I was going to post a recipe for a delicious trifle today.
But in the wake of Friday's storm here in the DC area and along so much of the Eastern US, one that has disrupted so many lives leaving far too many without air conditioning and refrigeration, a dessert with loads of whipped cream and many hours of chilling in the refrigerator seems to be completely out of context.
So perhaps it's a good day to reminisce instead on a great vacation in the past year that can perhaps be a great vacation for you, this year. And hopefully this ordeal will be over very soon.
It is impossible to eat at all the eateries, restaurants and pubs you want to in one single trip to Chicago without dire consequences to both ones health and ones wallet. Though we adopted the philosophy of 'grazing' as we flitted from one restaurant to another much like culinary butterflies, to say we even scratched the surface of this cities culinary bounty would be a gross exaggeration.
There are however a list of eateries that must land on ones to do list when in Chicago, many of which are local digs and therefore the best kind. Let me begin by saying that since our foodie friend SM who is a Chicago local and I had worked out our 'Must Eat List' prior to our departure, we ended up with the most most bang for our buck. So caught up was I in the joy of the city, its architecture and its food that many a times, the gourmet and glutton in me had abandoned the blogger as I invariably forgot all about the camera.
If you are a fellow blogger then you know that for that to happen you must be in a place of unadulterated bliss.
Most of you already know about the Chicago deep dish pizza and UNO's is the most popular choice so I am not listing it among these favorites you may not have heard of. One restaurant that has not made my list is Stephanie Izard's, The Girl & the Goat and it should have. If we had had the foresight to make reservations, months in advance I have no doubt this would have topped our dining experience. So word of advice, make reservations as soon as you book your trip!
So here is my 'Must Eat Chicago List' when you visit.
1.0 GARRETTS : www.garrettpopcorn.com
Must Eat: Popcorn, The Chicago Mix - 1/2 Caramel + 1/2 Cheddar Cheese
There's only one place in Chicago that locals & Oprah stand by when it comes to Popcorn and that's Garretts. Previously known for its hour long waits and lines snaking round city blocks, the stores has since opened several others smattered all round the city center going all the way to Navy Pier. So getting a bag is now a charm.
2.0 LEONIDAS : www.leonidas-chocolate.com/
Must Eat: Fresh Belgian Chocolates
3.0 PORTILLOS : www.portillos.com
Must Eat: Beef-N-Chargrilled Sausage Sandwich & Chocolate Cake
This Chicago institution since 1963 has dynamic interiors, excellent service, kid friendly with some of the best comfort food we've eaten on this trip makes this a repeat for sure. Unbelievably economical at about 25 bucks for a family of 4.
4.0 OSTERIA VIA STATO : www.osteriaviastato.com
This Italian eatery has been founded on the Chef's travels throughout Italy and with a communal feel, warm service and an all-Italian wine list, it's rated one of the top 10 Italian restaurants in Chicago.
What's incredible is also the reasonable prices with most antipasti in the six dollar range.
Must Eat: Parmesan crusted onions
Guaranteed to wow even the most devout onion-hater, this is one dish that melts-in your mouth and we loved it so much that we kept repeating the order. The secret? The onions are slow cooked for a whopping ten hours with seasonings layered throughout the cooking process!
These holidays I am making room on my holiday table for these so be on the look our for this phenominal recipe that's sure to be a sure-fire hit with you as well.
5.0 Mindy's HOT CHOCOLATE : www.hotchocolatechicago.com
Right here is hallowed ground for dessert lovers where James Beard Award Nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef - 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 in a row, Mindy Segal presents her dessert offerings that is fit for the Gods.
Warm Brioche Doughnuts - warm and delicious, served with hot fudge. We couldn't resist a double order and I don't think you will either!
Hot Chocolate - served with house made marshmallows and with a selection like no other: light/Dark/Medium/Blan and Tan/ Half & Half & Mexican. I went for the Mexican which is most definately a grown ups hot chocolate with spice and gravitas.
Chocolate #1(64%) - warm chocolate soufflé tart, salted caramel ice cream and housemade pretzels
Banana's and Butterscotch (Version #2) - banana brioche bread pudding, banana sherbet, malted liquid butterscotch, cardamom cream and banana cake cannoli
Selection of Ice creams
Forget skimping on the calories at this place!
6.0 Le Colonial : www.lecolonialchicago.com
Best described as French-Indochine cuisine, this lovely little eatery on Rush Street is a wonderful way to spend an evening after walking and shopping around downtown. The dining room is lined with handsome, louvered shutters, rattan chairs, ceilings fans to gently cool the room and lush, potted palms and graceful banana trees.
We found the fare more Vietnamese than French fusion but good nevertheless. What floored us was the incredibly warm level of service that I must say was one of the finest we received on the trip.
Must Eats :
Ca Chien Saigon - Vietnamese crisp-seared whole red snapper with a light, spicy and sour
Sup Do Bien - Vietnamese bouillabaisse in lemongrass saffron broth, served with rice vermicelli
Bun Thit Nuong, barbecued pork over angel hair noodles;
Cari Tom - sauteed jumbo shrimp with eggplant in a curried coconut sauce and
Bo Sate - sauteed filet mignon with sate spice, yams and string beans
Traditional Vietnamese coffee - Stong, Iced with condensed milk
7.0 Cite : www.citechicago.com
I would never recommend this place if not for 2 things - the stunning 360-degree view of Chicago’s skyline and Executive Chef Oscar Ornelas bread & lobster soup. The quality of service was a mix of snotty and goofy making it almost laughable if not pathetic.
And yet I dare to recommend it for a cocktail and the soup. The prices are over the top and there are far better places to have an exceptional meal without a crotchety wait staff but I must give the devil its due.
Must Eat: Lobster Bisque & Fennel, raisin bread
The Lobster Bisque, while very different from any you have probably had before, was spectacular in flavor and presentation.And the bread will bring you to your knees.
8.0 Piece Brewery & Pizzeria : www.piecechicago.com
Opened in July of 2001, Piece has been producing small batches of our hand-crafted brews in a seven barrel brew-house, winning them many awards. Their beer is phenomenal rivaled only by their thin crust pizzas brought out directly on aluminum baking trays. Loud, busy and dynamic even on weekdays, they carry on in the great American tradition of alehouses.
- Worryin Ale - Rye Beer
- Golden Arm - German-style Kolsch Bier
- Wingnut - Imperial/Double IPA
- Dysfunctionale - American-style Strong Pale Ale
- Top Heavy Hefeweizen - South German-style Hefeweizen
- Fornicator - Bock
- Full Frontal Pale Ale - Ameican-style Pale Ale
- Dark-n-Curvy Dunkelweizen - German-style Wheat Ale
The Dysfunctionale was by far my favorite. Make sure you carry ID or you won't get through the front door.
9.0 Lunch at The Four Seasons, Season's Lounge
It all begins with the ambiance and as far as ambiance goes, it is impossible to top that at the Season's lounge. The lunch buffet that alternates between Mediterranean and Asian, several times all week long is worth every penny of the 29 bucks (plus taxes and gratuity) it costs to eat there.
A very nice respite from the bust city streets outside, the excellent food, beautiful & comfortable surroundings along with attentive service, makes this a must do.
10.0 The Publican : www.thepublicanrestaurant.com
From the team that created Blackbird and avec restaurants, The Publican is a new beer-focused restaurant located at 845 W. Fulton which is essentially Chicago's meat packing district. Executive Chef Paul Kahan and Chef de Cuisine Brian Huston have crafted an eclectic menu inspired by simple farmhouse fare in a space evocative of a European beer hall.
Anthony Bourdain says, “Favorite Chicago spot for food? Any place run by Paul Kahan: Blackbird, avec, The Publican, Big Star.”
The Publican was nominated for the 2009 James Beard Foundation, including Outstanding Chef Paul Kahan & Best Restaurant Design, Thomas Schlesser.
Must Eats: Beer, Pork dishes, the menu changes daily & their waffles for dessert.
Our favorites: Sweetbreads, Suckling pig, the corn (from the vegetable menu), the waffle (made in a traditonal cast-iron waffle maker) from the dessert menu.
If there is one place that w e will most definitely be returning to, it's this one. Stephanie our waitress was one of the best we have had in a long time leaving quite an impression with her energy, vast and in-depth knowledge of the menu and service.
Be sure to sit in the pig-pen, it's an experience in itself.
This was our final evening meal before leaving this grand city and I don't think we could have left it on a higher note.
And there you have it! A drool-worthy parade of eats?
Which is your favorite Chicago eatery?