Category Archives: restaurants

Sunday Food Porn

I love macarons…but then again, you probably already know that. As such, I am constantly sampling macarons around the Chicago area (and outside Chicago as well). Feast your eyes on these Vanille Patisserie creations, (picked up from Chicago French Market)

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Restaurant: Gilt Bar

Until a couple weeks ago, I had never been to Gilt Bar, but always wanted to go. It’s has rave reviews from everyone who visits; it has even been written up in the New York Times. So when I was able to go several weeks ago, I was estatic! My friend and were lucky enough to sit right near the most gorgeous chandelier (pictured in the NYTimes article).

Neither one of us had ever had steak tartare, so we decided to order it as it sounded delicious! It was completely divine. the steak was served with an egg yolk that we broke and mixed with it, along with grilled bread and a delicious dijon mustard sauce. I’m salivating just thinking about it!

For our main courses, Becca ordered the pork belly (yum! notice that she can’t wait to get it back in front of her because it smelled and looked so good)

…and I got the braised short rib.

I’m a sucker for a braised short rib and this dish was really amazing. The meat was so tender that you could cut it with a fork and the gravy on the top of the meat was so succulent. I cannot wait to return to Gilt Bar!

Gilt Bar
230 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654-4908
(312) 464-9544
www.giltbarchicago.com

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Restaurant Visit: Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

As a Lincoln Park resident and avid tapas fan, it seems ridiculous to me that my first visit to Café Ba-Ba-Reeba was last week. But alas, it’s true. However, it most certainly won’t be my last visit.

Ben and I headed to Café Ba-Ba-Reeba for dinner with his aunt and uncle. We sat on the patio, which due to Chicago weather was covered and heated, but during the summer is completely open. (I do love al fresco dining.)

We started with pineapple sangria (on special) and house-made olives. As Ben’s aunt is a vegetarian, we heavily sampled the non-meat options on the menu. Even for the rest of us carnivores, the vegetarian options are delicious. We ordered mushroom empanadas (delicious), vegetarian paella (I can smell the saffron), and the Spanish cheese platter (glorious).

We also got one of my favorite dishes that Café Ba-Ba-Reeba does. I was well acquainted with this particular dish in advance of eating in the restaurant because one of my girlfriends enjoys making it for our monthly book club. It is a warm goat cheese marinara dip. Served with garlic bread, it is literally one of the best flavor combinations. (But then you give me garlic and cheese and I’m a happy camper.)

For those of you enamored by glistening veins of fat and cuts of beef, never fear, we ordered the braised beef short rib (so incredibly tender) and the cured Spanish meat tray (again served with cheese…yumm!)

I was in complete food heaven. Delightful conversation and small plates tend to lead to my most favorite dinners. The dinner that lingers on and on as food is brought in waves and the drinks are constantly refilled. It’s such a great way to catch up with friends and family.

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba
2024 Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 935-5000

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New Restaurant: Maude’s Liquor Bar

As you all known, I am tremendous francophile. As such, I am overjoyed by the number of new French establishments in the River North & River West areas of Chicago: Maude’s Liquor Bar, Paris Club, and Bistronomic.

Last week, I was lucky enough to visit Maude’s with some girlfriends. I’d been dying to try Maude’s and had a couple of unsuccessful attempts to visit, so I was very excited to go.

Maude’s is a dive-style bar/restaurant. I absolutely love the decor, but was unfortunately unable to snap some photos due to the fabulous, but low-lit ambiance. However, the use of leather sofas, bistro tables, heavy wood, and white bathroom tile in addition to tons of mirrios creates a wonderful space for after work cocktails and dinner with friends.

Each of us ordered something different, allowing us to sample much of the traditional French menu. We started with Steamed Mussels served in a white wine sauce with olives. I’m not a huge mussel fan, but the sauce was to die for and made for very enjoyable mussels. We also had a Seared Scallop with Lentils (which served as inspiration for a dish we made over the weekend).

There were also a couple orders of Blackened Brussel Sprouts. In the past, I haven’t liked brussel sprouts (perhaps because of the preparation). But I am always willing to try a new food or new preparation, and I am so glad that I did try the brussel sprouts because they were amazing. They were served in a lemon-garlic sauce (hello…what’s not to love?!), sliced in half with the perfect amount of blackened-ness. Heavenly.

Finally, I ordered a Lyonnaise Salad that was exquisite. Frisee Greens served with…wait for…PORK BELLY! (YUM!!!!!), brioche croutons, and a medium-hard poached egg. All of the flavors melded together so beautifully and the brioche croutons did an excellent job of soaking up the egg yolk and pork belly juice. DIVINE!

Wrapped up with a couple glasses of 2009 California Pinot Noir (unfortunately I don’t remember what vineyard 😦 ) and marvelous conversation, Maude’s was a wonderful way to end a Tuesday night.

Maude’s Liquor Bar
840 West Randolph Street, Chicago
312-243-9712 or maudesliquorbar.com

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Girls Night: Sprout

I was lucky enough to visit Sprout in Lincoln Park last week with several of my girlfriends. Sprout’s executive chef is Dale Levitski from Top Chef Season 3 and he put together a phenomenal menu that is a prix fix built around flavor profiles.

Each of us ordered something different and we sample everyone’s. Verdict: Delicious!

For the first course I had the duck, which had farro, cherry, celery root, and smoke notes. Second course was onaga (a type of fish) with miso, butternut squash, and orange notes. Dessert was banana with chocolate, cashew, and coconut.

I cannot wait to return to restaurant and try more!

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Date Night: Custom House

Who doesn’t love a good date night? Ben and I both LOVE food and especially love good food. I have a tendency to purchase all of the delicious Groupons to fabulous Chicago restaurants. Last weekend: Custom House Tavern.

Unfortunately, the ambiance was so wonderful (and low-light…in a good way) that I do not have any pictures. I do, however, have the tasting menu and our wine pairing! YUM!

We started with a Roasted Squash Salad with Frisee, Bacon and Maple Yogurt paired with a 2009 Big Fire Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I don’t think that there could have been a more perfect start to the meal. I love squash, especially in the winter. The bacon maple yogurt was a lovely salty/sweet addition. The Pinot Gris had wonderful minerality.

Course 2 was a Seared Sea Scallop on top of a Braised Pork Belly with Grits and a Tart Cherry Mustard. I love everything about this dish: scallops, pork belly, and a good grainy mustard! Each bite of this dish had all of the sweet savory and delicious elements. It was even better with the wine pairing: 2009 Cotes du Rhone by Les Vin de Vienne from the Rhone Valley.

Our final savory course was Beef Short Ribs with a Potato Puree, Cipollinis, Chard, and Tomato Jam. Again delicious. (I really had nothing bad to say about this meal.) Paired with a 2008 Hudson Shah Malbec from the Wahluke Slope in Washington State.

Finished the meal off with the best part of the whole meal: DESSERT!! A Dark Chocolate Ganche (to die for) with Verjus, Violet, and Cassia Bud Sherbet. So phenomenal there aren’t even words to describe. There was a really great cinnamon chocolate combination and the sherbet and violet added just enough sweetness. Paired with 2009 Moscato d’Asti Cascinetti Vieti from Veneto Italy. I’m normally not a huge dessert wine person, but this was lovely.

All in all, definitely heading back to Custom House Tavern again. Deets: 500 S Dearborn Chicago IL 60605 – (312) 523-0200

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Bottlenotes 80 Sips Challenge: The Challenge

As I’ve mentioned, I’m always ready to do some sipping (especially something new), but little did I know that the challenge would not be as much tasting 6 different wines in one evening as it would be finding an open bar on a Monday night.

The challenge has 4 participating bars (continuing through Jan. 31): HUB51, Gilt Bar, Maude’s Liquor Bar, & Naha. As we started the challenge at HUB51, Jess, Martha, & I decided to try Maude’s Liquor Bar which we all had been dying to try.

Unfortunately, Maude’s wasn’t open – minus. Never fear, we decided to head to River North to Gilt Bar as I had never been there. Problem: also closed.

Now I should remind everyone that all of this occurred in January, on a MONDAY, in Chicago. (Read: It’s cold and we were thirsty.) So knowing that HUB51 was both open and nearby, we agreed to complete the challenge where started it.

To complete the challenge, we needed to try one wine from each of the following wineries, as well as 2 additional selections from Italy & France chosen by the bar:

  • Chateau Montelena (One of my favorites)
  • Domaine Carneros
  • Greg Norman Estates
  • Brancott

Having tasted the Domaine Carneros the week prior, Jess started with a Brancott Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (which we believed to be a 2009). (None of the vintages were listed on the menu.) Martha selected a 2008 Patch Block Cabernet Sauvignon from France, and I ordered the 2009 Chateau Montelena Riesling.

The Sauv Blanc & Riesling were initially delivered to us incorrectly, as I received the Sauv Blanc and Jess got my Riesling. We realized upon tasting and shared a laugh.

The Sauv Blanc was very crisp with notes of apple. It was extremely smooth and would be great for everyday drinking. The Cab had very nice and mellowed tannins that allowed the bramble, tobacco, and chocolate notes to shine.

I enjoyed the Riesling immensely, and I’m not always a big Riesling fan. I do LOVE a good Gewurztraminer, and the Chateau Montelena had lychee notes that are usually found in a Gewurzt. It had a nice crisp, lemony finish. A very pleasant wine.

For Round 2, Martha selected a  2009 Pinot Gris from La Rocca Winery in Italy, while Jess picked the 2008 Greg Norman Estates Shiraz from New Zealand. The Pinot Gris has a nice minerality to it that I love about Italian whites with a smooth stony finish. The Shiraz was smoky & leathery with hints of cherry, and while I am not the biggest fan of Shiraz, it did make for pleasant sipping.

We all had such a great evening that we decided to form a “Wino Wednesday” group (even though it was Monday) so that we can try wine bars and restaurants in the city. Any suggestions for where we should go next?

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