Friday, June 3, 2016

Revisiting Siena Tavern with Fabio Viviani

Over the last five plus years of compiling Chicago's ultimate brunch guide, Brandy has often been asked about her favorite brunch spots of all time.  While she has a stock of answers ready to go at all times, the constant questioning occasionally causes her to pause and think over all the various restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops she's visited over the years.  "Its funny that some of those favorite simply don't exist any more or have become entirely new restaurants," Brandy often ponders, "But there are a handful that always immediately come to mind when I'm asked about my top picks, and if the memory of those meals can trump all the other clutter in my brain, they must really have been something special."

One of those places that makes Brandy's short list of all time favorites is most certainly Siena Tavern.  After visiting the location shortly after they began serving brunch, Brandy was incredibly impressed by the work of executive chef Fabio Viviani, who packed every plate full of bold, fresh flavors and well thought out presentations.  So when the opportunity came to not only return to the site of one of Brandy's most treasured brunch memories, but to meet Fabio in person as he guided her through a succession of new dishes and cocktails, Brandy could hardly turn the oppurtunity down.

The morning began, as every morning should, with a few cocktails.  First up was the Summer Spritz, a fruity concoction made with melon flavored vodka, aperol, citrus juices, and finished with prosecco, which Brandy found fresh and perfectly revitalizing.  After those cocktails had been consumed, the mimosa and bloody mary kits made an appearance.  Brandy especially liked the array of fresh fruit juices and purees available to mix into one's mimosa to make it a one of a kind breakfast beverage experience.

The first course was a taste of the Smoked Salmon Board.  As a play on a traditional lox plate, this one threw out the bagels and came in  instead with a "crispy dough" that resembled a cream puff shell as well as chive cream cheese, a little tomato, cucumber, capers, and red onion.  Never a huge fan of lox, Brandy was surprised by just how much she enjoyed the little bite, which was very tender and practically melted away on the tongue.  She especially enjoyed the buttery flavor of the crispy dough, which complimented the sharp veggies quite nicely.

Next up was the House Made Granola with fresh berries, Greek yogurt, and honey.  For such a simple dish, Brandy found that she really enjoyed each spoonful, delighting in the not-too-crunchy granola bits, which had just been barely touched with sweetness, combined with the silky smooth yogurt and the slightly tart berries.  "It's rather ingenious to make a sweet dish that is actually quite healthy for you," Brandy mused, "Helps to trick that nasty little sugar craving in the back of one's mind that insists on ordering lots of sugary things at the end of every meal."

The main course was the Italian themed house Benedict, made with a pesto hollandaise sauce, some crispy mortadella, and a base of toasted brioche.  Brandy really loved how different this benedict was to the traditional ones she sees about town, but she also appreciated that it didn't stray too far away from the basic formula of bread + ham + poached eggs + hollandaise.  "I always say that its not a brunch without at least one eggs benedict on the menu, and when you've got one this special, it certainly bodes well for everything else on offer."

Then came the sweets, represented by a plate of Tiramisu French Toast.  The buttery brioche had been soaked in espresso and then topped with a marsala whipped cream, fresh berries, and roasted white chocolate.  Brandy simply could not get enough of the little morsels of white chocolate on the plate, scooping up every tiny toasty bit.  The French toast had a lovely eggy texture to it and the fresh berries really helped to balance out the richer flavors.

Lastly, a sampling of house made sorbets came to the table in strawberry, mango peach, and grape.  Each one was simply made with just fresh fruit and water, making for bright and clean flavors that did the job of cleansing the palate nicely.  The only thing sweeter than the sorbets, in fact, was when Chef Viviani brought in his tiny sous chef in training, otherwise known as his son, Gage.

"I am glad that my memory isn't failing me after all and that Siena Tavern still deserves a place in my brunch Hall of Fame," Brandy commented as she leaned back in her chair, "Perhaps I should be revisiting my favorite spots a little more often.  After all, I wouldn't want to give anyone out dated information when I'm asked for brunching advice!"

The writers of this blog were invited to dine at the restaurant free of charge in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

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