Here’s a quick recipe that’s good for these chilly nights we’re having. (As far as I’m concerned, the only good thing about winter is noodle soup!)
Here’s a quick recipe that’s good for these chilly nights we’re having. (As far as I’m concerned, the only good thing about winter is noodle soup!)
What a weekend! Bon Appetit-sponsored, 5th annual Chicago Gourmet was one for the books! Both event days as well as the ever-exciting kick-off Hamburger Hop completely sold out…and for good reason.
This year’s event pulled more than 160 Chicago chefs with thousands of portions of tasty snacks. Everyone from Rick Bayless to Girl & the Goat’s Stephanie Izard was there. I’m talkin’, the gamut: the lovely Tony Priolo, father & son Bannos boys, Top Chef’s Sarah Grueneberg, Chicago’s King of Chinese Tony Hu, Oprah’s ex-chef Art Smith, and one of my all-time favorites, Takashi Yagihashi… just to name a few.
There was a ton of buzz around the national celeb chefs, too. John Besh of New Orleans was there as well as the bad-ass Geoffrey Zakarian (who I, unfortunately, didn’t actually see). I did get a wink from the mayor, however, so that made up for it.
I also got to emcee a few demos. It was fun. The Sheerin brothers of Trenchermen made their infamous pig skin noodles and pickle tots and we got the full, inside secrets on how Charlie McKenna at Lillie’s Q does his ribs. Such good stuff.
Obviously, I’m a little sad it’s over. But hey, only 363 more days until Chicago Gourmet 2013! Let the countdown begin!
And here are some pics to make you drool…
Hooray for Chicago Gourmet!
I had the pleasure of being on WCIU morning show a few days ago to talk about a couple easy ways to bring a little international flair to your viewing of the Olympics. Check it out…
You have to know that my favorite part of Lollapalooza is Chowtown, right? Chicago’s very own Graham Elliot is the man when it comes to building a sweet representation of the city’s fab food at this huge event. Here’s a little segment from last year to get you thinking about it again.
Here’s what Graham himself has to say about it:
Lunch at Blackbird.
Here are some pics from Next’s Sicily menu. Beautiful stuff, but honestly, it didn’t compare to Sicilian food in Sicily. Sorry.
The truth is hard sometimes.
Trenchermen… man, those guys are wacky!
Just a few teaser pics from a fabulous meal at Goosefoot. More to come…
Here are a few pasta pics from Balena. This one was the “Carbonara” with pickled ramps. The black pepper was rolled into the pasta. Nice color yolk, huh?
This is the Tajarin with pork ragu. Quite tasty and nice texture.
I really enjoyed what they were calling ‘radiatori’ (in reference to the shape of pasta). They’re actually called ‘campanile’ or ‘bell towers,’ for the bell shape. Radiatori look like, well, radiators… you know, the old ones that stand up against the wall? Anyway, the greens were delicious. My only gripe, and this is true for the carbonara, too, is that the guanciale wasn’t rendered. I hate chewing on gummy fat.
Here’s a fab dish from our brunch at Purple Pig yesterday. It’s charred ciabatta with asparagus and oyster mushrooms, then seared pork jowl and a fried duck egg. Yes… it was that good.
A tasty and quick dinner: Stir-fry of veggies & ground chicken with noodles. Make sure you use lots of ginger, garlic and scallions to start, and finish with soy sauce or ponzu and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Yum!
I only order chicken in a restaurant when I know it’s going to be a chicken like this. Half a roasted chicken, juicy and moist, with simple accompaniments like fresh herbs and sliced onions. Good work, Maude’s!
Here’s dinner a couple nights ago. Not bad for opening the fridge/freezer and concocting something. It was warm so we wanted something light and I wanted to fire up the grill. I grilled the lobster tails, red bell pepper and scallions and put it on a base of greens with a clementine/lemon/cilantro vinaigrette and some slice avocado. It was flavorful and just enough. Look out summer! Here we come!
We made gnocchi in school this week. They’re pretty and fun. Just a simply browned butter (that’s beurre noisette to you Frenchies) and fresh sage leaves with some crumbled parm cheese. See….
Comment if you’re interested in the detail (aka a “recipe”).
Here are a couple pics from our dinner at EL Ideas last night (it was 13 courses… I have lots more pics). Who knew you could get food like this on some shady side street in the near South side of Chi.
First course: Gin & Juice. An oyster, a tiny cucumber, sliced beet, violet, cucumber water, ‘botanicals’. That’s all I can remember. Beautiful, isn’t it?
This one was fun. It was coconut tapioca with some kind of fish roe, pickled radish and some sort of Asian smoky, fermented, pressed fish flake. Strange and delicious.
Oh yeah… and they didn’t give you a utensil with which to eat it. That’s right… you had to lick the plate. And that was stated permission to lick the plate for the rest of the courses, too. Yup… a very fun, funny, playful, dinner party-esc environment.
Since there were only a total of 16 people for one seating of this ‘dinner party’, the guys just go ahead and roast a whole lobe of foie gras and dish it out. That is to say, it was a very hearty portion. Check out all the components on this plate: braised black beluga lentils, mustard seed, verjus gelee, celery root 2 ways (fried and fresh) plus a celery leaf, and a slice of candied buddha’s hand. Again, strange and delicious.
Here’s a little peak at dinner last night in Chinatown. We had the Peking Duck dinner for four. It was pretty awesome. They take the super crispy skin off of the duck and layer it with these delicious, lightly sweet steamed buns that you then drizzle with hoisin sauce and top with scallions. Yum! It was my favorite part. I think. Well… maybe the duck bone soup was my favorite. A light but flavorful broth with wilted fresh greens. Simple and delicious! And the non-duck item was none to shabby either. Those crispy-fried whole prawns were so flavorful on their own they hardly needed the freshness of the scallions and jalepenos. But we enjoyed them together anyway.
Speaking of breakfast… these are the best eggs on the planet. They came from my mother’s chickens in the backyard at the “Franch” (that’s what they call their place… not a farm, not a ranch). I made a batch for the gang before we headed out to ski. My trick is to add a splash of water to the sautee pan about halfway through the cooking and throw the lid back on so that the eggs finish cooking by steaming. That way I get a nice, gooey yolk with firmly set whites (and I don’t have to use much oil… skinny eggs!). We sopped it up with some toast made from the fresh loaf of ciabatta I got from my family’s resto, Nani’s. Sometimes simple is best.
This is my new go-to for breakfast: cottage cheese with sliced banana & a little jam (this one is lemon-pear but mixed berry is really good too!). It’s low cal, high in protein, filling and it sticks with me until afternoon. It’s also makes a great snack! Give it a try!
Ok… This might not be NOW but it’s so pretty that I thought I’d include it anyway. It’s a fantastic Duck Confit at Beast in Portland. Honestly, these women do some of the most beautifully plated food I’ve ever seen. Gaaaawd, that was a good dinner!
Baked Cauliflower at Ripasso in Bucktown. Small menu but tasty, handmade stuff!
Bison tartare with a 62degree (that’s celcius, sous vide), potato gaufrette (that’s ‘waffle cut’) and beer mustard. Yup.
Smoked turkey neck soup with carrot & turnip macedoine (that’s diced) and greens. An amazingly flavorful broth totally made it…
Pre-sale tickets for the fifth annual Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet 2012 will be available beginning Thursday, May 31 at 10 a.m. at http://www.chicagogourmet.org. For a limited time, and while supplies last, tickets will cost $99 per person, per day, or $185 per person for a weekend pass. With tickets regularly priced at $159 per day or $265 for a weekend pass, this offer reflects 38 percent savings on single day tickets and 30 percent savings on a weekend pass – the lowest at which guests will be able to purchase tickets to this year’s event.
Additionally, tickets to the hugely popular Grand Cru Tasting – which takes place from 2-4 p.m. each day of Chicago Gourmet and features the world’s finest wines and presentations with the nation’s top Master Sommeliers – will be available for purchase during early registration. Tickets are $175 per person, plus the cost of general admission.
The Hamburger Hop – a burger showdown between the city and nation’s top chefs – will take place on Friday, September 28 at the Harris Theater Rooftop. Tickets for that event are $89 per person and will go on sale at a later date.
Yup… It’s that kinda party.
Newly added this year, the Chicago Gourmet Wine & Spirits Dinner Series showcases wine and spirits products and talent from Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois at Chicago Gourmet-participating restaurants in the months leading up to the event. The first event, Les Amis du Chef, is scheduled at Café des Architectes at the Sofitel Water Tower (20 E. Chestnut; Chicago, Ill.) on Thursday, June 7. The event will include a multi-course menu by Executive Chef Greg Biggers and Pastry Chef Patrick Fahy, as well as special guests Dirk Flanigan (Henri/The Gage) and Justin White (Small Bar)- with wines paired by Master Sommelier Serafin Alvarado (Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois). The event begins at 6:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. The cost is $90, all-inclusive. Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased at www.lesamisduchef.eventbrite.
This special wine dinner is the first of many to celebrate Chicago Gourmet season. Future event dates to be announced soon.
I liked Bonsoiree. Liked being the operative word here. Did I love Bonsoiree? Mmmm…naaah. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was definitely good. It just wasn’t AMAZING… relatively speaking. There’s just a certain expectation when a restaurant has a Michelin star that make you…well, expect a lot.
I mean, L20 has a single Michelin star. As does Tru. I would not put these restaurants in the same category with Bonsoiree. The service was very casual and nonchalant. And the food was good, as I said, just not Michelin-worthy (and clearly my opinion counts on this matter;).
But anyway, here’s what we had:
First, a smoked trout fritter with pink peppercorn-yuzu buerre blanc. The fritter was flavorful but the rest was lost. The buerre blanc was tasty on it’s own, but you had to hunt for its presence when eaten with the smoky fish.
The mosaic of tuna carpaccio was fun. I suppose they had to create a “consumer advisory” plate since menus don’t really exist. I alway like mixing and matching flavor combos on one plate. I got to play with a roasted “superman” tomato (named for its loose peel), pickled ramps (a true springtime ingredient), salty lardons (that’s really largely diced salt pork or bacon), and a savory sauce.
The broth on the green curry poached John Dory with Manila clam was probably my second favorite bite of the night. I’m not sure what a ‘fried tamari yolk’ is, but it was pretty darn tasty, too.
Tasting through the bento box was fun, too. I can’t help it. I like to try a lot of different things. The asparagus salad and the lightly dressed, cold noodles were my fave. The octopus and snails were decent. I could have lived without the potato and my piece of ‘waygu’ left a ball of string in my mouth after 5 minutes of chewing. No thanks.
Oh yeah! The spring pea and asparagus soup was also delicious. I’m a sucker for good pea soup. And the roasted multi-color cauliflower florets were beautiful, as well.
We had a split decision on the next course. The man loved the scallop and crab baked with its homemade aioli. It kinda made me want to barf. Sorry. It could have something to do, however, with the fact that, as a culinary school instructor, I ingest way more homemade mayo than any one human should ever have to. Ever. Baaaa.
The veal was nice. The best part was the leek and rhubarb confit. I licked that part clean in about one minute. I wasn’t into the smoked duck croquet… a little greasy for me… but the big hunk of foie was nicely done. And morels, on their own, are always nice to have. Maybe it just seemed like there was too much going on without much continuity.
I liked the way they transitioned from savory to sweet. Rather than doing a palate cleanser like a sorbet or something, the came out with a course that was half sweet and half savory. It was Explorateur, that delicious, soft, gooey cheese with a bite of Exporateur cheesecake and a sweet strawberry compote.
While delicious, the desserts were not Michelin quality. If I was a bettin’ woman, I’d say these desserts were made by a cook, not a pastry chef. They were a little sloppy, and kinda… how can I explain… without finesse.
The chocolate presentation, too, was fun, but not elegant. I was a little more “rustic” than you’d expect from an otherwise beautifully platted dinner.
And honestly, the best bite of the entire thing was the very last. This little taste of ice cream with black sea salt was outstanding! I should’ve asked if they’d sell me a pint.
Here’s the segment I got to do on ABC’s morning news in Chicago. It might come in handy if you have any leftover corned beef from Saturday. Try these or get creative and share your corned beef sandwich masterpieces!
I recently returned from one seriously amazing trip. After Christmas, I and three of my favorite peeps hopped a plane (or 5) to Asia for the first time in our lives. Wowza… what an experience. We spent our 10 or so days split between two locations: Singapore and a little island in Malaysia called Langkawi. What follows in this post is a quick chronicle of what we ate during our first stop. There may not be much detail in the descriptions because, frankly, I didn’t know what in the hell we were eating most of the time and the obvious language barrier prevented me from nosing my way into the scoop as I usually do.
Anyway, after we all final arrived and met up from our various locations, a cheers seemed the only natural way to start the trip.
Without delay, we signed up for a “food” tour. To say the least, it wasn’t exactly what we expected. I anticipated being guided from one local joint to the next, with and insiders scoop to the local culinary treasures. Yeah… not so much. Let’s just say that by the time food was actually involved, it was 3 and a half hours later and our guide had a small mob of HANGRY (that’s hungry and angry) tourists on his hands.
We did learn a thing or two though, so it certainly wasn’t all a loss. The first stop (and the only spot where food was actually presented to eat) was a fruit stand. Crazy, unfamiliar Asian fruits were available for tasting. Dragonfruit: delicious. The red is more flavorful than the white. Thai mango: more delicious than the mangos we get here. Obviously, freshness and ripeness plays a factor here, too. Chicago grocery store mangos are clearly not picked at their peek.
Our guide gave us the scoop on each and every one…
…including the infamous Durian fruit. Now this is something… um, special. Let’s just say that the two of my favorite peeps who also happen to be surgeons, compared its ‘aroma’ to those that send their co-workers gagging and running in the OR. Yes, it was probably the worst smell I’ve ever experienced. Ever. F-ing disgusting. But alas, what would my students at culinary school say if I didn’t even taste it? So I did. Weird. Strong. Savory with umami… like stinky cheese and garlic… but also sweet. Texturally, it was dense and soft… maybe like an over-ripe banana that you sucked off of a large pit, which the durian has several of packed inside its spiny, prickly, tough skin. (My bro is holding it in the pic below.)
So the actual food part came a good 4 hours into the ‘food’ tour. We were brought back to the hostel where we met, seated at enormous tables and served a spread of 40 or so different Singaporean foods (and my guess is, not the best version of any of them).
We learned that Singapore is very much a crossroads, which is clearly manifested in its cuisine. Most often you find foods of Thailand, India and Malaysia. This excites me.
The dessert spread seemed to be a lot of same-same. Rice, in one of its zillion forms, coconut, in one of its several forms, and sugar. Gooey, sticky, gummy, spongy and ultra sweet. Yup… that pretty much sums it up. (Oh yeah, and dyed. Ick.)
The real adventure started the next day when we experienced for the first time, the dirty beauty of the Hawker Center. Maxwell St. Hawker Center, I think I love you. So fabulous. A permanent gathering of little booths selling foodstuffs galore! And for dirt cheap.
So we got right to it, of course. We split up and headed in four different directions. Where ever there was a line, someone got in it. We ended up with plates and plates of goodies to taste… most of which we were completely clueless about. All the better.
Roasted meats with condiments…
And noodles and rice and curries everywhere!
Here’s me and my bro waiting for who-knows-what. It was delicious!
Oooohh yeeeaaaahh…. the plates of food. My man has a nose for fried chicken. I don’t know how he does it but this was his first discovery. Fried chicken with bean thread noodles and a fried egg. Everything’s better with a fried egg.
This was one of the hands-down winners. The most delicious, rich curry I’ve ever tasted. I tried to ask the little old lady what the spongy stuff was that was floating in it but all she could get out was, “cheekin, cheekin.” No, not the chicken… the spongy stuff. What is it? Maybe a type of tofu? Seitan? A bread? I have no idea but it was sooooo good all saturated with that amazing, soupy curry. Love.
This was pretty damn tasty too. Also my discovery, thank you very much. It was billed as a “white carrot pancake”. Well, there was nothing pancake about it, nor could I determine what this “white carrot” was that they spoke of. Initially I thought it might be a parsnip. Upon first bite, I ruled out that idea. It was certainly a root of some type but nothing that was familiar to me. I did notice the use of tapioca in its root form more and more during the course of the trip so perhaps that’s what it was. Not sure. If you have answers about these things, I’d love the info. (Comment below!)
This is me in curry heaven. (The crAsian sodas were really good, too!)
And the piles of deliciousness just kept coming. Roasted duck with rice…
Noodles in a salty, meaty broth…
Tangy, zippy cabbage, green beans and marinated chicken…
Yes, a truly amazing place. One of my favorite stops on the entire trip.
The next stop that day was in Chinatown where I couldn’t resist buying a young Thai coconut to sip on. It was different than the coconut water I’ve had before. It had almost a savory, earthiness to it. So delicious. You can see that I’m concentrating very hard on putting my finger on its unique flavor .
We were still stuffed at this point so we didn’t taste the squid on a stick.
Nor did we taste any of the beautiful breads from the random Austrian guy in the middle of Chinatown. Strange, huh?
There were open shops with boxes and boxes of a meeelion varieties of dried fish. Maybe someday I’ll learn what one does with all these stinky little fishies.
Although it wasn’t our intention, the next day we ended up at yet another hawker center. This time, though, it was in the middle of Little India. Total score.
We didn’t go quite as crazy at this one, and, in the end, we like Maxwell St better, but it was still a very cool find.
This one had stalls selling meats, produce, etc for you to take home, too.
As we rushed with all our might, away from the horrid durian stench that overwhelmed most of the produce section, we ran into this: A giant heart hanging on a hook in the TDZ (that’s Temperature Danger Zone). I’m pretty sure that the US Dept of Health would not approve of this .
I’m also pretty sure we were the only two white girls there…
But the curries and rice were delicious.
And we all agreed that this mango juice was a liquid sent straight from the gods, themselves. Man! Why was that stuff so good?!
One of my top two favorite restos in Chicago (with Avec). Amazing. Delicious. Amazing. Chef Abe cooks up food from the island of Macau which is a Chinese island that was colonized by Portugal until 1998. That means Cantonese flavors mixed with those of Portugal with other influences from Southeast Asia. Sounds strange, I know, but it’s the most natural thing for them. Trust me on this. Go ASAP.
So right on in every way! I heart Rick Bayless. The tortas (sandwiches) and caldos (soups) here are TDF (that’s, to die for)! I also hear that the breakfast empanadas kick ass and that the churros are fab. Haven’t had the pleasure of those two menu items, yet, but I can vouch for the hot chocolate. Amazing!
This is a great little hippy cafe in Logan Square. It’s tasty stuff, though much of it is quite decadent. Think: Duck confit benedict with truffle oil hollandaise. Yeah, you’ll be full for a while.
An awesome little ‘New Vietnamese’ place on Lake Street. It’s complex and interesting for such a cashe little place.
Latino influenced organic goodies in Pilsen. I brunched there once and loved it. I wish I had a place like this in my ‘hood.
This is real-deal Neapolitan pizza in Ravenswood. In my top 3 in the states (with Keste and Motorino, NYC).
Korean Tacos and other yummy Korean-ish stuff in a kinda crummy little hole-in-the-wall in Lincoln Park. Delicious!
The burger alone gets 3 Aces on the list. It’s ridiculously good. The rocker bar ambiance helps, too. It’s the kinda place you want to go for a whiskey and a fat, juicy burger.
An OLD school little creperie in Lakeview. It’s been around since 1972 for a reason. Honest, no-frills Frenchy stuff.
Simple and authentic Indian food in the West Loop.
Some seriously fun and tasty burgers with awesome brunch cocktails (including a build-your-own bloody bar).
A good and inexpensive little sushi joint on the semi-shady stretch of Chicago Ave. It’s BYOB and has a printed paper sign scotch taped to the window but the food is fab.
This is a little grocery/butcher shop/sandwich spot on Fulton Market in the West Loop. They’re curing their own everything and making amazingly delicious and creative sandwiches. While you’re at it, you can pick up a loaf of in -house made bread and artisan whatever-you-want. It’s a must.
My #1 recommendation. Probably my all time favorite spot in the city. The food is so good and clean but interesting. A farm-to-table type place. Be prepared to wait, as they don’t accept reservations, and to sit with strangers since most of the seating is communal. Don’t worry… it’ll be worth it.
This is probably the place I frequent the most often. It’s a small, dark little spot on Randolph St. It’s cool with pretty heavy French stuff (like cassoulet, frites, sausages, terrines). My faves are the chicken liver mousse, Brussels sprouts, shaved vegetable salad and braised lentils. Excellent craft cocktails, too!
On Fulton Market across the street from Next & The Aviary, this ‘hidden’ spot serves fantastic Latin/South American inspired food. Delicious daily empanadas and tasty cocktails. (No reservations, walk-in only)
Fun and tasty. This is definitely a hot spot… but a valid one. Mostly Italian ingredients but not necessarily Italian food. There’s a lot of charcuterie and cheeses on the menu but also a ton of other stuff (except for pasta, which you won’t miss).
Funky and wacky ingredient combos that you could never imagine yourself that turn out deliciously. She was the Top Chef season 4 winner and she’s definitely a bad bitch (in a good way) in the kitchen. It’s always packed so make a reservation reeeeaaaallly far in advance or walk in AT 5pm (if not before).
This is some delicious New American stuff in Bucktown. It can be a little heavy handed on the butter and oil but the flavor combos are really balanced and well prepared.
It’s been a while… All I can remember is that I loved it. The space was cool and swanky, and there was a 5:10 egg on something we ordered. I’m a sucker for a properly gooey egg.
Another Top Chef contestant who’s totally killin’ it in Chitown. Dale’s brunches are amazing so I can only imagine dinner to be the same. Plus, he’s the sweetest thing ever.
Delicious New American food in Lincoln Park. Their specialty is their roasted meat of the day that spins in the dining room while you consume other wonderful morsels. It’s a lot of decadence with a few lighter options.
This brother and sister team just got named one of Buon Appetit’s top 10 new restos of the year. It’s a tiny little BYO on Ashland in West Town. A lot of Asian influence but not completely. Really, really good stuff. (No reservations, walk-in only. Put your name in and go to Leopold for a drink.)
A super-happenin Asian place in River North. The space is huge and they have everything from sushi to glazed pork belly. It’s good stuff. The menu is large enough that you could go light or serious.
The best patio in the city. Plus, Tony makes everything by hand here and he doesn’t have a freezer in the entire resto (except for the gelato) which means that everything, including the pastas, are super fresh. Yum!
It’s out of the way but if you’re in the ‘burbs or want to get out of the city, it’s soooo worth it! French, Spanish and Italian all done with such balance and care. Wish it was closer to me!
This is a little place on Taylor St that does French/Italian/Spanish also. They have a wood burning oven that they do a lot of stuff in.
There’s been some disagreement over this place. I don’t know what happened to the people who claim to have had bad food here (and too bad for them) because everything I had was fabulous. The place is named after the estate where The Stones recorded Exile on Main St. Take it from there. Glitzy meets rock n roll with Italian and French Riviera food. Oh, and they had a flour mill built in their basement to grind 00 flour for the pizza. I highly recommend you try one!
I have to admit, I’ve only been here for brunch…. but it was so fab that I’m sure dinner is fantastic, too. It’s right across the street from Lincoln Park, which makes it perfect for brunch after you hit up Green City Market. Their menu is very market driven and he does a ton of canning and preserving to utilize produce in the winter that he’s purchased in season in the summer. It’s very clean food. I dig.
This is Takashi Yagahashi’s Japanese street food resto. It’s the best food on Hubbard street. Tons of noodle soups and grilled skewered things. The fried Brussels sprouts are to die for. I also LOVE ramen here. Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations so walk in early or be prepared to wait.
What’s to say. 3 michelin stars. Incredible. Whacky. Super expensive. An experience.
I’m shocked that this place is ranked 2 michelin stars when L20 is 3. Service, especially but also the food, are impeccable!
The restaurant in the Park Hyatt. It overlooks Michigan Ave and the water tower. I’m totally in love with the brunch here. I can’t imagine any other meal is too shabby here, either.
If, by the grace of God you can get tickets, DON’T PASS THEM UP! If, for some ungodly reason you can’t go, call me and I will!
The most elegant food you’ll ever eat in a warehouse. (Yes, you read that right.)
Curtis Duffy’s new spot on Randolph. Dine here once and you’ll see that he’s clearly shooting for 3 Michelin Stars. He might just get them, too!