I hope everyone had a great week. My trip to Chicago was busy and wonderful. It began with this view out of my hotel room at the InterContinental Hotel on Michigan Avenue. Having the Chicago Tribune building (left) next door brought tears to my eyes. The Wrigley Building clock tower, the Trump Tower and the "Sears" Tower were also majestic. This city has incredible architecture and I'm just sorry I didn't have time to take a tour to learn more about it.
I grew up three hours east of Chicago in Kalamazoo, Michigan. My family would visit after Thanksgiving to go Christmas shopping on Michigan Avenue. We were such tourists and I loved every minute of it. The Chicago Tribune Building was marked in my memory as a small child.
It is a beautifully detailed Gothic building. Most significant however are the bits of buildings embedded in it from all over the globe.
I remember my Mom and step-father David showing me this building and we touched all the bricks we could reach. My David is no longer with us so it brought back sweet memories and a few tears.
I had one free night for dinner and choose to go to the restaurant we went to last year for our event, Graham Elliot. I didn't plan much in Chicago other than my work related events and ended up eating alone. I was greeted warmly by my waitress Sarah from exactly a year ago who remembered me. I have told everyone who will listen about the brioche Twinkie they served with the Caesar salad last year. The food is outstanding but doesn't take itself too seriously. There are no table cloths and you can see anything from jeans to fedoras being worn by guests. Instead of bread you get "cheese" popcorn. Parmesan Cheese is dusted over the top with chives.
Nouvelle Vague was playing in the background.
Sarah brought me a glass of champagne on the house and this playful amuse bouche. It's called a foielipop. Watch the clip about Chef Graham Elliot Bowles. It is foie gras with sea salt and watermelon Pop Rocks. The creamy foie and the sweet candy explosion was a bizarre and perfect match. I could NOT stop smiling. I made it a four bite event. I didn't want it to end. Food evokes memory and I thought of the St. Monica's playground in fourth grade when I first tried Pop Rocks. Even solo I was having the best food experience ever.
The second amouse was a take on American apple pie. The bottom layer was a cheese pie crust covered with apple sauce, four year aged Wisconsin cheese and an apple gelee to top it off. "Apple pie without the cheese, is like a hug without the squeeze." Fran Kenworthy, our priest's wife from Maine always rattled off this cute saying. She would have been in heaven after this amusement for your mouth.
Sarah also sent me the fluke tartare. This was such a nice palate cleanser after the foie gras. The pink peppercorn tuile was sweet sugar crack with a nice spice of the preppy pepper. The fish was fresh and simple. The yellow cubes were Meyer Lemon gelee and went well with the shaved fennel.
I ordered the Chicken Noodle Soup. Every soup at Graham Elliot has a marshmallow. This star of the dish was carrot infused. The celery was served five ways: celery gelee (green cube), salt, seed, leaf and celeriac. The chicken was pressed in between thyme tagliatelle.
The hen veloute was served a la minute.
I was encouraged to give it a good stir and dive in. The most wonderful surprise is when the marshmallow began to melt. It was so wild and fantastic blending sweet and salt together.
I had the Wagu beef for my entree, Chef Bowles' play on steak frites. There were two bars of Roquefort panna cotta melting on the wilted arugula. Truffle jam and arugula cream sauce with shoestring fries decorated the plate.
I didn't have room for dessert and they sent this bite sized brownie with the bill.
On a Tuesday the restaurant wasn't packed and everyone was so friendly. My flash gave me away as a freak so the lady across the room and I took photos of each other. She was also taking photos of her courses.
I also befriended this cute couple from Toronto who came for the popcorn and stayed for the foie gras. They did the tasting menu and I couldn't keep quiet when the Caesar salad arrived.
Alex the bartender made me a delightful dirty martini with this small batch gin that they use at Woodberry Kitchen. Bluecoat is from Pennsylvania.
Sarah snuck me back into the kitchen for a tour of their extended work space. Chef Jacob Saben was there and I gave him major thanks for my meal. He also remembered me from last year.
I still have my "g" shirt from last year. I'm wearing it as I compose this post.
Chef was so busy but had time for a quick photo.
And finally, I had to have a shot with sweet Sarah Humphrey's. Go check out Graham Elliot for a great time and tell them I sent you.
Chef Bowles, I'm so bummed I still have yet to meet you. I'm such a fan and loved my experience even more this year. Kristina Kennedy is the greatest Events Director. You are lucky to have such a great team that is still working for you a year later. That is a great testament to you and you mission. Sarah thanks so much for spoiling me to death. It was great seeing you again.