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Scene Stealers

Side Dishes That Take Center Stage as Stars in Their Own Right

During most meals, entrees are the focus. Or, if someone has a sweet tooth that needs satiating, perhaps desserts are the most in demand. However, there are some side dishes that are so scrumptious that they are worthy of the spotlight, too. They may be referred to as “sides” or “for the table” shareables—but make no mistake, they will be the most talked-about dishes of the dining experience. 

The Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($12) at Geordie's at Wrigley Mansion (WrigleyMansion.com) comes to mind. This savory, ultra-crispy showstopper is among chef Ressul Rassallat’s signature recipes of the past 10 years. The secret? In addition to a quick fry, the Brussels sprouts get tossed in a proprietary habanero agave glaze, and are topped with fresh Parmesan cheese and toasted sunflower seeds. 

Tarbell's (Tarbells.com) also turns up the crunch to make crowds happy with its Crispy Chickpeas ($14). Acclaimed chef Mark Tarbell and his team use olive oil to enhance the crunch during the frying process. They then combine the chickpeas with fresh lemon juice and a dusting of grated Parmesan cheese, rosemary, parsley, and sea salt—resulting in a rustic, salty flavor beyond one’s wildest dreams.

At Postino WineCafe (PostinoWineCafe.com), they take a mushroom and gave it crunch with their Maitake Mushroom ($15.50) shareable, which is an actual pinecone-shaped Maitake battered lightly and fried before being paired with earthy oyster and cremini mushrooms. The trio comes with a tangy, thick, and creamy labneh—which is essentially yogurt cheese—topped with lemon zest, smoked salt, and controne pepper for dipping.  

While it’s not made crispy, Zinqué (LeZinque.com) is also using produce to pack a flavorful punch with its shareable Ratatouille ($13). With robust tomato flavors, this unique take on the classic French side dish allows guests to properly enjoy fall’s bounty with Provençale roasted vegetables seasoned to perfection, and then piled high on Poilâne bread imported from Paris.

Fall combined with France on a plate must have also been on the minds of Maple & Ash (MapleAndAsh.com) chefs as they were dreaming up dishes for the table, as well. Case in point: The Black Truffle Risotto ($21). This classic risotto is cooked slowly with a Parmesan broth and rich truffle butter before being finished with a decadent Madeira truffle jus and shaved Périgord black truffles sourced from southern France.  

At STK Steakhouse (STKSteakhouse.com), one of the most popular sides is all things creamy and dreamy just like the Maple Risotto, but cheesier. The ooey, gooey Mac & Cheese Trio ($42) features three versions of the comfort food classic, each in its own chic mini cast-iron skillet. The first is the most standard offering made with a five-cheese blend, while the second boasts chopped smoked bacon, and the third is piled high with declawed lobster tail and chives.

For those who like a meatier side, prepare your taste buds for the new Short Rib Empanadas ($5) available at ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho (HotelValleyHo.com). Created by Argentinian Chef de Cuisine Alejo Candia, short ribs are first slowly braised with spices, then hand shredded and mixed with onion, peppers, garlic, and scallions that are slow-melted in olive oil. The result is a deep-fried treat in a hand-folded empanada wrapper, available as an add-on to any meal and served with a classic chimichurri for dipping.

Finally, tater tots at a top steakhouse? Oh, yes! The Smoked Gouda Tater Tots side ($15) at Ocean Prime (Ocean-Prime.com) is a combination of smoked gouda and cheddar cheeses with a dash of onion. They are hand-formed and coated in flour and spices before being fried until golden, which signals that the cheese has melted into the potato goodness.

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