Monday, May 16

Recent Foodie Finds

Happy Monday! Welcome back to another delicious round-up of recent foodie finds! This week I'm featuring a sushi mecca, a happy hour hot spot, and a classic French restaurant in the West Loop, a couple dinner spots, plus recaps of some fabulous foodie events!

Kai Zan
Kai Zan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Several weeks ago, I had my first uni experience at Kai Zan in Humboldt Park! Rosie of @Ms.Rosie.Mo set up an amazing omakase style dinner for a group of us foodie Instagrammers, and it was an evening filled with course after course of fresh seafood. 10 courses to be exact! Kai Zan has these amazing wooden booths that make you feel like you’re in your own private room. It was the perfect setting for our dinner.

If you’re not familiar with uni, it’s sea urchin. It’s considered a delicacy by some because of its creamy and intensely rich flavor. It’s the type of thing that you either love or hate. Uni is not always available in restaurants because of where and how it’s sourced. It also is supposed to be eaten soon after it’s caught for the ultimate freshness.

We tried uni three different ways, including as an uni shooter with uni and scallops, ponzu sauce, quail egg, scallions, Tabasco, and black tobiko. This was my first taste of uni and I even got a video of me trying it. I liked it! It’s definitely something that I like mixed in with other flavors though. On its own it can be a little too funky. The other versions of uni we had included an uni-toro tartare which was served in a glass with uni, toro, pickled wasabi, scallions and shiso. On the side were pieces of nori which we used to wrap the tartare. You basically eat it like a hand roll. Our last taste of uni was tuna topped with a dollop of uni. I could really taste the uni on that bite and the funkiness got to me! 

Uni Shooters
Uni-Toro Tartare
Uni and Tuna
Each course of our dinner was fresh and beautifully presented. It was truly a great experience and a great value as well. I was so stuffed that when we got to the last course, a selection of sashimi, I could barely eat it. I forced myself to eat some though, and I was so glad I did.  The plate of sashimi included salmon, tuna, yellowtail, and escolar, with the last acting as my favorite. I just love the simplicity of sliced fish. 

Sashimi
Fiesta Maki
Polenta Bites
Madai Carpaccio
Orange Rush
If you love uni or sushi in general, you must plan a visit to Kai Zan. I highly recommend the omakase style menu if you’re up for a culinary adventure!


I’m giving Kai Zan 4.5 ghosts out of 5!






MAD Social
MAD Social Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

One of the hottest restaurant openings over the last few months is MAD Social in the West Loop. The restaurant is operated by Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants, specifically Gina Stefani, daughter of Phil Stefani. The restaurant is a great spot for after work happy hour, and dinner before a Blackhawks or Bulls game at the United Center down the street. I met up with Inez and Margaret for a post-work dinner and the place was buzzing. We ordered several cocktails including the Rosemary's Baby, a fragrant take on a Moscow mule. 

MAD Social encourages sharing its menu of small plates which are actually pretty larger portions. We split several items including the togarashi spiced chicken lollipops, shishito peppers, rope vieja, and Havarti mac and cheese.

Togarashi Spiced Chicken Lollipops
Shishito Peppers
Ropa Vieja
Havarti Mac & Cheese
For dessert we had to try the deep fried carrot cake. It was surprisingly light and crispy on the outside with a soft, moist cake center. They drizzled cream cheese frosting on with a heavy hand. A little too heavy if you ask me. Regardless, it was delicious, as most fried foods are.

Deep Fried Carrot Cake
I enjoyed many of the dishes we tried at MAD Social and felt the price points were very reasonable given the portion sizes. 

I’m giving MAD Social 4 ghosts out of 5!






La Sardine
La Sardine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A restaurant that has been on my list of places to try for awhile is La Sardine in the West Loop. The sister restaurant to Le Bouchon in Bucktown is located directly across the street from Harpo Studios. They opened in the 90s, well before the West Loop became the restaurant destination it is today. Sadly, shortly after we dined at La Sardine, the Chef and restaurateur Jean-Claude Poilevey was killed in a car accident. It was a horrible tragedy for the well-known Chef.

The BF and I went on a triple date to La Sardine during the week and I immediately loved the bistro-style space. It felt very classic to me, a welcome change from overly-trendy restaurants just a few blocks away. 

La Sardine
The menu is very traditional French, with a few specials thrown in. To start, we shared several cheeses, and meats, some of which are made in house. 

Cheese & Charcuterie
Housemade Sausages
For our main course, steak frites were a popular choice at our table. The large slab of herb butter on top of the charred steak was incredible. Fish also was a popular option, including a daily fish special, and a fjord trout. All of our entrees were excellent!

Steak Frites
Fjord Trout
Fish Special
La Sardine is known for their soufflés and offers two varieties each evening. We had to get both! One was a grand mariner and the other a classic chocolate. Each was topped table side with cream that melted beautifully on top. Definitely save room for dessert!

Chocolate Soufflé
I’m giving La Sardine 4 ghosts out of 5!






Marion Street Market
Marion Street Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A few weeks ago, I finally had the chance to check out Marion Street Market in Oak Park. It's convenient located off the green line, making it a breeze to get to from the city. I stopped in to try the new Summer menu and luckily it was warm enough outside that we could enjoy it al fresco!

The space was recently redesigned and features a beautiful dining room, outdoor patio, and wine and cheese shop. Their wine selection alone was drool-worthy!

Marion Street Market
Wine Selection
The Summer menu preview consisted of three courses paired with wines. Our first course was baby carrot frites with green goddess dressing on the side for dipping. I was obsessed with that dressing...I kind of I asked for some to go. The frites were good, but let's be honest, carrots will never compare with fried potatoes.

Baby Carrot Frites
We also tried a selection of cheeses, including a milk cheese, blue cheese, and cheddar. The cheddar was a 10 year Hook's cheddar (one of my favorites). If I had to pick one cheese to eat the rest of my life, it would be Hook's cheddar.

Cheese Flight
Our next course was a roasted half chicken with confit fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus, and citrus jus. The chicken was very juicy and tender, and the sauce was very buttery.

Roasted Half Chicken
Lastly, we tried beef tenderloin medallion with herbed fondue and French bread (yum!), pickled ramps, and lyonnaise potatoes. This dish was well balanced and the fondue was a hit, albeit very very rich.

Beef Tenderloin Medallions
I enjoyed the dishes we sampled during dinner, but I didn't think there was anything Summer-y about them. Most things were heavy, or heavily sauced. I would return for wine and cheese, but would hope to see some lighter menu items this Summer.

Forno Rosso
Forno Rosso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Have you tried Forno Rosso in the West Loop yet (They also have a location at Harlem and Addison)?! It's an AWESOME Neapolitan pizza spot serving up fast fired pies from their wood-burning oven.

Wood-Burning Oven

If you love uber-thin pizza loaded with fresh toppings, you'll be in love. Forno Rosso crafts their dough by hand using milled flour, filtered water, sea salt and fresh yeast. I stopped by on a weeknight with my friend Hannah to try two pies (and another for dessert!). We opted for the reginella pizza with tomatoes, organic mushrooms, prosciutto, imported bufala, and basil, as well as the pizza tartufo with black truffle pate (WHAT), local sausage, basil, mozzarella, and porcini mushrooms. I recommend trying one white and one red pizza to compare. The tartufo was super intense flavor-wise. If you love truffles, you will go crazy for this pizza. The reginella also was excellent, and the acidity from the tomatoes was a nice contrast to the richness of the tartufo pizza.

Pizza & Wine...What Could Be Better?
Pizza Tartufo
Reginella
We were stuffed silly but told we had to try the Nutella pizza. Yes, that's a thing. It's pizza dough filled with Nutella and sliced bananas, and topped with powdered sugar. It was doughy, nutty and delish! We paired it with hazelnut and pistachio gelato for good measure :)

Nutella Pizza & Gelato
Nutella Pizza

Baconfest

Piggy-Colada from Farmhouse
The 8th Annual Baconfest Chicago happened a few weeks ago at the UIC Forum. Baconfest Chicago is a delicious weekend that features top chefs and world-renowned restaurants over two days, and three sessions (Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner, and Sunday brunch - new this year). Each session features unique restaurants including more than 150 Chicago chefs, including 40 new participants this year. 

4,500 foodies, including myself, attended to eat all things bacon! Here are a few of my favorite bites from the Saturday dinner session. 

Vietnamese Roasted Suckling Pig Lettuce Wrap with Bacon Sausage & Bacon Inflused Bourbon Fish Sauce From Red Door
Maple Bacon Long John & Oreo Bacon Bomber From Glazed and Infused
Toasted Corn Bread, Arugula, Smoked Date Vinaigrette & Bacon Sandwich From Floriole
Oink S'mores From Public House
Oink S'mores From Public House
Italian Fried Dough Balls with Bacon, Garlic, Parmesan, Green Olive Puree & Bacon Infused Honey from Three Aces
If you have even a mild obsession with bacon, you will absolutely love Baconfest. I highly recommend attending next year if you've never been!

Frontier
Frontier Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I stopped by Frontier in Wicker Park for brunch a few weeks ago and was impressed with the quality of the food. I'd been to Frontier once before for their animal service (yes, you can order an entire animal to share with your meat-loving friends, with all of the fixins).

Some of the highlights of our meal were the homemade blueberry pop tart, the chicken biscuit sandwich, shrimp and corn grits, and house potatoes. OK, everything was delicious, including these deviled eggs.

Deviled Eggs
Blueberry Pop Tart
Shrimp & Corn Grits
Oysters
Chicken Biscuit Sandwich & Potatoes
Frontier has a solid brunch game, and if you haven't been yet, be sure to add it to your ever-growing brunch list!

Dunkin' Donuts' Instameet

The New Chocolate Chip Cookie
Last week I had an awesome opportunity to join Dunkin' Donuts for their first "Instameet" in Chicago. The event brought together a select group of Instagrammers at The Wooden Spoon in Andersonville. Dunkin' Donuts introduced their newest national menu item, a Chocolate Chip Cookie. We got to be one of the first people to try it, AND we learned to make it from scratch!

The event was hosted by blogger Jessica Sturdy of Bows & Sequins, and we were joined by Dunkin' Donuts' corporate chefs who guided us through the baking process. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ingredients
Mixing the Dough
I love to bake so I had a great time whipping up a batch of the cookies. They were crispy on the outside, gooey in the middle, and oh-so-buttery.


We also got to create two additional desserts using two new donuts, the blueberry cobbler croissant donut, and the caramel latte square. It was a delicious and sweet evening!

Blueberry Cobbler Croissant Donut
Caramel Latte Square
Note: My meals and events at Marion Street Market, Forno Rosso, Bacon Fest, Frontier, and Dunkin' Donuts were complimentary; however, all opinions are my own.

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