Chicago, Illinois

Chicago SkylineWhy go out for a burger when you can have steak?

OK, so perhaps this isn’t a totally accurate rendition of Paul Newman’s famous quote, but this was my mantra while recently visiting the “windy city” of Chicago.

Tovolo IHHS StandUnfortunately my trip was short, too short, in fact. The purpose? To visit my fave suppliers, Tovolo, at the International Home & Housewares Show and to gain sneak previews of all the industry’s must-have tools and gadgets for the coming season.

Usually any pre-trip planning involves many hours on the laptop researching restaurants, salivating over menus and excitedly making dinner reservations. But this trip was different, for my tastebuds and tummy were both at the mercy of Tovolo’s social go-to, Chris. However, there is no such thing as a bad meal when you are in Chicago and I knew that I was in safest of safe hands with Chris.

So here it goes, my rendition of two gut-busting dinners that were eaten… savoured… well most definitely pigged on – to side-splitting lengths – in Chicago…

Baptiste & Bottle – www.baptisteandbottle.com

“Approachable, bourbon-centric restaurant, serving an elevated American menu in an environment that is reflective of bourbon’s true American roots.”

Baptiste and Bottle

A relative newcomer to the Chicago restaurant scene, Baptiste & Bottle offers modern American fare alongside an exhaustive whiskey bar. This restaurant really is an “experience”, from the stylish decor and fascinating views from its’ 20th floor location, to the bold flavours, seasonal ingredients and creative cocktails – each of your five senses will be completely and utterly blown into oblivion.

Baptiste and Bottle CocktailBeing amongst the first to arrive, we ordered cocktails at the bar. I suffered a tinge of order envy as my companion was presented with her “Southside Mule”, which was adorably served in a cool copper pineapple shaker that was split to create a stylish mule and co-ordinating stand. However, any feelings of regret were abandoned upon first sip of my “Blood Sport”, a cool mix of botanist gin, house-made blood orange tonic and carbonated green tea – it was simply divine!

Another colleague learnt a very important lesson right there in that bar when she inquisitively ordered the “concentrated cocktail”. Be warned, it is just what it says on the menu… concentrated and stronger than Superman!

Once seated, I eagerly skimmed over the menu. At first glance, I was disappointed that the menu looked rather sparse with its large, modern font spread out over the sparse looking page. But it soon became clear that the brevity of choice could only be a good thing, with each dish sounding as desirable as the last. All equally overwhelmed, we decided on a selection of appetizers for the table.

The Beets and Burrata Salad were definitely my favourite. The creamy burrata simply melted in the mouth, the earthy, colourful beets and watercress added a bold, tangy flavour, while the macadamia nuts provided the dish bite – wow, I almost sounded like a professional restaurant critic then, didn’t I?!

Baptiste and Bottle Mushroom TagliatelleI simply adore mushrooms, so opted for the Wild Mushroom Tagliatelle for my main. Albeit buttery and delicious, it was actually the sides that shone during this course. The generous, freshly baked Cheddar & Chive Biscuits were light and flakey, while the Brussels Sprouts & Pistachio and Eggplant, Harissa, Hazelnut & Feta stood no chance against our mighty forks – why didn’t vegetables taste like this when I was a child?!

Anyone with a sweet tooth, I warn you now, the dessert menu is not for the feint hearted! To gain maximum exposure to the delicious possibilities, we decided to eat dessert family style. My favourite had to be the Pineapple Ambrosia (wow!)… or was it the Fried Eggnog Bread Pudding… no, it was definitely the Cookie Butter… or the Chocolate Covered Banana? You get my point? The dessert menu was abso-freaking-lutely AWESOME!!!

Prime & Provisions – www.primeandprovisions.com

“Reconnecting with traditional steakhouse roots, harkening back to a time when a night out enjoying a marvellous, hand-cut steak was a celebration in itself, Prime & Provisions will put quality first.”

This restaurant truly raises the steaks! Prime & Provisions is the first Chicago steakhouse to use only All-Natural Prime Heritage Black Angus Beef – this means the animals have never been exposed to any hormones, vaccinations, or pesticides ever – and you can certainly taste the difference. Add to that exemplary service, lavish 20’s-era inspired decor and classic steakhouse dishes that are prepared to perfection, this really is a prime dining experience.

Prime and Provisions Alaskan King CrabWe started with the Alaskan King Crab Legs, which were probably the best I have ever tasted, alongside what can only be described as “magic” – the Thick-Cut Bacon with Michigan Maple Syrup and Dark Chocolate. This dish comprised an inch-deep slab of crisp pork belly served with a maple-chili glaze and smear of bittersweet chocolate sauce. Not usually one for pork belly, I was shocked at how delicious this was and could have almost cried as I savoured the last bite.

Not to be deterred by our indulgent appetisers, I ordered the Hand-Cut Petit Filet Mignon to accompany our sides of Properly Whipped Potatoes – that’ll be the best mashed potatoes in the world to you or I – Charred Brussels Sprouts with Elephant Garlic and Crispy Bacon and some perfectly Grilled Asparagus. OMG – the steak was “melt in the mouth” AMAZING!

Prime and Provisions Porterhouse SteakHowever, the star of the show just had to be the Dry-Aged Center-Cut Porterhouse Steak, which was served sizzling on a 600-degree plate.

The dessert menu proved to be a gruesome obstacle challenge of decision-making, so we whittled it down to four dead certs. The Peanut Butter & Whipped Milk Chocolate Pie and Leche Cake both proved to be awesomely delicious, flavour filled choices of delight. The Tableside S’mores not only appealed to my sweet tooth, but provided a theatrical table-side spectacular as the outer chocolate sphere simply melted away under the accompanying hot chocolate sauce. However, my tastebuds were sent rocketing by the Banana Cream Pie, a banana-ry, caramelly, creamy bundle of tear-jerking joy cradled in a nest of buttery crumbly crust – even our friend Mike, who “does not like banana”, claimed this dessert as his favourite.

So it was with a heavy heart – and an even heavier stomach – that I left Chicago.

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