A Taste of Fall at MAX's Wine Dive

December 1, 2014

I'd been to Wicker Park's MAX's Wine Dive a few times for brunch (it's awesome), but when I got the chance to check out their fall dinner menu, I was super excited. MAX's hosted several Chicago bloggers to showcase its seasonal menu, paired with seasonal wines. Wine Manager Kristin Irwin was our informative guide throughout the evening as we sipped and nibbled on bites from Chef Jessica Brumleve's new menu.  MAX's has built its name by serving up hearty comfort food and a variety of wines, all in an approachable manner.

We tried six dishes paired with six very different wines. First up was the bubbly, which paired nicely with the roasted beet salad. I'm not even a huge beet fan but this bite was light and refreshing with the citrus vinaigrette. Most courses were served in one-bite portions which made it easy to try a little of everything (though there were a few dishes I'd wish I had a huge portion of!).

Möet & Chandon Impérial
Roasted Beet Salad with whipped goat cheese, arugula, shaved radish, citrus vinaigrette, and candied pecans
The second white wine was Avancia Godello and paired with the roasted bone marrow and beef jam. I didn't love the wine, but I did enjoy the richness of the marrow, the giardiniera, and the buttery Texas toast.

Avancia Godello
Marrow & Beef Jam with house-made giardiniera, red onion, parsley and Texas toast
Our middle bite was the roasted cauliflower masala. I think this dish is a great example of the wide variety on MAX'S menu. I'm not sure this would be the first dish I'd order off the menu, but I did enjoy the masala flavor, as well as the slivered almonds which added a nice crunch. Kristin paired this dish with a Cab Franc that was one of my fave wines of the night.

Roasted Cauliflower Masala with braised French lentils, tomato garam masala, and almonds
Here's where things got really interesting--the braised short rib ragu and gnocchi. This was by far the most flavorful bite of the night and easily the biggest crowd pleasure among my fellow bloggers and me. The ragu was oozing with richness and the tender short rib was fantastic with the little gnocchi. It also didn't hurt that this one was topped with shaved Parmesan. Not only was this my favorite bite, it was paired with my favorite wine, Chateau de Treviac. No wonder I liked it, it can be found on the wine menu under "Bad Ass Reds". Enough said.

Braised Short Rib Ragu and Gnocchi with Parmesan, balsamic, and Dijon butter
Our last main course bite was the apple cider pork belly with apple-fennel slaw and a sunny side up egg for good measure. You can never go wrong with pork belly, and the apple cider vinaigrette was a nice fall touch. Kristin paired this dish with the Flora Springs Red Blend.

Apple Cider Pork Belly with apple-fennel slaw, apple cider vinaigrette, sunny side up egg
A fall menu tasting isn't complete without a fall-inspired dessert. I don't know about you, but when I think of fall desserts, I think of apple crisp. The version at MAX's includes caramelized apples topped with salted caramel ice cream and honey peanuts. I secretly hope they decide to keep this on the menu year-round because it's that delicious. Although, I will admit, it's nearly impossible to make it to the dessert course at MAX's because the portion sizes are so huge. I'd advise sharing dishes and/or wearing stretchy pants. Our last wine was a dessert wine, Moscatel. As is the case with dessert wines, this was exceptionally sweet. I prefer to eat my sugar :)

Caramelized Apple Crisp with salted caramel ice cream and honey peanuts
I had a great time sampling the sips and bites at MAX's and was so happy to see the quality of food at dinner was as great as at brunch. One added bonus I learned at the fall menu tasting is that patrons can buy any of the wines at MAX's to go. There are several wines available only through partnerships between the restaurant and wineries so this is especially awesome (not to mention you can always pick up a bottle on your way to a picnic or friend's house...or your own house!). Check out the new menu at MAX's and let me know what you think! Be sure to save room for dessert!

Note: my meal at MAX's was complimentary; however, the opinions expressed herein are my own.

MAX's Wine Dive
1482 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
Max's Wine Dive on Urbanspoon

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