April showers have most definitely beget an abundance of May and June flowers. And not just in bouquets either. Seeing as the spring is all about floral rejuvenation, edible and potable flowers are blossoming on menus all over Chicago.
Edible flowers are flourishing on the rigorously seasonal menu at Bucktown's The Bristol. For instance, when was the last time you had steak tartare adorned with flowers (above)? It's an impressive feat to marry something so burly and visceral with something so delicate and dainty, but if anyone can do it it's this restaurant. That steak, by the way, is Wagyu.
Another prime example of flowers lending some lush finesse to a piece of meat is the oxtail marmalade preparation at TÊTE Charcuterie. The restaurant name may sound meaty, but the kitchen is no stranger to refined, elegant seasonal cookery. The new oxtail marmalade agnolotti is a perfect showcase of that, accented with edible flowers, whipped chevre, English peas, and morel mushroom jus.
Locality and seasonality are par for the course at TWO, a West Town restaurant that prides itself on its modern and meticulous Midwestern fare. One fine example of their kitchen prowess is their usage of edible flora in a new pasta dish, a plate of ramp cavatelli with maitake mushrooms, spring peas, butter poached crab and spring onion flowers.
It's not every day an ice cream sundae comes adorned with viola petals. But then again, Parlour at Pavilion inside The Langham Hotel is not your everyday ice cream shop. Far from it, in fact. e.g. the Carmen Miranda Sundae (above), an indulgent melee of black raspberry sorbet, exotic sorbet, banana ice cream, fresh fruit, macadamia nuts, toasted coconut, banana chips, creme anglaise, exotic sauce, whipped cream and violas. Perhaps before dessert here, you can start across the hall at Travelle, where a sherried morel and fried duck egg tartine comes complete with roasted spring onions and their flowers.
Drink your flowers at Kama Bistro, where a notable cocktail is relying on potable flowers to lend that springy luster. The Mellow Patiala features Amaro Nonino, Scotch, fresh lemon juice, chamomile tea syrup and ginger, all garnished with a blue clematis flower.
Everyone loves a good daiquiri. Perfectly indicative of warm weather drinking, daiquiris are even more inviting when they're accented with florals. The Old School Daiquiri at Weber Grill is just the ticket, made with Bacardi Rum, sugar, and lime juice, shaken and garnished with an edible flower.
In the sphere of daiquiris, tiki drinks in general have a floral essence about them, which is why they are such common fodder for edible flower garnishes. Take the Painkiller No. 347D at Three Dots and a Dash for example, made with Virgin Island and Dark Jamaican rums, coconut, pineapple, blood orange, vanilla, cream and an edible flower.
Another tropical option is Lost Lake in Logan Square, where edible orchids adorn almost all of the cocktails.
Things are getting lustrous on the dessert menu at Cafe des Architectes. One of pastry chef Leigh Omilinsky's latest creations is a violet, milk chocolate and praline dessert, which just so happens to feature lots of violas as garnish.
If you'd rather not literally eat flowers, but just want to pretend, then head to Magnolia Bakery. Flower cupcakes here merely have the pretty illusion of flowers, as vanilla or chocolate cupcakes come topped with floral designs, an annual spring favorite at this sweet shop.
At Bohemian House, flowers can both be eaten and sipped. Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos uses edible flowers like marigolds and pansies on slow-roasted beets and chicken liver on rye, while the bar features a cocktail called Gypsy's Elixir, made with pear brandy, Chartreuse, Luxardo maraschino, fresh grapefruit juice and an edible flower garnish.
Soon to come, when AMK Kitchen Bar opens in Bucktown in days, you can bet there will be a flowery cocktail there waiting for you. Dubbed Garter Girl, the sweet refresher contains vodka, BG Reynolds vanilla, pineapple gum, Treaty Oaks sweet tea, egg white, strawberry and an edible flower.
Photos: The Bristol tartare, Parlour at the Pavilion Carmen Miranda sundae, Three Dots and a Dash Painkiller