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Orange You Excited?

Sola chef Carol Wallack offers a citrus-inspired prix-fixe menu in January.
Monday Jan 05, 2009.     By Stacy Warden
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Orange halves

Carol Wallack has a passion for cooking seasonally. From her selection of entrees and decadent desserts to her list of fresh cocktails, the sola chef's love of timely ingredients is apparent. But it's her monthly prix-fixe menu that really plays on nature's bounty. Each month Wallack features a different ingredient on her special three-course menu. Not only does it allow patrons a chance to indulge in the chef's Hawaiian-tinged talents, but at $30 per person, it costs about as much (sometimes less) as you would pay for a regular entree.

This month, Wallack is making the Sunshine State proud with her use of oranges. "The inspiration is always seasonal," says Wallack, and it just so happens that the sunny citrus treat is in abundance this month. Typically peeled and consumed raw or squeezed in a glass of fresh juice, the Vitamin C-rich fruit also tastes great in a number of dishes. Its acidity level is on par with that of vinegar, making it the perfect ingredient for vinaigrettes and reductions. Wallack shows us just how versatile the vibrant fruit can be with three carefully crafted dishes.

After taking a sneak peek at Wallack's January menu, we think it's safe to say that sola can really do the twist. First, there's the crab cake with Napa cabbage and cucumber slaw in rice wine, orange gastrique and mint oil. Followed by that is the show-stopping second course of seared duck breast and duck confit spring roll with kumquat (a bite-size, oval-shaped citrus fruit) vinaigrette. For dessert, Wallack unveils a house-made brioche with orange cream, smoked chocolate sauce and chocolate streusel. And the sweet finish is just a teaser for what's in store next month, as sola will clear the bill for plenty of chocolaty treats in spirit of Valentine's Day.

In the past, Wallack has made room on the prix-fixe menu for other fruity selections like peaches, pears and melons, as well as heartier choices like squash and, most recently, bacon. Thankfully, sola's house-smoked treat didn't completely fall off the radar when December ended. The neighborhood restaurant is now using it in a special bacon, burger and beer dinner offered each Thursday, when Wallack's famous burger gets wedged between homemade pretzel buns and served with a unique beer and a house-smoked bacon-infused appetizer. It's now one of Wallack's favorite things on the menu. "I don't really eat meat and I love this burger," she says.

Sola's prix-fixe menu is offered every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday beginning at 5:30 p.m. Wine pairings are also available for an extra $15.


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