Fresco 21 and How to Cook Fresh Pasta

Fine dining in Rosemont...and a brilliant strategy for preparing fresh pasta al dente

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By David Hammond

Recently I wrote about how, when I'm flying in and out of a city, I have a moment of panic when I consider that maybe, just maybe I may be required to go without food for a few hours.

Fresco 21, located on the route from O'Hare to my house in Oak Park, is a good reason for holding out for good food until I get home.

"I'd definitely recommend this place to anyone looking for a higher-end dining experience" in the western suburbs, Carolyn said as she took a sip of wine between bites of perfectly prepared duck breast.

We'd been invited to let Chef Cameron Grant "cook for us," which is always the best way to go. Whenever I can, I let the chef make the food decisions and the sommelier make the wine decisions; sometimes I give them price ranges to work within, but at others I just trust their professional judgments. As we don't have any allergies, it seems safe to let the folks in the kitchen and wine cellar assess what's best that night and bring it out to us.

With the duck breast, we had two half-pours of two slightly different Pinot Noirs: both were bottles of Sanford 2010, but from different vineyards. It was fun to discern the very slight difference between the two bottles.

Grant does some interesting things with food. In addition to executing the basics, he adds personal touches that I found unexpected and fun. For instance, alongside that magnificent duck, he added a few raspberries stuffed with gorgonzola, for a fruitiness and spice that worked well with the rich meat. And into a tomato sauce that's ladled over clams and pasta he added crispy bread crumbs that provide textural differences and interest.

I mentioned to Grant that his pasta was perfect, lightly al dente, and I was surprised to learn that this was fresh pasta because I've had difficulty getting fresh pasta to have any texture. Grant had easy solution to the problem of achieving the right texture for fresh pasta: "I don't boil it," he said, "I just toss it in a pan with warm sauce. No boiling." Brilliant.






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