Friday, December 19, 2008

Feeding My Inner Foodie

My dining adventures in Chicago were superb. I visited some classic favorites, and explored new territory as well. My inner foodie was very pleased.

Starting with a classic favorite, I enjoyed a record-breaking six meals at Fox and Obel Café (401 E. Illinois Street), which covered the span of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My favorites are still the breakfast offerings, specifically the French Toast, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, and Healthy Start Parfait (layers of milk an honey granola, vanilla yogurt, and seasonal berries). I also love any and all of the baked goods.

Also along the lines of breakfast, my friend Seif (Katie) introduced me to a new restaurant, The Bongo Room (1152 S Wabash Ave.), which specializes in creative French toast and pancakes. The strategy, as Seif explained it to me, is to order multiple items on the menu, but as half orders. That way you can sample as many different pancakes as possible. So Seif and I essentially created a pancake/french toast flight, and enjoyed four varieties, including the Chocolate Tower French Toast (bittersweet chocolate chunk bread stuffed with maple mascarpone, banana crème brulee sauce, bananas and shaved chocolate). It was quite hilarious to see all of the decadent varieties of pancakes spread across the table for just the two of us. It was sheer gluttony, and I loved every moment.

Next up was another Seif recommendation, Tango Sur (3763 N. Southport), which is where I enjoyed dinner on Monday with Seif, Karen, my friend Mel from college, and my colleague Cydney, and her boyfriend Ben. I loved this place, definitely now among my Chicago favorites. It’s essentially an Argentinian BYOB steak house with a very intimate atmosphere and great prices. We started out with appetizers, sampling the four varieties of Empanadas, as well as the Provoleta (Argentina provolone cheese cooked on the grill with olive oil and roasted red pepper). Seif and I then split the El Filet as an entrée (range grown filet mignon cooked on the grill then topped with a red onion wine sauce and accompanied with spinach mashed potatoes.) We also took advantage of the BYOB, with two bottles of red wine with dinner. I'm embarassed to admit I was a tiny bit hung over on Tuesday!

My next restaurant adventure was to The Publican (837 W. Fulton Market), which recently opened in October to much hype (it’s the latest venture from the team who opened Avec and Blackbird). The menu is unique and eclectic, and primarily highlights seafood and heirloom pork, as well as an incredible beer list and communal dining. Karen, her sister Sue, and I shared three dishes—the mussels, the heirloom apple salad, and a dish with chicken, sausage, and frites. The heirloom salad stood out most for me. It was very good. The rest was good, but not great. The service was very good, and the bathrooms are also cool. But I’d still pick Avec over The Publican any day.

And my final culinary adventure in Chicago was to Sweet Mandy B’s (1208 W. Webster Ave.), which features “old fashioned” homemade cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and more. I ordered two cookies and the "Magic" bar. I’m such a sucker for good bakeries. They just draw me in with their creamy frostings, cheery pleasantries, and sugar.

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