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The Michelin Guide Chicago 2012 and Michelin Star Restaurants

15 Nov

Grant Achatz remains king as Alinea is awarded the sole dignity of having three Michelin stars in Chicago, while last year’s co-champion, L20, fell down to one star with the transition of their executive chef. There were a few other fluxes in this year’s Michelin star ranking from last year; a total of 21 Chicago restaurants were awarded the honors versus 23 in 2011. Next was not included and it’s unclear if that was a result of not being able to experience the restaurant or due to when it opened.

I am thrilled to see some of the standouts from my year  in dining were included, among them Schwa and Tru. With last year’s arrival of Chicago Michelin Guide, it showcased what we in our fair city have known for a long time, we have tasty food and restaurants. I appreciate that the Michelin Guide continues to push and excel our Chefs, but with the Chicago charm I wouldn’t trade for the world. Sappy? Sure. But I’m not wrong.

And now, I present the 2012 Michele star restaurants in Chicago:

Three stars:

  • Alinea

Two stars:

  • Charlie Trotter’s
  • RIA

One star:

  • Blackbird
  • Boka
  • Bonsoiree
  • Courtright’s (new in 2012)
  • Everest
  • Graham Elliot
  • L2O
  • Longman & Eagle
  • Moto (new in 2012)
  • NAHA
  • Schwa
  • Seasons
  • Sepia
  • Spiaggia
  • Takashi
  • Topolobampo
  • Tru
  • Vie

2012 Chicago Bib Gourmand Restaurants

9 Nov
Bib Gourmand Award

Bib Gourmand

The Bib Gourmand restaurants from Michelin’s 2012 Chicago Guide were just announced. Still can’t believe Hot Doug’s was snubbed (again!), but this is a pretty decent list. A few others I think Michelin overlooked were: Due Lire and Bistro Campagne.


Thrilled to see some of my favorite restaurants were included, such as Lula Café, Ceres’ Table, Hopleaf, Los Nopales and Opart Thai House. And then a bit surprised to see some (in my opinion) under-performers like Ann Sather and Browntrout on here. But to each there own.


So without further adieu, I present the 2011 Bib Gourmand Chicago Award Winners:


  • Ann Sather
  • Arami
  • Avec
  • Belly Shack
  • Bistronomic
  • Bristol (The)
  • Browntrout
  • Ceres’ Table
  • Cumin
  • De Cero
  • deca
  • Fogon
  • Frontera Grill
  • Gemini Bistro
  • Gilt Bar
  • Girl & The Goat
  • Green Zebra
  • GT Fish & Oyster
  • Han 202
  • Hopleaf
  • Jaipur
  • Jin Thai
  • Kabul House
  • La Creperie
  • La Petite Folie
  • Lao Sze Chuan
  • Los Nopales
  • Lula Café
  • M. Henry
  • Maude’s Liquor Bar
  • Mexique
  • Mixteco Grill
  • Mundial Cocina Mestiza
  • Nana
  • Nightwood
  • Opart Thai House
  • Owen & Engine
  • Paramount Room
  • Perennial Virant
  • Publican (The)
  • Purple Pig (The)
  • Raj Darbar
  • Riccardo Trattoria
  • Sen
  • Smak-Tak
  • Smoque BBQ
  • Sol de Mexico
  • Spacca Napoli
  • Taste of Peru
  • Thai Village
  • Twin Anchors
  • Urban Belly
  • West Town Tavern
  • Xni-Pec de Yucatan
  • Yolo

Tru was Truly Sublime

16 Aug
Tru Menu

Our menu from Tru, signed by Chef Anthony Miller

It’s important that I write this review now so I don’t forget a single moment from our dinner at Tru. To say it was amazing wouldn’t begin to do it justice. But let start at the beginning.

On August 11, Ian and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. We’ve been married as long as we were in college. It’s not a Things Remembered milestone, but one that we were eager to celebrate. As you know, going out to dinner with a one and a half year old is not an easy task. Ian and I are able to sneak away sometimes for a dinner out in the square, but for our anniversary, we wanted to go beyond our comfort zone and do something special.

My friend, Jeffrey Ward, had been over in July and was telling me about how amazing Tru’s new Chef Anthony Martin was and I was sold.

I booked us a hotel room at the Sofitel and made reservations for Tru. The reservation was at 8:45, which was much later than we normally eat, but again, we were breaking all the rules (how dangerously we live!). I will add, on a side note, that before our dinner, we did something that was so fun and another highlight of our evening. We put on the plush bathrobes, opened the bottle of Veuve Clicquot and watch Bridesmaids in bed. It was bliss! But I digress…

We dressed up for dinner, I put on serious heels and Ian was dapper in his jacket and slacks. When we arrived at the meal, we were greeted with a glass of complimentary Champagne. Perfect.

We were going to order the Grand Collection, but Chef surprised us and brought us the Chef Collection as his treat. Along with the wine accompaniments. All 15 courses.

The first show-stopper was the suspended foie gras. The food was of course amazing; the buttery foie gras with the reinvented texture and the candied pecans. But what truly brought the dish to life was the impeccable pairing from Tru’s wine director and Sommelier, Chad Ellegood.  Ellegood brought out the 2007 Bonny Doon Le Vol Des Anges Roussanne Arroyo Seco. It was delicate enough to partner the heaviness of the foie gras, but substantial enough to enhance the flavor.  When people disregard how wine can compliment a meal, I want them to experience what we did with this bite and sip. It was incredible.

The halibut was another example of Chef Anthony’s ability to simply create a perfect dish. It didn’t have dry-ice or impeccable plating, but it was perfect. Poached in butter (when can you go wrong with that) it was hands-down the most perfectly cooked fish I’ve ever had.

And then the cheese cart. Any civilized meal should have a cheese cart. The one objection I had to this was that after Ian and I ate our cheese, at an admittedly quick pace!- one of the servers pointed out how fast we ate it. Not nice. But we were quick to forgive when the desserts came, one, by one, by one.  The natural cherries with black truffles and honeycrisp apple beignet were the things dreams are made of. If I could, I’d eat them, each, everyday for the rest of my life.

After our almost four hour Tru-athon was over, Ian and I made our way back to the hotel, full bellies and full hearts. In addition to the food, the experience was perfection. The service was the standard to which all other restaurants should aspire, and most importantly, it gave me and my husband a chance to really enjoy each other’s company.
Bravo to Tru, to Chef Anthony Martin and Chad Ellegood. The experience was absolutely amazing and it will go down as one of the greatest meals.

This Foodie Went To Schwa

11 Jun
Catherine Merritt at Schwa

Catherine Merritt at Schwa

About six months ago, my friend from Portland, Amy, said she and her boyfriend were coming in town in June to celebrate her birthday, and she wondered if we could do dinner with them. But of course! Then we had to decide where this dinner would take place. One restaurant immediately came to mind: Schwa. With about six months out, it was enough time to begin working on securing that highly coveted reservation. I was on it.

For those that don’t know, Schwa’s Chef Michael Carlson has been acclaimed one of the greatest chefs of our generation and certainly of Chicago. On par, hands down, with Charlie Trotter and Grant Aschatz, what separates Chef Carlson from the pack is that he’s continued to do this his way. From the way that he runs the restaurant, the frustratingly maddening reservation system, and the loud music in the dining room to the sublime food- it’s all a reflection of the genius of Michael Carlson.


Photo credit: Schwa

Chef Michael Carlson of Schwa, Photo credit: Schwa

Back to about three months ago, after calling Schwa daily (I knew and still know the number by heart), I finally got an answer on Thursday. I felt like my sixth grade self who just called B96 to find out I won tickets to see C&C Music Factory. I kindly asked for the date of June 9 for four and he said he’d add us to the wait list. He also told me that they’d call in advance to get my credit card number to hold the spot. Amazing.

As June 9 got closer and closer I was simultaneously excited and anxious. I was dying for our meal but still hadn’t gotten the reservation confirmed and from what I’ve read on other boards is that Schwa is notorious for dropping resos without much warning. Luckily, the night before our dinner, they finally called back and we were set.

Schwa is BYOB and a little inside tip: when you’re buying bottles for your table, also pick up a six pack of something good for the kitchen. More on that later.

We bought four bottles, a sparkling, Pinot Gris, a brut Riesling and a Pinot Noir from Willamette in Oregon. In retrospect, we could have used another bottle and they’re generous with the pour, but everything we picked was spot on.

NOTE: when I went into this meal, I made the decision to leave my pad of paper in my bad and just enjoy it. I didn’t write down one note. So we’re going off of memory.

In all the 11 courses at Schwa (it was a nine course menu but the extra six pack for the kitchen got us to complimentary ones) there were some standouts. The quail egg ravioli was the most superb thing mine lips doth tasted. It was amazing. We were told the accompanying forks were simply meant to fend off others and we were left to shoot the ravioli. It was in a brown butter truffle sauce and I can’t emphasize enough how incredibly it was. Same can be said for the deconstructed baked potato soup with stretched ‘barely buzzed’ cheddar cheese. The cheese is fermented in lilac and coffee grounds and if you ever thought Cheddar was an under sophisticated fromage, please enjoy this one first. It was incredible.

Schwa Cuisine, Photo Credit: Schwa

Schwa Cuisine, Photo Credit: Schwa

Another off-the-menu offering from the kitchen was the tuna sashimi, which was the most delicious, delicate, melt-in-your-mouth piece of fish I’ve ever had. The highlight of the meal was the Schaw version of smores. It was braised short rib in a cocoa sauce with graham crackers and marshmallows over a glass of campfire smoke. It evoked every single sense and I am still dreaming about each and every course.

Food was part of the experience at Schwa, but another thing that contributed to this meal was the exposed kitchen and watching Chef Carlson and his amazing team of six (yes, that’s six total people. Running both the front and back of the house). Our server was incredibly attentive without coddling. He was even so kind as to extend some beer from the kitchen after our wine had run out. The music played is loud and that is a testament to Chef doing this his way. And I loved that.

With all the hoopla about Next and Alinea, I would chose to eat at Schwa again any day over those. It was an authentically beautiful experience that I am already making calls to secure our next reservation. Likely a year from now.

Restaurant Review: Boka

15 Apr
Boka Chicago

photo from Boka

I had dinner this week at Boka with a friend and was really looking forward to it. It is, after all, a recent Michelin star recipient and that’s nothing to dismiss. We attended an event, so the menu was limited, but the items all looked amazing from what we had to choose from.

I started off with the beef Carpaccio which was flawless. The parmesan foam, the salty, silk-thin slices of cured beef- truly amazing. For a main course I had the white bass which was very good. I will admit that I’m not the world’s biggest seafood fan. Nay, I love (LOVE) shell fish, but not fish itself. So with that in mind, it was good. The accompanying fava beans offset the fish’s delicate texture which was welcomed. Lastly for dessert I had the bourbon infused crème brulee. It looked amazing on paper but I have to say I was pretty disappointed. The sugar on top was too thick which really offset the entire dish. Hard to do, but somehow it was just too sweet and not enough of the custard.

I would like to go back and try more options on the menu. It was very delicious and the outdoor patio was beautifully set up (it was chilly, so it was tented). The atmosphere inside the restaurant was a bit sterile, but let’s be honest, it’s on the same block as Alinea, so not surprising.