LTH Home

How to gain 5 lbs in 5 days in Chicago (Long & Pics)

How to gain 5 lbs in 5 days in Chicago (Long & Pics)
  • Forum HomePost Reply BackTop
  • How to gain 5 lbs in 5 days in Chicago (Long & Pics)

    Post #1 - May 16th, 2009, 5:58 pm
    Post #1 - May 16th, 2009, 5:58 pm Post #1 - May 16th, 2009, 5:58 pm
    I’ll freely admit, I’m a Connecticut Yankee, born and raised. My entire family is from the Tri-State region (that is CT, NY, NJ for all you other “Johnny-Come-Lately Tri-States”). While this has certainly had advantages such as an innate knowledge of good thin crust among other food oriented advantages.
    On the other hand, Chicago is my chosen home. So far my two residences in my favorite city have totaled nearly 6 years of my life. Much of this time has been devoted to our wonderful food culture. As most of us with family from elsewhere know, one of the joys of living here is getting to expose our loved ones to the wonders of Chicago food. Before this weekend my mother and my father had each come out twice to visit (my brother… well… he’s in 3rd place with zero). The thing is that, when my father came out we usually hade a nice relaxing time with plenty of good food. My mother has, in comparison, received a much less pleasant treatment having come out to help me move and once when I was very ill with the flu… not the best eating times. Moving wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t nearly as food oriented as we like it.

    The good news is that her 3rd visit was solely for enjoyment and for not other reason than it happened to be my 32nd birthday… really it was to eat…

    “In the beginning there was Al’s…er… um Manny’s…”

    Well actually… not really. The night Mom came in we actually went to Sticky Rice. While Sticky Rice is one of my favorites and, IMHO did a good job on everything we ordered (about half of the menu pictured on page two of the above thread), it was a new cuisine to my mother and didn’t knock her socks off. I really think it had more to do with having no benchmark.

    So for the first lunch, I figured I would take Mom for some indispensible Chicago food, Al's No. 1 Italian Beef. As we drove from Logan Square to Al’s we cruised by Moon's Sandwich Shop which I pointed out had some very good corned beef. My mother quickly replied, “Why don’t we go there?” I told her that if she really wanted deli food we should just head to Manny's. A breathless head nod later, Italian beef was out of the question. See, my mother is a New England Jew and grew up on deli food… Jewish deli food… While Western NC has some wonderful food, Jewish delis are NOT one of them… at all… Given the smiles, grunts and groans of happiness, it was the right call. It is an odd thing seeing one’s mother giggling like a Japanese school girl, but for this Mom, corned beef does just that…

    Image

    Image

    Happy Mom!!!

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Of 2 massive sandwiches, a couple latkes, slaw, and Cel-Rays… this was all that was left…

    Image

    What do you eat when you can’t eat another bite?

    So after Manny’s we could hardly walk. We waddled over to
    Binny's to pick up a few bottles of wine and cheese (I was very happy to find some perfectly ripe Montgomery's Cheddar possibly my favorite non-bleu cheese in the world). Given it was a fairly rainy day I followed my Mom around at some furniture outlets so she could see some things in person that she had her eye on for her on-going home renovations (I’m such a good son!). While a few hours of walking did relive the urge to fall over and sleep we were both fairly full at nearly 7 hours after lunch at 8PM. While my mother was happy to stay home with some our wine and cheese, there was no way I was letting her off the hook this soon in here visit.

    Sushi was really the only follow-up to massive amounts of cured and smoked meats for lunch. While it isn’t my favorite place in Chicago for the very best sushi, Bob San offered a number of attractive features given the situation. It is close to Logan Square, open late, and right in the middle of possible choices in terms of cost. Again we were not looking for an all out, best-in-the-Midwest meal. Aside from one stumble (if an interesting one), Bob San performed perfectly.

    We started with some simple root veg tempura and unfiltered sake, nothing out of the ordinary. What I was reminded of was how sake can stimulate an appetite in someone that didn’t really have one possibly better than any other libation on the planet. Given that we were full when we got there, the amount of food we were able to enjoy by the end of the evening was impressive. Thank you sake!!

    Image

    Image

    We then moved on to some rolls and nigiri. Again we kept it fairly simple with some soft-shelled crab, spicy tuna (no mayo… a very nice middle of the road roll that isn’t some oddly sweet or creamy concoction), bass, creamy scallop, and sweet shrimp.

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    And then there was the fumble…. Or should I say, simply odd dish. The menu described the following dish as “Baked King Crab – may, smelt egg, avocado”. When I pictured the dish I thought of something like what appears on page 99 of Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking. Crab legs split with a sauce on top. Not so…

    Image

    Image

    Image

    I actually was OK with the taste. It didn’t look so freakish in the dim light without the flash. The biggest problem is that it didn’t matter what kind of crab they used. Never mind snow crab, they could have put Krab in there and no one could tell the difference. My mother frowned and slid it toward me… /shrug … For a fish desert I ordered a few uni and oyster shooters… they went down just fine…

    Image

    I still think they are better one at a time… but what do I know ;)

    Image

    Remember that bit about sake?

    Remember we left for dinner not hungry? Well by the time we were driving home, I was reminded that my mother’s fifth taste is not “umami” but, rather, “hot fudge”. We drove by Margie's Candies and her eye’s lit-up like a neon sign on acid, and I basically had to E-brake slide my car into a U-turn… Fine by me…

    Image

    Image

    Image


    Finding the perfect dumpling…

    I have been to Katy's Dumpling House a number of times. It has always been some of the best Chinese food available, IMHO. Here is the thing, Chinese fried dumplings have been my favorite food since I was about 5 years old. They are my comfort food… my center when it comes to cuisine. If I have been sick and haven’t been able to eat in 3 days, they are the first thing I want when my appetite starts to return. If I go more than a week without eating fried dumplings, I don’t feel right. I guess I am saying, I take my dumplings pretty seriously. I have been around for 32 years and have been eating them since I was about five… so 52 weeks in a year… means I have probably had around 1,404 orders of dumplings in my life as a conservative estimate. I like dumplings. The ones we had at Katy’s were the best I can remember. I have vague recollections of fist size dumplings of perfection in Boston’s Chinatown and again in Manhattan when I was about 8 but I couldn’t tell you where or anything. Visual evidence is in order:

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    I was almost moved to tears… Oh, of course the dry chile noodles and Szechuan beef noodle soup were good as ever

    Image

    Image

    …but really, does it matter when you have this?

    Image

    Dinner is better when you can walk there.

    Bonsoiree is about 600 feet from my front door. I have wanted to go there for a good long while but it seemed that I could never interest anyone in a trip. While we had considered one of the longer format tasting menus for my birthday on Sunday, I knew my mother would be happier with something simpler at the end of her visit. We made a reservation at Bonsoiree late (9:30PM) on Friday and planned on the 4 course. Given the short walk to the restaurant, it seemed to make sense. In short, Bonsoiree really is a wonderful neighborhood restaurant. Even with our late reservation, we were never rushed. Shin Thompson was as wonderful a server as he is a chef. The food was certainly creative and while not everything hit on every level, we both admired the chances being taken in the kitchen. The dishes that worked were on par with some of the best creative dishes in the city.

    Spring Salad- Shaved cucumber, pickled Japanese eggplant, Verjust-truffle, Shimeji mushroom, bacon cubes, crispy garlic

    Image

    Image

    This was an interesting take on a salad. Very light and fresh in flavor and texture. It seemed a bit more evocative of summer than spring but a good sart.

    Extra course of baked Scallop – ponzu mayonnaise, fried carrot(?)

    Image

    Image

    This was simple and delicious. The mayonnaise was not heavy in any way and the fried root vegetable gave it a great crunch.

    Mussels in Japanese broth – pureed ramp (don’t remember what the “puffs” were)

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Again, this was simple, delicious and seasonal. I am not the biggest mussel fan but I enjoyed this.

    Vanilla basted Pouisson – spring peas, carrot, Vidalia onion, Bourbon curry turnip, purple (!) fingerling chips

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    This was one that we couldn’t decide on. The dish is visually stunning! I did like it but my first thought was that it tasted like a gourmet TV dinner. I’m not sure if that was what they were going for. I think it was the combination of carrot, pea, and a poultry based gravy.

    Dessert

    Image

    Image

    I’ll be honest. I don’t remember the details on this one other than we both thought it was very good. At this point it was very late and a bit of wine had been consumed. The meal ended on a up note and we made the walk home all smiles. I really dug Bonsoiree. It is a place clearly run by cooks that care about what they are doing and as someone that has spent time on the other side of the stove this scores a lot of points with me.

    What dress code?

    Image


    Interlude: A “simple” dinner at home

    After a fully packed Friday, we needed a break. We decided to do a bit of shopping and stay in for one night. On the way to Costco, we grabbed a quick bite of lunch at the Vienna Beef Cafe & Factory Store. After trying to convince Mom to get a case of dogs to take home so I didn’t have to hear about how there are no natural casing dogs available in NC (and failing… but I’m not hearing any more complaints now!) we picked up a few pounds of King Crab and some sweet corn.

    That night, after enjoying the wine and cheese from Binny’s, I got down to cooking. Actually, I didn’t have to do much… and that was the point. I made a simple garlic lemon butter by melting a stick and a half of sweet cream butter with a few raw garlic cloves, lemon slice, salt and pepper… that’s it. Cook down and clarify. This makes a perfect dip for seafood and is very good on steamed corn too. I also made some Asian soy/ginger dip for the crab by making a simple syrup and mixing it with equal parts black vinegar and soy, some Lao Gai Yang chile sauce, facing heaven dry chile, and garlic. In this case the meal was greater than the sum of its parts as conductor Roz illustrates.

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Finale: Café Spiaggia

    Sunday the 3rd was my birthday. It was also a perfect day in Chicago. 68 degrees, sunny, with a slight breeze. We spent the day walking through parks, the Shedd Aquarium, a IMAX movie, and finished up with drinks at The Signature Lounge at the Hancock Tower. It was a fun and touristy day. We had considered something over the top like L2O, Alinea, or going balls-to-the-wall at Katsu but Café Spiaggia seems the best mix of my Mom’s love of simple Italian, my desire for cuisine a cook would like and the fact that we were going to be tired and probably not up for a avant-garde marathon (or the hike out to Katsu). It was a good call. The location was perfect and we didn’t have to go home and change for the main dining room. The food was interesting and fresh. We had a wonderful table that faced the street and gave the feeling of being in a private room.

    Image

    We arranged our courses so that we shared a salad, had two pastas, and split a main which gave a fairly Italian feel to the meal. Rather than give every repetitious detail, I will simply say that everything was as it should be. The service was polished, ingredients were fresh, the saucing was right and the doneness was perfect on the fish. This is a restaurant operating at the peak of polish and is one of the best values in Chicago Italian food.

    SPINACI- Nichols Farm spinach and spring garlic with sweet pancetta, Piave cheese and white wine vinaigrette

    Image

    GNOCCHI- Hand crafted potato gnocchi with wild boar ragu and Parmigiano Reggiano

    Image

    Image

    RAVIOLI- Hand crafted spring garlic and ricotta filled ravioli with peas and orange zest

    Image

    Image

    TROTA- Wood roasted Rushing Waters trout with artichokes, Tuscan beans, roasted shallots and potatoes

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Dessert

    Image

    Image

    Image

    So here’s to Mom!

    Shortly after this visit I accepted a job back in Connecticut and will be leaving Chicago for a second time in mid-June. For whatever reason I can’t seem to stay in the city that is my culinary home. The good thing about all this is that Mom is coming back out to help me move (again…what a trooper). The only problem? What to eat!!! Good thing she is getting a head start on that problem.

    Image
  • Post #2 - May 16th, 2009, 8:40 pm
    Post #2 - May 16th, 2009, 8:40 pm Post #2 - May 16th, 2009, 8:40 pm
    Hi, I'm Roz (Josh's mom). Bravo Josh! I could almost taste it all again. It may have taken you 5 hours to type it but it took more than twice that to eat it! Now, for the next visit... maybe I'll try the Italian beef (as long as I can have another lunch at Manny's. Some Chinese this time and maybe a giant burger at the place we ate at the time before last. And maybe the Korean BBQ.... :D
  • Post #3 - May 16th, 2009, 8:44 pm
    Post #3 - May 16th, 2009, 8:44 pm Post #3 - May 16th, 2009, 8:44 pm
    Stagger, great thread and pics! Thanks for sharing your 5 days of food bliss with your mom. The smiles she has in your pics sharing wonderful food with you is priceless!
    Fettuccine alfredo is mac and cheese for adults.
  • Post #4 - May 17th, 2009, 6:57 am
    Post #4 - May 17th, 2009, 6:57 am Post #4 - May 17th, 2009, 6:57 am
    Bar none, my favorite mother-son team on LTH. At least until Sparky can type :D

    Thanks.
  • Post #5 - May 17th, 2009, 9:58 am
    Post #5 - May 17th, 2009, 9:58 am Post #5 - May 17th, 2009, 9:58 am
    Really nice post. It shows your love for all things Chicago. Can't wait to see your food essays from CT.

    Safe journey,
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #6 - May 17th, 2009, 10:58 am
    Post #6 - May 17th, 2009, 10:58 am Post #6 - May 17th, 2009, 10:58 am
    Beautiful stuff, Stagger. I wish my mom were 1/10 as enthusiastic about good eats as Roz is.

    Bonsoiree and Cafe Spiaggia (and/or Spiaggia) are now on my short list.

    Thanks, for sharing your family time with us,

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #7 - May 17th, 2009, 11:33 pm
    Post #7 - May 17th, 2009, 11:33 pm Post #7 - May 17th, 2009, 11:33 pm
    Roz, if you're looking to adopt a 36 year old son, please let me know. I'm polite, sweet and well dressed generally, and I don't argue much. I wouldn't embarass the family name or anything like that.
  • Post #8 - May 17th, 2009, 11:42 pm
    Post #8 - May 17th, 2009, 11:42 pm Post #8 - May 17th, 2009, 11:42 pm
    Ghazi, if you love food and are as much fun to cook with and dine with as Josh (Stagger), well, welcome to the family... :lol:
  • Post #9 - May 18th, 2009, 7:13 am
    Post #9 - May 18th, 2009, 7:13 am Post #9 - May 18th, 2009, 7:13 am
    Ghazi wrote:Roz, if you're looking to adopt a 36 year old son, please let me know. I'm polite, sweet and well dressed generally, and I don't argue much. I wouldn't embarass the family name or anything like that.

    Roz,

    I'm generally polite, but prone to cursing, not all that sweet or well dressed and may, in fact, cause embarrassment. I'd still love to hang out with you and Josh, the two of you really know how to do a town.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #10 - May 18th, 2009, 7:27 am
    Post #10 - May 18th, 2009, 7:27 am Post #10 - May 18th, 2009, 7:27 am
    Team LTH New England just got another !

    Hope to see Mama Roz on here more often !

    -Nab
  • Post #11 - May 18th, 2009, 11:16 am
    Post #11 - May 18th, 2009, 11:16 am Post #11 - May 18th, 2009, 11:16 am
    Stagger wrote:
    GNOCCHI- Hand crafted potato gnocchi with wild boar ragu and Parmigiano Reggiano

    Image


    this is one of my favourite meals of all time
  • Post #12 - May 18th, 2009, 11:50 pm
    Post #12 - May 18th, 2009, 11:50 pm Post #12 - May 18th, 2009, 11:50 pm
    Stagger wrote:
    Shortly after this visit I accepted a job back in Connecticut and will be leaving Chicago for a second time in mid-June. For whatever reason I can’t seem to stay in the city that is my culinary home. The good thing about all this is that Mom is coming back out to help me move (again…what a trooper). The only problem? What to eat!!! Good thing she is getting a head start on that problem.



    This is bittersweet news for those of us that have enjoyed sharing meals with you on many occasions. I am thrilled something opened up out East but sorry it means an empty place at the big round tables at LSC! Thank you for this wonderful, celebratory post. Here's to hoping that CT gets the same treatment when rewarding you on the plate, and that you can refresh your palate in Chicago as frequently as you desire.
  • Post #13 - May 19th, 2009, 8:53 am
    Post #13 - May 19th, 2009, 8:53 am Post #13 - May 19th, 2009, 8:53 am
    Thanks for the kind words all! I am truly sorry to be leaving but I held out as long as I could trying to find work here. There just wasn't anything available it seems (and I tried 'em all from Piece to Pastoral... although I guess that is just the "P"s :wink: ).

    In any case, The posts will keep coming. I still have the last trip to Hartford to post which included a very good Harry's Pizza visit, a killer burger my father made, a newish restaurant in Downtown Hartford called "Dish" that was very good, and a wonderful mother's day meal at home. I don't know of a better food community on the web anywhere and the thought of not checking LTH several times a day is unthinkable. Chicago will always be my favorite city for food... ya can keep NY, SF, and LA (well, I'd take the Japanese in LA...) but Chicago just has that mix of high quality that isn't ashamed of its humble roots. I mean, really, can you see the Gyro Burger coming from San Francisco? I know I will get back here anytime I can if, for no other reason than to eat. In any case, this post is really about the great food had at some of my favorite places above. As I sit here, I can remember every bit of those fantastic dumplings from Katey's, the blissed out look on my mother's face when they assembled a proper corned beef on rye in front of her at Manny's, even the "Creature from the Green Lagoon®" at Bob San.
  • Post #14 - May 19th, 2009, 10:12 am
    Post #14 - May 19th, 2009, 10:12 am Post #14 - May 19th, 2009, 10:12 am
    Stagger-LTH Chicago's loss is LTH-New England's gain! See you at Harry's!

    --Josephine
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.

Contact

About

Team

Advertize

Close

Chat

Articles

Guide

Events

more