Tag Archives: Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends – 3/12/14

I’ve been in the midst of a pretty great stretch of eating. Here are some expanded thoughts on a few things that I’ve tweeted recently…

Perennial Virant – I gave this place a lot of grief when they opened for a completely confusing menu format and food that just wasn’t all that interesting. But since then, Perennial continues to get better and better. My last few meals there have been nearly flawless in terms of both food and service. We went most recently on a snowy night (weird, right?) and I was ecstatic to hear that they were serving cassoulet as a special. Given Paul Virant’s cooking style I figured this dish would be a slam dunk and I was right. Perfectly cooked beans, smokey sausage and tasso ham. Warm, rich, comforting…everything a good cassoulet should be.

L2O – We haven’t been to L20 in forever but we decided to go to do a joint birthday dinner for me and my wife. The menu format has changed a bit since my last visit. Gone are the a la carte options (except caviar service). Now there is a choice of a four course prix fixe (with two choices for each course) or a longer tasting menu. We did the prix fixe, which also includes an amuse, a pre-dessert, and mignardises, so it does turn out to be a nice amount of food. Everything we had was fantastic, and the attention to detail that’s almost always been the hallmark of L2O was well in evidence. I hate whipping out my phone to take a picture at a place like L2O, but my first course was so stunningly gorgeous I had to get a (mostly terrible) shot

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This is a “salade” composed of brioche, foie gras, truffles, cured tuna, and haricot vert. Not only was this dish beyond intricate, but more importantly it was delicious. This theme carried through the rest of the meal.

The Publican – Here’s another place I haven’t been to forever. I grabbed a quick meal here with a friend last night before the Bulls game. What I like about The Publican is that when they nail a dish it can turn into something truly special. Unfortunately the current menu is a little longer than I’ve seen in the past so picking the “right” dishes can be crapshoot. Kanpachi crudo wasn’t as good as other raw fish preps that I’ve had here. The Little Gem salad with pig ears was as good as ever. There were three new dishes though that really stood out. First was a warm truffle salami that was served in a balsamic reduction. The second was a tripe amatriciana that was meant to be spread on some pieces of grilled ciabatta. Third was a chicken liver rigatoni. All three of these dishes demand your attention. They’re all beautifully balanced, taking competing flavors and putting them together perfectly. The balsamic working perfectly with the savory elements of the salami…the tripe a perfect mix of sweet, sour, spicy, and tripe-y…the pasta evoking every chopped liver I ate growing up, right down to the threads of onion mixed in. Go eat all of these. As soon as you can.

Odds and Ends – 11/18/13

Some of the things I’ve been eating lately…

Napoli’s Italian Eatery – My exploration of Canton dining continues. About a month ago one of my clients gave me his list of favorite spots in Canton, so I’ve been working through that a bit. Napoli’s is an old school Italian place in downtown Canton, right on the edge of the sketchy part of town. They seem to be known for their pizza, which appears to be a gigantic form of NY-style. I was in for dinner and didn’t feel like pizza so I had the “Penne Italiano”, which was penne with some pretty good sausage, peppers, and onions in a sort-of-spicy tomato sauce. Nothing mind-blowing, but the place really wins in terms of local charm. I’m keeping it on the list for future trips.

Pastaria – It’s pasta across the Midwest!. Pastaria is part of Gerard Craft’s local empire, specializing in (wait for it)…pasta. They don’t take reservations, and we had about a 45 minute wait arriving at 6:45pm on a Friday. It looked like there was a wait pretty much the whole time we were there, so factor this in if you’re planning on going. The pastas are all made in-house, and all three at our table were fantastic. My bucatini all’ amatriciana was nicely spicy with an almost stew-like sauce. The canestra in my wife’s cacio e pepe really made her dish, and our friend’s pistachio ravioli were unique and well made. Also, don’t skip the fried risotto ball appetizer.

Arami – Arami continues to be a shining beacon in Chicago’s sushi scene, which I maintain is remarkable given all of the changes they’ve been through. Well, here’s some more change. They have a new chef back in the kitchen, Fred Despres who used to be at Takashi. He’s already got some new items on the menu, including a wonderful hamachi poke and a damn respectable agedashi tofu. Their fish continues to be delicious and well handled by the guys behind the bar. Juno may be the trendy choice (and also very good), but the entire experience at Arami keeps me coming back.

Vera – I know I just gushed about Vera, so I’ll keep this short. They’re serving some gorgeous jamon iberico right now. It’s $28 a plate and it is worth every penny. Go eat it.

Odds and Ends – July 14, 2013

Some brief thoughts on stuff I’ve eaten lately…

Taggarts – An old timey ice cream parlor in North Canton, Ohio. My client in the area strongly recommended this place and I would agree it’s worth checking out if you’re in the area. My burger was cooked perfectly but wasn’t really anything special beyond that. The real attraction here is the ice cream. All of the ice cream, sauces, etc are all made in house. My banana ice cream with hot fudge was pretty fantastic. Here is my “small” dish

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Tatami – This is a little sushi place tucked into the side of a strip mall in Glenview that I first heard about via Sky Full of Bacon. It’s a pretty basic neighborhood sushi place with somewhat upscale decor. They have a lot of the typical mayo-laden fashion rolls on their menu, but their sashimi and nigiri are actually pretty good and certainly in the upper tier of what you’ll find in Chicagoland. You’re probably best off sticking to the raw fish as well as any of the other more traditional Japanese items on the menu. I tried their agedashi tofu on my last trip in and it was really quite good.

TK’s Smoke Pit – Another Glenview spot (my wife recently finished up the run of a show there, thus the increase in suburban dining), this one serving BBQ. I generally find online BBQ discussion annoying so I’m not going to get into the nuances of the equipment they’re using, what kind of wood chips they use, the presence of a smoke ring, or what zip code the BBQ is authentic to…but I will say this: I thought their brisket was pretty good. I don’t recommend hopping in the car and schlepping to Glenview to eat it, but it’s a good option if you want to avoid The Truman Show, aka The Glen. Anyway, here’s the brisket

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Table, Donkey, and Stick – This was a somewhat heavy travel week so I was especially grateful to have this dinner to look forward to at the end of my week. This is the newer restaurant in the old Bonsoiree space in Logan Square which claims to honor “the eating and drinking traditions of the Alps”. We tried a bunch of dishes from the menu among four of us and I would say the standouts were a fried chicken liver appetizer and a trout main course. I think I liked the charcuterie (“wanderteller” since we are in the Alps) more than others at the table, the duck liver in particular. Dessert was a mixed bag between a very good chicharron/cherry chocolate ice cream dish and a not so great dish involving sweet peas and chocolate. Good service, nice patio…a nice place for a relatively straightforward, low-key night out.

Eleven City Diner (Lincoln Park) – I hate The Bagel. I think they prey on people looking for the nostalgia of Jewish deli/diner food by serving a seriously substandard product. I mean, their bagels seriously suck and this is in a town full of sucky bagels. Given this situatio we were thrilled when the Belden Deli opened at Clark & Belden. We immediately became regulars, and then all of a sudden the Belden Deli closed. Now, Belden Deli wasn’t perfect but it was still better than The Bagel. In the same space, we now have a new location of Eleven City Diner. I’m happy to report that Eleven City Diner is even better than Belden Deli (so, really at this point, The Bagel can just go and pound sand). The corned beef, pastrami, and nova lox are all exactly as they should be. They make their own root beer, which is expensive ($5 for a bottomless mug) but also pretty darn good. The only thing I haven’t liked is the matzoh brie which I think is more of a stylistic issue than anything else.