Tango Sur and Chimichurri Avocado Bruschetta

This week, my dinner club and I went out to Chicago’s favorite spot for Argentinian food, Tango Sur. Before I went, I spent a while stalking the menu as I usually do, but  this one was particularly hard to narrow down my choices. I had more than 12 things I wanted to try! The one thing I KNEW I had to try were their empanadas. Thankfully, I got to try a few different ones: Spinach and cheese, ham and cheese and beef. For me, the ham and cheese topped the charts. Dipping it in the accompanying chimichurri sauce, the whole empanada was gone in about 30 seconds!

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While everyone at the table went with the the filet served with spinach mashed potatoes, I went a different route and got a chicken dish. It was HUGE but so delicious that I ended up eating the whole thing. The chicken was called Suprema a la Napolitana and was served breaded and fried and topped with ham, mozzarella and tomato sauce. 

El Filet:

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Suprema a la Napolitana:

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While I literally had nothing left on my plate at the end of dinner, I did get to bring something home with me. The delicious chimichurri! We asked for extra to dip our potatoes in and WOW, that stuff is delicious. The next night I decided to make an appetizer with the amazing sauce: Chimichurri Avocado Bruschetta. This is a super easy recipe to make if you already have pre-made chimichurri like I did. If you want to go all out and make your own, I certainly encourage it! You can find a great recipe for homemade chimichurri: here.

Basically all you do with this appetizer is toast some sliced baguettes, chop some avocados, toss those with the chimichurri and top on the sliced baguettes. It’s simple, elegant and delicious!

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Enjoy!

Mercadito

While I still have a lot of Chicago Mexican restaurants to check off my list, I think Mercadito will always hold the crown as my number one. They have my all-time favorite taco on their menu (the camarón featured below) and some of the most unique margaritas I’ve ever tried. I also devour their awesome mango guacamole each time I’m there! While Mercadito is a little on the expensive side, you are sure to never leave hungry as these tacos are certainly belly-fillers. Here is what I got the last time I was there for dinner, but their menu has so many options and you can never go wrong with what you order!

We started off with a duo of their house-made guacamole. Choosing the Traditional, that had tomatillo pico de gallo, jalapeño, garlic, key-lime, cilantro and the Mango with jícama, chipotle, pico de gallo were two very wise decisions!

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I’ve been trying to work my way through their cocktail menu, so each time I go I try a couple different ones. The last time I went I got the most unique margarita I’ve ever tried called the “Smokey Pablo” which reminded me of a blueberry barbecue sauce– very different! This time I went with two that were more refreshing. The first was the V-9  which had pineapple, greens, ginger and lemon. It was quite tasty.

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The second margarita I tried was their Pera Te which had black tea infused tequila, pear, lime juice and agave nectar. While I didn’t like this one as much as the V-9, it was still enjoyable!

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For dinner we did what most people do when they come to Mercadito- share the tacos to try as many as possible before getting stuffed! The first to come out was the Estilo Baja with beer battered mahi-mahi, some spicy aioli and mexican-style coleslaw. YUM.

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The next taco we ordered was my personal favorite, the Camarón. I mostly like this because of the always cooked-to-perfection tender pieces of shrimp and the really spicy sauce they drench this taco in. It is heaven on a homemade tortilla!

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The last taco we got was on special that night and incorporated some Italian flavors, which I can never say no to! This was a meatball taco with mozzarella, basil and cherry tomatoes. I’ve never had anything like it, it was so so good! And it was a good thing we ended on this one because it was the most filling out of all of them.

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If you are ever craving some never-fail-delicious Mexican in Chicago, Mercadito is the way to go!

Little Goat

An hour wait? No problem! As long as I get to try Stephanie Izard’s new restaurant Little Goat. Located across the street from her now famous Girl and the Goat, this place is set up diner style, but with Izard’s own flair planted on the design and menu items. All traditional foods you’d find at any average diner come with a spin at this place. Think pork and toffee milkshake or sloppy joes with goat meat. Everything we ended up ordering was a-maz-ing, I just wish we had the stomach space to try more!

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“The Little Goat” Coffee was rich and creamy and made with steamed goat’s milk.

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The spiced apple pancake with cream cheese butter and oatmeal crumble was just….decadent!

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Gluten free sourdough pancakes for my gluten free friend!

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“Los Drowned” with braised beef, avocado, buttercase cheese, pickle and spicy mayo on a hoagie. This came with a delish au jus type dipping sauce.

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Of course had to get the side of mac and cheese with breadcrumbs for the table! No complaints, no complaints at all.

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And last but not least was my order: Chicken Cordon Bleu with breaded chicken, ham, brie cheese sauce, kraut, and pickled peppers on a homemade potato bun. Even though this was probably the messiest sandwich I’ve ever had, so messy a fork and knife were definitely necessary, every bite was so well balanced and tasty that the mess stopped mattering. I loved it all.

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You can really tell that Stephanie puts her heart and soul and creating each and every dish. This is a place where you can really taste the passion!

Balena

So glad I finally got to try Balena in Lincoln Park! I have been meaning to try this place for a while, so 5 friends and I went to check it out last week. Chris Padel, the restaurant’s head chef, was in the running for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant; that’s some serious stuff! Balena was also nominated for Best New Restaurant in the Chicago Foodie’s Bible- Time Out Chicago. I always trust the food writer’s opinions in that magazine and that was the big reason I was so tempted by this restaurant’s tantalizing menu.Image

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Balena means “whale” in Italian, and after feasting on these delicious menu items, I think we all felt pretty whale-like…(but well worth it).

We started with two pizzas. The first, and all around favorite of the two, was the Spicy sausage pizza with red onion, tomato and mozzarella. The crust was so fresh and all of the ingredients melded perfectly together for a cheesy, spicy, warm slice.

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The second pizza was the brussel sprout pizza with pancetta, pecorino and red onion. It had a salty/lemony flavor with the crisp leafy texture from the sprouts. Still a really good pizza, but nothing compared to the spicy sausage which was scarfed down by the table within 10 minutes. The brussel sprout pizza had two slicing remaining. The winner was clear.

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Everyone got their own pasta dish for the main course. I like how the pasta dishes weren’t humungous like most Italian eateries. I was happily able to eat every last bite of mine. The most popular dish at the table was the Tagliolini Nero which was an ink pasta with crab, sea urchin and chili. Three people at the table ordered it! This dish reminded me exactly of the pasta I ordered at RPM Italian and I have to say, RPM take the cake on that one. Everyone at the table really enjoyed Balena’s Tagliolini Nero, for me, it was my least favorite.

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I ordered the Orecchiette based off of the waiter’s heartfelt recommendation for it. I was very impressed! This dish came with kale, lemon, chili and toasted breadcrumbs that added some great texture on top of the creamy sauce. I only let one person at the table take a taste and I ate all the rest!

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The last thing I tried was the Rigatoni with pork ragu and porcini mushrooms. Mushrooms are probably the only food I do not enjoy so I poked at the pasta and pork sauce which was really delicious.

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Everyone really enjoyed their dinner at Balena, I hope to go back soon and try some more of their amazing-looking pizzas!

An Italian Wedding Shower

This past weekend, My mom and my aunts put on a beautiful wedding shower for my cousin. Their hard work paid off in everything from the food, to the decorations to the music- it felt like we were in Tuscany! Check out some of the highlights:

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The amazing stuffed shells were made by Aunt Jo! She made them based off of the colors of the Italian flag- Pesto Chicken for the green, Lemon Basil Ricotta for the white and Turkey Sausage and Artichoke with Marinara for the red. She put her own little spins off of the below recipes, like using her own homemade marinara sauce and adding ricotta instead of cream cheese to the pesto shells. Try them out! I have a hard time choosing my favorite because they were all so yummy, but I think I lean towards the awesome pesto shells!

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells

Lemon Basil Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Turkey Sausage and Artichoke Stuffed Shells

Chicago Restaurant Week – Frontier

We went to another Chicago restaurant week spot last Wednesday – Frontier! This place’s menu caught my attention right away because of the interesting and exotic types of food they offered. And also because their restaurant week menu featured a gourmet s’more, one of my all-time favorite desserts. This place was in the Wicker Park area of Chicago, a bit of a trek from where I live, but definitely worth the distance. Going with three people was perfect because we all ordered different things to cover all the options on the menu. Here is what we ate and enjoyed:

Kangaroo Chili (told you it was exotic!) This was served with marrow bones, cheddar cheese and creme fraiche. Who knew kangaroo would be this tasty?

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Antelope Meatballs with gouda and gnocchi. Probably my least favorite of the appetizers, but at least I got to try antelope once in my life. It had an “interesting” texture to say the least.

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Duck tacos…phenomenal! Hoping more of my future tacos can include duck.

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Some of the other appetizers options on their regular menu included some crazy dishes such as gator ribs, elk shepard’s pie and duck heart.

Moving onto the entrees….The first is what my friend ordered. The wild boar with sweet potato puree, campfire marshmallow, and blackberry BBQ sauce. Yum!

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My other friend tried the banana leaf salmon with black rice. This was awesome and tropical/coconutty tasting. and my second run in with black rice in one week…no complaints!

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The entree that I ordered was the Amish chicken and this was to.die.for. Every component from the bourbon sauce on the chicken to the creamy 5 cheese mac and even the watercress salad was amazing. The entire table agreed it was the best part of all our meals.

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And to highlight the mac and cheese one more time since it was THAT good.

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Last but certainly not least was the Gourmet S’more with a homemade graham cracker, honey marshmallow and bourbon chocolate. So tasty but definitely strayed from the familiar taste of a campfire s’more.

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I would (and already have!) recommend Frontier. The place has some really good food and I will make my way back there in the near future to try some more. They even offer a whole roasted pig for $500! If my dream of winning the lottery comes true I’ll treat you all to that pig and more at this place.

Chicago Restaurant Week – Union Sushi + Barbecue Bar

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Chicago Restaurant Week is upon us! That wonderful time of year when many restaurants in the city of Chicago gather their favorite menu items and put the choices on their pre-fixed menus. $22 for lunches and $33 or $44 for dinners. It’s a great way to try some of the great places to eat for a more affordable price. Two of my friends and I went to Union Sushi and Barbecue Bar on Friday night for the perfect start to February. Between the three of us we got to try almost every item on their Restaurant week menu…here are the highlights!

Some silky smooth miso soup.

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Truffled tuna with avocado and wonton chips.

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Black pepper shrimp. Had a really good punch of heat in each bite.

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And my favorite of the appetizers was the Cobia Carpaccio. How pretty is this?! It was very citrus-y with grapefruit and orange flavors that really made the dish taste fresh and awake.

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One of the main courses we tried was the Surf and Turf with beef, jumbo shrimp and sweet potato cream

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And we also got the sushi platter with the Black Rice Tuna roll and the Shrimp Tempura roll. Both were awesome and I loved trying black rice sushi for the first time.

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Here is J from the lifestyle blog Lace and Lacquer enjoying her sushi.

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For dessert we enjoyed a “Killer Yuzu Pie,” which was much like a key lime pie, as well as a Pumpkin Mochi Cake that had cream cheese ice cream, caramel and pumpkin brittle.

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Go here. It’s real tasty.

Dose Market

Last Sunday I headed over to the River North Art Center to attend Dose Market. It was my first time there but I already cannot wait to go back! I had so much fun wandering around and looking at what each vendor had to offer. And the best part about this market? The free samples! I got to try some great bites and discovered some new eateries that I didn’t know Chicago had to offer.In addition to the yummy bites there were many vendors selling gorgeous jewelry, clothing and purses. The next Dose Market in on 12/9 and I will surely be coming back to get some unique holiday shopping done! Here are some of the highlights:

Green Smoothie and Around the World Smoothie from Loop Juice:

Salted Caramels from Truffle Truffle:

Sweet Corn Cake, Beer and Bacon, Confetti and Fleur de Sel Caramel Cake Truffles from Lizzie’s Bake Shoppe:

Bacon Cheddar Biscuits from Uptown Soda Bread Co.:

Some delicious homemade butter from Fayette Creamery in Wisconsin:

My Purchase! Amazing Raspberry Jalapeno Preserves from Thornburg and Company:

aaaand my favorite non-food-related spotting in the market were these cute clutches! They remind me of an upscale version of a brown paper bag 🙂 I like it in the black

If you live in the Chicagoland area do not miss out on Dose market! Its a great way to find some hidden gems in this wonderful city.

Bar Ombra

Last weekend my friend R from laceandlacquer.com and I went out to dinner in Andersonville in Chicago. We wanted to step out of the bounds of our usual spots and try something fresh and new. We decided on Bar Ombra which was featured in Chicago Magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 2012. Because R is a vegetarian this place looked like it had a lot of menu items that would be fitting. And it was a tapas place so we could try a much of their delicious looking dishes!

The place had a great ambiance with walls dressed with old newspapers, chalkboards displaying the menu, wooden booths and leather seats made out of old leather jackets!

We started out with a bottle of red Pratello Rebo that was smooth and tasty!

Next we moved onto the Cicchetti part of the menu for little tastes of different vegetarian dishes. They served this to us all on a clean white plate and we dug in…

Clockwise from the spoon we ordered:

Charred corn with tomatoes and watercress pesto (our fav!)

Tomato, watermelon and rind salad with feta

Cabbage with golden raisins

Grilled summer squash and peppers with red wine vinaigrette (waiter’s suggestion…don’t know why he’d suggest such an average dish)

Roasted apples with pecorino cheese, walnuts and balsamic

….We thought of this as an appetizer because the dishes were not very big but gave us a great taste of what their menu had to offer. Like i said the corn was our favorite! We probably got the last of the summer’s fresh corn and the pesto that went along with it was a great complement to the dish. I also really enjoyed the roasted apples but it only came with one apple that we had to split. The tomato and watermelon salad was a winner but we both tossed aside the rinds that were in the salad because they were a little too watery and firm. The cabbage was cole slaw-like and the golden raisins were a nice touch (I’m going to steal that for the next time I make cole slaw!)

Next we ordered from the insalate, panani, fritti, pizette, bruschette and fromaggi parts of the menu. First we got the Pecornino cheese platter that came with sliced baguettes, jam and mustard. The cheese was phenomenal and we mostly ate it without the pairings.

Then was the beet salad with watercress, gorgonzola and walnuts. Beets are always a favorite to me and this salad in particular was awesome. Needless to say I gobbled this one down.

The bruschetta with peaches, almonds, goat cheese and chives was next. This was something on the menu I was anticipating to be my favorite. However it was a bit of a disappointment. The goat cheese was put on so heavily that it overwhelmed the whole dish. I couldn’t even taste the peaches which were not as juicy as I had hoped.

Next up was the arancini neri, the black rice balls. These were really yummy and it was a nice touch that they used black rice for the inside. Just wish the marinara they served it with was smoother so I could dip it more easily!

Last of the main course(s) was the margherita pizza. Can never complain about pizza made from scratch…delicious!

We ended our entire meal with coffee and tiramisu then went out on the town with extremely full bellies! Needless to say I would recommend this place when you want an upscale meal with lots of choices! Even if you do leave a little too full to move!

 

Toro Sushi

Sushi oh sushi oh sushi, you tend to be one of my splurge weaknesses.

Toro Sushi is my hands down favorite sushi place in Chicago. It is this tiny, BYOB place on Clark street in Lincoln Park and has the best shark mural on it’s wall that I have ever seen (sorry forgot to take a picture of that beauty)! Usually this place is packed everyday of the week so the wait can be rather long, but well worth it. This time I sat at the sushi bar and was immediately greeted with a fist bump by this guy:

He was pretty fun and engaging to be eating around. After the people next to us asked him to “surprise them” he made them the dish in the first picture I posted above. They told him to “give them something that would wow them,” and he topped that off with flecks of gold from a little flask, told them to enjoy, and said it was a “secret creation,” and wouldn’t tell them the what they were eating. I still don’t know what they ate but it sure was pretty and they said that it was delish.

My friend and I started out with an order of edamame, as I always do before a sushi dinner.

Next we ordered the Kamikaze Roll that was made with tuna, yellowtail, super white tuna, salmon, tilapia, sunflower seeds and spicy mayo. Lots of fish! We didn’t expect it to come out in the presentation that it did but it turned out to be our favorite of the night. I found myself stealing the last piece from my friend…whoops!

Next roll that came was the Southern Gals… gotta get at least ONE deep fried roll! This one had deep fried spicy tuna, mozzarella, scallions, sesame seeds and unagi sauce. One thing I like about this place is that they are not afraid to experiment with non-traditional sushi ingredients , a.k.a the mozzarella, which added a whole new level of awesome-ness to this roll.

Last but not least was the Oh My God Roll. That had tempura shrimp, kani salad, cream cheese, mango, cucumber, avocado, tempura crumbs and some sort of “tiffany” sauce.” I love my spicy foods so I loaded this one up with wasabi.  Another winner. Seriously, you cannot go wrong here!

Every time I come I try to order something new so next time I’ll be sure to update with other awesome rolls from Toro. Finishing this post I realize I have been out to a lot of splurge meals lately….next post to come will be a healthy, home cooked meal! Hopefully any Sushi-lovin’ Chicagoan has gone here because it is for sure the best in the town!