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Jalapeño Blackberry Cobbler

Jalapeño Blackberry Cobbler

Dessert Best of Winner

  • Middleton’s on Main | Wauconda, Ill.
  • Milwaukee Division

the Dish:

An operation doesn’t need a lot of Irish luck if it has a skilled chef, as Middleton’s on Main does. Jonathan Ferguson is the man with the plan. He developed the recipe for his scrumptious Jalapeño Blackberry Cobbler because he loves cobblers of all kinds, and isn’t afraid to take a calculated risk. “I have an adventurous spirit, and really enjoy exploring food combinations, textures and unique flavor sensations,” Chef Ferguson said. “The cobbler recipe, which pairs the unlikely combination of hot chili peppers with berries, works well in the same way that Asian cuisine successfully blends the sweet with the spicy.” It was featured as a dessert special on the menu here last fall, to positive reviews.

the Restaurant:

Middleton’s on Main is an Irish gastropub that premiered three years ago in the quaint village of Wauconda in northern Illinois, near the Wisconsin border. Brothers Jeff and Brian Middleton and several partners nabbed some really cool real estate—the oldest building in town, dating back to 1847. The space began its storied life as a stagecoach stop, was reincarnated as a brothel, next a hotel, and then morphed into a restaurant and bar. Today, it is alive and kicking as the town’s first gastropub. According to Middleton’s, the term “gastropub” originated in the United Kingdom in the late 20th century, and refers to a bar and restaurant that serves high-end beer and food without pretention.

The food may be unpretentious, but it sounds positively heavenly. The breakfast menu has a section devoted to “Benediction,” which lists the operation’s Eggs Benedict creations. The Irish Benedict is anchored by two potato pancakes, each topped with the obligatory poached eggs, but one features Irish bacon, the other corned beef. The dish is finished off with traditional hollandaise. The California Benedict sounds equally tempting, with wilted baby spinach, braised pork belly, tomato and avocado slices lending a sense of importance and modernity to the English muffin, poached egg and hollandaise base. As for the beer part of this equation, Middleton’s has over 100 different kinds from around the world.

Small plates are a big deal at Middleton’s. Some of the wee portions include Dirty Bastard Ale Fondue and Bavarian Soft Pretzel Sticks; Gulf Shrimp and Grits; Pot Roast Poutine (French fries, shredded pot roast, fresh Wisconsin cheese curds, demi-glace, scallions); Steamed Mussels (Prince Edward Island mussels, andouille sausage, piquillo peppers, white wine and chimichurri butter); and Grilled Portabella Stack (mushrooms, squash, tomato, grilled onion, roasted red peppers, arugula and goat cheese crema).

Bigger plates hold enticing entrees, including Wild Atlantic Grilled Salmon with roasted Brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes and beurre blanc; Guinness Lamb Stew — braised leg of lamb with root vegetables and potatoes, served in a bread bowl; and Flat Iron Steak with buttermilk mashed potatoes, caramelized onions and Swiss chard. The most popular entrée is Jameson Chicken — breaded chicken cutlets, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and sautéed spinach with Jameson whiskey cream sauce. Specials beckon to the weekend crowd with an all-you-can-eat Friday Fish Fry and Prime Rib on Saturday night.

Keeping the cobbler company on the dessert menu are House-made Cheesecake, French Silk Pie and Drunken Bread Pudding, smothered in Irish whiskey sauce and vanilla bean ice cream.

Middleton’s perfectly exemplifies a good time for diners. With its warm environment, excellent food and dedicated staff, this operator is in it for the long haul.

A Piece of the Essay:

Growing up in the South, I really loved all the different desserts at family gatherings, but I have always had a special place in my heart for cobbler. The thing I think I love the most about cobbler is the limitless possibilities and the playground for taking chances. To some, the idea of adding jalapeños to a dessert might seem like a risk not worth taking. But they would be missing out. The sweet heat in this flavor-forward dessert will pull you in different directions on your journey to outer space.

Judge Comments:

  • Delicious
  • Love the jalapeño kick as it adds a unique element without going overboard
  • Really pretty on pate
  • Perfect balance of savory and sweet
  • Love the cornbread cobbler crust
  • Killer
  • It’s tough to follow this dessert
  • Great mix of flavors
  • Surprisingly good
  • Great texture and flavor blend
  • My mind is blown at the subtle flavors

“The cobbler recipe, which pairs the unlikely combination of hot chili peppers with berries, works well in the same way that Asian cuisine successfully blends the sweet with the spicy.”

See the recipe

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