weekends / chicago in september

Warning: massive food post. Don’t read while hungry.

It’s only appropriate that I remind my Illinois friends how nice the weather in September was now that Chicago is snowy and cold. Or I am just catching up on past events. Or both.

Chicago has a special place in my heart. Even though I’ve never lived there, plenty of university friends do and I’ve visited many times over the years. Each trip to the windy city is always super productive. We have all matured over the years and have developed more complex palates for good food and good wine.

Another warning: I was lazy and many of these photos were taken with my Blackberry.

First stop was dinner at Telegraph in Logan Square. I love places that have a market to table approach. We started with the corn tartine. Then, I had seared frog legs with dill creme fraiche/smoked cinnamon/pimiento and a huge endive salad with greens, cheese, beans, and peaches. We shared a corn panna cotta with spicy bacon streusel and raspberries. They also have a fantastic wine selection, but since I had to drive, I only had a glass. Thanks, E!

I stayed at a friend’s. Their cats are so well trained they stay within the study. Say hi! (And thanks for letting me stay over!)

I walked to this divey bar, Half Shell, for their crab leg lunch special. Apparently it’s super popular in warmer weather, but it looked so dead, I thought they were closed at first. I had the snow crab special that is randomly plated on toast, fries, and lollipops. I listened to Yelp reviews and didn’t try the lollipops, but apparently I was misled :(

We had drinks at Aviary, which is Grant Achatz’s molecular cocktail bar. And it’s not just a bar, it’s an experience from the serious bouncers at the door to the unique presentation to the evolving flavors of each drink. We drank a bit too much here and were about to get hushed. Also, that steel thing in the drink? It’s a stick, not a straw. You get an amuse-bouche in the beginning, but try not to go too hungry. The bites are really just a bite and pricey.

I got the three-drink prix fixe menu. There are three sections, like with a food menu. I started with quince (bottled ginger and pisco), then moved on to peach (angostura, maple sap, white port, and whiskey) which was very fun and yummy with the melting angostura balls, and finished with cold chocolate (with bourbon).

I forget which drink this was:

My peach drink with Oolong in the back.

Dinner was at the Pump Room, which was invigorated by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It mimics ABC Kitchen while retaining Pump Room’s Rat Pack-era classics. The vibe is completely different than ABC Kitchen and I can say that their dishes aren’t executed identically, but they are still delicious. We had a huge party, ordered a ton of dishes, but these were the only shots I got. I had the walleye. I loved the sundae, which I’ve never had stomach room for at ABC Kitchen: salted caramel + candied peanuts + popcorn + chocolate sauce.

We had a huge dinner the next day at Davanti Enoteca. We had a mason jar with burrata/sea salt/evoo, the mascarpone polenta + ragu board, salad with roasted squash + farro + goat cheese + hazelnut + watercress), truffle egg toast + fontina + asparagus, a cheese plate, risotto with pancetta + sweet peas + parmigiano + egg yolk, pizza with egg + pork belly + potato + asiago + bechamel, grilled octupus, and linguine with uni + crab. I think there was also a roasted cauliflower soup, but I’m not sure. Whatever it was, it was delicious. The only dish that was a disappointment was the uni pasta. We could’ve done without the octupus. Go to Basta Pasta in NYC for better uni pasta. We finished with three desserts. I only remember the butterscotch pudding. Delicioso!

Oh, and before dinner, we had a yummy Creole style brunch at Big Jones in Andersonville. Beignets, waffles/eggs/duck confit, poached eggs/popovers, and French omelet. Very hearty!

After dinner, I caught up with a friend at pretty new cocktail bar, Elixir. On the way back home, I picked up a chorizo and egg breakfast torta at Rick Bayless‘ O’Hare outpost. I got upgraded so ended up shooting and eating this at home. I think Bayless is overhyped. I’ve also been to Xoco and the only thing I love is their churros, which are hard to mess up.

And on an unrelated note, my roommate had gone apple picking in NJ and brought back donuts!

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