Posted by Krista on November 24, 2012
You know when you have something once, and you think it’s great? And then you have it again, and you think, “Boy was I totally right that first time or what?? This stuff is freaking delicious.” So it is with me and the Escalivada at Tavernita in Chicago. It’s like crack. Not that I know what that means.
Can I tell you something? I don’t want to like Tavernita, really. Tavernita requires that one weigh 30 lbs less than one does. And also, that the length of one’s skirt hem pass no further than one inch from one’s bottom. Also, cleavage. Tavernita seems to require a lot of cleavage. And maybe a divorce or three.
But no matter. I can shut out the world and all its problems when I’m snarfing down a plate-load of Tavernita’s Escalivada. This time, it was free thanks to a social media wine dinner with Darkhorse, a Gallo brand. (Gallo has a hand in more wine than you think it does.) I love hanging out with wine makers, and Darkhorse winemaker Beth Liston just made you want to be her best friend. The Chardonnay was a party-pleaser and can be found at Trader Joe’s for under $10 a bottle. It paired really well with our first few courses of hamachi crudo and then of course the swoon-worthy escalivada.
A little Google’ing has found me Tavernita’s recipe. Worth trying someday as a little snack (or a big snack) before dinner, specially if you possess a charcoal grill:
4 small eggplants
4 small onions, halved
4 red bell peppers
2 Roma tomatoes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the vegetables
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 small baguette, sliced, slices grilled
Zingerman’s Creamery Lincoln Log goat cheese (or other slightly aged goat cheese)
You can see the specific instructions regarding assembly, cooking, etc. over here on Time Out Chicago.
The Verdict: Go for it. And feel free to invite me over.
I was a guest of Darkhorse and Tavernita and did not pay for this meal. I also received one $20 Trader Joe’s giftcard and two bottles of Darkhorse wine — one Chardonnay and one Cabernet — in thanks for my attendance. I preferred the Chardonnay to the Cabernet, and would definitely consider picking up a bottle of Chard next time I’m in Trader Joe’s. (The cab was too jammy for me.) Darkhorse is being stocked exclusively by Trader Joe’s at the moment, only one of my favorite places in the entire world.
I’ve written about Tavernita before. Over here.
Posted in Blogging, Chicago, Recipes, River North, United States | 1 Comment
Posted by Krista on November 9, 2012
Image borrowed from Mashable.
Dear Chicago Cut,
How are you? I hope you are well. I am fine. I went to your restaurant the other night with my British friend Ben, who was in town from London. I thought it would be nice to take him to a steak place because Chicago is famous for steak and Oprah said you were “Phenom!!” And everyone knows who Oprah is, even British people. Plus, you dry-age steak, which is a big deal. I like big deals.
I took Ben to the John Hancock first. We had cocktails at the top, and I tried to remember everything I’d forgotten about Chicago history and architecture. I also showed him where Oprah used to live, because you can see it there, from the top of the Hancock. I’m not sure where she lives now though. Do you know? Then we came over to your place for our steak and creamed spinach.
And we asked for your wine menu.
And you handed us an iPad, which is a cool idea in theory. I can imagine your agency of bearded wine-loving hipsters now. “THIS IS THE FUTURE OF DINING. THIS IS VISUAL. THIS IS INTERACTIVE. THIS IS…STRATEGERY.“ They probably talked about how soon, soon we will not need sommeliers. That everything will be CONTROLLED BY THE USER. WITH AN APP. That probably pronounced all this meaningfully and confidently (while scratching their beards) and told you this would all be so very, very cutting edge.
You probably spent a lot of money on this too.
So, let me tell you what I think.
In practice, your iPad wine menu? It really kinda just…sucks. Like really.
Let me tell you why:
- It crashed multiple times while your server was showing it to us.
- It crashed multiple times while we tried to use it.
- Your server had to explain how although there was an “Add to Order” button on every wine page, it didn’t work. It had never worked. She did not know when it would work. “Please don’t use it,” she told us. “It doesn’t work.”
- And then we decided that we should get some California wine, red, for under $80 a bottle. All of the filters are there on the screen. All of them. You can see them all in the screenshot above. BUT YOU CANNOT MULTI-FILTER. You can only filter on ONE THING. EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE MULTIPLE SELECTION BOXES presented at the same level of hierarchy Whoever your agency is, they should be fired. They know nothing about usability. And they also know nothing about product development because filtering a database on multiple criteria IS NOT HARD. (Lovely readers, you can see what I mean about the Chicago Cut wine “app” over here. Try it for yourself.)
- And then our lovely server saw that we were frustrated and tried to help us. “Please,,” I begged. “Please, do you have a sommelier? Can you send the sommelier over?” “We don’t have a sommelier,” she replied, “But all of us here, we’re pretty knowledgeable so just tell me what you’d like.” “We’d like a California red, not too meaty, good with our steaks, for under $80 a bottle.” “Oh,” she said. “I’m not sure. I really don’t know the options that well…” (!!!) “But there is this one,” she said, and steered us towards a $60 bottle of Archipel Meritage 2007. It was really nice, so there’s a good ending here. But it took us a long time to get to this point. A long time. And your iPad app still sucks. I told her this, but I didn’t use the word “sucks,” I promise.
So in short, you’re doing it wrong. Like totally, totally wrong. You are all idea and no execution. (And I don’t just mean the iPad here. If you are going to forego a sommelier, schedule some regular wine tastings for your staff!)
Thank you for reading and I hope there’s a Version 2.0.
P.S. All this being said, our steaks were very nice and our server was nice. Also, I do appreciate that your wine markup in my case was “only” 100% of retail. I know this because my friend Andy Hayler makes a GREAT app called Wine Search that lets you easily search for wine and compare list price to mark up. You should check it out to see how the pros do things.
Posted in American, Chicago, River North, United States | 5 Comments
Posted by Krista on April 29, 2012
Time for a break. Too many restaurants, too little time. And I’m TIRED. I know, I know. What happened to all your photos, Krista? What happened to full blog write-ups? Frankly speaking, no one restaurant has driven me to such great lengths in a long time. So micro-reviews it is for you. For now. Personally, I kinda like the micro-review thing. It’s like Twitter. Or a Haiku. (A long one.)
Benny’s Chop House, 444 N. Wabash, River North (ish, because I kinda feel like Wabash is a bit of a wasteland and even though it’s north of the river, it’s still in The Loop, isn’t it?). When I was looking for new kitchen knobs in December (yes, I’m very domestic like that), I met Benny himself in a hardware store and made a mental note to stop in to his restaurant sometime. In return for the name and phone number of his handyman and all. So I did. (Although I never called his handyman.) It was a weekend afternoon and the place was EMPTY. I sat at the bar and had a burger. And it was so flavorless, it was sad. The bun was good though, as were the fries. (Served in their own miniature basket for frying! Genius!) But really, all I wanted was some salt and pepper. BUT wait. The PRICE. The price was kind of amazingly right. $10 for a burger and fries that is certainly better than Mickey D’s. I mean, for that, I might just have to go back. Even though the bar area kinda felt like a bad 2008 Chicago condo kitchen installation. The Verdict: If you like value for money, sit at the bar and get a burger, but ask for salt and pepper and all that other stuff.
Irazu, 1865 N. Milwaukee, Bucktown. Everyone told me I would love Irazu, one of Chicago’s only Costa Rican restaurants. Well, I didn’t. It all felt a bit unkempt and dingy, and our table was unsteady, so that was annoying. And my tilapia tacos were probably about the most underwhelming thing I’ve eaten so far in 2012. (Tilapia. In a taco. With a lot of overcooked onions. No thank you.) My friend Amy got that oatmeal shake that everyone raves about and I thought, “Gee, it’s just like drinking cold oatmeal.” The Verdict: Meh. Not so exciting. Not sure why it’s so packed.
Maza, 2415 N. Ashland, Sort of Lincoln Park-ish. I will admit to a total bias. I used to live by the old Maza on Lincoln and I always loved it. You might know my greatest goal is to go to Lebanon at some point in the near future. And I am also a sucker for hummus. So it was that I found myself at the new Maza at Ashland & Fullerton, where I heard the incredibly sad story of the owner losing the lease on his old space in West Lakeview. The landlord on Lincoln wanted a monthly sum that no sole proprietor could ever agree to. So Maza moved. And the old space remains unoccupied still. Greedy bastards. Well, bygones because we had fun at Maza and I loved my assortment of food, just like I did in the old days. I love that it’s this guy’s restaurant and it always has been and he works there all the time. The Verdict: Support a local businessman and go. (And really, ignore the Yelp reviews.) Sadly, the proprietor hasn’t been back to Lebanon in 30+ years.
I’ve got more. A lot more. Coming up: Storefront Company, RPM Italian, and the part where I nearly die on a bar stool at Yusho. And a lot of other places that I can’t even remember at the moment. Hmmm.
Posted in American, Bucktown, Latin, Lebanese, Lincoln Park, River North | 3 Comments
Posted by Krista on April 7, 2012
I’m feeling very with it these days. Although I may be lagging on the blogging front, I’m not lagging so much on the dining front — when I’m in town, that is. Here’s where I’ve been eating.
Tavernita and it’s little neighbor, Pinxtos, 151 W Erie. Tavernita is one of those huge, sceney River North spaces. I would not attempt a place like this on a weekend, so my friend Eileen and I dropped in here min-week. Our servers were many AND overbearing. Can you just let a girl eat, please? But the food was GREAT. I especially liked the escalavida (eggplant, red peppers, hazelnut romesco, goat cheese) and “greg’s meatballs” (wagyu beef pork and more hazelnut romesco.) Not a place to take your parents unless they are the hip and happening sort, but fun nonetheless. I also really like the bar, particularly if you can get a stool. The Verdict: Fun. Good fun. And good food.
Publican Quality Meats, 825 W Fulton Market. Dropped in for lunch one weekend afternoon and had a GREAT sandwich. I opted for “Better than a Gyro” which boasted braised pork belly, raita, escalivada, pea shoots, and calabrian chili orange vinagrette on griddled flatbread. The only let down were the homemade potato chips served with, which were oddly tasteless. Service is hip and sweet. And the price is right. (The $10 sandwich.) More of a butchershop and cafe really–definitely not a place to linger–but still cool. Ask for a tour of the prep are and meat locker downstairs. The Verdict: Great for lunch.
Blackbird, 619 W Randolph Street. My colleague and I were invited to a special networking dinner here and I was really excited about things because I think the last time I was at Blackbird was like 2006? But oh so bitterly disappointed. (Bad of me, as a guest, to complain.) Portions were eensy-weensey (and you know I’m a fan of normal sized portions) and nothing really clicked. I still want to find out what was in the butternut squash soup because it reeked of alcohol, which wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the menu. The Verdict: If you don’t go out to eat a lot, you’ll be fine here.
Zocalo, 358 W Ontario. My friend Christina and I dropped in here one weekend and were pleasantly surprised. Firstly, I loved the decor–all Mexican art and flowers and Frida Kahlo. Secondly, our server was awesome; I was mesmerized by his deep, deep voice. Thirdly, the food was pretty darn good. I wasn’t too experimental–I just had mixed tacos–but they were pretty awesome tacos. Also enough food for three people, but the price was right. The Verdict: Fun. I’d go back here, especially for one of their private rooms.
Sultan’s Market, 2057 W North Avenue. I woke up one morning, dreaming of falafel. So I went to Sultan’s, a Middle Eastern deli in Chicago’s Bucktown. And it was fine. Huge portions. It was dark though, and not in a good way. Needs an interior decorator. And a scrub brush. Too much going on. The Verdict: Meh.
Coming up…too many places to mention, really. Plus, I go back to Brazil.
Posted in Bucktown, Chicago, Fulton Market, River North, United States | 5 Comments
Posted by Krista on February 26, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Posted by Krista on January 4, 2012
Winter is upon us here in Chicago. And I’m not happy about that. As I write this, it’s 22 Fahrenheit outside. That’s -5 Celsius for the rest of you. Yes. No fun. So I’m heading to South America. Seriously. But in preparation for my departure, I’ve been eating where and when I can. Here’s the latest…
Vera: First stop, Vera in the West Loop. I like Vera for the sherry alone. Americans don’t drink enough sherry. So I’ve been drinking enough to make up for the rest of you, but you really do need to get on this and widen your drinking horizons. While we were at Vera, we settled in for mixed platters of meats and cheeses. My favorite dish of the evening though had to be the anchovies. I don’t know what it is about me and anchovies lately, but I just can’t get enough. I’ll be back here to sample more of the menu, as we were only there for sherry and snacks. The Verdict: Recommended for the sherry selection and the very nice Spanish menu.
Slurping Turtle: I dropped in here on a Friday afternoon…I think it was their first week of business. Well, that will teach me because I totally suffered the consequences. Service was ridiculously, abysmally slow. (All my American romanticizing about service in America while I was living abroad? I’ve yet to have my expectations MET…forget about having them exceeded. America, what has happened to you???) Service aside, my Yuke Tataki of beef tartar, spicy chili paste, sesame oil, and quail egg was pretty awesome. The pork belly snack was also pretty great. The Verdict: Recommended for interesting Japanese food and communal seating/solo dining.
Jerry’s: I ended up working from home one day for some reason or another and was going a little stir crazy so I needed to get out of the house for lunch. I discovered that there’s barely ANYTHING open on Division in Wicker Park during lunch so I found myself at Jerry’s, which was fine because I wanted a salad anyhow. Jerry’s is very low-key. I liked that. I also liked that they made their own sodas on the premises, so I had something lovely with lime and ginger. Then I ordered a salad, which actually came with a side. (!!!) So I had some creamed spinach. This was all very acceptable, although the service — yet again — was pretty poor. I had no idea where the guy was half the time. Maybe he was in the back making soda. The Verdict: Not a destination, but a good place for lunch.
So…that’s three places I’ve been recently. How about you? Been anywhere good recently?
Posted in American, Chicago, Japanese, River North, Spanish, United States, West Loop, Wicker Park | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on November 23, 2011
Rootstock, Humboldt Park: I dropped into Rootstock with my friend Amy one drizzly Sunday a couple of weeks ago. I love it here, and I am mad at myself for not biking over more frequently over the summer. It’s a very low-fi place, and they serve brunch til 4 pm on Sundays, which is pretty awesome. My only complaint is that once 4 pm rolls around, they really really want you out.
Having been a Webster Wine Bar fan for many years, I can tell there’s a connection between the two places. The furniture, the wall color and decor…it’s all very similar. All I had here was a bowl of butternut squash soup, but it was very very nice and I would be pleased to go back to try more of the concise menu. I like concise menus.
Cantina Laredo, River North: Popped into here for a big work lunch a few weeks ago. Our group was big enough that we were given their private dining room, which is a very nice space with lots of natural light. My colleague Mark, who is from Texas, thought the food was the best Tex-Mex he’d had in Chicago. I thought my fish tacos were dry and flavorless. This place is HUGE so I’m sure it’s good for convention traffic and large groups on the weekends.
Rudy’s Bar & Grill, The Loop. “Home of the Milkshake Martini.” I don’t want a milkshake martini, and can’t imagine anyone else does either, but the burgers are okay. They toasted the bun, which always gets points in my book. They sat me next to the mop closet though, which subtracts points in my book. I liked the idea of my burger–a Mexican burger, with poblano strips, chorizo, pepperjack cheese, pico de gallo, serrano mayo and “avacado spread.” But all I tasted was avocado, and the burger was not medium–it was closer to medium-well. And the fries were soggy. Plenty of people would like it here, and the Christmas decor made for a happy environment. But I don’t know if I’d seek this place out again.
Posted in American, Bar Food, Chicago, Humboldt Park, Loop, Mexican, River North, United States, Wine | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on October 31, 2011
I remember once ages ago, I posted my Top 10 Meals in Year X. A friend (I believe it was this one) kindly pointed out that I must have some sort of seafood fetish because a disproportionate number of dishes in my Top 10 were all seafood.
I’m from the East Coast. What can I say?
I grew up on baked clams, fried calamari, and freshly caught snapper, caught with my own bamboo pole. My brother and I used to catch our own blue claw crabs along the shore at my aunt and uncle’s house in Rhode Island. (This activity was known locally as “chicken neckin’” as you would ask the butcher for whatever scraps of chicken he was willing to give away. The necks it was. ) My mother is infamous for her salmon and broccoli…a simple dish, but she does it so extraordinarily well that it is a regular request from the relatives.
So yes, I like seafood.
Probably no surprise that I love GT Fish & Oyster then. I’ve been twice…once with my cousin George, once all by my lonesome. GT is good for the solo diner because you can eat at the bar. Easily so. I like that.
Lovely meals, both times.
Especially the Tuna Poke…mango, cucumber, and black sesame. Lovely.
Also lovely…the chili crab pasta. I would go back for this dish and eat it again and again and again.
Also nice…the fish tacos. I had these on my first visit. The visit where I discovered my cousin George doesn’t like oysters. Not like oysters?? SACRILEGE.
The Verdict: I like GT Fish & Oyster. I’ll be back.
Posted in Chicago, River North, Seafood, United States | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on October 9, 2011
Ruxbin, Ukrainian Village. I finally went to Ruxbin. Yes, it’s right down the street from me and I’d never been. But Shanna Quinn was good enough to prompt me out of my rut. (Take-out Chinese, the exercise bike…not together, but you get the point.) We were the second to arrive on a Thursday evening, and we were granted a sunnny table by the window. For what was to be a lovely, lovely meal. Starters of flat bread and calamari were generous portions, but still amazingly light. Allowing much space for the beefy goodness of what was to come. Hanger steak and chimchurri don’t come much better than here. You know if I eat my leftovers for breakfast, that’s an excellent sign. I liked it here. The no-bookings policy irks me a bit because it is so close and I do want to go often, but the advance-planning…I become less of an advance-planner as I get older. The Verdict: In short, go. Photos over here on my Facebook fan page. Note: Don’t be scared when you go to the bathroom. No one can get in. Really.
Prasino, Wicker Park. I enjoyed a leisurely Sunday brunch here with my friends Irina and Mohan a couple of weekends ago. The place is HUGE. It’s a pretty space, but the type of space I expect to be all scuffed-up and worn looking within the year. Is that bad of me? Yes. But seriously…how will they afford the upkeep? I had the roasted turkey club with turkey, bacon, swiss, arugula, tomato, avocado, and Parmesan aioli on a pretzel croissant. It was fine. It was just messy to eat, and I had one of those “America, this is why you’re fat” moments. And then our server took forever to do anything remotely server-like, and I was disappointed. The Verdict: Good, not great. But the outdoor seating on a nice day is ace.
Blue 13, River North. (Well, sort of River North, because it’s like close to the expressway.) My old grad-school friend Holly and I had a good catch-up here over lobster pizza and pork chops. Firstly, it’s a nice space but by the end of the night, I couldn’t hear myself think. And it’s not a bar. It just has terribly poor acoustics. Also, the tables are very close together. I don’t mind this in France because, well, it’s France. But going to the bathroom at Blue 13 if you’re sitting on the banquet side…a chore. Back to the food…the lobster pizza was flabby in the middle. The pork chop was as big as my head…tasty but BIG. I ate it for THREE DAYS afterwards. Do I need to say it one more time…America, this is why… The Verdict: Good.
What next…GT Fish & Oyster, I go to Mexico, and then I go to the richest country in the world. The country that’s going to own our asses soon. If they don’t already. Qatar. Amazing.
Posted in American, Chicago, River North, Ukrainian Village, United States, Wicker Park | 1 Comment
Posted by Krista on August 30, 2011
A few months ago, the lovely people at Chicago Food Planet contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in one of their food tours of Chicago neighborhoods. (Yes. You know. For free. Because I’m maybe a little bit awesome?) I was traveling pretty heavily at the time but the stars finally aligned earlier this month when my cousin was in town, so I kicked his butt into gear for an 11 am showing at the Near North Food Tour.
I immediately wished I had done one of these a year ago when I first arrived back in Chicago. Because our first stop was Ashkenaz, the Jewish deli on Cedar Street in the Gold Coast. We helped ourselves to pastrami on MARBLE RYE — I can’t tell you how excited I was about that rye — along with some sauerkraut. Pretty damn fantastic. (They use Vienna Beef products, just FYI. I don’t hold this against them, but apparently some do because they should be making their own, etc. etc. I say I don’t care as long as it tastes good.)
Anyhow…I’ve missed a good Jewish deli. I’ll be back here.
Next up was Tea Geschwender, another place I’ve been wanting to try. Iced peach Green tea to go, and a generous serving at that. Tea Geschwender had a whole wall of tea kettles at the back of the store, oddly reminicent of the episode of Design Star on HGTV that my cousin and I had watched the night before, where each contestant was given a tea kettle and had to design a room around the kettle. Luckily, there was no such challenge at Tea Geschwender that day, although I was challenged enough by my hangover from the night before. We did learn about the different types of teas and how to brew a proper cup though, which was nice. I’ve promptly forgotten everything, but it all made sense at the time.
Then we did a quick skip up to Old Town, where you could smell The Spice House from a block away. The proprietor gave a great talk on cinnamon — who knew there where so many varieties and that each could taste so different — and my cousin pretended to smoke all the herbs in the back of the shop. (Always classy, that George.) Guests on the tour get coupons to all of the spots visited, so I returned later in the week to pick up a pack of barbecue rubs for my friends Ben & Antonia in London, proud parents of a Big Green Egg. 15% off. Natch.
While we were in Old Town Oil, my cousin made the quickest and most stealth-like purchase of olive oil I’ve ever witnessed. (Tour guests are politely asked not to make any purchases during the tour, as it can slow things down. But as my cousin was only in town for a few days, there wasn’t any time to come back.) He got really excited about all sorts of olive oil here. Kinda crazy to watch. It was like he was doing shots.
You might know I’m not a huge sweets person, but butter toffee — think Skor bars, if you remember them — is one of my weaknesses. This is the tray that greeted us upon entrance to The Fudge Pot, which sources all of its chocolate locally from Chicago’s own Blommer Chocolate Factory, one of the best parts about my bike ride to and from work every day. I only wish that they had given us just one piece each because if they had, well, I wouldn’t have had, um, five.
We made a stop at Delightful Pastries next, but sadly none of my photos turned out. I’ve been chowing on their pierogies non-stop since I found them at the Polish Market on Thursday evenings at the Division Blue Line. Fan-f*cking-tastic. Really. You should try them too.
Our last stop — just before the torrential rain began — was at Bacino’s in Lincoln Park, where we stuffed ourselves silly with spinach stuffed-crust pizza. My cousin sat there morosely at the end of the meal, staring at his empty plate. “I didn’t like that at all,” he said. “I really didn’t like that at all.” I knew how he felt. This was my first slice of Chicago-style pizza in something like seven years, and it was pretty darn good. We left happy. Very very happy.
The Verdict: Chicago Food Planet Tours are an AWESOME way to see Chicago. You get to try a lot of stuff, and you get a bit of history mixed in. For example, on the Near North Tour, you learn all about The Playboy Mansion. In all seriousness though, this was really a great afternoon, for locals and tourists alike. (For the first time ever, thanks to Chicago Food Planet, I walked through the Old Town Triangle. Why the heck haven’t I been through here before??)
The Fine Print: My cousin and I were guests of Chicago Food Planet. As of August 2011, the tour we were on retailed for $45 a person. I accepted this tour because my alternative was to spend all day looking at paint chips at Home Depot, and I had already spent the better portion of Friday at Home Depot, so I needed a break.
Posted in Chicago, Old Town, River North, United States | 2 Comments
Posted by Krista on August 20, 2011
Avoidance. I practice avoidance a lot. Which is how I found myself going to see Bridesmaids by myself (I wasn’t the only one), massaging the chairs at Room & Board by myself, and then helping myself to the sushi at Ginza, all by myself. (I wasn’t the only person alone here either.) Clearing the head, I was. And so too a lot of other people.
Something I love more than anything…gomae. Especially when it’s full of obvious sesame, like this was. Japanese dishware too…can’t get enough.
I kept things simple with a platter full of soft and buttery sashimi. The Japanese MBA next to me praised my traditional choice. He had entered shortly after me and engaged in a lengthy conversation with the sushi chef. All I heard over and over again was “omakase” and “omakase.”
“What did you say?” I asked.
“I told them I want real Japanese food. Nothing Americanized,” he said.
“No volcano rolls for you then, huh?”
“No. Definitely not.”
I stared in fascination as he was brought beautiful dish after beautiful mysterious dish, all in lovely porcelain. Ordering tip for next time, then. Shoulda taken photos.
The Verdict: I like the food at Ginza. A lot. But the atmosphere leaves something to be desired. It’s like your eating in someone’s basement…a basement that hasn’t been refinished in 30+ years and has that slightly damp smell. It’s cluttered and worn and not very well-organized. But I still plan on going back. Many times.
Posted in Chicago, Japanese, River North, United States | 1 Comment
Posted by Krista on August 10, 2011
The other week, I was invited to one of my first big food media events in Chicago. I say food “media” because this wasn’t just a social media event. There were people from TELEVISION there. WGN. ABC-Chicago. The only event I can think of in my seven years of restaurant blogging where they’ve deigned to mix the new media and the old was the very large Heston Blumenthal for the Sherry Institute of Spain event that I attended ages ago in London. I remember the traditional media came in suits and stood up against the wall with notepads. Us social media types came in jeans and t-shirts and took pictures of everything. I tried to talk to a few of the journalists but as soon as they heard me say “I have a restaurant blog,” they lost interest. All very awkward, really.
Another big difference between attending an event in London and attending an event in Chicago…THE CAMERA FLASHES. I have always defended bloggers as being people who know not to use flash in restaurants. It whites out the food and causes nasty plate glare. We, instead, invest in good cameras. (I personally would recommend the Canon S95 for those just starting out. It’s small and has a nice low-light setting.) Well, I’m going to take that all back blogosphere because I was nearly blinded by the flashes going off around me during my dinner. Again, all very awkward really.
While we waited for everyone to arrive at Roy’s, we were served Mai Tais and Cucumber Tom Collins’. (The cucumber Tom Collins’ being particularly good.) And huge fried shrimp. Roy’s, you should know, is a “Hawaiian fusion” restaurant. They have a new chef Rhett Dukes, from Texas. Rhett seems like a good guy. The type of guy you’d want to hang out with. He presented each dish in detail, and what I particularly liked is that he made each dish personal, even though it might have been something from the Roy repertoire. (Roy’s has 31 locations around the world. But each has a good degree of independence.)
Lobster dim-sum is a Roy’s classic and it was hard not to like. I could see that these would be happy party pleasers.
This is the before picture of the miso soup, without the soup. Rhett told a great story about how much his son loves this soup and hence the importance on the menu. Oddly, the broth was only approaching tepid when it was poured. I wanted to send it back, but that’s a hard thing to do during an event. I like the occasional gazpacho, but tepid soup is not easy to enjoy, especially when one is used to hot miso soup. I left most of this behind. Puzzling.
We were served a combo plate of favorites from Roy’s menu. I really enjoyed the Butter Fish (cod) which had been marinated for days on end in a ginger wasabi sauce til it was almost unrecognizable. Good stuff. (That’s it right at the bottom of the photo.)
I also enjoyed the Baked Hawaii — a riff on baked Alaska. Ice cream, sorbet, cake, and espresso lava. Kitschy, but fun.
Lastly, I liked the beads they gave us all. (Pictured above with the menu.) I’ve actually started wearing this necklace around town. Score.
The Verdict: Roy’s seems like a fun place to hold a corporate event. Their private room was huge. I also liked the bar seating as you walk in — overlooking the kitchen, which is always fun for a solo diner. Roy’s does a brisk trade during conferences and events, and they’re particularly popular with the international crowd because of the uniqueness of their offering. But while I felt there were a few items to come back for — it would be nice to have a full order of the butter fish and more lobster dim sum — other food during the evening at Roy’s seemed a little uneven. Maybe that’s because they were trying to feed 35 people at the same time. Not sure.
Posted in Chicago, Hawaiian, River North, United States | 5 Comments