Prosciutto of Happiness

We celebrated our Ham Independence with Chef Tony Mantuano at Bar Toma along with Herb Eckhouse visiting from La Quercia.  Herb has been making award winning hams and prosciutto in Iowa since 2005.  It’s the kind of thing when I see La Quercia products on a menu – let’s just say I get kind of excited!

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Pig Banners.

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Herb himself showing off the the acorn edition ham.  The pigs were fed acorns, resulting in a richer and nuttier flavor similar to Spanish ham.

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Lucky for us Cathy Mantuano picked all the wines for the pairings, inlcuduing this Scarpetta Rose Spumante.

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The best pizza on the menu – the DOTTORE with La Quercia prosciutto, arugula and mozzarella.

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“Acorns have been associated with superior dry cured meat for centuries, and we are proud to be the first to bring this tradition to the United States.  For the last three months of their lives, the fortunate Acorn Edition pigs eat a diet of 60% acorns. We generally buy the whole pigs, so in late fall, we begin the traditional country cycle of curing as many cuts of meat as possible. The aging rooms fill with guanciale, coppa, lonza, lardo, pancetta, prosciutto, spallacia, and even a few sausages. Throughout the next twenty four months, each item is meticulously cured and released to our customers, culminating in the crown jewel of cured pork: acorn-fed prosciutto!” – La Quercia

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Hamming it up – it was such a great night and fun to meet Herb from La Quercia.

Au, Yes!

I was a little late to the party – Au Cheval has been open for months.  And everyone has been raving. The best part of these pics is that they really speak for themselves.  The liberal use of herbs is a bonus.20120628-110543.jpg

Salmon Rilette with brioche, a perfect egg and pickles.

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THE PERFECT BURGER – with two patties of heaven.

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Super crispy frites with garlic aioli.

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LOVE.  On a bun.

Mafia Mondays – Across The Pond

Today’s Food Mafia “Mafia Monday” post is by Goodfella Agnes04 – and features North Pond’s brunch and James Beard Award winning chef Bruce Sherman.  She loves their brunches – and we could not agree more!

“North Pond has been in my top 3 favorite restaurants in Chicago, not only for spectacular dinners, but also for a truly amazing brunch.

Last Sunday we went for brunch with another couple. It was a gorgeous day out. We sat in the front room that offers amazing views of the pond, park and downtown skyline.

Our server, Shannon, is probably one of the best we ever had…we always request him when dining at North Pond. He is knowledgeable, personable and shares our passion for food and wine. Truly an all around great guy.

We started off with hand crafted cocktails…a take on summer sangria – made with fresh strawberries that have been soaked in late harvest riesling…so good!

The restaurant offers a 3 course brunch for $33…with 4 choices in each category…you can’t go wrong.

I had the Crab/Avocado to start (peekytoe crab with avocado mousse, mint, radish, carrot broth) very refreshing…great starter.

Also had the Cucumber/Salmon (chilled cucumber melon soup with cured salmon, pumpernickel and serrano for the touch of heat) great take on a gazpacho

My main dish was Shrimp/Asparagus (shrimp a la plancha, asparagus, beets, gnocchi,hazelnuts) also a perfect summer dish.

For dessert we ordered one of each…my favorite was the Rhubarb/Orange (citrus rhubarb tart with oatmeal crumble and orange blossom ice cream! How cool is that…

All the entrees were seasonal; just perfect! Bruce Sherman is a very talented chef and I’ve never had a bad dish there. I’m always surprised with the creativeness that goes into every plate that he puts out.

We enjoyed ourseleves and will definitely be back to try the summer menu.

Thanks again North Pond!” – Agnes04

Every Monday TheFoodarazzi features some of their favorite food shots from FoodMafia.

Mafia Mondays – Get Your Goat

This is a great photo from Girl & The Goat by Goodfella FreddyLove on Food Mafia.  I couldn’t agree more about going in and waiting for a table early, or even just eating at the bar.

“Forget the two month wait, just go early 5/5:30 and put your name in for a table. Wait an hour and a half in the bar enjoying cocktails and the decor… then eat. A fabulous menu with great variety, but lots of salt. I loved it but the next day my eyes were just tiny slits. Still it was well worth it!”

Braised Short Ribs.  What a great shot!  And worth the wait!

Every Monday TheFoodarazzi features some of their favorite food shots from FoodMafia.

DYN-O-MITE!

On Watch312 we recently checked out some fun sushi spots.  Midori, up on Bryn Mawr, has been serving sushi and other Japanese dishes since the 80s.  Chef Roberto is the main attraction – rocking the sushi bar.

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The Dynamite Shrimp is one of the most popular and best selling dishes.  It has spice to it – but is also fresh with shrimp flavor.

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Gorgeous sushi rolls made by Chef Roberto.  My Favorite is the Green Line Maki (center) with eel shrimp, cucumber tempuraki rice, spicy sauce with hot wasabi tobiko.

Mafia Mondays – Going Wild

TheFoodarazzi.com and @XAPR love the Food Mafia.  Each Monday we bring you our favorite review of the week from their site – with the mouthwatering photos to prove it.  This one is by Goodfella Erin D where she went wild at Frontier in West Town.

“One of the most exotic menus I’ve ever seen! There was a huge array of choices with things like llama meatballs, duck tacos, and a smoked reuben sandwich. Definitely the right restaurant to try if you’re feeling adventurous.

The Cheese Bites appetizer was one of the more traditional bar food options, but even those had an extra kick with prosciutto folded into the cheese and a pickled apricot dipping sauce. 

The Gator Ribs were another interesting find. While I hate to be typical, the gator tasted like chicken, but had a fishier texture and was covered in a Georgia peach BBQ sauce. 

The Pulled Boar sandwich was delicious! With a pretzel bread bun, Texas style BBQ sauce and coleslaw, the boar was similar to pulled pork, just a little thicker and tougher. 

Finally, you’ve got to end the meal with some of the Whiskey Gelato. It comes in either the Gelato Flight, alongside Mexican Dark Chocolate and Goat Cheese flavored gelato, as well as in the Banana Bread Pudding.”

Photos and review courtesy of Food Mafia and Goodfella Erin D.

Balena, #everythinggoodendsinavowel

When you walk into Balena the first time, all you can say is WOW. It is a great sign when a new restaurant settles into an older space, and you can’t even remember what the place before it looked like. With it’s industrial charm, deconstructed neon, chef oogling bar perches and sexy nooks and crannies, Balena is the place to be. And the food ain’t too bad either!

“The Balena.” We started with the combos of their cured meats from The Smoking Goose (Stagberry Salame, Gin & Juice, Saucisson Rouge), Cheese (Robiola, Pecorino Grand Cru, Oregonzola) and Peter’s Breads. The breads need a whole separate section. They were crispy, chewy, spicy and cheesy goodness. From Ramp Crostini to Nigella Grissini, the various garnishes were’t even needed.

The Cocktail Hour – started clockwise from top with a classic Negroni no5, Strawberry no1 (dive right in!) and Montenegro no6 (MINE – Amaro Montenegro, Nolet Gin, Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters, orange peel). I was quite fond of that one.

Bruschetta of Oil Poached Tuna, Marinated Beans and Red Onion. Whenever I have oil poached tuna, I feel very European.

Tagliolini Nero, Crab, Sea Urchin and Chili. All of the pastas read worth a try – but a squid ink pasta is always a MUST try.

Grilled Head-On Prawns, Grapes, Finger Chiles, Aioli. AMAZING.

Salt and Pepper Chicken Thighs, Green Garlic, Coriander and Watercress.

A delicious modern Tiramisu with Chocolate Sauce, Coffee Streusel and Roasted Pear.

We made the mistake of bringing Amanda Rockstar Rockman some of our favorite torrone from Italy, when her nougat was beyond the best we ever had. (Sorry Amanda!) And it was perfect with the Pistachio Gelato.

And after reading their Three Star Review in Phil Vettel’s column in The Chicago Tribune, I realized we didn’t try the pizza. So, see you again soon!

Gemini Bistro

Burgers Burgers and more Burgers! Burger Bonanza part two is up on dishIT! with Amanda Puck on watch312.com.  Chef Jason Paskewitz of Gemini Bistro let me behind the scenes for tips on how he makes the best burger.  The Gemini Burger – prime beef, smoked Neuske Bacon, Swiss Cheese on a potato bun with truffle fries.  The best trick I learned – add the cheese on top of the burger in the last moment of cooking and top it with the bun.  Pull it off and place it on the bottom bun.  And by the time you are ready to sink your teeth into it – it’s melted to perfection and the bun doesn’t move around.

The Truffle fries are crispy and full of truffle flavor, and sprinkled with parmesan.