March 9, 2012

Chicago, part two

Three months ago, the husband & I stole away to Chicago for a little more than two days.  We packed so much eating into those few hours that I felt two blog posts were necessary.  The first one focused entirely on my culinary crush: Rick Bayless.  I meant to let a little time pass before I posted Chicago: Part Two, but maybe not three months.  Better late than never.  Find a comfy chair & put on your stretchy pants – this is a fattening post. 
I’m a Top Chef junkie.  Even though she got the b*tch edit, I knew I wanted to visit Heather Terhune at Sable.  I can be a bit of one myself, and I found her endearing.  And for me, the show is about whose food I want to eat, not who I want to hang out with.  I’m the type of diner who wants a bite of everything, so the small plate concept at Sable was right up my alley.  The restaurant’s take on new American comfort food was perfect for the chilly (ok, frigid) Chicago evening.  We ordered erratically: tuna tartare tostadas, crispy pork belly BLTs, chicken & waffles, and sweet corn crème brûlée.  The pork belly BLTs were not crispy as promised, and overall were a disappointment. 

Everything else was delicious.  The tuna tartare was dotted with meyer lemon crema and had a fresh burst of flavor. 

The juicy fried chicken on top of fluffy yet crispy waffles was drizzled with bourbon maple syrup, and we ate every bite. 
see those big flakes of salt? see that crispy waffle edge?

The standout was probably the sweet corn crème brûlée.  The tender corn was studded in a creamy pudding, topped with a crunchy, crispy caramelized layer of sugar, then flaked with sea salt.  It was incredible.
this replaced dessert. seriously.

To drink, Sable offers a huge list of specialty drinks.  I think the cool kids are calling this mixology.  I’m mentioning the drinks after the food because that’s the way we received them.  That was the major disappointment of the evening.  We were probably halfway through our food before the cocktails arrived.  This is not a restaurant of leisure.  That said, I truly enjoyed the Hemingway Daquiri: Bacardi 8 Rum, fresh grapefruit, Luxardo maraschino & house made orange bitters.  The husband got an Irish Cream: Powers Irish Whiskey, demerara & cream. 
toasting my love.
The next day we completely spoiled our dinner by grabbing a ‘snack’ at the adorable Chicago French Market.  Our voyage there started as a journey to grab a pastry from the Vanille outpost, which I had been told was not to be missed.  So we grabbed a chocolate croissant, and wandered around the market.  It wasn’t long before we stumbled on Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer.  There was a condiment list that was drool worthy, and we ultimately settled on curry mayo to go with our frites. 
you either like mayo or you don't. me? what do you think?

The beer we tried – Blanche De Bruxelles – is one I’ll be seeking out in future.  It was crisp & citrusy, and went perfectly with the hot, greasy, salty fries.  It wasn’t until I was looking at the picture I snapped of the bottle that I noticed the label has a cherub making a wee.  Even so, it’s really good beer. 

wee wee. tee hee!

But wait! We ate more! The husband, a sucker for Nutella (smart man), found FliP Crepes & got a hot, folded crepe filled with the chocolate hazelnut goodness.  GOODNESS.  We left the market fat, happy and completely ready to cancel our dinner reservations.

this photo represents about 0.01% of how delicious this tasted.
Later that evening, still full & happy, we ventured over to a place called Hot Chocolate for dessert.  Excellent food blogger Erin made this recommendation to me, and I’m glad she did.  It was dark, cozy & had a dessert menu that made my decision very, very difficult.  My husband was rather fond of the artwork:
not the sort of rump that typically appears on food blogs. it is a nice one, though.

To eat, we finally decided on a white chocolate mint pots de crème with house made Oreo and a coffee cocoa nib milkshake.  I enjoyed these with a latte, and I was a happy, happy camper. 
imma give you a minute alone with this.

I revisited the restaurant’s menu recently and found this addition: Spanish peanut meringue, milk chocolate peanut butter mousse & peanut butter buttercream served with a “peanut buster” parfait fudgesicle pop.  YES.  So a return visit is definitely in order. 

Our final meal in Chicago is a staple of any trip I make there: The Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Company.  The restaurant, which is the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, is tiny, intimate & takes only cash for payment. 
The husband & I love their salad almost as much as the pizza itself.  It’s quite basic: iceberg lettuce, red onion, tomatoes, olives & peppers, but the dressings are something special.  You get a combination of sweet & sour poppy seed, sour cream & garlic, and Italian.  They’re all house made and all delicious, but when you mix all three together in your salad something magic happens. 
magic happens up in this iceberg lettuce.

Now.  The pizza.  For me, there’s just no other version of deep dish that will do.  They call it ‘pizza pot pie,’ and that’s exactly what it is.  They line a ceramic bowl with brick cheese, fill it with a chunky tomato meat sauce, onions, peppers and whole mushrooms, then wrap it with a fresh dough.  It’s baked, brought to your table & flipped over.  This is what it looks like:

pizza pot pie.  BRILLIANT.

This is what it looks like five minutes later:
A few friends have been talking about upcoming trips to my favorite city, and I’m already starting to get the pangs.  And I’m not talking about heartburn.  Don’t worry, Chicago.  I’ll be back & I’ll be ready to eat. 


  1. So interesting you went to the French Market. I am through there twice a day, as it is my train station. I never eat there though.

  2. Ooh, we planned to maybe squeeze in Hot Chocolate and/or Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder, but never got to them. Hopefully going back soon and will put them back on the list!