Proof, Washington DC

Posted by Krista on August 19, 2013


Julie left us here in Chicago and moved to DC. Her boss’ boss’ boss in the President now. That’s pretty cool. So I went out to DC for a visit, hoping for an intro. When I was a kid, we considered everything south of Pennsylvania “The South,”which I think is funny now as a Midwestern transplant. That being said, visiting DC made me miss the East Coast and most notably, the preppiness. I miss preppies…seersucker, boat shoes, Lacoste, belts with boats and whales on them. And I miss the food…clams and clams and more clams. I did NOT have clams when I was in DC but I did eat a Proof, a wine bar full of beautiful people. The gnocchi was beautiful. I would say you should get some,  but it’s not on the menu anymore. Sorry!

The Verdict: A nice meal and a very nice wine list. I’d go back here.

P.S. Julie did not introduce me to the president. She owes me.

Proof on Urbanspoon

Posted in Italian, United States, Washington DC | Comments Off

Siena Tavern, Chicago

Posted by Krista on July 21, 2013

IMG_6301I had in my head this idea. That I wouldn’t go anywhere for July and August. That I wold stay in town and try to enjoy Chicago. This is my second weekend of that, and frankly speaking, I’m doing a terrible job with all this. Instead of relaxing and exploring, I’m finding myself at Home Depot, Target, the Post Office (!!!) and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Worst bit? I REALLY want to go to IKEA. NOOOOOOOO.

I did have a very nice morning at the Wicker Park Farmer’s Market last Sunday though, helped by some Divvy bikes and some classical music. (But then…stressful…Divvy didn’t show that I had ever returned my bike. They’ve still got some kinks to work out there, apparently.)

Where I’m going with all this is that for the first time in ages, I did take a bit of a break and finally took advantage of work summer hours on Friday and met @Zimmerino for lunch at Siena Tavern. I was a bit nervous about this lunch because Siena Tavern is one of those cavernous River North places with filament flightbulbs and cheap bathrooms. (Not even a soap dispenser. Seriously. Just a container of Softsoap.)

And I was somewhat right to be nervous. Because here’s how this all went down.

Me: “Hi, I don’t have a reservation but I’d like  table for two if you’ve got one.” (It was 1:30 pm on a Friday, close to the end of the lunch rush.)

Them: “We’re all booked in the restaurant right now, but you can find a table in the bar area. It’s first come first served.” Fine.

Me, sitting at the bar, about 15 minutes later, “Hi, we’re going to move to that table over there that just opened up if you don’t mind.”

Bartender: “I don’t know if you’re allowed to do that. Have you asked anyone if you can do that?”

Me: “Um, I guess I’m sort of asking you. The front desk said it was okay, so maybe we can just close out our tab and move over…”

Bartender: “Well, I don’t know if you’re allowed to do that but if that’s what they told you at the front desk, I guess you can.”

Urrrggghhhh. Thanks.

IMG_6300And then we ordered some food that took ages and ages to arrive. The brussel sprouts salad was rough and dry, and the coccoli, which everyone raves about (dough puffs slightly bigger than golf balls, prosciutto di parma wrapped around stracchino cheese, “drizzled” with truffle honey) was okay, but for me, the honey ruined everything. Too sweet, too cloying. Then the waitstaff disappeared forever and ever. And then we had some gnocchi that I can only describe as overcooked wet blobs of something in a decent cream sauce, and then a prosciutto, pear and arugula pizza where the pears had been “drizzled” with powdered sugar. I don’t want powdered sugar on my pizza. (But the arugula was very good and fresh, and the pizza crust itself was nicely done.) Ah, and then the waitstaff disappeared again and us and the table next to us spent a lot of time trying to flag someone, anybody, down.

Best line? Our waitperson walked by with two very fine looking beers on her tray, stunning in color with fine foamy heads. I had just gotten a beer, but it wasn’t anywhere near as nice looking as the two she had on her tray. “What are those? I asked her.

“Beers,” she answered.

The Verdict: Inconsistent cooking and flavor combos that didn’t work for me particularly well. Too much sweetness. In general, not my scene. But many people will like it here.

P.S. I hate the word drizzle.
Siena Tavern on Urbanspoon

Posted in Chicago, Italian, River North, United States | 2 Comments

Eating Out, Chicago Edition

Posted by Krista on February 26, 2012

California Blue Line, Beautiful Day

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Sometimes the simplest explanation IS the explanation. Sometimes, you have to leave to go home. Or come home to leave. Thankfully, the winter of my homecoming last year has not been repeated. Chicago is bright and cool and BRISK. The skies are stunningly, vividly blue. I’ve worn my boots just once. And my down coat — its buttons lost somewhere between last year and this year — also just once. Everything is lovely, but it makes me feel like we are on the cusp of something. On the cusp of something big. Something huge. Something terrible.

I am frightened.

So, um, I’ll just keep going out to eat then. Here’s where I’ve been lately:

Boiler Room, 2210 N California Ave: I loved the vibe of Boiler Room. I loved the loos. (Chicago Transit doors and, even, sound effects.) I loved the beer selection and I thought our service was pretty good too. But the pizza? Undercooked, and while at least the pepperoni had some taste to it, The Purist (mozzarella, basil, balsamic reduction) was pretty tasteless. The Verdict: Meh. So much promise, but not fully realized.

The Boiler Room on Urbanspoon

Keefer’s, 20 W Kinzie: My NY Strip Steak was good. The creamed spinach was good. The potato croquettes were excellent. But our server took FOREVER to take our order, and then he claimed we didn’t order calamari to start (we did) and then at some point, a fist fight broke out between other tables. ??? Oh, and I should mention that my friend who made the reservation is a very dependable, reliable person and I was there when she called Keefer’s and booked the table. Upon arrival, they had no record of our booking. They worked things out which was good of them, but still all very odd. Oh!! And then, when the bill came, we asked for it to be divided up amongst credit cards and that was one of the most complicated conversations I’ve ever had, for what was a basic math thing. The Verdict: I’d go somewhere else before I went back here, but I did like the vibe of the room with the radios in it.

Keefer's on Urbanspoon

Nori, 954 W Diversey: I dropped in here for a quick dinner after getting a haircut at Salon Blue on Sheffield, a place I’ve been going to since 1998! (Go see Amy. Tell her Krista sent you. Funnily, Chicago Food Snob has been going to Amy forever too!) Amazing. Anyhow, obviously Penny’s isn’t doing as well as it used to because this used to be part of Penny’s next door. I sat at the bar and had the Red Nori (spicy tuna, spicy shrimp, and avocado covered with tempura crumbs, red tobiko, and unagi sauce) and it was pretty enjoyable. But then I had the Crunchy Spicy Tuna maki and it was so depressing, it made me cry. There was no crunch. It was like they forgot a step. Roll the maki in raw tempura crumbs and…sigh. The Verdict: OK. Not great. I will keep searching.

NORI Neighborhood BYOB Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Roka Akor, 11 W Illinois. I dropped in here for lunch with some colleagues this past Wednesday during Restaurant Week. The restaurant was curiously empty. Apparently, no one in The Loop wants to go north of the river, because Petterino’s is freaking PACKED every single afternoon. And Petterino’s is just good. And not as vibe-y as Roka Akor. Fascinating. Well, I had the restaurant week special and although I thought the Wagyu beef and kimchi dumplings were pretty luscious, the rest of the meal — the butterfish roll and the barbecued pork loin — were uninspiring. At $22 though, this was a very good value. The Verdict: Good. And the bar area seems good for solo dining.

Roka Akor on Urbanspoon

So there we are. Some recent tries in Chicago. Until next time! Let’s hope it doesn’t snow like crazy in between.

Posted in American, Chicago, Italian, Japanese, Lakeview, Logan Square, Pan-Asian, River North, United States | 1 Comment

Yes, Occasionally I Do Eat in Chicago

Posted by Krista on January 31, 2012

Some Street Art in BucktownSo many places. I really need to stop eating for a while. Or I need to only eat vegetables. Or do something about the flat tires on my two bikes. Or I need to start walking to/from work like every day. (I say this because today on my way out of work, I ran into my colleague and neighbor who has been walking home from work every day for the last year or so and he has lost so much weight…sigh.)

Charred Carrots

Bar Toma, 110 East Pearson. So firstly, I need to give them props because their location is huge (both in size and the perfectness of location) and if I were a tourist and stumbled in here, I would be very very happy. It’s casual. There’s a bar. And look…I ate some vegetables! We LOVED the charred carrots with Capriole goat cheese, almonds, and Acetaia San Giacomo balsamico. Also loved the beets and gorgonzola. Our pizza was just good, but we weren’t very creative. Just a Pizza Margherita. I tried to get my friend Aileen to have some Prosecco and she demurred. Who says no to Prosecco??? I think she’s preggars. The Verdict: Fun. Cheap. Casual.

Bar Toma on Urbanspoon

Lula Cafe, 2357 N Kedzie: I dragged my friend Amy here one afternoon after New Year’s and I think she hates me now. Lula’s was packed. We got two seats at the bar and were promptly ignored by anyone and everyone. We eventually placed our order and we were promptly ignored again. And then we ate our food — my butternut squash soup and salad were good but not swoon-worthy — and we asked for our bill and (surprise!) we were both promptly (or impromptly) ignored again. It was all rather tiresome, and we left very tired and very grouchy. The Verdict: Hard to focus on the food when the service was so terribly terribly terribly abysmal. (You can imagine my Madonna accent — yes the UK one — as I’m saying that.) I liked the decor though.

Lula Cafe on Urbanspoon

Southern Mac & Cheese

The Southern Mac & Cheese Store, 60 East Lake Street. Even though my one and only experience at The Southern in Bucktown was nothing to write home about, I really liked my Artichoke Spinach Mac & Cheese at The Southern’s newish retail outlet. Crispy where it needed to be crispy, with plenty of artichoke and spinach, only two of my favorite things. I was surprised the shop wasn’t more crowded on the day we were there. Personally, I think they need to offer half portions because of the perception of mac & cheese alone. A lot of mac & cheese is NOT good for the waistline. Somehow a sandwich of the same caloric value doesn’t have the same perception. The Verdict: I liked this, but I can’t eat like this all the time. I’ll be back once a quarter.

The Southern Mac & Cheese Store on Urbanspoon

I think I still have more to catch up. The more I eat, the less I write. I’m okay with that.

Posted in American, Chicago, Italian, Logan Square, Loop, Michigan Avenue, Modern European, United States | 2 Comments

Where I’ve Been Eating, Chicago Edition

Posted by Krista on September 5, 2011

Ooh, I’m way behind. I blame the airlines. And Design Star on HGTV. And my cousin George, who was in town for all of six days and managed to completely redecorate my apartment, rearrange my kitchen cabinets, and fix anything and everything that has bugged me since I moved into this damn place nearly exactly a year ago. (Who knew the top rack of my dishwasher was adjustable?) Exhausting, all of it.

I tried to entertain George food-wise, but here’s what I learned: he’s a picky eater.  He likes Red Bull. And cookies. And pretzels. And could happily survive on all that for breakfast and lunch. I think he also likes Chinese food, but I denied him his second take-out in the hopes I could convince him to go to Ruxbin. Denied. More in a bit.

Paris Club CharcuterieParis Club, River North: I made reservations ages in advance at Paris Club, and the charcuterie — for two — was pretty damn amazing. However, it should have been labeled “For two very large Americans” or “For four plus-sized French people” because it was really way too much food even for our table of four to do justice to. Our server was fantastic: I spilled a glass of wine all over myself (Long Island girl, talking with her hands) and he brought me a replacement glass, no problem.The atmosphere at Paris Club is very lively, but in a “What? What did you say??” kind of way.  Finally to the food…my ahi tuna main dish was pretty disappointing. Too salty.

I’ve been thinking about salt lately and have to list it out as one of the main differences between eating in the US vs. eating in the UK. Everything in the US is sooo disgustingly salty. And we wonder why we have high blood pressure. (I’d also say it’s because we don’t walk enough.)

Randomly…I went to use the ladies’ room at Paris Club on the main floor and there were six girls in line. For one toilet. Good times. About 10 minutes in, a staff member told us that there were more loos downstairs, but by that point I was next. I ended up using the men’s room, and you know what that’s like. The Verdict: Out. There are things I want to like, but that salty main dish was just too much. Oh, and my cousin George would like you to know that he and my friend Matt were two of the only men in the dining room at 8 pm on a Friday night. Odd.

Paris Club on Urbanspoon

Gilt Bar, River North: I went to Gilt Bar nearly exactly a year ago when I first arrived back in Chicago, but for some reason never wrote about it. Although I would like it better if I could see my hand in front of my face while I’m eating (flashlight, anyone?), I do love the food here. My truffle pasta was the dish that kept getting passed around the table.  I also really like the music at Gilt Bar; they played The XX, only one of my fave albums of 2010.  (OK, OK it came out in 2009 but still.) Great cocktail bar downstairs…all very chill and mellow.

Gilt Bar on Urbanspoon

Feast French Toast

Feast, Bucktown: I asked my cousin what he likes to eat for breakfast. He says — and I quote –“I’m not really a breakfast person.” You can guess where this is going. Every morning, I would wake up, make breakfast for myself, eat it, and then he would say, “What are we doing for breakfast?” Ahem. As we were up abysmally early on Saturday, so I thought we’d try for The Bongo Room. Let me point out two things. It was Saturday — not Sunday — and we arrived at 9:15 am. 9:15! They had been open 15 minutes!! And told us that we’d have to wait 30 to 45 minutes for a table. 30 to 45 minutes! So we went to Feast instead and had some pretty luscious peach and blueberry challah French toast. This place totally needs a lick of paint and our table was too wobbly for its own good, but those are minor quibbles in the face of a breakfast this nice.

Feast on Urbanspoon

Boundary Burger

The Boundary, Wicker Park: George wanted to eat outside, so I pulled up along Division and suggested Prasino. He ix-nayed it because it “looked too healthy” so instead we made our way to The Boundary, where we watched the cars go by as we snacked on some burgers and tomato soup. Everything was fine here. PS Did you know there are no parking meters on the main stretch of Division? (OK, not meters but that green machine ticket-y thing. You know what I’m talking about.)

The Boundary Tavern and Grille on Urbanspoon

Pizza Metro II: I wanted to go to Ruxbin. George wanted Chinese. We compromised on pizza because I wanted a salad. Hah! This place is more a take-out place than anything else. We brought home our 1/2 potato (him) and 1/2 pepperoni (me)  pizza, along with my salad, and enjoyed it in front of HGTV. George said, “Yeah, this wasn’t really that great.” I would concur. Fine, nothing special. Could have used a better more bubbly crust.

Pizza Metro II on Urbanspoon

I have more coming up…Blue 13, GT Fish & Oyster, Prasino, and um I decided to go to London for the weekend last week so there’s that too. Brace yourselves.

Posted in American, Brunch, Bucktown, Burgers, Chicago, French, Italian, Modern European, United States, Wicker Park | 2 Comments

The Florentine, The Loop

Posted by Krista on July 22, 2011

Florentine Menu
The Florentine
151 W Adams

Date of Last Visit: Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Victims: Gals from work

The Damage: I put in $35 for my $8 soup and my $14 ravioli and my Arnold Palmer that had to have been less than $4.  So let’s say $26. Plus 10% tax and 18% tip equals $30.68 max. $33.28.

The Background: It’s nice to get out of the office. And NOT talk about work. We’ve been trying to do that, so last Tuesday’s field trip was to The Florentine, the newish Italian in the downtown Marriott.

It’s one of those things…I work in The Loop, but I rarely stray more than three blocks from the office when it comes to lunch. And I rarely if ever go south of Monroe. So to go to Adams…WOW. Big news.

The Entrance: The Florentine is on the 2nd floor of a soulless cookie-cutter US Marriott. Hey, I’ve stayed in a lot of Marriotts. They’re fine. People who probably don’t stay in a lot of hotels probably think they’re great. For me though…they’re big and soulless. So I’m somewhat surprised when we enter The Florentine and it’s LOVELY. It does have soul. The light is entering the windows JUST SO and there’s a happy buzz about the place.

Florentine SoupThe Food: It took us a while to flag down our server and place our orders, but after that, things went remarkably quickly. Almost too quickly. My tomato soup was HUGE and very good. I should have just had this. But no, I had to order a main as well.

Ravioli at The FlorentineI had the ravioli…English Pea Ravioli with oil cured tomatoes, garden peas, and fiore sardo. Sounds great, doesn’t it? And looks pretty too, right?

Too bad the pasta was served practically RAW. As in crunchy. I really should have sent it back. Really.

The Verdict: Liked the setting. Liked the soup. But the pasta…meh.

Florentine on Urbanspoon

Posted in Chicago, Italian, Loop, United States | 7 Comments

Antico, Bucktown

Posted by Krista on April 11, 2011

Antico BucktownAntico
1946 N Leavitt

Date of Last Visit: Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Victims: Theresa, Amy

The Damage: $40ish each

The Background: Do you remember where you were when Michael Jackson died? Me, I was slightly over-served and heading home on the 56 bus in London’s Clerkenwell. Twitter for iPhone (or maybe it was Tweetie at the time) was saying how MJ had kicked the bucket. I announced this to my fellow passengers on the 56 bus and they all looked at me with that “Poor Yank. Overserved now, isn’t she?” sort of look. No response. Just glares.

Haters gonna hate, huh?

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.

So within 10 minutes of getting to the airport in Kuwait the other Thursday night, my voicemail beeps and I get one of those United Airlines “Easy” Updates. “Hello. This is United. Your flight from Kuwait City to Chicago has been canceled.”

Bummer. Totally. (But I kinda already knew this was going to happen. The Bahrain => Kuwait pre-leg of my flight had already been canceled, and United Cargo–my secret weapon in analyzing United on-timeness–was already saying that my Chicago flight was under “Decision.”)

But there I am in Kuwait City with my iPhone–underserved this time because KUWAIT IS A DRY COUNTRY–and I announce to my fellow passengers that our flight has been cancelled. They all look at me like I’m crazy. Like big time crazy. “How can you possibly know that?” one man asks me. I play back the voicemail–on speaker phone–and he looks away. Goes back to reading his newspaper. Stays in the queue as I step out of it.

I call United. I rebook myself on the next flight out. 24 HOURS later. I again tell my fellow passengers, “Hey guys, the flight’s been canceled.” Everyone just looks at me like I’ve just announced that Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, is dead and they’ve just seen him in concert.

“Well, they haven’t made any announcements,” says one woman.

“Sometimes technology is faster than announcements,” I say. “And I just called United. And they confirmed there’s no flight and they rebooked me. Because the flight is canceled.”

No one moves.

I take my luggage and leave the airport. No one follows. I repeat the entire process 24 hours later, but I get upgraded to business class! (How you feeling now, haters?) I finally arrive back in Chicago Saturday morning around 10 am. I pass out cold but rouse myself just in time for dinner with Theresa and Amy.

Antico SaladWe start with a fresh and crisp arugula salad. The world needs more salads like this, and after a dearth of vegetables while traveling, I’m eating this with my hands.

Antico Fried Sage GnocchiI’ll start with the better of the two pastas. The gnocchi with fried sage was amazingly good. Satisfyingly dense gnocchi pared with disturbingly good fried sage. This made me want to come home and fry up some sage. This never happens.

Mushroom Pasta AnticoAntico prides itself on its seasonal menu, and we were sold on the idea of a soft wheat pasta with mushrooms. (Although long-term readers will know that I am more down on mushrooms than up.) Um, can we talk about presentation here? It’s pretty crap. What were they thinking? It’s all just too wet and messy.

Antico Short RibsWe finish off with a plate of short ribs and polenta. It’s really hard for me to dislike polenta. The short ribs were rich and tender. My only complaint, again, would be presentation. But for tasty food, I will put forward that there are far worse things.

The Service: Totally annoying. Would hover and interrupt, and always when one of us were at the denouement of some very important story. To the point where after this happening three or four times, he said, “Gee, I always seem to be interrupting you when you’re in the middle of a big story.” That’s a sign, my friend. A sign.

The Sound: LOUD. Way too loud. It’s a small space, but with no soft coverings. We were in the very back and I could still barely hear myself think.

The Verdict: On the fence. Like that it’s BYOB. Liked the gnocchi A LOT. Did not like the service and felt that the presentation was a bit slapdash.

Antico on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bucktown, Chicago, Italian, United States | 6 Comments

Mista, The Loop

Posted by Krista on February 15, 2011

Mista Pizza

134 N LaSalle

Date of Last Visit: Sometime in January. I forget the exact date and my camera battery died so the photos aren’t dated.

The Victim: Michelle

The Damage: $10

The Background: Michelle and I have been trying to have lunch forever, but the stars just haven’t been aligning. She is a social media maven–she’s on a panel at SXSW if that gives you any indication–and an original blogger and WordPress aficionado. She is also a vegetarian. Chicago…not an easy city for vegetarians.

She’d already been to The Oasis Cafe (why I haven’t written about The Oasis, I don’t know), so I was struggling to pick a new place. Luckily in this instance, Michelle came through for me. It was she who suggested the local pizza chain Mista, a chain I’d never heard of before she sent me the link.

The Entrance: Mista in the Loop is small and compact. This creates a problem because you want to get a pizza, but you also want to sit down. And there are very few seats. Mista solves this by having a gentleman on staff who saves your table for you while you go get your pizza. Good thinking.

Mista bills itself as a fresh, organic, and natural pizzeria. I opted for the Florentine–organic baby spinach, ricotta, mushrooms (none in sight), and organic garlic. Eight or so minutes later, it was ready.

This is a very crispy pizza. As a New Yorker, I am definitely a fan of all things thin-crusted, but part of me felt this was just a bit too thin and crispy for me. The ingredients themselves were top notch, but I couldn’t stop thinking that I was eating a big cracker with pizza sauce on top. Hmmm.

The Verdict: Different. Not bad. But maybe not for me?

Posted in Chicago, Italian, Loop, United States | 1 Comment

Rosebud Theatre District, The Loop. And Splitting the Tab…

Posted by Krista on January 9, 2011

Rosebud Theater District Steak Salad

Rosebud Theater District
70 West Madison

Date of Last Visit: Friday, December 17

The Victims: One friend, and a friend’s friend.

The Damage: $31…more about this in a bit.

The Background: Just before Christmas, an old friend from grad school e-mailed myself and a big list of our fellow classmates and asked if anyone wanted to go out to lunch. It was her birthday, she said, and she was feeling festive. For the sake of the story, let’s call her Jane.

I too was feeling festive as December 17th was going to be my last day in the office until December 28th. And given that Jane works in The Loop–as do I–I knew lunch would be at a convenient place. Ah, and it was a Friday. One of the best things about being back in the U.S. but continuing to work across countries is come Friday afternoon, the rest of the world is either having dinner or in bed. So I knew I could get away for a while at some point after 12 noon and not be overloaded by emails or phone calls by the time I returned.

And so it was. Rosebud Theater District. An odd restaurant because it’s more or less in the lobby of an office building. Sure, it’s set off from the foyer of the building itself, but the draft blasting into the space and our table’s unfortunate position at the front of the restaurant made it clear that we were in the lobby of an office building and not in our own space.

The Food: I’m going to cover the food first and briefly because I have a debate I want to get to which is more important than the food. Frankly, the food sucked. I had a steak salad and the steak felt like it had been cooked ages ago and then just reheated for use on my salad. The lettuce was wet, which meant that the blue cheese had all congealed. (Their salad spinner must have been broken.) And back to that steak…it was just so…rubbery. It might look like it has a nice char, but the char had evaporated several hours ago. Jane and her friend stuck to pasta dishes and seemed please with their food. So if I did go back–and that’s a big if–I’d stick with the pasta dishes.

The Debate: OK, and now the debate. So when the bill comes for lunch. Jane’s friend –who is super nice and interesting but whome I’ve never met before — looks at it and turns to me and says, “Let’s split the check. That’s $31 each.”

Um…okay. I didn’t know I would be buying the birthday girl lunch. I really do like the birthday girl as a person and I know it’s only $10 extra in the grand scheme of things, but I suddenly feel a little awkward. Frozen, really.

The bill was 52 for three, or say $62 with tip. It’s Jane’s birthday, and Jane and I went to school together. I have seen Jane twice since 2004, and the other time was just a month previously. I don’t know where Jane lives and I don’t have her phone number programmed into my phone. While I was in London, Jane and I did not exchange e-mails except for the occasional group “Congratulations!” to a friend having a baby. (I am giving you these details so you can provide feedback later.) I have never met the friend who joined us for lunch before. I did not know it was Jane’s birthday until that week, and I am fairly certain that Jane does not know when my birthday is. (It’s April 30th, in case you’d like to make a note. I like hydrangeas, just FYI.) In short, Jane is a very nice person who I enjoy spending time with when I do see her, but we are not bosom buddies.

I’d like to laugh at myself now because at the Chicago Food/Wine Bloggers’ Meetup that I organized earlier this month, I joked about how women are the WORST at splitting bills when there are large parties involved; my experience has been that women want to nickel and dime everything and for some reason women frequently manage to forget about the tax and the tip. And if they do factor in either, they totally gyp the poor waiter. More often or not, I always end up throwing in an extra $10 (or more) whenever I go out with a big group of women. Men are much easier. They don’t care what you ate or what you drank. Everyone pays the same. Done. (Perhaps this method appeals to me because I am not one to not eat or not drink. And if I am–like that three month period in 2008 where I gave up alcohol–I’ll either happily subsidize everyone else’s drinks or make it clear with the waiter at the start of the meal that I’d like my own check.) (Bob, if you’re reading this–Hiii!!!–I believe this gels with your old theory about sharing cabs with women vs. sharing cabs with men. At the end of a taxi ride with two women and two men, the women will each hand over $1 or $2. Whereas either of the men will offer to pay for the whole ride.)

I realize the entire paragraph above is full of sweeping generalizations. But I think you get my gist.

Back to my lunch: there were only three people at lunch, so splitting the bill wasn’t very complicated. And this wasn’t me nickel-and-diming anyone; I was happy to split the bill…just three ways instead of two. (And in a backwards-kind-of way, I’m saying that Jane’s friend was very good at splitting the tab, contrary to my comments about women earlier. I’d also add that given that my portion of the bill was slightly higher, I would have paid more than my fair share anyhow.)  But did my presence at lunch necessitate buying someone else lunch because it was their birthday?

What did I do? Of course I split the bill with Jane’s friend and paid $31. With a smile. I gave the birthday girl a big hug, wished her the very happiest of birthdays, and left the restaurant for the office, hoping valiantly on the way that she doesn’t know about my blog because I was definitely going to blog about this!

What would you have done? Has this ever happened to you? Do you think women are worse at splitting the tab then men? And who tips better: women or men?

Posted in American, Chicago, Italian, Loop, United States | 14 Comments

Davanti Enoteca, Little Italy

Posted by Krista on November 11, 2010

Davanit enoteca wineDavanti Enoteca
1359 W. Taylor St

Date of Last Visit: Sunday, November 7th, 2010

The Victim: Me

The Damage: $30

The Background: When I lived in London, I used to walk down Brick Lane and think to myself, “What if just ONE Indian or Pakistani or Bangladeshi restaurant opened here that was doing something even just moderately different? Something modern? Something interesting?” But no…when one restaurant closed, another mediocre spot took its place, its windows full of obscure awards and hawkers at its doors. Chinatown was doing it…with the likes of places like Bar Shu opening up a few years ago. Why couldn’t other ethnic enclaves do the same?

Truth be told, in my eight years in Chicago previously, I’d never been to Little Italy. Besides for an old Italian ice stand, there was nothing much to recommend it…one old Italian restaurant after another, dishing out lasagna for tourists. But now the critics’ darling Davanti Enoteca has opened its doors and this stretch of Taylor Street has become more of a destination.

Davanti enoteca inside
I’ve come to Davanti Enoteca (which means “in front of the wine bar”) straight from my spa appointment at The Trump and I am famished. There’s probably a rule about not drinking wine after using saunas and steam rooms and having 90 minute spa treatments, but the wines-by-the-glass menu at Davanti cracks me up so much I have to give it a go. (That is the wine list, plastered to that very large wine bottle up top.) On my server’s recommendation, I opt for a quartino (that’s one-quarter of a standard 750 ml bottle) of Barbera d’Asti. (This didn’t match so well, but there are worse crimes than a good wine that doesn’t match.)

Davanti enoteca corn salad
Things start off on a very high note. The corn salad is a mixture of great flavors and textures. The corn still has some good crunch to it, and of course so do the walnuts. But sprinkled in there as well are wild mushrooms which lend the dish an earthy flavor. Ah and then there’s the rocket (sorry–arugula), which gives everything a little peppery spice. This is all topped off with some aged goat cheese and a swirl of olive oil. I feel very virtuous and decide that I will come to Davanti Enoteca every day and have this salad.

Davanti enoteca rigatoni
But then I have the rigatoni with sausage. And you know what? It’s just rigatoni with sausage. The pasta is done to a perfect al dente, but that’s about all this dish has going for it. Both the sauce and the sausage were mild and unmemorable, and after the great sweep of flavors in the corn salad, I was hoping for more. This dish let me down and I felt like I could get it anywhere.

Throughout it all, however, service was polite and sweet. Dare I say…perky? I should note that my server did try to steer me away from the rigatoni and towards the giant ravioli with ricotta, egg and spinach, but I feel like having some animal protein so there you go.

The Verdict: Davanti Enoteca is of course a welcome addition to Taylor Street. I think it has a lot going for it, not the least of which is an interesting menu with flashes of brilliance and creativity. But I don’t know if I’d make another special trip here in the near-term.

Davanti Enoteca on Urbanspoon

Posted in Chicago, Italian, Little Italy, United States | 4 Comments

Giordano’s Pizza, Chicago

Posted by Krista on October 13, 2010

Giordanos pizza box 
135 East Lake Street

When I was in my corporate apartment last month, I had a kitchen and plentiful access to as many frozen-ready meals as America could provide. But I lived across the street from a Giordano's, a branch of an iconic Chicago pizza chain.

So it was all too tempting when I first arrived back in Chicago to visit Giordano's Web site when I was too lazy to do anything else and order pizza online. Or at least try to. Because sadly, unlike Domino's which makes it so very easy to order pizza online and track its delivery, my local Giordano's required a phone call and a 20 minute minute wait before I could run over and pick up my pizza. No iPhone app here, that's for sure. (Sometimes I imagine trying to live for a month only doing things that can be done by iPhone.)

Giordanos pizza 
(Thanks to Dos Hermanos, whenever I buy a pizza like this, I'm reminded of what Simon thinks of pizza. It almost ruins my appetite. Almost.)

Let me just emphasize that the above photo is of a THIN crust pizza. (Spinach.) Pretty thick for a thin crust, huh? You should see the THICK crust. It's MASSIVE.

But there's still something oddly compelling about a Giordano's pizza. The sauce is pretty tangy. The crust has a good crunch to it. And the cheese is mild enough but yet sharp enough to pull everything together.

And you know what…it's even better the next day. For breakfast. Yes.

The Verdict: Call me a sucker, but Giordano's is hard to resist. Would be even better if I could order online and track it online like Domino's though.

Posted in Chicago, Italian, United States | 1 Comment

Datte Foco, Stoke Newington

Posted by Krista on May 11, 2010
Datte foco

Datte Foco
10 Stoke Newington Church Street
London N16 0LU

Date of Last Visit: Sunday, March 28

The Victims: Chris, Evelien, Seona

The Damage: £12 each?

The Background: Chris and Evelien have moved. This is a bummer because they used to be right down the street from me. But now they're "all the way up" in Highbury. And somehow, they convince me that Stoke Newington is a short walk from them. I think to myself, "That can't be possible. Highbury is NOT close to Kingsland Road, and I know I've taken the bus up Kingsland Road before to get to Stokey." But no, "It will be a nice walk," they tell me.

So I walk to Highbury to pick up Chris, Evelien, and toddling Seona. And then we walk. And walk. And walk some more. Until we get to the eastern end of Stoke Newington Church Street, where we find Datte Foco. Full disclosure: My friends–Chris & Evelien and others–are friends with the owners of Datte Foco.

Datte foco copy
It's good that we did all that walking though because now we're STARVING. (And Seona is exhausted. She sleeps through our entire visit, rising only at the end to demolish a slice or two.)

We put in a few requests, but otherwise, we get an assortment of everything. And it's all so different. The courgette pizza is light and summery. The spicy sausage has a good kick to it. I pass on anything with mushrooms on it, and Chris happily polishes off anything I leave behind. We fight over the that last spicy sausage slice and end up dividing it into pieces.

Datte Foco is small and simple. The dining room is bare and basic. There's free wireless. And tiramisu. As we're sitting there, a few people come in with their laptops, load up on pizza (and tiramisu) and happily while away the afternoon.

Owner Herbie emailed me a few weeks ago and told me…

As I mentioned to you then, my teacher [from Rome] did come up to London to check
our place out and the pizza! Of course he gave me a few tips to make it
better, the biggest change is that he found my pizza a little to high!
So from last week the pizza has lost about 20% of it's weight! Much
thinner, but always crisp outside and soft inside…

So the pizza I had is not the pizza you'll have. But you should go and decide for yourself. Datte Foco is inexpensive and neighborhood-y and during our visit, the pizza choice was wide and varied. I like variety. 

The Verdict: Go.

Posted in Italian, London, N16, United Kingdom | 8 Comments