Saturday, March 10, 2018

La Storia.

As a Chicago resident, you learn where the best fireplaces are--whatever it takes to brave the sub-zero temperature--and La Storia has one of the best.

I met T one Saturday night for drinks at the cozy bar before dinner.

We both ordered the San Martino cocktail of bourbon, amaro and aperol to take the chill out of our bones as we settled into the evening. Their fireplace warms the soul and small bar that only has a handful of tables and even fewer bar stools. We were lucky to have a spot at the front window where we chatted and watched the world go by. 

La Storia's intimate bar continues to be one of my favorite spots in the city, especially this time of year. I hear their patio is spectacular in the summer. :: Insert day dream about sundresses, sunglasses and drinking mimosas whilst sitting in the sun. :: And back to the cold, harsh reality. Literally. 

We were later seated in the quintessential Chicago-style dining room with heavy wood and red accents. Led by the sommelier we opted for a fantastic super Tuscan that I wish I could remember - because I'd like to buy a case of it. 

For dinner T ordered the caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes that was artistically designed and I had the grilled octopus salad with fennel, sunchoke and sunflower. If I see grilled octopus on any menu, I'm ordering it. Just ask my friends at Osteria in Philadelphia and they'll tell you I always order their octopus salad.

For our pasta course, T had the rigatoni and I ordered the gnocchi. 

Unfortunately for T, I couldn't keep my fork out of the rigatoni. While the gnocchi was ridiculously light and amazing with the truffles and pillowy texture, I preferred the rigatoni for the crispy lamb sausage. 

Capping off the La Storia portion of the evening, we ordered the cannoli and espresso. The espresso was great but I finished my glass of wine for dessert. Although, I might have snagged a bite or two of the pistachio cannoli. 

I'm currently craving the pasta dishes we had and it's highly likely that you'll find me at the bar with a plate of pasta and attempting to find which wine we had, glass by glass, bottle by bottle. 

When you go to La Storia get the San Martino cocktail and any of the pastas. And if you try a pizza, please report back as I've really not met a pizza I don't like. 

Your Friend, Caroline

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Press Room.

The scene: A wintery, cold Chicago where it had just snowed 14 inches. 
The date: Feb. 9. The eve of my birthday. 
The location: The Press Room. 1134 W. Washington Blvd in the West Loop. 

I wasn't going to let a mere dusting affect my birthday celebrations last week. We settled on The Press Room - which had been on our radar. As a writer, the spot has been on my short list because its located in the former home of the Free Methodist Printing House and because it calls itself an intimate wine bar and dining destination.

We walked into the crowded, dimly lit restaurant in the bottom of the old warehouse and cozied into our seats at the bar. We settled on a bottle of the Yves Chaley pinot noir from Burgundy. There are also dozens of wine on this menu that I want to go back and try, including the Textbook Cab. 

We ordered the toast with boquerones which was served with radishes and butter (my favorite appetizer in Paris is radishes with butter so this one had me) and the duck breast atop sweet potato puree and served with braised radishes and beets.

(Photo credit: DF)

The best part of the evening was the dessert -- which is unusual for me to say because I've been known to order a few appetizers as my meal. However, when presented with the option to have the malted creme brûlée with salt flakes and a candle nestled in it, I'm going for it.

We devoured the malty, caramelized dessert and its accompanying glass of port - which was the perfect way to kick off my birthday celebrations.

When I go back to The Press Room, which will likely be soon, I'm going to try the cheese and charcuterie plates, the chicken liver mousse toast, the burrata toast, the roasted carrots and everything they created for that evening in particular.

I'd love to know: What's on your Chicago restaurant list?

Your friend,

Saturday, January 27, 2018


The scene for a recent third date was Arbella - a globally inspired cocktail bar and street food spot in River North, from the team of its neighbor, Tanta.

It was a cold Friday night and Arbella was packed. I arrived at 8:30 and was told to meet my date in the back, past the curtains.

I walked past the packed bar and through the mesh curtains to find a second -- less crowded -- bar.

Perfect for a Friday night after a long week.

The bartender held seats for us from exiting patrons (thank you, if you're reading this) and we settled in with the Smokey the Bear cocktail, for me, and The Gentlemen's Agreement for him. Well, that was the intent.

Known for its creative cocktail list and presentation - my Smokey the Bear cocktail was served in an unbearably (pun intended) cute way. It was concocted and then presented in a glass honey bottle in the shape of a bear which was poured in a rocks glass.

The Smokey the Bear was good but carried a big kick, thanks to habanero paired with Mezcal and yellow chartreuse. While I'm not a fan of that much spice, I mostly enjoyed The Gentlemen's Agreement, which they call a combination of an old fashioned and a Manhattan.

For the next round I ordered Numpty's Choice for the scotch and Cynar -- a nod to my recent trip to Italy -- while he ordered the Rising Sun with Japanese Whiskey and Campari. Both were good and watching the bartender create the drinks was equally entertaining.

I'll definitely return to Arbella for both the cocktails and to try the street food. I'll head straight back to the darker more mysterious section. And, you should, too.

Cheers, friends.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

GT Oyster Bar

Chicago is a great food town and I've been lucky to have dined at many in my short time here. This weekend, I went to GT Oyster Bar in River North. On a date. A first date.

Let's just say the restaurant will definitely get a second date. The guy, not so much, but that's an entirely different blog post. So, I figured I'd share a few highlights from the evening.

  1. The grilled zucchini small plate was a stand out. With the crispy maitake mushrooms and miso aioli. Please go and order this even though you be tempted to order differently. Like I was initially. But you'll be pleasantly surprised. 
 2. Since we were at an oyster bar - sitting at the oyster bar, we ordered oysters. Two rounds of them. With 26 total. And all were devoured. I favored the Sun Hallow variety as I'm loving west coast oysters these days. The oysters were accompanied by the GT cocktail sauce (a slightly thicker version) and a ponzu mignonette (which I primarily used).

3. As a treat, the oysters arrived with a glass of the Ingrid Gross gemischter satz from Vienna, which I may now prefer with oysters over champagne. I'll have to go back and investigate further. 

4. The guys next to us shared a few bottles of red wine and among other dishes - the lobster roll - which was a miss on our part as it looked, and I hear is, awesome. I'll also go back for this. 

5. The other standout was the sweet corn creme brûlée. Perfectly creamy and topped with lightly toasted meringue and dried corn. The dessert makes you think summer isn't ending. I'm a creme brûlée purist but this variation is great in my book. 

I hope you enjoyed your Indian summer Sunday. No matter where you are.

Your friend,

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Blackberry financiers

Hi friends,
As promised, and if you saw my Instagram picture before they were baked, here is the recipe for the most amazing pastry ever -- blackberry financiers.

My favorite part about this little tiny cake (not to be called a muffin in my house) is the browned butter used in the recipe. It gives it a rich nutty density that adds to the almond base and light powdery sugar that's the majority of the cake. And that, in a nutshell, is the recipe.

I use this one that I found on Pinterest a few years ago. There are dozens of variations, like caramel, that I want to try but always go back to the blackberry. And why ruin a good thing?

The history of this little beauty, pronounced fah-nance-EE-ay, is this:

Pierre Lacam, in ''Memorial Historique de la Patisserie,'' published in 1890, wrote that the financier was created by a baker named Lasne, whose bakery on the Rue St.-Denis was near the Bourse, the financial center of Paris. Presumably, the rich little cake was named for the rich financiers who frequented his bakery. The cake was baked in rectangular molds, the shape of gold bars. (Source:  NYTimes)

And what rich, edible gold bars they are. 
I hope you enjoy. And if you have a different recipe, please share. 

Your friend, 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Neuf...and nine reasons why you should go.

Hello, friends.

I know, there was a bit of lag time in between my last post and this one. But, thanks to a few dozen or so friends and family, I'm starting again. One new friend, who I was lucky to meet at Neuf last night, saw a post and kindly suggested I write more. "People want to read what you write, the way you write it," he said. What a compliment and I must oblige. Thank you!

And now onto Neuf, which means nine in French and opened its doors officially this week. It's Joncarl Lachman and Bob Moysan's new spot that offers African-French cuisine with a full-service bar. It's a departure from Noord, their Dutch-Scandinavian BYO in East Passyunk.

Here are the nine reasons why you should go:

1. The gorgeous entry.
My friend Anita and I walked to Neuf, at 943 s. 9th Street, Saturday night into one of my favorite restaurant facades in the city. The space boasts two bay windows that flank the tiled entry way.

2. Bob and Joncarl.
Once inside, we found both owners smiling and greeting us, either from the dining room or the kitchen.

The menus. 

3. There's halloumi!
We debated on the menu a bit but settled on sharing the bouillabaisse and the kusheri salad (with the halloumi). The salad was light and we pretty much devoured it. Too quickly to snap a picture, in fact. 

The bouillabaisse. 

4. The saffron broth.
We also didn't leave much of the bouillabaisse that we shared. The saffron broth was perfect and light but we asked for more crusty bread to make sure we could enjoy every last bit. I think I had a spoon in my hand at one point.

5. Almond joys have nuts. Mounds don't.
The dessert the gentlemen beside us shared was, according to them, "like the inside of an almond joy," that they ate up. This is what I'll be getting on my next trip.

6. Sherry.
We ordered the Paris-Brest which was a light but filling pastry with cream, sherry and cherries. We also had sherry a digestif to round out our meal.

7. The art work.
After dinner, Joncarl stopped by and said hello and we had a long talk with Bob that focused on his art. He told us about the painstaking installation of mini bottles that he staged, photographed and turned into wallpaper. I make the process seem easy but I assure you, it was not. It's a fascinating story and I won't give it all away, but when you go, walk to the bar and check it out.

8. New and very well done.
All and all, it was a great meal, especially considering it formally opened mere days ago on Oct. 1.

9. Happy hour.
I can't wait to pop by for happy hour and another meal, soon.

I hope you check it out and and create your own reasons to go and enjoy.

Your friend, (new or old)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Texting, emojis and dating, oh my

Hi friends,
I read this funny NYT article about texting and styles. What's yours?

As a corporate communicator, I have two distinct styles of writing. Professional and fun.

Those who know me, know that I'm the queen of the emoji (mostly to my girlfriends). My favorites include the kissy face, the muscle arm and well, the wine icon. If you haven't checked out Crazy Jewish Mom on IG, do it now. The mom just learned how to use emojis. It's pretty funny.

On the other side of this, my colleagues (past and present) know about my dislike for exclamation points in emails to 35,000 employees. And I think everyone knows that I fall in love with men who use there, their and they're / your and you're correctly. It’s the little things sometimes.

And obvi with texting comes the shortened words. Do you use some of these acronyms?

I’ve never seen most of them but will probably start to use ELOL immediately along with TPS. My dad tends to make up his own texting acronyms. Dads. SMH.

I also spotted HuffPo’s article on text etiquette as we live in the days of digital dating. Check out the dos and donts as written by each gender.

Anyway, happy texting and maybe phone home every once in a while.