Friday, July 07, 2006

Eating Elsewhere: Chicago

My recent four-day trip to Chicago was filled with so many gastronomical delights. I -- along with my two travel companions -- ate ridiculously well:

  • We landed in Chicago around 3:30pm and were famished because none of us had eaten breakfast before flying out that morning. And they served absolutely NO FOOD on the plane. Well, there were some muffins wrapped in plastic that you could buy. But those weren't the least bit appetizing. Where were the snack boxes?!

    Anyway. As soon as we checked in, we headed to the Lobby restaurant in The Peninsula to get our grub on. Afternoon Tea service was just winding down, but they were happy to seat us anyway. Apparently, the dining space is modeled after The Peninsula in Hong Kong -- which is famous for its Afternoon Tea, which I have also enjoyed. But I don't know if it was just the extreme hunger, but I thought the Chicago tea service was actually better than the one in Hong Kong. Everything we ate was so good.

  • I've had the pleasure of dining at Charlie Trotter's restaurant in Mexico. But with superchefs like Trotter, if possible, I think one should eat at their original establishment to really appreciate their genius. And that's exactly what we did Saturday night.

    There were three of us dining together, and we each opted for the Grand Menu:

    • Amuse Gueule
    • Japanese Hamachi with Roasted Bell Pepper, Kalamata Olive Sorbet, Spanish Paprika & Basil Oil
    • Hawaiian Escolar with Steamed Dungeness Crab, Chives & Crispy Pig's Feet
    • Whole Roasted Squab with Braised Sweet Onions, Chanterelle Mushroom &
      Szechwan Peppercorn Reduction
    • Four Story Hill Angus Strip Loin with Kohlrabi, White Runner Bean, Pickled Garlic & Spiced Date
    • Meyer Lemon & Olive Oil Sherbet with Candied Lemon Peel
    • Poached Rhubarb with Jasmine Semifreddo & Celery
    • Mignardises

    The flavors... The textures... Delicious. And we even saw the man himself (Charlie Trotter) pass through the dining room.

  • And just when you think NOTHING could top dinner at Charlie Trotter's, along comes Alinea. The Tour Menu consisted of 24 courses. They were small, but still! TWENTY-FOUR! And each plate was a masterpiece. Truly beautiful. I have never seen food presented so well in my entire life.

    potatoGrant Achatz' cuisine can best be described as avant garde. It is so completely different than anything you've ever seen or tasted. For example, the first course was called Hot Potato/Cold Potato. It consisted of a translucent bowl -- small enough that you could easily cup it in the palm of your hand -- filled with chilled potato soup. Suspended over the soup, from a needle, was a bit of parmesan, a bit of cold butter, a sliver of chive, a warm chunk of potato, and a slice of black truffle. The server instructed us to pull the needle away from the bowl, thereby letting all of the suspended items fall into the bowl. Then sip and enjoy. The flavors blended so harmoniously. It was gorgeous to look at, fun to eat, and -- best of all -- tasted divine. Subsequent courses were just as brilliant.

    It's hard to put the Alinea experience into words. You just have to go and appreciate it for yourself.

    (Image from Alinea's web site)

  • After Charlie Trotter's and Alinea two consecutive nights, on Monday, it was time to get back to "normal" food. We hit Grant Park for the Taste of Chicago festival. This is where I enjoyed two of my favorite foods: deep-fried dough (funnel cakes!) and deep-fried potatoes (a plate piled high with chips).

taste of chicago taste of chicago

  • We couldn't leave Chicago without sampling some cupcakes. So we made a visit to Sweet Mandy B's. Yummm! The cakes were so moist, and the frosting not overly sweet. The Red Velvet was my favorite.

And those were pretty much the food highlights from Chicago!