Fountainhead dishes with beer in mind

A lot of chefs like to pair beer with their food, but few take the task as literally as Cleetus Friedman. The chef of Fountainhead, in Ravenswood, not only designs dishes to be served with beer, but also cooks with beer and crafts his own custom brews.
November 16, 2013 9:04:29 PM PST
Cleetus Friedman is never thirsty. That's because his employer - Fountainhead, which straddles the corner of Damen and Montrose - always has 35 taps and more than 400 whiskies to choose from.

"I have now designed a menu to really help elevate and focus on our beverage program," said Friedman.

The former owner of City Provisions has brought his farm-to-table ethos along.. Grilling pita and using his tiny smoker to create a smoked hummus.

"A few things have come out really good. I smoked garbanzo beans and made hummus one day and it wound up becoming one of my signatures," he said.

His brisket is also smoked, then draped over homemade corn cakes, surrounded by crispy kale. But it's not all beef, and not necessarily all Midwestern. His steamed mussels begin with a typical Indian vindaloo, which embeds it's spicy, vinegary notes into every shell.

"So I took the Half Acre overale - which is an American brown ale - nice malty backbone; it's got a nice sweetness, and I worked that into the spice of the vindaloo which I think complements it really nicely," said Friedman.

Homemade fries on the side are a given, served with a kicked-up horseradish aioli and homemade ketchup. But Freidman says the thing that gets him most excited is the chance to work with the region's talented brewers.

"I'm cooking with beer, I'm cooking with whiskey, I'm cooking with this amazing wall of booze," he said.

And there are always a few collaborations here on tap. They just released a brand new one: a Black Forest cake-flavored milk porter - a collaboration between Cleetus and Solemn Oath brewery in Naperville. That'll be on tap here until it runs out.

1970 W. Montrose Ave.