Isabella's Estiatorio celebrates fall and its 5th anniversary

Isabella's Estiatorio Endive & Heirloom Apple Salad
September 30, 2008 10:13:46 AM PDT
Autumn has officially arrived and its' one of the most exciting times for chefs, as nature's bounty really comes to life at our local farmer markets, says Chef Sean Eastwood of Isabella's Estiatorio in west suburban Geneva. He has created a fall salad that contains all of his favorite fall ingredients: crisp, tart apples, smoky bacon, sharp cheddar, candied pecans and crunchy endive. "The Endive and Heirloom Apple Salad has taste, texture, and best of all, our muse, bacon," the chef says. Isabella's serves this salad in the fall when the locally grown apples are at their peak." Although red-skinned apples make a prettier salad, we love it with all kinds of heirloom apples that appear in our farmers markets, especially the beautiful honey crisp from Honey Hill Orchard in Waterman, IL," Chef Sean says.

When making this salad and other fall recipes, try to search out specialty apple varieties in your area and support your local groceries, the chef says. "Most of the commercially grown apples that consumers are familiar with have been developed for a long storage life that meets the demands of worldwide shipping. Unfortunately, most supermarket apples, while readily available, lack complex flavor and character. In the last few years, however, we've been encouraged by the number of growers producing heirloom varieties that have robust flavor, texture, and beauty," he adds.

Chef Sean says he's addicted to the wonderful Quickes sharp cheddar cheese from Neal Yard, from his home in England ? but this salad presents a perfect opportunity to search out some excellent sharp American cheddar, such as Dan Carter's Black Diamond or the aged cheddars from Widmer's Cheese Cellars and Shelburne Farms. For this salad to be extraordinary, choose each ingredient as if it were to be savored on its own, he says.

Isabella's is celebrating its 5th anniversary this October and will be showcasing a brand new menu featuring signature dishes created by Chef Sean Eastwood. To honor the occasion, the restaurant will introduce a great deal for our diner's ? a three-course Prix Fixe menu for just $24 per person. "We know this economy is affecting everyone and want people to have the chance to come and visit us more frequently!" the chef says.

Named The Zagat Restaurant Guide's top Mediterranean pick in Chicago, for three years running, Isabella's Estiatorio in Geneva has been impressing critics and diners alike with its unique and flavorful "cuisine of the sun" and warm and inviting atmosphere. Known as offering a "city" restaurant experience tucked amidst the western suburbs.

"Five years is a significant milestone for any restaurant today and we certainly don't take for granted the many customers and friends who have supported us from the very beginning," Chef Sean says. "In honor of our 5 year anniversary in Geneva, we wanted to do something special to mark the occasion in a way that would appeal to new and old Isabella's fans."

Eastwood and business partner Dean Georgelos decided to shake things up a bit in honor of the five year mark by redesigning the popular restaurant's already well- received menu. Although favorites such as Eastwood's signature olive brined pork tenderloin, house-made lasagna with Lebanese yogurt béchamel and popular Mediterranean spreads will be offered as "specials" on the menu, the duo is introducing more than a dozen new dishes leveraging Eastwood's truly unique perspective to contemporary, Mediterranean cuisine.

"For several months, Sean's been in the kitchen working on a variety of new flavors and interpretations to Mediterranean dishes that we're both very excited about debuting in October," continued Georgelos. "Expect the unexpected."

Diners will now experience a variety of starters, entrees and desserts that will celebrate the rich flavors and styles of different coasts of the Mediterranean rim including Italy, Greece, France, Lebanon and Spain. Guests will now experience new dishes including:

· Mussels with panzanella & arugula, fennel confit, soft saffron aioli ? $9

· Endive & heirloom apple salad, apple-wood smoked bacon, candied pecans, creamy Montgomery cheddar dressing ? $7

· House-made country terrine, pork, foie gras and hazelnuts, purple mustard, pickled quail eggs ? $11

· Piquillos peppers, salt cod brandade, sauce romesco ? 9

· Slow braised lamb shank tagine, fig bulgur wheat, slivered almonds, preserved lemon ? $23

· Pan seared monkfish, escarole, piccoline olives, bouillabaisse sauce ? $24

"Date Night" Under $50

To provide diners with another way to experience Isabella's, Eastwood has also developed an affordable three-course prix fixe menu for $24 (excluding wine or liquor) that will also debut in October and feature a choice of starter, entrée and dessert touting both new and old favorites from Eastwood's eclectic menu.

"We are very conscientious of diners' limited funds in today's tightened economy and wanted to encourage our guests to visit us more frequently by offering a variety of Isabella's favorites and some of our new dishes for under $50 a couple," explained Georgelos. "This is also another way of saying 'thanks' to everyone who has spent time with us over the past five years."

During the remainder of 2008, Isabella's will continue to host a number of popular seasonal wine dinners and special culinary events featuring specific regions of the Mediterranean. Eastwood and Georgelos will also be preparing for the opening of their newest venture, Olo, which is slated to open in Chicago later this winter after much anticipation and buzz.

About Isabella's

Located at 330 West State Street in Geneva, Illinois, Isabella's Estiatorio opened its doors in October 2003 to the delight of diners throughout the Chicagoland area. Focusing on offering a sophisticated and varied menu of contemporary Mediterranean cuisine, interesting wines and top notch service, the restaurant has been featured locally and nationally on a variety of respected media outlets including Food & Wine Magazine, USA Today, PBS "Check Please", ABC 7 Chicago, FOX News Chicago, Chicago Tonight, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Herald and many others. The Zagat Chicago Restaurant Guide had also recognized Isabella's as one of the city's top restaurants and the top Mediterranean spot for several years running.

For more reservations and more information, visit www.isabellasgeneva.com

Isabella's Estiatorio Endive & Heirloom Apple Salad
(Serves 4 People)

Ingredients:

Salad
8 thin slices of bacon
8 each Belgian endive
1 each honey crisp apple or other heirloom variety

Candied Pecans
1 cup pecans
2 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Creamy Cheddar Dressing
¾ cup heavy cream
5 oz Quickes cheddar cheese grated (or other high quality cheddar)
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup crème Fraîche
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Method:

Dressing

Heat the heavy cream in a small sauce pan over a low heat; whisk in the cheese until melted then pass through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Next, whisk in the mustards and crème fraiche until combined. Chill the dressing for at least an hour. Season with salt & pepper just before serving.

Candied Pecans

Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Fill a medium bowl with hot tap water and add the nuts; swish the nuts around then drain and transfer to another bowl. Add the corn syrup, sugar, salt, and pepper and stir. Line a baking sheet with parchment, or a non-stick baking sheet, and spread out the nuts in one layer. Bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring the nuts a few times until golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool slightly then break the nuts apart.

To Serve

Cook the bacon in a skillet until golden brown, but not too crispy. While the bacon is cooking, cut off about ½ inch from the bottom of the endives and separate the leaves. Put the leaves into a bowl and toss with enough dressing to coat them lightly. On each of the dinner plates, reassemble the endive leaves to form a loose "head", quarter the apple lengthwise and cut out the core with a pairing knife. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, thinly shave the apple on top of the endive. Drizzle more dressing around the endive and sprinkle with the candied pecans. Finish each salad by draping 2 strips of warm bacon on top ? yum!


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