*GUEST RAZZI – Debi Lilly in Paris again …

My dear friend Debi Lilly presents us with her last food notes from her trip to Paris.  But the great news is now she is BACK in Chicago and we can go and sip champers somewhere …

“Moules Provencal, baked in the style of the south with pesto and lemon.

Chez Janou is always my first choice of bistros in Le Marais, just steps away from Place de Vosges.

I always go early for lunch or dinner, as the patio is THE place to be.

It never fails – once seated, you look down for a minute at la carte, the menu, and by the time you look up again there are more people in line for tables than imaginable.”

“Daniel Rose, Spring, Chicago’s greatest gift to Paris

Market Salad with ahi tuna, red and yellow summer tomato, mozzarella, herbs and vinaigrette

TO DIE for.”


Heaven On Earth

After sampling almost the entire cocktail menu at NoMI Garden in Chicago over the weekend, Chef Ryan La Roche sent us one of the best delicacies in the entire world.  Jamon Iberico de Bellota.  Glistening with delicious fat, reminiscent of all my trips to Spain, but specifically a trip to The Basque region, where you really just can’t get enough.

This ham is acorn fed (bellota) with a creamy nutty flavor, as these pigs are fed nothing but acorns. Served with a traditional pan com tomate (tomato bread) which you really didn’t need because the ham was pig perfect.

Speaking of, for a great “foodie novel” about the quest for the perfect ham, I recommend Pig Perfect, by Peter Kaminsky, it’s a meaty read.  He ends up with Jamon Iberico as his prize, and so did we in the glorious outdoors of the NoMI Garden.

Thanks Ryan!


Banh Mi

Banh Mi is a great lunch item, and I am so happy Le Colonial is now serving it – ON THE WEEKENDS ONLY!

The “Summer in Saigon” lunch menu features Banh Mi, which are traditional Vietnamese sandwiches.  The menu is available for lunch on Saturday and Sunday.

The “Summer in Saigon” menu is $20 per person and includes one Banh Mi sandwich with a choice ofBBQ Pork, Seared Chicken Breast (pictured) or Lightly Fried Tofu and traditionally topped with pickled cucumber, daikon, fresh onions, carrots, red jalapeno peppers. Each sandwich will be paired with a choice of two sides including a salad of mixed greens and red wine vinaigrette; Goi Cuon, soft salad rolls made with shrimp, rice vermicelli, lettuce, bean sprouts and aromatic herbs all wrapped in rice paper, paired with peanut plum dipping sauce; Pho, a hearty oxtail soup with rice noodles, beef tenderloin slices and aromatic herbs or Sup Ga, chicken soup with sliced baby corn.



Best Weekend Ever is NEXT

What is the best way to celebrate a bachelorette weekend in Chicago?  Dinner at Avec, drinks at Publican one night.  Then dinner at Next and a drink at The Office the next night.  Perhaps a little late night jaunt to Underground as well …

So we did it up in Thai style at Next, and a month later we were wined and dined at La Grenouille for the gala wedding of the year in NYC.  That post is coming up later this week.  We tied one on.

The table spotlights work wonders.  Steamed bun …

Roasted banana …

Shrimp cakes … very reminiscent of shrimp toast from my childhood memories … The Thai newspapers were a great addition, but dated a few days behind.

Sweet shrimp …

Tom Yum Goong – as the waiter warned us (on two trips), lives up to its name.

The condiments – a course in their own right.

Catfish with caramel, celery and coriander root.  The wine pairings here are to note, and the catfish was paired with one of my favorite varietals Txakolina from The Basque.

 Coconut dessert …

Dragon fruit, with a gorgeous rose …

 Rooibos, palm sugar and milk …

And a Manhattan at The Office – a way to celebrate the fun about to come in NYC!


Mix It Up

For those of you who don’t know Claire Smith – she is a total babe and cocktail rockstar for Belvedere.  And she is FUN!  She appears on Chelsea Handler’s show regularly mixing drinks with the star’s favorite vodka (hint – Belvedere).  And she taught a bunch of us chicks a thing or two about mixing up the perfect cocktails.  We had the below diagram which made it easy for all of us during all the chit chit and booze sampling.

Martinis for breakfast?  Why not!  The Breakfast Martini is perfect for any time of day. 

1.5 oz Belvedere Pink Grapefruit, 1 barspoon of peach puree, 1/2 oz lemon juice and dash of earl grey tea simple syrup (homemade – and making this and keeping on hand for future use when mixolgist-ing).

All was going well until I started to use a jigger.  And accidentally put 3 oz into the drink instead of 1.5 oz.  I was never really good at math.  But since I am a seasoned professional drinker, it all worked out OK.  I also went a little heavy on the jam and the tea syrup, both the flavors were harmoniously delicious.  Clarie made the preserves herself, and they were quite lovely.  All the ingredients went into the Boston bar glass, then we shook our money maker until the glass was ice cold and frosted.

 Garnished with a squeeze of the orange zest and GOOD MORNING Breakfast Martini!

Cherries this time of year are a great addition to your drink roster, and this recipe is so versatile (Claire tells us) that you can really substitute any flavor or fruit.  This one involves muddling, I love to muddle and pulverize stuff in a glass.

1.5 oz Belvedere, 4 to 5 ripe cherries, dash simple syrup, dash lemon juice, Ginger Beer.  Claire’s recommendation is Fever Tree Ginger Beer.

Muddle, muddle muddle the cherries in a glass!  Add the rest of the ingredients and top with ice and ginger beer.  Then give it a good stir.

Please note: Photo Styling for this image by Amy Christenson.

What do you pair all this with besides a room full of great girlfriends?  Jung Pak from Wisepak foods was rolling sushi to order.

Special thanks to Kimberly Burt for hosting and for Tom Kane for letting us mix in his fabu apartment.  He let me ogle his Champagne collection.

*Guest Razzi – The Manly Cut

Scott Manlin grills the perfect steak.  These pictures are especially fantastic, because we can see the before and after of his culinary prowess.

The cuts are a 3.5 pound Porterhouse and a 22 oz. NY Strip (both center cut).  Dry- aged 35+ days to Manlin’s specifications.  The meat all comes from Bryan Flannery (http://www.bryansfinefoods.com/), from his Brandt Farms Holstein herd, formerly known as “Private Reserve” until some dog food peddling beef firm out of Omaha threatened his use of the phrase.( http://www.bryansfinefoods.com/index.php?info=new).  Now it is referred to as the Lance Corporal Reserve, but out of protest, Manlin refuses to call it such, and so should you.

Manlin gives the steak love with a light coating of olive oil, salt and pepper. From time to time, he will fine chop some thyme, rosemary and garlic and add it to the coating, but not this day. Then they are thrown on the grill to achieve the perfect char. A few minutes per side to score and char them and then moved to indirect heat to raise to desired temperature.  He uses steaks this large (not out of gluttony) so they can be cooked on all sides (four sides for the Strip, five including the T of the bone for the Porterhouse) to achieve consistent doneness around the whole steak.   And knowing Manlin, super extra rare when you slice into it (110-115 degrees in center, rest for at least 10 mins).

The Porterhouse (Front) and Strip Steak (Back)  looks especially great on this bear platter on one of his recent travels to a ranch in Colorado with friends.  He actually met a real bear this trip, but luckily she didn’t have any of the steak.

Another cut, here is a Dry-aged bone-in Tenderloin, which is worth noting that Scott will generally say “I HATE filet mignon. Flavorless, fatless, and mushy textured”… BUT!!!! When you leave the tenderloin on the bone and cook it half like a steak (direct heat on all four sides, 2 bone, 2 meat) and then finish it like a roast, it is something quite different. Lots of fat and flavor from the bone, the cut is self-basting, and the meat off the bone has a much firmer texture than a typical filet mignon. He claims he likes it even better than the tenderloin side of a great porterhouse. It is a unique cut and worth trying from time to time.

For more on Scott – http://www.facebook.com/#!/ScottManlin.

For more on the amazing steaks – http://www.bryansfinefoods.com.

Please note:  Manlin peppered this post with some of his own commentary, which should delight all of you readers.

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*Guest Razzi – Liza in Paul Kahan’s Backyard

Liza gets a big kick out of The Foodarazzi – and now she is getting great at taking photos.  She was invited to a dinner at Chef Paul Kahan’s backyard last weekend.  It was an auction prize from the Bricks & Ivy Ball, benefiting the Chicago Cub’s Charities.  He and his team cooked them an amazing meal, and he was even waiting at the front porch when they arrived.  That really impressed Liza. 

 A starter of charcuterie.  Looks like some pickled vegetables.

Paul’s version of a Shrimp Boil.

Pork confit with little neck clams, chorizo, corn, tomatoes and vermouth.

Ham chop brined, smoked and roasted in hay with relish made from white cherries.  White grits on the side.  Over the top.

 Bitter hazelnut panna cotta.

Camembert drizzled with honey, toasted pistachios and grilled plums.

Needless to say the air was rich with jealousy, and I was across town at Avec.


*Guest Razzi – Debi Lilly in Paris

Bonjour -

Le Sault de Loup, Jardin du Carousel, le Louvre

Picturesque Paris setting – in the shadow of le Louvre and its gorgeous gardens, La Tour Eiffel, Musee d’Orsay and more.

Summer tomato and melon gazpacho with basil sorbet

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