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Aug 12, 2008 11:27 AM

5 days in Chicago - reporting back

Hi Chicago Hounds! Thanks to your help we had some marvelous meals while in your city. Here’s my report:

* Tuesday- a late lunch at PJ Clarke’s – Mr CF had the open face turkey sandwich, I had the club sandwich. This was very close to the hotel and we were really hungry. Everything was tasty.A light and late dinner in the hotel at Chibar – drinks, flat bread with tomato and mozzarella , fried gruyere cheese sticks and something else I’ve forgotten.

* Wednesday - Hot dog in Millennium Park after going through The Art Institute – it was a hot dog… nice bun though. I stayed away from the catsup. ;-)

* Thursday - Fox & Obel lunch – roast beef sandwich with blue brie lettuce and tomato – yum, loved the bread and the brie. Finished with a ginger cookie. I love this place! I need this at home! And to top it off, they’ve got a nice wine selection. We made pests of ourselves here later in the week.

Dinner at Tru. We had a drink in the bar area – which wasn’t really a bar – while we were waiting for another member of our party. Tru was very kind in getting jackets for the 2 men who forgot theirs… in spite of my telling them!
We did the Chef’s menu, which was:

Preserved baby artichoke with navel orange and white sardine

Strawberry-tomato gelee with fava bean puree and a shaving of Parmesan. Very light and fresh tasting. I really liked the tomato flavor.

Sashimi - tuna, hamachi, escolar (the escolar was fishy) with a slice of kumquat and radish. A separate dish with white soy and traditional soy was served in front of the Sashimi

About here in our dinner we had a rock star sighting – surprised me! I’m not sure I’ve ever been anywhere and had someone famous be there too.

Frog leg (boneless and panko crusted, then fried) sitting on a bed of carrots, with watercress soup. The soup was poured into the bowl – where there were small dots of emulsified garlic with a dot of watercress on top… this looked like little frog eyes once the watercress soup was added, which made us giggle a bit. Well, me anyway.

Artichoke consommé poured over little dots of 4 different gelees - a mustard cinnamon, turnip caramel, cucumber and grilled peanut . The mustard cinnamon one was very interesting.

Antiqua Tagliatelle with chanterelle mushroom cream, spinach and a slice of truffle and pecorino. A bit dry, I would have preferred a bit more of the mushroom cream.

Pan seared Fois Gras with a morel mushroom and a weird cake/bread thing – I guess it was made from pecans, I didn’t care for it - and leaves made of zucchini which was totally unnecessary. The Fois was lovely – the accompaniments were wrong, IMHO.

Wild asparagus poached Sturgeon on a bed of asparagus spaetzle with a mushroom and onion infusion. The asparagus ‘spaetzle’ had a large sized caviar/roe in it – it gave the asparagus a disconcerting feel and the burst of salt from the roe was odd. The fish was lovely.

Roasted Colorado lamb loin with farro verde, nectarine and Picholine olive. The lamb was fabulous but again, I didn’t care for the other elements – they just didn’t seem to go with the dish.

A marvelous cheese course – I had thePetit Basque, a Blue and a soft blue brie – I didn’t get the names of the others… but they were great!

A dessert amuse of rhubarb consommé with lemon and ginger tapioca

Gianduja Cremeux with chopped toasted hazelnuts, a sprinkle of basil and Concord grape sorbet -chocolate mousse/pudding on swath of homemade Nutella, a bit of hazelnut brittle, slices of grapes & grape sorbet. This was like very fancy peanut butter & jelly – delicious and we were amused

Mignonettes – a huge choice (minus a rack of lollipops) that accidently were knocked over at another table, prompting one of our party to say to another, “I dare you to say ‘5 second rule” and causing the rest of us to laugh) was available - some of our choices were: apricot jellies, pistachio meringue, raspberry cake, and caramel

This was a very nice place and service was impeccable. The wine sommelier was very knowledgeable and helped us narrow our choices down. Overall we enjoyed our dinner, there were some strange things about it – a lot of round rubbery bits: the caviar in the asparagus, the lumps of jellied flavors in the consommé, the tapioca in the rhubarb consommé, the unnecessary starches that were heavily textured with the Fois Gras and the lamb – but we’d try it again. We almost went back on Saturday for the cheeses.

* Friday – we went to Coco Pazzo for lunch. They were very accommodating and made bruschetta for Mr CF that wasn’t on the menu with tomatoes, garlic and basil. He also had the Rigatoni alla Buttera – sausage, peas, tomato, parmesan and cream. He said it was okay, he’s very hard to please when it comes to pasta. I had the Insalada di tonno – mixed greens, green beans, boiled eggs, olive oil dressing – and it was very good. I also had a glass of the Rose. Our associate had the Smoked salmon Panini and loved it. He said the salmon was still cool even though the bread was warm and toasty. We skipped dessert and walked back to Fox & Obel for banana pudding - eaten outside by the water and thoroughly enjoyed.

* Saturday – we tried the Gage for lunch and we ate way too much. I had my first Poutine - elk ragout cheese curds and fries. Wow. Now I understand poutine and we all decided it would be great hangover food. We also tried the goat cheese grits – loved ‘em , the fried zucchini & olives – too much breading on zucchini and it was too thin - but the olives were great, and the fried chicken livers with coarse mustard. We should have stopped there but we couldn’t. I had the chili roasted chicken salad – mixed greens, cucumbers, radish, goat cheese and a roasted curry dressing. The salad was great, loved everything except I felt there was too much chili seasoning on the chicken. Mr CF and our associate tried the locally crafted sausages – 3 different sausages with coarse mustard, served with potatoes roasted with Brie in a little cast iron casserole. They ate all but one (though they did eat much of the 3rd) and the potatoes with the brie was really a hit too.

Dinner that night was at One Sixty Blue. Lovely place and really great food. Our waiter threw us for a loop though - he asked if we had ever been to OSB, which we had not. He immediately went into the hot cheese appetizers… and then told us the chef was French. I was confused, we didn’t have menus at that point – so I wasn’t sure if that was our only choice for an appetizer or what and wasn’t sure why he needed to tell us where the chef was from. But anyway! We ordered wine (and were brought the wrong one) and our waiter recommended a Reislng to go with our cheese appetizers. We did go with 2 of them: the Nancy Hudson Valley Camembert with Michigan apples & candied walnuts – this one was our favorite and was very good with the wine and the Cabriole Farms with herbs and sundried tomatoes

Mr CF and I had the endive salad topped with pear slices. This came with a cracker dome, the salad was underneath.

Cold cream of corn soup with bacon, corn, tomatoes, and a tortilla chip

I had the lamb with Ratatouille – a lovely round of lamb loin cooked sous vide to medium rare with the incredible vegetables. Loved it.

Mr CF had the veal tenderloin. This was also amazing. I don’t know what all was in that dish. I know there were gooseberries… but wow… tart, cinnamon, floral all together.

Our associate had the pork chop Kurobuta and it was also a huge success. There were apples and grapes, a delicious ‘barbeque’sauce and I don’t know what all else.

The chef did come by and we told him how marvelous dinner was. It truly was.

Dessert s - Peaches in cream - market green peaches topped with a strip of macaroon then a layer of cream brulee, and a macaroon - same as macaroon layer – filled with a ginger blueberry filling. I had a late harvest Reisling with this, a fabulous match with the peaches.

I have to say we had a bit of a letdown at this point. Online there is a wonderful list of cheese that is no longer available. We primarily chose to come here because of the cheeses. So to find that the list is trimmed drastically was disappointing to say the least. And while looking at the dessert wine list we saw that we missed the Rabbit Boudin… we weren’t told it was one of the specials! That and the cheese list made me fume a bit.

But the guys had a few cheeses – a Pleasant Ridge from Wisconsin, a Petit Basque, an aged Gouda and a Valencay- soft bluish (which was my favorite). They also had a glass of port which was deemed even better than the glass at Tru.

Overall a delicious dinner! We were very pleased in spite of the minor goofs.

* Sunday breakfast - We had intended to go to The Daily Grind, we’ve been to the one in Palm Desert and remembered they had one in Chicago. But even though this place came up on Google – I don’t think it was the same and they were closed. There was a very likely looking place across the street, Fiddlehead Café, so that’s where we went. I hadn’t heard of Fiddlehead Café, but what we had for breakfast was excellent and the menu for dinner looks pretty darn good too. Mr CF had biscuits and gravy, and the mushroom crepes – he liked the biscuits (but not the gravy) and thought the mushroom crepe was very good. I had the Truffled Eggs - fabulous – soft scrambled eggs with truffled goat cheese on puff pastry. Our associate had Salmon Benedict - smoked salmon with excellent poached eggs and hollandaise. I think he had smoked salmon almost everywhere we went , I wasn’t sure there was anyone who liked salmon as much as I do – but I stand corrected! I really liked this place.

Also, I totally send kudos to the manager. He had an unexpected service issue, there was nothing anyone could have done to avoid it, but he more than took care of the problem. He went above and beyond, in my opinion, to make sure that everything was as it should be.

So we’re back home again – in Indiana – fat and happy with our time in Chicago. I send thanks to the Chicago Chowhounds’ – I couldn’t have done it without you!


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  1. Cookiefiend - we ate at the Fiddlehead Cafe before a show at the Old Town School of Folk Music and had a wonderful dinner. My husband had a special fish that was absolutely wonderful - I think it was escolar - he literally ate every bite and practically licked the platter! My 16 yo stepdaughter and I split a roasted chicken with apples special and the duck club and were both very happy. I had a Spanish red to go with and it was very nice and decently priced. The fries with the club were addictive. The staff was really nice to all three of us, and it was a great prelude to a great concert!

    1. Cookie -- The only thing I can think of regarding "The Daily Grind" is a restaurant that used to be called "The Daily News" (wonderful supper club) that is now just called "Daily Bar and Grill," a totally sucky sports bar that's no different than any other sports bar in Chicago. I practically wept the day the restaurant changed hands. Don't worry, you didn't miss a thing.

      And are you NOT going to tell us who the rock star was? Tease!

      7 Replies
      1. re: sis2catbat

        maybe the mods will let me give you a hint...

        Think' Hot Legs' (though we had a quiet discussion on which song was our favorite - mine was 'Maggie Mae') and a wild hair do - and his hair really was like that!


        1. re: Cookiefiend

          Since this is food-oriented, I met the guy at a party for a rock star cookbook with samples of the recipes. His shrimp curry was inedible, just sugar and shrimp and some little thin red sauce that had zero curry hit. His taste in food is not something to go by. Glad you had fun here...sounds like you got a good rounded sense of Chicago food.

          1. re: sis2catbat

            There seems to be a little confusion about restaurants around Lincoln and Wilson in this thread. The chain Daily Grind has no outlets in Illinois. The Grind is an independent coffee house that is usually full of people using their notebook computers. I don't know whether it is any good because every time I have been past when I might want some coffee the place has been full. Metromix listing may be out of date, particularly on hours, as this is not the sort of place to send out a press release on every little change:

            The Daily Bar and Grill has had at least two owners over its history since the late 1990s. I don't recall anything in that site between when it was Hogen's, a German restaurant, and Daily Bar and Grill. Originally the Daily Bar and Grill was a fairly decent neighborhood restaurant. Then new owners changed it into a kiddy bar for the barely legal and made changes to discourage anybody over 25 from patronizing the place. I think the orientation has changed since then but see no reason to set foot in the place again given their posted menus and the tremendous range of options in Lincoln Square where I have lived since 1976.

            Fiddlehead Cafe has had mixed reviews in the time it has been open. One chef was quite interested in using local ingredients although I have been suspicious of some claims ever since they had a menu posted outside touting Nichols Farms broccoli in January. In any case this chef moved on a few months ago, and the new chef's menu no longer has that orientation. This menu strikes me as being rather pricy with most items being things that we can fix very well at home, so Fiddlehead Cafe is off my radar screen.

            The Grind
            4613 N. Lincoln Ave.

            Fiddlehead Cafe
            4600 N. Lincoln Ave.

            Daily Bar and Grill
            4560 N. Lincoln Ave.

            All Chicago 60625

            1. re: Eldon Kreider

              The confusion perpetuates, because I believe before it was "Daily Bar and Grill," the restaurant was called "The Daily News."

              And you're right, anyone over 25 and in their right mind wouldn't step foot in there now.

              1. re: sis2catbat

                The Daily News had phenomanal patty melts. I craved them mightly. I went to treat myself in May of 08 and it was barely edible. It actually was one of the worst things I have eaten all spring/summer. Now I know it must of been because the restuarant changed hands/names. Boo...

                I like the Fiddlehead Cafe for their wine flights and cheese flights. I have often made a meal out of them.

                The Grind has great coffee and their bagel sandwiches are pretty well made. I don't go their as often as I would like b/c it is always crowded.

                1. re: sis2catbat

                  I just Googled it again - because now I'm confused - and it does come up as Daily Bar & Grill...

                  I was in the car, Googling on my cell phone (tiny screen) and didn't read it correctly!

                  In hindsight - it's just as well - it doesn't sound as though we would have enjoyed the DBG.

            2. Poutine in Chicago?! Now I think I've heard it all!!

              Thanks for the review -- we'll be headed to Chicago Labour Day weekend. Apperciated