Text 10 Jun The food that changed my thoughts on food

Growing up in Wisconsin, the thing that I was most excited for every summer, for as long as I can remember, was getting up early and going fishing with my grandfather. It was time well spent together and now that he has passed away, they are also the memories that I will never forget. We focused our fishing adventures on the yellow lake perch, slowly searching Lake Winnebago for schools of the fish that are the staple of the Friday night fish fry. The fish that my grandfather and I caught would always be cooked by my grandmother, who in great tradition would bread and fry the tasty morsels of fish in a shallow cast iron pan filled with vegetable oil. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy eating fish like this; it is by far one of my favorite comfort foods, and for the majority of my childhood it was my only exposure to fish. I came to know fish as something that was breaded, fried, and dipped in tartar sauce. While this is delicious, it was not the fish that opened my eyes to a whole new world of flavors and expectations. 

It was summertime in Wisconsin, and I was 16 and spending some time with a few friends and their parents in a cabin in Northern Wisconsin. It was a pretty ordinary trip “Up North” filled with bonfires and 16-year-old shenanigans. The second to last night of the trip we had spent some time fishing and my friend’s dad got the catch of the day with a beautiful brown trout. Up until that point in my life, I had pretty much only had fish that was fried and served on Friday evenings. My friend’s dad cleaned the fish, stuffed it with lemon and butter, and seasoned it with salt. He placed the fish in foil and put it over an open fire until it was just cooked through. I had never seen a whole fish prepared like this but remember being so intrigued by the way that it looked sitting in front of us. I can still remember how the fish tasted when I took my first bite. I remember thinking that I had never tasted anything like it. After a moment, my friend’s dad told me to dig into the head. “The eyeballs and cheeks are delicious,” he said, and so I dug in and could not believe the amount of flavor and freshness that ran across my taste buds. I picked through every bone of the trout until there was nothing left. It was a powerful feeling to be so shocked by the flavor of the fish.

To this day, that fish remains one of my fondest food memories. I have been very fortunate to have enjoyed some wonderful meals in restaurants over the last few years, but this lingers as the best thing that I have ever ate. At that age, I had no idea that food would later play such an important role in my life, but this experience has stayed with me, and as spring turns to summer in the midwest, the thought of that fresh fish always comes back to my memory.

Text 11 Apr Menu-Evening of April 13th

T h u r k

- Chips: potato, parsnip, beet, and kale-served with parsley aioli

-Marinated vegetables, goat butter, and pumpernickel crumbs

-Brioche, chicken livers, herbs, and flowers

-Mushroom cookie and cultured cream

-Pork Sausage

-Wheat sourdough with fresh butter

-Walleye, spinach, mustard seeds, whey, and dill

-Smoked beets, cheese, and pollen

-Egg yolk, young greens, green onion, and mushroom

-Carrots and Barley

-Potatoes, yogurt, leek ash, and pork tea

-Meat two ways:

1. Beef tartare, sunflower, and shallot

2. Lamb and foraged spring vegetables

-Bite of Pleasant Ridge Reserve

-Toasted goat milk sorbet, oat cookie, and strawberry preserves

-Mignardises

Text 2 Apr Menu for this weekend!

I am very excited to cook for everyone dining this weekend, Here is the menu that will be served this weekend!

T h u r k

-Chips: potato, pork, and kale served with parsley aioli

-Pickled radish, goat butter, and pretzel crumbs

-Brioche and chicken livers

-Smoked trout cookie sandwich

-Slices of cured pork belly

-Whole wheat loaves with fresh salted butter

-Salmon, spinach, sunchoke, and a few young lettuces

-The beets and the bees

-Egg, young shoots, and mushroom

-Carrots and beer

-Potatoes, purple nuances, ash, and pork tea

-Beef two ways:

1.Tartar, sunflower seeds and sprouts

2.Cooked in a cast iron, buttermilk and mustard seeds

-Bite of Pleasant Ridge Reserve

-Toasted goat milk sorbet, oat, and meringue

-Cows milk yoghurt mousse and chamomile 

-Mignardises: Honey caramel, pecan cookie, and preserved sungold candy

Text 15 Mar March 16th


T h u r k

-Root vegetable juice and matsu cider
-Chicken skin, mustard, and shaved turnip
-Dried mushroom cookie and chicken liver
-Pickled carrot
-Fresh cheese, beet chips, and pollen

-Wheat sourdough, fresh butter, and sunflower oil

-Smoked trout, buttermilk, brioche, and braised mustard seeds

-Sunchoke, whey sauce, and herbs

-Barley, smoked beets, cress, and vegetable ash

-Carrot, cultured cream, cured pork, and pumpkin seed oil

-Potato, egg, and dill

-Aged beef, parsley, and onions

-Pleasant Ridge Reserve and preserved sungolds

-Beet, goat milk, and oat 

-Buttermilk, strawberry preserves, and mint

-Mignardises-honey caramel, beer marshmallow, and pecan shortbread

Text 14 Mar Thurk prices

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to make it clear that the price for dining with Thurk has changed. The new price is $110 which includes tip and gratuity. The reason for this change in price is because the menu is now currently made of 16-18 courses. I have extended the menu in order to have a better balance in your dining experience. As we move into the growing months there will be many more plants and vegetables that I will be incorporating into the menu.

If you have already made your reservation with Thurk in April, this price will not be applied to your evening. I will still be hosting one or two dinners a month that are fewer courses at a less price. When announcing dates, I will make sure that it is clear which dates are for the typical tasting menu and which evening will be dedicated to a slightly smaller menu.

I look forward to cooking for you,

Justin Behlke

Text 3 Mar Reservations-April

Reservations for April are now open! I would love to see you at our table during the month of April

Text 27 Feb In good time, a restaurant, and success

I find that I spend most of my time thinking about how to further
refine both myself as a chef and the experience at Thurk.

In terms of my own development, I want to continue to grow not only in
my cooking but also in my thought process on how I think about and use
the products of our area in a proper and respectful way.

For Thurk, I want to make sure that diners have the best experience
that they can possibly have in our small Humboldt Park apartment. I
find that every detail matters in making the diners comfortable and
happy with their experience. Whether it is scrubbing the floors on my
hands and knees the night before a dinner or working with an artist to
create specific dishware to be used during dinners, every detail
matters to the overall experience.

It is important to me that people who dine with Thurk walk away having
had a unique experience and are happy and satisfied, because at the
end of the evening that is what I really want to ensure for our
guests. The best thing about bringing people into our apartment is to
physically see at the end of the evening that they are happy.

I really want people to be able to sense my dedication and passion for
creating an experience with the products of the Midwest.  I was born
and raised here and there is a connection that I make here more than
anywhere I have been. It is where I want to settle down and call home
and where I want to open my small restaurant in the near future.

Everything that I do to refine both myself as a chef and the
experience at Thurk goes towards my plan to open a successful
restaurant in the Midwest. Success can be defined in many ways, but if
I am able to use products from the Midwest, have a happy staff, and
make the people who have chosen to dine with us happy and feeling like
they have been a part of something special, I will consider my
restaurant a success.

Text 22 Feb Menu-Evening of February 23rd

T h u r k

- Fresh Cheese, honey, and plants that the cows grazed on

-Mid-western macaroon-dried mushroom biscuit and chicken liver

-Cured pork belly and pickled carrot

-Breslin wheat sourdough and fresh butter

-Freshly ground raw beef, fermented black radish, and hydroponic basil

-Rushing waters trout, puree of sunchokes, shaved vegetables and fresh dill

-Barley from Iowa, cultured cream, smoked beets, fresh juice of cress leaves

-Salt and coffee baked celery root, granola of puffed rice and pecans, sauce of brown butter and jonagold cider

-Hay roasted parsnip, lightly whipped hay cream, and grated cured lake trout

-Roasted duck breast, salad of cabbages, and sauce made from cow’s milk whey

-Beef cooked in cast iron, lightly cooked swiss chard, and buttermilk

-Sweet Potato butter, goats milk sorbet, and toasted oat shortbread

-Honey caramel and milk stout marshmallow

Text 14 Feb Menu-Evening of February 16th

T h u r k

-Gin and Matzu Cider

- Fresh raw milk cheese, honey, sweet basil salt

-Dried mushroom biscuit and pork liver

-Poached pork sausage and pickled carrot

-Wheat Sourdough, butter, and sage salt

-Raw beef and fermented black radish 

-Steamed Rushing waters trout, celery root, and shaved root vegetables

-Barley porridge, smoked beets, and fresh cress juice

-Rutabaga, puffed wild rice, and cured egg yolk

-Parsnip, charred shallot broth, and lightly whipped hay cream

-Duck and salad of cabbages

-Sweet potato, milk, and pecan

- Last three bites

Text 13 Feb Finding creativity within limited sourcing

In my style of cooking I find it very important to have limitations, after all my limitations are what make me creative and my food unique. All but one of the products that I use are sourced from the midwest. The one product that I get outside the midwest is the salt I source from Alaska. The salt is produced by a husband and wife team, who together both found a passion for creating a unique product with a story behind it. In fact the couple started making salt by accident on their honeymoon and never stopped after that.

Sourcing most all of my products from the midwest sets a new standard for being creative. I have found the winter months to be very challenging but all the rewarding at the same time. I love using herbs in my cooking. They add a brightness and lightness to a dish that I find to be very desirable. During the winter months it would be very easy to go to whole foods and buy a package of herbs that were picked two weeks prior to being on the shelf and at this point of the year probably came from another country. I resist the urge and force myself to think in other ways. Adding uniqueness to dishes with vinegars that I have made, herbs that I dried from the end of the growing season, and dried mushrooms.

I find a great deal of inspirations from the produce, animals, and products that the mid-west has to offer. Inspiration for my menus does not solely come from the actual products but a large part of it comes from the relationships that I create through working so closely with the people who grow, raise, and produce the things that I use.

When you dine with Thurk during the winter months it is important to think about the products that are available for me to use. Most importantly it is important to think about how I allow dishes to evolve with the seasons and the story each dish is able to tell during the different times of the year. The simplicity of my cooking is very obvious during the winter months but it does not mean it is any less focused or unique than during other seasons throughout the year.

Justin Behlke


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