Mafia Mondays – Seeing Red Violet

FoodMafia CEO and Founder Stacy Johnson is a lover of good eats. Being a Godfather of all things tasty, when she says consulting Chef Gene Kato’s newly launched menu at Red Violet is excellent, you know she is speaking the truth.

This was an excellent dinner. The food, the service, the setting, and the company!

To start we tried the ginger mojito and lychee mimosa. Both were good. We were given raw garden vegetables with chinese miso dip. A nice lite and healthy way to start. We tried the hamachi carpaccio with ginger, chive, chinese vinegar and crispy shallots. My favorite were the tuna tacos, tuna tartar in a taro shell topped with avocado and pea sprout salad. I love this, they did not skimp on the tuna!

Our next course was the diver scallop salad with poached scallop, zucchini, and sichuan pepper dressing. By the look of it I wasn’t sure how much I would like it but the dish was excellent, especially the scallops. We also had the Tea Smoked Duck Breat served with black garlic soy and hot mustard. The duck was good.

Next we had the Calamari which was a huge hit at the table. Made out of cuttlefish, it isn’t your typical calamari. The wok fried pork dumpling served with xo sauce was good. Maybe a little salty for my taste but good. The steamed bun was great with the soy briased pork belly, pickled daikon and hoisin sauce.

We then had the Wonton Soup. The presentation for the soup was great. It had a shanton broth with duck dumpling, black tip mushrooms, and fried ginger.

We then had the fish course, flash fried bass served with pepper sauce, mushrooms, and pea sprouts. The fish was cooked well with a fun presentation.

Then we moved to the gift wrap salt steamed chicken with shitake mushroom and ginger scallion. It is served in a plstic bag that you unwrap to expose the food. The ginger scallion was my favorite but the black bean sauce was also good.

For the Filet Mignon, it was wok seared with pistachio, spring onion, spicy soy glaze served over a potato baked bread basket

Desserts

The Chocolate Symphony had an amazing presenation and you tasted different flavors and textures each time you had a bit. The almond Panna Cotta was good. Not sure I would order it again comepared to the other two but I did really like the almond cookie itself. The Tea & Doughnuts were AMAZING. White chocolate-lychee filled doughnuts, served with black tea semifreddo. The presentation and the food were great!

Some of the drinks were on the sweeter side but I always like a Lychee Martini (without the pineapple juice), it takes me back to drinking them in China!

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

Mafia Mondays – At Ada St.

Godfather Erin D from Food Mafia loves to eat, and she takes great pics RAZZI style.  Here she gives us the 411 on Ada St.

Don’t let the simplistic entrance fool you! Ada Street is the perfect example of a hidden treasure. I will admit I missed it at first, but just look for a large, dark oak door with the restaurant name. This Bucktown gem was originally a welding shop and it stays true to that history with its industrial feel. After walking down a dark hallway, you’ll find yourself in a dark, retro bar opening up to a large outdoor dining area. The great wait staff and manager told me the patio was originally intended for picnic-style dining. While there are tables and chairs now, it still has a summer picnic vibe, complete with red and white checkered tablecloths.

We started out with the soup of the day, a Tomato Gazpacho, which was fantastic! It’s creatively served in a shot glass which was the perfect start to an amazing meal. Every bite was bursting with flavor.

Next we had the Polenta Fries, which were nice and spicy. They were served with a chipotle sauce if you were feeling even more adventurous, but I loved them with or without.

Our fabulous waitress recommended the Octopus, which I must say I was wary of, but I’m so glad I gave it a shot. It was nice and tender with a tabasco mash giving it a nice barbeque taste.

My favorites of our shared plates were the Green Beans and the Flatbread. The beans are completely perfect in all their simplicity. The light dijon dressing and breadcrumbs make a standard, but very fresh vegetable feel like a main course.

I was about to order another helping when we got our flatbread. This treat is ever evolving, just like the menu, and today it was plum tomatoes and corn on an avocado puree. It was like a sweet corn salsa on a crispy cracker. Definitely don’t skip this when you check out Ada Street.

Another thing not to pass up? Their fresh and fruity desserts! We were torn between the Donuts with blueberries and the Buttermilk Panna Cotta with blackberries and they were both incredibly delicious. The donuts were so soft and warm accompanied by such sweet blueberries. While I’m a huge fan of panna cotta, this version was spectacular and I finished it in minutes. It was so light and creamy and both the blackberries on the panna cotta and the blueberries with the donuts were so fresh and unbelievably sweet. Everything at Ada Street is a must-try and I suggest heading over there ASAP!

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

Italianista Night In

Growing up we always cooked Italian. One of my favorite dishes my Grandmother used to make was linguine white clam. It’s not a typical dish that a kid would love, but it was devoured. She barely ever used fresh clams, which inspired me to spin this dish on a Saturday night. The result was lighter than the original, but full of fresh flavor. It looked amazing, and was unbelievably easy and fast to make.

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We started the night with some Reblochon. Not Italian, but creamy and delicious. Lately I just can’t get enough of the creamier robust cheeses.

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Roro makes a delicious stuffed mushroom. We always wing the recipe but the key is baking it Pyrex. Chopped mushroom stems, toasted breadcrumbs, garlic, garlic powder, grated Parmesan reggian and Italian parsley. Lots of olive oil.

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On Italian Missoni china of course. Crunchy and earthy flavors.

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The base sauce starts with olive oil, onion, garlic, clam juice, wine, butter and red chili flakes. Then in go the cockles! It’s fun to watch them open, get covered in the sauce, then get plated.

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Perfection. Garnished with Italian chopped parsley and heirloom tomatoes.

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Roro’s plate.

hennyxfutura

You know you’re having a great afternoon when it starts off with a roadie.  A roadie of Hennessy V.S. muddled into a perfect concotion – and portable to board a first class party bus to tour the best street art in Chicago.  The occasion was the collaboration of Hennessy enlisiting revolutionary street artist Futura to design a limited edition bottle, a collaboration they do often with artists.

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Roadie in a pink solo cup.

There’s Always Thyme 
1.5 oz Hennessy VS 
1 oz thyme apricot honey syrup
.75 oz fresh lemon juice 
Dash of Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters 
Splash of Amaretto 
Garnish with rehydrated apricot and fresh thyme sprig 
Method: Add all liquids to a shaker tin with ice.  Shake until well chilled.  Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a rehydrated apricot from the syrup, and a fresh sprig of thyme. 

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After our street art tour (more on that on FB if you are interested), we headed to The Storefront Company for bites and a chance to meet Futura.  The food blew us way.  They presented an elaborate cheese board, with my personal favorite as the centerpiece – epoisse.  All the cheeses were served at the perfect temperature with a whisper shaving of bread, so you could really enjoy the creamy flavor.

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Beet cured Salmon and other house made sausages and meats.

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A grown up slider with pork belly and a quail egg.

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Pate de fruits.

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Futura’s limited edition bottle – with fun graffiti stickers from Pawn Works.

The Smash – Hennessy V.S. with Blueberries, Fresh Lemon, Elderflower and Mint.

The Beautiful – Hennessy V.S. and Grand Marnier.  Simple.

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And just for fun – my favorite shot from the tour.

A cool video on Futura.

socca love

After a wild afternoon in Wrigley, Stacy Johnson (aka Food Mafia) and I ended up at socca. And lucky for US!  We enjoyed an amazing meal at the bar with super friendly service from the bartenders, and also got some fun time with Chef Roger Herring. The pizzettes on the menu are crispy and delicious and fantastic.  And they also cooked our sweetbreads perfectly – what else can us girls ask for?

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Escargot with warm butter and crispy puff pastry.

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The sweetbreads of the year!  Perfectly crispy, tender and served with sweet heirloom tomatoes.

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We almost ordered two – pizzette wild mushroom, caramelized onion, fennel sausage and gorgonzola. Gorgonzola on a pizza is my favorite cheese.  The way it melts is like heaven.

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English pea ravioli Carbonara style with pancetta, cipollini onion and farm fresh egg.

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I am not always a dessert person (I swear) but this caramel cashew goat cheese gelato with toasted coconut, whipped cream, chocolate sauce caught our attention.  A brilliant blend of flavors and texture, topped with toasted coconut.

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And of course – refreshing lemon Italian ice.

Even during the hectic-ness of a post-Cubbie game and Market Days wildness, socca was the perfect stop to end the night.  Thanks Roger and team for the deliciousness!

Summer in Saigon

Another thing to love about summer – the Summer in Saigon menu at Le Colonial.  I am obsessed with Banh Mi – and these crispy baguette sandwiches are authentically delicious.  And they come elegantly plated with two iconic side dishes from one of the Gold Coast’s hot spots. Only available on the weekends!

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Goi Cuon – soft salad rolls with shrimp.

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The salad side choice is freshly piled with herbs and watercress.

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The Pho is addicting at Le Colonial – it’s aromatic and you can spice it up according to your taste.

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My banh mi choice here is the lightly fried tofo – and also the BBQ pork.  Crispy and spicy and summery in Saigon.

Mafia Mondays – The Trenchermen

One thing about Godfather caitgreenwood from Food Mafia – that girl knows how to eat. She popped into Trencherman recently in her hood – and this review makes me want to rush over there ASAP!  Congrats Mike and Pat!

What a fantastic night at Trenchermen, truly. I sincerely hope this place takes off and is around for a long long time, especially because I live so close and can see myself spending a lot of time at the fabulous bar! My boyfriend and I popped in on a Thursday night to check out the food and drinks; after reading who was behind this new spot (the Sheerin bros, Tona Palomino, et al), I was very excited to dive into the menu and the cocktails!

The space itself is great, it’s casual and warm with great antique details- the space was a bathhouse dating from the early 1900s where organized crime members and politicians used to hobnob and cut deals; pretty neat history! It still has the white subway tiles and now has an amazing bar in the main room, and a separate dining area with some really great light fixtures and a to-die-for wall of wine. While the space is warm and casual, the food and drinks are extremely refined.

The bar has a very cool barrel cocktail and tap program; and they serve some carbonated beverages, such as the refreshing Bridge and Tunnel, as well as some twists on classics, like the UH-MAZING Jewel-Up. We had several, several Jewel-Ups (beware, they are strong and will sneak up on you!).

The food, from the prolific Sheerin brothers, was really a joy. We couldn’t really decide on what to get, so we just ordered whatever caught our eye. We started with:

-Pickle Tots with chicken breast bresaola, red onion yogurt, scallions (the chicken breast with the red onion yogurt really made this dish, I was practically licking the yogurt off the plate!

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-Beet Bocconcini with baby lettuce, radish and orange
-Scotched Quail Egg with cauliflower, almond, caviar, maple (a favorite dish for the both of us, really different and really delish)
-Bacon Cured Sweetbreads with XO sauce, black garlic, limed carrots, nori (the black garlic and smoky bacon was great with the sweetbreads!)
-Scallop with avgolemono, rice, egg yolk bottarga, baby turnips, lovage (this was a great dish, but I’m a scallop fanatic!)

From there (what a way to get started) we decided to share a few mains:

-Smoked Kentucky Paddlefish with haricots verts, cherries, chicories, chocolate malt granola (my boyfriend isn’t a fan of smoked fish, but I loved this dish!)
-Aged Peking Duck Breast with rhubarb umeboshi, fried rice, kim chee mortadella, red bean paste, nasturtium (probably my favorite dish of the night, the duck was amazing and the rhubarb and kim chee mortadella were such an awesome combo with this dish).

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-Slow Smoked Texas Brisket with Trencheritos, mustard garganelli, snow peas, cornichons (my boyfriend’s favorite of the night, it was tender, hearty, and perfect)
-Braised Pork Belly with sugar snap peas, coconut, vanilla, plums (another close favorite; the belly is brined for 3 days and then sous-vide, which makes it unbelievably tender, The coconut with it was a pretty incredible flavor addition as well!)

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After this gluttony we had to still try desert:

-Coffee Cake with chai tofu ice cream, fried chocolate, smoked ‘merengue’ (yum, just yum, and perfect with coffee, surprisingly enough :) )

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-Candied Cumin Churros with apricot, white chocolate dulce de leche, coriander (these were tasty, we could have had a basket of them!)

We had such a fabulous night at Trenchermen. The service was superb (shout-out to Phil and the amazing Yvonne), the cocktails and wine were fabulous. The food was really incredible; there were such interesting and surprising flavor combinations, some subtle and some not so subtle, but all working perfectly. I can’t wait to go back and try the other items that were recommended (zucchini soup!) and get some of our favorites again!

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

 

 

Booked at RL

It is no secret that RL is a neighborhood hot spot – and everyone has their favorite dish on the menu.  Now with the launch of Ricky Lauren’s “The Hamptons,” a few of her recipes will be featured fare.  For brunch this past Sunday my mom and I got to try her turkey burger with one of RL’s signature Bloody Marys.

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Turkey Burger with White Cheddar, avocado, tomato, onion, mayo & mustard on a whole grain bun.

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I love the crab cakes at RL – and they taste even better with a poached egg and hollandaise.

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The book – packed with great recipes that seem easy to make – is stocked with great food pics which I particularly love.  The books are available at RL for $40.