Category Archives: Best bite

Chocolate parfait at Balsan

A Feast on Fashion luncheon at Balsan in the Elysian had me both drooling over the fall clothes that’ll be available at the soon-to-open Gold Coast location of Perchance boutique, as well as the chocolate parfait I ordered for dessert. Served in a mason jar, silky smooth cool chocolate custard was mixed with thick chunks of chocolate brownies and crispy chocolate candy pieces. Slowly melting over it all was a quenelle of super-fresh housemade mint chip ice cream and a green mint sprig. Of you don’t need an exclusive fashion lunch to dig into this dessert perfection, head to Balsan to dig in and get your drool on…maybe after fall clothes shopping… 11 E. Walton.

Chocolate parfait

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Speaking of Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse…

A tour and tasting there this week had me salivating over shrimp and grits, crispy chicken and waffles, juicy bone-in rib-eye and a shrimp “garbage” salad with 23 ingredients, but my favorite bite by far was the crispy, golden, buttery and extra garlic-y garlic bread doused with a melty Wisconsin blue cheese fondue. Besides the fact that MJ’s is a pretty stunning restaurant with a contemporary bridge that brings you up and close and personal with the InterContinental’s historic lobby ceiling, and separates the dining rooms, it may be the best reason to make a reservation. Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, 505 N. Michigan Ave., 312.655.2300

Garlic bread with Ader Käse Reserve Blue Cheese fondue

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Salted Caramel popsicles

I love me some pop-up shops, especially when they involve things like dark chocolate pudding and kicky Mexican mole coming together in one velvety, homemade popsicle. Salted Caramel confections set up shop for one day last weekend in Lincoln Square, where they doled out small-batch offerings of other popsicle flavors like cherry-cucumber, Thai Mango curry yogurt made with coconut milk, and granitas in flavors like watermelon-coriander and orange-lime. Unlike the sickly sweet popsicles of your past (remember push-ups? Blech), you can taste the actual flavors rather than syrupy sugar. And balancing ingredients like mole, curry and Greek yogurt infuse the perfect amount of a savory, while dark chocolate and coconut milk keep things sweet. Check out their Facebook page to find out where to stock up on Salted Caramel pops, and pop-ups.

Chocolate-mole pudding popsicle

Other Salted Caramel goodies

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French toast post

Out of town guestage this weekend allowed for not one but two brunch opportunities, and it’s always hard to figure out where to go. I opted for two of my favorite patio- friendly standbys, Jam and Lula Cafe. OK, so technically it was lunch at Jam, but that didn’t stop us from devouring one of the best things on the brunch menu along with our savory lunch selections—the famous malted custard French toast with macerated rhubarb and whipped lime leaf cream sprinkled with crunchy pink peppercorns. I think I could just snack on pink peppercorns alone, but they also add little dots of spicy crunch to citrusy, light-as air cream, and the vanilla and malt dipped brioche is almost impossibly moist (it’s from the sous vide preparation), fluffy and sweet. And what good are duck confit and morel omelets and salmon scrambles without a sharable order of lavender custard-stuffed brioche French toast with fresh blueberries, olive oil shortbread crumble and whipped mascarpone from Lula Cafe? A layer of creamy lavender-tinged custard is hiding inside thick French toast while perfect blueberries and the rich crumble top it all off. Get a half order for the table, and then immediately wish you made it a full. Lula Cafe, 2537 N. Kedzie, Jam, 937 N. Damen.

Malted Custard French toast at Jam

Lavender custard-stuffed French toast

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5 reasons why I love…The Purple Pig

Oh man, there really are so many more than 5, but categories are categories, so here goes it…
1. The menu. Sure there are plenty of small plates menus out there, but I love the variety and depth of Purple Pig’s. And by depth I mean you pretty much want one of everything, from seasonal antipasti like salt-roasted beets with whipped goat cheese, to sardines with shaved fennel salad, pork liver pâté smears, and milk-braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes (a personal favorite), jamon serrano with oyster mushrooms and razor clams with oregano.
2. The vibe. So you might be just off Michigan Ave and steps from Nordstrom, but you have no idea once inside. The space remains intimate and cozy, and you don’t mind being just a few inches from you neighbors at the banquette, and the communal table and bar is always bustling. I also love the music—it’s loud enough to add the right amount of energy, and quiet enough for the server to still hear your order, plus it’s always awesomely random…ranging from Rush to Jay-Z.
3. Service. Always on point. The menu and wine list (also amazing!) are extensive and it’s great when you servers can help you choose a pairing for pig’s ears, decide among 7 enticing smears and make sure you didn’t miss the pork fried almonds with rosemary and garlic starter.
4. The dolci. Pig ear’d out or not, don’t skip dessert. Think hot espresso poured over toasted cinnamon gelato, a Sicilian Iris (ricotta with chocolate chip filled brioche) and Italian wedding cookies.
5. Turkey legs. A massive, sweet glazed one is on the spring menu and I tackled that thing (with a dining companion) like I was at Medieval Times and our knight was kicking some serious arena-ass. The Purple Pig, 500 N. Michigan Ave.

Peas and bacon with Pecorino and spearmint

Spring peas and faro with red pearl onions and feta

Sardines with shaved fennel salad and lemon vinaigrette

Razer clams with oregano, lemon and olive oil

Carrot salad with fig conserva

OMG...turkey leg.

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Sweet on Girl & the Goat

I mean, who isn’t? If you’ve been lucky enough to dine at the James Beard Award nominated-restaurant, you understand the deliciousness that is Stephanie Izard’s hiramasa crudo, goat, veal and pork sugo, housemade bread slathered with f’ing chicken liver butter (I mean, sweet Jesus), and every other savory dish served up by a killer staff. But lately it’s the sweet side of the menu that has me clamoring to repeatedly score a last minute seat at a communal dining table. And even when that does happen (try after 9:30PM early in the week), and you think you’re too full for dessert, the menu arrives taunting you with evil promises of bourbon apples with maple fat gelato and sesame semifreddo with pork fat donuts. Just like the savory side of the menu, these surprising flavor and ingredient combinations take the desserts at G & G off the charts..namely two I was lucky enough to enjoy in the last few weeks. The first is the blood orange sorbet with parsnip pot de crème, moist pistachio cake, crumbly cornmeal crust and a cluster of crisp candied parsnips that (in this photo) mask the perfection that is this dessert (photo does not do justice, just go, order before its taken off, repeat).

Blood orange sorbet with parsnip pot de crème

Just when one vegetable-tinged dessert blew me away, along came another just this past weekend, the bittersweet chocolate with shiitake gelato, mushroom gastrique and toffee crème fraîche. The wacky combo seems a little too out there to work and it does get just a little messy on the plate, but no matter—the balance of bittersweet chocolate cake, hefty scoop of just slightly mushroom-flavored gelato (it’s actually delicious on its own), subtle mushroom gastrique and crunchy bits of toffee and a drizzle of rich crème fraîche is so rich and perfect it’s downright ridiculous, and currently on top 5 favorite desserts of all time. Girl & the Goat, 809 W. Randolph St., 312.492.6262

The bittersweet chocolate cake with shiitake gelato might be the best dessert at shiitake.

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Cake for a King

No this isn’t an outtake from (please check out this site if you haven’t already), but the totally delish King Cake from Alliance Bakery my very generous co-worker brought to the office yesterday. Although there are many versions, this one was kind of a flaky almost raisin sweet roll topped with vanilla frosting in all the right Mardi Gras colors. The plastic baby hidden inside almost fell victim to the knife as I was cutting, but was spared just in time. Either way, I’m glad I snapped this photo when I did, as this festive round loaf of goodness didn’t stick around long. Alliance Bakery & Cafe, 1736 W. Division Street.

King cake from Alliance bakery

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