Best Things We Consumed in 2012

2012 brought some of our best food experiences yet — thanks to awesome newfound foodie friends and restaurants that arrived in our lives.  Underground dining proved to be a great way to meet new people and try ground breaking food. Looking forward to what 2013 has to offer!  Next restaurant is on the books as well as Sous Rising Underground and Thurk Underground and a preview of TMIP (Brandon Baltzley’s new restaurant). I’ll be sure to share.

Below is a compendium of the tastiest dishes and beverages we were fortunate to consume in 2012:

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One Sister Underground (Now Elizabeth Restaurant):
Spring Menu (see my full blog post on this menu here):
Beet: Marshmallow and biscuit with whipped bacon fat
Carrots and Cashews: Blanched, dehydrated & shaved carrots, cashew milk, roasted cashews, carrot top pesto
*1 Pill Makes You Larger: Cocoa nib and chamomile in a dissolving capsule
Rice Crispy and Bear: Puffed wild rice, cured black bear, Wisconsin cheddar, pink peppercorn
Chicken liver mousse: Chicken liver mousse encapsulated in dark cocoa, fennel pollen, madiera gel

Elizabeth Restaurant:
Owl menu:
*Carrot tea with ginger
Hen & Egg
Pear & Chestnut dessert
Deer menu:
*Tartare and Sumac
Salmon Cannoli
Forest Float
Porcini mushroom dessert
Diamond menu (see my full blog post on this menu here):
Foraged matsutake mushrooms and juniper powder on top of cinnamon custard
Loup de mer with apple cider gelee and sunchoke puree.
Oyster and Nasturtium (kumamoto oyster)
**Hamachi with fermented leek and fish sauce caramel (WINNER)

EL Ideas:
February Menu:
*Anise Hyssop:  Brussels/pecans/root beer
Ideas in Food collaboration dinner:
Sunflower seed risotto, porcini, and kombu
December Menu:
Octopus: eggplant / cardoon / garam masala
*Secreto: parsnip / horseradish / old bay
Wagyu: royal trumpet / sunchoke / leek

Thurk Underground:
Mushroom, dandelion, ricotta, and chicken skin
Cauliflower, cress, and egg yolk

Christmas Menu:
Mille-fuille: Puff pastry, lemon ricotta, apples, goat cheese. honey nut cereal infused rum, honey, lemon, frangelico
Sweet Potato: Chain vanilla parsnip, balsamic, truffle, hazelnut
Easter menu:
April Showers capon, cauliflower, Tokyo turnip
Heavy Metal menu:
*Deep Purple Poutine: purple potatoes, aged cheddar, short rib
Back in Black: donut sauce, salted whipped cream, and espresso

City Provisions:
*Sasparilla stout
Jicama potato salad

S&M Underground:
July Menu:
Sai Gog (Laos) – pork sausages, papaya salad
August Menu:
Matzo-Pot-Au-Pho: matzo, broth, carrot, daikon, leek, asian herbs

Girl and the Goat:
*Arctic Char with capers, ruby grapefruit
*Kohlrabi: fennel, almonds, shiitakes, pears, and ginger dressing

Mezcal old-fashioned with notes of tomatillo and grapefruit and a coconut-dill ice cube — created by Michael Simon

Carriage House:
*Venison tartare
Collard Greens
*Crispy Pork shoulder with grits and smoked plums

*Octopus dish with grilled with Chickpeas, Pickled Green Onions, Radish, Black Soybean, Grapes, Ginger-Scallion Vinaigrette

El bulli menu (see my full blog post on this menu here):
Chicken Liquid Croquettes
Cauliflower cous-cous with solid aromatic herb sauce
Potato tortilla, trumpet carpaccio
Foie gras caramel custard
Mint pond
Kyoto menu:
*Corn Husk (broth)
Matsutake Chawanmushi, pine

Graham Elliot (with Andrew Brochu):

Owen & Engine:

Chicken liver takoyaki
Pig foot ramen

Lula Cafe:
Buccatini with brown butter and garlic
Chestnut, brie, and rosemary Strada

Chizakaya (RIP):
*Octopus beignets
Po Bao

Robuchon mashed potatoes

Publican Quality Meats:
(PB & L) Pork Belly and Lamb Sausage sandwich

Lobster pad thai

Tagliolini Nero, crab, sea urchin, chili
Amaro cocktails

Barrelhouse Flat:
Remember the Main
Mamie Taylor

*Deconstructed Baked Potato Soup
Truffle Ravioli

La Sze Chuan:
*Dry chili chicken
Lamb with dry cumin

Machu Picchu:
Cancha (Peruvian fried corn kernels)

Bouchon Bakery:
Vanilla and Pistachio flavored macarons

Do-Rite Donuts:
Old Fashioned donut

Pecking Order:
Banana ketchup
P.O. sauce

Premise (RIP):
*Lapsang Souchong cocktail
Foie Gras pretzel

Fumare Meats & Deli:
Montreal Smoked sandwich

Millenium Park Bean sandwich
BLTA sandwich

The Peasantry:
Chocolate chili fried chicken on a corn pancake

Pleasant House Bakery:
*Mushroom and Kale pie

Birchwood Kitchen:
Chickpea salad

Guapichosa (“Secret” pork sandwich)
*”Dealer’s Choice” drinks

Crispy pig ears with Habanero, maple, and cilantro

*Corn: Huitlacoche, sour cherry, silk
Chanterelle: ramps, asparagus, smoked date
Black Truffle explosion, romaine, parmesan

Corn risotto

Revolution Brewing:
Mad Cow Milk Stout

*Matsutake tea
*Eel Chawanmushi
*Chef’s Choice Omakase

The Publican (Faviken Dinner):
*Arctic Char with matsutake mushrooms, apples, and fermented cucumbers

Peanut Butter and Jelly custard

Urban Belly:
Lamb and brandy ravioli

*Celery gin and tonic cocktail
Pickle tots

The Savoy:
Truffle cocktail

Pork Ramen

Longman & Eagle:
Chicago style Pig Face

Au Cheval:
Foie gras terrine with cherry sauce

In Montreal, Canada:
Jean Talon Market:
Ground cherries
Morcilla (Spanish blood sausage)
*Jerky Jack Lab cocktail (Cane sugar, bitter BBQ craft, Curacao Pierre Ferrand, Tennessee Whiskey Jack Daniels and sweet and spicy beef jerky)
Flaming S’More shot
Le Couteau (The Knife):
Joe Beef:
Oeufs en Pot: Chanterelle mushrooms, bacon, chicken skin jus, soft egg
Bone Marrow with pickled vegetables and mustard
*Filet de Cheval a Cheval (Horse entrée)
*Au Pied de Cochon: Foie Gras Apple Tart

*Best of the best


Spring Menu at One Sister Underground, Hello Elizabeth Restaurant


“I came up with this dish because I thought this is what a gnome would serve me if I was invited over to his house” is how Chef Iliana Regan of One Sister Inc. described the first of 25 courses served at her home.

And so the progression of whimsical genius and curiosity begins to show through each of Iliana’s dishes.  Rarely has a tasting menu felt so cohesive.  25 courses, each seamlessly blending avant-garde/modernist techniques with mostly midwest/seasonal ingredients, many of which were foraged or grown by Iliana herself. Each ingredient on the plate serves a purpose while pops of flavor come through when you least expect it.  Even the crowd pleaser course (whipped bacon fat, anyone?!!!) was so well rounded I was left craving a second beet marshmallow.

It is amazing how many of the dishes have been stuck in my head like a great song.  Many of the flavor combinations were unusual — combinations that proved impossible to “taste” in my mind.  Iliana’s skill in flavor pairing and creativity shine through each dish, such as pairing chicken liver with chocolate or creating a capsule of chamomile and cocoa nib that dissolves in mushroom tea. The vessels are also part of the fun — hanging glass orbs, owl mugs, licking the bottom of shot glasses and sucking the smoke out from underneath, and using your hand to impart the salt of a dish.

I am humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to join One Sister in its penultimate service, and I wait with bated breath for the opening of Iliana’s new restaurant, Elizabeth, slated to open end of this summer. I’m excited to say that Elizabeth restaurant is going to be a new extension of her home, described as a “dreamy log cabin”. I know she is currently growing, foraging, pickling, and prepping for her guests and I can’t wait to see what she serves us at her new “home”.

Spring Menu at One Sister

Parsnip Bubble Tea: Parsnip tea, Swiss chard beads, licorice gel

Hanging Course: “Ramps From Where They Came”

Marshmallow and Biscuit: Buttermilk biscuit with whipped bacon fat, black sea salt, ramp powder, beet marshmallow

Homegrown Salad: Arugula sponge, goat milk sorbet, sunflower seed sorbet, lavender honey, sunflower honey, pansies, pea shoots, sunflower sprouts

Ramps From Where They Came: Pickled ramps, pickled elderberries, wakame seaweed, soil (malt flour)

Enjoy: Potato “chip” cannoli with fava bean, lemon & truffle mousse, homemade mascarpone cheese and chive pudding

Asparagus and Quail Egg: Asparagus ribbon, chilled asparagus, soft poached quail egg, pickled strawberry

Zucchini Tree Nest: Zucchini squash, black pepper and tomato water “eggs”, perched in wheat grass

Carrots and Cashews: Blanched, dehydrated & shaved carrots,
cashew milk, roasted cashews, carrot top pesto

Chef Iliana Regan

1 Pill Makes You Larger: Cocoa nib and chamomile in a dissolving capsule

1 Pill Makes You Larger in Mushroom Tea: Cocoa nib and chamomile in a capsule that dissolves in mushroom tea

Herbed Ebelskiver: Buttermilk ebelskiver filled with house made parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme goat cheese, topped with apple cider vinegar powder & powdered sugar

Radish: Shaved and lightly sauteed radish, marinated daikon radish, home grown radish sprouts, dandelion stalks, fried radish tops

Rice Crispy and Bear: Puffed wild rice, cured black bear, Wisconsin cheddar, pink peppercorn

Chocolate Dashi: Dark chocolate dashi with chia seeds

Scallop and Peas: Seared sea scallop, ham, snap peas, yogurt, candied meyer lemon rind, freeze dried peas, pea shoots

Shrimp Noodles: Shrimp Noodles with toasted kale, garlic, parmesan, butter

Facebooking the Progression

Can’t help but lick the spoon…


Your Hand: Bay smoked mussel, spinach, garlic, lemon zest, Iowa La Quercia prosciutto

Oyster and Mushrooms on Stone: Steamed Oysters, trumpet mushrooms, chick weed, dried ramp top, dried parsley, ramp top cubes

Roe, Salty, Sweet, Smoke: Cherry wood infused white chocolate ganache, marble rye crisp, BLiS trout roe

Beef Pho broth

Owl Mug

Chicken liver mousse: Chicken liver mousse encapsulated in dark cocoa, fennel pollen, madiera gel

Rabbit Ravioli: Rabbit rillette ravioli in red wine butter sauce & sauteed mustard greens

Adoration and amazement

Good to the last drop

Homemade Cheese course: Pork loin, grits, homemade sherry vinegar ricotta, puffed barley, shallot, foraged & pickled fiddle heads, pork blood reduction

Strawberries and Beets: Strawberry custard, graham crackers, dehydrated strawberries, beet petals, beet pudding, meringues, soft rind wisconsin cheese ice cream

Oatmeal: Oatmeal ice cream, oatmeal stout caramel, cherry and hazelnut crumble, cocoa cookies

Bite: Warm chocolate and almond donut


Best Things We Consumed in 2011

Oysters and Pearls at The French Laundry

2011 proved to be a great year for eating and drinking around the city of Chicago. Below are some of our top picks for the best food and drink we consumed (with a few thrown in from our San Francisco and Vegas trips). These are in no particular order and I’m sure I forgot a few!

Revolution Brewing— House-Cured Jowl Bacon Ragout, Barrel Aged Black Power Beer

iNG — Tuna poke; Short rib

Leopold — Smoked rabbit spaetzle

Kith & Kin (R.I.P.) — Fried chicken thighs, Smoked oysters
Chizakaya — Hamachi with bone marrow and garlic
Pastoral — Millenium Park bean sandwich
Sable Kitchen & Bar — Corn brulee
Saigon Sisters — Classic Bahn Mi
Spacca Napoli — Funghi wood oven pizza
Baconfest — Bacon rillette lollipop with maple bacon cotton candy lollipop (From Longman & Eagle); Bacon and foie gras moon pie topped with cayenne peanuts (From Big Jones); Cherrywood smoked bacon and black currant fruit roll up with bacon “cannoli” filled with maple bacon mascarpone (From Atwood Cafe)
Nightwood Restaurant — Wood oven smoked duck, Fried meyer lemon slices with caper aioli
Brown Trout — Wagyu with ramps and morels
City Provisions Deli — Ham sandwich on pretzel bread; Red pepper and humboldt fog quiche
Avenues (R.I.P.) — Alaskan king crab, Wagyu beef ribeye with ramps
Bouchon Bakery (Vegas) — Vanilla macaron; Pistachio macaron
Amy’s Candy Bar — Concord grape gummy bears
Next — Fillet de Sole Daumont, Supremes de Poussin (Escoffier Menu)
The Aviary — Blueberry
North Pond — Rabbit 3-ways (Spring menu)
Black Sheep (R.I.P.) — Mushroom Explosion
Sprout — Lamb medallions with pea puree (brunch menu)
El Ideas — Agnolotti: chicken/cornichon/brioche; Eggs: uni/char/scrambled/shrimp; Spanner crab: gnocchi/eggplant; Broccoli: Cauliflower/curry/cheese curd; Bourbon: pecan/coffee/tobacco — inspired by aunts drinking coffee and bourbon while smoking
Meaty Balls Mobile (R.I.P.) — Original Meatball sandwich
Wisconsin State Fair — Cream Puffs
Comstock Saloon (San Francisco) — Cheddar crackers with pepper jelly and cream cheese
Atelier Crenn (San Francisco) — Butter poached oysters with St. Germaine
Humphry Slocombe — Bourbon Coke Float: Bourbon caramel sauce/Secret Breakfast ice cream/coke
Slanted Door — Corn with chanterelle mushrooms
French Laundry — Oysters and Pearls; Poulard
The Butcher & Larder — Italian Sausage
GT Fish and Oyster — Shrimp and foie gras terrine
Koval Distillery — Spelt whiskey
Moto — Summer Breeze; Kentucky fried pasta/red wine puree; Cigars (Cuban, Philly Blunt, Monte Cristo)
Franks ‘N’ Dawgs — Seared swine pork sausage topped with white wine pickled pumpkin, grape & smoked onion relish, candied ginger & sage aioli & dijon mustard (Creation by Nathan Sears of Vie)
Fumare Meats — Montreal smoked pastrami sandwich
Festival of Wood and Barrel aged beer fest — Goose Island Manhattan Bourbon County Stout
Pleasant House Bakery — Mushroom and kale pie
One Sister Underground Dinner — Bubble Tea: Apple Pie/Bourbon; Pierogi: White Truffle/Cheese, Grilled Cheese Soup; 1 Pill makes you Larger and 1 pill makes you smaller (Chamomile and Mushroom); Ice Cream Cone: Bacon/Koval whiskey
Barrelhouse Flat — Old Fashioned
The Bristol
— Crispy pig tail with peanuts and coconut broth
2 Sparrows
 — Mushroom, leek, and kale quiche

Inspiration Bacon: Baconfest 2011

People are crazy for their bacon. So much so, 3 guys decided it was a good idea to create an entire event with bacon as the theme. Chicago’s first Baconfest was held last year at the Stan Mansion in Logan Square. Tickets sold out in 10 minutes. This year, they upped the amount of tickets by over double (1500) and held the event in the UIC Forum. Still, 100% sold out.

This is the video they showed on a huge screen when we walked into the event.  I got chills!

Below are images and descriptions of some of the dishes we tried (You can either click on the image for the description or hover over the picture). With over 50 restaurants, we unfortunately were full an hour in after eating 20 dishes. Most were really well done. The dish I loved best was Big Jones’ Bacon and Foie Gras Moon Pie with Cayenne Peanuts. Salty, sweet, spicy, and rich!

Feel free to sign up on the Baconfest Chicago site to keep up to date until next year and join their mailing list to find out when tickets go on sale for Baconfest 2012!

Yes — you can drink your bacon

You read it right. I said the B word — Bacon. I know you are sick of hearing about bacon. I know you think it’s funny that in such a health “conscience” world, bacon has become such a phenomenon. Trust me, below are a few items that will inspire the love once again:

Bacon Fat Candles:

Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn:

Bakon vodka:

Vosges bacon chocolate:

Bacon Salt:

AND there is a whole fest dedicated to bacon. You will definitely see me here on April 10th at the Stan Mansion in Logan Square:

Bacon fest in Chicago:

On a side note: My husband, Nick, is currently making bacon powder. He has a jar of bacon fat that he painstakingly saved after every consumption. He also used bacon fat to infuse whisky to make it extra smokey. So as you can see, it’s only the beginning…Bacon isn’t just for wrapping (ruining in my opinion) shrimp and filet mignon anymore. So drink up, pour on, and sprinkle the love.