Spring in bloom at Lincoln Square bistro

May 7, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"It's like the first time of the year coming out of the doldrums, where you get to see like fava beans and peas and morel mushrooms. It's like a candy store, you get to work with a lot of product that's getting a little close to local, but definitely very identifiable with the seasons," said Phillips.

His risotto is a study in Spring: verdant, chlorophyl-embedded rice with fresh herbs, plus earthy morel mushrooms, topped with sauteed frog's legs - a far cry from Phil Schmidt's, believe me. Then veal sweetbreads - part of the thymus gland - gently basted in brown butter. They eventually top a delicate pastry dough with spring onions, and get a Springtime crown of pea sprouts and baby arugula, as well as bacon for richness.

"I think that sweetbreads is becoming the acceptable offal - it's a little bit more commonplace and it's very French," Phillips said.

Lamb also gets the seasonal treatment: first, some sweet onions and a carrot puree.. followed by vibrant fava beans, and even more carrots. The lamb is roasted, then sliced and finally, is both covered and surrounded by its own rich sauce.

For dessert, Phillips stretches a bit outside of Spring for a classic French favorite: tarte tatin. But he can be forgiven. This show-stopper has become the restaurant's instant classic. Soft, delicate and jammed with a fruity intensity.

"Being in the Midwest we have similar access to great orchard fruits. Whether it be apples when they're in season or apples right now. It could be pears, it could be other stone fruit; it's just a great format for using a seasonal fruit," said Phillips.

Now LM adheres to the seasons as much as any other restaurant in the city, but some things are spectacular year-round, like this apple tart tatin. You will fall in love with it as I did, I'm sure.

And just in time for the season Chicago's green city market finally opens in Lincoln Park on May 12 and will be open every Saturday and Wednesday through the summer.

4539 N. Lincoln Ave.

Chicago's Green City Market
opens May 12 - open Wed. and Sat.
1750 N. Clark St.

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