Saturday, September 10, 2016

the week in review LOL

So we started our week with dinner with Uncle Neil at Oceanique - as always an really good meal.

then the next night we were at Oriole (see post - Starry Eyed)

and then the next night we were with the Chicago Gourmets at Emilio's (see post Before We Go Back)

and then last night we had a concert at City Winery - the group was Solas- and it was Phil's choice-
He liked them I thought they pretty much made everything sound the same- and I found it distracting to have the vocalist running on and off the stage all evening-

for the encore the sound man got to sing too (too bad they didn't feature him earlier- he had a lovely strong voice that actually was different than hearing the other (they pretty much all ended up jigs) music

This is a venue I really dislike- bad wine - mediocre food - people jammed into tables smaller than the chairs seated around them - if more than two people try to eat the plates don't fit on the table - and the cocktail list is extremely limited for those who don't want beer or (bad) wine.  They make it there- in the middle of Chicago (my Oregon winemaker friends I am sure shudder to read that sentence). My Dad used to make wine in the closet of the laundry room and I think the wine making at this facility is an expensive shiny version of that LOL.

so the week draws to an end and we ready ourselves for the next group of activities.... while we continue with planning for our future travel.  Our Venice to Istanbul by Private Train trip has been canceled for next year and so we are revisiting alternative destinations - meanwhile the website was built for that one and will be taken down (so if you want to see it I would suggest going now - LOL)

now it looks like we will be doing Wine & Food in Georgia (which is actually known for its wine- unlike City Winery) - See I can make it all come together in the end LOL!!!
Onward & Upward! So stay tuned....

Thursday, September 8, 2016

before we go back

to the posts about Scandinavia- let's recap our dinner tonight with the Chicago Gourmets dining group-

here is the place - (all photos from the Internet)
 the outside off Michigan Avenue

the inside warm and welcoming - with a nice bar and a first rate staff

the menu we had for the dinner tonight- all excellently prepared dishes and extremely plentiful portions!

the appetizers included the chorizo and the chicken croquettes

from the cold section of the menu-

the warm section-

goat cheese-


beef skewers-

the paella looked similar to these photos from their website and yelp-

and the dessert!

the chef de cuisine at this location is

Meet Chef Crispin Plata our Executive Chef at Emilio's Tapas  "Sol y Nieve".
As a young man he immigrated to the United States and he was living in Chicago when an opening came up in a new Spanish restaurant. He rushed to apply for the job.  The chef that hired him that day was Chef Emilio and they have been working successfully together for over 25 years.  Crispin says that Chef Emilio's belief in him is what really helped him to be successful as a professional chef.
Chef Emilio's talents constantly amazed him and Crispin continues to look up to him.With Chef Emilio mentoring him, Crispin was able to learn from the best, and with the  Tapas King of Chicago's encouragement Crispin was able  to grow and become the award winning chef he is today. Chef Crispin's passion for great tapas has made our  downtown location the place to be and be seen.

And Chef Emilio couldn't be more charming if he tried- it turns out we have a lot of things in common - he used to work in Sarasota and knew Michael Klauber when he was a kid! He worked at the Colony, worked at Columbia and knew Cafe l'Europe and Euphemia Haye's - he also worked with Kiki and lots of others... we had a great time discussing the food scene in both our home locations!

Meet Chef Emilio Gervilla, a native of Granada, Spain, has long been known as Chicago’s “Tapas King.” He’s responsible for putting Spanish small plates on the map locally, and he continues to oversee daily operations at his two Emilio’s Tapas restaurants, in Chicago and Hillside.

Emilio comes by his love for Spanish cuisine honestly. He spent an idyllic youth nurturing his passion for cooking at his grandfather’s Granada-based bakery and tapas bar. His early love for food developed into a lifelong career path; he completed several chef apprenticeships throughout Spain, adapting recipes from each region to create his own unique take on tapas.

In 1973, Emilio brought his enthusiasm for the flavors of his homeland to the United States. Between 1980 and 1988, he blended Spanish flavors and American tastes for several restaurants under the ownership of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. Under Emilio’s influence, LEYE opened Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba in 1985. As chef there, he introduced Chicago to its first Spanish tapas bar and became directly responsible for the concept’s growing popularity. In doing so, Emilio achieved his personal dream - to head his own restaurant, where he could introduce people to his personalized style of Spanish cooking.

In 1988, Emilio took his dream a step further by opening the first tapas bar with his name on it. Emilio’s Tapas Restaurant in Hillside was soon packing in the crowds with simply-cooked small plates that feature complex Mediterranean- and New World-inspired flavor profiles. The buzz surrounding the place was so positive that in April 1999, Emilio opened a more centrally-located eatery, Emilio’s Tapas Sol y Nieve, in the Streeterville neighborhood. His restaurants are still consistently listed among the best in the city.

Today, the Chicagoland culinary scene is rich with Emilio’s influence. But that doesn’t affect his food and restaurant philosophy. The chef remains dedicated to providing guests with fresh, delicately-blended flavors, even after 27 years of continual operation. Both locations offer entertainment and culinary excitement, with dishes that meet every dietary need from vegetarian to gluten-free. Naturally, the food must also meet Chef Emilio’s high standards for quality, freshness, authenticity, and taste. He always offers city-sophisticated dishes at country prices, and his restaurants provide a pleasant and upscale ambiance, indoors or out.

Nor does his high profile affect his love of his daily routine. You’ll still find Emilio working the line, and you may see his wife, Ann-Marie, engaging with guests in the dining room.

Emilio continues to do what he loves best, and he’s all about sharing - both his food, and his passion for the food.

so all in all a wonderfully warm and welcoming evening of good food and good company! #lifeisgood! and now back to Copenhagen - I promise that eventually we will finish our time there and move on to the other locations on our Baltic sea voyage.... stay tuned!

starry eyed

the is a round about post- that takes its own detour to get to a point about these little guys-  LOL
So when I was a kid we spent countless hours playing games and one of my favorites was  called Mille Bornes.  From wikipedia - Mille Bornes (French for a thousand milestones, referring to the stone distance markers on many French roads) is a French card game. Mille Bornes is listed in the GAMES Magazine Hall of FameThe game was created in 1954 by Edmond Dujardin, and was quite similar to the earlier American automotive card game Touring. A key innovation was the addition of the coup-fourré, whereby bonus points are earned by holding back a safety card (such as the puncture-proof tire) until an opponent plays the corresponding hazard card (in this case, the flat tire). 

So I mention this because this was my first introduction to the world of French "travel" - for a seven or eight year old in Cincinnati Ohio the concept of driving along FRENCH roads was so enticing- the cards had names/words that were my first introduction to French:
Reparations Essence Roue de Secours Fin de Limite de Vitesse 
Roulez  Accident Panne d'Essence Creve Limite de Vitesse Stop  
As du Volant Citerne d'Essence  Increvable  Vehicule Prioritaire

The world was big- and it got even bigger the more we learned... here is a photo of one of the cards along with the box from the 1962 edition which would have been our treasured version.

I know you are wondering where this is leading and in a round about way we will get to the fabulous dinner we had last night at Oriole - so for those who can't wait - that's the spoiler! LOL
And here is how I got to this... as we mentioned when we first tried Oriole exactly six weeks ago - this is a Michelin star worthy restaurant - we think (and some other people who comment on such things do as well) that they really are serving two star level food with two star level service.  Noah and Cara had the late lamented Senza (one star) and they have all - including Genie the pastry chef partner- worked at places that have that level of accolade.  They know what they are doing and the results are spectacular!  

so back to my stream (or as TB calls it "swamp") of consciousness... When I grew up and first planned a driving trip through France (yes people who grew up in small cities in America sometime venture beyond its borders LOL) I encountered the essence of French road trips in Michelin maps! I bought a road atlas which had enormous level of detail - something we never ever see in US maps.  I could tell you whether the road into any given tiny village curved to the right or left and approximately how many houses where along the road.  For a map lover it was the be all and end all! 

here is a tiny bit of what I encountered (and no longer have since we have all moved on to the world of GPS)  I was bowled over- I not only wanted to take the D2 and drive all those switchbacks!  I wanted to do each lookout/view-point along the way! And when I got to the intersection of D2 with D80 and D45A I would KNOW where I was, and how to get to Le Pujol... it mattered not one wit that I had never heard of the place before, I knew how to get there thanks to - yes you are now seeing it too- Michelin.  

I learned over time that this was an offshoot of the tire business (which they called pneus LOL) to help drivers of the earliest autos find their way.  The first Michelin map was produced in 1910.  And I eventually learned that the Michelin man's name was Bibendum.  

here is the blurb from wikipedia on Michelin- 
Michelin is a French tire manufacturer based in Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne région of France. It is one of the three largest tire manufacturers in the world along with Bridgestone and Goodyear. In addition to the Michelin brand, it also owns the BFGoodrich, Kleber, Tigar, Riken, Kormoran and Uniroyal (in North America) tire brands. Michelin's numerous inventions include the removable tire, the pneurail (a tire for trains made to run on rails) and the radial tire. Michelin is also notable for its Red and Green travel guides, its roadmaps, the Michelin stars that the Red Guide awards to restaurants for their cooking, and for its company mascot Bibendum, colloquially known as the Michelin Man.

I see it is all coming together- LOL - for years and years we have used their guides and maps in Europe- the maps have areas where the bigger cities are outlined in a red box and for the detailed maps of those cities you must turn to the red guides - which then helpfully have hotels and restaurants listed for your reference.  We became fans of "Bib" as he is know, for his value picks; of the "coins" for their budget conscious choices and of course for the "STARS" - which actually look more like flowers to me since they have rounded points not pointed ones... LOL
In 1926, the guide began to award stars for fine dining establishments. Initially, there was only a single star awarded. Then, in 1931, the hierarchy of zero, one, two, and three stars was introduced. Finally, In 1936, the criteria for the starred rankings were published:
1 Michelin star: "A very good restaurant in its category" (Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie)
2 Michelin stars: "Excellent cooking, worth a detour" (Table excellent, mérite un détour)
3 Michelin stars: "Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey" (Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage)

So what you see above is one of the ways creative chefs are validated for their talents these days - and we think Noah and Genie and Cara deserve to have not just one but two of these little flowers attached to their new venture Oriole and now you will get to see why-

from the top- 

the beauty of these dishes is apparent but the flavors are even more magnificent- every course has amazing layers of flavor - subtle combinations that enhance the other ingredients - I can only imagine how many variations are tried before the chef is satisfied with THIS one!

the wines we chose were a mix- with the 2007 Sigrid showing very well and the 1990 red burgs not so much- the NSG would be the better but the Beaune Clos des Mouches was a complete disappointment- not corked but not giving - clearly the heyday for this bottle was past...

and as if the meal wasn't stupendous enough we get a take home dessert as well!

So while we aren't the Michelin inspectors LOL we sure wish we were, because then we could make sure the world knew that this was a restaurant "worth a detour"! 

Book now! - it is only going to get more difficult to get in as word gets around.... and we couldn't be happier for the trio who make it happen with their dedicated and attentive staff every night!

UPDATE: 11/2/16 Oriole was award two stars in its first year of operation- sooo richly deserved - congrats to all the staff  members for making our four visits this year spectacularly memorable!