Feast & Imbibe is an underground restaurant juxtaposing a casual atmosphere with a multi-course tasting menu presented by chef D'Andre Carter and beverage pairings by sommelier Heather Bublick. Most meals are in Evanston, just north of the city, although they have also popped up at Jam in Logan Square.
The address, revealed the day of the dinner, ended in a fraction. I felt like I was headed into the magical world of Harry Potter, a la Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, as I wandered up the steep staircase to Bublick and Carter's apartment. I dined with five others, including four strangers, but by the end of the meal, anyone peeking in the window would think we were old friends.
From the dining table, you can peer into the kitchen, where Carter works furiously, cooking and plating each dish while surrounded by a hodge podge of culinary equipment. I was duly impressed by his ability to work so quickly yet thoroughly, as dish after consistently beautiful dish was presented with precision.
Swamp is the most innovative course on the current menu. Inspired by an alligator's natural habitat, Carter constructed a swamp scene with "sticks" of burgundy carrots, a "rock" centerpiece of poached purple potato and mossy marsh composed of cauliflower nettle puree.
The chicken + waffles course was another highlight. iNG, where Carter most recently worked as sous chef, has a similar duck and waffles course on its "The Wonder Years" menu. I preferred Carter's crispy pizzelle waffles, which allowed the nuggets of chicken to shine. A couple stalks of raw asparagus and foie gras powder kept the flavors from seeming too familiar.
In between each course, Carter came out to speak with us and explain his choice of ingredients and cooking techniques. The opportunity to ask questions and pick the brain of a professional chef of Carter's talent is rare, and it's impossible to replicate in a traditional restaurant.
This menu is available through the end of June and tickets are available online for between $95-$130, inclusive of drink pairings, tax and gratuity.