The Cooperâ€™s Hawk model of dining hinges on its development of an extensive and delicious menu all grounded in a celebration of wineâ€”its own wine, made in its Illinois winery from vineyard grapes from California, Washington, Oregon, and Michigan. Every single menu item is marked with a bin number for the perfect Cooperâ€™s Hawk wine pairing.
From the time you walk into the tasting room, where you wait for your table, until you walk back out the door, this is a dining culture specifically crafted to be a fun and engaging dinner date.
We stepped through the door to find an expansive tasting room, a vital part of the Cooperâ€™s Hawk concept found at every location. The location in South Barrington has long tasting counters running along either side of the room. The Standard Tasting and Sweet Tasting are each only $7, the Lux Tasting is $12, and in all three, the drinker samples eight different Cooperâ€™s Hawk wines. This is one of the most diverting pre-seating activities imaginable.
Sidling up to the Napa-style tasting bar with your dinner companions and discussing the finer points of flavor profiles as a line-up of wines moves from light and delicate to full-bodied and dark is about as fun as it gets. The tasting room also serves as a wine-themed gift shop offering a variety of glasses, decanters, aerators, pourers, decorations, and, of course, bottles of wine.
A warm loaf of pretzel bread greeted us at the table with a tin of extremely soft, garlic-tinged butter. Even knowing that there were many courses to follow, we couldnâ€™t stop ourselves from splitting a few slices while we looked around the room at the wide variety of evenings occurring. There were plenty of families with children, lots of gatherings of friends, and many like us, tables for two, several of whom ordered the large-scale Cooperâ€™s Hawk decanters that tower impressively over the table like sophisticated lab equipment.
From the Appetizers, we had to try the Mexican Drunken Shrimp. Smoky bacon plays the top note wrapped around every shrimp, riding atop a dollop of guacamole and pico de gallo. Underneath everything is a pool of tequila lime butter sauce that blends beautifully with the fresh shrimp. Dotted throughout the dish, fresh chopped jalapeno injects little flourishes of heat that invite the coolness of the guacamole in each subsequent bite.
One of the new additions to the Cooperâ€™s Hawk menu is a list bruschetta. Of the five offerings, we opted for the Burrata, Proscuitto & Arugla. Lined up beautifully on a platter, these crostinis are awash with classic Italian flavors. Theyâ€™re smeared with a thin layer of garlic butter, a tangle of arugula, a thin slice of salty prosciutto, a creamy whipped ricotta cheese, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and grape tomatoes with a bright oven-roasted wilt. The flavor of each ingredient binds together to exquisite effect.
From the Beef and Pork section of the menu, we ordered the Maple, Mustard & Pretzel-crusted Boneless Pork Chop. The meat is thick cut and juicy. It has all the hearty, warming qualities of a ham dinner topped with a mustard-forward cap that looks like the Parmesan crust on their trio of medallions. The tang of the mustard on top of the richness of the pork is excellent. Accompanying the chop are vegetables roasted to bring out a caramelized quality in carrots and a subtle smokiness to parsnip, sublimely creamy whipped mashed potatoes, and pile of fried onion strings.
The Cooperâ€™s Hawk approach to short rib appears on the menu several times, first as their classic Red Wine Braised Short Ribs, then as the Short Rib Risotto, but we tried the new Gnocchi Bolonese with Braised Short Rib. The gnocchi is pillowy and delicious all on itâ€™s own, thick with herbs and swimming in a wonderful tomato sauce. Accompanied by shreds of tender short rib, chunks of ground Italian sausage, and topped with creamy burrata dolce cheese, this was the entrĂ©e to beat.
Our visit wouldnâ€™t be complete without capping it off with the Cooperâ€™s Hawk Chocolate Cake. With interchanging layers of Valhorna chocolate cake and hazelnut ganache, itâ€™s thick, rich, and decadent. Itâ€™s delivered on a cocoa powder-sprinkled plate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with whipped cream and a decorative mint leaf. Itâ€™s as lovely as it is delicious.
Cooperâ€™s Hawk is located at 100 W. Higgins Road, Suite V-1 in South Barrington,