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4 Days in Chi-town Recommendations?


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#1 ScottyBoy

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 04:42 PM

Hello!

I'll be in Chicago for the first time next month 9th-13th.

Of course I'm trying to weasel my way into Alinea but I'd like to get the best the city has to offer. If anyone can point me towards some breakfast, lunch and dinner spots that are a must please let me know!

And of course connecting with users on here to grab a bite or drink would be awesome!

Also going to a Cubs game Friday then the White Sox-A's game Sunday if anyone is going. (Let's go Oakland!)

Thank you all in advance!
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#2 avaserfi

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 05:35 PM

I just got back from 2.5 months of working/eating in Chicago. If Grace is open while you are there. Get a table (if you can). I think the food there will be some of the best in the city.

Best meal overall was at Sepia. Everything was technically perfect and delicious. A real treat.

My favorite hangout was Au Cheval. The best burger I've ever had, by far (get a single with no additions for your first time). They fry their fries in lard and they are delicious. Open late (kitchen until 1:30am), good drinks too. A cooks hangout (I ran into cooks everytime I was there). Get a pickle back while you're there. I spent more time here than anywhere else. Strongly recommended!

Avec. An institution for a reason. Get the dates, so many places do it no where does it as well as Avec.

Schwa, the most fun I've ever had at a restaurant. The food wasn't perfect, but it was damn good and fun. If you can get in, for the money it is a steal. Bring a bottle of Jameson for the kitchen, sweeten the deal with some Dr. Pepper too.

Andrew Brochu is killing it at Graham Elliot. Solid food and the best dessert I've ever had.

Alinea, for the most part was great, but to be honest I enjoyed other restaurants more. I think this was in part because my expectations were so high. Overall the meal was near perfect, but the small blemishes stood out so much.

L2O, I spent three weeks here. I really like the food and the style. Very different from the days of Laurent, but solid. Meal was great. Of all the meals I've eaten, this was the most technically demanding on the kitchen. Of course, their kitchen is phenomenally designed and equipped.

If you can make it to Chicago Burgerwurks out in the burbs, check it out. Best sloppy joe ever. The escabeche is great too. I haven't had anything bad there. I've been many times and never had a burger too. Odd, I know. Owned by great people too.

Sun wah bbq, famous for their pekin duck. Its very good, but I thought the soup course was pretty weak.

Publican. Eat here. Its the restaurant that got me working in kitchens. I ate their soon after they opened and it was a revelation.

Big Star. Cheap tacos and whisky. The best micheladas ever (get the green one).


That's everything that came to mind quickly. I'm sure I can think of more depending on what you want to eat.
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#3 ScottyBoy

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 05:54 PM

Oh man so much help!

I'm looking at Alinea just because it's food I'll probably never do, use of mostly moderist techniques.

L20 would have been great since I worked under laurent but it's too bad he moved on...

Great suggestions for places to hit up, thanks!
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#4 Alex

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 09:36 AM

Hello!

I'll be in Chicago for the first time next month 9th-13th.

Of course I'm trying to weasel my way into Alinea but I'd like to get the best the city has to offer. If anyone can point me towards some breakfast, lunch and dinner spots that are a must please let me know!

And of course connecting with users on here to grab a bite or drink would be awesome!

Also going to a Cubs game Friday then the White Sox-A's game Sunday if anyone is going. (Let's go Oakland!)

Thank you all in advance!

Where are you staying? I assume you'll be using public transportation (train, bus, taxi) vs. car.

Preliminary recommendations:
1) Before the White Sox game, eat breakfast/brunch at Nana, then walk or take the #35 bus over to the ballpark.
2) If you're in The Loop area for lunch, two really good sandwich places are Toni Patisserie and Cafe and Hannah's Bretzel.
3) Yes to Avec.
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#5 ScottyBoy

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 10:25 AM

I'll be staying at a place in Englewood.
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#6 KD1191

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 10:32 AM

I quite like this little write-up from Kevin Pang at the Trib.

I'll second the recommendations above for Schwa, Au Cheval, Publican, Avec & Big Star.

Pleasant House Bakery would be a good fit for before/after the Sox game.

If you have a car (and probably even if you don't), a trip to Birrieria Zaragoza is a must...I like the vibe at breakfast, but goat meat doesn't float everyone's boat that early in the morning. The hot off the griddle, handmade tortillas are some of the best you'll find anywhere.
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#7 bmdaniel

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 11:56 AM

I know you know this Karl, but for Scotty's benefit I will say that Zaragoza is pretty easy off the L - have done it several times. Especially if you are flying in or out of Midway, it's right on the way.

I also like Xoco, and there are tons of good cocktail options if that's something that interests. There's also the classic Chicago stuff, which I think is worth a try if you have the meals (deep dish pizza, Italian Beef)

#8 ScottyBoy

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 12:17 PM

I quite like this little write-up from Kevin Pang at the Trib.


Talk about exactly what I was looking for. But I need to start working on my list.
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#9 tikidoc

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 01:02 PM

I second Xoco. It has been a while since I have lived in the area, so I'm not up on most newer places but I went to Xoco a couple times on a trip back to Chicago about a year ago. I LOVE the Ahogada - a delicious pork torta served in a bowl of spicy sauce/broth for dipping. Would love to find a recipe for something close - anyone have one? I was there in the winter, so got the Aztec hot chocolate, which was excellent, but probably not great for August. All three of Rick Bayless' restaurants are excellent (and all on the same block), but Xoco is quick and cheap.

If you want to try deep dish pizza, I would go to Uno's or Due's (the original Uno's, not a chain one). Chicago thin crust is also excellent but less well known. Not sure the best place for that these days.

#10 kathryn

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 04:17 PM

Alinea tickets for August went on sale a few days ago and sold out in about an hour; you might find someone selling extra seats on their Facebook Page. They have also hinted that they might do some same-day tables.

Are you dining solo? If so, try to contact them directly as they will try to accommodate solo diners outside of the ticket sales. Otherwise, you're essentially screwed unless you get lucky and can find someone with an empty seat they need to fill.

If you can't get into Alinea, your best bet for any Grant Achatz venue is to try to get a drink at the Aviary, which is modernist techniques applied to cocktails. All the food is literally canape-sized bites and priced 3-6 USD, so eat elsewhere, like at Publican (which is a few blocks away). But the drinks are fantastic. If the weather is nice, you can sit outside on the patio, too.

If you can stand the wait, try for a seat (go very early or very late) at Girl and the Girl, run by Stephanie Izard of Top Chef fame. The food is creative and highly affordable, hence the long waits. It's a ten minute walk in the West Loop neighborhood which also houses Publican, Au Cheval, Nellcote, and a bunch of other hip restaurants. I asked the manager the best time to walk in on a Thursday a few weeks ago, he recommended 4:30pm or 11pm. Luckily, my brother in law was able to be seated immediately at 10ish. GATG is totally worth it though. Don't miss the wood fire grilled broccoli with blue cheese sauce. Or the diver scallops with foie vinaigrette.

Other good cocktail bars: Sable (conveniently located very close to Rick Bayless' spots in River North), The Violet Hour (Wicker Park), Drawing Room (annoying clubby neighborhood/Gold Coast), Barrelhouse Flat, The Whistler, Scofflaw. There's probably more I'm forgetting.

2nd Publican and would also add on their new retail/deli space, Publican Quality Meats. Publican is also known for their brunches on weekends. Make reservations if you can. Great raw bar, beer selection, house-made charcuterie, usage of local produce.

For something similar to Publican, but near Magnificent Mile, we almost always stop into the Purple Pig. Wine, cheese, and swine. They do great pork dishes. Bone marrow. Don't ignore their fantastic antipasti, either. I like sitting at the counter and watching the chef's work. We usually go for a late lunch; I hear dinner is packed consistently. No reservations.

Big Star is good but I found the whiskey better at Big Star, and the tacos better at Antique Taco, just a short walk away. It's a more casual, counter-style restaurant where you order at the register, but at Big Star, my server has gone missing in action too many times to count. Big Star works best as a place to wait for a seat at Violet Hour. Or post-Violet Hour, where you stumble up to the takeout window, and scarf something down.

Publican, Big Star, Avec, and Blackbird all share the same chef owner: Paul Kahan, BTW.

I would also second a Rick Bayless restaurant. Try to get into Topolobampo for weekday lunch, it is easier than trying for Frontera at dinner. Topolo takes OpenTable reservations. Frontera books for some tables 8-10 weeks out only via phone, and leaves the rest of the tables for walk-ins. If you try the bar, though, you can order from both the Topolo or Frontera menus. The two are connected in the same complex to Xoco.

Xoco is also good but more of a quick service restaurant / fast food style. High quality, delicious, pretty popular. Lines get long for lunch. I do like it for breakfast, too.

All of them (Topolobampo, Xoco, and Frontera Grill) are closed Sundays and Mondays, BTW.

Another Mexican option: Cemitas Pueblas.

Logan Square is also home to some cool foodie venues. I've had great meals at Longman & Eagle (gastropub-ish, great whiskey selection) and Yusho (Japanese small plates and yakitori done by a Trotter's vet.) I haven't tried Lula Cafe yet, which is more American/local/market-driven and also known for their weekend brunch. They serve breakfast every day but the more creative dishes are only on weekends.

If you like creative Asian food paired with great cocktails, Yusho is a must. I call it the Momofuku of Chicago. Or what Dave Chang might have created, if he'd become obsessed with yakitori.

Big Jones is also good for lunch and dinner. Try their boarding house lunch special w/ their famous fried chicken. They also have a good bourbon selection, as well as excellent house-made pickles and charcuterie.

For coffee, of course, you'll probably want to try one of the Intelligentsia branches. We also like Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park and Coffee Studio in Andersonville. I've been hearing good things about Caffe Streets in Wicker Park, too.

For breakfast/brunch, try Jam (chef driven in Logan Square, daily), Do-Rite Donuts (fresh doughnuts by ex-L2O chefs in the Loop, Mon-Sat I think), Southport Grocery (not too far from Wrigley actually, daily), Longman & Eagle (Logan Square, daily), Big Jones (Andersonville, weekend brunch only), m. henry or m.henrietta (daily but the more interesting stuff is on the weekends), 2 Sparrows (daily, see the special homemade pop tart section of the menu).

I'd avoid the Bongo Room (unless you like undercooked pancakes smothered in very sweet sauces and 1+ hour waits).

Oh, and some places will look really far from the CTA, but don't neglect the Chicago bus system.
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#11 kathryn

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 09:27 PM

NB: Hot Doug's is taking a few days off in August.

MONDAY, AUGUST 6 THROUGH TUESDAY, AUGUST 14
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#12 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 05:49 AM

May I recommend a trip to Bobak's Sausage Company? http://www.bobak.com/ Fantastic Polish sausages, they have a huge store with everything deliciously Polish you can imagine. Next to the store is an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant featuring, what else, Bobak's sausages, along with acres of freshly made Polish dishes, not to mention mashed potatoes. Very inexpensive and completely filling. We were there one August, as well, and it was a hot humid Chicago summer day, but the food was so delicious we stuffed ourselves. Our tablemates were working folks and lots of cops. A unique experience and worth a side trip -- it's out near Midway airport.

#13 Charcuterer

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 06:04 AM

I am afraid I'm about to start a war but if you are looking for a great lunch go to Al's beef. Wet, hot, no cheese. Italian beef is a religion so I know there are those that would steer you a different direction but Al's is my favorite. Mr' beef is also very good but one must have a favorite mustn't one?

#14 Brown Hornet

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 06:48 AM

Kind of along the same lines as Charcuterer, I would recommend that you try to sample at least one of Chicago's famous low end staples -- namely a Chicago style italian beef sandwhich, a deep dish pizza, or hot dog. Your Chicago friends will rightfully roll their eyes given how amazing and varied Chicago's food scene is, but I can't tell you how much I miss grabbing a great italian beef sandwhich for lunch.

#15 ScottyBoy

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 11:07 AM

Yes. Totally filling my days with Chicago everyday faire. Going for 5 meals a day like I did 4 days in New York last year.

Need the best example of a Chicago Dog though.
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#16 KennethT

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 11:39 AM

Going for 5 meals a day like I did 4 days in New York last year.

Like your style!

#17 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 11:49 AM

Need the best example of a Chicago Dog though.

I'd suggest Gene & Jude's in River Grove or Redhot Ranch for the epitomatic Chicago dog experience. Hot Doug's and Franks N Dawgs are both worthy destinations but they're more variations than typical examples.

Also, on the chef-driven side, I highly recommend Nightwood. It's a great spot -- run by chef Jason Vincent -- that just doesn't get its proper due.

Not to take anything away from the discussion and great information on this thread, but for a dense concentration of current information on the Chicago-area food, beverage and dining scene, check out LTHForum.com (full disclosure: I'm one of the site's owners). Since the site is about nothing but Chicago food, it's an extremely rich source of information.

=R=

Gene & Jude's
2720 River Rd
River Grove, IL 60171
(708) 452-7634

Redhot Ranch
2072 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 772-6020

Hot Doug's
3324 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 279-9550

Franks N Dawgs
1863 N Clybourn Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 281-5187

Nightwood
2119 South Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 526-3385
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#18 KaffeeKlatsch

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 01:35 PM

I brought a group of 20 students to Boka last May during the NRA Food Show. The service and food were fantastic. They went out of their way to make this an enjoyable experience for my high school group of budding chefs who had never eaten in a non-chain restaurant. Boka is a sister restaurant to The Girl and the Goat. TGTG was too small to accommodate our group and recommended we try there instead. It's in Lincoln Park on North Halsted.

#19 ScottyBoy

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Posted 12 August 2012 - 02:56 PM

What a trip so far. I got into The Aviary on Friday night. At the end of the meal I was invited into "The Office" for more awesome drinks. Then Grant came out and we shot the shit for a little bit. He asked for my info and I got a call from Alinea to dine tonight!

Full report and pictures of the whole trip when I get home.
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#20 KennethT

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Posted 12 August 2012 - 09:10 PM

Wow!!! How did that happen!?!

#21 ScottyBoy

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 12:19 AM

After the cocktail tasting at The Aviary they invite a few people downstairs to keep the experience going. Grant walked past and I just said what's up. I guess the server upstairs told him that I cook so he took the time to sit down and talk for a bit. He also gave me a tour of the Next/Aviary kitchen. Then when I mentioned that it was too bad that Alinea tickets for August sold out in 17 minutes he said he would see what he could do. Got the phone call today and just got back from an amazing meal, details to come. Two servers also mentioned I was most likely the last solo diner that they would would ever have because of the new ticket system. I'm spoiled!
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#22 Charcuterer

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 06:14 AM

Wow! spoiled and lucky! That is so cool, what's on the menu schedule for today?

#23 kathryn

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 11:03 AM

So glad that worked out for you! Especially since Alinea is on vacation starting today until the 22nd.
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#24 ScottyBoy

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 11:42 AM

Today is pizza day before I get on my plane. Met a new friend here and he's gonna take me around to 2 different spots, one with normal crust and one with butter crust I guess.
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#25 Todd in Chicago

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 08:54 PM

Today is pizza day before I get on my plane. Met a new friend here and he's gonna take me around to 2 different spots, one with normal crust and one with butter crust I guess.


ScottyBoy! I hope you enjoyed our fair city!

Lot's of really fun places to see, eat, and drink. From high brow places like Alinea and L20 to dives like the Twisted Spoke (always close to my heart!).

Hope you had fun!

Cheers...

Todd in Chicago

#26 ScottyBoy

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 03:11 PM

Alright, Aviary...

So I had to email early in the day then they pick people to call for that same night, I mentioned I was a visiting chef since it never hurts. I was at a baseball game drinking beers trying to figure out where to go after and I got the call to come in. They sat me over in the corner (wearing all my baseball gear) and the madness began. I was alone but quickly sparked up conversations with the tables around me, especially considering that amount of crazy stuff they were bringing out to me.

A Singapore Sling slushy when you're seated.

Posted Image

Sparkling wine, anise, blackberry and chips - Polenta, pickled lotus root, Chicharrón, squid ink, curry and butter popcorn.

Posted Image

Thailand - Ginger snow, herbs and chilis, vodka, stirred with a stick of lemongrass. Corn and avocado snacks

Posted Image

Ginger Beer

Posted Image

On the left. Came in a big air balloon, they snipped it and out poured smoked that smelled of all the elements in Bourbon but the drink was missing those elements so it all came together. On the right, the glass came unpside down on a burned plank of wood, trapping all the smoke inside. Once you flipped and smelled the drink was poured in. Fried potato custard bites.

Posted Image

Distiller - Like brewing really good coffee but with booze and herbs, spices and ginger.

Posted Image

Wagyu beef on the left, foie gras and pumpernickel on the right. The hot tea distillation is top right.

Posted Image

Infusion - Herbs, citrus and spices that get better and darker as you let the warm liquor infuse.

Posted Image

Lollipops and drinks - Can't remember them all...but the drink were mango/vodka horchata on the left and a hot chocolate/cold vanilla ice cream on the right. Best lolly I remember was the frozen chocolate banana.

Posted Image

The server asked "would you like to go downstairs? We have a seat for you."
Why yes, yes I would.

Posted Image

Posted Image

Chartreuse - All the flavors of it but in a clear cocktail.

Posted Image

Peach fizz - With chili oil and lime

Posted Image

It was about this time when Grant himself walked over. I didn't figure he would be there. He said "Hello Chef" (did my cheeks just turn red?)
He ordered me an old fashion with a hand carved ice ball and said he would be back in a bit.

Posted Image

He comes back out with a vanilla sundae, not just a bowl of ice cream but a dish with all these toppings.

Posted Image

I left a little....tipsy
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#27 Pierogi

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 09:09 PM

Oh Scotty.....that looks.......beyond description ! But thanks for the captions, so the rest of us can vicariously experience it. What an experience. Wow.
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#28 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 09:22 PM

ScottyBoy,
What an amazing experience, thanks for sharing it with us.
But I need to ask, are you super human? ;-) I counted about 10 alcoholic beverages... How is that even possible (unless these are really tiny drinks)?

Edited by FrogPrincesse, 14 August 2012 - 09:24 PM.


#29 Todd in Chicago

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 09:28 PM

Alright, Aviary...

So I had to email early in the day then they pick people to call for that same night, I mentioned I was a visiting chef since it never hurts. I was at a baseball game drinking beers trying to figure out where to go after and I got the call to come in. They sat me over in the corner (wearing all my baseball gear) and the madness began. I was alone but quickly sparked up conversations with the tables around me, especially considering that amount of crazy stuff they were bringing out to me.

A Singapore Sling slushy when you're seated.

Posted Image

Sparkling wine, anise, blackberry and chips - Polenta, pickled lotus root, Chicharrón, squid ink, curry and butter popcorn.

Posted Image

Thailand - Ginger snow, herbs and chilis, vodka, stirred with a stick of lemongrass. Corn and avocado snacks

Posted Image

Ginger Beer

Posted Image

On the left. Came in a big air balloon, they snipped it and out poured smoked that smelled of all the elements in Bourbon but the drink was missing those elements so it all came together. On the right, the glass came unpside down on a burned plank of wood, trapping all the smoke inside. Once you flipped and smelled the drink was poured in. Fried potato custard bites.

Posted Image

Distiller - Like brewing really good coffee but with booze and herbs, spices and ginger.

Posted Image

Wagyu beef on the left, foie gras and pumpernickel on the right. The hot tea distillation is top right.

Posted Image

Infusion - Herbs, citrus and spices that get better and darker as you let the warm liquor infuse.

Posted Image

Lollipops and drinks - Can't remember them all...but the drink were mango/vodka horchata on the left and a hot chocolate/cold vanilla ice cream on the right. Best lolly I remember was the frozen chocolate banana.

Posted Image

The server asked "would you like to go downstairs? We have a seat for you."
Why yes, yes I would.

Posted Image

Posted Image

Chartreuse - All the flavors of it but in a clear cocktail.

Posted Image

Peach fizz - With chili oil and lime

Posted Image

It was about this time when Grant himself walked over. I didn't figure he would be there. He said "Hello Chef" (did my cheeks just turn red?)
He ordered me an old fashion with a hand carved ice ball and said he would be back in a bit.

Posted Image

He comes back out with a vanilla sundae, not just a bowl of ice cream but a dish with all these toppings.

Posted Image

I left a little....tipsy


Holy Crapoly!

No kidding.....the amount of drinks...and to be quite honest...food...after being upstairs...is staggering!

Kudos to you for scoring the invite....and even more so for sharing with us!

Todd in Chicago

#30 ScottyBoy

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:27 PM

ScottyBoy,
What an amazing experience, thanks for sharing it with us.
But I need to ask, are you super human? ;-) I counted about 10 alcoholic beverages... How is that even possible (unless these are really tiny drinks)?


Yes there were 13 cocktails but the second infusion container had 4 pours. Nothing to be proud of I think but I can hold my own with the best of them.

Just happy I wasn't a mess when I met one of my idols :wacko:

Edit: The vanilla ice cream for the sundae was also spiked...

Edited by ScottyBoy, 14 August 2012 - 10:29 PM.

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