Autre Monde, 6727 W Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn, IL
It rained non-stop on Saturday and after cheering on my local Big Ten alma mater under a purple plastic garbage-bag-like poncho with soaked cold feet and wet jeans that adhered to my legs, Fellow Foodbeest, I wasn’t so eager to go out again. A hot bath and a glass of wine sounded better at that point.
And besides, we were going to Berwyn, an old suburb west of Chicago that is wedged between progressive Oak Park and Cicero, one of the most traditionally corrupt cities in Illinois. Having grown up not far from there, I only knew Berwyn as an uninteresting blue-collar enclave.
I was wrong, Fellow FoodBeest. I was wrong.
While I wasn’t looking, Berwyn has become a go-to, more-affordable community for young couples, families and artists looking to escape life in condo-ville.
Enter a group of culinary alums from Chef Tony Mantuano’s Spiaggia and Tuttaposto. (Just so you know my proclivities, I have a personal history with Tuttaposto. I loved Tuttaposto. It was a pan-Mediterranean restaurant situated on the ground floor of a River North office building where I once worked. On my neediest days, I gained comfort by slipping out of the office and going downstairs to Tuttaposto to pick up a hearty soup for lunch or stop for an after-work drink and a bite with my co-workers. When it closed my heart broke, just a little.)
These enterprising chefs found themselves a tiny spot on Roosevelt Rd. in the newly claimed Berwyn and created Autre Monde — or Other World – and I guess it is. Very much like Tuttaposto, Autre Monde’s food spans the Mediterranean. And it does it very well.
Arlene and Michael are Berwyn residents. They’re actors by trade and they’re friends of Mr. FB and myself and they couldn’t wait to introduce us to this other world. And BTW, thank you to you both.
We tasted a lot and while some dishes were better than others, the overall was both pretty impressive and a welcome reminder of the promise of the now late Tuttopasto. Here are some of the highlights.
We started dinner with a Moroccan Flatbread, with a perfect, paper-thin crispy crust topped with merguez lamb sausage, Manchego cheese, eggplant and a drizzle of harissa yogurt with just enough heat to keep it interesting.
Mr. FB, still chilled from our day of rain and football ordered jota, a hearty filling Italian peasant soup made up of smoked pork, legumes and cabbage. More on this soon as the FoodBeest is going to take a crack at adapting/creating a recipe for jata for these darkening, colder winter days.
A filet of perfectly roasted black bass was served over a wonderful and thoughtful combination of sautéed fennel, orange slices, olives and white bean puree. The sweetness of the oranges, the salty onions, the hint of anise combined with the deep satisfying white bean puree to delight any palate.
The braised smoked lamb shank was a perfectly good braised lamb shank, but what I go out for is to “get what you can’t get at home” and, Fellow FoodBeest, I made a lamb shank at home about a week ago. However, what set this apart from anything I have made or remember eating, was the cloud of white polenta that literally wafted around the shank bone.
And I might as well tell you to not bother with the pecorino and speck croquetas (salty and with little texture) or the grilled winter salad of romaine, radiccio and endive that was fine, but not outstanding.
I realize, Fellow FoodBeest, that as you read this, you might be reading this from somewhere far away. You may not be close enough to drive to the “new” Berwyn. You might not be able to try out this Autre Monde. But what I’m thinking now is that greatness appears in some of the most unlikely places. I’ve been working and developing myself to be someone who listens to the people who come into my life as big people who live big lives. There is gold everywhere. You just have to look for it.
There is gold in Berwyn. It’s another world!
Now it’s your turn, Fellow FoodBeest. Where is there gold in some part of your world that you would have least expected it? Please share with us in the comment section below.