Follow-up report from Budget advice
I started the thread some time ago, here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/861997
We were in Chicago for the last three days and wanted to thank everyone for their suggestions. Being a doughnut blogger (frieddoughho.com - although I haven't written up the report there yet), I made a special effort to hit the three recommended doughnut shops. We arrived on a red-eye Saturday morning and my BF went straight off to his conference and I went straight-away to Do-Rite.
I tried their Valhrona-glazed raised, Old Fashioned, and Pistachio-studded cake. Of the three, the chocolate was the definite winner. I liked the firmness and crunch of the Old Fashioned and generally found the white frosting which held the pistachios in place on that cake doughnut to be a bit too sweet. Got a t-shirt and loved the shop.
I then walked up to the Doughnut Vault, only to learn they didn't open for another half-hour. Good thing, too - since a line was already forming and was around the block by the time they opened. I befriended the girl standing in line behind me (she was going to University in a nearby and had stopped for a break in her art studies.) Learning there were a bunch of guys in the studio hanging out, I offered to buy a whole box with the caveat that I wanted a nibble of each one and she assured me the guys wouldn't mind eating partially-eaten doughnuts. In the box was a chocolate, birthday cake, old fashioned, raspberry stuffed, and gingerbread stack. Honestly, I found them a bit too large. The chocolate was not nearly as rich as Do-Rites and the Old Fashioned was undercooked. The Gingerbread Stack was the clear winner for me and I found the Birthday Cake just too sweet.
My afternoon found me alone at Purple Pig and I was able to grab a spot at the bar. Not wanting to ruin my dinner appetite, I ordered light; just the Brussels Sprouts and Pig Ear with fried kale and an egg. I really enjoyed both, but found them too salty on both accounts to the extent that my mouth was burning. The flavors were good, but I couldn't finish either dish for want of drinking all my wine and water to sooth the salt burn. Fun atmosphere, if a bit loud. My day was spent walking all around the loop and taking the architectural tour, which was only - ahem - dampened by the rainstorm that occurred ONLY when I was out on the boat.
The highlight meal of the trip was that evening's dinner at Publican. My BF was thrilled and for him, it was one of the most engaging meals he's had in some time (I *do* need to take him to Incanto in San Francisco). We started with oysters and the ones from the East Coast were the most flavorful - I especially liked the one from Virginia. We then had the large charcuterie platter which included head cheese, pork pie, sausage, turkey galantine, and lamb salami. We also then shared a veal tartare (amazing!) and the chicken liver pate. My BF insisted on getting the recipe for the pate which I am to make for Christmas. I've never had one so smooth... We finished off with a cheese plate and was only slightly disappointed to specifically ask for regional cheeses from the area, but were served a Mt. Tam from our own neck of the woods. No biggie... Sadly, we didn't realize you needed a reservation for Aviary and were turned away. I should have known better.
The next morning (Sunday), we headed to the Bongo Room for breakfast and were delighted again. Although they didn't have the preztle pancake on the menu, we were quite satisfied with the Canoli; ricotta pancake studded with brandied cherries, pistachios, and creme anglaise and chocolate. For our savory, the beef tenderloin Benedict with spinach and porcini Hollandaise was amazing. Like others have said, their potatoes leave a lot to be desired as we found them over-peppered and pretty un-interesting. But those did not detract from the experience. The afternoon was spent at the Museum of Science and Industry and your kick-ass submarine exhibit (I've seen four subs and this one was the BEST ever!). We had only planned to see the sub for a half-a-day and then head to the Art Institute but the whole museum was so impressive, we never left.
By the time we got back to the hotel, the rains were coming in and we were fighting the football crowds for taxis. So, instead of trying to head to Girl & The Goat, we opted for something within walking distance and grabbed a last-minute reservation at Mercat a la Planxa. My BF was really sweet in wanting to surprise me so he wouldn't let me choose anything and ordered the meal in Spanish. The surprise was that he doesn't particularly care for blood sausage and that was one of the first courses to come out which was truly spectacular. We also had boquerones (okay, but a bit too much olive oil), quail (probably our favorite dish), short rib (licked the plate), and lobster (we had to ask for some butter as the meager sauce wasn't enough for the dry offering). We finished up with chocolate croquettes and two bon-bons. The chocolate croquettes were my BF's favorites (that lavender caramel!), but I liked the bon-bons.
Monday morning had my BF back at his conference and me on my last doughnut quest. Having learned how to maneuver the "L" I headed back to the packing district for Glazed and Infused. There I tried just four: Chocolate Chip cake, Crème Brûlée raised, Pumpkin Old Fashioned, and Salted Caramel cake. In this case, the quality of the Old Fashioned was the clear winner between the three I had tried, but it was the Crème Brûlée raised which ended up being the most memorable of the trip. Somehow they had created a perfect sugared crust on the doughnut to give that desirable SNAP to a brûlée. The Salted Caramel was just too much in the way of studded nuts to be able to take more than a bite or two...
I spent my last day at the Institute and not having as much time to travel to Hot Doug's (and it now being 30 degrees instead of the 70s I had been accustomed to), I dashed to Russian Tea Time for my last meal; some borscht, a lamb samsa, and a box of cookies to go. The borscht was just okay and the carrot salad that accompanied the laden and flavorless lamb hockey puck was much more interesting. Ostensibly covered in puff pastry, there was nothing remotely pastry-like about the doughy concoction. Oh well - I still had a great time.
Thanks again everyone - can't wait to come back!
Doughnuts are certainly the thing lately. I haven't tried Doughnut Vault, but was interested in your experience at Glazed and Infused. As I've gotten older I have a reduced interest in sweets and I found them G&I way over the top in that department. Not for the faint-of-heart (or, I suppose, the diabetic!).
I guess I'm more of a savory girl. I can barely even eat the fancy sweet pancakes at Bongo Room. At least the pretzel variety offsets the sugar a bit with salt.
Also delighted that you enjoyed Mercat and Publican, two of my very favorites.