Floriole Plum Galette

20 September 2011 · 0 comments

Plum galette from Floriole Café & Bakery

Sandra Holl and her staff at Floriole Bakery have gained quite a following for their rustic French pastries sold at Green City Market and at their year-and-a-half-old café. One of my favorites hands down is the crusty fruit galette that changes with the season. Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. Last month, returning from a Saturday Green City Market visit, I meant to post about Floriole’s beautifully burnished peach galette. But the perfectly caramelized plum galette at this past Saturday’s market may have been the best one I’ve tasted yet. Of course, that won’t stop me from making sure that future creations will prove me wrong. 

Floriole Café & Bakery
1220 West Webster Avenue
Tel 773.883.1313

Monday – Closed
Tuesday – 7:00am – 7:00pm
Wednesday – 7:00am – 7:00pm
Thursday – 7:00am – 7:00pm
Friday – 7:00am – 8:00pm
Saturday – 8:00am – 8:00pm
Sunday – 8:00am – 4:00 pm


Sunday Dinner Burger

19 September 2011 · 0 comments

Horseradish-cheddar burger from Sunday Dinner at Green City Market

My idea of breakfast is usually oatmeal. So ordering a hamburger last Saturday morning from Sunday Dinner’s stand at Green City Market was a first for me. And if you come hungry first thing, you might find yourself having one, too.
Chef-owners Christine Cikowski and Joshua Kulp offer a simple menu using only market ingredients at their fledgling venture: an egg sandwich and two kinds of burgers. But simple is good. Because the only burger you want is the horseradish-cheddar burger. Housed between two halves of a puffy sesame bun from Bennison’s Bakery is a juicy burger from Heartland Meats, gooey cheddar from Wisconsin’s Brunkow Cheese that somehow incorporates just enough horseradish for some kick, and tart arugula from Green Acres Farm. When all these elements come together it’s pure messy deliciousness.

The horseradish-cheddar burger is $9.

Sunday Dinner
Tel 773.878.2717


September Market Bounty

18 September 2011 · 0 comments

A variety of hierloom tomatoes from King's Hill Farm at Green City Market

The fading of Labor Day memories and the shortening of the days makes it feel like summer is over. But a stroll through any farmers’ market this past weekend helped bring back that summer feeling. At yesterday’s Green City Market there was so much color that even the most careful shopper most likely came back with more than planned. Mother Nature knows how to entice.

Leaning Shed Farm small tomatoes

Glorious, delicious, sun-soaked tomatoes of so many varieties it’s impossible to keep up with their names anymore are at their peak. With numerous stands selling them, it’s a matter of buying what appeals to you. Lately, when I want big meaty tomatoes for slicing or making ratatouille, I’ve been stopping by King’s Hill Farm’s stand. When I want a variety of flavors, I grab all kinds from the huge selection (29 varieties this year) of small tomatoes Leaning Shed Farm’s Dave and Denise Dyrek grow. They’re perfect for heaping into a bowl on your counter (making it easy to pop them into your mouth) and perfect for popping into lunch bags, too. 

Genesis Growers peppers

And interesting peppers abound. Aficionados can be found surveying the overflowing selection at Genesis Growers where you can overhear discussions about different levels of heat. If you’re content with the standard red, orange, or green pepper, it’s good to grab a few to add even more color to your diet. And if you want to get more flavor bang for your buck, try the organic, multicolored ones from Iron Creek Farm.

Iron Creek Farm eggplant

One of my summer rituals this time of year is to make ratatouille, a great way to use deep-purple, glistening eggplant like the ones here from Iron Creek. It’s not well known (and some say debatable), but there are male and female eggplants. Male eggplants have fewer seeds and round and shallow bottoms. Female eggplants have more seeds and are distinguished by a deeper, elliptical indentation.  Taste-wise, I find little difference and usually buy one of each, but there are those who say male eggplants are less bitter.

King's Hill Farm melons

My bags were heavy and full by the time I came across this box of curious produce at King’s Hill’s stand. While the cantaloupe was recognizable, were the others melons, too? Turns out they are, some of which I’ve never seen and most the size of a tennis ball. I’m curious to try them, so they’ll be on my shopping list for next week.

Green City Market
1750 N. Clark Street
(Lincoln Park at Clark and LaSalle)
7:00 am – 1:00 pm


Girl & The Goat

4 August 2011 · 0 comments

Sautéed green beans and grilled octopus at Girl & The Goat

I love trying new restaurants, but I’m not one to wait three hours for a table. So I often let a few months pass before trying the latest hot place. This was my strategy over Memorial Day weekend for dining at Stephanie Izard’s Girl & The Goat, which had opened last summer and a visit I’ve been wanting to write about. It was a Sunday. Earlier that day a major thunderstorm blew through the city. Then a heavy fog rolled in. My friend A. and I arrived early for dinner at 6:30 pm. I figured the stars would be aligned in our favor for snagging one of the tables reserved for walk-ins.

Was I wrong. OMG, so wrong. Our jaws dropped when we were told the wait would be an hour and a half. Anyone in Chicago going out for dinner that night seemed to be at G&G already. Stephanie Izard’s Top Chef Season 4 fame makes G&G still very much the go-to restaurant as soon as the doors open at 4:30 pm. You can eat at the huge bar at any time, but those seats fill up fast.
A. did what the situation called for: she ordered champagne and we starting discussing Plan B. We then found two seats in the lounge area and decided to look at the menu to order some apps. Amazingly, the restaurant gods were with us. Fifteen minutes later we were ushered to two open spots at one of the two, large communal tables parallel to the long, open kitchen.

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Xoco Salad

2 August 2011 · 0 comments

Rick Bayless's Xoco Salad

Hot, sultry August days call for eating light. As many of you know, Xoco is one of my favorite places for lunch. But as good as the tortas and caldos are, this time of year calls for a crisp, cool salad. Making an exception to Xoco’s Mexican street food theme, Rick Bayless offers only one salad as a main meal: the Xoco Salad. Thankfully he knows how to coax the best out of a mix of simple and fresh ingredients to make a winner. The blend of romaine and arugula taste just picked. Shreds of pork carnitas are juicy from the right amount of fat for flavor. (Or smoked chicken is an option.) Crispy tortilla threads add crunch. Chunks of avocado are perfectly ripe. The marinated black beans and pickled red onion (today it was sweet onion) lend contrast and tang. The finishing toss of avocado-lime dressing is nothing short of refreshing. No other salad needed here.

449 North Clark Street
Chicago  60654
Tel 312.334.3688

Tuesday–Thursday, 7:00am–9:00pm
Friday, 7:00am–10:00pm
Saturday, 8:00am–10:00pm
Closed Sunday and Monday
Note: Carry-out is available all day long


First summer tomatoes from Leaning Shed Farm

It was dang hot last week in Chicago. Thursday, July 21, was forecasted to be the hottest day of the year, the date of this year’s Green City Market BBQ benefit. Friends were Facebooking their nervousness about the heat. My sister Martha, my BBQ invitee, had her doubts about whether she could make it through the evening. “I’ll give it the ol’ college try,” she told me very matter of factly. “But I don’t know if I’ll last long.”

But by evening the temps cooled enough and a light breeze off the lake aided by the shade of big trees made being outside in Lincoln Park bearable. Along with some 2,000 event goers we grazed our way through small dishes created by nearly 100 Chicago chefs who drew on ingredients from the market for their creations.

Armed with a water bottle in one hand and a fork in the other, it was tough to take photos this year. But I can tell you what some of my faves were. My vote for best in show goes to The Publican for its beef and blood sausage taco. A close follow-up was Dirk’s Fish trout burgers with cool tzatziki, arugula, and pickled red onions in a mini pita. Great colors, too. I loved Marion Street Cheese Market’s creamy grit cakes with pulled goat shoulder topped with pickled and caramelized tropea onions and goat milk queso blanco. Also very good: Province’s vegetable tostada with tomatillo and ancho salsas. On the sweet side, I swooned over the Gateau Basque from The Peninsula and the Raspberry-Rose Petal ice cream sandwich from Snookelfritz.

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Heirloom Bowl

24 July 2011 · 2 comments

Black cherry bowl by David Lory

Summer is finally in full swing here in Chicago. Are you enjoying yours? I know I am. So much so that I haven’t had those spare moments to write for more than a month now. I’ve been super busy celebrating graduations and the holidays, shopping the farmers’ market every week, biking along the lakefront, hitting the art fairs, and getting out to Wisconsin to a farm party.

Now that I’ve taken a break, I’m ready to get back to writing about all the foods and finds I’m coming across. One is this rich auburn black cherry bowl, above, that I now have for my summer salads. I bought it from husband-and-wife team David and Suella Lory, from Platteville, Wisconsin, who show at the 57th Street Art Fair in Hyde Park. When I first saw the wooden bowls on display three years ago, I was stuck at how gorgeous and well made they were. I knew some day I had to have one (since I didn’t yet have a proper salad bowl). This year was the year.

The Lory’s booth typically has a swarm of fair-goers examining and running their hands over the array of bowls of all shapes, sizes, and types of wood. A small number of bowls are made from hard-to-find burls, those snarly malformations that sometimes develop on trees. Consider yourself lucky if you come across one. But no matter what bowl you fall in love with, you’ll know it’s one of a kind.


"High-Minded" chandelier by Stray Dog Designs at Anthropologie

Whoa! How cool is this chandelier? While shopping at Anthropologie on Michigan Avenue, I walked by it, did a double-take, and had to walk back to take a closer look.

Close-up of papier mâché

Pieces of papier mâchéd black and white encyclopedia pages over iron give this chandelier that one-of-a-kind, artsy find for anyone looking to add an eclectic element into their interior design mix—self included. Designed by Jane Gray of Stray Dog Designs, each chandelier is an original, handmade piece, made in Mexico and signed by the individual artisan.

The company works with Mexican artisans who combine their skills in traditional crafts to create products for the home from quality and recycled materials. When you buy a product from Stray Dog Designs, you’re supporting a company that in turn supports Mexican workers and artisans with a living wage, benefits, and profit sharing. Turning the lights on will make your home and your heart that much brighter. Available at Anthropologie stores, High-Minded Chandelier, style #063043, $998.


Fish Bar

10 May 2011 · 0 comments

White tuna carpaccio at Fish Bar

In a city known for its meat, it’s refreshing to have a restaurant in Chicago entirely devoted to seafood. Recently opened Fish Bar in East Lake View fits that bill. Painted bright sea blue, this pull-up-a-stool and sit-at-the-counter “fish shack” is Michael Kornick’s and David Morton’s new, next-door neighbor to their DMK Burger Bar. Aside from the counter seating, the place only has three tables—giving it a total of 30 seats.

Fish Bar's menu

Everything at Fish Bar is simple. Simple décor, a simple one-page menu, specials written on a single chalkboard, and simple preparations. But the initial simplicity belies the chef’s skill in bringing out the best in every piece of seafood, all of which is sustainably caught. The spring menu featured white tuna carpaccio, shown above, the night I dined. Sprinkled with fresh dill, chopped hard-boiled eggs, capers and drizzled with olive oil, I could have been content with this dish alone. And a second.

Happily, most plates are small—perfect for sharing—and more was to come. Dining with a friend, we split everything, including tender octopus grilled with a nice char and adorned with lemon preserve-infused olive oil and dried chile. Nothing more needed except a cool glass of sauvignon blanc or Riesling (the only two types of wine offered except for a white Sangria). Or maybe a craft beer or sweet tea.

Grilled octopus with lemon-infused olive oil

Half an oyster po' boy

My friend’s number 1 choice was the oyster po’ boy. Me, not being a big fried-food eater and never having been to New Orleans, Fish Bar’s rendition was my first po’ boy experience. And, well…it was really good. Three huge, fried, lightly battered oysters (we asked the kitchen to cut our sandwich in half) come nestled in a toasted bun along with remoulade and spicy cole slaw, producing a decadent crunchy/creamy contrast in every bite.   

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved everything my friend and I tried. And I’m thrilled Fish Bar is an easy walk from my place.  I will be back.

Fish Bar

Fish Bar
2956 North Sheffield Avenue
(at Wellington Avenue)
Tel 773.687.8177


Mega box of macarons in the window at Ladurée

Macarons at Georges Larnicol

Macarons get a lot of attention in Paris. Decked out in pretty colors and delivering incredible flavors to match, they can steal the show at any of Paris’s top pastry shops, or pâtisseries. The beauties above are from Ladurée, which many macaron aficionados say are the best in Paris. The macarons shown on the left at Georges Larnicol look awfully nice, too.

While a visit to Paris always includes a sampling of macarons, I like to try some of the macaron’s overlooked siblings, and on this trip I found myself coveting kouglofs and kouign amann. Although the best way to enjoy pastry is to have it the day it is made, I find as a traveler that I often want to enjoy them with my morning coffee, which means buying them the day before and keeping the bag tightly closed until breakfast the next day.

Imagine starting your day with a pot of strong coffee delivered to your room and breaking open this gorgeous kouglof from Pâtisserie Mulot in the Latin Quarter. Pretty sweet. Actually, despite its sugar coating kouglof is not terribly sweet and this brioche dough is meant to be a little dry. But trust me, this deceptively simple-looking cake is all yeasty, buttery, raisin-studded deliciousness. Perfect for dunking in coffee or eating as is. You won’t want to leave your room until you’ve finished off every last crumb.       

Kouglof from Pâtisserie Mulot

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