I’ve got a thing for fancy diners, so I made time to visit two of Chicago’s best while in town.
First up, a late brunch at Chef Stephanie Izard‘s Little Goat. I’d dined at her more formal Girl & the Goat on a previous trip and had a ball—Pig Face, anyone? I expected nothing less than a stupendous time at her latest venture.
Opened in 2012, Little Goat serves done-up American diner classics with a smattering of new school hits. Like Girl & the Goat, the diner is perpetually packed. The Astronomer and I waited 25 minutes for two seats to open up at half past three on a Sunday afternoon.
Even though I was slightly annoyed with the wait, Little Goat’s sunny interior, full of natural light, bright accents, and happy diners, made it difficult for my frown to stick around.
Twas impossible to stay upset with this cute little goat face staring back at me.
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While it might seem silly to down four doughnuts just before dinner, it was necessary for survival in Chicago, where no reservation policies are the norm at the most popular spots in town.
Case in point: we arrived at Avec at half past seven on Saturday night and were finally seated near 10 PM at one of the cramped communal tables. Such is the life of a foodist in the Second City. #FirstWorldProblems.
Opened in 2003, Avec serves a Midwestern interpretation of Mediterranean classics in small plates fashion. “Taking its cue from the regions of Southern France, Italy, Portugal, and the coast of Spain, Avec’s cuisine reflects the aromas, flavors and colors of the Mediterranean,” according the the restaurant’s website.
Chef Koren Grieveson helped open the restaurant in 2003, earning the James Beard Award for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2010. In 2013, Perry Hendrix, took over the kitchen.
To start, an order of Avec’s famous chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with smoked bacon in a piquillo pepper-tomato sauce ($12). These meaty mouthfuls were sweet, spicy, and tangy all at once. Beautiful stuff, and maybe even worth a two hour wait. Maybe.
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The Polar Vortex couldn’t stop me from getting my deep-fried high on while in Chicago this past January. In fact, it may have contributed to my appetite—a full belly means a warm Gastronomer.
The first stop on the Chicago feeding frenzy took The Astronomer, Cousin Jackie, and me to Firecakes Donuts.
Opened last spring by Jonathan Fox (President and CEO of 3Sixty Dinning Intelligence and owner of La Madia), Firecakes is a notable player in Chicago’s robust gourmet doughnut scene. The doughnuts made in this teeny 600-square-foot shop use an heirloom recipe that came from Mr. Fox’s wife’s great-grandfather, Billy Hobbs.
After waiting in a painfully cold and winding line at The Doughnut Vault during my last trip to Chicago, it was really great to stroll on in and be served straightaway this evening.
For our pre-dinner “snack,” we selected four doughnuts to share.
First up, a light and lovely cake ring dusted with toasted coconut flakes and prettied with coconut cream ($2.49). This well-balanced creation was my fave pick of the four.
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Unless you’ve given up social media for Lent, chances are that you’ve heard a little somethin’ somethin’ about Downtown’s newly opened Faith & Flower.
There’s a great chef in the kitchen (Michael Hung of San Francisco’s La Folie) and a talented bar man too (Michael Lay of Vegas’s Rose. Rabbit. Lie), but what really drew me here was my friend Stephane Bombet, one of the restaurant’s managing partners. This is his first project since parting with Chef Ricardo Zarate‘s Peruvian empire (Mo-Chica, Picca, Paiche, and Blue Tavern).
Whereas most of Downtown’s popular spots are minimally appointed and distinctly urban, Faith & Flower feels downright sumptuous, complete with crystal chandeliers, fancy cutlery and chargers, and plush banquettes. To keep the done-up room from feeling formal or stuffy, the energy, music, and service all hit the perfect upbeat yet casual note.
To start, we tried two of Michael Lay’s creations. I chose the intense and smoky “Olvera” ($14) made with Nuestra Soledad mezcal, Cherry Heering, Zirbenz Stone Pine, Royal Combier, housemade orange bitters, and lapsang souchong vapor, while The Astronomer selected the “Angels Flight” ($12) with Denizen rum, yuzu, palm sugar, and kaffir lime leaf.
Continue reading ‘Faith & Flower – Los Angeles (Downtown)’