Tag Archives: Chicago Foodie

Terrific Tenderloin That’s Easy As Pie

19 Jan
Beef Tenderloin

Photo from MyRecipe.com

It’s no secret that since Teddy arrived on the scene, going out to eat doesn’t happen as often as it once did. But that’s okay. We love entertaining and cooking, so having people over for dinner parties has been a fun way to still see friends, enjoy delicious food, all while Teddy snoozes away in his bedroom.

Recently, inspired by a delicious Christmas dinner, I decided to reenact the star of the show, a beef tenderloin. Turns out beef tenderloin is a dinner party super star. It’s insanely easy to prepare and cook and everyone loves it. Here’s how I made mine and it was a huge crowd pleaser.

I bought a five pound trimmed tenderloin at Costco. Note: normally when I buy beef, I get Prime grade. It’s the top 2% of been produced and is graded on the marbling (fat). When you’re doing a tenderloin, since it’s a lean cut, you should stick with Choice grade. There’s just not enough fat in a tenderloin to justify paying the amount for Prime.

Take the meat out, pat it down and season with some salt and pepper. Then use some cooking twine to truss it so it cooks evenly. Once it’s trussed, stick cloves of garlic and sprigs of Rosemary between the meat and twine and drizzle with a few tablespoons of EVOO. Let it sit out at room temperature for a few hours before you cook it.

Once it’s time to cook this bad boy, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Then, in a roasting pan, sear the meat so it browns on all sides. It should take about 10 total minutes. This is really key as it locks in the juices and flavor.

After you’re done browning it, pop it into the oven and cook for about 30 minutes. You may have to cook for additional 5-10 minutes, depending on how well done you want it. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature (registers 120°F to 125°F for rare, 125°F to 130°F for medium rare).

Serve with potatoes, a green, some delicious bold red wine and you’ll be the toast of the dinner. Enjoy!



Celebrate The Chinese New Year in Chicago

6 Jan

Hing Kee Restaurant, photo via Yelp

I get a lot of event notices through my inbox, but I thought this one, in honor of the Chinese New Year, looked especially interesting.

Learn how to make Chinese dumplings and eat a family-style meal (featuring menu items such as pumpkin seafood soup, quadruple happiness pork meatball and water chestnut cake) for a reasonable $38. Not too shabby.

It’s on Sunday, January 15th at 3 p.m. at the Hing Kee Restaurant, 2140 S. Archer Avenue.

Details below. Happy Chinese New Year!

Celebrate the Chinese New Year with Dumpling Making and a Family Style Dinner!

$38.00 (includes gratuity)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

3:00pm – 5:30pm

Hing Kee Restaurant, 2nd Floor

2140 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, IL 60616

Tea is included. Please bring extra money if you would like other non-alcohol drinks or BYOB. Seats are limited.

Tickets must be purchased in advance at the event website:


  • 3:00pm Registration
  • 3:15pm
  • Presentation – Z.J. Tong, President – Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute
  • Chinese New Year Traditions and Stories
  • How Chinese Celebrate the New Year at Home
  • 3:45pm Dumpling (Jiao-Zi) Making
  • 4:30pm Dinner Served


  • Pumpkin Seafood Soup
  • Appetizer Platter (cucumber, seaweed, wonton, eggplant)
  • Jiao-Zi (Seafood Dumpling & Vegetarian Dumpling)
  • Lemon Chicken
  • Beef with Garlic and Onion
  • Quadruple Happiness Pork Meatball
  • Abalone Mushroom with Bok Choy Tips
  • Braised Bean Curd with Black Mushroom
  • Whole Fish in Sweet and Chilly Sauce
  • Water Chestnut Cake
  • Tang Yuan (Sticky Rice Balls Soup – Dessert)

And A Merry Fondue To You

4 Jan

We had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. We celebrated with my family in Chicago for Christmas and then headed east to Vermont to have another Christmas and New Years celebration with my husband’s family. All in all, it was very delicious, special and fun to eat amazing food with the people I love most in this world.

Cheese and Seafood Fondue at our New Year's Eve dinner in Vermont

My in-laws have a long tradition of breaking out the fondue pots during special events and holidays, and that is exactly what we did on New Year’s Eve. We had three variations, one cheese fondue, a seafood/broth fondue and of course for dessert, a chocolate fondue.

I’ve had cheese fondue before, but cooking seafood in the broth fondue was new to me. It was amazing. Here’s the recipe and tips for throwing your own fondue party. I know, 1970’s, but I think it’s on the rise and will be a dinner party trend in 2012!

Get a fondue pot, a spirit lamp, a few long-stemmed forks. I love this one from Le Cruset!

For the seafood fondue, rub the interior of the pot with a clove of garlic.

Add boiling broth (I recommend vegetable as it won’t interfere with the flavor) and keep a top on until you’re ready to start dipping.

Have enough seafood (I recomend scallops and raw shrimp) for your guests. You may also want to blanch the seafood to ensure it’s cooked in the fondue, or else make sure you leave it in long enough to cook well.

Have some sauces on hand, such as a mustard mayonnaise, cocktail sauce and a Thai sesame sauce) to dip the cooked seafood into.


For cheese fondue, add about four cups of diced cheese (of your choice) as well as a cup of dry white wine and about 1/4 cup of Kirsch brandy. Cook in a pot on the stove until it’s all melted. I would also add a teaspoon of sage, a nice aromatic flavor that accompanies the cheese.

Once melted, add to a fondue pot (which, similar to the seafood fondue, should be rubbed with garlic). Have bread, veggies on hand to dip and enjoy!

Make sure you have some nice white wine and Champage. Both go great with these fondue dished.


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

Big Star Food Truck on the Loose

28 Sep
Chef Paul Kahan

Chef Paul Kahan (photo courtesy of Blackbird, by Michael Stryder)

Last night, at a Foodie Feed-Up sponsored by NesCafe’s Dolce Gusto, Chef Paul Kahan spoke to the attendees and shared plans for the Big Star food truck to go rogue.

As we all know, food trucks in Chicago aren’t allowed to actually prepare food on the truck, but Kahan and his team of foodie bandits and working to change that.

“We’ll probably have to pay some fines and get some tickets, but we’re going rogue,” said Kahan.

I, for one, couldn’t be happier. I think Kahan is the man to help push change through the legislation and erase this ridiculous rule.

So we shall see how it goes, but go it will. Damn the man.


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.