Monday, December 22, 2008

It was cold in Chicago, too

I just got back from the Midwest Band and Orchestra clinic in Chicago where it was cold and snowy, but no ice storms like there was here. Although there were good clinics, concerts, and display booths at the conference, the highlight of the trip for my wife and I has always been finding good food for reasonable prices in a city known for good restaurants. My plan before leaving for Chicago was to turn this blog into a foodie blog for one post - take pictures of pristine and beautiful plates of food, then write about the mouth-watering goodness, the wonderful service, the great wine, etc.

It didn't work.

I was always hungry by mealtime, and usually in the midst of a good conversation when the food arrived, and consistently forgot to take a picture of the food before I started to dig in.

Oh, well.

Anyway, here is a summary of our trip from a gastronomic perspective, with some pics taken by me when I remembered to take them, and some supplemental pics from the restaurants' web sites.


We went to lunch at the Soupbox. This is a hole in the wall neighborhood joint close to the Water Tower Place shopping district, and only a block from a Red Line subway stop. They serve 12 different homemade soups each day, with a constantly changing list of soups. They allow you to sample before you buy, and routinely mix different soups together to make interesting combinations - the staff even suggests a different mix each day. Julie and I both had a mix of Lobster Bisque with New England Clam Chowder. Although I forgot to take a picture of the soup, I did get a blurry cell phone pic of the cauldrons of soup on the counter.

For dinner we were joined by Tony Falcone, director of the Cornhusker Marching Band, at Brasserie Jo's, a nice French restaurant in the River North area. I was going to get the classic Steak Frites,

but the special sounded too good (braised short ribs in a cabernet savignon sauce on polenta). We started with a baguette, then French Onion Gratinee, followed by our entrees (Tony and I had the special, Julie had coq au vin). We passed on dessert, although we regretted it when they brought a huge bowl of chocolate mousse to the table next to us, which they proceeded to dish out and shave dark and white chocolate over the top of the plate tableside.


We went to lunch at Heaven on Seven, a cajun/creole restaurant on the Magnificent Mile. Julie had a big bowl of gumbo, I had Orsolaya, a jambalaya made with orso pasta instead of rice. I actually remembered to take a picture this time, but not until I had eaten about a third of it:

Dinner Thursday was at the Park Grill, a hot new restaurant overlooking the skating rink at Millenium Park.

We both started with a Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper with Goat Cheese soup,

and for my entree, I had the pepper-crusted Kobe Beef Burger with carmelized onions, gorgonzola cheese, and stone ground mustard. Julie had a seafood pasta dish. This was easily the best hamburger I have ever had.

Afterwards, we had to take a blurry pic of the skaters.


On Friday, we had the obligatory deep-dish pizza. We usually go to Giordano's or Lou Malnatti's for pizza when when in town, but many people swear by Pizzeria Uno, so we decided to give that a shot. They had a good express lunch deal which featured their individual sized Numero Uno (sausage, pepperoni, peppers, onions, and mushrooms), so we gave that a try. I still think I like Giordano's best, though.

Friday night we went out with Tony again to Rosebud on Rush, one of the more famous Italian restaurants in the River North area.

After eating all that pizza for lunch, Julie and I decided to split some Chicken Marsala for dinner.
We also got an ernormous slice of their tiramisu (it was easily twice the size of the pic below) for our only dessert of the trip.


On Saturday morning, we slept in and did the laundry and cleaning (the only disadvantage to staying in a condo rather than in a hotel). We then headed down to the South Loop neighborhood breakfast hot spot, Yolk, which is right next door to the Trek Store (there is my bike reference for this post).

Although I would have loved to have gotten this:

I recently read Anthony Bourdain's book Kitchen Confidential, in which he describes Hollandaise sauce as a "swimming pool for bacteria". So instead, I got an omelet. The other exciting part of this stop was having our first ever celebrity sighting in Chicago. Sitting at the table next to us in Yolk was this guy:

If you don't recognize him, he is the guy in the middle of the truck in this scene from Dumb and Dumber (he was also in Goodfellas, and has been in a bunch of t.v. stuff).

After breakfast, we headed up to the Magnificent Mile for some shopping before flying home in the evening.

This item, in a window at Tiffany's, will not be under our tree this year.

Merry Christmas to you all!


Adrian_O said...

Awesome! Merry7 Christmas to you and your Family Bob

Adrian_O said...

Greatest movie ever, btw!

Bob K said...

Thanks, Adrian - same to your family.

nicol said...

I can't figure out why the hollandaise sauce would be more bacteria-laden than other sauces, other than the egg yolks aren't completely cooked? That is seriously one of my favorite sauces.

Nice foodie post. Looks like you had a great trip!

Bob K said...

According to Mr. Bourdain in his book Kitchen Confidential, which is a biography and expose of sorts detailing his life working as a chef - several reasons not to eat hollandaise (in a restaurant - ok to eat if you make it yourself):

1) In order to not break up, hollandaise must be held at a tempurature which is not too hot or too cold - the lukewarm temp is perfect for bacteria

2) According to him, no chef he has ever known has made hollandaise to order, so if you order it, it might have been sitting for a while

3) The butter used in the sauce may be melted leftover table butter, clarified and strained to get out the bread crumbs and cigarette butts

Sorry if that ruins eggs benedict for you :(

nicol said...

I have been pondering this a few days and it does kind of ruin it for me, but it's better to know than get food poisoning at some point. Ew.