Prasino – One of Chicago’s Best Patios!

Prasino (pronounced Pra-see-no) means green in Greek.  This Wicker Park restaurant opened in August of 2012 and has become a neighborhood favorite, as well as an attraction for foodies from around the city.

They focus on using organic, locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.  The menu is very diverse and includes everything from sushi rolls to flatbreads, and is a combination of small and large plates.

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The patio is a huge draw; Division Street is known for its wide sidewalks and all the restaurants take advantage of that – Prasino is no exception.  The beautiful patio runs the length of the restaurant is on nice days there is typically a wait to be seated.  They have a combination of tables and some nice couches, which are a fantastic spot to sit and relax if you are just having drinks or appetizers.

I live in the neighborhood and have  had the pleasure of dining at Prasino at least two dozen times.  I’ve never had anything that disappointed me, so I’ll talk about a few of my favorites in this post.

The have a small selection of maki rolls, my favorite of which is the Polar Bear.  It combines super white tuna with crab and avocado.  It’s a nice combination of flavors in a unique roll.

According to our waiter, the Lobster Stuffed Avocado is one of their signature dishes.  It is very creamy but not too rich.  It goes very nicely with many of their white wine options.

They have five taco options, including the unique combination scallop and pork belly (I have actually not tried this one).  I love the fish tacos;  they have good flavor and come with a slightly spicy salsa.  I actually prefer them without the salsa so I can more of the flavors of the other ingredients.

IMG_0402The four different flatbread options that are all very good.  My favorite is The Farm which is topped with a blend of soft cheeses and truffle honey.  It is a little bit rich but a nice mix of flavors and goes well with any of their salad options, and is also nice with the French Chardonnay they serve by the glass.

Sunday brunch is another big draw at Prasino!  The menu is unique with several very decadent choices including the Lobster Omelette with Hollandaise.

The wine list is very extensive, both by the glass and the bottle, including some unusual selections that are hard to come by on restaurant menus.  My favorite is the ZD Chardonnay, which is a very traditional oakey, buttery California Chardonnay.  According to the staff they are the only restaurant in Chicago to serve this Chardonnay by the glass.

They also have a good selection of specialty cocktails, including some unique mimosas that vary seasonally; and a nice craft beer selection.  They make their own soda which is fizzy and flavorful.  I had them add vodka to the strawberry lemonade which made a great afternoon cocktail!

It is definitely worth a trip to the west side of the city to check out Prasino!

http://www.prasino.com

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Gazpacho

1/2 C. red pepper, chopped

2/3 C. cucumber, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/3 C. red onion, chopped

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

2 C. tomato juice

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp worchestershire sauce

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp sherry

4 tbsp creme fraiche

1/2 avocado, diced

2 ounces lump crab meat

Place red pepper through olive oil in a blender, puree at low speed until just slightly chunky.  Add salt through sherry, blend again on low for one minute.  Place in a large bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To serve, top with 1 tbsp creme fraiche,  diced avocado and crab meat.

I’d pair this with a either with a light Pinot Noir or a crisp Chardonnay (I’d skip my favorite oakey, buttery version for this soup).

Wine & Cheese Pairings from Pastoral

I recently stopped by Pastoral on Lake Street to pick up some wine for a BBQ I was attending later in the evening.  As I always do when I go into Pastoral, I ask recommendations.  The staff is excellent at listening to what you really want and recommending something that truly fits that description.  They have a very unique wine selection, so typically unless I’m going back to get something I had before, I’m trying something new.

When I said I was looking for something for a classic BBQ, meaning hamburgers and hot dogs, a Riesling was immediately recommended.  I’m sure I must have made a face, but he followed by saying he guaranteed I’d like it.  I am not a big fan of sweet wines, and am especially not a fan of Riesling in general, so I was very skeptical.

He gave me a couple of options and did an excellent job of explaining the differences between them; he also gave me a great history of Riesling while we were talking.  I ended up selecting the Keller Riesling.  I took it to the party and my friend made the same type of  face I’d made in Pastoral!  We both tasted the wine together and agreed it was a very good recommendation.  It was still slightly sweet, but more mineral tasting than I would typically associate with a Riesling.  Overall, a good summer wine.

I also asked if he had any cheese recommendations to go with the Riesling, and he suggested Prairie Breeze Cheddar from Milton Creamery in Iowa.  He explained that the cheese curds were less packed than a typical cheddar, which gave it a nice creamy consistency.  It was good on its own, however did go very well with the Riesling.

If you want some unique wine, a great cheese selection and fantastic service, I’d highly recommend stopping by Pastoral.  And they make great sandwiches too!

http://www.pastoralartisan.com

Summer Bread Salad

I love salads in the summer, however this version happened quite by accident due to a head of lettuce that had gone bad! I had to improvise what was intended to be a chopped salad for our July 4th BBQ. I needed to make it a second time to get all the ingredient portions down and think I like this version even better than the first!

6 C.  sourdough bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (this is about 2/3 of a loaf)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

12-14 baby carrots, sliced

4 oz fresh Mozarella, cut into cubes

1 package grape or other sweet tomatoes, cut into halves

1/4 C blue cheese

3-4 slices cooked bacon, chopped

1 avocado, cubed

4-5 green onions, chopped

3/4 tsp Coleman’s dried mustard

1 tsp dried Italian herb mix

1 1/2 tsp shallot, minced

1/2 tsp dried minced garlic

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp course ground black pepper

1/8 tsp salt

1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place bread cubes on a jelly roll pan, drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat.   Toast for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. While bread cubes are baking combine garbanzo beans through bacon in a large bowl, stirring to combine. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine dried mustard through sugar, mix well.  Add the vinegars, stirring to combine.  Whisk in the olive oil until well blended.

Once the bread cubes are cool, add them to the bowl with the veggie mix and mix well.  Slowly pour the dressing over the salad and stir until everything is well coated.  Place the salad in the refrigerator and let sit for 30-60 minutes.  Just before serving add the avocado and green onion; mix well.