m

mattlap_2000's Profile

Title Last Reply

Looking for an obscure cut of meat

My wife is a caregiver for an elderly polish immigrant who has been talking forever about cooking "the leg of a calf", but claims to have been unable to find it. My first instinct is that he's just talking about veal shank, and the language barrier is getting in the way, but that wouldn't be difficult for him to find.

My wife went to a butcher to ask and they claimed to "used to carry it", which again makes me think it's not a shank.

Anyone familiar with eastern European/Jewish cooking aware of what this is? And if so, where to find it?

Dec 13, 2011
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

1st time in Chicago

I think you're right - Gino's is the only pizza I'm aware of who's crust could possibly be confused with cornmeal.

May 02, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

I Think I've Exhausted most "casual fine dining" in Chicago! Need new ideas...

I'd 2nd the reccomendation of May Street Market - I went there for the first time last week, and I'd not hesitate to put it on the same level as Blackbird and North Pond, which are my favorite "casual fine dining" reataurants in the city.

Personally, I'd stay away from Naha - I've been there twice and the meals, on both occassions were mind-numbingly bland.

Jan 28, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Best Sushi Restaurant/Bar For Toro?

I'd always advocate Mirai, when talking Sushi.

Jan 28, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Best Sushi Restaurant/Bar For Toro?

As I used to live around the corner from Toro, I've been there probably 30 times - ironically, I'm never seen Otoro, (fatty tuna) on the menu.

Jan 28, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Loop Restaurants Sunday night

Custom House comes to mind. Petterinos.

Jan 25, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Trotter's--what's wrong with it?

The other issue at play is that there is a huge amount of second-hand rumor-mongering that Charlie Trotter is a nasty, nasty person. For one, I'm naturally skeptical of any internet-rumor-mongering based on second (or more) hand reports. Secondly, you don't have to interact with the man in order to eat in the restaurant, so I'm not sure why his personality is even a topic.

Jan 20, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Trotter's--what's wrong with it?

Many people think that being contrarian makes them intelligent. Charlie Trotter's is very good, but, as nsxtasy notes, there are now more options in that tier of restaurant. There is also a solid argument to be made (not just about Trotters, but about Alinea, Tru, etc...) that no meal is worth the amount of money you pay at those establishments.

Jan 20, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

May Street Market - a Review

When I was making the decision to go to May Street Market for my anniversary, I noticed that there was a paucity of material written about it on these boards - so I thought I'd add to the canon.

The decor, in my mind, is quite sterile. There are white walls, white table-cloths, and wood chairs. The only color is provided by a handful of modern paintings, and the table candles. The bar area is actually quite charming. The restaurant is quite small - maybe only 20 tables between the dining room and the bar area. Unlike most places I've been that would compare (Blackbird, Aigre Doux, Spring, Custom House) they do not pack as many tables into the restaurant as possible. This, to me, is a blessing. The room is quiet, and you don't hear the conversations of the tables around you.

That said, you'd think the lack of tables would make the service easier. Not so. We ordered the tasting menu, and experienced some problems from the start. The paired wine seemed to arrive roughly 10 minutes before the course with which it was paired every time. Every course seemed to be brought by a different person. Occasionaly, that person (for instance, if it was a busboy) couldn't explain to us, as the waiter could, what was on our plates. Empty plates frequently stayed on our table for long periods of time. On one course, the server came by, asked how we liked it, and asked if we were done. We said we would, and he, having a full tray, said he'd be back to clear the plates - we had them for ten more minutes. The room seemed to be more than adequately staffed, and the staff seemed to be working hard - I just think that the service was poorly managed, and badly organized. Our waiter was extremely personable, and very helpful, and the busboys were very friendly as well. We asked a question about a wine as an aside, and when the waiter couldn't give a great answer, the owner/hostess showed up at our table nearly instantaneously to answer it for us. Overall, I'd say the service was uneven, but not unbearable.

The food, frankly, was the star. As I said, we ordered the tasting menu. The mini-donut with cured salmon was delicious (essentially, a puff pastry filled with cured salmon) - bringing the tartness of citrus and ending with the slight heat of fennell pollen. The paired wine - a sweet reisling - rounded out the flavors. My wife thought that the second course, an oyester carpaccio with great lake sturgeon caviar, otherworldly. I merely thought it was really good. We agreed that the Jicama wrap was rather mediocre, though the pickled bananas w/ guacamole salad should be packaged and sold as a retail spread - it was wonderful.

The stars, however, were the fish and game courses. The crispy skate wing came on a bed of roasted cabbage, and topped with a bacon-based sauce, hazelnuts, and blood oranges. It was the most decadent, smoky dish you can imagine. Perfect for a night where the wind-chill took the temperature below zero.

The game course was an elk chop - something I'd never had. Elk, as it turns our, is, for all purposes, a less fatty lamb. Everything on the plate was delicious - the pistachio crust (so simple and almost obvious, yet I've never seen it), the red wine/lingonberry reduction was wonderful, and I'm just s sucker for spaetzle.The carrott puree wasn't really needed, I suppose.

The cheese course was a deconstructed fondue. The server brought 2 warm, candied/carmelzied apple lolipops jammed into a smoldering log to dip into the cheese. The apples were delicious - the cheese was OK.

The desserts were, largely, forgettable. I'm sort of constantly repulsed by tapioca, and the first dessert didn't really shake me of that conviction. My wife, on the other hand, loves tapioca, and thought the dessert was good. The chocolate dish - a toffee tort, wasn't really memorable in a good or bad way.

The wine pairing was good. Chantal, one of the owners, is apparenly in charage of the pairing, and seemed to put a premium on highlighting locales of the country other than california. We had wines from Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Virginia, and Connecticut (and one french) during the service. Sometimes the wine brought a flavor that was absent in the dish (like the sweet Reisling paired with the tart, then spicy salmon). Sometimes, it was merely complementary (the Virginian Meritage, with it's tobacco flavor paired with the Elk Chop).

In terms of food, I wouldn't hesistate to put this on the same level as my finest meal at Blackbird or North Pond - or even Charlie Trotter's. The service certainly lacked the sharpness of those establishments, however. Finally, the fact that our tables had adequate spacing provided a sharp contrast to sardine-cans like Blackbird or Aigre Doux.

I would, without hesitation, brave the service again for the food - possibly, I caught it on a bad night.

Jan 20, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Great Place for a Reception?

Don't do Maggiano's. I realize this sounds extreme, but I put it about 1 notch above Olive Garden.
Museums, etc., are a good idea, but renting one, especially during the summer, would run over $10,000 in rental alone (as a recent veteran of trying to find a location for my wedding, I have experience).
Most larger restaurants have private dining areas that can fit 50 people. My rehearsal dinner was at Scoozi, and it was good. You can also try Petterino's, Wildfire, Smith & Woolinsky...(off the top of my head)

Jan 16, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Best Chicago Sportsbar

Sorry if Gaslight disappointed. I assume the rude hot dog was at the Weiner Circle?

Jan 16, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

NY Hound Visiting Chicago

Well, Avenues, in the Peninsula, is one of the top places in the city. Tru is nearby.

Jan 14, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

May Street Market?

It looks quite good, but I can't find much that has been written about it on this site. Does anyone have any experiences to share?

Jan 10, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Not to miss during visit

Yeah, Deep Dish is another quintessential Chicago thing. We have the original Uno's (though it's likely better than the ones you went to), and it's sister, Due's.

However, I think you'd be better off with Gino's, Giordano's, Lou Malnati's, Pequod's, or anything else mentioned when you do a search of "Chicago Pizza" on this site. I personally prefer Gino's, but if you ask 100 people, you get 100 different opinions on this topic, so, I'd just pick one of the big-boy's listed above.

Jan 09, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Not to miss during visit

As the term "downtown" encompasses a several square-mile area, and their are thousands of eateries, I'm going to assume that you're staying somewhere around Michigan Avenue and River North, as that's where most of the hotels are.

It sounds like you'll be travelling with your children, which depending on their age, probably requires a trip to Portillo's on Ontario (note: yes, it is now a chain, but this is the mothership of the name). There are places in town that do better hotdogs, cheddar-burgers, and Italian Beef, but Portillo's is probably among the best for all of them, so if you want to get a sampling of all of Chicago's street food in one trip, this is the place.

Most of the other places I could reccomend depend on budget. If you're looking for a nicer, upscale meal, places like MK, Kevin, Aigre Doux, Custom House, Naha, Blackbird come to mind.

Another "authentic" Chicago eating experience would probably be a trip to Taylor St. in Little Italy - I'd probably go to Francesca's.

Hard to give concrete suggestions without a few more details.

Jan 09, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Best buffalo wings near downtown??

Sacrilige! Mr. Spots is where it's at.

Jan 08, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

What was the best Chicago Meal you had in 2007?

Personally, it's North Pond, for me. But, I'm asking because I always see the same North Pond, Blackbird, Tru, Trotters, Everest, Custom House, Spring reccomendations everytime someone is looking for a special occasion dinner. I have one of those coming up, and really want to go somewhere new.

So - what place served up YOUR best meal of '07?

Jan 08, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Best Chicago Sportsbar

Don, there are probably billions of places that can be named, but I'll suggest two, depending on what you're looking for:

1. Joes on Weed St. (http://www.joesbar.com/). It's big, has a flat-screen TV no matter which way you turn, and is loud an boisterous. They generally have attractive drink specials on an admittedly limited selection beer. They also generally have appetizer specials on their fairly average food.

2. Gaslight Bar and Grille (http://gaslightbar.com/). Much smaller than Joe's, more character. It is possible that, from certain seats, you could have a tough time seeing a TV. Much better beer selection, excellent bar food. I'm sure they'll have specials on beer/drinks, but probably not as attractive as Joe's.

Jan 08, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Trip Report from a weekend in Manhattan

I should also add that the Jasmine Custard with black-tea ice cream and banana was absurdly good for dessert.

Jan 08, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Manhattan

Trip Report from a weekend in Manhattan

Maybe I should clarify, then.

"Corned Duck", is unique - I've never seen it. But when you put it on a rye cracker, and wrap it around a dollop of "purple" mustard, you're eating a Corned Beef on Rye, at least, that's what my taste-buds said. Cool? Sure. Earth-shattering flavor? Not really.

And my Scallop - serving it with mushrooms seems standard. Cranberries and pecans and a spice-bread consomme make it sound like you're eating you're scallops in a dessert bread - interesting idea. But I didn't taste cranberries or pecans. Spice Bread, yeah.

Similarly - the "pretzel" consomme didn't even faintly taste of pretzels, and the "Popcorn Soup" with the Shrimp rolls (my favorite item we had) didn't really taste too much of popcorn. It tasted like butter, which is on popcorn, but...lots of things have butter without reminding me of popcorn.

Jan 08, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Manhattan

romantic anniversary dinner??

I second most of what Samharmon says - North Pond would be my 1st choice for this, even if you hadn't mentioned it. As he says, request the front room.

Joe's is an old-boy's-club style steakhouse, except they have lots of seafood. It's an older crowd, similar to what you may find in Gibson's or Morton's, minus some of the volume. It's good, but not spectacular.

I like Blackbird lots, but table spacing issues there are a huge problem. You'll hear every word of every person around you.

Jan 07, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Business dinner near Chicago Downtown Marriott

Stay away from Emilio's - if it's Tapas you're after, shoot for Cafe Iberico. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba is better, I think, but more out of the area. Iberico is within walking distance of your hotel.

My work has done plenty of business meals at Osteria Via Stato, and I enjoyed it every time. I cant recall seeing a private room there, however.

Jan 07, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Sunday Night Birthday Dinner

I've been to both, and, personally, would much prefer North Pond. Spring's menu tends more to the vegetarian side of things, which isn't quite my style, though.

It's not nearly in the price-range you mention (ie, it is much cheaper), but The Red Rooster Cafe on Webster is a phenomenally good, absurdly quiet, charming little place. It's standard french bistro fare. There's no view there, but it's very enjoyable.

The Custom House is another Shawn McClain place (like Spring) and is quiet and romantic - it's menu tends more towards that of a progressive steakhouse.

Finally, there's the obvious Tru. No great view, but probably the coolest interior of any place in Chicago. IMO, the vibe of the place is so stiff you can hardly breathe, but the food is an experience.

Jan 07, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Trip Report from a weekend in Manhattan

My wife and I recently spent the weekend in Manhattan (we currently live in Downtown Chicago), and thought I'd share, FWIW.

We had Lunch at Haru Park Avenue - this wasn't exactly a plan, we just sort of happened by it, and walked in with no prior knowledge. I thought the quality of the fish was superb, but that the menu was remarkably unimaginative. Chicago (as, I'm sure, New York is as well) is littered with Sushi places with imaginative new rolls and combinations - or even unique hot entrees. At Haru, they essentially had 3 "Super Maki" (the only items with imagination), and the rest was stock Sushi-retaraunt menu (edamame, gyoza, plain fish rolls, sashimi, teryaki, tempura, miso, etc.). All these standards were well done, I was just expecting something a tad more interesting.

The first night, after reading much about it, we had dinner at WD~50, which was only sort of OK. Our favorite place in Chicago is run by a former sous-chef of here, so we had interest. We had the Corned Duck, Popcorn Soup, Lamb, and Scallops. Everything was OK, but not nearly as imaginative as I had been led to believe from reviews. The Scallops, particularly, were quite good. Overall, I thought it was alright, though disappointing, given my expectations. Servive was forgetable, at best, and I thought our waiter had something of an attitude.

The second night, we went to Danube, which was absolutely fantastic. My wife and I got the tasting menu, which enabled me to sate my long-held Weiner Schnitzel craving. My mushroom soup was excellent, as was my wife's appetizer medley and Beef Goulash. The room was beautiful, and service was so inobtrusive, you barely realized they were there until your next dish came. We both happen to be fans of Austrian wines - particularly Gruner Veltliners, and they had the best selection I've seen. The only items that were less than phenomenal were my wife desset (pear strudel, served with, as best I can guess, vinegar ice cream), and our lobster, which was merely "pretty good". I had a chocolate souffle for dessert which, while hardly imaginative, was excellently prepared.

On our final night, we took the hotel concierge's advice and went to Mercer Kitchen. I knew what sort of meal I was in for when the roll that was placed on my bread-dish literally bounced upon contact. The replacement was hard, stale, and difficult to tear apart. As a general rule - good eateries have good bread. This was...awful. The room was striking, and the design was beautiful. The rest - not so much. I cooked in a professional kitchen for 7 years, and can tell frozen veggies and boxed mashed potato from 5 miles away - and these were undoubtedly frozen and mashed. My roast chicken was fine (hard to screw up), but my tuna spring-roll had the consistency of, to be cliche, cat food. My wife had about the worst crab-cake I've ever sampled. For an establishment that charges $30+ for an entree to serve frozen carrots and beans along with boxed mashed potatos is inexcusable.

For breakfast, we went to Oscar's, in the Waldorff, which, I suspect, no one that actually lives in NYC goes to. Regardless, my wife's Gnutella/Banana french toast was surprisingly light and delicious.

Again, take it FWIW.

Jan 07, 2008
mattlap_2000 in Manhattan

Upscale eating at 49th and Lexington

My wife and I are coming from in from Chicago, and are looking for a unique dinner somewhere. We typically favor "comtemporary american" type places, but are open to anything. Price isn't much of a concern - any suggestions would be appreciated.

Dec 16, 2007
mattlap_2000 in Manhattan

Tip for weekend in the city

My wife and I are coming to New York from Chicago for an upcoming weekend. We're staying at the East Side Marriott, at Lex & 49th, and are looking for a few dinner suggestions. Generally, we like "Contemporary American" type places, and cost really isn't much of an issue (I'd like to avoid spending $450 for the two of us, but beyond that, no matter). One night, we're going to Danube, but are still looking for another place for dinner, plus a brunch idea. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Dec 16, 2007
mattlap_2000 in Manhattan

Chow Challenge

I personally, would choose North Pond over Blackbird. Blackbird is certainly tighter (you'll be about 6 inches away from the next table) and noisier. The food at the two is comparable, but I'm just not a fan of being packed in to that degree. You'll be able to talk and relax more at North Pond.

If you're looking for a place before the theater, consider Custom House. It's much better than Aria and the Atwood Cafe, and, while it is slightly further from the theater district, it is still reasonably close. They have about the best short-ribs I've had, hands down.

Oct 23, 2007
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Zealous?

I just moved inside the city, and now live around the corner for Zealous, on Superior. I had never heard of it, but it seems to have gotten good reviews. What do people think of it?

Oct 22, 2007
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Report on Chicago trip 1 (long)

I found Naha to be about the most boring food ever. I can't really think of another way to describe it.

In my opinion, the best Sushi in the city, hands down, is at Mirai:

2020 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 862-8500

Jul 17, 2007
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area

Weekend in Chicago

I'd second North Pond - it's my favorite in the city. If you're looking for french, both Bistrot Margot and Kiki's Bistro are quite good. Also, if you'd be interested in "upscale" Mexican, I think Salpicon is a great place as well...

Jul 17, 2007
mattlap_2000 in Chicago Area