Turkey Burgers & Potato Salad – A Quick Summer Dinner

These two very quick and easy recipes make up one of my favorite summertime meals!

Potato Salad

2 pounds of red skinned potatoes (you can substitute Yukon Gold if you prefer), chopped

1/2 yellow onion, minced

1/4 C canola oil mayonnaise

1 tbsp champagne vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp dried tarragon (or 1 tbsp fresh)

1 tsp dried oregano

salt & pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a large pot of boiling water; cook until tender, about 15 – 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain and let cool slightly.  Place potatoes in a large bowl and add minced onion, stir to combine.  While potatoes continue to cool, combine mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard in a small bowl.  Whisk until blended.  Add tarragon, oregano, salt and pepper, mix well.  Add dressing to potato mixture and stir to combine.  Chill for at least one hour before serving.

Chipotle Turkey Burgers

1 pound ground turkey

1/2 yellow onion, finely diced

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp ground chipotle chili pepper

dash cayenne pepper

1/4 c. cilantro, chopped

salt & pepper to taste

1 avocado, sliced

4 slices baby swiss cheese

Heat a grill to medium-high heat.  Place turkey through cilantro in a medium bowl,  mix until well combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Form into four patties. Place patties on pre-heated grill, cook 15-20 minutes, turning once, until done.  Top each with a slice of cheese and some sliced avocado; serve with condiments of your choice.


Sushi Dokku

IMG_0391This is a relatively new restaurant from the team behind the former Sushi Wabi.  It is a cool environment that I would describe as industrial chic.  It’s a small space and a little bit loud, but nothing overwhelming.  This was an impulse dining trip, and luckily we did not have to wait for a table (it was a Tuesday night).  Given the size of the space and the Randolph Street location, I’d probably recommend making a reservation.

One of my dining companions ordered the Lychee Sorbet prior to dinner and I stole a small bite – it was absolutely fantastic – rich, creamy, and slightly tart.

I started with the Tuna Truffle;  the combination of tuna, truffle and avocado provided a very flavorful taste.  I love truffle and it was pretty strong, though definitely not overpowering, however this might not be a good choice if you are not a truffle oil fan.

Next, were two Maki rolls – the Dragon Roll and the Northern California Roll.  The Dragon Roll is always one of my favorites, and while this version was good, the tempura shrimp was a little soggy.  I have to say I’ve had better versions at other sushi restaurants in town.  My dining companion picked the Northern California roll; I was a little hesitant about this one, as I’m not usually a fan of soft shell crab.  I was pleasantly surprised;  this had unique flavors and a great texture.  It reminded me a bit of a traditional California roll, but with more unique flavors.

They have a fairly extensive Sake menu,  and a nice selection of wines by the glass.


Nellcote – Small Plates on Randolph Street

My first visit to Nellcôte involved drinks only, rather late at night, and while a great representation of their hip bar scene, it certainly was not a fair assessment of the restaurant. So while it took nearly a year, I decided it was time for a return trip to sample the food! I have to say, I’m glad I finally got around to it!    The restaurant itself is a neat space, with ornate decor.  They have a nice bar, and a good-sized bar area with high top tables.  It’s a nice spot for a date, or dinner with a small group of people.

The menu is designed around small plates;  with a good selection of unique dishes.  3 to 4 plates plus desert is plenty for two people unless you are really hungry!  The food presentation is beautiful!  While it was tempting to order one of everything, we refrained and stuck with just a few.  First was the Fennel Sausage Pizza – It had a nice crisp crust and the sausage was very flavorful.

Next was the Potato Gnocchi with lamb.   I’m not always a huge fan of lamb, but this was a great combination!  The dish is pretty rich, however the portion size is prefect.

They have a good selection of wines by the glass; our server was quite knowledgable about the wine list and was happy to let us taste some of the by the glass selections.

Dessert was a difficult choice; in the end we opted for the Chocolate Parfait, which turned out to be very different from what I was expecting.  It was a bit more like a chocolate mousse, with different types of chocolate.  It was decadent, but not too rich and very delicious.  I wanted to switch from my white wine to something that would be a better compliment to the dessert, so asked the server for a recommendation.  She suggested a sparking red wine that paired exceptionally well with the chocolate.

I woud definitely make another trip back to try some of the other menu options and further explore the wine list.


Howells & Hood….A great alfresco spot on Michigan Avenue

IMG_0365This massive new restaurant in the Tribune Tower is named after the architects of the building.  I’ve been by a few times in the past month or so, and the patio is always full, even in the middle of the afternoon (granted it is usually a Friday afternoon when I’m in that area).  This time we decided to wait for a table, which only took about 10 minutes, though I have to caveat that by saying while it was a sunny day, it was only about 60 degrees at the time.  The hostess led us to a table at the very back of the patio, so I had a chance to see the entire space, which is huge.  There is an outdoor bar, and plenty of options for dining in either shade or full sun.

Overall, the food was good as was the service.  The menu is pretty varied, however definitely not the place to go if you are looking for something really healthy.  I had the BBQ Pork Sandwich, which comes with an onion ring and french fries.  Both the fries and the onion ring were great; crispy and well seasoned.  The pork was very tasty too, with what I’d consider to be just the right amount of BBQ sauce.

They have a huge selection of beer on tap, and a nice wine and cocktail list.

I think this would be a fun place for happy hour with a big group on a sunny day.  According to their website, they have a Blues brunch on Sundays, which could definitely get me to go back for a second visit!


Fun Summer Wines

I’m always in search of great summer wines,  something that you can sip while sitting on the patio on a warm summer afternoon or evening.  I like them to be light enough to stand on their own, however have enough taste and body go with a nice grilled dinner.  I’ve already found two great options this summer!!

Sterling Vineyards Malvasia Bianca (2012) – A friend brought this bottle over on a nice sunny afternoon, and all I can say is I wish we’d had two bottles!  I think this is probably my all time favorite summertime wine! This is a pretty sweet wine, with a lot of fruit.  I’m not a fan of sweet wine, or overly fruity wine for that matter but this one is a definite exception.  It has just the right amount of sweet and fruit with a little bit of fizz!

Fizz 56 Sparkling Red Wine – I came across this bottle while grocery shopping at Mariano’s recently.  They were offering a tasting and I have to say, sparkling red wine is one of those things that I’m never sure I’m going to like.  I’ve had a few good ones, but those seem to be outweighed by the bad ones.   I took one taste of this and knew I’d be coming back for more bottles!  It’s an Italian wine from the Piedmont region; a little sweet but not over the top.  It is great for sipping on its own on a warm day, however also goes really nicely with a meal.  We had it with the pork tacos I recently posted about and I have to say it made the perfect companion.