there was one perched atop a mannequin to welcome guests as they arrived) to fraise du bois (the wild strawberries that highlighted the sumptuous dessert table). She even put her considerable clout to good use, getting us a fresh Gumballhead from the Three Floyds man (we love you, too) just when we needed it most.
2. Lamb-stuffed calamari...and that was just the start of it. The food was limited to small plates at three stations spaced around the backyard, but we wouldn't guess that anyone left hungry or unsatisfied. We didn't catch all the ingredients of each dish, but some of our favorites were a grilled octopus salad with a citrusy dressing and tons of bacon; fry bread topped with short rib, tomatoes and queso fresco; and the aforementioned calamari dish topped with fried onions (we also recall a braised pork shoulder with slaw atop a small biscuit; polenta with gooseberries and corn salad; and oyster shooters). And let's not forget about the dessert. Black Dog Gelato came through with three flavors of creamy goodness -- banana curry, red pepper and ginger lemon -- which were served in mini pink Chinese takeout containers along with berries and other additions.
3. "Mo' Money Mo' Problems"...and the rest of the upbeat tracks playing throughout the night. The freewheeling soundtrack was emblematic of the very laid-back atmosphere -- it was the kind of party what you always hope your backyard BBQs will become (too bad you can't charge $50 a pop). Several times during the evening we thought a dance party might break out among the crowd, which was filled with everyone from major food-media personnel to Top Chef aficionados to that one couple who was doing some toe-sucking right next to us on the deck. As we said, it was a fun night.
Want to get in on the next dinner? Make sure to follow Stephanie on Twitter for all the details.