What are you doing this Valentine’s Day? We have a doctor’s appointment in the morning, but then the afternoon is open to all sorts of plans, which I have yet to figure out (ooops!). Luckily, Chicago restaurants offer plenty of romantic menu choices this Valentine’s Day, and I have compiled a list of the most exciting ones below. Any other Valentine’s Day specials worth talking about? Let me know in the comments! 😉
There is something truly fascinating about Italian comfort food classics made with passion and executed well. Can it be the thick sauce, cooked for hours and mastered to perfection? The quality ingredients that come together to create homemade delight, much like mamma used to make? The inspired pairing with regional wines, which join in with the food to epitomize a glorious dining experience? Maybe it’s one of these things – or maybe it’s all at the same time. What I do know, especially after having dined at Trattoria Gianni recently, is that one-of-a-kind culinary experiences must be replicated to keep one’s soul and belly happy, especially on the ever-changing, sometimes frigid Chicago weather 😉 That’s why I have decided to dine out more this year, and to try to strike a balance between my professional and family commitments, and my restaurant visits. Here’s resolution #3 – and here’s to a year full of great foodie discoveries and amazing eats!
I’ve always thought eggs are a pretty straightforward affair. Hard boiled, poached, scrambled, covered with hollandaise, smothered by chimichurri. There are numerous ways to reinvent tradition, and yet many of them invariably gravitate towards a few tried-and-tested standard applications. I believe that to make your breakfast/brunch eggs brighter and to make you truly happier, a journey of a special kind is needed – one which combines a passion for innovation with a love for quality ingredients, flamboyant and versatile, and most importantly, bursting with rich, immersive flavors. I recently embarked on such an incredible culinary journey at etta, and I’m here to tell you all about it.
Located in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, etta is famous for its wood-fired hearth, which bestows charred flavor to dishes ranging from focaccia to meatballs and from salmon to pizza. I visited etta (short for “Henrietta,” which in French means “keeper of the hearth”) for brunch a couple of weeks ago, and I was impressed with the high quality of the ingredients used, as well as with Executive Chef Danny Grant‘s hearth-informed vision.
Ask me about my favorite Chicago neighborhoods, and I’ll have two words for you: Albany Park. Every time I visit one of Chicago’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, I’m in for a treat. I love the people – warm, friendly, bursting with excitement and imagination -, the streets – a mosaic of cultural symbols seamlessly intertwined – and, of course, the food. Many popular Chicago restaurants are located in Albany Park, yet none of them manages to capture the hearts of minds of diners the world over like Arun’s Thai does, which I got the chance to visit recently.
Located on a corner lot on North Kedzie Avenue, next to a grocery store, Arun’s Thai Restaurant looks rather unassuming from the outside.
Every now and then I come across a restaurant which makes me question my own food journey and my purpose in keeping this blog alive. I take the time to reflect on what I do and how I do it: Have I kept true to myself while writing all these stories and posting all these recipes? Have I remained authentic to those influences from my past, which have shaped me in profound and lasting ways? Is it still me who’s doing the writing – or is it somebody else, whom I barely know? This striving for authenticity has always interested me. There are so many stories out there that seem contrived, inauthentic, or downright fabricated – and so many restaurants which thrive on providing an embalmed, carefully manufactured version of their supposed true purpose. And then… there’s ROOH.
Meaning soul or spirit, ROOH is a restaurant which brings India to Chicago in a way that preserves the authenticity of the Indian dining experience while also gifting it with a fresh, innovative perspective. As someone who is familiar with traditional Indian cooking, I was looking forward to seeing how acclaimed Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar would rethink the fundamentals of Indian cuisine so as to epitomize a fine dining experience. I thought such a project had its risks, the most obvious perhaps being the loss of authenticity. As I stepped into the restaurant on its official launch night, I had one question in my mind: Will I be able to find the spirit of India at ROOH?
Ask restaurateur Franco Francese about his favorite food-related memory, and his face lightens up at the thought of Sunday dinners of years past. It was a family affair, with everybody sitting down at the dining table and waiting their turn to get rigatoni. As with many Italian dishes, the secret lied in the sauce – and the Francese family recipe was a work of wonder, featuring cow’s neck bones simmered for hours at a low temperature so as to slowly develop their flavor. “Family matters,” Francese tells me with a pensive voice. “It’s what molds us and shapes us as people. And it’s nice to work with family.”
It is this spirit of family and familial love that Franco Francese is bringing to the Glenview Park Golf Club with his latest restaurant, Coarse Italian, which opens for dinner on June 17.
A journey around the world? Sure – who wouldn’t? Every morning? Ermm, maybe not – but I would gladly have a specialty sandwich instead! For those of us who don’t get the chance to travel often, eating out in a multicultural hub like Chicago is the next best thing. We live in a city where virtual travel in a matter of minutes is possible thanks to an abundance of diverse dining spots, which feature a respect for ingrained cultural traditions coupled with a desire for thoughtful innovation. Such is Coffee Joint, the only Latvian coffee shop in Chicago, whose cosmopolitan interior design and delicious casual fare make up for an exciting breakfast or quick lunch destination. Readers, beware: pics of deliciousness to follow 😉
Tucked on a leafy section of Irving Park Rd, Coffee Joint is a hidden neighborhood gem.