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abhalsey's Profile

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Spiaggia...never again

The prices have always staggered me, although since about a quarter of the wine list (at least the online version) is under $100 you probably could have found a bottle for less than $100. Also, if uhockey ever gets a chance to eat there for free and decides to turn it down, call me and I will happily go. I have eaten there with other people's money and it is very good.

Having said that, I have never spent my own money there and never will.

Mar 03, 2010
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Alinea for new foodie?

If you have that kind of money and don't need it, why not? But before you go, I would read his cookbook and read some background information on it/him (wiki lists some links) to see what he is trying to do. I think that will improve the experience a lot. I think walking in without understanding his philosophy is a mistake. Also, maybe read some stuff about adria as well, since in may ways he inspired achatz.

Aug 22, 2009
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Eats near the Sox game

Cobblestones has beer and sandwiches, and if you spend $20 you can park in their parking lot for free during the game. (I don't think they enforce the $20 limit, but with four it doesn't matter.) A muffaletta is enough food for two people. The best deal around (you save $20+ on parking), although you won't post pictures here about the food. Their parking lot will fill up for a Yankee's game; not an issue if you get there an hour before the game.

514 W Pershing Rd
Chicago, IL 60609-2739
(773) 624-3630

Jul 28, 2009
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Need help with decision-North Pond or Avec?

I think of S&S as a high value restaurant due to the BYO policy and the lower priced menu items. I expect the cost to be a third of what North Pond costs, and maybe two-thirds of the other restaurants on your list. I was there recently and everything was really good, including the service. I wouldn't hesitate to go there again, although I have noticed some reviews complaining about service.

Jul 08, 2009
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Wine Shop

Sam's and Binny's are both large places with great selections. If you don't need advice they are great. The quality of the advice though varies from person to person, and sometimes just isn't that great. If I wasn't sure what I wanted, I would go to a smaller store like Howard's, Perman's, Randolph Wine Cellars. If I wanted something in between with good advice and good prices (about 10% lower on average) I would go to Wine Discount Center.

Jun 19, 2009
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Any comments on Grocery Bistro?

Or Perman's wine next door

May 29, 2009
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Alinea - corkage fee versus their wines

I agree it is difficult to bring you own wine. I wasn't overly impressed with the pairings a couple of years ago. Seemed like good wines and OK but not great matches to the food, but you were paying $200 for just over a bottle of wine, and the average retail price of the wine was about $30 / bottle. Now it seems the average wine in the pairing has been upgraded to the $45-$50 range, so it is a 4x markup. Although on the high end, it is not ridiculous given the number of wines and the caliber of the restaurant. Also, the wines (based on recollection) seem to be well chosen, and don't include a lot of oak pots or alcohol bombs.

You could obviously save money by paying corkage, and the savings would be similar to other high end restaurants (anywhere from 50% to 75% depending on the wine and fee), but it would be more difficult to do a great job of matching wines to the food.

I would doubt that many people actually use the corkage except for very expensive wines. Alinea is kind of like Las Vegas in that people's views of money change a lot when they go there.

May 20, 2009
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Best tasting menus under 80 dollars?

Vie is weeknights only. Here is this week's menu.

Amuse--marinated great lakes smelt, arugula, pickled tomato vinaigrette
04 Von Buhl, Riesling Spätlese, Pfalz, Germany

First--country paté, housemade preserves, werp farm baby greens, wood-grilled bread
06 Prieuré De Montezargues, Tavel, France

Second--braised burgundy snails, parisienne gnocchi, local morel mushrooms, spring garlic
06 Demetria, Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills

Third--braised and wood-grilled faith farm fresh bacon, creamy three sisters grits, pickled genesis growers cherry bomb pepper vinaigrette
03 Château Caronne Ste Gemme, Haut Médoc

Fourth--prairie fruits farm "little bloom on the prairie" housemade black mission fig jam, toasted honey wheat
07 Orsolani, La Rustia, Erbaluce Di Caluso, Italy

elderflower and pear sorbet

To Finish--warm sweet crêpe, preserved klug farm strawberry jam, mint chocolate chip ice cream
H M Borges, Madeira, Old Reserve Malmsey, 10 years aged

$70 Matching wines optional $30
Menu changes weekly and is subject to change
$7 to charity for each menu ordered

May 18, 2009
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Best tasting menus under 80 dollars?

Vie in Western Springs has a $70 tasting menu which changes weekly. I am not sure if it is offered on the weekend. I deleted the most recent e-mail describing this week's menu, but I am sure they will send you one if you ask. Vie is excellent.

It is one block from the trains, and there are trains out frequently, and trains back in hourly, so it is quite easy to get to from downtown. I don't remember what the wine pairings cost, but Monday if half price wine, and Tuesday is free corkage.

May 15, 2009
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Looking for dives..

Do you know if Laschet's pan fry their schnitzel? I looked at an online menu for Resi's, and they only show pork schnitzel, although my recollection is that their schnitzel is pan-fried. Generally I think any pan-fried schnitzel will beat any deep fried schnitzel.

May 13, 2009
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Gene & Georgetti's - I don't get it?

One of the great mysteries of life is why anyone would give this place a positive review. I know there are "institutions" that get an extra star for having been around for a while, but G&Gs is rated up 2 or 3 stars from what it really deserves.

May 02, 2009
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Effects of Recession on Dining Out?

It's pretty easy to see that things are slowing down. I just looked on Open Table and you can get a prime-time table at several of the high end restaurants for tomorrow if you want. (Avenues, Everest, Trotters, L2O, North Pond, ...) A year ago you generally could not get in on one day's notice except early or late if at all. I've walked into a couple of pretty good restaurants that were half empty during the week. Weekends they seem to be doing pretty well, but their revenues must be down significantly overall. The closings will come. Many are just burning up their capital right now.

NYT and others have had some articles like Declines of up to 40% at high-end spots. I can't believe it is all that different here.

Are Chowhound postings down?

Feb 10, 2009
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Tony Chachere's Hot Sauce

Didn't know he had a hot sauce, but you can order his products at his website. If hot sauce is not on the website, call them. They are very friendly.

Aug 13, 2008
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Sepia or Avec?

Both are really good. I prefer the food at Avec slightly and go there more often. In this case, you might consider the atmosphere. Avec is kind of loud, shoved together, the kind of place where the people next to you are dominating your conversation because they can't get enough of their new iPhone. Sepia is quieter and more relaxing, great cocktails, better suited for conversation.

Jul 23, 2008
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Looking for Burgundy in Chicago, <$25

Two good Burgundy Pinots that I think came from WDC are the Régis Bouvier Marsannay Les Longeroies (~$25) and Domaine Parize Givry La Sauleraie Vieilles Vignes (~$20). I am not sure whether they would still have these.

Jun 05, 2008
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Looking for Burgundy in Chicago, <$25

There are many Burgundies out there, so it depends on what you want. Wine Discount Center has a Morgon and a Gevrey Chambertin that are good and under $25. (They don't have a complete list on the website, but they were there two weeks ago.) Or their current flyer has a Chirouble for under $20 (never had it) and they have a couple other burgundies. I think WDC has generally good wines and the best prices in town, comparable to the case price at Binny's or Sam's. They also have good staff. Their selection is smaller than Sam's or Binny's, but if I had to go to one place I would go there. Describe what you want and they will point you to a couple of items that you will like.

Sam's and Binny's both have large selections, but I am less familiar with what they carry. They have some Morgons, Brouillys etc. that would certainly fit your budget. I find the advice of their staff less in line with my tastes, so I don't go there often.

Jun 05, 2008
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Best Romantic Restaurant in Downtown Chicago?

I would not include Merlo on Maple as I think the service is sometimes insufferable, at least if you don't want appetizers, primi, secondi and dessert. I am not the only person who feels that way. A friend described the experience as "decide what you want and then just keep repeating it until the waiter goes away." Of course if you are a very hearty eater this may not be an issue, but it doesn't sound very romantic to pass out after dinner from eating too much. Other recommendations here are all very good.

Nov 14, 2007
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Foodie Groups in the area?

Slowfood has a Chicago chapter. Next up is a dinner with Alice Waters. Kind of on the expensive side, but they also have less expensive outings.

Sep 13, 2007
abhalsey in Chicago Area

The honest truth: Can't-miss dining in Chicago

It can cost $1,000 for two at Alinea. Although it may be the best meal you have ever had, it is hard to say whether it is "worth it" or "within reason". I think that when people stretch to afford something, small issues become magnified and often the experience becomes a "great, but..." or worse. You never can tell for sure what you will like or whether your server will have an off night (there are bad reviews of Alinea), and if you spend a lot more than you want to, the bads will be magnified.

Only you know your budget or how you would feel about spending $1,000 for two for a meal. Blackbird and 160 are not in this league price-wise, but both are great. I like Boka, Japonais, May Street Market as well. All cost far less than the high end restaurants. I think Schwa is great, but it's difficult to get in.

Figure out what you want to spend, and then pick a place where you can not only get several courses and have dessert, coffee, cocktails, etc., and you buy the wine because you want it, not because of price. That way you can spend three or four hours comfortably. Anyone who can't get a great meal in Chicago for a third the price of Alinea is not trying.

From a culinary point of view, Alinea is the best meal I have ever had, but also the most expensive. In terms of most enjoyable evenings that included dining out, it may not be in the top 5. I would never go back if I had to pay for it.

Sep 11, 2007
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Thoughts on Cyrano's wine bar & bistro?

Cyrano's is kind of confusing. I agree the food sometimes varies from night to night, and it generally is not very crowded. But:

It has an interesting menu (tripe, sweetbreads, kidney, rabbit, etc.) compared with (for example) Mon Ami Gabi which is very Americanized (steak eleven different ways.) Also, it has an interesting wine menu with a number of very good less heard of wines that aren't overpriced. This type of menu will never be as popular in Chicago as one with a lot of steaks, but it means you can always get in, which is a plus.

So if I wanted a tender steak with a nice Bordeaux, I would go somewhere else. But I go there once a year or so when I want something a little less ordinary. I haven't had any big problems with the service or the food.

The Bistro on the list which I would never return to is Campagne. May have been an off night, but why go back when there are so many alternatives, and the menu and wine list were so ordinary? Mon Ami is another that suffers in comparison to others.

Aug 08, 2007
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Looking for a good affordable brandy

J Bavet then Korbel

Jul 18, 2007
abhalsey in Spirits

Alinea for bday dinner- tasting or tour menu?

I was underwhelmed by the wine pairings at Alinea, partly because some of the wines were just not that great. Not that it wasn't interesting, just not very high on the value scale. If I went again, I would order a couple of bottles of wine.

Jul 09, 2007
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Cape Cod Room, yea or nay?

After reading these reviews, I am intrigued by the idea of going to the Cape Cod Room. Any suggestions on what to order?

Jun 23, 2007
abhalsey in Chicago Area

What's the deal with Schwa?

They are very popular because not only is the food that good, the value is so much higher because it is BYOB. Most restaurants at this level charge at least 3x what wine costs in stores. If you have a cellar, you may be in the position that the wine you spent $100 on a few years ago could cost $500 or more in a high end restaurant.

Whether it is worth it or not is up to you is obviously a personal value judgment. If you don't drink wine, or are price indifferent, probably not. If you have a wine cellar, the 15 minutes you have spent so far doesn't sound like a lot of work compared to the savings and the fun of drinking your own wine. However, based on the frustration level you are voicing, I suspect your experience will be tempered by your feelings, and so you may be better off going somewhere else. Which, of course, is fine by me since I love the place.

Jun 19, 2007
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Fried Cheese in Rome

We ate at a small restaurant in Rome where the main dish was cheese fried on a grill along with other ingredients. There were probably twenty combinations of fried cheese and other ingredients on the menu. It was great.

My problem is I can't duplicate the dish, probably because I am using the wrong cheese. Does anyone know what goes into this dish, or know of a restaurant that serves it? (I don't know the name of the restaurant in Rome, or I would find somebody who speaks italian and call them.)

Oct 05, 2006
abhalsey in Italy

Need anniversary dinner for tonight!

Since you are from the west coast, you may not mind eating late. If so, there are some stellar choices that still have space according to Avenues, Custom House, Copperblue. Look at a similar non-specific where-to-eat post on this board, slect a couple of places, and look on

Sep 16, 2006
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Maryland Blue Crabs?

Dirk (of Dirk's) suggested just ordering a bushel over the internet. He said it would be cheaper than going through him, since that is basically what he would do anyway. Haven't looked into it.

Aug 29, 2006
abhalsey in Chicago Area

Parrot Cage

Anyone know anything about the Parrot Cage on the South Side?

Aug 25, 2006
abhalsey in Chicago Area