City Winery

IMG_0379City Winery opened the in West Loop neighborhood last summer.  This is a winery, a restaurant, a bar and a music venue all combined into one unique space.  They also have a very nice patio.

I’ve been twice since they opened and while I’m a pretty big fan of their food, I have to say I’ve been a little disappointed by the wine thus far.  I would say that their wine is average; on this visit I tried the Pinot Noir Rose.  It was a nice Rose, with good flavor, but nothing I’d tell you to run out and try right away.  My friends both had the Cabernet Franc and neither one of them particularly cared for it.

This is another good spot for sharing small plates.  They have a lot of different options including some really good flatbreads and a daily crudo.

We tried three different things on this visit – the  Crudo which was tuna with avocado moose, the Mushroom Flatbread and the Dipping Flight.  Of the three, the mushroom flatbread, a combination of seasonal mushrooms and a goat cheese béchamel,  was my favorite.

IMG_0376The tuna was also very good;  the avocado mousse gave it a nice twist and the tuna was very fresh.

We debated a little bit on the hummus – the platter comes with three different types, traditional, white bean and Muhammara.  White bean hummus is one of my favorites, and while I liked the taste of this one, the texture seemed a bit off to me.  I prefer it to be more creamy than this one.  Muhammara is a red pepper hummus that also includes walnuts and breadcrumbs.  All three of  us agreed that we liked this one the best.  It had a great flavor and nice texture.

Overall, I like City Winery and will definitely go back for another visit and a more extensive sampling of their wines.

 

http://www.citywinery.com/chicago/

 

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Pork Tacos with Avocado Corn Salsa

This recipe was inspired from a recipe in the September 2004 issue of Cooking Light.  I wanted to create a different twist on pork tacos, so I added in a my favorite version of a corn salsa.  Recipe serves 4-6 people.

Grilled Pork 

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2 pounds of pork tenderloin

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried, minced onion

1/2 tsp dried, minced garlic

1/4 tsp course ground pepper

1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 C apricot preserves

balsamic vinegar

Mix oregano through pepper, stir to combine.  Add olive oil and mix well.  Rub pork on all sides with spice mixture.  Place the tenderloin on a grill pre-heated to medium-high (approx. 425 degrees).  Cook for 15-20 minutes (time may vary quite a bit depending on your grill), or until temperature reaches about 125 degrees. While the pork is cooking, heat the preserves in a small sauce pan over low heat until they fairly liquid, about 10 minutes.  Add balsamic to taste, anywhere from 1-3 tsp, mix well.  Brush all sides of the pork with the preserves (I leave the tenderloin on the grill while I do this, but it can get a little messy); continue grilling until the temperature reaches 155- 160 degrees.  Remove from grill and let stand for 15 minutes.  Slice or shred pork.

Corn Salsa

4-6 ears of corn, husks removed

1 tbsp Grapeseed Oil

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

juice and zest from half of a lime

1/4 C chopped cilantro

1/2 tsp hot sauce (more if you like things spicy)

1/2 tsp sugar

1 avocado, chopped

1/2 C queso fresco

salt & pepper to taste

8-12 Corn Tortillas (I prefer La Tortilla Factory White Corn Tortillas)

Brush the corn with the grapeseed oil (you can use olive oil instead, the grape seed oil just has a lower smoke point) and  place on a grill pre-heated to medium heat.  Cook for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until corn is done and all sides are slightly charred.  Remove from grill and let cool slightly.  Remove corn kernels and place in a medium bowl (you can use a sharp knife to do this, but if you like corn salad/salsa I highly recommend investing in a nifty little tool that is designed to quickly remove corn kernels from the cob.  I use this one from OXO).

Add the remaining ingredients to the corn and stir well to combine.

To prepare the tacos, warm the tortillas.  Fill each tortilla with pork and top with corn salsa. I sometimes add a bit of Pico de Gallo if I have some already made (or I purchase it from Whole Foods).

Ada St. – A Unique Spot in Noble Square

I had heard about this place a few times before I decided to try it, and have to say, it definitely lived up to the reputation is has developed!  I’m not sure they are really in the Noble Square neighborhood, so I’d suggest a map, or some good directions to find your way to Ada Street.

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The menu is small plates, definitely designed for sharing.  There is a good variety, however if you are not into trying unusual food combos, you may have a difficult time with the menu.  The flavors are unique and the combinations are creative.

We ordered several plates to share.  The polenta fries where a great way to start – nice a crispy with a great chipotle dipping sauce.  My other two favorites were the Seared Octopus and the Diver Scallops.  The seafood in both was excellent and the mix of flavors were outstanding.  The menu changes seasonally; some of the main ingredients stay consistent over time, however the preparation changes.

They have a nice wine list with good variety and many options you don’t typically find.  We decided to let the bartender select a bottle of wine for us; we described what we wanted – something Chardonnay like, but not too oakey and not fruity.  He was spot-on with his choice!  Overall, the service is outstanding.

While we did not partake, the menu also includes a great selection of unique cocktails; there are definitely a few I’d like to go back and try on another visit.

Ada St. is not someplace for those on a budget – we spent nearly $100 per person, including tax and tip (no dessert), however we did have two bottles of wine!  They will let you take wine home if you pay the corkage fee, which was out intent, however it didn’t quite turn out that way!  The food and service is well worth the price.

They recently changed their policy to only take reservations between 5:30 and 6:30pm and then after that it is first come, first served.  This is a pretty small space, so I’d recommend going early unless you want to wait for a pretty long time.

http://www.adastreetchicago.com

Black Dog Gelato

This is one of those unique neighborhood spots that you walk by a dozen times until one day you just decide you really should go in and see what it is all about.  When the weather is warm, there are always people outside, enjoying their gelato.  I have always liked gelato, more than I like ice cream in fact, however Black Dog Gelato brings a whole new meaning to the word!  The focus is on really unusual flavors such as Goat Cheese Carmel Cashew and Lemon Ginger.

On my visit I picked up a pint of half Chocolate and half Lemon Ginger.  While the Lemon Ginger might be a little much on it’s own, mixed with the Chocolate it was really spectacular!  A pint is $8, which on the high side compared to grocery store brands, is well worth the money.

What I recently learned is that they actually have two locations – one on Belmont and Damen and the other on Damen, just north of Chicago Avenue.  I’d definitely recommend stopping by on a nice warm summer afternoon or evening for a great treat!

http://blackdogchicago.com/

Bavette’s Bar & Bouef – A European-style Steakhouse

IMG_0359I think of this more as a winter place than a summer place however with the weather we’ve been having here in Chicago, it was a good choice for after work drinks and food.  Upstairs they have limited bar seating, so if you haven’t booked a table, you need to go early.  The downstairs parlour opens at 6pm, which provides a second option for seating without a reservation.  The atmosphere is nice and not too noisy.

The menu is mostly focused on steak and seafood, with couple of great options for chilled seafood “towers”.  The seafood is extremely fresh and perfectly prepared.  There are many traditional options as well as some unique dishes.

On this visit we had the Crab Stuffed Avocado, the baked Crab Cake and the Salmon Tartar.  All three dishes were very good; the Salmon Tartar and the Crab Stuffed Avocado were my favorites.  The crab stuffed avocado is served with Bibb lettuce and Sherry vinaigrette, and has a great, fresh flavor.

They have a decent wine list, however choices by the glass are somewhat limited.  What they do have is a great selection of unique cocktails, and similar to one of their sister restaurants, if you sit at the bar you get a good show from the bartenders making custom cocktails.

http://www.bavetteschicago.com

Arami Sushi

This was my third trip to Arami, and I’ve loved it every time!  If you are a sushi fan I would definitely put Arami on your list of must visit restaurants.  It’s somewhat obscure location in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood could be detrimental for some restaurants, however once you get past the generic storefront on Chicago Avenue, great things await!

On my  first two visits I stuck with sushi; they have plenty of variety on the menu including traditional sashimi and maki choices.  They also have some really good special sashimi; my favorite is the Secret Hamachi.  While I love the Secret Hamachi, I think my favorite dish on the menu is the Tograshi Seared Tuna.  It has some really unusual flavors with the kelp noodles, which give it a little crunch, and the Meyer lemon dressing.

On my most recent visit, at the recommendation of a friend, I also tried the Donburi, which means Japanese rice bowl.  Our choice was the Braised Short-rib Donburi with pickled asian pear and pickled Frenso (Fresno is a type of chili pepper but it is not too spicy).  While I didn’t enjoy it as much as the sushi options, it was very good.

If you have the opportunity, I’d recommend sitting at the sushi bar and letting the sushi chef create something off-menu for you.  On my first visit he made us a tuna sashimi with avocado and truffle oil that was simply outstanding!

http://www.aramisushi.com

Twomey Pinot Noir…..I’m a little bit obsessed with this one!

After a visit to Twomey’s tasting room last year, I must admit I’m a little bit addicted to the Andersen Valley Pinot Noir.   This is a great lighter red wine with beautiful color.  It is fruity but not overpowering with the taste of berries, very velvety and smooth!  I’ve been collecting bottles of this with my wine club shipments from Twomey; you can order directly from them, and it is also available from wine.com.

This is a great early summer wine!
http://www.twomey.com