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'Top Chef' Winner Izard Opens Chicago Restaurant
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From the Chicago Tribune's Phil Vettel: "For the foodies waiting patiently for "Top Chef" winner Stephanie Izard to open her Market District restaurant, Girl & the Goat, we have liftoff. Girl & the Goat (809 W. Randolph St., 312-492-6262) [was to] fling open its doors, at long last, on [July 12]. Finally, we'll learn what a smoked-goat pizzette with tart-cherry soffritto tastes like."

Read the recent feature on Stephanie in Chicago mag by Cassie Walker: Stephanie Izard weaves in and out of traffic, the beams of her Mini Cooper barely piercing the foggy gray haze that envelops I-57. No one has passed us for miles. All the way from Chicago to Champaign, the tiny car whizzes past 18-wheelers, SUVs, and vehicles twice its size. What would take the average driver two and a half hours takes Izard barely two.

We’re off to Champaign to visit Prairie Fruits Farm, a small husband-and-wife-owned establishment that will make unique specialty cheeses for Izard’s forthcoming restaurant, Girl & the Goat. On the way, she tells the Taco Bell story, pausing to abruptly change lanes. A few nights before, the rising young chef and one of her two sous-chefs, Dave Gollan, were out in the suburbs cooking a charity dinner. Riding back to the city in a hired car, they chased the workday with a bottle of wine and some homemade pineapple vodka. That went down smoothly, so they ventured to The Bluebird in Bucktown for a few beers. Sometime in the night, they took a cab to a Taco Bell. Of course, the morning after, neither Izard nor Gollan remembered the Taco Bell visit. It took finding a receipt—and $9.47 in change in Izard’s pocket—to shake loose the memory.

And though it is buried in the recesses of inebriation, the Taco Bell trip is strangely relevant. Which Izard finds funny. That’s part of her charm. She can whip up a four-course meal for the most discerning audiences, as she did on season 4 of the hit TV show Top Chef, or she can wolf down a gordita and a beer and have the gall to call it research.

The gordita is research. Or was intended to be. For the uninitiated, a gordita—actually, Taco Bell’s Cheesy Gordita Crunch—is a taco with two outer layers: a soft flatbread and a hard taco shell. It’s the play between the crunchy and the chewy that Izard wants to incorporate into a dish for Girl & the Goat. In her version, she fries up pizza dough so that it is crisp, yet soft on the inside. She imagines that the fried dough will serve as a scoop for brandade, a blend of fish, cream, and potatoes that has the consistency of a dip. Her mother, Sue, used to fry up dough like that, and it’s one of Izard’s favorite foods from her childhood.

As for the rest of the dishes, she has loose ideas: a flatbread topped with shredded goat, house-made sausages, sustainable seafood dishes. Four months before the restaurant’s May opening date, if you ask Izard what the menu will be, she laughs and says, “There’s going to be one.” But even she’s not sure yet exactly what will be on it.

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