Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.
Life is insane, beautiful, and terribly unpredictable all at the same time, isn't it? My life appears to be devolving into a mush not unlike baby food. On Friday morning, I found myself in line at the cattlecall to be an extra in the upcoming Transformers movie (Transformers 4, to be precise). I was told they needed Asians for one scene, and, well, I hate to break it to you: I'm Asian. Being an extra pays $8 an hour, and since I'm still unemployed, a dollar bill is a dollar bill. Apparently a lot of people want to be in a movie, but what they don't realize is that they'll be the equivalent of that poor kid who always plays the tree in the school play. Is that my all new low? Nope. Not yet.
The new low? I got pickpocketed on my way back from today's review. Too bad I don't have a job, buddy. Good luck getting any blood out of that stone. At least, however, I get to eat well, and I had a great lunch at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine before life grunted another fat one out on top of my head. I'm fine, though, I'm just as upset as you'd imagine one would be after being pickpocketed.
A while back, Carol reviewed the Blue Pig & Fig sandwich (pictured at the top of the post). Her review is spot on, even if she doesn't mention just how soft and delicious the Serrano ham is, which should be noted.
Le Canard sandwich ($9.14), which means "the duck" in French (oui, oui!) is herbed duck confit, Fromager d'Affinois, shallot confit, whole grain mustard, and greens, all on a chewy rustic baguette. The duck is extremely soft and tender with a tiny hit of gamy duck flavor, and its flavor plays with the Fromager d'Affinois, which is silky, buttery, and rich. If you've never had this cheese, it's a lot like brie, but even more supple and soft at room temperature. It is absolutely delicious. The greens work as a bitter bite to the richness, and the shallots work in a sweet red onion marmalade flavor.
The BLTA ($6.38) is a BLT plus avocado (hence the A). Molly just reviewed one here, but Pastoral's version uses housemade prosciutto bacon, and bitter greens instead of the usual iceberg lettuce. The bacon makes the sandwich sing; it's crispy and salty, and not overly smoky. The avocado adds a velvet feel, and the chewy bun stretches out the experience just a bit longer as you chew. It's the cheapest item on the gourmet sandwich menu, and it's a great value for lunch.
If you're more in the mood to hunt and peck at your lunch, or if you need a snack, Pastoral also offers cheese and charcuterie plates ($9.11 each). The Midwest plate features Marieke gouda, SarVecchio, and Marcoot Forest Alpine cheese. If the names aren't familiar to you, it's okay, I've never tried them either. The Marieke gouda is soft, nutty, and slightly tangy with a bitter finish. I liken the SarVecchio to almost a less concentrated Parmesan cheese with a softer texture and less density in flavor, and it has those tiny, crunchy mineral deposits as well. But for me, the Marcoot Forest Alpine is an acquired taste; my experience started with a distinct Swiss cheese flavor that evolves into an extremely ammoniated aftertaste which is hard for me to enjoy.
While my luck hasn't been all that great lately, and the hits just keep on coming, the experience of a good lunch helps ease the pain a bit. Enough to take the slight edge off, at least. With any luck, I'll land on the set of a movie long enough to photobomb the whole thing. And keep on the lookout for a guy with my hamburger wallet. I miss it already.
Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine
About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.