A 2-in-1 Arts Museum and Culinary Destination in Chicago

Sunday, March 06, 2016

When venturing into the Art Institute of Chicago, make sure you have an appetite. Because not only is it a haven of arts and seasonal works, but the museum inhabits a palatial white space in its very center, with sun rays beaming in from all directions. Almost like the antithesis of a speakeasy, but for restaurants located in the heart of art.
terzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabhterzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabh
The Institute collects and preserves historic works since its founding as both a museum and a school in 1879. It was also the year that Chicago was being rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1971. The permanent collection contains over 300,000 works from around the world. 



Flanked by two bronze lions at the onset, it is one of the two leading fine-arts institutions in America.
And nestled right inside the museum is Terzo Piano, a perfect brunch or lunch spot owing to its ethereal sunlit avenues in every corner. Little did I know, it actually features the cuisine of Chef Tony Mantuano who’s Spiaggia has been heralded as the only four star in Chicago, and one which I have reviewed before. Chef di Cucina Megan Neuback  promises organic and locally sourced ingredients for a fit and fulfilling midday meal.
terzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabh
terzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabh
I started with the local cheese selection, owing to a recent infatuation with cheese tastings, complete with raspberry and blackberry jam and homemade touille. The buffalo cheese was fresh and spongy, blending well with the tartness of the jam, which complete with its seeds and accompaniments, made for textural bliss. The aged gruyere melted well with the touille, both texturally and flavorwise, for it had its own silky sour quality that mandated an unmixed bite.
terzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabh
terzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabh
Possibly my favorite bite of the day, and one that would go down in my history of best bites of Chicago, was the popcorn. Definitely not your cloud-like butter glistening or salt speckled movie theater popcorn, this looked like it belonged in the plate of Zeus, owing to its gold-like quality. The caramel swooped several popped kernels together, and a single bite was a dance of spicy curry, aromatic (and crunchy!) coconut and sweet caramel. Borrowing from a Thai and Indian flavor profile, this was one snack that I gobbled in record time, and even asked for a second helping!
terzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabhterzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabh
terzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabh
Next up for my green fix of the day was a fresh green pea crostini with lime yogurt. The inventiveness of texture and flavor was matched only by visual appeal: for I had never quite thought that a pea puree with a hint of tangy-ness but with visible peas could be so sumptuous. And not one with a penchant for yogurt, the lime yogurt was a delectable healthy substitute to butter, elevating a crostini to a meal-like status!
terzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabhterzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabh
Never failing in the dessert department, and impressed by the flavor, I got an olive oil chiffon cake with balsamic strawberries and olive oil ice cream. On point with an experimental ice cream trend and recent Bay Area staple, the ice cream and strawberries alone would have made a winning combination of temperatures, sour and sweet flavors, and a spectacle of science meeting palette art.
terzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabhterzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabh
However, the chiffon cake, called so owing to its gentle, spongy texture that melted in my mouth, was probably one that I could order a birthday cake size of. Sans any sweetness, it had soaked up the olive oil, leaving a light layer on my tongue as I inhaled it like a cloud on a mountainous sky. The entire combination was award worthy, with a comical role reversal of red and sweet looking tart berries and a sugary looking but savory cake.
terzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabhterzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabh
Highly impressed, I felt I had grown wings as I descended from my perch of the art museum down into the streets of a swaying summer in Chicago.
terzo piano chicago brunch @sssourabh
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