Pump Room

Guys, I’m moving to San Diego! Pretty soon, I am going to be one of those people that pulls out a hat and gloves instead of shorts when my weather app says 60 degrees. I’ve been making fun of those people (Californians, Floridians, etc.) since I met them in college, but really I’ve just been jealous all along. Even though I love love LOVE Chicago, it is time to try something new and reach outside my geographic comfort zone. That being said, there is a LOT of Chicago eating to do in the next couple months and a whole new food beginning waiting for me on the west coast (best coast?…too soon?).

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Who can resist a California sunset?

I started with this place. A place I have only ventured to for some fancy cocktails. But matching (into a residency program so I can be a real doctor) seemed like a good enough reason for fancy brunch. Also, side note, I am technically about to finish 20th grade…that’s over 75% of my life spent in school. The thought makes me want a cocktail from this place right now…

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Sunny Side Up Frittata

The Place: Pump Room; The Neighborhood: Gold Coast

The food is on the fancy side, with things like lobster scramble and a sunny side up frittata, but all of it was yummy. The brioche french toast with caramelized pears and smoked bacon with definitely my favorite. They soak the bread for 24 hours and it is crispy on the outside and so gooey on the inside. The organic egg sandwich was a table favorite as well with smoked jalapeño jack cheese and housemade pork or chicken sausage.

The coffee was good and even though we had done a lot of celebrating the night before, everyone was peer-pressured into cocktails. The Bloody Mary was simple, but on point and just the right amount of spicy. We did not indulge in other non-brunch cocktails, but this is an excellent place for cocktails. The people watching is awesome, because this is definitely a place to bring someone you are trying to impress…if you know what I mean.

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Future doctors of California and Wisconsin; Photo by Tina
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DIY: Steak Dinner

Since I have a blog that is all about how much I like to eat, people sometimes ask me if I also like to cook. The answer is YES, ABSOLUTELY. I tend not to blog about it because I try to cook healthier (within limits), which is much less sexy to photograph than burgers topped with bacon and dripping in melted cheese a la the Au Cheval burger or brunch with a side of chocolate soup as in Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. But trying new things is important…blah blah personal growth…something about a new year, new me. So I decided to try out a DIY post with something everyone can get behind.

The meal: New York Strip Steak with Roasted Brussels Spouts and Rosemary Garlic Baby Potatoes and Brownie Sundaes for dessert

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I made this meal with 2 of my oldest friends from grade school! We usually get together for dinner once a month and it seems that whenever we get together for an early dinner, we end up doing happy hour, then drinks, then dinner, then sometimes more drinks and dessert. There really is something extra special about those friends you have had forever. However, since I have been traveling a lot lately, I have become a temporary homebody and wanted to make dinner at my apartment. That’s the other thing about good friends, they are down for a change when you just need to chill.

We got New York strip steak because the plan was to cook it on a stove grill top and it was on sale at Whole Foods. Two of us are going to be students forever so we were trying to be economically fancy. We got two 10-12oz steaks to share. Before we did any cooking we opened a bottle of wine (it may or may not have been the first of four). Priorities were in order.

To cook the steak:

  1. Generously season each side of the steak with salt and pepper
  2. Use a grill pan on a hot stove
  3. 4 minutes each side for medium rare, my friend had the genius tip of doing a quick sear on all the edges of the steak too -she’s a smarty pants, but totally worth the extra step
  4. let rest 10ish mins (if you have that kind of self control)
  5. enjoy and feel so fancy

Next the sides. They are both so easy! You can make them at the same time in the oven. You can also assign this task to the friend that is maybe really messy and wants to help, but you are nervous about them helping. I’m not saying this was one of my friends, but if you happen to have one helping you, this might be the contribution for him or her. The brussels sprouts:

  1. preheat oven to 350 F
  2. wash and halve a bag of brussels sprouts
  3. line a baking sheet with foil (less cleanup is always better)
  4. coat brussels sprouts in EVOO and toss in some salt and pepper in the baking sheet
  5. stick them in the oven for 30 mins, you may want to check them halfway through and stir them around

Don’t forget the potatoes. We bought purple, red, and yellow fingerling potatoes, mostly because they look prettier. And I’m not sure if I mentioned, but we were trying to make a fancy dinner. To make the potatoes:

  1. preheat oven to 350 F
  2. wash and halve potatoes (the long way AKA hotdog not hamburger)
  3. throw them in a foil lined baking dish
  4. slice half of a yellow onion, toss that into the dish too
  5. smash and chop 2-3 cloves of garlic, throw that in
  6. add 3 sprigs of rosemary
  7. drizzle olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste and toss (we used our hands, it’s easier)
  8. stick it in the oven with the brussels sprouts, if they aren’t done when you take out the sprouts, turn the oven up to 375 F for another 10-15 mins (at least that is what we did and it was fine)

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We also had some crusty french bread that was supposed to be for the meal and one of my friends even made a suggestion for what I should do with the leftover bread. Obviously there was no leftover bread! That sucker barely made it to the actual meal. We devoured it with our wine as we cooked. But still a great addition.

We made brownies from a box and splurged on Jenni’s Burnt Caramel ice cream to top it. Jenni’s ice cream is such a game changer! All in all it was basically the usual. We met at Whole Foods at 6pm on Thursday and they were calling ubers from my apartment around midnight. Maybe this means I am getting old, but there is something so nice about cooking with old friends and being able to lay around on the couch after chatting, facebook stalking old flings and polishing off some wine.

Also to note, if you have leftover sides, store them together and use it as a base for a hash. And by hash I just mean microwave them at breakfast and throw a sunny side egg on top!

Briciola

I’ve been doing a lot of solo dining on the interview trail lately. And I have adopted the mentality that if I am traveling alone, I will have to eat alone anyway. So, why shouldn’t I have good food in a restaurant instead of grubhub in my Airbnb? I’ve gotten really good at saying, ‘table for one please’ with enough confidence that they forget to think it’s weird that I didn’t ask if there is a bar with open seating. And stay tuned, I think I will do a post with restaurant highlights across America from the interview trail. However, this post is from a recent break in Chicago where I didn’t have to use my new table-for-one skills.

The Place: Briciola The Neighborhood: West Town/Ukrainian Village

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I generally feel like I can make pasta, why do I need to eat it at a restaurant? But Briciola taught me why. The name literally means bread crumbs, probably to warn you that you will want to lick all the crumbs off of your plate. The menu is full of Italian classics with a nod to the historical integrity of the dishes, but enough imagination that you have not had these dishes done this way before. The Calamari in Guazzetto is in a spicy tomato sauce that my taste buds wanted to swim in. They had to settle for me using the calamari and garlic crustini as sauce receptacles. Next, the pasta. I had the Tagliatelle Alla Veneziana, which was not tagliatelle at all. It was black linguini in a creamy saffron brandy sauce with shrimp and bay scallops. It was delicious. The kind of delicious that comes from fresh pasta.  My dinner companion had lamb shank with polenta cakes, which was also awesome (but not as good as mine)! oI was too full for dessert, but looked at the menu anyway -mostly as a formality because I LOVE tiramisu. Also as some encouragement for my brain to send my stomach good vibes to make room. I gotta put that mind body connection to good use. The tiramisu was perfection -fluffy, creamy and not soggy.

The last thing to know about Briciola is that it is BYOB! What is better than that? Make sure you make a rezzy! It is super cute (kinda date-y), but does not seat too many tables. I also hear they have an awesome patio. Looks like someone will have to go back with me when the weather warms up!

Eataly Chicago

This is one of the few places that has lived up to to its hype -probably because it is the work of food and restaurant geniuses Mario Batali, Lydia and Joe Bastianich’s and Oscar Farinetti. Anyone who can confidently wear orange Crocs and socks like Mario Batali must be able to back it up with something. In Batali’s case, it is food that will knock your Crocs off… Too cheesy?

The Place: Eataly Chicago; 43 E. Ohio, Chicago, IL

Butternut Squash Ravioli
Butternut Squash Ravioli

Eataly is a 62,000 square foot restaurant emporium, with sit-down restaurant stations, multiple wine bars, a microbrewery, a Nutella bar and even groceries. The restaurant stations include, fish, pizza and pasta, meat, veggies and a separate Batali-Bastianich restaurant: Baffo.

The food is simple and Italian with just a few high quality ingredients. The fish station has trout that will literally melt like butter in your mouth. The grilled octopus with mussels and squid in olive oil, lemon, white wine and garlic reminded me of meals I had on the Venetian islands.

Mussels, Squid and Octopus
Mussels, Squid and Octopus

The pasta and pizza station has the longest wait, but once you are in, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. The butternut squash ravioli was incredible and the Tagliatelle al Ragù di Manzo is like something out of an Italian dream. They make the tagliatelle in house and top with with braised short rib ragu, parmigiano reggiano and extra virgin olive oil.

Tagliatelle al Ragù di Manzo
Tagliatelle al Ragù di Manzo

The Bastianich family owns multiple vineyards in Italy so, the wine is just as good as the food. You can order a glass of wine and walk around and wait for a table at one of the food stations. Or you can grab a snack like focaccia the size of a slice of deep dish. The microbrewery has a bar-style sit down area where you can grab an appetizer as well.

After all of that wine and pasta save room for Nutella. You can’t miss the Nutella station on your way out (or in). They have crepes and Nutella pastries. Or, if Nutella is not your thing (ew who are you?) there is also a gelato station, which I would assume is good too.

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Some things to consider: Eataly is busy! It is like a tourist attraction, but one real Chicagoans aren’t tired of yet. It has been so popular that Chicago ate it out of food during its first week. Eataly chose to close for a day to regroup. I definitely know people who went 3 or 4 times that week (maybe me too). Good work Chicago! But stop in anyway for a snack or a crepe at least if you don’t want to wait!

For more information: http://www.eataly.com/eataly-chicago/

Go let Eataly knock your (orange) Crocs off! …Still cheesy?

Province

There are no words for this place besides AMAZING. And I am not just talking about the food. This is one of the most responsible and sustainable restaurants in Chicago. Not only do they try to source their food locally and sustainably, the space is gold level LEED certified. That means it maximizes efficiency while minimizing costs and environmental impact. Obviously none of that matters if the food sucks. But the food is also out-of-this-world!

The place: Province; 161 N Jefferson St. Chicago, IL

Scallops and Short Ribs
Scallops and Short Ribs

The interior is painted pink with white ‘trees’ hanging upside down from the ceiling. It is like something out of Alice in Wonderland, but a little less trippy and a little more comfortable-classy. It feels like everyone is there to take care of you, but not in an overbearing way. A meal at Province is a relaxing experience with high quality and delicious food.

The whole menu sounded good! They do a fixed tasting menu, which I would highly recommend. You get a try a lot of different menu items and it changes often so the tasting menu never stops being an option. I wanted too many things that were not on the tasting menu, so we didn’t do it. The menu is set up with small plates that you can do tapas style and larger plates you can have as a meal. Get the tuna tacos. They are unbelievable with the chipotle salsa. It is smokey and spicy and takes the whole thing to foodie bliss. The muscles were amazing and served sans shell with chorizo.

Tuna Tacos
Tuna Tacos

The larger plates include Duck Paella. This is a must-try after the tuna tacos! The duck is melt in your mouth perfection. The scallops in the Scallops and Short Ribs were incredible. We shared a side of the lobster mashed potatoes. They were the best mashed potatoes (lobster or regular) I have ever had. Completely unbelievable!

Duck Paella
Duck Paella

The dessert was beautiful. I could have eaten it with my eyes, but my taste buds appreciated it too! The dessert menu changes, but I would recommend the shortcake and whatever version of chocolate is on there!

Seven Layers of Chocolate
Seven Layers of Chocolate

They have a great drink menu, but the homemade citruscello must cap off your meal.

Some things to consider: Province is great for a variety of meal price-points. You could have a huge celebratory meal here with a big group. Or, you could also come in for a more casual lunch and still have a great experience and amazing food. The service was awesome. The food is awesome. This place is just great!

For more information: http://chicago.provincerestaurant.com/

Happy environmentally friendly dining!

TWO

The Midwest gets its fancy on at this new West Side spot without adding any snooty or stuffy to the mix. Local food from midwestern farmers is dressed in urban sophistication and served with genuine care. Everything from the food to the aesthetics to the service is spot on.

The Place: TWO; 1132 W Grand Chicago, IL

Not only does TWO buy locally, the interior is completely recycled. There is a wall made entirely from old Chicago porches, which adds to the homey comfortable feel. This is a classy and impressive place. It is one of those Chicago gems that will impress a date and make you look like you are totally in the know. It is off the beaten Rush Street path and doesn’t have those Rush street prices. The inside is beautiful, cool, rustic and romantic all in one, but the service and experience is what sets it over the edge. It felt like everyone was taking care of us.

Bacon and Arugula Risotto
Bacon and Arugula Risotto

Okay the food. WOW. Their menu changes often based on what is in season, but I am confident that there is always something amazing. The duck fat potato croquets were really good and served with chili herb aioli and Wisconsin parmesan. Don’t let the duck fat part scare you! Everything is cooked in some kind of fat, (butter=milk fat, olive oil=olive fat) they just need to come up with a sexier name for duck fat. My favorite thing had to be the risotto. It had homemade bacon, arugula and was topped with a fried egg. The egg really set the whole thing over the edge of amazing. It was so good! The grilled arctic char was probably the best piece of fish I have ever had. It was served over spinach, fingerling potatoes and smoked paprika buerre blanc (whatever that is). Save room for dessert. The homemade pretzel doughnuts with warm chocolate are like amazing fancy churros.

The drinks are creative and the bartender was super helpful. They have a lot of whiskey if that is your thing. They also have rotating selections from local breweries and microbreweries -only from the Midwest.

Some things to consider: They are only open for dinner, but I can’t really imagine having lunch here. There is potential free parking on side streets near by. That’s HUGE. It might be the only place left in Chicago. It isn’t that public transportation accessible and it is a little out of the way which is good and bad -bad because getting a cab might be a challenge. But really that is the only drawback. This place is amazing and I can’t wait to go back!

Two thumbs up for TWO! (Too cheesy?)

For more information: http://tworestaurantchicago.com/

25 Degrees

I recently googled the most expensive burgers in America. For upwards of $700 you can get a burger with caviar, lobster, truffle oil and cheese melted in champaign steam. BUT you would have to fly to New York or Las Vegas. Surprisingly, Chicago is not home to a gazillion-dollar burger. That’s okay though, I won’t be eating any of those until I make my doctor fortune in primary care…oh wait… Anyway, there are plenty of classy and creative burger joints in Chicago -minus the champaign steam and three figure price tag. This place is bordello meets burgers.

The Place: 25 Degrees; 736 N Clark St. Chicago, IL

Its first location was in Hollywood and the franchisers have brought that Hollywood sex appeal to Chicago in this burger bar. Your childhood Friday night at Johnnie Rockets gets an adult makeover with red booths and dim lighting. Open until 2 AM for food and drinks, this is a great place for a later dinner to start off your night or refuel your evening with a late night snack.

A sexy venue can make you feel cool while you eat your burger, but it does not make up for a good burger. Good thing 25 Degrees has amazing burgers and cool toppings! They only have 3 predesigned burgers, but it is easy to build your perfect burger. Toppings include a variety of cheeses including local varieties like benedictine from Wisconsin, sauces like chipotle and garlic aioli and toppings from fried eggs to arugula. No lobster or caviar, but your burger will be just as fancy and satisfying. But for those who are overwhelmed by the long lists of toppings, the number three with mezzo secco jack, green chili, chipotle and avocado is a great option. The best part is that sides come separately and you aren’t stuck with fries you don’t want! Get the sweet potato fries or the onion rings for the table! Spiked-Milkshakes

No burger joint is complete without milkshakes and the ones at 25 Degrees are spiked! The salted caramel was on the strong side, but the dark chocolate one was perfect. These are definitely made to share and they will split them for you, just ask! Going with the upscale burger joint they have a huge wine list. Kudos to you if you can pass up a milkshake.

Some things to consider: Call ahead, because they host a lot of events -probably because they make it so easy to have them there and it is a great venue. They don’t require a deposit for smaller events and will work with you for drink packages. Not every event takes up the whole restaurant, so sometimes they close off the front section which is more of a bar area. This is a great place, but go with a smaller group so you fit in a booth. Bring your friends and they will think you find the coolest places! It is close to Hubbard street if that is your weekend scene and a great place to begin the night.

Happy bordello and burgers! (Champaign steamed cheese not required!)