Sofitel Pastry Chef Embraces Spring
Emerging pastry chef Leigh Omilinsky embraces a new season at the Sofitel.
May 13, 2013
Meyer lemon panna cotta is bright with springtime flavors.
“I was always the youngest in my class,” says Jean Banchet Rising Pastry Chef award winner Leigh Omilinsky, who discovered a love of pastry as a high school student when, inspired by her foodie parents, she began taking culinary classes at Kendall College.
The 28-year-old executive pastry chef of the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower (who has crafted confections for Café des Architectes and Le Bar since 2010) is embracing the season with a menu of produce-driven desserts. Whether it’s caramelized white chocolate with sour cherries; strawberries and crème fraîche; or a “hot pink” rhubarb sorbet (which, the chef notes, “is not kidding around”), Omilinsky remains steadfast in sourcing only the freshest ingredients. “I love my farmers. I want to use local, seasonal ingredients as much as possible, and when that happens, I’m happy,” Omilinsky says, adding, “I’m usually happy.” 20 E. Chestnut St., 312- 324-4063
Carrot, Gin Cocktail at North Pond
Try Dustin Zimmerman's new spin on the classic corpse reviver.
February 27, 2013
Mixologist Dustin Zimmerman takes serious advantage of North Pond’s überseasonal setting with cocktails like a carroty spring sipper that pairs perfectly with dishes like steamed halibut with snap peas and is a spin on the classic corpse reviver #2 of gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, lemon juice, and absinthe. Says Zimmerman, “Spring is the time that everything comes back to life, so what better drink than the corpse reviver?”
1 ½ ounce fresh carrot juice
3/4 ounce North Shore #6 Gin
3/4 ounce Lillet Blanc
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1 bar spoon of ginger syrup
Shake ingredients, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with thinly sliced radish, carrot, black pepper, and chives.
Soup Flights at Mon Ami Gabi
Close out National Soup Month with three delicious soups from Ben Goodnick.
January 25, 2013
One of three soups on offer as part of Mon Ami Gabi's soup flight.
January is National Soup Month, and Mon Ami Gabi has the perfect winter warm-up to honor the culinary holiday. Make a trip to the Lincoln Park-located French bistro before the end of the month to try the trio of soups flight.
Although a flight usually conjures up images of wine or bubbly, Mon Ami Gabi executive chef Ben Goodnick has applied the idea to his soup special, which features three mini portions perfectly sized to accompany a light entree. Each soup is delicious—the first, onion soup au gratin, is covered in a melted layer of rich gruyere cheese. Next is a smooth butternut squash, served with maple crème fraiche on top. Finally, the celery root soup, with gala apple and walnuts, is a lighter option for those still sticking to their New Year’s resolutions.
We’ll be pairing our soup trio with an order of Goodnick’s sea scallops gratinees, made with caramelized fennel and onion marmalade and mussel cream. The grilled salmon and spinach salad is a healthy finale to our meal, with avocado, blueberries, walnuts, and a refreshing citrus dressing to offset the richness of the soups. 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, 773-348-8886
Photography by Anjali Pinto
How Chicago's Mixologists Are Toasting '13
Thirsty in ’13: Chicago’s top mixologists raise a glass to the New Year.
January 14, 2013
As the head bartender at Sable Kitchen & Bar, Mike Ryan has made a name for himself as one of the city’s best cocktail maestros. His resolution for the New Year? To reintroduce Chicagoans to brandy. “I really want to see more people understanding the cool complexities that come about with great brandies, which lend themselves well to cocktails because they have that built-in acidity with a great, austere character.” Sable’s Cantrip features the French brandy Calvados for a bright apple flavor that’s heightened by the classic herbal liqueur Bénédictine.
Blackbird’s chief mixologist Lynn House looks forward to continuing the culinary trend of emphasizing all things local. “I’m a huge proponent of exposing people to small-batch products,” says House, who frequently uses spirits by Koval Distillery. A gardener, House literally finds inspiration in her own backyard; she cites cucumber and ginger as her favorite flavor combination but foresees hot peppers as the next big thing.
A more contemporary drive motivates beverage director Daniel Finnigan of Gold Coast pan-Asian hot spot Jellyfish. While Finnigan appreciates pre-Prohibition drinks, he’s eager to use exotic fruits for more playful concepts. “The citrus fruit yuzu is such a great ingredient; it’s very unique, and it really holds the cocktail together well. I’m infusing a clean, organic, gluten-free vodka with tea, and I’m going to start using more herbs for a kind of ‘East meets West’ push.”
The Story Behind Baume & Brix's Desserts
Executive chefs Thomas Elliott Bowman and Ben Roche offer sweet and savory desserts.
December 17, 2012
Baume & Brix dining area.
Why divide the dessert menu into Explore, Summit, Conquer, and Divide?
THOMAS ELLIOT BOWMAN: We wanted something fun and creative to go along with the playfulness of the food.
BEN ROCHE: “The idea behind Conquer, the dessert menu, is that it’s the end of the meal; you’ve been through this whole journey of food, and now you want to just stick your flag in the ground and conquer the menu.
What inspired the Frostee & Fries?
BR: When I was younger, I’d dip French fries in a chocolate milkshake. We have chocolate mousse and a roasted potato ice cream, and that gets served on top of a caramelized banana with mini French fries that we dust with salt and malt powder.
How is the cookies and milk combination unique?
TEB: We’re balancing salt against sugar with 85 percent dark chocolate and 40 percent milk chocolate chips, and we do an Earl Grey infusion in the milk.
What’s your go-to snack?
TEB: Beef jerky.
BR: Potato chips. They’re crispy, salty, and delicious.
High-Stakes Steak at Del Frisco's
Del Frisco’s ups the ante on Oak Street.
December 10, 2012
Del Frisco’s serves USDA prime steaks.
The Gold Coast’s competitive steakhouse scene just got another player: Dallas-based Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House has swaggered into town, landing at the top of the renovated Esquire Theater space. And this is a Texas-size establishment. The multilevel space is nearly 23,000 square feet; a two-story wine tower boasts 1,500 selections; and executive chef Jim Teutemacher and chef de cuisine Anthony Reyes plate up ample portions of USDA prime steaks (wet-aged for four weeks) like the signature 32-ounce Wagyu long-bone rib eye.
For something sweet, the house-made lemon doberge cake boasts six layers and three unique icings, while the signature VIP cocktail is shaken with vodka-steeped Hawaiian Gold pineapples. All that plus charming views of Oak Street at a venerated address equals a restaurant that might give the area’s old favorites a run for their money. Let the beef war begin! 58 E. Oak St., 312-888-2499
The Florentine’s Upscale Take on Thanksgiving Leftovers
Chef Chris Macchia gives Michigan Avenue an exclusive recipe from his kitchen.
November 23, 2012
Chris Macchia's recipe for Tacchino Ripieno (stuffed turkey breast) is a Michigan Avenue exclusive.
What to do with all the leftover turkey, cranberries, chestnuts, and other Thanksgiving food you’ll inevitably have after the big feast is over? Executive chef Chris Macchia, of downtown resto The Florentine, shared a leftover-to-luxe recipe with us. Rather than waste the food or use it for mediocre turkey sandwiches the next day, gather up a few new ingredients and combine them to make something spectacular. Here, we share Macchia’s recipe for Tacchino Ripieno (translation: stuffed turkey breast).
1/2 pound Italian sausage (preferably cotecchino), removed from casings and crumbled*
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 Tablespoons cracked fennel
1/2 cup chestnuts
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 (8-ounce) package (1 1/3 cups) wild rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 pound ground pork shoulder butt
1 (7-pound) turkey breast, deboned and butterflied
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
To make the stuffing: Cook the sausage, stirring, about 7 minutes in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and discard all but 1 Tablespoon of fat from the pan.
Add the onions, celery, garlic, and fennel to the remaining fat in the pan, stirring until soft (about 3 minutes). Add chestnuts and cook, stirring until lightly toasted and fragrant (2 to 3 minutes). Add cranberries and rice; continue to stir 1 minute. Add the stock, water, bay leaf, salt, pepper, sage, and thyme; bring to a boil. Stir well, reduce the heat and cook undisturbed at a simmer until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed (about 50 minutes). Remove from heat. Let stand undisturbed for 10 minutes.
Discard the bay leaf; fluff the rice with a fork. Add the cooked sausage and allow to cool. Mix in ground pork and adjust the seasoning with more fresh herbs, salt, and pepper to taste.
*Note: Cotecchino, a spiced, highly seasoned sausage from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, is available through Isola Imports Co. of Chicago. Other cased Italian sausage can be substituted, but seasoning should be adjusted.
To stuff: Season the inside of the turkey breast generously with salt and pepper. Fill with cooled stuffing, being careful not to overstuff. Next, carefully roll the breast around the stuffing and tie closed with butcher twine. Refrigerate until time to roast.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown the turkey breast on all sides in a heated sauté pan with olive oil and butter. Then, roast it in the oven for 40 minutes or until internal temperature of the breast reaches 160 degrees. Allow to rest 10 minutes before slicing.
Masaki Reimagines Japanese Dining
A block from the hustle of Michigan Avenue, Masaki beckons with a spa-like atmosphere and exquisite Japanese fare.
November 15, 2012
Chicago fell for Japanese food in the late ’90s, when chic restaurants like Sushi Wabi and Mirai made raw fish a huge trend in this meat-eating town. Sitting down for a meal at one of these restaurants was an event akin to going to a nightclub, complete with throbbing music and menus designed to appeal to Western palates.
Dining at Masaki, the new jewel box of a restaurant from Pelago owners Mauro and Kimberly Mafrici, is Japanese dining of a decidedly different—and most welcome—sort. Tucked just steps from the Mag Mile, the room is hushed as a temple and 22-seat tiny. The décor is understated, warm, and surprisingly stylish (Kimberly’s work); she mixed subtle Asian accents with sumptuous woods and a color scheme of ivory and whimsical royal purple.
The revelation, though, is chef Jinwoo Han’s inspired omakase tasting menu, which offers delectable, breathtakingly artful dishes such as jellyfish salad in sesame dressing; flash-torched wagyu beef in citrus vinaigrette; and sashimi lobster and abalone. The loud music and nightclub vibe may be missing, but one thing is certain: Thanks to Masaki, Japanese dining in Chicago is most definitely an event again. 990 N. Mies van der Rohe Way, 312-280-9100
The Team Behind BellyQ
The West Loop welcomes a new dream team.
November 05, 2012
BellyQ serves up Korean fusion with flair.
BellyQ, Bill Kim’s third fast-casual effort after Belly Shack and Urbanbelly, is all about harmony. A collaboration with Michael Jordan and Cornerstone Restaurant Group, the Asian barbecue restaurant blends natural and industrial elements with lofted ceilings, wooden benches, and infrared tabletop grills, where would-be chefs can test their skills on house specialties such as Korean short rib or banana-leaf-wrapped salmon with jasmine rice.
Although the stripped-down interior reveals the former One Sixtyblue space’s past life as a pickle factory, a mural of galloping horses, a karaoke den, and the adjacent BQ2GO takeout space foster a decidedly modern, interactive vibe; the wood-burning oven remains to churn out savory Asian pancakes in varieties like double-smoked bacon and kimchi, which Kim serves with a black-vinegar-sesame soy sauce. Meanwhile, the beverage program from former Sepia mixologist Peter Vestinos strikes a balance of bold and light. Choose from a selection of sakes and five culinary-inspired cocktails including the refreshing Serpentine, a mix of sudachi soju, coconut vinegar plum infusion, and cucumber. 1400 W. Randolph St., 312-563-1010
Bar & Boeuf Impresses in River North
Brendan Sodikoff’s latest lounge sets a sultry Gallic scene in River North.
October 09, 2012
Grand Shellfish Tower at Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf.
With a résumé boasting Gilt Bar, Au Cheval, Maude’s Liquor Bar, and the Doughnut Vault, restaurant wunderkind Brendan Sodikoff has had more than a bit on his plate. His latest effort, Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf, amps up River North’s already-trendy scene with an atmosphere reminiscent of an old-school Parisian lounge. “We really wanted to create a timeless glow,” Sodikoff says of the space, which features candlelight, jazz, and vintage décor. The crimson and mahogany booths lining the exposed-brick walls are prime spots to see and be seen; bites include steak with hand-cut frites, double-cut lamb chops, dryaged bone-in rib eye, and the indulgent, made-for-sharing Maude’s Tower with lobster, oysters, and Alaskan king crab.
Three separate beverage menus offer a varied selection of brown spirits, including WhistlePig whiskey and Buffalo Trace bourbon—not to mention an exhaustive wine list. Watch the evening unfold from the 12-seat bar tucked toward the back, or head downstairs to revel in the spacious parlor area, a lively scene decked with animal sculptural pieces that exudes a certain je ne sais quoi. 218 W. Kinzie St., 312-624-8154
Michigan Avenue celebrates with cover star Harrison Ford at Chicago Cut Steakhouse.