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Everything posted by smorris291

  1. I managed to make it over to The Publican with a couple of friends yesterday. I hadn't seen the info on LTHForum regarding the kitchen being fully open at 5:30, so when we showed up at 4:30, we were a little disappointed to know we'd have to wait for an hour to experience the full menu. We consoled ourselves by starting with oysters and ham, and a couple of beers suggested by our server (that were excellent). The ham was wonderful...I actually preferred Benton's ham the most...it was the closest I have come to having lardo in the U.S. with it's rich, creamy veins of fat. Having all three hams at once was interesting because you could really appreciate the differences. I liked the other two hams as well, with the Iberico nosing out La Quercia (the nutty flavor was really striking). 5:30 finally rolled around and we ordered several more items: -Frites: Served in a paper-lined pint glass, these were not as thin as I'd expected, but the flavor was even better. Very crunchy on the outside, not very greasy and with flecks of sea salt...wow. -Mussels: The best mussels I've had in Chicago, period. My francophile (and hard to please friend) agreed, and after the mussels were consumed we were furiously eating spoonfuls of the remaining broth as fast as we could. (During this time, Paul Kahan sptopped by to see how we were doing and introduce himself--he was very nice). -Rillettes: Wonderful, rich and salty, served with an excellent grilled bread. -Potee: Unfortunately it didn't have the oxtail from previous nights, but with port belly, shank and tenderloin was quite good, the pickled veggies giving a great tart contrast to the rich flavors of the meat. -Cavalo nero: We balanced out our meat-heavy meal with this veggie side dish. Ha! Laced with generous chunks of pancetta, this was no light dish. But it was extremely flavorful and one I'd definitely have again. -Country ribs: We were starting to fade a bit by the time the ribs showed up. They were cooked just under medium and the texture was great...there was wonderul tartness and acidity provided by some small heirloom tomatoes and a couple of hunks of watermelon as well. Despite our fullness, we wrapped up with one of three desserts, the cocoa nib panna cotta with pickled plums and ginger snap cookie. The panna cotta was good, but the cookie was the star for me. All in all, great food, although you should refrain from a cholesteral test for several days. The room that seemed a bit stark upon entry (probably because there were so few people there initially) warmed up as it became darker and more crowded. Although it's not a cheap place, I'll definitely be back to try some other items on the menu, as with our focus on pork we unfortunately missed most of the seafood as well as the sweet breads and steak tartare...
  2. From the Crain's article Lenski linked, this sounds more like a fairly big shift in style than just seasonal changes to the menu...taking this more in the direction of fine dining rather than the "bistronomic" idea GEB started out with. UE, since you're pretty tied in here, any insight?
  3. There was a fairly glowing review of Avenues in the latest Chicago Magazine...maybe that will stir up some more crowds.
  4. I'd second the recommendation for Blackbird. The bar is small (similar to Babbo), but that's not a bad thing. Like Babbo, the bartenders are excellent with regards to menu suggestions, too.
  5. smorris291

    NWR: What wine?

    Not much of a wine story, sure, but a great one, especially to someone like me who's just 2 months into my daughter's life...
  6. Can't wait to go. Probably my favorite meal of all of any I've had at a Chicago fine dining establishment was at Avenues in May 07. Bowles is great, and I'm happy to see Michael Muser will be with him on the wine end...he's hilarious and will put together an interesting list (I took a class he taught last year). I know Chef GEB has talked about keeping the prices on the affordable end so that it's not a "special occasion" place...any idea what that means for average entree prices?
  7. I second the recommendation of The Gage for a lunch spot near the Art Institute...I've been there a few times. It's a cool setting, with anything from sandwiches to more ambitious fare (last week I had the lamb stew). It does get pretty busy in there after 12:15-12:30, though.
  8. My vote goes to Avenues...had one of my best meals ever there in May. They knew we were there for a wedding anniversary and really treated us well...
  9. On the question about other gastropubs, I strongly recommend that everyone try The Gage. Since it's located at 24 S. Michigan you might have to face some crowds near Millenium Park to get there, but it's well worth it...beautiful interior design, good beer list, great (and reasonably priced) wines by the 8 oz. carafe, and good food (although I have not tried too much on the menu). If this place were closer to my home in River North, I would be there ALL the time.
  10. You can definitely order a la carte these days. Not sure about the veggie options, but I'd be stunned if none were available.
  11. smorris291

    Castello Banfi

    I'll second Craig's comments about Banfi as a place to visit...it's lovely, but you feel much more like you're in Napa (large tasting room, retail sales) than Tuscany. We did have a wonderful (albeit pricey) lunch in the trattoria there as well, where probably 3/4 of the diners were Americans.
  12. We ate at Smoque last week and thought it was excellent. Our first indication of the seriousness and authenticity was upon stepping out of our car, when we were greeted by that great smokehouse flavor eminating from the building (something I've never smelled walking by Carson's). We went on Thursday at 7:30 and had just a brief wait in line and for our food. As there were just two of us, I didn't have the opportunity to try everything that I wanted to...I had the baby backs (great smoky flavor, loved the rub & the opportunity to control my sauce level, but like RS thought they might have been slightly dry) and my wife had the very good pulled pork. I thought sides were very good across the board--excellent fries and IMO the best baked beans I've had in ages. Coleslaw was VERY vinegary, which I liked, my wife not so much. Overall, I think Smoque is by far the best BBQ place in the city...if I worked/lived nearby I would want to eat there multiple times/week.
  13. We went to Aigre Doux for dinner this past Saturday. Overall, I thought it was an enjoyable evening, and the restaurant, despite a few mis-steps, has a lot of promise. Some impressions: -The room is very attractive and warm. I did find the placement of a few tables out near the bakery-to-be area oddly situated. If you were seated out there, it would be like eating in a completely different restaurant. The noise level was on the loud side, but nowhere near as loud as Blackbird, despite a similar layout. -The wine list was not ordered in any discernable way at first...although it became evident that there was some sort of order after looking at it for a few minutes, it was very cluttered and difficult to find a selection. Although I found the selections interesting, the prices were pretty high, and there could have been some more lower-priced options (May St. Market's wine list is MUCH more affordable). -Service was well-meaning, but needs improvement. It took our server 30 minutes just to find the wine we ordered (they did bring us a complimentary glass of wine after 25 minutes), and even longer to get bread--several minutes after the table next to us who had been seated 15 mins. after we arrived. When we did get the bread, however, it was delicious. On a side note, I always get a little nervous when the servers are better dressed (in a "hip" way) than the patrons. It just seems like they're trying a little too hard to be cool. -I thought the food was excellent. My wife's salmon was nowhere close to the "medium" that it was supposed to be (try rare), but besides that, we loved everything we had. The Crispy Risotto appetizer had creamy, almost cheesy risotto inside a crispy exterior. The duck entree was the perfect sweet (maple)/sour (rhubarb) interplay. And although my "chocolate malted" (custard w/ chocolate malt flavor) had no malt flavor, the sticky toffee pudding was AMAZING. Overall, we had a very good meal...once the service catches up with the kitchen (a problem that may be a result of the restaurant becoming this popular so quickly), it will be even better...
  14. I must admit that I don't feel "experienced" enough to write tasting notes, so I don't think you're off-base there. I am doing my best to drink enough wine that at some point I will feel qualified, though... As far as what I'd like to see in other's notes, Jim does a wonderful thin, listing the price he paid for the wine and an assesment of whether he thinks the wine is worth that cost.
  15. If you like dry aged steaks (as I do) instead of the wet aging that is the norm around here, you might want to try David Burke's Primehouse (in The James Hotel). I've been twice in the last 6 mos. and liked my ribeyes more than just about any other place in town (Gibson's can be better, but it can also be worse). I'm not the biggest Gene & Georghetti fan...the food was quite good, but to me there is definite favoritism in the service to "regulars" at the expense of everyone else.
  16. I have been to Spiaggia twice in the last two years. Although I probably had a more interesting "experience" at Alinea, from a pleasure-of-dining perspective, Spiaggia is my favorite restaurant in Chicago. I agree, it's pricey, but no more so than Trotter's, Tru and others in that range. I think the food has been excellent in general (I have the veal chop last time as well, which was wonderful), and portion sizes more than adequate (I was too full for anything more than a bite of my wife's dessert). The service has always been oustanding, up there with Alinea in terms of excellence while not being too formal or stuffy. To be fair, this is not the first time that I have heard criticisms of that type about Spiaggia...most of the time, I feel like those comments have been from people who are reluctant to think of italian in a fine dining sense and have some bias/preference for french food.
  17. Siena/Chianti Oct/Nov '06 La Taverna di San Giuseppe via Giovanni Duprè 132 I - 53100 Siena We also ate at La Taverna di San Giuseppe in Siena. Great, warm atmosphere, with wonderful service. Cool etruscan cave at the back of the restaurant. It was fantastic--so good that we made reservations for dinner two nights later before we left the restaurant (and when we arrived for our second meal, we were welcomed back warmly with a glass of prosecco). The boar braised in milk was fantastic, as was the tagliata (sliced sirloin) with porcinis. And my wife liked the the tiramisu so much that she had it for dessert both nights! Make sure you have reservations on a weekend night. Ristorante al Gallopapa Via delle volte 14/16 - Castellina in Chianti This restaurant is set inside the medieval walls of the small, charming town of Castellina. It has one Michelin star and a refined service level. Flavors were good and combinations were creative, but...well, it just didn't have much of a sense of "place" to it. While I enjoyed my meal, I felt like it was a meal I'd had in Chicago, or New York, or maybe Hong Kong. Not in a bad sense, but it wasn't what I was expecting, I guess.
  18. I'll second Ronnie's opinion that it's nothing more than better than average bar food. There are a couple of good sandwiches (the spicy chicken & black bean wrap is VERY spicy) and I've always liked the liked the fish tacos, but this isn't anything special from a culinary perspective. As an aside, I just looked at the Bar Louie website, and was surpirsed to see that it's in several states now. I had no idea that it was anythig other than a Chicago place.
  19. Speaking for my wife and myself, we believe Chicago is lacking in the area of inventive delis...and as someone who'll be moving to the South Loop (from River North) in the future, I'd love to see something in that area. While not italian, our favorite is Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. I think there are two things that separate Zingerman's from other delis here (and elsewhere): -amazing products from all over the world (like the anchovies mentioned), as well as great breads they bake on site; -a large number of extremely inventive sandwiches using these interesting ingredients.
  20. This is just a guess, but I think the outdoor area seats around 40 people. It's a decent size due to the fairly wide sidewalk area there...
  21. There's quite a bit in this area. Quartino is right around the corner at State & Ontario, as is Osteria Via Stato (I prefer Quartino). And if you're lucky/early, you might get into Frontera Grill on Clark between Hubbard and Illinois.
  22. Elrushbo, that's what I thought, too, but from my trip to Alinea on 5/27, I was caught off guard...my wife and I had a 4 top seated next to us (two couples in their 30s) who clearly had NO idea whatsoever what Alinea was about. They initially peppered the server with questions about the 12 course tasting and seemed very confused by the whole concept. Later, while we were about 2/3 of the way done through our meal and they were just a couple of courses in, one of the guys at the table turned to me and asked if I was getting full...which he followed up by asking me "are one of the courses a big steak or something?". He was only half joking. It seemed to me that one of the people at the table had heard Alinea was this great new restaurant, trendy and expensive, and just had to try it. It was clear that they would've been happier at Gibson's (a steak place, for those of you non-Chicagoans). Despite the fish-out-of-water experience they were having, I believe that they did end up having a good time, due to the excellent staff and the amazing flavors of the food. I overheard a couple of them initially stating that what was placed in front of them looked strange, but that they loved the taste. So, hats off to Alinea for turning what could've been a disaster into an enjoyable evening for them.
  23. I agree, Ronnie...especially when Trotter's and Tru have been doing great, inventive cuisine before this, and in Trotter's case for, what 16 or 17 years? Make no mistake, I'm glad that Chicago and these chefs are getting the positive recognition now, but the assertion that these guys sprang up from nowhere, out of a bland landscape of bad pizza joints and steakhouses is off base... Great timing for the article, though...going to Alinea tomorrow night for the first time...
  24. I was there with two friends on Saturday night, and the place was packed. My friends are true steak lovers, and one of them has been to davidburke & donatella in NYC, so we decided we had to try it. Plus, they dry age their steaks, which we prefer in contrast to the usual wet-aging use see here in Chicago. Anyway... The room is pretty small and not quite as bright as I would've expected, but not so dark that you needed a flashlight to read the menu. Tables were closely spaced, but not like Gibson's (another Chicago area steakhouse), where you feel like you could reach to the next table and eat off someone's plate. On the walls there were signs showing some of the specials/menu items, and they looked, well...scholcky. They weren't blackboards, but instead flat black boards with lettering placed on them. The problem was that the letters weren't lined up, causing them to look like the refridgerator of someone with small children--you know, when they have those magnetic letters spelling something out? Might look cute at home on the fridge, but not here. The wine list was not great. Smallish, especially in the Bordeaux/Cab areas, which seems odd for a steak place. Average bottle prices (as well as markups) are high...there are a few deals, but it requires some effort. Luckily, we liked the food better than the room or wine list. We split the surf & turf dumplings--the surf with a lobster mixture and the turf with oxtail and foie gras (while we still can eat it legally here...) with a bit of a sweet soy reduction below. Fantastic. Of course we all had steaks for entrees--one bone-in filet, one NY strip and I had the special 40 day aged ribeye. My steak was excellent--not much moisture left due to the long aging time, but very tender, with a nice char and great seasoning (from the salt cave?). My friends are quite picky about their steaks and liked them as well, especially the filet. We shared two sides, the hash browns (crispy and salty) and garlic spinach (wilted but fresh). For dessert, we had 2--the donuts (basically freshly made donut holes with three bottles of filling--vanilla, chocolate & grape jelly) and the chocolate cake, both of which were both very good. Service overall was attentive, and good for a place that hasn't been open that long. So, to wrap up, the food was very good, making up for the slightly picky comments about the room and wine list...I'd go back. I do have a question--adamru--are you limited in what you can order ($ amount or items)? If not, good for you, as it's not cheap...
  25. I already sent e-mails to the driving force behind this ban, Alderman Joe Moore, and my Alderman as well...here's the link to Moore's webpage where you can sned him your thoughts, too:Ald. Moore One of my favorite comments about this comes from Moore himself, who stated that the ban sends "a powerful message that we uphold the value of a civilized society." Maybe it's just me, but my belief is that a truly civilized society trusts and respects its citizens enough to make decisions like this for themselves.
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