Chicago: Take Two

As most of you know, recently I visited Chicago for the second time in what most would consider a short time frame. But this trip was completely different than the last – it wasn’t the crazy-busy girls shopping weekend I did back in November. This was all about hanging with my friend Lib, catching up on some much needed girl time, and relaxing a bit.

And of course, getting a few really good meals in my tummy!

Instead of going through every meal and every dish I ate on this trip, I’m just going to recap the two restaurants where we had the best experiences. Here goes…..

Friday Night
The Bristol
2152 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647

(773) 862-5555

Started off the evening in the upstairs bar of The Bristol, as we had about an hour wait (they don’t take reservations). My drink (pictured above) was fan-freakin-tastic.

Rustic Rose
Domaine de Canton, Bombay Sapphire, Honey-Rosemary Syrup, Fresh Lemon, Ginger Ale

By the time we moved down to the dining room, we were starving, so I was thankful that dishes came out quickly. First up was one of their signature items –

Monkey Bread
with Dill Butter and Sea Salt

I’m still seriously thinking about this bread days later. I need to find a recipe and try to recreate it at home. Anyone out there point me in the right direction?

And speaking of something that I’m still thinking about…that’s the case with this salad too. Libby says she’s going to attempt to recreate it herself and then share the recipe with me. Hurry up Libbers!

Apple Salad
with Toasted Hazelnuts, Marinated Manchego


Ricotta, egg yolk and brown butter

Here’s the funny thing about this dish- neither of us like runny eggs. How we didn’t catch this before we ordered is beyond me. Perhaps too many Rustic Roses?

But alas, I put my aversion to runny egg yolk aside and ate. With abandon. The brown butter sauce was so incredible that it drowned out any apprehensions I had about the dish.

with beets, sour cream, and fresh dill sauce

I love beets. Some think they taste like dirt. So be it. I still love them.

Saturday night’s restaurant was one that I’ve been wanting to try for a while. It was actually going to be on our agenda for the girls’ trip in November, but we waited too long to make the reservation and couldn’t get in. Both food and service were top-notch!

Saturday Night
Graham Elliot
217 West Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60654

(312) 624-9975

The Holy Grail
Benedictine, espirit orange liqueur, grated ginger, tonic

Again, another outstanding cocktail. I wasn’t sure exactly what Benedictine was, so I inquired with the waiter. All he was able to tell me was that it’s a liquor made by Benedictine monks. Well, you know that didn’t satisfy my curiosity, so I came home and researched it for myself.

If anyone else out there cares—it’s a Cognac-based liqueur made with various aromatics, fruit peels and herbs. Developed in 1518, it is believed to be the oldest liqueur continuously made.

Although I was more than happy drinking it with dinner, I actually think it would be doubly wonderful for brunch, so it’s been added to my “must-make-at-my-next-brunch” list.

In addition to my interest in this drink, I was also quite fascinated and surprised that crack was served free of charge. Yes, crack. Of course, it’s hard to recognize it as crack because it’s disguised as popcorn. In place of the bread basket that most restaurants serve while you’re perusing the menu, Graham Elliot gives you a big basket of truffle oil infused popcorn. Totally legal I suppose, but addictive nonetheless.

On to our appetizers. This first one was not only a party in my mouth with all it’s textures and flavors, but also completely visually stunning. My photo does not do it justice.

Duck Ravioli
pomegranate seeds, tuscan kale, crumbled gorgonzola, port reduction

followed by another appetizer:
Cheddar Risotto
bratwurst, green apples, glazed onions, cheez-its
and then our entrees:

Sea Scallops
french lentils, marcona almonds, raisin chutney, cauliflower puree
Beef Stroganoff
peppered spaetzle, chanterelle mushrooms, shallot compote, sour cream

Oh my goodness, the Beef Stroganoff. This is not your Mama’s stroganoff. Deconstructed and recreated with a shallot compote and sour cream on bottom, then a layer of chanterelle mushrooms and peppered spaetzle, topped with slices of medium rare, melt-in-your-mouth beef. Divine.

The one thing I dislike about Chicago? I don’t live there.

Since I don’t live there, I don’t have the opportunity for repeat visits to these establishments. Residents of Chicago- I hope you are frequenting these places OFTEN.

What will it be the next time I’m in the Windy City? Whatever it is, I’m quite sure it won’t disappoint.

Photo Credit: monkey bread by The Bristol