Showing posts with label chicago. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chicago. Show all posts

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Tour of The Rookery Building (Chicago, IL)

There are a few architectural gems in the city of Chicago, and one of the most important ones is The Rookery Building. The building is in Chicago's downtown financial district, easily visited when you are in Chicago.

The Rookery

The Rookery actually has quite a history and is influenced by multiple architects and designers throughout the decades. The building was originally designed by Daniel Burnham and John Root. Before The Rookery was built, this location housed a water tank, and then the City Hall and Chicago's first public library. There are a number of theories about where the name The Rookery came from. Some say the name is because of the corrupt politicians at the city hall that occupied the space, some say it's because of the birds that used to hang around when it was a water tank.
The Rookery

The building was redesigned in 1905 by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Rookery's main focus and also Frank Lloyd Wright's major contribution is The Light Court on the first floor. The original design filled the building with iron and terracotta. Wright encased the iron columns in gilded marble.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Fried Chicken and Donuts at Do-Rite (Chicago, IL)

Angelenos already know the name Jeff Mahin from the great burrata and pizza at Stella Barra (and DC and Maryland folks are familiar with his Summer House Santa Monica), but few have been lucky enough to try his donuts. Jeff Mahin's Do-Rite Donuts are currently only in Chicago, unfortunately for those of us who don't live there.

My favorite donut there so far: Cinnamon crunch raised donut. This donut has layers of cinnamon streusel hiding within!

The raised dough itself had a great texture that I really liked, but the key for me, a cinnamon lover, is obviously all the cinnamon streusel I keep discovering with each bite.

The Erie St location of Do-Rite also serves various fried chicken sandwiches. I had a hard time choosing what do order (Chef Mahin's favorite is the spicy fried chicken), but I finally decided on The CBR (fried chicken with bacon and cheddar on brioche)
Do-Rite Donuts
A nice, filling sandwich for only $5.99. The chicken was tender and the breading was really crispy. Even with the fried chicken and crisped bacon, the sandwich wasn't greasy and nicely held together by the buttery brioche bun. Oh, they also have fried chicken sandwiches using glazed donuts as buns, if you are so inclined!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Brunch at Avec (Chicago, IL)

Chicago has many great restaurants worth revisiting, and since I'm heading back to the Windy City soon, I'm looking back at the meals I had last year. I've been to Avec for a solo dinner before, but since I couldn't try much, I returned for brunch.

Of course, we had to get one of Avec's most famous items, the Chorizo-stuffed medjool dates, bacon, piquillo pepper-tomato sauce ($12)

There are bacon-wrapped dates and there are Avec's bacon wrapped dates that are on another level. Don't those plump dates, stuffed to the brim with chorizo, look so delicious? The tomato sauce has a nice kick to it also.

Moroccan "berghir" pancake with fried chicken wings, honey butter, red harissa ($12)
Really crispy chicken wings, this dish was another hit for me.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Negroni Slushies and Amish Chicken at Parson's Chicken and Fish (Chicago, IL)

I almost missed my flight out of Chicago. I almost missed it because I was busy eating fried chicken and drinking slushies at Parson's. Parson's Chicken and Fish was opened by the team at Longman and Eagle, which you may remember was one of my favorites from previous visits. I'd been hearing about their negroni slushies and decided to stop by on my way to the airport. The place is a fun, colorful, diner.
They actually had negroni and dark & stormy slushies, so we got both! They're not just frozen blended to order but actually comes from two slushie machines which you can see sitting on the bar. The two drinks cater to different palates, with the sweeter and zingy Dark and Stormy versus the slightly more bitter Campari taste from the Negroni. Since it's the Longman and Eagle team who opened this restaurant, Conbon asked for her favorite Old Fashioned from L&E and they were able to make it.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Trio Menu at Next Restaurant (Chicago)

I've been visiting one Grant Achatz restaurant/bar per visit to Chicago, starting with Alinea, then The Aviary, The Office, and now, finally, Next. As you may know, the menu at Next changes every few months, and we're not just talking seasonal changes but complete, absolute shift to distinct themes. There had been Modern Chinese, Bocuse d'Or, Chicago Steak, and other themes. This time, since it is the 10th anniversary of Alinea, the theme is Trio. This is the restaurant in Evanston that Grant Achatz was working at when he met and subsequently partnered with Nick Kokonas to open Alinea. The menu thus evokes techniques and dishes that he served 10 years ago at Trio.

Our meal started with Osetra,caviar avocado, sugar, lime
This goes back to when they started playing with "neutral flavors" with the hardened sugar chip that adds texture to the dish.

Rock shrimp, cranberry, Meyer lemon, vanilla bean
A simple fried shrimp skewered with a stick of vanilla bean to enhance the aromatic experience.

When we were first seated, we were given a glass of rose. Now, they bring a bottle of housemade bitters that we can add to the rose based on our own taste preferences.

Crab, coconut, ten bridging garnishes

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Falling In Love with Longman & Eagle (Chicago, IL)

It was our third meal of the night, but a Michelin-starred gastropub wasn't something we wanted to pass up. In the end, we're so glad we went, because we fell in love with Longman and Eagle.


The cocktails here are excellent and they're only $8 each. I love Chicago! We drank quite a bit that night. There were $2 special Evan Williams shots around the table and conbon found her ultimate Old Fashioned.
That's my excuse for not really remembering what cocktails I had, but I am guessing this was the La Perla with tequila, Cocchi Americano, grapefruit, and habanero shrub.

We decided to just share a few plates since we were already full, and started healthy with the roasted cauliflower with beluga lentil and yogurt curry sauce

Steak and edamame with lobster tater tots. Lobster tater tots!

The desserts sound particularly enticing here. The first was a lightly savory dessert: warm gruyere donuts, fig jam, hazelnut mascarpone, wild flower honey ($9)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Foodbuzz 24x24: Grant Achatz' Exclusive Speakeasy, The Office

The Office is the invitation-only 14-seat speakeasy behind a locked door underneath The Aviary. For this last Chicago trip, my friends suggested that I just try to ask for a reservation for The Office. I did, hoping that the fact that they link to my review of The Aviary's Kitchen Table might hold some sway. I guess it must have since they replied back with a reservation at 6pm on a Saturday!!!

At 6pm there was already a line for The Aviary. We went to the doorman and told him we had a reservation at The Office. Soon, they led us inside, down the stairs to an unmarked door in the basement. Just like a speakeasy should be, it's a quiet, small room with leather chairs and sofas. There was one bartender for about 14-15 customers when the room is full.

The Office

I've read about the cocktails and the food at The Office, but their leather bound menu actually also features an extensive collection of whisky, wine, and beers.
The Office
Our friendly waitress suggested that we start with something "light and effervescent" like a sparkling wine or beer. Since we actually have never had quite a few beers on their list, we took up her suggestion. The service is quite personal here and she went through what we might want with each of us, also asking us what we do and where we're from. You certainly won't get this level of service upstairs at The Aviary.

The Aviary had tweeted about Mikkeller beers being the best in the world, so I wanted to try one. I went with one of their lightest, the Mikkeller American Dream Pils, Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium ($12). One of the others ordered the Evil Twin Brewing Williamsberg Hipster.
I mentioned that both of those beers had very similar aroma and the waitress told us that the Mikkeller and Evil Twin brewers are actually brothers (we liked the good twin better).

We also tried the Allagash Odyssey; Allagash never disappoints - and we enjoyed embarking on this oak cask-aged beer journey.

Unlike The Aviary, the cocktails at The Office tends towards the more classical. Each cocktail features one type of spirit, which is what you would tell your waitress when you order. Yes, the cocktails are $20 each but with the quality, ambiance, and personal service we'll take it (ok, maybe not every weekend).

The first one we tried was the Cognac, tonka, quassia, smoked black pepper, vanilla bean (note the ice, hand carved into a sphere).

The food menu is succinct. Foie gras terrine. Beef tartar. But this is Achatz after all. Despite the price we had to try the Foie gras terrine w black truffle and chive ($65)
Foie Gras Terrine
served with kumquat preserves, brioches toast, frisee

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Aviary Kitchen Table Experience (Chicago)

Ten cocktails, paired small bites, and over 2 hours of watching The Aviary bartenders and chefs in action inside the kitchen - or as they call it, the cage. That's the Kitchen Table experience at Grant Achatz's new bar, The Aviary.

Since I wasn't able to snag a reservation at Next Restaurant on my last Chicago visit, I opted for the Aviary's $165 10-course cocktail tasting at the Kitchen Table. While the main lounge area featured plush booths and dim lighting, the kitchen table (inside what's dubbed "the cage") is a tall metal table and two stools facing the minimalist kitchen and "bar" (with perfect lighting for photographs, I may add).
Inside "The Cage"
Even though this was a cocktail tasting, they still wanted to start off with a sparkling wine, so Course #1 was an Alsace sparkling wine with strawberry puree, which was paired with Compressed watermelon with soju, topped with sesame seed.
Compressed Watermelon
I had begged my companion to come here with me even though he can't drink much alcohol. I'll drink his share, I said. But when they saw he wasn't finishing his first cocktail, he told them he doesn't really drink, and Aviary decided to do a non-alcoholic version of the tasting for him. In some cases, that just meant water instead of liquor. In others, it was an entirely different drink (that still pairs with the bite).

Course #2: Rhubarb cocktail with Peychaud ice
Rhubarb Cocktail, Peychaud Ice
Instead of adding a dash of bitters, those ice spheres you see contain Peychaud bitters which release flavors as the ice melts instead of diluting.
This was paired with Cantaloupe compressed in champagne and topped with prosciutto, an elevated version of the typical prosciutto and melon.
Compressed Cantaloupe

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Deep Dishing at Giordano's (Chicago)

There can be no trip to Chicago without a deep dish pizza, even with Alinea and other great meals on the planner. Granted I put off the deep dish until the very last day, but for lunch before flying out I walked to a spot that is supposed to be classic deep dish pizza: Giordano's.

Decor? Kitschy Italian.

For lunch they have an individual sized pizza so we decided to share two different stuffings.
I have only had deep dish pizza at Little Star in San Francisco before and Giordano's is definitely "deeper". I've never had pizza so thick but this is certainly more fit to be called a pizza "pie" than any other.

The spinach pizza:
As you can see, it's not a topping, it's a stuffing, enclosed in more crust, then topped with tomato sauce. Good thing the buttery, slightly flaky crust is more like a pie crust.

I personally preferred the sausage pizza. I'm a meat eater down to the core.
There are so many ways to play this deep dish pizza, depending on your taste preference. More crust? More sauce? More cheese? More sausage? Depending on what camp you're in, you probably have your own favorite pizza spot. I, on the other hand, still have a lot more exploring to do. Next time ...

You can take a whole pie home with you, frozen. Wrap it up well in a plastic bag and stuff it in your suitcase. They'll never know.

Giordano's Pizza
730 N Rush St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 951-0747
Giordano's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill, Chicago

Serendipity would have it that the Amalfi hotel where I stayed at in Chicago was two blocks away from Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill and XOCO.

I decided to walk to Frontera Grill as soon as I checked into the hotel. The restaurant was packed, including the bar, but a bar seat for one is apparently pretty easy to come by. One advantage to dining solo (the disadvantage would be having a guy hitting on you while he's hiccuping, but that's another story ...).
I'm not sure what the theme was supposed to be, but the decor was rather ... unique, with some awesome-but-a-bit-creepy sculptures hanging by the ceiling, like this one:

The cocktail list at Frontera was pretty interesting. I started with Cerveza y Tamarindo ($10), since I don't come across 1) beer cocktails and 2)tamarind cocktails that often in the states.
This was made with fresh tamarind, Cazadores blanco tequila, and Ayinger "Ur-Weisse" heffe weizen. The tamarind lends the drink both body and tartness. Quite an interesting drink.

I wasn't used to eating alone at a new place and had a hard time deciding what I wanted to order. I narrowed it down to a few things and with the help of the bartender finally ordered the weekly special of the day:
Barbacoa de Borrego (red chile-marinated Crawford lamb slow-roasted in banana leaves, $23) - available on Thursdays.
Served with some warm corn tortillas, of course.
It was indeed a very good barbacoa, with the right flavor components. Despite having been marinated in red chile, it wasn't particularly spicy. I I found the tortillas a bit thicker than I would've preferred it, but the barbacoa itself was tender and very flavorful. t's just that the last time I had barbacoa I spent $8 instead of $23.

The people sitting next to me were gushing about the Topolo Margarita ($9), so oh, well, why not ...
Made with Sauza Commemorativo tequila, Gran Torres orange liqueur and housemade limonada, shaken at the table. A very good margarita, indeed.

"Sopa de frutas" (velvety tropical mamey-orange ice in guava, orange, and passionfruit afloat in passion fruit "broth", $7.50) sounded pretty light and I didn't want to leave and just review one dish, so I ordered it.
It didn't end up being as light as I expected, as passionfruit broth was actually a pretty thick puree.

It's undeniable that I had quite a good meal at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill. It had a fun vibe and a solid cocktail program, which may justify spending an extra $20 on Mexican food than I normally spend. Maybe. At least on my very first trip to Chicago, I didn't mind doing so.

Frontera Grill
449 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 661-0381
Frontera Grill on Urbanspoon

Chicago Restaurant Reviews

The Aviary
Do-Rite Donuts
Frontera Grill
Giordano's Pizza
Longman and Eagle
Next Restaurant (Trio menu)
The Office (Grant Achatz')
Parson's Chicken and Fish (Logan Square)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


No play-by-play "my take" of the dishes for you, just those that stood out for me. No need for me to play the food critic, who am I anyway?
Alinea's is a meal worth experiencing, and I'm just going to share my experience.

A nondescript door. If it wasn't for the valet parking sign, you wouldn't notice the place. Down the hallway a sliding metal door to your left.

We were led to the second floor and these "flags" of flower-pressed rice paper were placed on our table.
"Don't eat it yet. Just sit and admire them for now."

English Pea (iberico, sherry, honeydew)

Shad Roe (shallot, mustard, bay aroma)
Bayleaf stemmed out of the fried shad roe, but it's only for the aroma. Eat everything else in one bite.

A pair of two shrimp courses:
Yuba (shrimp, miso togarashi) - the shrimp is wrapped around the dried yuba.

Chao Tom (sugar cane, shrimp, mint) - "Chew but don't swallow."

An extra napkin was provided for you to spit out the chewed sugar cane gracefully. Or try to.

Distillation of Thai Flavors
I saw the video about this "flavored water" and totally thought it was an April Fool's joke. No joke. This glass of water was absolutely spiced with thai spices.

This shot of 'water' is just a primer for the next course.

Pork Belly (curry, cucumber, lime) - a DIY spring roll.
This was paired with: Abbazia di Novacella Kerner, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige 2008.

"Pick up the glass and place it in front of you"
Salt, fried shallots, bananas, basil seeds, cashews, onions, chili paste, etc.
Then we had to arrange the metal contraption and they placed the flower-decked rice paper we've been admiring all this time.
Topped it with deliciously creamy and fatty looking pork belly.
Add all the condiments in (yes, ALL), and wrap.

Lobster (parfait, salad, soup)
Paired with: K Vintners Viognier, Columbia Valley, Washington 2008.
The Parfait (chilled lobster consomme, greek yogurt, grapefruit cells, ginger pate de fruit, poppy seeds and pistachio-butter powder, topped with quenelle pistachio ice cream and poppy seed nage).
"Don't touch the bottom part, it'll burn your hands."
Confused (because the parfait is chilled), we asked, what could possibly make it so hot.
"Oh, I can't tell you something like that."

Upon finishing our parfait, the servers lifted the top, revealing, voila! the Salad (Eggplant confit and Poached Lobster).
Sneaky, sneaky.
The server poured lobster bisque over the salad and it traveled down the slits on the bowl. "For aroma," he said.
Again the bowl at the top is removed, this time revealing various spices soaking in the poured lobster bisque.
Lobster bisque meets Masala chai? Yes, please.


Duck (morels, asparagus, chamomile)
Paired with: Casar de Burbia, Bierzo, Spain 2006.

Barhi Date (maple sap, lemon, cognac)

Bacon (butterscotch, apple, thyme)

Kumquat (rye, peychaud's, demerara)

Foie Gras (pear, white wine, allspice)
Paired with: Reinhold Haart 'Piesporter Goldtropfchen' Riesling Auslese, Mosel 2002.
A three-layered dish. The pink/orange crumbles you see on top are the foie gras.
A nice pairing with the late harvest Riesling that cuts the richness and sweetness.

Green Almond (yuzu, wasabi, basil flower)
Sushi rice gelee topped with the above.

Sturgeon (potato, leek, smoke)
Paired with Avanthia Godello, Valdeorras, Spain 2008
Smoked sturgeon topped with leeks and potato-sauce-sheet.
This dish was created by sous chef Andrew Graves and apparently the first dish in Alinea history to be introduced on the menu before Chef Achatz being on hand to see the final prototype.

Hot Potato (cold potato, black truffle, butter)

At this point my wine glass was switched out to this gorgeously decorated antique wine glass. This was filled with the wine for the next pairing: Albert Morot Beaune-Toussaint 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune 2006.
The sommelier explained Burgundy has been making "ready-to-drink" wines to compete with new world producers. Though I didn't really think it was "ready to drink" (drink-able, but much too tannic), I'm hopeful for the pairing.

Our next silverware was also noticeably antique.

Filet de Boeuf (godard) - wagyu tenderloin, black truffles, mushroom cap, sweetbreads, cockscomb (yes, cockscomb - see it? right hand side), quenelle of beef mousse.
Alinea has been introducing an "antique" dish, "interrupting" their typical meal with an iteration of a classic recipe from Auguste Escoffier's 1903 cookbook, Le Guide Culinaire.
The pairing ended up working pretty well too as the astringency of the wine and the richness of the dish balance each other out.

Black Truffle (explosion, black truffle, butter)
A ravioli filled with black truffle "tea", topped with a slice of black truffle and butter.
Lots of truffle essence here. Love it.

Squab (charred strawberries, lettuce, birch log)
Paired with: Anima Negra "An", Mallorca, Spain 2005.
Probably the most memorable dish, the heated birch log was emitting this wonderful aroma. We stopped and smelled for a few seconds before proceeding with our food.

Lemon Soda
Since I had to take this in one shot and can't place it on the table, taking a photo was impractical. No photo for you, lemon soda for me :p

Bubble Gum (long pepper, hibiscus, creme fraiche)
"Hold it level, and take it in one go from the red end."

Transparency of raspberry, yogurt

Earl Grey (lemon, pine nut, caramelized white chocolate) - served on a pillow containing earl grey aroma (!)

Chocolate (coconut, menthol, hyssop)
At this point our table is cleared and a silicone cover is placed over it.
The ingredients for our final dessert is placed on the side.
I had seen the chef de cuisine came out and prepared this dessert for another table that night, so it wasn't a total surprise. Still, I was hopeful ... and lucky me, Chef Grant Achatz himself came out to our table and prepared our table-top dessert.

Coconut milk, chewy coconut, menthol cream, frozen coconut mousse, warm coconut mousse.
(by the way, I was also curious why the menthol cream turned into squares on the silicone. Anyone knows? Chemists?)

The clear cylinders were then removed revealing the now-solidified warm chocolate mousse.
And voila. We attacked it and turned it into a Pollock.

So there you have it, the Alinea Tour for $225 per person (and $80 for my "mini" wine pairing that was not so mini after all), a truly unique dining experience.

1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-0110
Alinea on Urbanspoon

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