Monday, March 21, 2011

Chicago's Eats, Friends and Family

After advancing my events in Chicago a few weeks ago I had time for a very late lunch one afternoon, again all by myself. I happened upon Sunda, a way hip place inside the heart of the Loop.

The Tony Chi designed space is beautifully detailed and quite large. The bar had one other patron and there was a quiet table finishing their late afternoon meeting. Other than that the restaurant was very quiet.

There was a separate sushi station where you could sit and watch the chef's roll and make dumplings.

The bartender/mixologist was working on the new menu and let me try one with fresh basil. I wish I could remember the name. It wasn't too sweet and had a wonderful savory essence.

The trendy communal table was EVERYWHERE in Chicago. Every restaurant I stopped in to seemed to have an optional communal table. The Publican, The Hubbard Inn, The Gilt Bar, The Purple Pig, even the bar at the hotel had a large table to share with strangers.

I asked the waitress to pick the best salad for me. She suggested the Boo-Dah. It had grilled ahi tuna and seared pork with a chili vinaigrette and mango's. It was finished with crispy shallots. This was a perfect blend of sweet and salt. It was a bizarre blend of proteins but somehow it really worked. The mango was so fresh it had that hint of cinnamon in the bite.

I also had an order of siu mai steamed dumplings. The hot mustard finished these little gems and nearly gave me a nose bleed. It was so HOT! 

I'm sure E. would really dig this spot. I hope to go back to Chi Town with my Charlie and enjoy this lovely place for dinner.

Just down the street was a tavern called the Hubbard Inn. It had opened four weeks prior. Some colleagues and I grabbed a quick drink before our reservation at The Publican.

The space was amazing and I snuck in for a late lunch the next day.

The Publican had a simple decor and decadent menu items served simply. The fried clams were served family style. And shocker, we sat at a communal table with high backed chairs.

The octopus and fava beans were also. All of the items are served to share.

The table also ordered sweetbreads. I hadn't had sweetbreads since my 25th birthday chef's table dinner at Citronelle in Washington, DC. These were simply fried with a lemon sauce. 

I'm a pretty adventurous diner, but I'm not sure I would have ordered these on my own. I'm so glad my colleagues were brave enough to do so. 

Other adventures took me to Lego land to pick up a gift.

I extended my trip and was able to visit with an old friend from my Washington semester at American University. Pelzer suggested we go to Hot Chocolate in Bucktown. She is a woman after my own heart and picked a winner. We split a salad that was perfect in every way.

I ordered the French Onion Soup and it was simply the best I have ever, ever tasted.

The macaroni and cheese was to die for amazing.

But the dessert was the show stopper. The "dippable" donut sticks had a chocolate sauce that was liquid heaven. The caramel popcorn had a hint of salt. Oh. My. Goodness!!!

Thanks for such a quick fun afternoon lunch Jennifer! I love that no matter how long it's been since we've seen each other that it seems like just yesterday we were sneaking into Champions on Wisconsin Ave.

Finally, I was able to squeeze the necks of my family out in Park Ridge. My sister (step but we don't use that word) Patti lost her darling John last year to brain cancer. This was the first time I had seen her since the funeral. He was way too young and way too much fun to have such a meanacing desease. Damn cancer! I seriously HATE YOUR GUTS!!! Anyway, we all had such a fun, fun night to celebrate her birthday week.  Her son David Oliver who lived in Momma's basement for a few years, Michael, the youngest and another pal of the family, Kurt, were also in tow. Mike joined me for lunch downtown during the week too. He's going to his father's alma matter DePaul

I can't even remember the restaurant's name but it was so much fun. I removed stole the full bottle of wine we didn't finish and put it in my purse. This is legal in Maryland. Turns out the red wine was dripping all over my favorite scarf! Whoopsies. Miraculously it was spared by a light gentle wash. Serves me right for being sneaky.

We returned to the pristine village of Park Ridge to find a gorgeous Key Lime Pie that Basement Dave had whipped up for his darling mother's birthday celebration.

Well done David. Well done!

Chicago is so much fun. What a great city to visit in the spring and summer. I found the restaurants all to be so beautifully decorated, well staffed and menu items incredibly creative. The new buildings in the city center are so sparkly and tall. I wish I had time to take an architectural tour of the city. I loved reading the book, Devil in the White City. Someone has to have a tour of the World Fair buildings I would hope. Pelzer, it was so wonderful seeing you and meeting your boys. They are so, so beautiful and Teddy is just the most well behaved little man on earth. Landho's, I love you like crazy and only wish Thanksgiving were closer in time and space. Charlie, you missed out buddy. Next time you have to come in for the last leg at least.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I used to go to Chicago every year for the Housewares Show...and had some great eating experiences too! I miss it!