Evanston restaurant aims for big flavor and rustic feel

December 21, 2012 (EVANSTON, Ill.)

There is a new option in the heart of downtown Evanston that raises the bar.

The food and atmosphere at new restaurant Found reflect a conscious philosophy.

"My dream was to do a rustic, genuine, local fare that was big on flavor but light in terms of ingredients," owner Amy Morton said.

Morton recruited veteran chef Nicole Pederson to execute her vision, which includes a number of small, shareable plates like fried oyster tacos, with a swoosh of lime-infused crema and a topping of tomatillos and red cabbage, plus a little bacon.

Lamb meatballs are tender, hovering over a shallow pool of homemade yogurt then showered in a vibrant pistachio garnish. But meat is practically overshadowed on this menu.

"Having a focus on grains and vegetables but not being super crunchy-granola and offering a great cut of meat; she's doing all of her own butchery," Morton said.

Pederson gives her wood-burning oven a real workout. Using it for everything from toasting the bread and cheese for that open-faced sandwich, to roasting one of her flatbreads; in this case, a sweet potato hummus dotted with fresh cheese, called quark.

Once those two ingredients are cooked, she removes the flatbread, cuts into wedge and then mounds it with a freshly-dressed and tossed salad of beauty heart radishes, parsnips, onions and tarragon.

The oven also makes easy work of a whole roasted trout with crispy vegetable chips and a charred lemon.

There are only a few desserts on the menu, including a seasonal pumpkin gelato with graham crackers and a whipped cream cheese cap. The theme here, it seems, is more about rustic, simple cooking, with relatively easy-to-understand ingredients.

"We talked about it being neighborhoody, we talked about it not being too high brow or too low brow, but being something super approachable," Morton said.

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