Would you like to enjoy biography with butterscotch pot de crème, burrata or brisket burger, fiction with a fruit crisp, short stories with salmon a la plancha, mysteries with meatballs, or perhaps travel books with tabbouleh? If so, ride over to the newly opened Barnes & Noble and enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner in the new full service B & N Kitchen where you can find comfort in the company of your favorite books and foods. Park in the roomy Vernon Hills lot and take the escalator down as you enjoy viewing the impressive author word wall. A helpful staff member will guide you to the book section you desire. If dining is your option, bear right into the simply and comfortably appointed B & N Kitchen.
The kitchen staff who helped to prepare my meal, Marcus, Phillip and Shanita and our server Corey appear to be very proud of their work and help to make your experience a pleasant one. Executive Chef Sheamus Feeley, grew up in Arkansas where his dad owned a restaurant. With a degree in journalism and a true talent in the culinary arts, he worked with many esteemed chefs, among them, Wolfgang Puck. He is involved in many areas of food service and is owner of Farmstead Restaurant in Napa Valley. I have not had the pleasure of meeting him, but his dishes reflect a true respect for each ingredient. He has a gift of using herbs and spices to make presentations sparkle. Quality ingredients are his trademark.
I shared a sampling of the B & N Kitchen menu with Angela Neri, who is in charge of restaurant operations for Barnes & Noble. Neri explained that Barnes and Noble is in the process of opening four concept stores throughout the country In California, Minnesota, Virginia and New York. The new Barnes & Noble fills the space. "It provides a community gathering spot where its visitors can gain comfort in both food and books. Our restaurant is an approachable casual dining spot with upscale American cuisine. We provide a space where people can visit daily and enjoy many dining options. It is a nice addition to America's favorite living room. "There are several seating options such as the circular bar, the communal tables equipped to plug in your computer, many comfortable chairs and a 50 seat full service dining room. In nice weather, seating for an additional 50 guests is set up outside in the patio setting complete with a fire pit and bocce ball court.
We started our tasting with selections from "For the Table "section of the menu. The currently popular burrata arrived with a tomato confit, pistou and triangles of toasted high quality bread from Tom Cat Bakery. The burrata is imported from Italy and shipped here frequently to assure freshness. The center of the burrata was creamy in texture and mild in taste and combined well with the robust confit and the olive oil, basil and garlic flavors of the pistou. Next, a garden of a platter was presented. It was a fabulous rendition of hummus surrounded by garden fresh carrots with the stems intact, florets of several heirloom varieties of cauliflower and lavash flatbread topped with shallots, herbs , olive oil and parmesan and baked. Often, hummus is heavy. Here the proportion of chick peas and tahini lent a lighter texture which was most welcome. A sprinkling of zaatar and olive oil completed this excellent choice. Meatballs, served over creamy polenta with tomato chutney was another tasty shared dish. Milk soaked bread crumbs combined with the Pat Lafrieda beef for a flavorful combination. This hearty starter was garnished with microgreens.
For the salad lover, there is chicken Caesar, kale salad with apples, raisins and almonds dressed with apple cider vinaigrette and cotija cheese. We opted for the chopped salad with avocado green goddess dressing which lined the dish. Garden fresh organic beets, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, feta cheese, pepitas and fresh herbs were among the ingredients tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. If you wish, chicken or salmon can be added to your salads.
From the sandwiches and entrees, we chose the brisket burger. The meat blend of fine quality Pat Lafreida beef guaranteed its rich flavor. Our server, Corey brought our burger, "dressed for success." Cooked medium it rested on a brioche roll with cheddar cheese, butter lettuce, red onion, pickle and dressing. Not to be missed are the crispy potatoes. These irresistible morsels start by baking Idaho potatoes. When they cool, they are pulled apart into rustic style pieces by hand and then fried in rice oil. They are dusted with parmesan, salt and pepper, and the result is crunchy; a great alternative to the usual French fries. Other entrée possibilities are mushroom ragu, grilled Havarti and cheddar sandwich with tomato soup, macaroni and cheese with smoked brisket, brick cooked chicken or as we tried, plancha cooked salmon. It is sustainably farmed atlantic salmon from British Colombia set atop a refreshing tabbouleh salad. The whole grain is cooked al dente for a fine crunchy result.
Our server Corey suggested having dessert with dessert, and so we did. We tried all three options from the menu. Freshly baked daily large cookies in three varieties, chocolate chip, triple chocolate and raisin oatmeal had a great chewy consistency and were addictive. Our fruit crisp included honey crisp apples and Thompson grapes and had a nice crumbly crust. The combination of tart and sweet was divine. I have always enjoyed chocolate pot de crème but the butterscotch variety here was a new a wonderful treat. Freshly whipped cream and crushed hazelnuts topped this creamy, smooth delight. Having dessert with dessert was a fine suggestion.
Breakfast is an option from 9-11 AM. The lemon ricotta pancakes, burritos or avocado toast all sound tempting. If you have children in your group they can choose from the kids kitchen menu and keep busy with an etch a sketch while awaiting their meal.
Wines by the glass or bottle, many varieties of beer and espresso, cappuccino, latte, mocha, macchiato and European style cortado are offered.
Things to further entice you are a 10 percent discount if you are a Barnes and Noble member. They offer take out services if you wish to enjoy their food at home. Although they do not take reservations, you can browse this wonderful bookstore until a table is available.
B & N Kitchen
Vernon Hills Shopping Center
Barnes & Noble
680 White Plains Road
(914) 723 3416
Contributor Judie Dweck has been writing about restaurants and food for many publications. She teaches creative cooking to children at Scarsdale elementary schools. Through the years, her articles have appeared in Jack and Jill Magazine, Spotlight, The Pleasure of Cooking and The Scarsdale Inquirer. She balances her restaurant tastings with daily ballet classes.