All the Zurer Chowhound posters converged on Chicago last weekend for a "family" reunion and culinary adventure. Mike's (SF chowhound) sketch comedy troupe "Killing My Lobster" (can't get away from the food references) was in town for the Chicago Comedy Festival so Jim, Diana and Jonathan came in from DC to join Chicago chowhound Seth for the festivities. We also took a trip to Spring Green WI to visit Taliesin, a long but worthwhile expedition. But enough about non-eating activities...
Thursday dinner: Echo in Wicker Park. A new American small plate place (bigger than a tapa, smaller than an entree), the menu was incredibly appealing. About 2/3 of the dishes delivered on the promise....especially noteworthy were the Tuna Tuna Tuna for two, scallops in a foie gras broth, grilled ostrich and a wonderful brie flan/custard. Desserts were generally a disappointment. It isn't cheap--the bill came to $475 for eight of us, with three bottles of wine @$25 each. [Echo is a I-Dine (Transmedia) restaurant, so I am looking for a 20% rebate on the bill.]
Friday snack: On the way back, we stopped for the local specialty, cheese curds--both fresh (sort of like bland American cheese with some texture) and fried (much improved, a cross between a "tater tot" and "mozzarella en carrozza".
Friday dinner: After a long day on the road, we hit Tampopo on N. Lincoln for a ramen experience. The out-of-town crowd was not too impressed (I prefer my "pho") but maybe it was because it had been a long day.)
Saturday lunch: We needed a place convenient to the John Hancock building open for lunch on Saturday so we hit the always open and dependable Bistro 110 on Pearson and we had a very good lunch---the mussels were exceptionally good, the quiche lorraine very light and well prepared, the "vraie" Nicoise had grilled tuna rather than canned and no olives but was tasty. The only misstep was the roasted mixed vegetables--sort of blah. A cherry tart and a creme brulee were both well received.
Saturday dinnner: Blackbird. A fuller report is demanded, but let me just say it was terrific. The service was professional and relaxed; the menu very appealing; there were some wines on the list that were good at around $25 a bottle; and the food was fabulous. Some highlights--seared halibut, foie gras, salmon tartare, mussel soup, rack of lamb....The one wrong note was a soggy and undistingushed soft-shell. The waiter took it off the bill after he asked how it was and I told him what I thought.
Dessert were also top notch, especially the apple charlotte and the chocolate semi-freddo. We had a very nice Alsatian Pinot Gris--'99 Dopff & Irion Tokay Pinot Gris--followed by a less memorable wine--'98 Chateau de Jau Cotes Du Roussillon
We all agreed that it is one the best meals we have had in a long while and we gave the most precious Zurer accolade--almost as good as Kinkead's. We would go back in a heartbeat.
Sunday morning: The tradional breakfast at Wishbone...everyone seemed to be happy but me; my breakfast burrito was definitely subpar. Perhaps it was bad ordering on my part.
Sunday lunch: We were able to arrange an excursion to Lem's. The 75th Street location reopens on June 7, so we were "forced" to try the State Street operation. We arrived at about 2:15 pm and had to wait for about 15 minutes for the ribs to be finished. We polished off two slabs and a small mixed order of links and tips at the counter....the ribs were very impressive and we really liked the tangy sauce. We could use a location in Washington DC. Seth said that he thought the 75th Street location turned out a slightly better product; we will check on our next visit.
So that is the story of Zurer Chowhounds in Chicago...a good time was had by all. I hope that Seth and Mike weigh in with their impressions.