Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blackbird - Chicago, IL

I've been wanting to go to Blackbird for some time and I noticed that they usually participate in Restaurant Week so I figured I'd try to get a reservation that way.  They are one of the first restaurants to completely fill up so you really have to get an early start if you want to try to get reservations there.  I haven't been able to get reservations the last few times I tried, so when I heard that they were participating in Chef's Week this year, that was the first reservation I made and I didn't even consult my friends.  I just booked it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Auntie Em's Kitchen's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

My friend Wonster lives really close to Auntie Em's and we've frequented the place for their red velvet cupcakes, which they are famous for.  Wonster however once pointed out to me that their oatmeal raisin cookies are really good too, so we picked up one to share and she was right.  Thankfully I found their recipe to try at home.  Yippee!!


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Redd - Yountville, CA

There are so many great lunch options in Yountville ... Bouchon, Ad Hoc and you can't forget the French Laundry.  The French Laundry was completely booked.  I was looking at the menu at Bouchon and didn't think my friend Jules, who is a raw vegan, would find anything she'd be able to eat and Ad Hoc's menu for the day, although it sounded delicious, was a pork cutlet, so that wouldn't work either.  I looked up some other restaurants nearby and saw that Redd had gotten some good reviews and that their chef could accommodate vegan or vegetarian requests. 

So we decided to meet here for lunch. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bouchon Bakery - Yountville, CA

I had the pleasure of going to Napa a few months back for a friend's bachelorette party and of course, I had to make a stop at Bouchon.  I coerced my friend Jules to meet me in Napa for the day and she kindly obliged.  I had arrived earlier than expected so I decided to walk around town and explore my surroundings.  I had already made plans to stop at Bouchon Bakery after lunch, but I was shocked by the line I saw forming outside the door.  I did what every person does when faced with a potential mob scene, don't ask questions, just stand in line and follow the herd.  For all I know, the line could have led me to an edge of a cliff and I still would have been none the wiser.  

Naf Naf Grill - Naperville, IL

What would cause Soomeenshee to drive an hour to Naperville on a Saturday afternoon in the rain?  Two things: Chicken Schwarma and H-Mart.  A friend of mine raved about this new Mediterranean restaurant that she tried in Naperville and said we had to try it.  It doesn't take much to convince me to go on a road trip for food, so off we went. 

Naf Naf Grill is in a nice strip mall called Freedom Commons in Naperville.  The owners told us that they had plans to expand into Chicago soon.  Their pita bread is baked on site and it was the fluffiest pita I've ever had.  I got their chicken schwarma, which was stuffed in a pita with hummus, Israeli salad and tahini sauce.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Girl & the Goat - Chicago, IL

Can I just tell you how long I've been waiting to go to Girl & the Goat?  I made reservations on October 10, 2011 and we didn't actually get to go until February 20, 2011.  That's 133 days or 4 months and 10 days if anyone is counting.  So the story goes that you need to make reservations about two months in advance if you want to eat at a reasonable time and we ended up having to cancel our December reservation because we were stuck in a snow storm.  Just my luck I tell you!  I promptly made new reservations for two months later and told my friends I would disown them if them didn't show up.  Thankfully they all showed up and the weather was much more forgiving this time.  :)   

The restaurant is right on Randolph, known as Restaurant Row.  Inside, it has an industrial, loft feel to it, but yet feels really cozy and inviting at the same time. It might have to do with the fun, colorful artwork on the walls and lounge chairs at the front where you could also nibble on some food.  When we walked in, we saw Stephanie talking to a group of dinners.  It's always a good sign to see the boss working that night.  . 

We got seated and were greeted with these cute table settings.  You can see goat motifs all throughout the restaurant.  Super cute! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mercat a la Planxa - Chicago, IL

I've been a fan of  Jose Garces on Iron Chef and especially from his food demonstration at the Chicago Gourmet this past summer. He was very approachable and down to earth. I've been itching to try his Chicago restaurant, Mercat a la Planxa, but for one reason or another, it kept eluding me.  

So number two on my list for Restaurant Week was Garces' Mercat.  I got a bunch of us together on a Friday night for some tapas.  It's a beautiful space right on Michigan Ave near the Art Institute.  Here was what was great and not so great about Mercat for Restaurant Week.

The good news: the food is excellent, it's so flavorful and everything we had was delicious

The bad news: you do not get your money's worth if you come in a big group for Restaurant Week.  Typically for Restaurant Week, you get a choice of three items as a three course meal, which usually ends up being more than enough food.  I thought it was a bit odd that the waiter encouraged us to order additional plates on top of the restaurant week menu.  We thought a few additional tapas would be enough, but even with those additions, we totally felt stiffed.  We got some items taken off the final bill, but it didn't leave us with a good impression.  

Because everything is served family style, the portions weren't adequately thought out.  We were often times presented with one dish to share among the six of us, even though we were each paying a prix fixe price.  Tables of two next to us were getting the same exact dish that we were, except they were only sharing amongst the two of them.  

I do think it's worth it if you come in pairs.  If you do decide to come with a bigger group, you're better off ordering off the regular menu instead of doing the set menu.  

Our waiter highly recommended the bacon wrapped dates stuffed with almonds.  Each order comes with 2 skewers so for the five of us, we ordered 2.5 orders.  These were amazing. If you've never had bacon wrapped dates before, you need to get on it.