Thursday, August 21

Le Colonial's Secret Menu

A few weeks ago the BF and I made a pit stop in the Viagra Triangle at French Vietnamese hot spot Le Colonial. I had been to Le Colonial for lunch during restaurant week, but was very excited to check out the dinner menu.

The dining room was especially packed during the weeknight we were there, but we managed to grab the same cozy corner table I had on my previous visit. We kicked things off with some cocktails and wine and the Cha Gio, or fried spring rolls with shrimp, pork, and Asian mushrooms. The spring rolls came with lettuce, mint, carrots and pickled daikon which are used as a wrap around the spring rolls. Finally--a way to make egg rolls (kinda) healthier! I loved the chili lime dipping sauce and the fresh mint!

Fried Spring Rolls
Our server recommended we try the Ca Bam Xuc Banh Trang, or wok-seared monkfish with chili, turmeric, lemongrass, peanuts, and toasted sesame crackers. This was truly a unique appetizer and we loved the sweet sesame crisps paired with the savory chopped fish.

Wok-seared monkfish
For our main courses, we decided to split two very different entrees. The first was Ga Xao Cari and it was SO good! This dish consisted of sauteed chicken with Japanese eggplant, mango, yams, string beans, and cashews in a yellow curry sauce. Mango is by far my favorite fruit so I automatically gravitate toward any dish with mango. The BF and I enjoyed the blend of sweet, spicy, crunchy and creamy. I'd definitely order this again!

Sauteed Chicken with Chinese Eggplant,  Mango, Yams, Yellow Curry
For our second entree, we tried Le Colonial's #OffTheMenu special, Com Thit Nuong. Every month, Le Colonial offers a special secret entree which it promotes via social media. The dish we tried was a deconstructed pork fried rice with thinly-sliced barbecue pork, white rice, a sunny-side up egg, and a lime-garlic sauce. It was fun to combine the ingredients ourselves and determine the exact flavoring we wanted.

Deconstructed Barbecue Pork Fried Rice
For the month of August, Le Colonial is offering the Goi Muc calamari salad as its #OffTheMenu special. The salad features chilled calamari, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, and chopped cashews, and is topped with a chili lime vinaigrette.

Calamari Salad
Photo Credit: Le Colonial
If you're looking for a change from standard Asian fare, Le Colonial is a great option. The menu offers many unique and flavorful dishes for a variety of palates and the #OffTheMenu special ensures the menu is always changing. Head over to Le Colonial for a lovely lunch or romantic dinner, and say, "I'll have something off the menu."

Note: my meal at Le Colonial was complimentary; however, the opinions expressed herein are my own.

Le Colonial
937 N. Rush St.
Chicago, IL 60611
Le Colonial on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 11

Chicago Food Bloggers Check Out Coppervine

A few weeks ago I ventured to Lincoln Park's Coppervine with fellow foodies and food bloggers from Chicago Food Bloggers. Coppervine prides itself on providing the perfect pairing for all of its dishes. Each item on the menu is listed alongside a suggested wine, beer, and cocktail pairing. While participation is not mandatory, Coppervine says they usually have a 90% participation rate in a pairing for at least one course.

My evening was shared with fellow bloggers Christine from Chritiques, Starr from Chicago Foodie Girl, Douglas from Chicago Pinot, and Mike from Chicago Food Bloggers. We were led on a journey through all aspects of the menu, paired with wine, beer, and cocktails. Our trusty tour guides were Owner and Sommelier Don Sritong, and Chef David Wang.

For starters, we tried three small plates paired with beers. The first was blue lump crab fritters served with a guindilla pepper aioli. I thought these fritters has a nice spice to them, and the sauce was nicely balanced between citrus and sweet. The pairing was Brooklyn Blast IPA.

Blue Lump Crab Fritters, Guindilla Pepper Aioli
Next up was the classic ahi tuna tartare served with slices of hen egg and a side of crostini. I like ahi but had never tried it with egg. The creaminess really helped compliment the ahi's texture. This dish was paired with Founder's Centennial IPA which is a double IPA. The maltiness of the beer helped balance the saltiness of the ahi.

Ahi Tuna Tartare
The third and final small plate our group tried was the Maine lobster mac and cheese topped with a panko-romano crust. You can never really go wrong with a good, old-fashioned mac! This was paired with Two Brothers' SideKick Extra Pale Ale which has citra hops to cut the richness and complexity of the mac and cheese.

Maine Lobster Mac & Cheese
Moving along to the flatbread section of Coppervine's menu landed us with the mozzarella di bufala flatbread with mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, basil, and roasted garlic. The flatbread was fairly simple in execution, but it wasn't until we tried it with the cocktail pairing that it truly shined. The cocktail pairing was an heirloom daquiri with tequila, tomato, basil, and lime. Yes, there was tomato in my drink and it was fantastic. It truly highlighted the acidity of the tomatoes in the flatbread.

Mozzarella di Bufala Flatbread
Cocktail Pairings (L to R: Heirloom Daquiri, The Standard, Brown Butter Old Fashioned)
Next, we checked out three items from the medium plates section of the menu. The first was the Maine Lobster BLT with Nueske's apple smoked bacon, and heirloom tomatoes (sense a theme?). This was quite the decadent little sandwich and was held together with two pieces of buttery Texas toast. There was also a faint hint of truffle mayo, which never hurt anyone. Our cocktail pairing was the number one selling cocktail at Coppervine, the Brown Butter Old Fashioned, a blend of brown butter infused bourbon (whaaat), brown sugar, and aromatic bitters. This tasted similar to a sweet tea cocktail and I loved the way it washed down the buttery lobster sandwich.

Maine Lobster BLT
Coppervine's homemade English pea agnolotti pasta was next and included green beans, lobster mushrooms, burrata, and mizuna greens. I liked the contrast of the warm pasta with the cool burrata. The cocktail pairing, The Standard, with gin, St. Germain, maraschino, egg white, and lemon, offered a savory and bright balance.

English Pea Agnolotti
Diver Scallops
Lastly, we tried the diver scallops with morel mushrooms, English peas, tomato butter, and English pea puree. These were uber buttery and smooth and nicely paired with butter chardonnay.

For our last round of main plates, we explored the large plate section of the menu, paired with wine tastings.

Wine Pairings (L to R: Sparkling, Chardonnay, Syrah)
The best-selling large plate is Coppervine's fried chicken which is served with buttermilk whipped potatoes. I was surprised to find the chicken was not greasy, instead it was nicely crispy and salty. The pairing for this dish was a dry sparkling wine which worked beautifully. Fried chicken and bubbly might just be my new favorite thing (I know some others who might agree!).

Fried Chicken
Buttermilk Whipped Potatoes, Cajun Gravy
My favorite dish of the evening was the lamb t-bone which was served with heirloom baby carrots and mint chimichurri. I thought this dish was seasoned very well and it was paired with an earthy California red wine.

Lamb T-Bone
For dessert we taste tested a rhubarb cobbler with mint ice cream. I loved the freshness of the rhubarb and the ice cream. The pairing for this dessert really surprised me because it was Timmermans strawberry lambic, something I usually hate (I'm not a fan of sweet beers). However, when paired with the cobbler, it was great!

Rhubarb Cobbler with Mint Ice Cream
We also tried a molten chocolate cake with chantilly cream which was paired with a madeira port, which I did not particularly like (too sweet!).

Molten Chocolate Cake with Chantilly Cream
I had a great time wining and dining with fellow Chicago food bloggers and sampling a huge selection of Coppervine's menu. I applaud the restaurant for taking a risk with their concept, and would recommend it for light bites and drinks whenever you're in the ever-so-popular Halsted and Armitage area.

Note: my meal at Coppervine was complimentary; however, the opinions expressed herein are my own.

1962 N. Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614
Coppervine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 6

Mexican & Margs in River North!

A few weeks ago during the World Cup, my friend Sara and I checked out a few games while chowing down on Mexican grub at the River North location of Moe's Cantina. Lucky for us, we were there on a weekend and they were serving both brunch and lunch with endless options for filling our bellies.

We tried some special items for the World Cup including pachuco which essentially are the Mexican version of a spring roll with ground beef and potatoes. These were surprisingly not greasy, but lacked overall flavor, unfortunately.

A trip to Moe's isn't complete without some tequila so we tried the Holy Water Margarita with Patron Silver, agave nectar, lime juice, and a black lava sea salt rim. We loved this marg because it was super fresh and not overly sweet.

Holy Water Margarita
We also tried a classic mojito which was loaded with fresh mint and a healthy portion of rum :) The passion fruit sangria was definitely the most interesting drink we tried because it arrived topped with a jalapeno pepper filled with tequila (I let Sara take one for the team). The sangria featured Lunazal reposado, habanero-infused syrup, passion fruit puree, pinot grigio, and a ground chili pepper rim.
Passion Fruit Sangria
One of Moe's brunch options is the chorizo breakfast burrito. This is definitely an entree for those with a large appetite! The chorizo was nicely seasoned and the burrito was also stuffed with eggs, chihuahua cheese, avocado and jalapenos. Mexican rice and a side of potatoes and veggies rounded out the dish. I'm guessing this bad boy would cure any hangover!

Chorizo Breakfast Burrito
The World Cup menu also included Mexican torta sandwiches which were large enough to feed several people. We tried the chicken torta with breaded chicken, lettuce, tomato, and a creamy sauce. I liked the bread and the fresh, layered, ingredients.

Chicken Torta
Other food highlights included fish tacos with mango salsa, jalapeno slaw, and cilantro, as well as mini sopes filled with chicken, pork, and veggies.

Fish Tacos
Mini Sopes
In addition to traditional Mexican fare, Moe's also specializes in mesquite-grilled skewers. We tried the paprika and olive oil-glazed chicken breast and both agreed this was one of the highlights of our meal.

Chicken Skewer
Since I always made room for dessert (even though we were extremely full) we tried some churros and ice cream. The churros were perfectly crispy and topped with caramel sauce, and the vanilla ice cream made for a great pairing. It was a sweet end to our indulgent afternoon.

Churros and Ice Cream
Moe's is a great spot for watching sports and getting your Mexican food fix--just make sure you save room for those churros!

Note: my meal at Moe's Cantina was complimentary; however, opinions expressed herein are my own.

Moe's Cantina
155 W. Kinzie St.
Chicago, IL 60654
Moe's Cantina on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 23

Underground Summer Libations

River North's The Underground launched its new summer cocktail menu this month! The six new cocktails are crafted by head mixologist Jon Ruiz. On a recent visit to The Underground, I checked out samples of these new cocktails and was impressed by the wide variety of flavors and ingredients. Not to mention, then entire space at The Underground has been completely transformed.

The new cocktails include:

  • Kiwi Mule: Effen Blackberry, ginger beer, and muddled kiwis
  • Blackberry DNA: Belvedere vodka, St. Germain, agave, and muddled blackberries
  • Raspberry Bunker: Cointreau Noir, muddled raspberries, agave, pomegranate liqueur, grapefruit juice, and Piper Sonoma
  • Spiced Carrot Cake: Grey Goose Melon, Ancho Chile Liqueur, carrot juice with apple orange and pineapple juices and agave nectar
  • French Apricot 56: Oxley gin, cointreau, apricot giffards, Xante yellow label topped with Piper Sonoma
  • Cassis Martini: Bombay Sapphire, orange juice, creme de cassis, agave and basil leaves

Can you guess which drink was my favorite? Check out some photos of the new cocktails below!

Blackberry DNA
Photo Credit: The Underground
French Apricot 56
Photo Credit: The Underground
Kiwi Mule
Photo Credit: The Underground
The Underground
56 W. Illinois Street
Chicago, IL60654

Wednesday, July 16

Summer Eats at Allium

Prosecco anyone?
Allium, located on the 7th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, recently acquired a new chef who's already making waves in Streeterville. Executive Chef Stephen Wambach has a pretty impressive resume, having worked or opened restaurants in New York, Miami, Burgundy, Rio de Janeiro, Beirut, Hong Kong, Lebanon, and the list goes on. He also helped open Chicago's Epic in 2009.

I had the opportunity to sample some of his creations recently launched as part of Allium's summer menu. The beautiful restaurant is tastefully decorated, as one would expect at any Four Seasons Hotel. The food is just as beautiful, each dish delicately crafted and plated, creating the ultimate food porn. On my recent visit, we sampled a selection of smaller bite-sized versions of Chef Wambach's creations. One of the most flavorful was the fresh ahi topped with shaved black truffle. I could have watched the chefs shaving truffle The dish burst with flavor, as anything topped with fresh truffle does.

Tuna & Fresh Black Truffle
Other summer menu highlights include a white asparagus gazpacho with marcona almond, cucumber, mint, grape, and yogurt. It was almost too beautiful to eat! I loved the savory soup combined with the sweetness of the grape and almond. Other fresh options include ceviche and lemon fish crudo.

White Asparagus Gazpacho
Desserts were also unbelievable! We tried some boozy milkshakes (who doesn't love a good boozy shake?!), homemade creamisicles, brownie bites dipped in chocolate and topped with cotton candy (woah) and apricot macarons. You probably know by now that my favorite course is dessert, and I was not disappointed. I felt like I was in some sugar-filled dream where I didn't know what shape or flavored dessert would pop up next. It was glorious.

Homemade Creamsicles
Allium is a fantastic spot for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or brunch, or even a glass of bubbly and some sweet treats. I can't wait to return to see what Chef Wambach creates next!

Note: my meal at Allium was complimentary, however, the opinions expressed herein are my own.

Four Seasons Hotel Chicago
120 E. Delaware Place
Chicago, IL 60611
Allium on Urbanspoon