3/23/19 – Chicago – Kumiko

Now one of my favorite places in Chicago.  If you haven’t been, what are you waiting for?


eggplant – miso, lots of herbs and rice crackers

steam buns, berkshire pork belly, spicy pickles and an herb bouquet


tempura prawn – head mayonnaise, yuzu and mint

short rib – braised with pickled plum, puffed beef tendon and beef fat hollandaise

Loup de mer – grilled with bok choy, furikake and ponzu

japanese milk bread – fermented honey ice cream and perigord truffle

gianduja – crémeux with genmaicha, coconut and lime

Chicago – 5/12/18 – S.K.Y.


warm mushroom salad, avocado, chèvre, chilies

maine lobster dumplings, jade butter, soft herbs

black truffle croquettes, aged white cheddar, jalapeño

hamachi sashimi, black sesame ponzu, puffed rice

roasted pork belly, red chili vinegar, cabbage, coriander

berkshire pork chop, habanero honey sauce, crushed peas

crackling beef short rib, smoked gochujeng, spring succotash

foie gras bibimbap – charred vegetables, mushroom bulgogi

fried chicken, fermented hot sauce, creamed corn

thai steak salad, golden shallots, fish sauce vinaigrette

blistered green beans, cantonese vinaigrette

crispy potatoes, black truffle dip


Chicago – May 11, 2018 – Bellemore & Smyth

Bellemore
While everybody seemed to be flocking to Bellemore for dinner, lunch is the perfect time to visit this beautiful space.  The tartare was delicious and the burger is one of the best in the city.

kona kampachi tartare

burger with caramelized onions, mushrooms, mayonnaise and swiss

Smyth
I was long overdue for another visit to Smyth and it was even better than my first time soon after opening. I’m looking forward to next weekend!

sea lettuce cookie

fried sourdough with “the farm” maple & uni

salted rhubarb & radish with seaweed & oyster

shiva, nuka, pine cone

shima ahi ribs barbecued over spruce

dungeness crab & foie gras with scrambled kani miso

gulf shrimp with green almonds in malted cream

“the farm” asparagus gently cooked in hay & bittermilk whey

burnt salsify with geoduck clams & guinea hen jus

dried corn with squab liver mousse & hickory nut

squab wrapped in sorrel with honey

slow cooked beet with beet blood bolognese

caramelized sweetbreads with soured spring vegetables

lamb breast with soured cream & trio fuerte



milk chocolate, raspberry preserves, kelp & shiitake

milk sorbet with “the farm” honey & conifer

egg yolk soaked in salted licorice with frozen yogurt meringue

dried apples, burnt honey, comb & potato

lemongrass ice cream sandwich & black carrot

Chicago – 11/4/17 – El Ideas

While I enjoyed my previous visit to El Ideas, the BYOB format in a very casual setting was perfect for a large group dinner.  This was such a fun evening and thank you to my dinner companions who took charge of wine pairings.

chanterelle, creme fraiche, pomegranate, trout roe

egg tart, caviar, sea urchin bottarga, finger lime

scallop, okra, sweet potato, haitian trinity

lobster, parsnip, apple, cornbread, thyme

french fries & ice cream, potato, leek, vanilla

pheasant, celeriac, truffle, lovage

oxtail, cabbage, maitake, parsley, mustard seed

pierogi, squash, black trumpet, sage, smoke

strip loin, bread pudding, quail egg, béarnaise

pavlova, plum, hibiscus, chocolate

quince, dulcey chocolate, olive oil, pistachio

Chicago – 11/3/17 – Somerset, Prairie School and Next

Somerset

I loved Somerset so much that I almost went back the next day and then was kicking myself for not doing so. I hope to check out dinner my next time in Chicago but this was pretty much what I wish I could have for lunch everyday. It makes me very happy to see the proliferation of great crudités. The tuna and sprouted grains salad was fantastic as was their take on the Tuxedo. After such a miserable experience at Devereaux the night before, the Boka group definitely redeemed themselves.

Tuxedo served with aged gouda


vegetable crudite

charred broccoli, garlic, almonds, crispy chicken skin, yogurt

seared tuna, sprouted grains yogurt, cucumber vinaigrette

Prairie School
The purpose of my first trip to Chicago was to visit Frank Lloyd Wright houses.  As I exhausted new places to visit, my focus turned to food and cocktails.  I can’t believe that nobody opened a bar with this concept sooner.  Obviously I was won over before I even got there.

Next
What a great opportunity to have dishes from so many amazing restaurants that I (and many other guests) may never have opportunity to visit as well as a few old favorites.  This was a great concept as it peaked my interest in some places I may not have ever had an interest in and challenged me to think about why I don’t like some places with great dishes that I loved having here.

Rose
rose, apple, pomegranate
Quique Dacosta/Alicante, Spain

Jerusalem Artichoke
walnut, rye
Geranium/Copenhagen, Denmark


An oyster’s frozen kiss
oyster, radish flower
Mugaritz/San Sebastian, Spain

Eggs benedict
caviar, asparagus, ham
Eleven Madison Park/New York, USA

Marine soil
sea urchin, jicama, surf clam
Centra/Lima, Peru

Squid
artichoke, bagna cauda, squid ink
Mirazur/Menton, France

King crab
beef gram, hen’s egg yolk, rose miso
Noma/Copenhagen, Denmark

Tartare
bison, sunchoke
Estela/New York, NY, USA

Badger flame beet
Blue Hill at Stone Barns/Pocantico Hills, USA

Caviar
vin jaune, egg yolk, button mushrooms
Septime/Paris, France

Riso cacio e pepe
parmigiano reggiano, burgundy truffle
Osteria Francescana/Modena, Italy

Dim sum
cau cau, dashi, potato
Maido/Miraflores, Peru

Langoustine
wasabi, mango, thai vinaigrette
Restaurant Tim Raue/Berlin, Germany

Monkfish
aubergine, fermented peppers
De Librije/Zwolle, Netherlands

“Vuelve a la Vida”
scallop, beef tongue, salsa bruja
Quintonil/Mexico City, Mexico

All parts of the pumpkin
the skin, the seeds, the flesh
Attica/Melbourne, Australia

Squab
parsnip, almond, lacender
Next/Chicago, USA

Memory
foie gras, black truffle, chives
Restaurant Andre/Singapore

Apples
chanterelles, granite
Relae/Copenhagen, Denmark

Chocolate
milk chocolate, blueberry, yogurt
Alinea/Chicago, USA

Chicago – 11/17 – Viceroy

I keep meaning to add some hotel reviews and for some reason I just keep skipping over them.  While hotels are certainly justified in doing it as I am sure people abuse it, this is the first time I had been asked for my AAA card in ages when checking in.  Of course I didn’t have my current card in my wallet and couldn’t remember my password for the mobile app.  I was told I had to come back with the information prior to checking out otherwise the rate wouldn’t be honored.  But when I went back the next day after sorting out my password situation to get a mobile version of my current card, the front desk agent looked completely surprised that I was offering this information.

The Viceroy has done a very good job in competing with the Thompson across the street (and winning).  I loved the decor, the chaise, the large desk, having a Nespresso, the large shower, and the long entryway.  Also a great touch that the closet opened on two sides, into the hallway and the bathroom.

Somerset restaurant on the ground floor from the Boka Group is so good that I almost went two days in a row (review in my next post).  Unfortunately Devereaux, the rooftop bar was a huge disappointment.  When I walked in, not only was I not greeted by the first 3 employees that crossed my path, but from the looks that they gave me I felt like I walked in 2 hours after closing wearing face paint.  I understand there is a seasonal pool and plastic glassware may make sense at certain times of day and the year.  But late in the evening, an expensive cocktail at a beautiful bar in a plastic glass is just tacky.  The bartender required me to give him my license even though I was staying at the hotel.  The bar was only about half full and wouldn’t it have just made more sense to ask for my room number and last name if they feared I was a flight risk?  When I closed out I was returned my license and only glanced at it and saw that it was from the correct state.  Probably an hour later when I was in bed, my room phone rang and it was the bartender who told me that he had given me the wrong license and tried to give another guest closing out my license, and the asked if I could come back up.  When my response to that was a clear no he came down with my license about 10 minutes later. Another 10 minutes and I would have been asleep with earplugs in and two people would have been without a license.

I would absolutely stay at the Viceroy again but definitely avoid the bar.

Chicago – 8/26/17 – Proxi

Yet another fantastic addition to the west loop.  Those tempura elotes alone are worth a visit.

tempura elotes

salad of sugar snap peas and carrots, yuzu kosho, sesame, miso brûlée

shaved zucchini, sheep’s milk feta, pine nuts, mint

baby octopus, red chermoula, fava bean hummus

black pepper pork, butter lettuce, peanuts, apple, mint

merguez sausage, eggplant aioli, almonds, grapes, radish

Chicago – 8/25/17 – Roister and Alinea

Roister
If you haven’t been to Roister and live in Chicago we probably can’t be friends. Always excellent and dishes that are so much better than they read on the menu. The spicy cucumber salad I could easily eat once a day forever. And those grits may not look like much…but the scallop XO….amazing. Some others told me that the foie gras toast was too sweet. But as dessert is is perfect and evoked so many amazing childhood cinnamon toast memories.

anson mills grits, scallop XO, egg yolk sauce, parmesan

avocado toast, english muffins grapefruit, everything butter

spicy cucumber salad, pineapple-fish sauce dressing, lots of herbs

Foie gras, cinnamon toast, strawberry jam

Alinea
Still my favorite restaurant a decade later.  Somehow I am missing a few photos because I was enjoying myself too much to be bothered.  Always an an amazing experience and always something new that is a complete surprise.  On this visit, the spud.  Perhaps not the prettiest dish in the era of instagram (despite best efforts which gave me a good laugh) but absolutely delicious.

spear | avocado, coriander

paper | langoustine, bouillabaisse, olive oil

crunch | rouille, nori

ink | olive, artichoke

garden | orange, sherry, tomato

black bass, shellfish, kuzu
kaffir lime, tropical fruit
coconut
chicken, rice



steam | hamachi, rosemary, kombu

glass | blueberry, lapsing soughing, maitake

spud | truffle, midwest dairy


toast | gruyere, black truffle, pumpernickel

smoke | veal cheek, pineapple, hearts of palm

rock | sweet potato, chocolate, miso

nostalgia | bubblegum, candy bar

Chicago – 5/13/17 – Next Hollywood 

Hollywood was absolutely the most fun Next menu.  The presentations were all fantastic and perhaps too much fun as I have never had so many missing photos.


Movie Quotes – Gone with the “Caviar”

Popcorn – meyer lemon, fennel, guanciale

The Breakfast Club – bento box, sandwich, soup, pixie stick


Cool Hand Luke – trout roe, kiwi, young coconut, turnip


The Wizard of Oz – fave bean, golden raisin, romanesco

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – octopus & scallop



Blade Runner – noodles, duck, pickled ginger

Jurassic Park – madeira, jambo, brioche

Star Wars – frog, Ethopian spices, yellow split pea


Ratatouille – byaldi

The Godfather – taro root, ricotta, olive

Horror – smoked pork neck, beet, garlic

Pulp Fiction – bulgogi big kahuna burger


Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – foie gras, chamomile, sunflower


Marie Antoinette – rhubarb, raspberry, black tea

Missing:  “Life is Like a Box of….” and Mary Poppins

Chicago – 5/12/17 – Frontera Grill and Maple & Ash

Frontera Grill
It has been ages since I have been to Frontera Grill as I tend to default to XOCO on most visits to Chicago.  I must admit that I prefer the XOCO guacamole but still delicious.





Maple & Ash

Maple & Ash is certainly a scene especially on a weekend evening.  It makes for entertaining people watching and may give the impression that the food isn’t serious but I was very pleasantly surprised as it was absolutely delicious.  I’m not sure what the girls in the bondage dresses and crop tops are possibly eating but I’m sure their dates are enjoying eating double.  Thank you to the extraordinary Chris Gerber for knowing what I should have ordered.  In all of my trips to Chicago this was the first time I took food ‘home’ and admittedly ate the rest of my NY Strip with my fingers for breakfast along with the remainder of the phenomenal coconut cream pie out of the hotel mini fridge.


chilled louisiana white prawns

fire roasted alaskan king crab

maple & ash wedge

NY strip

potatoes

coconut creme pie

Chicago – 2/24/17 – Au Cheval, Milk Room, and Quiote

Au Cheval
Twice in a week and I don’t live in Chicago. I think I have a problem!

Milk Room
I had been wanting to check out Milk Room, coffee bar by day/spirits by night, since it opened but never planned far enough in advance for a reservation. While perhaps cost prohibitive to visit with any regularity, anyone who appreciates the unique and hard-to-find should love Milk Bar.  And with only a few seats you will get plenty of time to chat spirits with the knowledgeable staff.


Quixote
Yet another excellent addition to the Chicago dining scene for 2017.  We enjoyed some tasty mezcal based cocktails in the basement bar before dinner which is worth going early or staying late to visit.  The avocado salad may not look like much but I could eat it everyday and I somehow forgot how much I enjoyed this bone marrow dish until going though the photos.  Thank you for the excellent hospitality Daniel D!

quesillo y jamon – country ham, queso Oaxaca, escabeche

aguachile – hamachi, pomegranate, walnut, habanero, mint

avocado salad – brussel sprouts, lemon, tomatillo, quinoa

pork collar – pasilla, pinto beans, gem lettuce

bone marrow – avocado, salsa macha, sourdough

chorizo verde – potato, raisin, poblano

Chicago – 2/18/17 – Next Ancient Rome

I admittedly was prepared to dislike this menu based on the report of a dear friend whose visit predated mine.  There have been a few Next menus that have been somewhat polarizing and this seems to be one of them.  My expectations were greatly exceeded and I found myself enjoying the theme much more than I thought I would.  With the Roman Cookery book it all made more sense.  And it did not hurt to be dining with the best man in my life, my dad, who is still up on his Latin.


vinum ex atro candidum facies (honey, cabbage, apple, grape)

herbal rusticae (melon, herbs, liquamen)

cuminatum in ostrea et conchylia (kamut pancake, oyster, pomegranate)
isicia ex sphondylis (mussels, saffron, lardo)
patinam de rosis (rose, white asparagus, rosemary)
aliter tubera elixas et asperso sale gusti de cucurbitis (beets, black truffle, chicken skin)


pisam coques (smoked mascarpone, beans, mackerel)

panem (beef fat, poppy & fennel seed)

isicia de sculls vel de cammeris amplis (shrimp, olives, walnut)

aliter porros (leek, cabbage, butternut squash)

pullus farsilis (quali, spelt, lovage)

embalm in cervinam assam (venison, chestnut, laurel)

sales conduits ad multa (oxtail, turnip, horseradish)

aliter car duos (artichoke, carob, citrus)

gaius octavos gustan de praecoquis (goat cheese, honey, fennel)

domum felix (mastic, taffy, lavender)

Chicago – 2/17/17 – Bad Hunter and elske

Bad Hunter

I had heard mixed reviews of Bad Hunter But I’m very glad that I decided to check it out.  For lunch I absolutely love the menu. Everything was fantastic and I am sure it is even better in the summer with the patio open.


carrots & fennel – pistachio-green Chile pesto, avocado cream, queso fresco

smoked salmon tartine – Meyer lemon creme fraiche, celery root, vadouvan


Elske

I hope that the west loop does not soon run out of real estate with the number of restaurants continuing to open there. Elske is yet another fantastic addition and if the duck liver tart was on the a la carte menu it would be very dangerous.

tea of lightly smoked fruits and vegetables

creamed parsnip with osetra caviar

duck liver tart with buckwheat and salted ramps

leeks vinaigrette with toasted oats, olives and blue mound cheddar

confit bass with white beans, charred squash broth and shaved shiitakes

Our additions to the tasting menu which unfortunately I do not have descriptions of


grilled leg of lamb with broccoli, pickled ramps and butter fried almonds

citrus sundae with toasted milk, barley malt caramel and satsuma

Chicago – 1/29/17 – the Bristol

The Bristol is one of the first places I dined at when I started making frequent trips to Chicago many years ago.  Happily it is still as good as it was back then and has a really excellent brunch.  Just as the raviolo is a must-order at dinner, do not miss the cinnamon roll at brunch.  It’s as dangerous as the Moscow mules.


Chicago – 1/28/17 – Alinea Kitchen Table

There are a multitude of reasons that Alinea continues to be my favorite restaurant. As many times as I have been there I am always completely surprised by something new. And I always think back to my first visit quite a long time ago which was the first time I dined alone at a ‘nice’ restaurant. I was so nervous that my hand shook until I had finished my initial glass of champagne. But the experience was perhaps the beginning of my career as a ‘professional’ in conquering a very long tasting menu and I have never felt uncomfortable dining alone since.

I am not sure that I will be able to return to the dining room after this dinner at the kitchen table. I saw the space on my last visit but seeing it and sitting in it are quite different. Just completely fantastic especially with a great group of friends. I very much enjoyed again the dishes that I had previously – especially the scallop, corn, butter that I want several bowls of.  While it is not a substitute for black truffle explosion, the gruyere/black truffle/pumpernickel was delicious and filled the void.  And perhaps my favorite of the night was the very understated parmesan/pea/jamon iberico.  Until next time….




osetra, king crab, condiments

quince, parmesan, date

scallop, corn, butter

cornbread, nori

cider, orange, maple

yuzu

parmesan, pea, jamon iberico


kuzu, pompano, shellfish

pork belly, curry, banana

rosemary, hamachi, kombu

blueberry, lapsang souchong, maitake


mastic, concord

*foie

gruyere, black truffle, pumpernickel

short rib, bitter cocoa, cassis

wagyu, rice, myoga

sweet potato, chocolate, miso

bubble gum, cake, banana



chocolate, cherry, bourbon


sesame, brown butter, gold

Chicago – 1/27/17 – Roister and the Loyalist

Roister
When I finally get caught up on my blog I may need to stop the Roister posts as there will be too many.  I feel guilty typing it but we may have had the whole menu x2 (some photos missing) plus a few off-the-menu extras (thank you Chef!).  My previous go-to lunch spots are out the window.



Hushpuppies, corn crema, sour corn, manchego


Hushpuppies, corn crema, sour corn, manchego

Roasted beets, endive tangerine, blue cheese

Chicken noodle soup, mirepoix, meatball, soft cooked egg

Smoked oysters, garlic butter, breadcrumbs

Anson mills grits, key west pink shrimp, crab curry, thai basil

Fried chicken sandwich, sunchoke hot sauce, chamomile mayo

Biscuits and gravy, hearth roasted eggs, green tomato ragout, swiss

Loyalist
Love the people, service, and food.  But I must admit that I feel the burger was overhyped.  Perhaps the fault of my Facebook friends and not the burger.


Winter squash, burrata, pickled honeycrisp

The Loyalist cheeseburger & fries

Apple upside-down cake, sunflower anglaise, creme fraiche

Chicago – 12/3/16 – Mott Street

I really enjoyed my previous visit to Mott St. but his time unfortunately not so much.  It was so loud that I could barely hear my dinner companion and by the end of the meal my throat hurt from shouting and I craved silence.  I am able to get past noise issues when the food is worth it, but in this case it just was not.  Not offensive but average.

Cauliflower

Everything wings

Imperial Rolls

(Apologies as have forgotten what this one is)

Szechuan and pepper shrimp

Chicago – 12/2/16 – Oriole

I am so far behind that since this dinner there have been several additional glowing reviews of Oriole.  There isn’t much I can add to those so to sum it up, I concur and absolutely loved it.  Fantastic food, space, service and wine.  And while often overlooked , 2 amazing bread courses.

Golden Osetra Caviar, coconut dashi, lychee and sea grape

Langoustine spring roll with shio kombu, calamansi and mint

Kampachi nigiri with yuzu kosho and genmai

Beef tendon puffed with wagyu tartare and shaved matsutake

Beausoleil oyster, iberico consomme and smoked finger lime

Cardinal prawn, iberico lardo, meyer lemon and fennel


Jamon iberico de bellota, black walnut, egg yolk and campo de montalban

Sea urchin emulsion with bay scallop, cauliflower and anise hyssop

Capellini, white alba truffle, rye berry and yeast

Sourdough, cultured butter, caraway and local grains

Japanese A5 wagyu, charred little gem, furikake and sesame leaf

Lemon tea sorbet with hibiscus, asian pear and bitter greens

Croissant, raclette, apple butter and cardamom

Pistachio gelato with elderflower and puffed rice

Mignardieses

Pie to go

Chicago – 9/17/16 – mfk and Next French Laundry

mfk.
Yet another fantastic brunch at mfk.  I am always baffled as to why this place is not packed at this time of day.  Chicago friends you really need to put it in regular rotation!

ceviche, poblano guacamole, squid ink tostada

shrimp and cucumber aguachile, jicama, avocado

chioggia beets, basil, aged goat cheese, orange yogurt

roasted and chilled cauliflower, almond, red onion, xato

pqm bread service, caramelized shallot butter, radishes

seafood fideous, toasted vermicelli, piperade, saffron

albondigas pork & veal, grana padano polenta, tomato jam

Next: French Laundry
Having the Next French Laundry menu to look forward to helped me to get past the letdown of my French Laundry meal a week before being over.  Its amazing that the dishes on this menu are 20 years old.  They are delicious and still completely relevant.  The French Laundry influenced dozens of chefs since it opened and fine dining has evolved in many ways.  I love the evolution but at the same time I would eat these dishes everyday if I could.  This was absolutely lovely and one of reasons I love Next for allowing me to experience what was before my time.

cornet of atlantic salmon

carrot soup

black trumpet mushroom soup

gulf shrimp and avocado salsa

blinis with peppers and bottarga

barbecue eel with sesame and yuzu

salmon chop

black truffle custard

oysters and pearls – sabayon of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters and golden osetra caviar

tomato salad – yellow tomato sorbet, basil infused oil and brioche crouton

agnolotti – butternut squash, quince and madras curry

pompano “amandine” – orzo, pole beans and preserved meyer lemon

atlantic cod – clam chowder, celery and bacon

sweet butter poached lobster – pommes maxim, melted leeks and beet essence

five-spiced lobster – port poached figs and moulard duck foie gras

“roulade” of duck breast – creamed white corn, huckleberries and chanterelle mushrooms

rabbit “saddle” – applewood smoked bacon with pruneaux d’agen, caramelized fennel and fennel oil

“pot au feu” – beef short rib with root vegetables and sauteed bone marrow

lamb – thyme, tarragon and dried beans

chaource – red plums, chive oil and lolla rossa

roquefort – trifle with french butter pear relish

“verjus” sorbet – peach butter and mint infused oil

“coffee and donuts” – cappuccino semifreddo with cinnamon sugar donuts

mignardises

Favorite dishes of 2016

I started with more than 60 and have narrowed it down as much as possible. In no particular order here are my top dishes of 2016, whatever ‘top’ means on any such lists. Largely these dishes are not representative of my favorite meals of 2016 and many are from what I would consider casual restaurants. They may not all be the best dishes technically but are the dishes that I could eat every day and often have cravings for. In the interest of fairness of I have disqualified the Au Cheval burger, the Humm Dog, Black Truffle Explosion, and Oysters & Pearls as well as all bread courses.

balsamic, truffle, artichoke
Luskus with Kitchen Table @ Bubbledogs
New York

osetra – plantain, papaya, rum
Alinea
Miami

elvis tartine
Eating House
Miami

beef crudo
Momofuku Nishi
New York

farm egg baked in celery cream
Miller Union
Atlanta

foie gras and truffle macaroon
Osteria Francescana
Modena

sheep’s milk gnocchi
Jockey Hollow
Morristown, NJ

passionfruit semifreddo
Contra @ Gramercy Tavern
New York

carolina gold rice
Roister
Chicago

okonomiyaki
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Charleston

snap pea sushi
Olmsted
New York
pike quenelle

nam tok beans
Kin Khao
San Francisco

spicy tuna toast
Wildair
New York

ko egg
Momofuku Ko
New York

general tso fried chicken
Chaan Teng
New York

Chicago – 9/16/16 – Smyth

The dining room at Smyth is one of my favorites of the year.  Perfectly informal is the best description that I can come up.  It is inviting in the same way Noma felt to me, as if you are at a dinner party hosted by a friend with an amazing house and decorator.  The highlights for me were the brioche donut of sorts fried in beef fat (extras should be offered for a supplement…please?) and the outstanding dessert of egg yolk soaked in salted licorice with yogurt meringue.  I’m looking forward to checking out the Loyalist downstairs later this month!

The farm potato

Tomato ice, seaweed, oyster

Smoked & dried beet with scallop

A salad of duck and herbs with roasted squid

Dungeness crab & foie gras with scrambled kani miso

Aged carrot roasted

beef and brioche

Squab, pineapple sage, grapes and peas

Slow cooked saddle of lamb with kelp marmite

Milk chocolate, huckleberries, and preserved shiitake mushroom

Sage honey tart

Egg yolk soaked in salted licorice with yogurt meringue

Frozen tomato mousse, noyaux, and spicy flowers

Chicago – 9/15/16 – Au Cheval and Roister

Au Cheval
Of course now that United’s fares from EWR to ORD have been cut in half there is talk of Au Cheval coming to New York.  This burger was my reward for the dozens and dozens of trips I have made to Chicago, especially those early morning flights to be there by 11am when it opens for lunch.

Roister
A seat at the hearth at Roister may be my new favorite place in Chicago.  In a way the plating is deceiving as some of these dishes are dark and are not necessarily made for today’s instagram age.  And while looks can be deceiving, menu descriptions can be as well.  Oysters are one of the very few foods that I genuinely dislike.  I have been trying to train myself to like them for 2 years now but was set back by an unfortunate episode of food poisoning.  When Chef Brochu kindly sent out a gift of the smoked oysters my stomach sank.  I was dining with my mother, the only person I know who dislikes oysters more than I do, and who would be of no help in eating these.  I made her try one and she admitted it wasn’t bad at all (which is a very high compliment).   I happily ate the rest as they were completely delicious.  I love having my mind changed about an ingredient.  The fries I likely would not have ordered myself as bonito and tofu are not ingredients I particularly enjoy but a friend ordered them on a previous visit and I had to have them again. Then there is the chicken that I still think about.  The leftovers are the first thing I have ever taken in a doggie bag from any meal while traveling.  I cleaned out half of the hotel mini bar and we ate the rest for breakfast. It may have been even better.

Tomato bread – mayo, shallot, pecan oil

Aged cheddar rillettes – truffle, cauliflower, fry bread

Chow chow mein – aged cabbage, noodles, relish

Cucumber – melon, smoked creme fraiche

Smoked oysters – garlic butter, breadcrumbs

Yukon fries – soy dusted, bonito flakes, tofu mayo

Whole chicken & chamomile – braised, poached, fried with sunchokes

Hushpuppies – corn crema, sour corn, manchego

Chicago – 9/2/16 – Alinea

I knew that my first trip to the newly renovated Alinea would feel very strange but I was hoping that the Miami pop-up would have somewhat prepared me.  I tried my best to be in the moment and not compare to the past.  But while I understand the desire and need for change, as I rearranged my bedroom constantly as a kid, I still love the old space.  I think it is much better to experience the Gallery without knowing what to expect so I am going to keep this very brief.  I will say that it started off amazingly well, as all good things should, with caviar and champagne.  Looking through my pictures and thinking back through all of these courses, this was a much much better meal than I may have given it credit for at the time.  But I attribute that to my consistent feeling of immediate depression whenever a meal at Alinea ends.  The redesigned table dessert course was fantastic and someday I hope to live in a home with a wall worthy of a Thomas Masters piece.

Communal – osetra, king crab, condiments


Shaker – gin, green tomato, chartreuse
Roll – cucumber, feta, caper leaf


Paper – scallop, corn, butter


Crunch – shio kombu, nori

Contrast – tomato, watermelon, parmesan
Sangre – blood peach, green peanut, iberico
Swirl – apple, yuzu, lemon verbena


Fry – icefish, daisy mandarin, radish


Yellow – pork belly, curry, banana

Glass – maitake, blueberry, lapsang souchong

Petal – onion, purple allium, black pepper

Toast – gruyere, black truffle, pumpernickel


Bon Bon – mango, almond, cinnamon

Chicken – palo santo, pineapple, mezcal

Bone – wagyu, rice, myoga

Cloche – cheeks, chamomile, melon

Nostalgia – fennel, dark chocolate, lemon, strawberry

Paint – cherry, white chocolate, bourbon


Gold – sesame, brown butter, feuilletine

Chicago – 7/24/16 – Nico Osteria

I swore I was going to cease Nico Osteria posts as there are already too many of them and it is well established as one of my favorites in Chicago.  But evidently I can’t stop plus there were many new menu items. We loved the new formaggi dish that we tried and the burrata salad I have admittedly had again since this particular visit!
 
Aperol spritz

Gorgonzola cremificato – cows milk, financier biscotti, apple, blueberry balsamic

Madai snapper – kohlrabi salsa verde, basil & wild king salmon – fermented chile, black lava salt, cherry

Burrata – mission figs, grilled kale, treviso, pecan pesto, flat iron steak

Chicago – 7/23/16 – Tanta, Honey’s & the Office

Tanta
I have craved ceviche almost every day since this lunch at Tanta.  Thankfully it is finally fall as I never found anything that was a good substitute.

Tiradito cremoso cebiche – salmon, scallop emulsion, avocado, cherry tomato, chalaca, olive oil

Cebiche nikei – ahi tuna, tamarind-sesame oil leche de tigre, cilantro, habanero, cucumber, avocado, nori

Off menu!

Choclo – grilled with anticuchera, rocoto huancaina, fresh cheese

Super soltero – wheat, chickpea escabeche, cilantro, mint, parsley, queso fresco, cucumber, onions, mixed greens

Honey’s
I had Honey’s on my radar well before it opened but then did not read too much about it post opening so did not have any idea what to expect.  Sometimes it is best to be pleasantly surprised.  With a large group we we able to try most of the menu.  Beautiful presentations and all successful and delicious dishes (with the exception of the very salty quinoa).  Of course the downside of our large group was then apparent as second bites were unfortunately not possible.  A fantastic space with an absolutely gorgeous bar taking up most of the front room.  Congrats on all of the shining reviews!



marinated bay scallop – white gazpacho, grilled peach, apple, sorrel

hamachi – cucumber, grape, finger lime, verjus, pickled onion

spit roasted cauliflower – bread crumb, smoked giardiniera, basil

lamb tartare – shaved artichoke, cherry, black garlic mustard, crispy sunchoke

squid ink orecchiette – calamari, shrimp, octopus, pesto, mint, pine nuts

swiss chard – bagna cauda, fried shallots

rainbow trout – charred eggplant, roasted corn succotash, bacon, pea shoots

quinoa tabbouleh – lemon pistachio vinaigrette

grilled striploin – pommes dauphine, rapini, romesco, charred scallion

buckwheat pasta a la chitarra – morel mushrooms, thyme butter, pecorino, bread crumb

bass – brandade, pipperade, braised fennel



The Office
Unfortunately the power was out due to some crazy storms and a blown transformer. But if this is what camping looks like, I’ll take it!

Chicago – 5/22/16 – Duck Duck Goat

I didn’t think that we would be able to squeeze in Duck Duck Goat on this trip even though I was eager to try it.   Such a fun brunch and very cool space. It was tough to narrow down the things that I wanted on the menu and despite some initial skepticism as to how this concept would work out all of our menu choices were fantastic.  I am definitely looking forward to a return trip for dinner.


Steamed barbeque pork buns
Duck tongues
Shrimp toast

Octopus, cucumber and peanut salad

Chicago – 5/21/16 – mfk, Roister, Green River, Next and Aviary

mfk
Each time I have visited mfk I just can’t understand why it is not absolutely packed.  Somehow it has remained Chicago’s best kept secret.  Suffice it to say I love everything on this menu. Ok maybe not the sardine butter but the ceviche could just keep coming all day long.


braised oxtail & potato croquettes, charred tomato aioli

ceviche, poblano guacamole, squid ink tostada

bread, sardine butter, breakfast radishes

roasted & chilled cauliflower, xato, almond, pickled onion

poached shrimp, green papaya, cucumber, sugar snap peas

seafood fideous, toasted vermicelli, piperade, saffron

Roister
Unfortunately Roister was not yet open for lunch by this trip as I was hoping so we were forced into Plan B which was a Roister and Next doubleheader. Maybe it doesn’t quite count doing the a la carte menu vs. the Roister menu but there always has to be something to strive for the next time (no pun intended). We were not able to order the larger dishes that I wanted the most (actually willing and able but would regret it later on) but I still think that we did pretty well. As Roister seemed to be so long in the making there was a part of me that feared it would fall short of expectations. But of course I should know better. It was exceedingly difficult to not finish absolutely everything and think about anything other than when I could get back here again.

Yukon fries – soy dusted, bonito flakes, rice vinegar, tofu mayo

Baja hiramasa – black sesame, raspberry, tarragon
Grilled asparagus salad – macadamia nut dressing, fennel, rice

Gulf shrimp toast – red crab butter

Carolina gold rice – hoisin glazed carrots, mushrooms, thai basil

Foie gras – black walnuts, pretzel, marshmallow

Strawberries & milk – jam, gummies, shortbread crumb

Green River

We had to exit the West Loop for a bit of the evening to enjoy some fantastic cocktails from the lovely Julia Momose.


Next South America (Peru)
There is not too much I can say about each visit to Next that I haven’t already said before. But this was easily my second favorite of all of the Next menus and if I lived in Chicago I would certainly be back for the other country iterations. This was a completely seamless transition to Chef Tomaska and I can’t wait to see what he does with the next menu.

Raspadilla – chicha morada, cassia, leche

Pisco sour

Ceviche
banana & passionfruit
corn & chocolate
aji
lime & orange



Tiradito
mackerel, kombu, peanut, cactus fruit

Picanteria
casabe, canchita, solterito de queso
empanada, rocoto relleno, anticucho






Alpaca Wool
escabeche de camaron


Sudado
paiche, gooseberry, coconut, pork


Pachamanca
gallina, humita, pina, salsa criolla


Dulces
guava & picarones
chocolate, rhubarb, dulce de leche

Aviary
Because one is never too full for a black truffle explosion.

Chicago – 2/12/16 – Au Cheval, Cold Storage, CAA, Aviary, and Next Alps

Au Cheval
Where else to start a whirlwind one day tour of some of my favorite places in Chicago than at Au Cheval?   I know I have had burger blinders on for years and have largely ignored the rest of the menu venturing only as far as the raw vegetable salad.  A huge thank you to our server who told us that the beef cheek marmalade could be ordered as a side dish.  How I have lived without this I don’t know.  Next time I may thrown caution to the wind and add it to my burger.

pickles
beef cheek marmalade and toast
 ​cheeseburger with egg and bacon


Cold Storage

Some travel days call for a double lunch, and not only a double lunch but going big with the large seafood tower.  After visiting Swift & Sons a few weeks prior I was looking forward to checking out its more casual inner restaurant.  Fantastic hospitality.  How we ate this all I don’t know.


 ​

Chicago Athletic Association 
For years before the Chicago Athletic Association opened as a hotel, I looked at the amazing facade from across Michigan Avenue on many of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s walking tours.  I just love everything they have done to maintain the original details and character and can’t help but walk through whenever I pass it.  Unfortunately the cocktails in the grand lobby were far from fantastic, but ambience almost made up for it.

Sidecar and Negroni 

Aviary

As anybody who reads this blog likely knows, Aviary is my favorite place in Chicago.  Not only have I met many people here who have become incredible friends, but I am always blown away by something new on the menu.  I am always nervous bringing somebody new here, afraid that they won’t like it as much as I do or I have talked it up too much.  But when the person gets it and is as excited about the experience as I always am, these are the best visits of all.  Many, many pictures missing somehow.

Loaded to the Gunwalls

Next Alps
This was an absolutely frigid day which made the Next Alps menu the perfect dinner.  A very fun menu separated into six sections – the French farmhouse, the German beer hall, the warming yurt, the top of the Swiss mountain, intro to Italy and Austrian sweets.  While there wasn’t necessarily one stand out dish for me as there has been on previous menus, anytime you can have raclette is special and this is definitely a menu that I would happily repeat.


   stone soup
 ​gratin of Beaufort and trumpet crozets

game pie
 tourton of salsify and apple

 gateau de St. Genix avec du beurre de chevre
 pork belly schnitzel with cherry and black walnut
 ​pretzel, sausages and pickles


 Raclette with potatoes, fermented mustard greens, chestnuts, and black truffles

 Augustiner Brau Edelstoff lager
 chocolate with black truffle and milk crisp
 preserved summer berries with cognac and honey
 smoked arctic char with cauliflower and juniper

 
goulash of beef and Barolo with sour cornbread

 bitter green salad with pomegranate and fennel ice

Salzburger nockerl
 pie spiced ice cream
 apple strudel with clove and cinnamon

And as if this wasn’t enough in one day, missing from the photos are cocktails at Grace as well as post dinner in the Office.

Chicago – 1/31/16 – North Pond

For as many fantastic views and great dining rooms that there are in Chicago, North Pond perhaps has the most perfect setting.  Unfortunately I seem to only make it here in bad weather, but even so its beautiful.  This really has to be the best brunch in the city.

Arctic Char, Beets – chilled smoked char, red, gold, chioggia beets, ruby grapefruit, fennel, horseradish creme, filberts Beef, Sprouts – charred flatiron steak, parsnip brûlée, roasted brussels sprouts, bordelaise gel, grain mustard, slaw
 Squash, Cranberry – pumpkin spiced kabocha tartelette, cinnamon creme, cranberry puree, sage sherbet, candied orange
  

Chicago – 1/30/16 – mfk and Swift & Sons

Mfk
I will wait for my next trip to definitively say it but this may be my new favorite in Chicago.  Exactly the type of food I could eat every day.  So bright and crisp that even with sausage I did not feel guilty at all afterwards.  And its always a good sign when its nearly impossible to make a decision about what to order because I wanted everything.

ceviche, poblano guacamole, squid ink tostada
 squid, chinese pork sausage, cashew vinaigrette
 poached shrimp, green papaya, cucumber, sugar snap peas

Swift & Sons
After looking at this building for years while waiting for a cab after leaving Aviary and then watching it defrost, I couldn’t wait to see what this building had been transformed into.  An absolutely gorgeous (and quite huge) dining room.  For as much as I love a great steak, I seem to rarely go to steakhouses as I am typically disappointed.  My aged ny strip was fantastic, as were all of the vegetables as well as the shellfish platter (with the much appreciated heavy side of horseradish).

cold shellfish platter
 broccolini, sauce gribiche
 roasted mushrooms, porcini aioli, crouton
 roasted carrots
 dry aged bone in strip
 boston cream pie – vanilla bean cream, bittersweet chocolate, yellow sponge cake
 black bottom pudding – black cocoa crumble, baked dark chocolate mousse, milk chocolate pudding, white chocolate sorbet

NYC – 1/29/16 – Nico Osteria

A trip to Chicago never seems to feel complete without a visit to Nico.  When it opened this quickly became one of my favorites and there is rarely a weekend I am in town and don’t end up here.  Just consistently fantastic.



Kanpachi & snapper crudo
 Brussels Sprouts Bruschetta – stracciatella cheese, lemon honey, trufflebert hazelnuts
 Seared Tuna salad – avocado, pistachio, orange, basil, poppyseed vinaigrette

Chicago – 11/5/15 – Green River

I first went to Green River two days prior only to see Julia Momose and have a few of her sure to be fantastic cocktails.  I hadn’t given any thought to actually eating here but we made a somewhat last minute decision to return for lunch prior to heading out of town. I love having absolutely no expectations and being completely pleasantly surprised. Outstanding job Chef Lirette. And thank you Julia for the great cocktail pairings and for taking such great care of us. I can’t wait to return! If you haven’t been, get past the seemingly odd location, and go.

 Farro Salad – Grape, Buratta, Almond
Cheese Plate
 Beef Tartare  – Yolk, Horseradish, Caper
 Smoked Whitefish Tartine – Egg, Radish, Celery
 Pork Terrine – Mustard, Fine Herbs
 Bouillabase – Fennel Broth, Mussels, Clams, Cod
 Parisian Gnocchi – Trumpet Mushroom, Squash
 Roasted Chicken – Cauliflower, Coarse Grits, Jus
 Cheeseburger – Cheddar, Pickles, House Sauce

Chicago – 10/4/15 – Next Terroir

I tend to have the highest expectations for the final menu of the year, likely as they always have the highest price tag.  And while I try hard not to compare menus, this was overall one of my favorites. I don’t think that there was a stand out dish, but I genuinely really enjoyed every course which has not been the case on every menu. Unfortunately I didn’t get photos of all of the wine but I assume much has changed by now (and there was a lot of it!).  I’m always somewhat sad when a year ends after having these meals to look forward to for 10 months but on to 2016.
Char roe with rye and creme fraiche
brussels sprouts with beer and flax seed
caramelized onion with chicken skin and heart
prosciutto with honey and lemon
crostini with nasturtium and parmesan




 Sturgeon with scallions and iterations of peanut
 Consommé of barley with arugula and montasio
 Squab  with beets and fennel
 Pear with blue cheese and fresh moss
 Potato chips, caviar, popcorn


 Lion’s mane, bison, truffled soil
 Hamachi, ginger, fermented gooseberry
 Snail, artichoke, eucalyptus aroma
 Lamb, olive, valley wind
 Molasses cake, cottage cheese, bay
 Tea cookie, flan, caramelized white chocolate

Chicago – 10/3/15 – Nico Osteria, Green River & Alinea

Nico Osteria
I’m pretty sure I swore I’d stop blogging about my trips to Nico because there have been way too many.  But I just can’t help it.  Still my favorite brunch in Chicago with consistently fantastic crudo, pasta and cocktails.  And it is always lovely to see familiar faces.


Rock fish crudo
 Rigatoni with a northern ragu
 Gem lettuce, caper berries, fig-balsamic vinaigrette, parmesan
 Salumi & Cheese – La Quercia ham, mortadella, milano salami, goat cheese

Green River
This was only a brief stop for pre-dinner cocktails which of course were fabulous.  More comments on our lunch two days later in a future post.  

Alinea
I’m fairly certain that I’ve been to Alinea more times than any other restaurant.  First world problems my brother would say.  I suppose I am fortunate but also need to stay home long enough to become a regular anywhere in NYC.   Still my favorite restaurant in the US and I can’t imagine that anything will knock off black truffle explosion as the best bite of all time.  On every visit I’m completely blown away by something and wonder how they will top it the next time, but they always do.  This meal Chef Davies’ trout dish was my favorite hands down.  I can’t wait to see what Alinea 2.0 has in store.

Peach – basil, murray river salt
 Bocadillo – bread, jamon iberico, manchego
Gilda – guindilla de ibarra, anchovy, olive
Jamon iberico – cantaloupe, salt, espelette
Tortilla – potato, onion, egg
Patatas Bravas – paprika, chile, garlic
 Strawberry – tomato, pumpernickel, burratta
 Char Roe – english pea, olive oil, chamomile
 Brook Trout – uchiki kuri squash, thai banana, blis
 Graffiti – matsutake, maitake, parsley

Unagi – pickled plum, white sesame

Corn – uni, nori, togarashi

Totoro Kombu – hamachi, ice fish cracker

Percebes – smoke, seawater, ash

Chicken – shishito, lily, kombu
 Hot Potato – cold potato, black truffle, butter
 Wagyu – matsutake, ginger, black garlic

Black Truffle – explosion, romaine, parmesan

Olive Cake – extra virgin olive oil, black pepper
  
Lamb – caper leaf, grapes, olives

Bacon – butterscotch, thyme, black pepper
 Parsnip – honey truffle, vanilla, orange
Balloon – helium, green apple (missing a photo)
Tropical Fruit – rum, vanilla, kaffir lime

Chicago – 8/1/15 – XOCO, Next Patio, Boeufhaus, and Aviary

XOCO
Still my favorite lunch in Chicago. Only a few hours prior to this I was in my hotel throwing up from a migraine. Somehow I drug myself out of bed and credit the healing powers of guacamole for getting me through the rest of the day.

Fully dressed guacamole & XOCO salad

Next Patio
Unfortunately it did not work out for me to repeat the Tapas menu but I did manage to return on one of the few beautiful evenings Chicago has had this summer for pintxos on the patio. As I said the last time, the bocadillo is one of the best things in Chicago right now. It would be brilliant if this made it on to the Aviary or Office menu. Pretty please??

cold octopus and celery salad
porkbelly and manchego sandwich

Boeufhaus
I can’t believe that I went to Boeufhaus and didn’t have a steak. But it just seemed too hot, not to mention I had just finished the bocadillo. I’m looking forward to one the next time, however the vegetables and seafood dishes at Boeufhaus are not to be overlooked. I could have easily eaten two plates of the citrus salmon. My only tiny quibble was that the green goddess was just taken out of the fridge and was quite solid when it arrived at our table so by the time it softened enough to use as a dip, the crudite was almost gone.

Crudité – green goddess

Citrus Salmon – ginger oil, pickled honjimeji, fresno chili, crisp skin, herb salad

Salade Du Marche – early spring vegetables, house greens, root vinaigrette
 Scallops (unfortunately a special and I did not write down all of the components)
 Cauliflower gratin – leek, gruyere, bechamel, herbed bread crumb

Aviary
Since the Aviary opened there have been a multitude of very cool ice preparations as one would expect from a ‘bar’ that has an ice room. But this one is my favorite of all. I don’t have an ‘after’ picture but the ice chips are dropped into the glass before the cocktail is added. I can’t wait to see what you do next Micah!

Up the Ice Ante

Loaded to the Gunwalls
Espelette you Finish

Chicago – 7/31/15 – Boka and the Office

Boka
I had been over a year since I’ve been to Boka so very happy that my dinner companions suggested it. It is such a solid choice but inevitably falls off of my radar in the quest for new places. Absolutely perfect service and beautiful plates. My only regret is that we did not have time for dessert as I was looking forward to the funnel cake component of the roasted strawberry. A perfect reason to return very soon.


Amuse

Marinated Blue Marlin – yuzu kosho, almonds, wild fennel

Heirloom Tomatoes – watermelon, sunflower seeds, lemon balm

Corn Soup – razor clams, summer beans, avocado

Cured Foie Gras Salad – apricot, baby lettuce, buttermilk
 Salt Cod Ravioli – artichoke, lemon, sorrel

Colorado Lamb Loin – cauliflower, cherries, dandelion

Pekin Duck Breast – fennel, apricots, sheep’s milk feta

Olive oil poached halibut – carrot, olives, mussels  

The Office
As usual there is nowhere I would rather end an evening! Of course no recollection of what these were but they were delicious.

  

Chicago – 5/31/15 – Au Cheval and Next Tapas

Au Cheval 
This will officially be my last blog posting that includes Au Cheval. Why? Because I love it too much, visit too often, and while I can look at this burger all day every day, I’m guessing some of my readers may become a bit bored with it. Chances are it will remain my favorite burger anywhere and I will be eating them just as often though!

Next Tapas
After the outdoor preview two nights prior I was very much looking forward to this menu. While I have liked and appreciated every Next menu for different reasons, I can admit that there are only a few that I have loved enough that I immediately wanted to repeat.  This is definitely one of them.  The contrast of the more simple dishes, like the absolutely perfect tortilla, with the very complex, such as the patatas bravas, was fantastic. I never cease to be impressed!

anchoas y aceitunas
coliflor asada con chorizo y coca cardona
hongos y cebolla


mejillones enlatados
pulpo y berenjena

  
cerdo y romesco
cebollas a la parrilla


yema de huevo frito

aceitunas de albert adria
brandada crujiente

datiles con jerez y chocolate

pomelo quemado y pinones

un plato de jamon iberico de bellota

esparragos y sepia

patatas bravas

chuleton
tortilla

gambas con fresas y habas

  
caramelo de aceite de oliva

chocolate con arandanos y avellana

fartons

tarta de queso

Chicago – 5/30/15 – Bom Bolla, Broken Shaker and Formentos 

Bom Bolla
On a day that felt more like the end of November instead of May I trekked to the new cava bar Bom Bolla in Wicker Park.  With a group of friends I could see this as a fantastic sunday funday location.  I definitely enjoyed the different cava’s that I tried but have to admit that after having such an amazing pork bocadillo the night before at Next, this one was a disappointment.  On a different day I might have liked it more without the comparison.  But definitely order the marcona almonds!  I thought they couldn’t be improved upon, but everything truly is better fried!


Shrimp with tomato & horseradish
Grilled pork shoulder, preserved lemon, manchego bocadillo

Pork fat fried Marcona almonds

 Broken Shaker
The Chicago location of the Miami import Broken Shaker recently opened in the Freehand hostel.  Having visited the Miami location fairly recently I was curious as to how the concept would translate without the cool outdoor space.  I think they have done an excellent job however of maintaining the same vibe within the constraints of a city location.  While walking in seems perhaps a bit too similar to the Ace next door, when you actually get to the bar it feels entirely different and far removed from your physical location. This will definitely enter my regular rotation for future visits.

Bitch Don’t kill my Vibe – lemongrass reduction, aperol, shaken with tropical juice and vodka
Gin tonic from the market – shaker g&t with market fresh botanicals, built on beefeater gin and lillet

Formentos
Pickled vegetables are one of my absolute favorite things. If on any restaurant menu, it is guaranteed that I will order them. Case in point, I had an assortment of pickled vegetables the previous night at Parachute and would have the off-the-brunch-menu pickles at Au Cheval the next day. It doesn’t matter what vegetables are pickled but classic giardiniera is the best. So any restaurant that begins the meal with a bowl of this has already won me over. The shrimp scampi was perfectly done and sometimes it is just great to have a well executed classic. I can’t even think of the last time I have had it in a restaurant but now need to rethink how I have been making it at home. Looking back at my pictures I can’t believe I ate all of the enormous lamb t-bone, but I could never leave lamb unfinished! And what a better ending than my favorite cake, carrot cake? I didn’t necessarily think about it at the time, but one of the reasons that I enjoyed this meal so much was that it was perfectly composed of some of my all time favorite foods. Food aside, it was a pleasure to see some familiar faces. I unfortunately don’t remember my server’s name, but she did a very graceful job of dealing with the extremely difficult patrons sitting beside me. And while I love the cozy ambience of the dining room, I hope to return before the end of summer to take advantage of the patio!

Giardiniera

Roasted heirloom beets – orange, castelrosso, pistachio
 Shrimp Scampi

Lamb T-Bone – lupini beans, Gaeti olives, green garlic

Carrot cake

 

Chicago – 5/29/15 – Next outdoors and Parachute

Next
I’m so happy I managed to make it to Next on one of the very few beautiful June evenings there have been in Chicago. Such a great idea to have the separate outdoor tables and menu to go along with the Tapas menu. Exceptional as always! I could drink these G&Ts all day. And while it doesn’t look like much in photos, the bocadillo is definitely one of the best things I have had this year. If you haven’t been yet, get there before the Tapas menu ends!
Gin & Tonic 
cold octopus and celery salad 
iberian ham with tomato 
porkbelly and manchego sandwich 

Parachute
I loved my first visit to Parachute and was looking forward to a return visit. The bing bread was just as good as I remembered and if not for the earlier trip to Next I would have eaten a full order on my own. Unfortunately I have no recollection of what our last two courses were and the photos are useless. I really hope this Estela plating trend stops. I just don’t get it and I have no idea why so many chefs are copying it.

c&k immature brandy, yujacha, lemon, egg white 
baked potato bing bread, bacon, scallion, sour cream butter 
house pickles, kimchi, chili chayote, watermelon radish zuke 
ceviche 
pork belly and mung bean pancake, kimchi, black garlic, hen egg, pineapple 
  

Chicago – 5/16/15 – Sixteen

Sixteen is yet another Chicago restaurant that I had been trying to get to for ages and I’m still bummed that I missed some previous menus that looked amazing. It really doesn’t get better than having such a fantastic meal while gazing at some of my favorite buildings in the city. I could never get tired of this view. The theme of the spring menu is Food in Progress: Assessing an American Food Revolution. The menu presentation with the seed box, filled with small bites, was absolutely adorable and just so much thought clearly went into the structure of the menu and the theme of every course. I haven’t transcribed the whole thing here but I even mores regret missing the architecture menu!


    
Spring Pea in its Shell, Green Strawberry Almond and Mint
Soy Bean Panna Cotta, Pine Nut, Tomato Hearts

  
Veiled Green and White Asparagus with Blood Orange and Curry

Comte Flan with Chive Flowers, Morels and Asparagus Soup

Barley Porridge, Escargot, Mustard Greens and Juice

Carolina Gold Rice Congee, Sorghum and Country Ham

Abalone, Dulse, Sea Grape and Dashi

Potato soufflé with Sturgeon and its Caviar

  
Wild King Salmon, Crushed Favas, Fava Leaves and Shiso

Loup de Mer in Whey, Wild Dill and Fennel, Clam and Parsley-Horseradish Emulsion

Smoked Squab with Sour Cherry and Sorrel

Porcelet, Roast Brined Carrot, Buttermilk and Ferns

Grass-fed, Dry-Aged Beef Ribeye, Fermented Ramps, Sprouting Alliums

Cheese
  
Mandarin and Avocado Sorbet with Freeze Dried Mandarin
Pistachio and Yogurt Cake with Blueberry and Lavender Jam

Creme Fraiche Panacotta with Rhubarb Compote and Buttermilk Chip
Toasted Milk and Strawberry Ice Cream, Poppy Seed Sable with Fresh Anise Hyssop

Pineapple, Verbena Mousse, Coffee Jelly and Salted Caramel

Chocolate Cremeaux with Sesame Cake, Blackberry and Sudachi

Chicago – 5/15/15 – Embeya and Intro

Embeya
As frequently as I am in Chicago there are still restaurants that I have always wanted to go to but somehow never seem to have the time for. Embeya has been on my to-do list probably since it opened but it took the relaunched version with Mike Sheerin at the helm to get me there. An absolutely lovely lunch and perhaps our only complaint was that the broth of the mussel dish was under seasoned.

Tete charcuterie Sai Krok Isan – pineapple, green garlic, cilantro
Charred baby carrots – cured ham, togarashi, yuzu vinaigrette, mint
Green papaya – cucumber, Chrissy shallots, Thai basil, mint
Steamed mussels – spot prawns, halibut, lemongrass-lobster broth
Chicken thigh – steamed cabbage, roasted potato, soy-mirin jus
Yuzu semifreddo – sake soaked strawberries, angel food cake
Ganache – whole wheat graham cracker,miso-caramel ice cream

Intro
For those not familiar Intro is sort of a long term pop-up concept where the chef rotates every few months. Erik Anderson was the second chef in residence at Intro, and while I generally avoid opening nights of anything, we planned our trip around this dinner. The last time I was in this space was in the L2O Laurent Gras days and remember it as a dining room out of a tv show…so sophisticated and modern and just perfect. So it was certainly very strange to be back with taxidermy on the walls! But if I avoided the comparisons I did like the decor. I’ve previously loved Erik’s cooking and this meal was no exception. And while the entire meal was great, the foie tart was so memorable that I’ve almost totally forgotten about all of the other courses.



Island Creek Oyster – Gueuze
Preserved Foie Gras Tart – Salted Strawberries – Hazelnut Milk – Radishes
Pike Boudin in Onion – Lettuce – Snap Peas – Ramps – Egg Yolk – Smoked Lamb’s Tongue
Roasted Poularde – Lobster – Morcilla – Fava Beans – Madeira and Black Truffle Sauce
Roasted Hay Custard – Fresh Creme – Maple Syrup
Bourbon – Tea Baba

Chicago – 2/15/15 – Next : Bistro

2015 is certainly off to a good start for Next.  I was super excited about this menu when it was first announced.  As I started seeing photos pop-up online from my many friends who were able to get there before me I knew I was going to love it.  I think the menu substitutions were a super smart idea from the restaurant’s perspective.  There are very few Next menus that I have done more that once but I left this meal already trying to figure out when I could return because there were too many dishes I desperately want to try.  The beef tenderloin was amazing….four of my favorite components on one plate is hard to beat.  And I very much enjoyed the beverage pairings for this menu…perhaps next time I can just have a dish of the armangac soaked prunes please??

Ceuf a la Beran (chicken custard with crispy chicken skin and chives)

Soupe de Poireaux et Pomme de Terre de Jules Gouffe (jules gouffe’s potato and leek soup)

Foie Gras Au Torchon (foie gras with brioche toast points, huckleberry, murray river salt, and black pepper)

Aile de Raie Meuniere avec des Capres et des Choux de Bruxelles (skate wing with capers, brown butter, lemon, and brussels sprouts)

Tarte a l’Oignon Caramelisee avec Gruyere et des Anchois (caramelized onion tart with gruyere and anchovies)

Tournedos Rossini aver use Puree de Pommes de Terre (beef tenderloin with foie gras, black truffle, and potato puree)

Escargots de Bourgogne avec du Pain et du Beurre Maitre d’Hotel (burgundy snails and herbed butter topped with bread)

Champignons Sauvages (wild mushrooms)

Prune Armangac, Punt E Mes, Angostura

Pear brandy, Cocchi Rosa, Grapefruit

Patisserie du Jour

Assiette de Fromage

The Betty

A huge thank you to the consummate gentleman John Schafer for escorting us down the street to the Betty in our inappropriate heels on extremely snowy and icy sidewalks.   Very big shoes to fill at Next!  I love all of the new additions to the West Loop.  Love the space and the vibe at the Betty and my drink was quite good.  Looking forward to going back!

Life During War Time – genever, green tea syrup, aperol, fennel bitters, bitter lemon soda

Chicago – 2/14/15 – The Brass Monkey & the Office

The Brass Monkey

What a nightmare to find anywhere to have dinner on Valentine’s Day when you are traveling and forced to dine out, yet want none of the horrid prix fix ridiculousness.  Luckily, having just opened a few days prior, the Brass Monkey was serving the regular menu.  Such a great space and a fantastic addition to the West Loop.  I’m not totally sure about the 70s theme but at least its something different!  Thank you to my oldest friends from NYC for letting me be the third wheel!  Everything was delicious although the lighting not conducive to photography.

Foie Gras Torchon three ways: aux natural with house made jam, brûlée with apple compote & seared with brandied cherries

Swedish meatballs – wild boar meatballs, classic jelly glaze, charred grapes

Lobster bisque – classic bisque with lobster meat, chives and puff pastry

Pepperoni pizza – picante, fresno chilis, house mozzarella

Seared Brussel sprouts

Braised short rib – potato puree, kale, cippolini onions, acorn squash, red wine reduction

Lentil salad – french lentils, shrimp, seasonal greens, fried onions, house vinaigrette

truffles

Pineapple Upside Down Cake – cherry pineapple relish, vanilla gelato, coconut milk cake, candied walnuts

Flourless Chocolate Cake – dark chocolate cake, pistachio gelato, Bailey’s Irish Cream, candied pistachios

The Office

Thank you Julia for the fantastic (and beautiful) cocktails and for making me feel quite a bit better about being alone on Valentine’s Day!  There is no place I would have rather been.

Chicago – 1/31/15 – Sportsman’s Club, the Office, Aviary, the Drifter, Celeste

I’m always looking for a reason to head to Chicago so a birthday at crawl was better than most.  Unfortunately I somehow didn’t take any drink pictures at my first stop and this is all I ended up with.  I was aiming for a background of Pappy but ended up with a deer head.  Back to my rural PA roots I guess.

Next we of course headed to the Office and Aviary.  So many reasons why I love this place.  The drinks of course.  Impeccable service. The fantastic people.  But also because they raise the bar every single time.  I always think ‘how will they top this?’ and inevitably they do.   Seriously above and beyond.

 

 

Loved this so much.  How can you not just laugh at seeing a gatorade cooler where you least expect it ?

Loaded to the Gunwalls – mace, pineapple, hazelnut, Batavia arrack

Next we braved the snow and made our way to the Drifter.  Such a cool space and of course I always love a hidden entrance.  I hope to get back here soon!  Congrats Liz!

And as you can imagine by the time we reached Celeste I had totally forgotten to take pictures of anything!

 

Chicago – 12/1/15 – Nico Osteria

My Chicago Nico posts may have eclipsed my NY Nomad ones and it might be a problem that I have dined here probably far more than any of my Chicago friends.  It certainly helps that I often stay at the Thompson but regardless it just quickly became one of my favorites.

Madai Snapper, kohlrabi salsa verde, nasturtium

Stracciatella Fett’unta – Brussels sprouts, lemon honey, trufflebert hazelnuts

Bistecca al’Nico – braised beans, arugula, pecorino, fried egg

Tagliolini – clams, leeks, chile

 

 

Chicago – 1/3/15 – the Bristol, Juno, Aviary & the Office

The Bristol
I’ve been meaning to get to the Bristol for brunch ever since they started offering it. But as happens in NYC, I often don’t get back to the old favorites because I am always trying something new. I wish that the hangover breakfast had more broth but was able to console myself with duckfat fries. Although those give me opportunity to comment on one of my biggest dislikes – homemade ketchup. I truly do appreciate the effort, but nothing homemade will ever be better than Heinz (which has nothing to do with my PA heritage).
Hangover breakfast, noodles, pork broth, shrimp mousse, aromatic vegetables

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braised pork chilaquiles, fried egg, lime, cilantro, queso fresco

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home made sausage

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Duck fat fries

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Juno
Whenever I have previously mentioned a visit to Juno, the first question I was asked was whether I did the omakase menu. So finally I can say that I have and it was as good as my high expectations going in. Thank you to all of my Chicago friends for making sure I did it. BK you are amazing. And a huge thank you to Jason for just being awesome. Looking forward to my next trip.

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Aviary and the Office
Unfortunately I skipped dessert at dinner planning to have 5+ BTEs when I got to Aviary. So unbelievably disappointing to realize that they were immediately removed from the menu when the Trio menu ended at Next. You guys know I adore you, but couldn’t we have had 2 days of advance notice?? I would have stocked up earlier in the week. Enough cannot be said about Julia’s amazing origami garnishes in the Office and Micah’s final drink of the evening still reigns weeks later as the best thing I have had to drink in 2015.

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Chicago – 1/2/15 – Nico Osteria, the lounge @ Sixteen, and The Berkshire Room

Nico Osteria
How completely predictable to find myself back here again. But when you have friends who haven’t been it’s the perfect justification.
Madai snapper – kohlrabi salsa verde, nasturtium

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Endive salad – butter lettuce, hazelnut, pear, ribiolina

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Bar Harbor Mussels – vermouth, almond butter

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Rigatoni -northern ragu

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The lounge at Sixteen
Sixteen is at the top of my to-do list as soon as spring hits Chicago and it is warm enough to at least set foot on the terrace. But even in winter this is the best view in Chicago. The absolute perfect evening to be enjoying a glass of Dom Perignon with the best possible view of one of my favorite buildings in Chicago. Thank you Doug for taking such good care of us!

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Cheese

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Berkshire Room
Definitely one of my Chicago favorites! A great evening catching up with friends old and new!

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Chicago – 12/31/14 – Little Goat and Sepia

Little Goat
I finally, finally ordered something other than the parathus burrito. I may have a new favorite….seriously awesome salad!
The chickpea – kale, chopped veggies, montamore cheese, tzatziki, chee vinaigrette, chicken

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Sepia
After a last minute change in NYE dinner plans, we found ourselves dining at the bar at Sepia. Of course it being NYE there was a set 4 course menu. The squash tart and sausage were both course 2 and of course both desserts are represented in the photos. Overall a lovely start to the evening. And that rabbit sausage was to die for!
amuse

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kona kampachi ceviche, smoked jalapeño, coconut milk

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kabocha squash tart, multigrain sable crust, brown butter

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rabbit sausage, black truffle, celery root, truffle jus

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beef short rib “au poivre,” yukon gold potato puree

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pear, chestnut, caramelized fennel, olive oil jam

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chocolate date cake, creme fraiche, hazelnut, honey

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And a big thank you to Greg for hosting, and Michelle and Brian for organizing, an amazing NYE party!

Chicago – 12/30/14 – Nico Osteria and Next

I’m not sure I could even count on one hand the number of meals I have had in a hotel in all of my travels. For the most part I do my best to avoid the restaurants and the suggestions of every front desk clerk and concierge that offers to make me reservations. But its too difficult to pass up Nico Osteria when staying at the Thompson, especially when you don’t have to put on a coat and brave the frigid Chicago temps to get there. The minestrone photographed poorly but this was the best soup I have had all winter and is one of those dishes I could eat