THE LAST FRONTIER
If you’ve been to Spain you’ve probably had fluffy, rich croquettes or garlic-y gambas. Maybe you’ve discovered the simplistic elegance of olive oil, anchovies and crusty pan de horno. Tempranillo & Albarino poured freely… always. However, there’s more to Spanish cuisine then the delicious staples listed above. There’s the oft-unexplored or the elements of regional culture that don’t always show themselves even with the most discerning visitors: Pil pil, Pluma & socarrat. Txakoli, vermouth & Almansa. Welcome to the “last frontier” of Spanish cuisine.
Sauces evoke pillowy-thick clouds, but flavored of garlic and olive oil and cod essence. There’s a secret cut of pork that comes from an Iberian breed. Spaniards quaff on minerally and unexpectedly effervescent wines. This is the Spain that you never knew you wanted, but that you can discover amongst the classics that elevate Mercat’s seasonal Catalan menu.
If you feasted with us before you knew that our menu is extensive and eclectic then you also knew that we have items you can’t miss because they are consistently awesome. There are other dishes that you may never see again and if you are in the mood to discover the scope of Spain’s culinary terroir then you should probably delve into new territory.
While we know that everything on chef’s menu is made with passion and scrutiny we want to introduce you to a few hidden gems:
- Pil-pil: Salt cod & olive oil emulsion. This is a serious emulsion. Each bite of this dense cream is focused on distilling the essence of house-salted cod, the sweetness of the oil and the richness of the two worlds combining. Pair this delight with any other seafood (or more salt cod) and you won’t know what hit you.
- Pluma: to put it simply, this is a whole new way of experiencing pork shoulder. It’s a familiar cut, but it comes from a specific breed of pig that dines on acorns. Rich, succulent, nutty, earthy and marbled? More please!
- Socarrat: Have you ever had paella? What about a rice casserole and the caramelized, crispy bits at the end of the meal? Each little granule holds the summation of the whole of the elements of the dish. In Spain, they have a word for this: Socarrat- caramelized paella rice. We are serving this tapas-style so that you never miss a paella even when you want to order 10 other bites.
- Txakoli & Almansa: Where do we start with these wines? First, check out our wine list. It’s chalk full of goodies that you may have heard of or may be new to you! Second, explore. Spanish wines will never fall into one stereotype. The diversity of soil, climate and vintner style will continually- and pleasantly- confuse the palates of all wine geeks. Our wine list truly explores all of the wine-making frontiers that Spain embraces.
Vermouth- Where to start? We’ll try and leave this dry, but sweet (no pun intended). As you might know, Chef has been on a months-long project to create our own bottled and branded vermouth. The results are astounding. With over 15+ botanicals Chef’s vermouth takes the cake (Literally, I’d rather drink the vermouth than eat the cake!). If you are familiar with good old fashioned cocktails, then you’ll know that vermouth is integral to many. No vermouth is created equal, but every vermouth is a creative way of imbibing on life’s good things: wine, flowers, spices & sugar. Yes, vermouth is a combination of all of Mary Poppins’ medicine bag.
If you haven’t heard the message: stop into Mercat. You will receive the Spanish experience that you wish you had the last time you were in Barcelona. Welcome to our home. Let us treat you to some wine, pil pil and more wine!
Welcome to the new Spanish frontier in Chicago