Grilled Lamb Chops with Pork & Mindy's Mustard BBQ Sauce

Now that the weather has finally cooled down (well, it's more than just cooled down - we're actually expecting our first snowfall of the season later tonight!), I've once again taken up regular residence in my kitchen. As much as I always enjoy my mini cooking break during the hotter months (less cooking = more time for checking out fab new restaurants!), I'm always eager to get back into the kitchen and taste test all of the new recipes I've spent the summer collecting.

One of those recipes I've been eagerly waiting to try out is from none other than Chicago favorite Jeff Mauro, aka the Sandwich King. Diana and I had the opportunity to see Jeff in action at Chicago Gourmet a few years ago and we both walked away with a newfound appreciation for his cooking (that man knows his stuff!)... we may also each have a bit of a secret crush on him, but that's another story. ;-)

Following his stints on the seventh season of Food Network Star (which he won!), The Kitchen, Sandwich King, and $24 in 24, Jeff partnered with a longtime friend and entrepreneur to launch his line of barbecue sauces last year. Even more exciting, his first ever restaurant, Pork & Mindy's is *thisclose* to opening (scheduled for December in Bucktown). Yay!

In honor of the upcoming opening, I decided it was finally time to break out one of those recipes I've been hoarding: Grilled Lamb Chops with Pork & Mindy's Mustard BBQ Sauce (one of Jeff's favorite seasonal dishes!). While BBQ was a staple during the summer months of my childhood, I've really learned to appreciate it as the perfect cozy cold-weather food that it is since moving to Chicago - I mean really, is there anything better than a steaming pile of seasoned meat to warm you up?! Thanks to the tangy mustard BBQ sauce (my favorite of his three sauces), this flavorful dish is super easy to make.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Pork & Mindy's Mustard BBQ Sauce

Pork & Mindy’s Mustard BBQ Sauce
12 2oz. lamb chops
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil
4 stalks green onion slivered

1. Preheat the grill to high. Brush chops with olive oil and season lamb on both sides with salt and pepper to taste.

I chose to use loin lamb chops, but you can use any cut you prefer (loin, rib, or sirloin) for this recipe. Note: if you're using a grill pan, swap out the olive oil for grapeseed oil (I usually use a roasted garlic variety); otherwise, you'll have a big ol' smokey mess!

2. Put the chops on the grill and cook until golden brown and slightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Brush with Pork & Mindy’s Mustard Sauce, then turn the chops over and continue grilling to medium doneness, 2 to 3 minutes more, brushing the top with more of the sauce.

4. Remove chops from grill and place on a serving platter. Brush with more of the sauce and let rest for 5 minutes. Top with slivered onions and serve.

 Serve with a simple side - peas and/or asparagus tends to pair well with lamb!

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.


The Local Chicago

As much as I try to keep up with new restaurants, I have to admit that The Local Chicago is one of those places that has consistently flown under my radar ever since its opening in 2012. However, with a recent change in chef and updates to the menu, the restaurant has been getting a new round of buzz... which finally made its way to my little corner of the world! A sister restaurant to the popular Chicago Cut Steakhouse, The Local offers a little slice of rustic America with a modern twist right in the heart of the city.

Located just off of the Mag Mile inside the Hilton Suites Hotel, the restaurant has Americana theme and a menu filled with updated comfort food to match its homey decor, as well as appeal to city diners looking for a simple, yet still sophisticated experience. While I'm definitely not someone who would typically intentionally seek out a restaurant that focuses on traditional dishes, as I'm far more apt to gravitate toward a modern sushi joint or tiny neighborhood taqueria, I have to say there's something refreshing about an unpretentious spot that offers good ol' American classics (especially when those classics include some delicious mac & cheese!).

Not only does The Local offer regional favorites, it also sources the bulk of its ingredients from familiar Midwestern vendors (Slagel Family Farm, Local Folks Food, Crystal Valley Farms); in addition, they offer exclusive beers from Chicago favorites Two Brothers Brewing and Revolution Brewery on tap, as well as an extensive wine list worthy of its posh neighborhood location.

Gigi and I kicked off our lunch by exploring all of the nooks and crannies filled with numerous cutesy and interesting objects (many of which were found in Midwestern antique stores).

Gigi and I both loved this adorable Betty Boop figurine hanging above our table!

After thoroughly exploring the space, we finally sat down to a plate Tuna Tartare with avocado, Fresno chilies, wonton chips, and sesame ginger aoli. As has been fairly well-established by now, I'm a huge fan of tuna tartare and will order it just about every time I find it on a menu - I particularly enjoyed this version, thanks to the huge chunks of avocado, slight heat from the chilies, and the addictive light & crispy wonton chips.

How awesome are their star plates?!

We followed the Tuna Tartare with an East Coast/West Coast Oyster tasting: Delaware vs. Bodega Bay. The oyster offerings at The Local are flown in daily (which isn't always the case with some non-seafood restaurants in Chicago). While I'm a fan of all oysters, I have to say the smaller West Coast oysters were especially flavorful!

While we didn't intentionally decide to have a seafood feast, we just so happened to gravitate toward the seafood side of the menu (as it all sounded so delicious!). Gigi and I both highly enjoyed this Lobster Mac & Cheese - it was the perfect amount of gooey, creamy cheese and chunks of buttery lobster.

Out of everything we sampled, this New England Lobster Roll was my least favorite, but only because there was quite a bit celery in it (one of my most-hated foods!). However, I did appreciate the large pieces of lobster and toasted, buttery roll.

Finally, we ended our meal with the only non-seafood dish of the day (and one of my favorites!): the Oreo Mint Ice Cream Pie with Oreo cookie crust, mint chip gelato, and chocolate sauce. If you're a fan of the mint/chocolate combo, this swoon-worthy and perfectly presented dessert is an absolute must order!

If you're looking for a Gold Coast stop with a causal atmosphere, friendly servers, and some quality classic American dishes, The Local Chicago is definitely worth a try! You can sample all of this deliciousness and more at: 198 E. Delaware Pl.

The Local Chicago Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own. 


Pump Room

You may remember that I paid my first visit to Pump Room earlier this year and fell hard for their fabulous decor, delicious drinks, and absolutely amazing salmon rolls (seriously, they're a game changer!). As I mentioned in my last post, Pump Room is one of those iconic Chicago restaurants that was once known as much for its legendary celebrity connections as for the food they served. Located in the same neighborhood as the original Playboy Mansion, the first iteration of the restaurant served as the former stomping grounds for likes of Natalie Wood, Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra (he had his own booth!), and yes, even the Hefners. Back in the day, it was the place to be. Thanks to a total transformation in 2011 that updated everything from the physical space to the menu, Pump Room is most definitely still the place to be (although sadly, the restaurant of today is decidedly less star-studded).

While a few of Pump Room's original menu items from the Golden Age remain, much of the current menu was recreated by Jean-Gorges' Vongerichten of the highly successful ABC Kitchen during the renovations. Based on the bites I sampled during my spring visit, I knew I absolutely needed to get back over there for more, so of course, I was thrilled when Ashley and I were both recently invited to stop in to try the famed Jean-Georges Icon Menu. We donned our party shoes, grabbed a few of our girlfriends, and met up for what would turn out to be an absolutely epic meal!

A few of the many legends to dine at Pump Room

This sleek network of lights dubbed "The Constellation" dominates the gorgeous dining room  

Of course, we had to start out with a round of cocktails, as you cannot go to Pump Room and not sample some of their amazing drinks! My friend, Barb, chose the aptly named Hell Hath No Fury: Botran Blanco, cilantro-infused rum, flaming green chartreuse, lime, pineapple, and simple syrup (yes, that faint light blue you see on the right/center is an actual flame!).

Ashley and her sister started with a round of margaritas, including the bright Ginger Margarita: Herradura Blanco tequila, Combier Orange, ginger, and lime.

Based on the description alone, I knew I would love this drink - in fact, I loved it so much that I had to sample it three times just to make sure. ;-)  Corpse Reviver #2: Langley’s #8 gin, Lillet Blanc, combier orange, and lemon.

Round two included more of the same, plus this delightful Sour Cherry Old Fashioned: Jim Beam bourbon, sour cherry-yuzu, and angostura bitters.

Before we even glanced at the Icon menu, we knew we wanted to try out a few appetizers from their regular menu. We started with the Tuna Tartare with ginger dressing & radish. I'm typically not a huge fan of radishes (they tend to taste like dirt to me), but these mellow, spicy radishes paired perfectly with the fresh tuna.

We paired the tuna with a simple and light Ricotta with Strawberry Compote served with grilled sourdough.

After our delicious appetizers, we were finally ready to move on to our selections from the Icon Menu. Based on my glowing review of the Salmon Rolls with crispy sushi rice & chipotle aioli, everyone just had to see if the dish lived up to the hype. As expected, we all swooned over the amazing little bites of sushi heaven! Yes, my second experience with this perfectly seared crispy rice and smooth, buttery salmon was just as fabulous as my first time... in fact, it was so fantastic that this dish has most definitely earned a spot on this year's version of the Best Things I Ate! 

We also all chose the Grilled Octopus served with crispy potatoes, smoked paprika & herbs for our second course. I especially enjoyed the crunchy char on the octopus and the bright, peppery paprika sauce.

For their entrées, Ashley, her sister, and Barb all chose the Crispy Skate Salad with tartar sauce...

While I opted for the more traditional and perfectly prepared bowl of Taglietelle Carbonara with smoked bacon, roasted corn, and pecorino.

Because we clearly hadn't ordered enough food, we paired our entrées with a few of Pump Room's side dishes, including the Broccoli Rabe with lemon and mint (the one dish I skipped because broccoli is evil!).

The addictive Crunchy Polenta with fontina and Parmesan.

 And finally, my favorite of the sides, the crazy delicious Sautéed Sweet Corn with pecorino and lime.

We ended our spectacular meal by ordering one of each of the dessert options available on the Icon Menu, starting with this surprising flavorful Yuzu Pudding Cake with toasted almond sorbet. 

The zesty Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with citrus grapefruit curd and mandarin sorbet.

The positively sinful Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie with malt ice cream. *swoon*

Finally, the crème de la crème (i.e. the dessert I haven't been able to stop thinking about!): the Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sundae with candied peanuts, popcorn, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce.

Open wide!

I absolutely loved everything about Pump Room, from its modern layout to the amazing food and drinks, and can't wait to head for round three to check out their brunch options (aka my favorite meal of the day)!

You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Pump Room: 1301 N. State Parkway.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.