To Dine For By Maddie: Pros and Cons for Province
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I contemplated writing about this restaurant for weeks because I would have to stray from my strictly stay positive policy. After a not-so-great dinner during Restaurant Week, I decided that before writing it off forever I would follow in the footsteps of Phil Vettel and try it a few times to be fair. This proved to be a smart move because the following week my mother and I had an excellent lunch at Province (161 N. Jefferson).
Province is a fun spot with an inventive menu influenced from Central and South America and Spain. The decor is bold with bright pink walls and the actual building possesses the extremely rare gold-level LEED certification (U.S. Green Building Council's rating system for existing buildings by measuring performance to maximize operational efficiency while minimizing costs and environmental impacts). Additionally, Province prides itself on using local organic ingredients in a "farm to table" dining experience. Executive Chef Randy Zweiban of Nacional 27 takes a fairly new approach to modernizing Latin cuisine and succeeds with many dishes.
The best thing that my friend Allie and I ate during our dinner at Province was the Green Acres Farms Winter Squash Taquito off the "bites" section of the menu. We ordered everything in that category and enjoyed the Cuban Pork Bocadillo, but wished we had another taquito instead of the Peeky Toe Crab toast. The Fluke Ceviche with Red Grapefruit was one of the bigger disappointments of the night as it was flavorless and stringy in texture - not the "mouth feel" you hope for in a Ceviche dish. Luckily, we quickly forgot about the ceviche when the Tortilla Soup was served! This fun spin on a classic is awesome for a light lunch or a first course at dinner. The bottom of the bowl was filled with guacamole and roasted chicken and a spicy chicken broth was poured over the top for a little bit of a wow factor.
As it was restaurant week, two of the items we ordered are not mainstays on the menu. The Sherry and Mushroom Bisque was forgettable but the Braised Beef Short Rib with pancetta hash was certainly not! The Hawaiian Seared Tuna was really disappointing as it was flavorless, and missing the promised honey roasted root vegetables and caper vinaigrette! I blame our server who was not at the top of his game for sure. We capped off the meal with a sure thing: "Chocolate Three Ways" which was composed of a Chocolate Flan, Cocoa Sorbet, Chocolate Gooey Muffin and Dulce de Leche.
Lunch was much more of a turn on. Although we only shared two dishes, they were both fantastic. The Chicken and Apple salad delivered visually as well as in texture and flavor. Perfectly uniform matchsticks of tart apples tossed with roasted chicken, toasted almonds and candied olives. Additionally, we had (drum roll please!) the Pork Belly and Avocado Sandwich. Notwithstanding my glutton for pork belly, I am pretty sure my mother was fulfilled after eating this tummy-pleaser. Rich pork belly goodness is served with avocado on grilled country rosemary bread along side of a puckery red cabbage slaw which cut the fattiness of the sandwich perfectly.
My personal theme for 2009 is to keep my learning curve turned up and "reviewing" this restaurant was a great lesson. I understand what a bad write up can do to the heart and soul of a restaurant and the people working there (I have seen it first hand) and I will never allow myself to become a hater. However, a little bit of constructive criticism is what makes us better, isn't it?
Labels: chicago dining, chicago nightlife, madeleine yastrow, organic food, To Dine For By Maddie
Ben Fatto! Trattoria Gianni
Lately it seems like I've been on an Italian culinary tour around Chicago. From a fabulous dinner at Prosecco to an intimate meal in the 200 East Supper Club, I've tasted a few different pasta dishes and consumed more than a couple of glasses of wine. Last week I ventured into the Lincoln Park neighborhood to take on yet another Italian establishment. Let's just say that my dining experience at Trattoria Gianni was not only enjoyable, but was a perfect night cap to my birthday celebration.
Intimate, homey, authentic and friendly is Trattoria Gianni. Their ambiance was the most comparable to the dinner settings that I experienced while honeymooning in Rome. The cuisine was not too far behind either. Starting with the "Antipasti" dishes, the fried calamari and grilled octopus stood out. Moving to the "Primi Piatti" side of the menu, the "Gnocchi della Nonna", hand-made and stuffed with ricotta, and the "Conchiglie del Mercante", pasta crumbled with Italian sausage, mushrooms and fresh tomato sauce, were savory and plentiful. The veal scaloppine, grilled duck breast, grilled chicken breast, and grilled Norwegian salmon filet were also favorites. However, the "Costolette d' Agnello alla Griglia", their grilled lamb chops marinated with olive oil, garlic and fresh mint, was a noted specialty dish and the highlight of the evening. The most enjoyable side dish were the roasted potatoes in olive oil garlic rosemary.
Trattoria Gianni has homemade desserts worth the indulgence. The "Panna Cotta" and "Tiramisu" led the way. Their sorbet and cannoli are good alternatives and the not-quite-frozen hazelnut mouse, topped with chocolate sauce received accolades. The service met expectations and the wine recommendations paired nicely with our many courses. A live vocalist added a special ambiance throughout dinner, which set off an energetic vibe amongst diners.
Trattoria Gianni will celebrate their 21st anniversary this year with a $21.00 priced fixed dinner every Tuesday night starting March 24th - June 30th. Trattoria Gianni is located at 1711 N. Halsted St. Log onto www.trattoriagianni.com for more information or call (312) 266-1976 for reservations.
To find more dining options and to get an inside look at the newest and best restaurants in Chicago watch Fete Select TV on www.efete.net.
Labels: chicago dining, chicago restaurants, dc crenshaw, dining out, fete select tv, italian food, italy, lincoln park, nbc chicago street team, north halsted, trattoria gianni
A List by Amanda Puck
Friday, March 20, 2009
'Spice and Ice' was very nice at Nacional 27
Beverage guru Adam Seger taught a mixology class at Nacional 27 on Thursday night - where we all got great tips and ideas on 'how-to' muddle our own creations at home. I have a huge thing for mangoes, and his Mango-Ginger-Habanero Daiquiri was quite refreshing after a long day at the office. The rim of the glass was dusted with a Homemade 7 Spice - and most of the spices used came from the Spice House on Wells. I will for sure be stopping there this weekend to stock up on ginger nibs, Szechuan peppercorns and star anise. The Habanero was infused into the syrup, and added a great spicy tang to the drink. The next best thing were the chips and roasted tomato salsa - addicting.
I can't wait for the next class!
Common Thread's World Festival
My favorite night of the year is Monday, March 23th! Where else can we all get to mingle with Art Smith, Ming Tsai (pictured above), David Burke, Rocco Dispirito, Marcus Samuelsson and Tyler Florence? Grab tastes from C-House, Boka, Avec, Tru and NoMi, to name just a FEW? This event is a foodie-fantasy come true at the MCA, with an after party at The James for VIP revelers and all the celeb chefs. Tickets are still available, and it all supports Common Threads. Hope to see you there!
Check it out --
Fashion Forward by Renae:Gen Art Shop Chicago
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Shopping is not the first thing on everyone's mind nowadays, considering the economy. But everyone needs to take some time to relax, socialize and browse through the latest trends in fashion and accessories. If you need a little pick-me-up, Gen Art's Shop Chicago is arriving just in time.
Shop Chicago is coming up this Saturday, March 21, at 1 p.m. (VIP preview) and 2-6 p.m. (main event) in the Great Hall of Union Station. A plethora of designers, boutiques, makeup artists, stylists and more convene to create one of the largest shopping extravaganzas any fashionista could hope for. Add in cocktails, music and a hot crowd, and you've got the makings of one of the season's "must-attend" events.
There are a few ticket options: VIP tickets will get you access to the VIP lounge, preview and a gift bag worth approximately $200. For Gen Art Executive and Associate Producer members you receive 2 comp VIP tickets; Platinum and Silver Members VIP tickets are $30; and Non-Members can get a coveted VIP ticket for $40. For general admission to main event, all you need to do is R.S.V.P. (1 person per R.S.V.P.). But be sure to do it in advance (by Friday at 4 p.m. to be specific).
Check out the Gen Art Chicago website
for a list of participating designers and to R.S.V.P. Don't forget though, the R.S.V.P. is required by Friday, March 19 at 4 p.m.
One of the best features of this event is you can go browse, mingle and have fun without buying anything--okay, maybe buying just a couple little things--and not totally ruin your budget. Yet, if you have some extra funds, Shop Chicago is also the perfect place to do all your shopping for your spring/summer '09 wardrobe too. Consider it as doing your part to stimulate the economy!
Labels: chicago, fashion
A List with Amanda Puck ...
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Need a list of things to do?? There is a lot going on this week and weekend in Chicago, and not all of it involves green beer ... although green is a very good color!
1. Two Tacos & Beer at C-House TONIGHT! - I will never get tired of this! Chef Seth Siegel-Gardner gives you a choice of salmon, skate or cod, grilled or fried, in a corn or flour tortilla, with toppings that make it the tastiest treat. The beer is served cold with a chili-salted rim. Every Wednesday at 166 East Superior, 312.523.0923.
2. Single? Then make it a date to go to the Today's Chicago Woman Singles Party on Thursday, March 12 - and meet their Top 30 Singles at NV Penthouse Lounge (116 West Hubbard) from 6 to 10 pm. Tickets are $55 at the door. Call 312.951.7600, ext. 107 for more info. The XA favorite singles? Mikey Farah from Berry Chill and gorgeous Kelli Zink from CelebTV.com.
3. 'Dye the River Green' - Don't miss out on the perfect spot this year to watch the Chicago river turn green in honor of St. Patrick's day. On Saturday, March 14 from 9 am to 4 pm, on Fulton's On The River's gorgeous and heated veranda, try Keg N' Egg sandwiches served with corned beef hash for $6, beer specials and Ruben sandwiches with chips for $7. And bagpipers will be there too!
4. Cure your St. Patty's Day Hangover at Publican where they start serving Sunday brunch this weekend. I got to taste-test their Bloody Marys last night and can't wait to go back for more. They will definitely be the weekend cure-all. 845 West Fulton Market, 312.733.9555.
"Sprouse Me Up"
Louis Vuitton celebrated their tribute to 80's icon Stephen Sprouse with an event complete with brightly colored appetizers and artist Rodrigo Mireless (pictured with myself and Toni Canada). The event benefited the School of the Art Institute. If you didn't snap up a piece from the last Sprouse collection, now is your chance. The bright bags are a perfect way to lighten up these dreary days, and they will be hot all summer long.
The Health Conscious Foodie - Raw Fun!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Discover New Breakthroughs in Health Transformation with the Power of True Superfoods! Superfoods are plant-based foods with extraordinary properties. We're not talking blueberries here--we're talking goji berries, raw cacao (chocolate), maca, spirulina, bee pollen, medicinal mushrooms...these are all foods that have 14+ tricks up their sleeve as opposed to two or three. These foods have therapeutic medicinal components to them as well as food/caloric components to them. Gary Null, Ph.D., international expert in nutrition and health sciences, has said that superfoods are critical because they’re the only way you can reverse deficiencies of the past, make sure that you have enough for today, and build up your reserves for the future.
Lenette of www.gorawhavefun.com has been eating a large variety of superfoods for the past three years and has developed a passion for the taste, vitality, and fun of these amazing foods with others! She has also just interviewed David Wolfe, world authority on raw food and superfood nutrition, on superfoods and his upcoming book which can be found at http://bit.ly/SnZP. This book will cover a variety of the world's most powerful superfoods from all civiliations and is called Superfoods: Food and Medicine of the Future. Reviews and summaries of the book can be seen here:
Learn about and experience true superfoods that can transform your health, appearance, and vitality by visiting Lenette's website, www.gorawhavefun.com, and/or by joining her at an upcoming Superfood Meetup if you live in the Chicagoland area at http://www.meetup.com/superfood/. Discover your true potential with new superfoods as well as learning how to eat them in the easiest and most delicious ways possible. And if you're already getting into superfoods, she has some very informative and fun to watch videos on YouTube as well! www.youtube.com/gorawchicago
Jessica Marie CHHC AADP
Holistic Nutrition &
Complete Health Education & Wellness - CHEW Chicago
Old World Italian Inspires Gold Coast Supper Club
The word "authentic" is sometimes over used in restaurants when referencing cuisine. If you have ever traveled to Europe, more specifically Italy, then you probably have a good idea of what "authentic" food is about. Chefs that didn't grow up in Italy sometimes draw on their childhood family experiences in the kitchen that help to inspire their menu. Executive Chef Tony Navarro was no different when he opened 200 East Supper Club.
Located in the Gold Cost on the main level of the historic Seneca Hotel, the 200 East Supper club is a moderately priced, business-casual spot that features live entertainment Tuesday - Saturday. The ambiance feels somewhat old school with a little bit of elegance sprinkled throughout the main dining room. The menu is plastered with eclectic, contemporary Italian dishes complemented by recipes handed down from the Navarro family. My meal started out with a couple of appetizers, including the "Melrose Peppers" stuffed with Italian sausage and the "Spinach and Artichoke Dip". However my favorite starter for the evening was their "New England Clam Chowder", which happened to be the soup of the day. They should make that a mainstay on the menu by the way. One of their signature dishes, "The Brickhouse Chicken" boasted flavors that were better than most chicken dishes I've experienced and the "Rigatoni ala Bruno" was another signature dish nicely done that featured fresh spinach, ricotta cheese and fresh homemade Italian sausage. I could definitely tell that all of their dishes are homemade, including the salad dressings and desserts. Be sure to bring your appetite, because the food is not only tasty, but the portions are plentiful.
One of the stars at 200 East Supper Club is bartender George Cozzi. A familar face at Gibson's Steak House for about 13 years, George is one of 12 bartenders inducted into the Bartender's Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. George made me a killer Manhattan and has a passion for concocting other specialty martinis. His Patini martini is named after Pat Brickhouse, wife of famed Chicago sports broadcaster Jack Brickhouse. The Patini is made with vodka, pnieapple juice and topped off with champagne. George has a following of his own that keeps customers returning to the supper club.
200 East Supper Club has a $21.95 prix fixe menu special on Sunday's, Monday's and Tuesday's. Enjoy an appetizer, salad, entree and dessert for the aforementioned price. Their nightly live entertainment and upbeat music encourages customers to dance, which is a nice way to cap off a good meal.
200 East Supper Club is located at 200 East Chestnut St. For more information visit www.200eastchestnut.com. To get an inside look at the newest and best restaurants in Chicago watch Fete Select TV on www.efete.net
Labels: 200 east supper club, chicago dining, chicago restaurants, cocktails, dancing, dc crenshaw, fete select tv, gold coast, italian food, jack brickhouse, nbc chicago street team, tony navarro
To Dine For By Maddie: Sundalicious
Friday, March 6, 2009
I am rarely at a loss for words, let alone when it comes to describing food, and in this case I simply do not know where to begin. In my opinion, Sunda (110 W. Illinois), the latest endeavor from the Rockit Ranch team, has the potential to truly turn the Chicago restaurant scene upside down. With Executive Chef Rodelio Aglibot of Koi (Los Angeles) at the helm and Rockit's undeniable ability to create a hotspot, this "New Asian Bistro" is everything I never knew I always wanted.
Let's begin with ambiance. Renowned designer Tony Chi (Beijing Park Hyatt, Alain Ducasse's Spoon, Hong Kong) does not miss a detail with his sleek and stylish design. Red travertine marble and french-polished black bamboo create the structure for the magnificent dining room aesthetic. Communal tables, expansive sushi bar, private dining rooms, and a bar and lounge area complete the ideal setting for a social dining environment. My favorite touches include the selection of four beers on tap in the center counsel of the dining room and the beautiful white coral-esque structure that blankets the ceiling above the sushi bar.
Choosing a cocktail was somewhat overwhelming but nothing in comparison to diving into the menu which has influence from Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, The Philippines, and the remaining Southeast Asian Islands. In my opinion, the Go Go Berry Martini of Muddled Fresh Strawberries, 3 Olives Mango, St. Germain, Triple Sec and Mango Juice - was by far the winner and should be crowned Sunda's Signature Cocktail - as they have yet to name one.
We began our meal with an amuse of beef and Shisito peppers with a hint of lemongrass. When I finally made up my mind and ordered a few dishes to start I was very pleased. The Truffled Tataki Tuna was sashimi style tuna (you may also have this dish with Salmon or Kobe Beef) topped with a slightly warm soy- truffle vinaigrette, micro chives and Enoki mushrooms. Next came my favorite dish of the night, The Food Buddha's Classic Crispy Rice: Pan fried sushi rice glazed with soy and topped with your choice of hand cut spicy tuna with jalapeno, shrimp tempura with wasabi and avocado or seared kobe tartare. Heaven on a plate. Oxtail potstickers recommended by our server did not disappoint with the beautifully braised oxtail filled pan fried dumplings sitting in a salty sweet caramelized onion jus and topped with "white"wasabi cream. I chose a dish called "Duck...What...Pork?" (pictured) for its peculiar name and it proved to be tasty Chinese style bao buns filled with roasted pork and a cucumber/carrot slaw but too filling to eat more than one.
For our main course, we had a lamb craving to fulfill and were very pleased with our selection of the Red Rubbed Lamb Sirloin. Bite sized pieces of lamb were rubbed with coriander, anise, kaffir, and lemongrass, cooked medium rare, and served with white rice. Never have I had such a distinct flavor combination, as it was spicy but left me with a sweet fruity taste. At the recommendation of Assistant General Manager, Elizabeth Samples, we also shared the dish that puts the Unc in Unctuous. The Roasted Duck Hash Salad is what finally put me over the edge. Unagi glazed duck and frisee are tossed with pieces of deep fried daikon cake and topped with an oozing fried egg.... oh hell yeah.
As we were celebrating a birthday, dessert could not be passed up. Sadly (or thankfully) I was far too full to order what I really wanted. I mean, who could pass up the appropriately titled "Ridiculous", tempura fried ice cream wrapped in carrot cake or the deep fried Banana Cream Pie Bites? Well, this round I did but I was very happy to try the selection of house made Mochi. Chocolate, Vanilla, Green Tea, Strawberry, and Peach dough covered balls of ice cream were served alongside of chocolate, caramel, and raspberry dipping sauces and made for an excellent end to our meal.
I hate to be the one to review a restaurant in the first week it is open (thanks Sam) but I honestly have no criticism. I am totally turned on by this restaurant as I know many others will be and I already know at least ten things I want to go back for. In summation, this restaurant is HOT.
A Culinary Voyage at Indian Garden
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Mild, medium or hot? That was the question posed by our server about the spice level we wanted to try at The Indian Garden Restaurant last week. We chose medium, which turned out to be the correct choice. In-fact, Indian Garden is the right choice if you're looking for good Indian cuisine and an experience that will take you on a culinary voyage.
Indian Garden prides itself on the exotic tastes and textures of India. Upon entering the restaurant, I smelled the spices and aromas that are meant to help you explore India's rich culture. Since I'm not a novice to this type of ethnic food, I wanted to see how their traditional dishes compared to some of my other favorite Indian hot spots. I sampled some of my favorites which included "Samosas" and "Paneer", but also inhaled a few of their chicken and lamb dishes. The spices hit the mark and the flavors rivaled some of my favorite Chicago mainstays. Naan at any Indian restaurant is my gauge for whether or not the place will receive a return visit from me. Their traditional and "Garlic Naan" held it's own in that category and the server helped us select a great bottle of red wine that was a perfect complement to our meal.
What differentiates Indian Garden from most restaurants in the city is their service. The place was packed throughout the evening, but it appeared that every table was being treated special. Indian Garden attempts to foster a family environment with their service, which was evident by the treatment my guests and I received upon arrival. The wait staff was friendly and informative and made our dining experience enjoyable. But make sure to clarify the spice level that you want to try before ordering, or you may end up sweating your way through the meal.
The Indian Garden is located at 247 E. Ontario St. 2nd floor downtown Chicago. For more information visit www.indiangardenchicago.com. For other dining options watch Fete Select TV to get an inside look at the newest and best restaurants in Chicago.
Labels: chicago dining, chicago restaurants, dc crenshaw, downtown chicago, fete select tv, indian cuisine, indian garden, spicy food