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Chicago restaurants

ROOH: a story of belonging

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?

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My visit to Coarse Italian in Glenview: talking family and community with restaurateur Franco Francese

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. Keep Reading

Chef Battle Midwest Regionals: I ate, I judged, I had a fabulous time!

I don’t know about you, but I love cooking competitions! There is something truly addictive in watching the adrenaline, the sweat, the trembling – and sometimes the desperation – of talented chefs working under pressure. Be it the ingredients that are hard to work with, be it the technology that fails, be it last-second misfortunes which render the final dish inedible – it’s all that drama that keeps me glued to the TV screen, waiting for the chefs’ next move. As a Chicago-based foodie, I’ve also had my fair share of live cooking competitions, which I attended and then described in detail on this blog.

The most recent competition I was invited to was Chef Battle Midwest Regionals. I also agreed to be a judge for the preliminary stage of this event. Spending Sunday downtown eating food made by talented local chefs and grading them for their efforts? Yes, please 🙂

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Celebrating 20 years of Chicago’s Best Wingfest: Give me wings, glorious wings!

Tamarindo chicken wings served by Estrella Negra at 2019 Chicago’s Best Wingfest

What’s the magic formula for perfect chicken wings? I don’t know about you, but the first thing I notice when eating one is the texture. As I bite into it, I expect it to be moist and delicate, with an almost melt-in-your mouth quality. Once that’s done, the flavor kicks in: I expect it to be a little bit on the spicy side, and fully developed, encompassing several layers of surprising elements. What’s my absolute no-no? The freezer burn taste. I’ve tasted it before – never again, tyvm!

If you’re still unsure what kind of chicken wings you like, how about you try a lot? I reckon the best way to do it is to check out Chicago’s Best Wingfest next year. With so many wings to discover, you’re bound to find a favorite, have a fab time with your loved ones – and maybe even win some prizes in their famous wing eating competition 😉 Keep Reading

My review of Mezcalito: Are you #DownToFiesta? I’d say we are :-)

Chef Marissa Tuñon’s molletes, featuring refried beans, cheese and pico de gallo

Somewhere in hip River North, tucked in the basement of the famous Mercadito, lies a cocktail lounge that offers inventive food and drinks in an immersive atmosphere. The name of Mercadito’s younger sibling is Mezcalito, and its goal is to capture the hearts and minds of customers who want a quality bar experience, which blends authentic Mexican food with upscale tequila-based cocktails. Ever wondered how to make your night downtown memorable? Whatever you do, I strongly encourage you to check out Mezcalito at some point. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I’m here to spill the beans – or the mezcal, more likely 😉 Keep Reading

My review of Mason: a delightful touch of retro on the Chicago dining scene

Ever so rarely there is a restaurant that steals your heart, conquers your senses, and lives in your mind forever. The dining experience might be long gone, but the flavors and the music, the sparkles and the splendor will forever be yours, like an enchanting dream from which you don’t want to wake up. There is something special that restaurant has, something that works on your emotions by awakening nostalgia and delivering warmth like nowhere before. If you’ve already visited Mason, then you know what I mean. If you have yet to dine there, take my word for it: in an age when molecular gastronomy is trendy and culinary apps are all the rave, this retro spot on the Chicago dining scene is truly refreshing!

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My review of Nic’s Organic Fast Food: a world of honest flavors in burgers, fries – and so much more!

When are sweet faces happy? Answer: Whenever fun food is involved! Here’s out daughter eating some of her favorite foods while out and about with mommy and daddy a couple of weeks ago. We’d gone out early to vote in midterm elections, and we rewarded her patience with lunch at Nic’s Organic Fast Food inside Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. I had been invited to try out Nic’s food awhile ago, but busy life had always given me something else to do. Now, it was time to finally check out America’s first certified organic drive-thru – and to see if they’d get the seal of approval from the fiercest food critic: our daughter 😉

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