Category Archives: What’s new in Chicago

Are the Stars Aligned… Er… Michelin Stars I mean…

Tell us what you really think of the Michelin starred restaurants on the forum! Do they deserve the star?

***Three Stars***
Alinea
Grace

**Two Stars**
Acadia
42 Grams
Oriole
Sixteen
Tru

*One Star*
Band of Bohemia
Blackbird
Boka
Dusek’s
EL Ideas
Elizabeth
Everest
Goosefoot
GreenRiver
Longman & Eagle
NAHA
Parachute
Roister
Schwa
Sepia
Smyth
Spiaggia
Topolobampo

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What’s New in Chicago

I don’t know what it is about airports, but shortly after throwing all my valuables in a bin and shimmying through a metal detector my stomach starts to grumble and I suddenly realize I’m starving.  For some reason a day of travel also includes ravenous hunger.  Thankfully, travelers at O’Hare will have more options to fill their hollow bellies with before take off.

Who: Rosemarie S. Andolino, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation, Manolis D. Alpogianis, Owner of America’s Dog and Elie W. Maalouf, President & CEO, HMS Host/Wicker Park Sushi and Seafood Bar guided by sushi chef Susumu Shibata.

What: America’s Dog, a hotdog stand providing regional hotdog and sausage preparations (i.e. Chicago Dog, Maxwell Street Polish, Milwaukee Dog, Atlanta Dog or Santa Fe Dog, and more) and Wicker Park Seafood and Sushi, a chic spot to sip some sake while trying some sushi that reflects Chicago’s cultural diversity.

Where: O’Hare International AirPort

Terminal 1, C Concourse: America’s Dog

Terminal 2: Wicker Park Seafood and Sushi Bar

When: Oh… its open now for all you holiday travelers!

Why Stop By: Because business kept you so busy you’re about to leave Chi without tasting a Chicago-style hot dog… or maybe because you’re heading to Cleveland… but you really wish you were flying to Japan!

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A Taste of Korea

Japchae- Sweet Potato Noodle

At 5:40pm, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, I couldn’t help but ask myself why anyone in their right mind would leave the city for dinner?  As I shook my fist at the cars on the road ahead of me, G finally managed to get onto the free way and off we went to Woo Lae Oak restaurant in Rolling Meadows to learn more about the Korean Cuisine Globalization Project, a tasting event hosted by the Consulate General of South Korea in Chicago.  Apparently, some 0f the premier Korean restaurants in the area reside in the suburbs to serve the large Korean population that lives outside the city.  It’s here that we had a chance to taste the beautiful plates presented to us by their new chef, Tae Jin Park, and learn about the many health benefits provided by Korean cuisine.

Our tasting started with a sweet pumpkin porridge, and progressed into marinated beef short rib wrapped in daikon, a stir fried noodle dish called Japchae, and Gujeolpan, a dish that originated  in the 14th century consisting of a thin wheat cakes that you fill with thinly sliced vegetables, beef and abalone and dip in a spicy sauce.  As we were beginning to fill up, plates of Dukbokki, Bulgogi and an amazing spicy mushroom soup, that was indeed quite spicy, arrived at our table. My husband attempted to fight off the spice but I could already see beads of sweat forming above his brow as he sipped more and more of the flavorful broth.   We completed our meal with a dessert, a thick, sweet, cinnamon tea that is considered to aid in digestion.

Gujeolpan

This was quite possibly the most elegant Korean dining experience we have had in Chicago and it exposed a more sophisticated way of presenting dishes than we are accustomed to in our usual Korean spots. I’m excited to see what the new chef will bring to Woo Lae Oak’s menu and maybe, just maybe… I’ll be making a trip out to the suburbs more often. The Korean Cuisine Globalization Project is a brilliant idea to bring people together and educate them about a cuisine and culture that deserves more recognition.

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Chicago Food Planet Food Tours

Every year seems to progress at a rapid rate and before you know it the summer is gone and winter has thrust its icy self upon us. For five months we had been too busy to attend one of the many tours Chicago Food Planet offers, so I was very happy that on a beautiful fall day we finally found ourself free to meander through the Gold Coast, Old Town and Lincoln Park on the Near North Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour.

It had been a difficult decision in determining which tour to attend, both the Chinatown Tour and Bucktown/Wicker Park Tour intrigued us, but since we practically live in Chinatown and have been to all of the awesome spots on their Bucktown/Wicker Park Tour we opted for the Near North tour, hoping we wouldn’t get lost in the Viagra Triangle .

Our day began when we promptly found parking on State Street and made our way towards Ashkenaz Deli where we met our group and sampled a Vienna Beef Pastrami Sandwich with a homemade Russian dressing made of beets.  Unfortunately, as we were building our own sandwich we also realized we had only paid for two hours of parking for a 3 hour tour.  We followed our guide toward our next stop, where we were excited to see my little car parked right outside. At the Tea Gschwendner we learned about the health benefits of tea and the variety of options available, warming up with a cup of our own.  My husband went to put some more time on the meter as we made our way to the next stop, The Spice House.

The Spice House

So many spices...

We are particularly fond of The Spice House.  Mostly because it was originally founded in Milwaukee and when I was living there we spent many an evening running out to get beautiful star of anise, black cardamom pods, and za’atar when we couldn’t find them anywhere else.  Needless to say everyone on the tour loved it and the interesting information our wonderful guide shared with us.

Our next stop was Old Town Oil, which reminded me of an artisanal shop in San Sebastian that we had visited this summer.  If it wasn’t for the 6 bottles of Spanish olive oil and sherry vinegar we had lugged back from Spain we would have bought some here.  Then we continued on to The Fudge Pot to sample some sweets and learn about the art of making fudge.  Our next stop was Delightful Pastries where we tried some fresh pierogies before our long walk through the neighborhoods, past a certain Playboy’s former mansion and into the Lincoln Park neighborhood where we completed our tour with deep dish pizza at Bacino’s.

We had an awesome guide that made sure we had fun on our tour and learned about the history and food of the neighborhoods.  It was an excellent excuse to travel through Chicago by foot stopping to sample various treats that I would normally pass by.  Although, the food tours are on holiday till April when the weather makes travel through the streets more bearable, we are looking forward to trying another tour next spring.

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Interview with Jean-Luc Naret, Director of the Michelin Guide

Jean-Luc Naret Speaks about the Chicago Guide

We had the opportunity to sit down with Jean-Luc Naret, shortly after the release of the Chicago guide.  He is one of the most influential people in the food world, and we were very excited to hear what he had to say about the guide, the departure of Laurant Gras, and the role of food blogs… Below is our interview… enjoy!

Chicago Fare: Why did it take so long for Michelin to come to the United States?

Jean-Luc Naret: We started in France and went across Europe for more than 100 years. I took over the committee 7 years ago and actually asked myself that same question. Why the Michelin Guide had never been outside Europe.  I think mostly because, from Europe, we only had done European Guides, and we used to do country guides. So when you do the United States if you look at the country, obviously, it would take years and years to do, and a millions dollars to put together.  So I looked at it a different way, I said why aren’t we actually going there and creating a different sort of guide… a selection for a city, and thats exactly what we’ve done… and I came 6 years ago to New York and started to really look at how we could design the best guide.  So we designed exactly this guide you have for New York, then San Francisco, LA, and Chicago. I think we went very fast since we’ve been in the United States. It is the fifth edition of San Francisco, the sixth edition of New York, and first edition of Chicago, and definitely more to come…  But our inspectors are off this week; they will be back next week and start to evaluate the restaurants for next year.

Chicago Fare: Wow… that’s quick.

Jean-Luc Naret: It’s really an annual selection… And as soon as the guide is out, we try to give them a week off, and then we start again with the selection.  A lot of restaurants just opened, such as Henri and Avec, as an example, that we had a chance to taste before, but that we could not taste again because of the fire… and we couldn’t include in the guide.  For the next year, we will try to see what is new, what could be added to the selection, and what, with existing restaurants in the guide, has the potential for stars. There are quite a few restaurants that didn’t make it this year, that will make it next year.

Chicago Fare: When the Michelin Inspectors go to the restaurants, what is their criteria for a consistent restaurant?

Jean-Luc Naret: The first thing is that they look at the restaurant like a regular guest. They look at the ambiance, the decor, the service, whether they’ve been welcomed, the way they’ve been treated, and after they look in the plate.  The ingredients, if the chef mastered the flavors, if he made sure the ingredients are perfectly cooked, if there is too much flavor, or not enough. They are really looking at the consistency across the menu.  You could have a great signature dish, but you have to be very good on everything you offer.  Then the inspectors rank everything dish by dish, and explain exactly why it should be returned to, not to be returned, a bib gourmand, or 1 ,2 , or 3 stars, and we do that for every dish and then an inspector will come later in the year and follow it again.

Chicago Fare: How many inspections are completed?

Jean-Luc Naret: We have multiple inspections, every restaurant in the guide has been seen twice.  But in the case of the Michelin Stars, of course, it has been seen more than twice because we make sure. For example, as in the case of Grant, we went 10 times to Alinea, to measure consistency… and for 10 times it was 3 stars, from top to bottom it was fantastic, but its really just a matter of consistency, you just really have to be consistent.

Chicago Fare: What about Chicago?  There are a lot of cities you could have gone to…

Jean-Luc Naret: We knew when we started in New York, and actually I came here before New York, to tell you the truth. I came here because at that time I didn’t know whether I was going to acquire a new committee or to start from scratch.  So I came here, and actually stayed here in Chicago, 7 years ago. At that time Graham Elliott used to be the chef here [The Peninsula Hotel], and so actually, in a week, I started to evaluate the restaurants here and I was like wow…  I was quite amazed with the potential, but New York was the right place to start.  Then the next year we did San Francisco, and then the year after we should have done Chicago.  But because we already had a team in California, we thought lets do LA, and then because of the recession we said, maybe we should wait a bit…  And I know every year Chicago was coming to us, saying “Well… when are you going to come?”  And that’s it!  We came 2 years ago and we definitely had a great selection for the past 18 months.

Chicago Fare: What’s next? What is the next city?

Jean-Luc Naret: Well there is definitely a lot of new cities, there is plan of developing at least a new city every year or two. There is some great potential in the US, and great potential in North America and in South America too, you see, I see America as a whole.  Now on the otherside we have Asia… I’m on my way to Hong Kong next week, and we did Kyoto months ago, our 2nd edition.  And Tokyo will be our 4th edition, and we have Hong Kong’s 3rd edition.  And there will be a new city that we will announce as well.   Europe first, Asia, then Australia and we could even go to the otherside to India. I’ve been to India, I think there is great potential there, but we will see what exactly will happen.  There is a lot of development, a great plan of development, I saw that seven years ago and I’m very happy that some other people will continue to carry on the flags around the world with Michelin.

Chicago Fare: What kind of effect do you think the Michelin Guide will have on Chicago?

Jean-Luc Naret: [We] definitely create, I mean everytime we come to a new city, we create a lot of noise, and a lady last night said you put a big storm on Chicago for the past few months. Everyone was trying to evaluate, trying to see, and speculate about who was going to get stars and everything. You know the Michelin Star is an important factor, but is not the most important factor.  People are are not buying the guide for a Michelin Star. Its easy, you could just look at well… Yelp.  Or… any other place and you will see that.  We are really well known around the world for the Michelin Stars, but really the people in the city are really buying the guide for all the other reasons, for all the restaurants under $25, the restaurants of Bib Gourmand, for everything that is selected. Its really difficult to pick the right restaurants, and we really make a selection of… in our point of view, the 342 best restaurants in the city. And this will definitely continue to grow.  So next year I’m sure there will be more restaurants in the guide because we are going deeper and wider, and I’m sure there are restaurants that didn’t make it this year that will definitely make it next year because they will improve.  We are going to widen the selection… we are going a bit more to the suburbs as we started to do, but we really will concentrate on the city of Chicago, so we will go north, west, south and we can’t go east cause of the lake… but we will go to all the other parts and create.  And what we have seen is the level of gastronomy improve… because, its interesting, we are not local… we’re not a national company, I mean we are in America, but the point of view is global, people tend to see us as the only developed benchmark, so they measure against each other, and obviously everyone in Chicago is very proud, and now the thing is… how can we beat San Francisco and how can we beat New York?  So I’m sure the level of creativity will improve. What you can see here is the difference between creativity and avant guarde cuisine on one side and the other side is very incredible good restaurants with hotdogs, pizza, and a basic food in a sense, but done in a very nice way that make this city, a restaurant destination.  It is definitely why the Michelin Guide was brought here and this is the reason that we will see in the coming years more and more restaurants in the Michelin Guide and more and more stars.

Chicago Fare:  Do you prefer Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, or Chicago Style HotDog?  Or Both?

Jean-Luc Naret: Well actually I like both, but actually… this week I was not able to eat either of those, I only ate tacos at Big Star, I love Big Star.  And yesterday I went to Mexique which was fun and last night we went to Publican. So lunchtime, I will try to do that today.  I only spend a few days here at a time, so its always a pleasure to be here, and my inspectors just make sure I go to certain places that they know I will like, because I follow their advice as well.

Chicago Fare: Did you know what was going on with L20 before you announced the stars?

Jean-Luc Naret: We didn’t know, of course, but at the same time, you know, we aren’t looking at who’s behind the stove, we’re looking at what’s in the plate… but it was really based on the inspectors who had been their a couple of times. I went, personally myself, twice. Once, Laurent was cooking, and the other time he was not cooking.  For me it was at the same level. Obviously it’s never good when a chef is leaving, because the team might start changing, but this restaurant will be evaluated very, very soon, and then we will see next year if they maintain the level to maintain the 3 stars, or if they don’t maintain the stars.

Chicago Fare: We heard you’re leaving...

Jean-Luc Naret: Absolutely, I’m thinking at the end of the year.  I am retiring, its nice to retire about fifty.  I’m turning 49 so I will be 50 next year, but I mean… retiring means doing something different.  I have been doing that [directing the michelin guide] for seven years and I had great past 7 years of my life.  And before that I used to be a hotelier for 20 years.  I decided to take this over 7 years ago and I said I would do it for a span of 3-5 years, and I’ve done it for 7 years, so I have two years extra. And now I’m ready for a new a challenge.  It should be fun.

Chicago Fare: Where do you see blogs, yelp, and all these different sources of food information fit in?

Jean-Luc Naret: The more people that are talking about food the better it is, because we are all about one specific thing. We are saying… how can we make sure that people like going to restaurants more, talking about restaurants, talking about food, and having more channels doing it, like the Food Network, Iron Chef, Top Chef, Master Chefs.  There are a lot of things around the world where people tend to focus more on food now and the more we are the better it is.  I imagine a food blog is like a food review… or food critic.  Someone you follow.  So if people are listening to your advice and if they like your advice they will follow you, if they don’t like your advice they will follow someone else.  Because that is your personal point of view.  That is one side…. critics, bloggers, and then on the other side you have yelp… and that is everyone’s opinion and then in the middle is Michelin…We are really saying, we have different inspectors, that go at different times. They aren’t food reviewers, they aren’t bloggers, they are people who love and are passionate about food and the only thing is we give the advice, but we have multiple inspectors and inspections… and each has different opinions but they are all helping make a Michelin selection.  But there is no one that could replace another…. The more we are the better it is.

Chicagofare: Is Michelin trying to incorporate the Internet?

Jean-Luc Naret: Actually we do… In Europe we are doing a lot, but we haven’t done this here yet.  In Europe we have an application on the I-phone, we are everywhere with viaMichelin.com, a great website, and the selections are available in 6-7 different languages. We do the same in Japan, but a different format with maps, and here we are starting to see what will be the future for digital. Today we are selling books, but it could be that we aren’t selling books in 10 years, we have to find how we will provide selections differently.

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2011 Michelin Guide Chicago

Michelin Guide Chicago, Grant Achatz

Mayor Daley and Jean-Luc-Naret congratulate Three Star Chefs Grant Achatz and Laurent Gras

The 2011 Michelin Guide Chicago was released Tuesday November 16th, one day early due to an overzealous foodie who leaked the results on Yelp for the world to see.  And although its release didn’t go exactly as planned, the chefs still received a personal call from Jean-Luc Naret, the charming French director of the guide, to confirm their stars. However, I can’t help but think that just like the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, everything is a little more exciting with a little bit of scandal.

On Wednesday November 17th, on what had been the expected release of the guide, we found ourselves anxiously awaiting our cab to the Chicago Cultural Center to celebrate the first edition of the Michelin Guide Chicago and the recently starred chefs.   As time ticked on, and still no cab… we quickly hopped in my car and sped off arriving just before the mayor.  As he spoke with the higher ups of Michelin, we casually made our way around the dimly lit hall with beautiful Tiffany’s stained glass domed ceilings stopping to congratulate Shin Thompson of Bonsoirée, Michael Carlson of Schwa, and Grant Achatz of Alinea.

Bibendum

The Michelin Man Dessert. Yum!

During one of the several speeches that evening, Mayor Daley made a point of thanking Michelin for their commitment to Chicago and truly recognizing it as global city.  Despite the critics upset about who they think should have gotten a star or which chef shouldn’t be compared to another, it is important to recognize the diversity of Chicago’s culinary options and the significance, as a city, of being recognized by the Michelin Guide.

Expect more to follow including our interview with the head of The Michelin Guide, Jean-Luc Naret.  You will find the list of restaurants with stars below.  We’ve been to about half of the Michelin Star restaurants thus far, and are looking forward to exploring the others!

Three Stars

Two Stars

One Star

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2011 Chicago Bib Gourmand Selection

A certain famous, white, fluffy, Michelin Man, often associated with tires, was lingering in the streets of Chicago, spray painting his likeness on sidewalks outside of 46 lucky restaurants. You’ll find the list below, but here’s a little history that might explain why the tire guy you see on TV just so happens to be a food connoisseur.

The Michelin brothers originally gained fame and recognition for their tire company incorporated in 1888.  In the 1900’s, around the time of the Paris World’s Fair, they founded The Michelin Guide as a resource to the best restaurants and accommodations available along the travel route of motorists in Europe.  Through the course of time, the Michelin guide has become regarded as one of the preeminent food guides in the world.  The Bib Gourmand selections are the preview to the release of  next week’s highly anticipated first ever Michelin Guide Chicago.  The restaurants chosen for a Bib Gourmand award are the inspector’s favorites that are considered high quality establishments that offer a good value: a two course meal and a glass of wine or dessert for less than $40. While the selections are considered by many restaurants to be a tremendous honor, it does mean that famous restaurants like Frontera Grill, Publican, and the Girl and the Goat are now out of the running to receive even one Michelin star. Interesting…

Full list of 2011 Chicago Bib Gourmand selections(and where we’ve eaten thus far):

Ann Sather
Belly Shack
Bistro 110
Bristol (The)
Browntrout
Ceres’ Table
Cumin
deca
De Cero
DeCOLORES
Frances’ Deli
Frontera Grill
Gilt Bar
Girl & The Goat
Green Zebra
Han 202
Hopleaf
Jaipur

Kith & Kin
La Creperie
La Petite Folie
Los Nopales
Lula Cafe
mado
Mexique
M. Henry
Mixteco Grill
Nana
Nightwood
Opart Thai House

Otom Paramount Room
Perennial
Publican
Purple Pig

Raj Darbar
Riccardo Trattoria
Smak-Tak
Smoque BBQ
Spacca Napoli
Taste of Peru
Thai Village
Twin Anchors
Urban Belly
Veerasway

West Town Tav

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A Day at Chicago Gourmet

Chicago Gourmet at Millennium Park

Chicago Gourmet at Millennium Park

Last Sunday I spent five hours at the third annual Chicago Gourmet.  Yes, I spent five hours wining and dining under the beautiful blue sky at Millennium Park.  The event is a veritable culmination of the absolute best the city has to offer and further exemplifies Chicago as a true culinary destination.  Chefs, sommeliers, wineries, foodies and beyond venture into the city for this grand three-day event that allows you to try a little of everything!

A friend and I met up outside the large white registration tent a half an hour early and positioned ourselves in the already growing line.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but past the registration tent I began to realize this was no small operation.  As we walked past the most recent winner of Top Chef Masters, I couldn’t help but realize that Chicago Gourmet is kind of a big deal.  We selected a glass of wine, and then made our way to one of the five different tasting pavilions where we lined up to sample each presenter’s dish.  There was a pavilion for every palate each with different themes(i.e. meat, seafood, mediterranean/gastropub, latin & asian, and dessert). Some of our sampling included octopus from Avli, a black cod salad from C-House, and a roasted sea bream from The Gage/Henri.  After an array of tastings we weren’t ready for dessert so we ventured into Specialty Food Pavilion and satisfied our curiosity for a few new products.  Upon our exit we found that the pavilion presenters had changed and the number of people in line had expanded since our earlier tasting experience.  Since we were still quite full, we opted for some beer and wine tasting to complete our afternoon.

The Gage’s Sea Bream atop a seared slice of pumpkin

I had a great time at my first Chicago Gourmet.  However, I wish I had properly prepared myself the night before by printing out the schedule and highlighting my main interests.  Looking back, I realized I missed out on the cooking demonstrations and food and wine seminars in my desire to try as many dishes as possible. But its okay because next year I’ll be back with a different game plan!

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What’s New in Chicago

We kind of have a thing for Korean BBQ, kimchee and tacos… So when we heard Del Seoul was opening in the next few weeks we wanted to spread the news.  I think a contemporary Korean taco joint may be just what we need to get through this fall.

Who: The Jeon Family, Pete Jeon and sister, Irene Jeon

What: Street Food… Korean-style, i.e. soju-soy marinated beef short rib, red-pepper rubbed pork, garlic-soy marinated chicken and panko crusted shrimp with a sesame-chili sauce.  Not to mention, bibimbap, pork belly, kimchee fries, a take on the vietnamese sandwich the Banh Mi, and oh so much more…

Where: Lincoln Park | 2568 N Clark Street | Chicago Illinois 60614 |

When: Opens late September-ish  Hours: 11am-10pm Mon-Sat / 12pm-9pm Sun

Why Stop By: It’s a quick and casual dining spot with an innovative menu and an average dinner cost of $5-10

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