A minor hysteria occurred this weekend when subscribers to the mailing list at Elizabeth Restaurant (4835 N. Western Ave., Lincoln Square, 773-681-0651) received notice of a new spring tasting menu. The theme? Game of Thrones, based on the fantasy series A Song Of Ice and Fire from author (and one-time Chicago resident) George R.R. Martin, which spawned the popular HBO show.
Tickets flew—the first round sold out within the span of two hours—so chef Iliana Regan decided to extend the menu into May due both to demand and how excited her staff was for a Westeros-inspired menu.
“A lot of my guests and friends know I’m nerdy and love fantasy,” she says. “I don’t watch any TV shows but that’s one of them. I buy HBO for the season and then cancel it.”
Ever since Regan started immersing herself in the world of Game of Thrones, she’s been obsessed with the story’s meals and feasts—and there really is a lot of food in the series, from weddings and welcomes to a baking-obsessed character called Hot Pie. Regan’s hardly the first to notice this—there’s a popular blog called The Inn At the Crossroads that seeks to interpret dishes in the books for home cooks.
As she read, Regan dog-eared every page that mentioned food for eventual inspiration. That finally came over the holidays, on a day with not a lot to do and too much coffee. She went back through the books and started thinking through how particular dishes would work.
It helps, Regan says, that the style of eating described in the books aligns pretty closely with the kind of food she likes to serve, particularly in the spring—lots of meat and bread, with early-season vegetation she’s foraged and ginger beer and mead to wash things down.
“April’s this weird month where everyone is ready for spring but the ground isn’t,” she says.
The meal will be twelve to fifteen courses, depending on the night. Some will be taken directly from descriptions in the books—for instance, a moment when Balon Greyjoy eats steamed clams on driftwood could be easily translated to a family-style dish of steamed shellfish. Others will be more creative, such as her take on the ever-present painkiller milk of the poppy: a poppyseed milk custard. She’s hoping to make dishes inspired by the different regions of the world of the book, because even when you’re dealing with a fictional world, regional cooking matters.
And the restaurant itself will get some inspired decor, such as animal heads and banners representing the different houses, long feasting tables, and exclusively crafted pottery for serving specific items. Staffers are getting “Dinner is Coming” T-shirts and “Team Stark” aprons with direwolves (a highly intelligent animal in the world of Westeros).
If you want to get in on this meal, act quickly and buy your tickets online—since the meal’s price is in the neighborhood of $60 to $65 (plus drink pairings), and this is “Game of Thrones” we’re talking about, they’re moving fast, though Regan says if this current batch of tickets sells out quickly, she’ll release more. After all, all men must dine.