The result is Eden, a restaurant with high ambitions that manages to pull it off.
Paramount Events does catered events throughout the year. The guy in charge of the food? Better be creative and organized. It's a good thing he is, because for the past few months, he's been splitting time between catering and Eden, their restaurant right next door.
"For me, a restaurant I have much more control over the environment. For me it's much easier than catering. Catering can be a beast," said Chef Devon Quinn. "It's the same basic concept of creating good food. You can just do it a little bit finer than you can on such a large scale."
Finer is an understatement. Check out the wedge salad: baby iceberg lettuce, mighty vine tomatoes that pop with acidity, plus radishes, grilled peppers and cranberry beans in a charred scallion ranch dressing. A butternut squash caponata begins by sauteeing the squash with celery, fennel and red onions, then adding black grapes and a sherry vinaigrette.
"It then gets topped with French feta which is a little bit more interesting and less salty than what most people think of as a feta cheese. A softer cheese, a goat's milk cheese, and toasted pine nuts," said Quinn.
Cherry wood is fed into the stove constantly. It flavors the lamb loin, which is sliced thick, then plated with homemade merguez sausage (from the lamb leg), plus black and white chickpeas bound in a chickpea puree, set among tiny cubes of pistachio and yogurt panna cotta. A little olive garnish and fresh herbs add some punch; those herbs, by the way, come from their greenhouse in the parking lot; a valuable resource in the colder months.
"It produces, essentially in the wintertime, all of the garnishy kind of stuff we need; little shoots, blossoms all throughout the winter," he said.
As far as I know, there have been a lot of restaurants that have gone into catering, but very few if any caterers that have opened up a restaurant. And if there ever was to be an example to set, Eden would be it.
EXTRA COURSE: EDEN'S PASTRY CHEF TALKS ABOUT NEW DESSERT ITEMS ON MENU
1748 W Lake St., Chicago