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Half Day in Chicago?


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I was just at Blackbird a couple of weeks ago. While the food was as good (if not better) than it's always been, the portions have become almost laughably small. Although, with a friend in the kitchen, that might not matter.

 

Still, I much prefer The Publican these days.

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In Chicago now, just reserved Cafe Spiaggia for tonight and the Gage for Friday. Planning Frontera Grill tomorrow for lunch. Looking forward to all after a week of road food (GOOD road food but still...) Tried to reserve at Henri but not willing to eat at 5 or 9:30pm (picky, I know.) Stopped by Intelligensia today for the first time. A lot of hipster attitude for bitter espresso <_<

 

eta: to be fair the staff at Intelligensia were perfectly nice but really take themselves rather seriously. The clientele was kind of painful and I mean I live in the Eurotrash epicenter of the universe.

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Spiaggia Cafe was good, but I appreciate more and more what we have in Munich in terms of Italian food.

 

Today there was a 40 minute wait at Frontera Grill and a 25 minute wait at XOCO so we ended up at India House nearby. We shared a chaat and the lamb Achari. Both really good. I wish we could get indian food like this in Germany.

 

Finally, really lucked out with dinner. We'd walked by a place called q a few times, that looked really cute, and when it popped up on Opentable I followed the link and it turns out to be a very new BBQ place. We figured it was the perfect end to the trip....

 

They still don't have a liquor license but we could easily get a bottle of Chimay around the corner. The chef is apparently a serious competition BBQ person: link. (Joiei do you know her?) Anyway, she was stopping by various tables and invited ours to see the kitchen. (Possibly because she was amused by our travel story? Or that she had never met a bunch of German BBQ nerds?)

 

Food: we shared the competition St. Louis style full slab, and it was really perfect: dry rub, tender, falling off the bone. Sides were also good -- southern style cornbread and greens -- as were the sauces. Our tablemates had the smoked half chicken and pulled pork which they really liked as well. (Germans hate eating with their hands.)

 

Need to get to Chicago more often.

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Today:

 

Checked out the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition at the Art Institute. Really shouldn't be missed if you have the chance to see it.

 

We also took one of the shorter architecture tours -- skyscrapers through time or something like that. The CAF do a great job, and really deserve all the support they get.

 

Had lunch at Henri, and dinner at the Gage. Both very good.

 

Henri we walked in -- I had a celery soup with smoked fish and bacon, and a brick oven "pissaladiere" with heirloom tomatoes, rocket and ham. Both excellent. We ordered a French Sauvignon Blanc but were comped some Alsatian Pinot Blanc, which was very nice as well. Staff were really friendly and the food was great.

 

Gage was packed for the weekend. I had two things from the specials menu, kind of a fall preview -- a brussels sprout soup with smoked fish (again) bacon and dried fruit (honestly I don't quite remember) and then halibut with an apple squash puree, swiss chard and maple foam. Shared sorbets for dessert. Everything was very tasty, (even the foam.)

 

We stopped at Intelligensia again for espressi but seriously I think their grind is too fine. The stuff tastes muddy and overextracted to me. Am I an idiot?

 

Starting tomorrow I will run an hour a day and only eat salad. Er, after Oktoberfest.

 

Munich has some great places to eat but on some level I miss the service you get in the US. While I could do without the "great choice!" or "that's my favorite!" you do really get a sense of pride and enthusiasm here, to the point of endearing nerdiness sometimes. Maybe because the "foodie" scene is still fairly young. Anyway, it's kind of cute.

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Americans in the service industry are just friendlier. Whenever my mother used to visit me from Switzerland she would be highly skeptical about the good humor and politeness of retail and restaurant staff. After good service, or pleasant comments from staff, she would inevitably comment on it, almost disapprovingly.

 

When I go to Switzerland I notice how sullen waitpersons are, unless we are in a restaurant where my parents always go, in which case they are almost obsequious. A lot of shop staff behave as though they are doing you a favor, ringing up your purchases. I always look forward to returning to Austin and my checker telling me " y'all have a great day."

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The Swiss are weird :P

 

Munich restaurant service is usually friendly (as long as you stay away from the real tourist traps) but here it's been more like we got special attention in some cases (the free wine, the kitchen tour). I have to admit it weirds me out a little -- I have the urge to say "honestly, I don't have a blog, I just like eating." I should add that over-friendliness is not a problem in Philly, maybe it's a midwestern thing.

 

I agree with you about shop service in Europe though. I have some good stories about that.

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OK. I don't even need to be really organized to do this: all restaurants are within two miles of my hotel.

 

Arrive tomorrow around 10:00. Be at the Art Institute by 11:30. Check out art for two hours. Lunch at The Gage. Fish and chips? Back to hotel for quick nap. Cocktails and dinner at the Chase building (skip the dinner...push that chicken breast and wild rice around the plate.) Dinner ends at 8:00. Cab to The Publican. Half a dozen oysters and a couple beers for dinner. Maybe that pig's ear. Bed.

 

Up at 6:30. Cab to Xoco for bread pudding and hot chocolate. It's only a mile away. Walk back to Chase bldg, since I now know the way. Meetings all day....evening flight home.

 

Three restaurants in 30 hours. Sweet.

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Mmmm....just came back from the Publican: half a dozen oysters and a great microbrew. Now my dinner meeting and then to Blackbird to round off the night. I can't believe my stamina when it comes to food.

 

I wasn't going to go to Blackbird but my chef friend in Austin told me he texted the chef specially to expect me....how can I turn that down?

 

Kumamoto oyster was my fav.

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Good meal at Blackbird. Sturgeon amuse, octopus terrine,parmesan dumplings, roast duck...the most amazing sweet corn icecream...lots of cool food. Sat at the bar and we were treated very well.

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The Publican and The Purple Pig are both fantastic, but sort of similar (Publican is better, Purple Pig is right on Michigan Ave so is easier to get to). Cibo Matto is really good right now if you want Italian (if you're up for the trip to Andersonville, Anteprima is a bit better). I'd also recommend Mado (farm to table, BYO) in Bucktown, Graham Elliot (if you can get in), and Schwa (also if you can get in).

 

Also, there's nothing but great buzz about Girl and the Goat, which is Stephanie Izard's new place.

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I'm in Chicago until the afternoon of October 2nd. I'm checking out bars mostly but of course need to have some food too. I was thinking about going to Frontera for brunch on Saturday, but still need suggestions for one lunch and dinner. Also, if anyone can come out and play, I'd love to meet ya'll. The bars I'm going to are Sable, Blackbird, Bar Deville, Graham Elliot, and Sepia. We'll see how many I can actually squeeze in.

 

Rocky

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