8.26.2014

Sweet Alchemist: Meeting Chef Yigit Pura

*Guest post by chicago foodie girl contributor, Diana

Hellooo Foodies!  

I have to begin by saying that I had The. Best. Weekend. Ever! I managed to meet three Top Chef contestants at three different events, one which included Chef Yigit Pura. The first time I had heard of him was when he competed on the 1st season of Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts about four years ago. That season was a bit of a wild ride; but in the end, Chef Yigit’s talent and skills awarded him the prize of Top Chef.  Hurray!

 Chef Yigit Pura, Photo courtesy of Bravo TV

I recently began following him on Instagram, as well as his San Francisco bakery, Tout Sweet. They recently posted a limited edition line of macarons available for purchase; a lovely tribute to Hedwig and the Angry Inch! As you see below, it's a beautiful macaron filled with a bourbon orange marmalade ganache, a brandied cherry center and most importantly, coated in edible red glitter. Yes, RED GLITTER!! I was intrigued, so I ordered a box and planned to share it with Starr in the very near future!

mmmm…macarons!

On Saturday, while on a break between the Chicago Food Truck Social and dinner at The Tiki Terrace, we taste tested these gorgeous macarons, along with Tout Sweet’s Candied Milk Jam with Vanilla Cognac (I couldn’t resist buying that as well!).  The macarons were divine and dainty; we savored a couple and tasted the candied milk jam (look at those beautiful flecks of vanilla bean!).  Both were food-gasmic!

 Helloooo, delicious!  Hedwig Macaron and Candied Milk Jam, so good!

On Sunday, Chef Yigit was appearing at the Williams-Sonoma store in Lincoln Park for a signing of his new cookbook, Sweet Alchemy, along with a cooking demo. When I saw the tickets were for sale (included a copy of the cookbook and the demo), I jumped at the chance to meet him and bought a ticket. Starr wasn’t able to attend; so this meant that I’d have to go alone. My slight social anxiety had me a bit worried as I never go to foodie events without my partner in crime; she does all of the talking!  However, I thought this would be a great opportunity to work on getting over my fears and just being myself.


I was the first to arrive (that's how I roll, punctual where it's almost annoying, lol); the store is gorgeous and there's a demo kitchen in back. Chef Yigit was already there, working with the staff to prep for the cooking demo.  I was so nervous and kept saying to myself, “Don’t geek out…don’t geek out!”  :-) I took a seat; he immediately turned toward me, greeting me warmly and chatted me up for a bit. I gushed about tasting the Hedwig macarons and milk jam; he was so sweet to entertain my conversation, looking at my pictures and telling me about the amount of work (and booze! woot!) that went into creating the macarons. 


You have to love a man who can cook and look good at the same time.  ;-)

The demo began and within a few minutes I knew we were in for a good time! Chef Yigit is natural comedian and storyteller; he’s so personable and engaging with the audience and is never awkward.  He is so down to earth; I felt as if he's the kind of guy who can talk to virtually anyone and make him or her feel instantly comfortable.  I loved to hear him talk and geek out about his love of science, which I felt gave the class more dimension.

The dessert he made was called “The Sexy Chocolate Coupe," (featured in his cookbook) which is a dark chocolate cremeux, bittersweet flourless chocolate cake, vanilla whipped cream, a hazelnut spear and toasted cacao nibs. He was going to prepare small tastings for everyone, but before that he did a plating demonstration of three full servings, stating that two of them were for the audience members that helped out during the demo. Once he finished, he picked up the third one, hands it to me stating, “And this is for being the first one here.” Huh? OMIGOD! Me? It was the sweetest gesture ever! And yay for punctuality! 

And the dessert? Amazing! Smooth and chocolatey, the nibs, cake and hazelnut spear added awesome textures and layers of flavor.

 My dessert tasting.  This is what punctuality gets you.  Woot!
Trust me, there is flourless chocolate cake buried in there.  And it was delicious. ;-)


Another sexy dessert pose.  Wanna touch my hazelnut spear?  :-)

Sample tastings for the common folk.  
(Just kidding!)

The man does not make dessert; he makes edible art, don't you think?

It was a wonderful event and the endearing Chef Yigit really made my day. Although I missed hanging out with Starr, I was so proud of myself for doing it on my own, even talking to Chef Yigit without stumbling over my words or making an ass out of myself (success!). However, I think he could tell I was pretty giddy/geeked out, I blame the espresso the store handed out at the start of the class.  :-)

If you ever find yourself in San Francisco, stop by Tout Sweet for some tasty treats and perhaps you’ll have an opportunity to meet Chef Yigit. His cookbook looks absolutely amazing, you can buy it here.  And if he makes it back to Chicago, be sure to get out there and meet him!  



Thanks, Chef Yigit!  Can’t wait for Tout Sweet Chicago!  (hint hint) :-)

8.06.2014

Adamus

A few weeks ago, Diana and I were invited to check out the summer menu at Adamus, the newest restaurant and lounge along Jeweler's Row. For those of you who are familiar with the area, you may remember the space next to the Silversmith Hotel that once housed Ada's Famous Deli; that oddly shaped space was completely gutted/renovated and is now home to the gorgeous Adamus. The transformation from that decrepit deli to the sleek new lounge is simply amazing - the entire space is decorated in blacks, silvers, grays with diamond accents (a nod to the Diamond District) and elegant chandeliers.

Communal dining area, bar, and lounge space
(interior space photos courtesy of Adamus - click to view larger version)

When we first walked in, I was particularly taken with chic bar area and impressive list of specialty cocktails. As much as I loved those delightful cocktails, they weren't even the best part of our visit - the food really took the starring role. I know many people tend to avoid hotel lounges because while the drinks may be fantastic, the food is mostly an afterthought. This is not the case at all at Adamus; Chef Nelson Erazo has created a really impressive seasonally-inspired menu (with locally sourced ingredients) that makes this restaurant a true hidden gem.


Cucumber Fortune: sour apple, house infused Purity vodka, and fresh lime

 Yellow Tomato Gazpacho with celery and fennel relish, Hass avocado, and citrus crème fraîche

Artichoke Hearts & Goat Cheese Flatbread: confit artichokes, sweet peppadews, soft goat cheese crumble, and garlic cream (one of my favorites of the evening!)

 Vegetable Hummus & Planks: first press olive oil, cucumber relish, and smoked paprika toasted pita

 Diver Scallop Ceviche with mango, shallots, shaved fennel, and chervil, served with boniato (sweet potato) chips

 Raspberry Ginger Mojito: fresh raspberries, mint, Bacardi Silver rum, and fresh lime

Citrus Brined Bell & Evans Chicken Breast with Cippolini onion risotto, roasted summer, plum, and spiced walnuts (another favorite of the evening!)
 
Creekstone Farms Short Rib Tortellini with roasted baby beets, horseradish cream, and mushrooms (yet another favorite of the evening!)
 
Summer Peach Crème Brûlée with toasted Marcona almond and vanilla whipped cream
Bellwether Farms Fromage Blanc Cheesecake with blueberry cognac compote and citrus meringue

Adamus is not only a perfect fit for the neighborhood, but also, it's a perfect downtown space for after-work drinks or dinner. I used to work right down the street and always lamented the lack of good dining options down this particular stretch of Wabash, as there's a plethora of fast food options, but not much else - Adamus most definitely fills that void!

You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Adamus, 10 S. Wabash Ave. (entrance is in the Silversmith Hotel).

Adamus - Silversmith Hotel on Urbanspoon
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.

7.28.2014

Grilled Peach & Steak Salad with Beso Del Sol Sangria

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. I had a very low-key one that included some quality time with my DVR along with a daylong cooking, sangria, and reality TV extravaganza at Diana's place. I'm happy to report that I am now 100% caught up on the world of TV brides, bachelorettes, housewives, and cooking show contestants. ;-)

While Diana and I regularly attend cooking classes together, we hadn't cooked together outside of a class setting in ages - I knew as soon as Beso Del Sol Sangria issued their summer perfect pairings challenge that it would be the perfect opportunity to get back into the kitchen with her. Beso Del Sol Sangria is a Spanish import that is blended with Tempranillo wine and 100% natural Mediterranean fruit extracts and sugar. It's not overly sweet, so it's perfect for those of you who love to add a little fruit to your sangria (we're both fans of the massive fruit salad in a glass option). The best thing about Beso Del Sol Sangria is that it's expertly mixed and perfectly portable (not to mention adorable!).

We decided to pair our sangria with a recipe that has been hanging out in my to-make file for far too long: a Grilled Peach & Steak Salad. I knew that the savory steak would contrast perfectly with the fruitiness of the sangria; as I guessed correctly, the light sweetness of the peaches also complemented the slightly more tart fruits that we used in the drink. The combination resulted in a spectacular meal that was made even better by hours of nonstop laughter (the sangria may have had a little to do with that). ;-)

Grilled Peach and Steak Salad
INGREDIENTS
2 flank or skirt steaks
4 peaches (we used white peaches)
4 cups of greens (Romaine, spinach, or spring mix works best)
1/4 cup of crumbled feta

Dressing:
1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar (use 1/4 cup for a less tart dressing)
3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove of garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
pinch of salt
drizzle of honey

DIRECTIONS
1. Halve, pit, and peel peaches (peeling is optional – leave peel if skin doesn’t bother you).

2. Season the steak with a good amount of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder (or a steak blend). Brush the steak and peaches lightly with canola oil.

3. Preheat the grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Place the steak and peaches, cut side down, on the grill and cook for 4-6 minutes per side.

4. Make dressing. Combine all ingredients except oil, whisk well (or put in a lidded container, and shake well.) Slowly whisk in the oil (or shake in the lidded container).

5. Once the meat reaches your desired temperature and the peaches are softened, remove the steak to a plate to rest for 5-10 minutes (cover with foil) and places the peaches on a cutting board.

6. Dice the peaches and put in a bowl with a tablespoon of the dressing (the warm peaches will soak up the flavors).

7. Dress salad with vinaigrette (to taste) and feta cheese. Slice the rested steak into strips and top the salad with the steak and diced peaches.


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

7.25.2014

Coppervine

Last week, I was invited to join a select group of other Chicago Food Bloggers for a lovely meal at managing partner and sommelier Don Sritong's latest venture, Coppervine. Sritong (of the popular Just Grapes fame) paired up with Chef David Wang (formerly of Mercat a la Planxa) to create a unique experience that carefully pairs the flavor profiles and textures of food and drinks.

The focus of Coppervine is in the beer, wine, and cocktail pairings. As explained on their menu, "We are in constant pursuit of the perfect pairing. In its most basic sense, a great pairing occurs when the food and drink taste better together, than apart - when the flavors of one enhance, complement or uniquely contrast the other." During our dinner, Sritong explained that the beverage program is just as important as the food - every dish on the menu lists a carefully selected beer, wine, and cocktail pairing. We were given the opportunity to sample eleven of the most popular dishes/pairings (from the small plate, medium plate, large plate, and dessert categories), all of which were flawlessly executed.

A gorgeous 60 foot copper vine runs the length of the restaurant - the "copper" refers to the stills used for distilling liquor and the "vine" is a nod to grape vines/wine (so clever!)

Chef David Wang 

Blue Lump Crab Fritters with smoked corn and Guindilla pepper aioli (paired with a sweet Brooklyn Blast IPA from Brooklyn Brewery)

Classic Ahi Tuna Tartare with hen eggs, house made giardiniera, and crostini (paired with hoppy Centennial IPA from Founders Brewing Company)

Maine Lobster Mac & Cheese with a panko-Romano crust (paired with a citrusy SideKick Extra Pale Ale from Two Brothers) 

Small plates beer pairings

English Pea Agnolotti with haricot vert, lobster mushrooms, Burratta cheese, and mizuna (served with The Standard cocktail: Death’s Door Gin, Luxardo Maraschino, St. Germain, fresh lemon, and egg whites)

Flat Bread with Mozzarella di Bufala, heirloom tomatoes, basil, and roasted garlic (served with a Heirloom Daquiri cocktail: tequila, marashino, muddled tomatoes, basil, and lime

Maine Lobster BLT with Nueske’s apple smoked bacon, heirloom tomatoes, and truffle mayo (served with the Brown Butter Old Fashioned cocktail: brown butter infused bourbon, brown sugar, and aromatic bitters)

Heirloom Daquiri, The Standard, Brown Butter Old Fashioned

Crispy Miller Farms Fried Chicken with buttermilk whipped potatoes, and Sriracha mayo (served with a 2008 Jean-Francois Merieau "Bulles" sparkling wine from the Loire Valley)
Lamb T-Bone with heirloom baby carrots and mint chimichurri (served with a 2012 Tablas Creek Patelin De Tablas from Paso Robles)

Diver Scallops with morel mushrooms, English peas, tomato butter, and English pea puree (served with a 2012 Qupe Chardonnay Y Block Bien Nacido from Santa Maria Valley)

Medium and large plate wine pairings

Warm Valrhona chocolate molten cake with Tahitian vanilla Chantilly (served with a Port Madeira)

Rhubarb Apple Cobbler with crème fraîche mint ice cream (served with a Strawberry Lambic from Brewery Timmermans)

Dessert pairings (and blogger notes!)

While there wasn't a single dish that I disliked, it should come as no surprise that my favorite pairings were from the cocktail round (as I'm not much of a beer or wine drinker); I particularly loved the Maine Lobster BLT (it was seriously swoon-worthy!) paired with the Brown Butter Old Fashioned (their best selling cocktail). As Sritong described it, it was most definitely "decadence meets decadence." Other standouts for me included the Maine lobster mac & cheese, the blue lump crab fritters, and the diver scallops. Also, I was surprisingly pleased with the dessert pairings - the smoothness of the port greatly enhanced the rich chocolate and the sweetness of the lambic brought out the tartness of the rhubarb.

You can sample all of these delicious dishes and more at Coppervine: 1962 North Halsted Street. It's a perfect spot for date night or for a night out with a group of friends (sharing is encouraged!).

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

Coppervine on Urbanspoon

7.23.2014

Hot Dog Week at Bull & Bear

Happy National Hot Dog Day! Yes, I know what you're thinking... another food holiday? I know, I know. However, as I mentioned last week, I'm a sucker for just about any fun food holiday (there's actually a food holiday for practically every day of the year, so things could get *really* exciting around here). And as you may already know, Chicagoans take their hot dogs very seriously (don't you dare ask for ketchup!), so I felt it was my duty to partake in this sacred day.

In honor of Chicago's love for encased meats, Bull & Bear took National Hot Dog Day a step further and created an entire week of celebrations. Their 5th annual Dog Days of Summer promotion pays homage to the mighty dog with a selection of five specialty hot dogs, each one themed after a different location in the United States (Cincinnati, California, Miami, Wisconsin, and New Orleans). The daily dog offerings are all customized with specific toppings that are unique to the areas they were named after. Diners are also able to try all of the dogs in mini form (and vote for your favorite!), via the Frank Plank, which Mario and I were invited to stop in and sample.

The Frank Plank!

 
The Cincinnati Coney: Spicy beef chili, pickled onion salad, shredded cheddar, and mustard on a potato bun

The Sooo Cali: Bison dog, heirloom tomato and avocado relish, arugula, crispy shallot, lettuce, pesto, and aioli on a ciabatta bun

 Miami Vice: Turkey dog, mojo braised pork, spicy pickle, mustard aioli, swiss cheese, and shredded lettuce on toasted garlic bun (this was Mario's top pick!)

 The Northern Woods of Wisconsin: Venison dog, fried jalapeno jack cheese curds, caramelized onion, and juniper-beer mustard on a soft bun

 New Orleans Po' Boy: Andouille sausage, olive relish, frisee, crispy salami, provolone, and remoulade on a sesame bun (this was my top pick!)

Bull & Bear is located 431 N. Wells. The Dog Days of Summer promotion continues through Sunday, July 27.

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

7.17.2014

Bourbon Peach Gelato from Siena Tavern

Happy National Peach Ice Cream Day! Wait, what?! You didn't know that there was an entire day devoted to the love of peach ice cream? Yeah, well, up entire a few weeks, I didn't either. However, I'm a sucker for just about any fun food holiday, especially one that pays homage to ice cream (and my favorite stone fruit!). Of course, I never really need justification to eat ice cream, but National Peach Ice Cream Day really is the perfect excuse to indulge in some frozen fruity deliciousness. And really, what better way to celebrate than with some amazing gelato from Siena Tavern?

Based on my previous experience with pastry chef Amy Arnold's gelato, I knew I was in for a real treat when the good folks over at Siena contacted me to see if I would be interested in taste-testing their July flavor of the month: Bourbon Peach Cobbler. I quickly learned that there is something even better than your typical peach gelato... it's a gelato with large chunks of tangy peaches mixed with some smooth bourbon, earthy nutmeg, and crumbly hunks of cobbler. Holy deliciousness!

 Bourbon Peach Cobbler: our server was so excited to send us home with a pint of this fantastic gelato that she accidentally misspelled the name in her haste to label it and pack it up. Ha! After I had one bite of the perfectly luscious gelato, I completely understood her urgency. ;-)

Peach perfection closeup! Look at all of those awesome peaches and flecks of nutmeg!

Seriously, do yourself a favor and head down to Siena Tavern before the end of the month to try the Bourbon Peach Cobbler gelato (it's officially one of my new favorite flavors!). Gelato pints to-go are also available for purchase exclusively at the restaurant.

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