Thanks to the organizing efforts of the poster formerly known as Da Mayor, and his deputy, GWIV, I had the great pleasure of partaking in a 14 dish or more meal at Thai Avenue with some 20 of my old and new favorite dining companions. I shall not list names other than to say, Steve D gets the award for making the most effort to join us (sneaking away from Atlanta and all), and to thank, Al and Leek for sharing lovely wines, and GWIV for the Maker's Mark, which does seem to be the best accompaniment for Asian food, and is slowly changing my view of Bourbon from so what to yeah.
But as the alphud says, on to the Chow.
I am the sacrificial first poster to be followed by those who know what we ate. So, purely impressionistically and incompletely I recall.
This meal was billed as "Eat Fire" a challenging, spicy and stinky meal (any analogies I might draw here would not be appropriate for our PG and family-friendly board, so I leave those to you, in the privacy of..). It began, significantly as it turns out, with Chive Dumplings. 2/3 the size of a hockey puck, thick and chewy dough bursting with chives. The chives were not terribly flavorful, IMO, but with the slghtly tangy dipping sauce (guessing here, but not too dissimilar to the soy/vinegar/pepper combo one might have in a Chinese place, a little lighter on soy & vinegar, a little more chiles overall a fresher sauce) a nice start. Not terribly spicy, though.
We moved on through too many dishes for my besotted mind to recall - too much fun to focus and note. 2 Larbs, the northern, porky one was quite tasty. Fried chicken, nicely done, tangy sauce. Papaya salad with baby crab claws, a decent rendition, I enjoyed and crunched up the claws. Some very aromatic fried fish (not salted, but definitely stinky) with a slightly peppered sauce that included a bunch of feremented fish sauce in it to heighten the stinky (Da Mayor was seen leaving with large containers of this sauce, so you will probably see pictures of the OP police hauling him away for creating a neighborhood nuisance in the coming week, or whenever he dares to open the container). Pig blood soup that one dresses with fresh sprouts and other vegies, plus toasted chiles (eat the peppers, eh, PeterD, and that was the hot experience of the evening). Little julienne slices of congealed pig's blood that had an interesting texture but not too much taste to my palate. Large white Issan sausage with the slight liverish flavor, good, but not sure I am that fond of Issan sausage having tried it twice.
Desserts included the Thai version of Kix - multi-colored tapioca beads in what I suspect was a warm rice milk porridge (very thin). Makes me smile.
A very nice meal, but at the end of the evening, given the build up, I was surprised that I had not pushed a bead of sweat all night, and was not near pain other than when I was idly chewing on the toasted chiles with the blood soup (first they just tasted tangy and toasty, but over the next 10 minutes the heat grew) and the remnants of my cold were for the most part unmoved. An excellent meal, great company and a fine time. Somehow I doubt that Thai Avenue belongs in the first tier of Chicago Thai, but they did a great job for us. Leading me to conclude yet again, that it is the company and the ordering that do make the meal, as much as the place and the kitchen.