a winter jaunt in chicago

December 10, 2010

I had the chance to go to Chicago for a couple of days last week – the first time I’ve been there in the Winter. It was glorious and more filled with fantastic food experiences than ever before.

I’ve made it a habit to go to Chicago every Summer since I moved here. I love that Chicago is a city of neighbourhoods; it reminds me of London in that way. They all have their own personalities and unique charms. Definitely one of those cities that I always leave thinking, “Yep, I could live here”.

This Summer, for whatever reasons, Dan and I didn’t make it so I was thrilled to be able to take a little trip by my lonesome. Here are some highlights.

Hopleaf

I got to drink some awesome beer at the Hopleaf in Andersonville, recommended to me by several folks on Twitter and Facebook and it didn’t disappoint.

It’s my favourite kind of place to drink in – lots of janky small wooden tables and chairs, several gnarly wooden booths, and plenty of twists, turns and winding staircases. It’s fun, warm, and welcoming.

The beer selection was so mammoth that it took me fifteen minutes and two tasters to decide what I wanted – a lovely white Belgian beer. I’m told they also serve great Belgian food (and the pomme frites looked and smelled so bloody good) but I had other plans that my appetite could not be spoiled for.

Anteprima

I wish I had a decent picture of Anteprima, although there are a couple on their web site. If you’re in the Andersonville area you should really check this place out. It’s an unassuming little Italian restaurant that has a real neighbourhood feel to it. Being alone, I sat at the bar and enjoyed every second of it – sometimes I really like to do that rather than be part of the formal dining room.

I only have this one photo to share of what was the best cocktail I’ve had in a long time.

That, friends, is absolut citron, limoncello and crystallized sugar rim, shaken til frigid. I still can’t believe that’s all there was to it. I sat there, taking in the restaurant, the menu, and the people until I was super tipsy and ready to eat.

And the food? Simply put: divine. I ate orecchiette with spicy, house made lamb sausage, bitter greens, chilis, and pecorino. I can’t begin to tell you how good it was. Spicy beyond belief but in a great way that wasn’t just for spice’s sake. It made my nose run and I think I drank three glasses of water as I ate…but I still say in a good way! The lamb sausage was just out of this world and perfect with the little plump orrechiette pasta.

I’d go again in a second, preferably with a handsome husband in tow. Or some lovely lady friends. I suggest you do too.

Floriole

The morning after my orecchiette love affair, I got up bright and early and left my hotel to find breakfast at Floriole. I’ve been wanting to go ever since hearing Tim from Lottie + Doof just rave about the place.

I got there cold and frankly starving so I’m not sure that rust wouldn’t have tasted good but my coffee and warm ham and cheese croissant were just outstanding.

It may not look like much, but take a closer look at the croissant:

That thick ham had a rich, deep, smoky flavour and there was just enough cheese to compliment everything else. Perfect, buttery loveliness.

The place has a kind of utilitarian style but still manages to feel so warm and welcoming. The staff were just lovely as well and it was cool being able to see the bakery in action through the glass paneled wall in the back. I wish this was my local coffee shop. Sigh.

xoco

And finally, on this jam-packed trip of food highlights, I made a stop at XOCO – Rick Bayless’s restaurant – where I queued for 25 minutes for a sandwich. I haven’t queued that long for a sarnie since I was at university and we use to stand in line forever to get a giant bacon bap. Glory days.

XOCO only serves tortas during the first part of the day. Caldos get added after 3pm but that’s as in-depth a menu as you’re going to get.

I plumped for the Pepito – braised tallgrass short ribs, caramelized onion, artisan Jack cheese, black beans, pickled jalapenos. It was pretty stellar as sandwiches go and perfectly complimented by the spicy salsa it came with.

And the waiting? Really not that bad. I think I’d just rather come earlier in the day next time and with someone (their solo seating leaves a bit to be desired) with whom I could share some of their famous churros and chocolate sauce. I was just too plain full to manage it but I’m told it’s out of this world.

**Thanks to everyone who entered the cookbook giveaway! A winner has been chosen using random.org and that person is Elizabeth S. (@ManhttnFoodProj) who entered on Twitter. Congratulations, Elizabeth! Go ahead and email me your full name, a shipping address, phone number and which book you’d like from the list! **

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica December 10, 2010 at 8:27 am

What a great trip. I traveled to Chicago a while back, but didn’t have nearly enough time to enjoy the eateries. That croissant looks just perfect

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Holly December 10, 2010 at 9:05 am

i will go back with you. how’s about this weekend?

also, what is a bacon bap? i feel like i need those in my life.

i love the word janky.

and i am obsessed with that pic of your cocktail.

email me back woman!

hearts,
holly

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Kristen December 10, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Xoco is great! If next time you’re around and willing to pay just wee bit more, Sprout is worth a visit. But I highly recommend Bonsoiree. It’s definitely one of the best restaurants in Chicago for very interesting, inventive cuisine. Best of all it’s BYOB. And for being quite the tiny hole in the wall, it just received a Michelin star. If you’ve ever watched Top Chef and heard of “Girl and the Goat” in Chicago, avoid it – really overrated.

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Madeline - Greens and Jeans December 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I was born under an hour from Chicago and I’ve never really spent that much time there. This needs to be remedied.

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Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga) December 12, 2010 at 8:49 pm

i used to live in chicago!
my husband grew up there and lived there 40 yrs before we left together, for warmer climates.

Andersonville = my sister used to live there but now lives in lincoln park.

Chicago is a wonderful city, first class, awesome, great food, great sights, just toooooo cold!!!! (and i orig grew up in MN and yes, I am a CA girl now!)

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