To Dine For By Maddie: Sola, So Good!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For some time now, Sola (3868 North Lincoln Ave.) has been one of those restaurants that I just cannot seem to cross off of my list. Now that I have finally made it there, it will surely stay on - because it was so delicious! I've mentioned before that I am a big fan of special dinners with special friends and this was no exception - my Mama and I were joined by our oldest friends another mother and daughter pair, Gayle and Phoebe and it was the perfect atmosphere for such an occasion. The stellar service was only enhanced by the fact that our server was happy to point out which items on the menu were better than others, and gave us great tips such as keeping the truffle sauce from an appetizer to dunk our ridiculously scrumptious Parmesan Truffle Fries in.

A tiny amuse bouche of citrus and crab on a wanton was a good indication of the flavors to come. We started out with the Sweet Potato Gnocchi which was flavored with five spice, leeks and truffles. The delicate little dumplings were immersed in both an Oxtail Ragu and an Oxtail broth. Knowing just how hard it is to cultivate and prepare oxtail I greatly appreciate finding it on menus more frequently these days! The Matsutake salad was light and flavorful - the cider truffle vinaigrette was what truly made it special. The appetizer that blew us all away were mouth watering taste bud tantalizing artichoke fritters with, as mentioned before, white truffle sauce.

The typical negotiation over who would order what entree ensued (as it always does when I am present) so as not to order anything twice. The ginger glazed seared Salmon was cooked beautifully but the standout elements to the dish were the Edamame puree (Phoebe's favorite part of the entire meal - and it wasn't even her entree) and the tempura green beans. Scallops sat atop a risotto composed of a fantastic flavor profile including lump crab, green apples, and a mild apple curry butter (pictured). A PERFECTLY seared (amazing crustage) Berkshire Pork Chop with Sour Cherry Compote and housemade bacon fufilled this meal's Pork requirement but the winning dish of the evening was the Tuna. This Tuna, crusted in hoisin, mustard and panko was exploding with bright flavors and sitting on bamboo rice (short grain white rice infused with tangy sweet bamboo juice). The plate was drizzled with a very generous amount of soy wasabi beurre blanc and of course, the piece de resistance was the avocado tempura perched on top of everything just screaming my name.

Dessert consisted of a soft center Chocolate Cake with a savory sesame brittle ice cream and wasabi vanilla bean syrup. Chef Carol Wallack's Hawaiian roots really shone through in Mai's Hot Fudge Sundae - layers of creamy banana ice cream and hot fudge topped with macadamia nuts and sugary bruleed bananas!

Stay tuned for new reviews up this week as I have been eating out quite a bit!!!

Blogger Jonathon Spagat said...
Maddie -- this place sounds great! Your descriptions leave me salivating!
January 29, 2009 5:50 PM  

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The Health Conscious Foodie - One Stop Shop

One stop shopping is all the rave. Think Wal-Mart, Super K, and Meijers. You can literally furnish an entire party complete with sounds, snacks, seating, and sink (who's doing dishes?). Now what if this same convenience existed for the health conscious type? Well tucked between Lululemon and Karyn's Raw on Halsted near Armitage it does, Veria Natural Wellness. This Ayurvedic wellness center boasts two fully loaded floors. The first is stacked with organic gear, supplements, and a full on Natural Cafe. The second floor showcases an ambient movement studio with grand windows that look right over Halsted and an Ayurvedic Treatment Spa.

OK fellow foodies, lets talk about the cafe. Veria's Natural Cafe features crisp and clean food combinations created with your health in mind. The menu is designed for you to customize your meal as a sandwich or bowl. This cafe is all about choices, what do you want huggin your goods? Choose from traditional naan, wheat naan, or mountain bread wraps of wheat, rice, oat, or corn. The Bowls offer basmati brown rice, lettuce, garden vegetable, or chilled rice noodles. As for the fillings, all of Veria's meat options are natural and hormone free. Vegetarian options are available. Hosting a ton of options when it comes to dressing, spreads, and fillings, you won't leave hungry - this east meets west approach-deliciousness is exactly what one craves after an amazing Yoga or Pilates class. To hydrate, they have a comprehensive Quench Bar with smoothies, natural juices, teas, seasonal spritzers, lassis, chais, and wheat grass of course. Not to be confused with your local Jamba, the Quench Bar isn't fluffing with sugar and ice as filler, they use frozen fruit and natural sweeteners such as agave nectar and honey instead. So head in, make it a day, bring a friend, and enjoy it. The dishes are done.

Veria Natural Wellness
2010 N. Halsted
Chicago, IL 60614

Jessica Marie CHHC AADP
Holistic Nutritionist &
Lifestyle Improvement


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Oak Tree's New Look in the 900 Shops

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Shopping at the 900 Shops on Michigan Ave. can work up quite an appetite. Although I'm not a big shopper, I am a frequent guest there mainly because of my better half. Even though my window shopping is limited, I tend to venture to the 6th floor to check out Oak Tree, my favorite restaurant in the building.

After closing down for several weeks to renovate, Oak Tree reopened with a new look and new menu items. The layout remains very similar but the colors are more inviting and modern. Mosaic tiles along with soothing colors accent the room. The food continues to be tasty, but folks are raving about their Epicurean Toasted Cheese items. Some of the new sandwiches featured include:

"Roquefort & Pear, Candied Pecans, Mozzarella, Spinach and Fig Preserves"

"Ham & Gruyere, Arugula, Mozzarella and Grilled Onions"

"Cheddar & Asparagus, Fontina, Spinach and Ham"

"Turkey & Cranberry, Roquefort, Spinach and Mozzarella"

"Cheddar & Fig Preserves, Watercress, Grilled Onion and Roquefort"

A few new "900 Coolers" were added as well, such as the "Cucumber-Lime Cooler", "Raspberry-Mint Agua Fresca", and "Citrus or White Grape Spritzer". These drinks are very refreshing and a welcomed break from the normal colas. Don't forget to ask about their new desserts. The cookie tray is nicely done with a variety of scones, brownies and cookies. The prices have increased a bit, so if you're a frequent guest don't be too surprised.

Oak Tree is located on the 6th floor in the 9oo north building and is open for breakfast, lunch and a very late lunch. Log onto for more information.

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The Health Conscious Foodie - Bad Apple

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ah, food. It connects us all. And for some of us this connection is an experience. It begins with a thought, "tonight I want..." or "let's check out that new hot spot..." and for me the thought is often a little different, "I'm hungry, I want delicious AND I want it to be healthy..." I want to saddle up, enjoy the ride, get back to the ranch and still be able to fit into my Jordache. For me however, a health conscious "foodie", food has become more than pleasuring the palette, it's the center of everything. Food becomes our blood, our thoughts; food brings people together, strengthening bonds, allowing space to be explored through conversation, and heightens so many senses. So when you hear the age-old phrase, 'you are what you eat', these ideas begin to resonate. I don't want to be eating it just cause it tastes good. I want it to BE good.

Be good for my body that is. Travel a few decades back and it was a sure fire thing that you weren't going to be eating well while dining out. Factory farmed anything, well, makes the whole journey (experience) kind of lame and cheap even. The ever-changing demand of health conscious consumers has dramatically shifted this rule. Most present day restaurants understand these demands and answer with healthier options; brown rice instead of white, low sodium soy, more organic and more vegan/vegetarian options. They hear, "I want fresh, I want green, I want unfrozen; I want it closest to the earth as possible." I mean even McDonald's is hearing this. They aren't really answering, but I guess chemical treated apples in a baggy are a start. It boils down to what you want. What do you want? Factory "fruit" or an eating experience that you'll feel great about? Ask yourself this question, and your journey begins there.

Jessica Marie CHHC AADP
Holistic Nutrition &
Lifestyle Improvement


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To Dine For By Maddie: Two Tacos and a Beer!

Monday, January 19, 2009

C-House Executive Chef Seth Siegel-Gardner launches –Tacos and Beer Wednesdays at C-House (166 East Superior) THIS WEEK! From 4:30 to 6:30 pm in the C-House lobby bar, guests can escape the frigid cold and relax with a refreshing beer and two customized seafood tacos, all for the price of just $9, or 121 pesos.

The fun mini-menu comes to guests with a clipboard and pen, where they can check off their choices for their perfect Tacos and Beer combo. For beers, guests choose from imported Tecate and Bohemia, or the classic Miller Lite. The Texas-inspired seafood tacos are created with guest’s choice of Cod, Skate or Salmon; Grilled, Tempura or one of each; and wrapped in either a Flour or Corn soft Tortilla. Guests can choose any and all toppings, including Avocado, Cilantro, Red Cabbage, Onion and spicy C-House Mayo.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
What nights and for how long?
January 23, 2009 10:58 PM  

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Meet Me For Dinner: The Premier Dining Series

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dinner and Wine (optional)

Select your dining option above to make your reservation by Wednesday March 4th.

Hosts: D.C. Crenshaw, Craig Morton, and Spencer Leak Jr. invite you to the first "Meet Me for Dinner" dining series, featuring Park 52 Restaurant located in Hyde Park.

Enjoy live entertainment and cocktails, while feasting on a three-course prixe fixe dinner menu, specially selected by Executive Chef Chris Baron.

Wednesday March 11th, 2009

7:00 pm seating

The Menu
3-Course Prix Fix Menu

First Course
Caesar or Mixed Greens Salad

Second Course
Seared Tilapia
Lemon Butter & Broccoli

Honey & Habanero Glazed Chicken

Grilled Skirt Steak
Hand Cut American Fries

Third Course
Chef's Selected Specialty Dessert


*Price does include tax and gratuity*
Wine and Cocktails not included
Add $20 for wine pairing with each course


Not valid with any other offers or promotions
Pre-paid reservations are required

Park 52
5201 S. Harper Ave
Hyde Park, Chicago 60615


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To Dine For By Maddie: Gauging The Gage

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I need to begin by saying that I rarely go back to a restaurant twice in one week, let alone twice in one day. I have my sister Laura to thank for the repeat offense, but the food at The Gage Restaurant and Tavern (located at 24 South Michigan) made each trip genuinely worthwhile. The owner Billy, Executive Chef Dirk Flanigan, and our adorable server Fred were equally as hospitable. The fantastically comfortable and inviting pub decor aside, this is definitely the Gastropub to measure all other Gastropubs against. For those of you unaware of this not-so-new restaurant genre, it basically means sophisticated food in a more casual setting. In this case, it is comfort food to the most extreme degree enhanced by exciting components rarely found in upscale restaurants.

We started out our lunch with a New Years toast of Chimay beers in kitschy old fashioned beer glasses and Poutine. I wanted to eat every bite myself, but in a torturous move of self restraint - I did not. The Poutine, (pictured) consisted of thick cut house made fries drenched in an Elk and root vegetable gravy or "ragout" and topped with melted cheese curds. My Dad made it clear that I should absolutely never consider ordering this dish more than once a year. Need I say more? The Scotch Egg followed, and lived up to my lofty expectations as I had read about it in numerous publications - including Food and Wine Magazine. A hard boiled egg encased in a yummy breakfast-like sausage and then deep fried until the outside was crispy and served on top of peppery Arugula with grainy mustard for dipping.

Standout sandwiches included the Open Faced Slow Roasted Beef Brisket, The Truffled Egg (my favorite - a rustic and flavorful take on egg salad on Filone bread) and yes, the Gage Burger - a full 1/2 lb of USDA Prime beef on a Toasted Malt roll with very pungent local Camembert, melted onion marmalade and served with thick cut "chips".

Desserts were out of this world. We began with complimentary "Coffee and Donuts". Little delightful balls of fried dough were coated in Cinnamon and Sugar and some were filled with the most decadant warm chocolate ganache. The coffee element was a warm syrup poured over the top. Our other favorite was the "Reconstructed Root Beer Float". A vanilla semifreddo sat on top of light and airy vanilla cake and topped with slightly melted Rootbeer flavored gelato. The warm root beer gelee, vanilla "air" (think cotton candy) and rootbeeresque pop rocks for a carbonation element put this dish over the top! Also, not to miss is the "French Toast" with Maple Mousse, Butter Foam and Maple Gelee.

Reading back through my notes of the meal and glancing at the menus I have found so many more dishes to try and cannot wait to go back. Off the top of my head: Fried Chicken Livers, Carmelized Lobster, Roasted Alaskan Black Cod with Mustard Spaetzle and Bacon Emulsion....I could go on forever!


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Michael Jordan's One Sixty Blue is Back on the Radar

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

When I first moved to Chicago ten years a go, the hot spot to have cocktails and dinner was One Sixty Blue. It had decent food, a nice crowd and of course it was owned by Michael Jordan. Just the mention of MJ's association with the restaurant had folks pulling up to valet park their rides. However over time, like many other restaurants in the city, One Sixty Blue lost its luster. Most guests didn't perceive the concept as a once or twice a week place to dine, but as a special occasion place to have an expensive meal. Well fast forward a decade later, as the new Executive Chef Michael McDonald is attempting to change their image.

McDonald, a former Charlie Trotter restaurant Executive Chef, created a new menu that will allow his guests to think of One Sixty Blue often. Very often. In-fact, Michael the basketball player sampled Michael the chef's cuisine and gave the ultimate approval. No doubt that MJ's high regards of McDonald's creations made him feel like a champion also. He is attempting to blend vibrant seasonal flavors with modern traditions.

Signature dishes include Potato Leek Soup, Blue Crab Ravioli, Wagyu Short Rib, and Creamy White Grits. The menu has many "starter plates", "side plates" and "main plates" options, but the daily five-course tasting menu is a must. Appropriately titled "Dinner with Michael", Chef McDonald prepares an exceptional array of courses to suit your palate complete with wine pairings. He also prints and presents a copy of the five courses that were selected for you. A nice touch for guests, especially for those who often try to relay their dining experiences to friends.

Main plates are priced between $19 and $35, making it more affordable to dine versus previous years. One Sixty Blue has a nice wine selection and a specialty cocktail list that borders on traditional twists. Although they're located at the end of restaurant row in in the West Loop, their new menu could help diners remember that MJ's joint is still a gem.

One Sixty Blue is located at 1400 West Randoph St. Chicago, IL. (312) 850-0303.

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