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Greg in Chicago's Profile

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Ellsworth: 3 of us took a hit for the team.

I have not visited Paris in much too long, but I find your blog informative and most enjoyable, not to be missed.
Today's Email from has a rave review for Ellsworth, with noise levels being reviewer Heidi Ellison's only complaint, also, Ms. Ellison says that Ellsworth is open 7 days per week. You both agreed that the desserts were excellent, but I had to smile, reading that she loved the foie gras starter and the chicken.
I enjoy reading anything about Paris, and events and cafes there of current interest, no matter where I find it, but after the interesting coincidence today of finding conflicting reviews of Ellsworth, I have become much more reluctant to pay attention to Paris-Update, I'm guessing that it's intended primarily for tourists, and more grateful for your reviews.
Please continue looking out for us occasional visitors, and thank you.

Apr 22, 2015
Greg in Chicago in France

Memorable Quotes about booze

Famous quote from W. Somerset Maugham:

"A weakness for the grape is a good man's failing."

Help with Cotes de Provence Restaurants and Farmer's Markets

A few years ago, my tour group dined at La Bastide Saint Antoine. Our tour guide, Patrick Chabert, is a chef from Lyon now practicing his craft and teaching classes in French cooking, in Chicago. He is a lifelong friend of La Bastide owner and chef Jacques Chibois.
Mr. Chibois bought and restored a neglected old country inn, approximately 15 years ago, and his cafe has two Michelin stars, I believe. Our group of 28 enjoyed champagne on the terrace, then dined indoors, but there's plenty of seating on the terrace, weather permitting. We enjoyed it greatly.

I can't speak to your other choices, but Mr. Chibois would surely provide a grand evening in a memorable setting.

Jul 10, 2013
Greg in Chicago in France

What to Buy at Costco?

Keep an open mind, don't be in a rush. Romaine lettuce crunches when you slice it and stays fresh forever, steaks are lean, tender, fire engine red, and a bargain, especially filets. Croissants for $6/dozen are a steal, quality is very satisfactory.

I bought a set of 4 cordless phones, AT&T, on sale for $60, best phones I've owned. Big bags of frozen egg rolls and pot stickers cook up in a jiffy and are always nice to have. Discount AMC movie theater tickets save you a bit, and don't expire or ever go unused.

Big jars of Kirkland laundry detergent pods are a buy, name brands are available also. I haven't yet found my "go-to" brand of coffee, but Costco has 20 or 30 choices, ground, whole bean, even instant Starbucks.

God bless everyone who likes the rotisserie chickens, but the ones I've bought have been greasy and not very good, can't recommend those, despite the bargain price.

A pair of prescription eyeglasses from Costco is not the best quality, but they work, and the price was 1/5 what the rip-off optical shop charged for a more fashionable pair.

Above all else, I've found Costco staff to be helpful and courteous. They even topped up one of my tires with air when it was a bit low, no charge.

It's easy to buy things that take forever to use up, but Costco has tons of wonderful, well-priced stuff. Easy to become addicted.

May 02, 2013
Greg in Chicago in Chains

Yet another L 'Astrance question: do men really need jackets and...

Agree with Maximilien. Bring a navy blazer, you'll feel more comfortable, and concerns about being underdressed will disappear.

Feb 26, 2013
Greg in Chicago in France

Where to eat near Belmont and Clark/Halsted

A lifelong resident of Chicago, the best Thai food I've had was at Thai Classic at 3322 N. Clark. I haven't been there in many years, but they're still open,

Seafood/veggie kabobs served on a bed of rice were terrific, it was BYO, probably still is. Value and quality of food were terrific.

Clarification: Thai Classic has, or had, a small parking lot behind the cafe. I parked there, and thugs broke the window and stole my radio. I live downtown Chicago and have Thai cafes near me, moreover, the Clark/Belmont area is a parking nightmare. That's why I haven't returned to Thai Classic, not the quality of food or service. They have a wonderful menu, nicely appointed decor, etc.

All of that said, and it's a bit of a hike, Yoshi's has terrific food, 3527 Halsted, I think, upscale continental/fusion cuisine. Yoshi has been in business a long time, and prepares a Japanese style bouillabaisse that's terrific, delicious, makes it worth fighting the headache of trying to find parking in that neighborhood.

The neighborhood where you will reside has a great many cafes. Best to avoid the bars near Wrigley Field, they're not about food, but otherwise, you'll have great fun exploring the cafes. Chicago is a terrific food town, and my friends from New York laugh out loud when they see Chicago prices.

Jan 01, 2013
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

Your most (or least!) favorite costco appetizers!

The frozen Minh mini egg rolls are delicious, a big bag of 60 of 'em are on sale at my Costco (Chicago) for $7, and some sweet'n'sour sauce is included. They nuke or reheat quickly and are very tasty finger food.

I found the Ling Ling potstickers a bit doughy and time-consuming to prepare, relatively, hence, have stayed away from Chinese stuff at Costco, but the mini egg rolls are tasty, I think. I often have half a dozen of those and call it dinner.

Dec 13, 2012
Greg in Chicago in Chains

Costco worth it for a couple?

There are many variables in the decision. If you go to the movies once or twice a month, the savings on AMC discount tickets will pay for a Costco membership. A dozen freshly baked croissants for $6 is a deal I can't find elsewhere, also, several dozen Costco/Kirkland batteries for $10 or $12 is a big saving, compared with buying them 2 at a time. Also, Costco gasoline prices are attractive, at least in Chicago. I bought some Christmas wreaths, also, for a lower price than I found elsewhere. In addition, although they're not the best dress shirts in the world, Costco always has a huge inventory of men's dress shirts, including hard-to-find sizes, for under $20 per.

If you have a Walmart close by, a Costco membership might not be attractive, but usually one can find enough bargains to justify the membership fee.

Feb 08, 2012
Greg in Chicago in Chains

restaurants near the ritz carlton?

You have a lot of choices available, near the Ritz-Carlton. Cafe Spiaggia and Coco Pazzo Cafe are a short stroll from the Ritz, and have wonderful Italian food in a festive setting.

As for Chicago-style pizza, not to worry. Lou Malnati's has a location at 1120 N. State. It's a short and interesting walk from your hotel. Also, Gino's East is only a block or two south of the Ritz, and has a lunch special, $6.25 for a mini-pizza, soup or salad, and soft drink. Purists can argue about the best pan pizza in Chicago, and usually, Uno's, Due's, or Lou Malnati's wins, but Gino's East has terrific pizza, buttery crust, and the quality is tops. It is authentic and delicious Chicago pizza in every way.

It is probably fair to say that Chicago's best Asian restaurants are not located near the Ritz and the shopping district, but you have many excellent choices. This website, and your concierge, will offer many cafes to choose from. Hopefully you're in town long enough to visit more than one or two.

Feb 01, 2012
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

Parisian Markets in early April


Jan 27, 2012
Greg in Chicago in France

Coco Pazzo Cafe= thanks hounds!

I hope you dipped some of the delicious house-made focaccia in Monini olive oil. The linguine with clams in white sauce is cooked with shellfish broth and way too much garlic, exactly as it should be.

Hopefully you can return in summer, Coco Pazzo Cafe's terrace is a wonderful place for people-watching. Bella Figura! Bravi!

Jan 11, 2012
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

Dinner suggestions near Riviera Theater?

Sun Wah is just to the north, , festive, good Chinese. There's a Mexican cafe just north of Lawrence on Broadway, but I have no idea if it's good. Many other Asian choices on Argyle (5000 north), starting at Broadway and going east a few blocks.

Dec 10, 2011
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

4 Days in Nice -- Looking for some cheaper/casual places

I've only visited Nice once, a few years back, but our group had a delightful dinner at La Cantine a Lulu. Lulu is a male, owner/chef, I think Lulu is a nickname for Luc, or something, but it was a very nice, small, "Parisian grubby" cafe. I forget if he had tables outside, if so, not very many, but it's wonderful to hear that his cafe is still there.
The lady and I dined at a cafe next door to Le Safari one night, on Cours Saleya. The pasta with clams and Salade Nicoise were both forgettable, but the people-watching was the best anywhere. People at a nearby table sent back some red wine, and after they left, the waiter and owner held a long powwow, tasting the wine, discussing whether or not it was suitable for serving.
Both cafes were reasonably priced and most enjoyable. Our only regret was not having a chance to visit the amazing farmer's market on Cours Saleya.

Aug 19, 2011
Greg in Chicago in France

New Trader Joe's Yea/Nay Thread - 2nd Quarter 2011 [old]

TJ's vegetarian meatballs, on the other hand, aren't bad, served over pasta or on a bun with marinara sauce. Tastes almost like a real meatball sandwich.

May 25, 2011
Greg in Chicago in Chains

New Trader Joe's Yea/Nay Thread - 2nd Quarter 2011 [old]

+1. Exactly right. Noodles are clumpy, wet, and tasteless, and all of the sauces are awful. As inedible a product as you'll find at TJ's.

May 25, 2011
Greg in Chicago in Chains

Best Rotisserie Chicken

I doff my chapeau to you, McGeary. I took a spin up to D'Candela this afternoon (I live downtown) for a carryout roast chicken, and was delighted. The young hostess was terrific, my chicken and two sides were ready in 20 minutes without my phoning ahead.
They brought me a cup of soup while I waited, and a tasting of the yuca, which were like thick fried potatoes, delicious.

My carryout whole roast chicken, a huge salad, and a box of fries that will last me 3 evenings, with gratuity, fell short of $20. Delicious food, low prices, and friendly, attentive service, is hard to find. Anyone who enjoys roast chicken should visit D'Candela. Don't forget to bring wine, or stop and buy some on the way home.
This small casual storefront cafe is one of Chicago's best kept secrets.

May 22, 2011
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

We're going to Paris for three nights. We are on a budget. Where can we eat?

Chez Denise is centrally located, festive, with a nice menu and reasonable prices. It is possible to have a grand time, with dessert and wine, and get out under 100 Euros. I can't foresee visiting Paris again without going there. Open all night, closed weekends, people speaking English are welcome.

Mar 29, 2011
Greg in Chicago in France

what happened to Fox & Obel??

Just a few thoughts.

I have lived near what is now Fox & Obel since 1983. North Pier has never truly established itself as a viable commercial location. Casual bar/cafe the whimsical Dick's Last Resort, was there for quite a while, and the Fox location itself was two Mexican restaurants, Baja Beach Club, and also the A-1 Beanery, years ago, but both folded, as did a variety of shops and a small food court. With thousands of residences located nearby, one would think that some businesses at North Pier, or nearby, would succeed. River East theatres are always crowded, Walgreen's seems busy, and P.J. Clarke's is always doing good business.
I was unaware of Fox being in dire straits until reading this thread a few days ago. I walk over to Fox often, but rarely see many people there. I agree that their bakery has a wonderful selection of breads, and when cooking for guests, I often buy desserts at Fox, for convenience.
I have not noticed a decline in quality of their products, although neighbors, and myself, have bought rotisserie chickens lately that were consistently undercooked. I often buy bread, homemade deli pasta sauces, a piece of cheese, an occasional bottle of wine, and specialty items, such as white anchovies for a Caesar Salad, pickled herring for a dinner appetizer, and so on, and I've bought several of their coffees.
However, it's hard to understand exactly what market segment they're trying to serve. They do a catering business, and have two cafes, but the more upscale cafe never seems active, although they send out promotional Emails often. They have a wonderful cheese selection, but very little for less than $20/lb.
Wine inventory is small, and fully priced, it's easy to buy a bottle now and then, but to stock up, or at Christmas when I send several cases as gifts, Binny's is the only choice, because they're cheaper than Fox, and cheaper than Uncorkit Chicago, significantly, with very rare exception.
One rarely sees someone shopping at Fox with a shopping cart full, and one rarely must wait to buy anything, whether it be hot or cold deli items, breads, fresh meat or fish, or anything other mainstream items, let alone some of the exotic foods.
I will miss Fox greatly if it's shuttered, but it's difficult not to wonder how they can avoid such a fate, as they carry so many items that are available nearby, and less costly. One can't help wondering if there's a defect in their business model, and whether there's something about the location that's doing them harm as well.

Baja Restaurant
10749 Randolph St, Crown Point, IN 46307

Dick's Last Resort
315 N Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60654

Mar 28, 2011
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

Recommendations for a few meals in Chicago near the Knickerbocker Hotel

Much may depend on what you have a taste for, at a given moment, but if you're in town 4 or 5 days, with free time, you'll be able to roam, and solicit opinions from people, regarding food options.
Given that you'll stay at the Knickerbocker, you might enjoy Rosebud Steakhouse at 192 E. Walton, some evening. It's literally right across the street, next to the Drake Hotel.
You could sit at the bar, they have a broad selection of wines by the glass, skim the menu, stay and dine, or go elsewhere. It's a festive cafe, part of what is now an extremely successful chain in the Chicago area, offering steaks, Italian fare, fish, and also, they have a bar menu, inexpensive, one of Chicago's biggest and best burgers.
You may have to sit at the bar to order from the bar menu, and food portions are large, but the food is tasty, you'll probably have the Cubs or Sox or NBA or NHL playoffs, on tv, in May. Rosebud Steakhouse has, for my nickel, the best selection of breads anywhere, delicious, brioche, whole grain, baguettes, raisin bread, focaccia.
My only disappointments have been the noise, on Friday and Saturday nights, and once, a waiter tried to persuade our party to order more food than any group could have eaten, but the festive atmosphere compensated for that, and the food is delicious reheated later.
There are other enjoyable Chicago steakhouses of this nature (they all offer far more than steak), such as Gibson's, Harry Caray's, Gene & Georgetti's, and many more, but Rosebud is a very typical "Chicago" experience, and it'll be across the street from you, moreover, with 3 or 4 tables available outdoors, weather permitting.

Rosebud Steakhouse
192 E Walton Street, Chicago, IL 60611

Harry Caray Restaurant
5700 S Cicero Ave, Chicago, IL 60638

Mar 16, 2011
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

Good Olive Oil?

Depending where you reside, it shouldn't be necessary to travel a long way to find a good selection. Convito Cafe and Market, on Sheridan in Wilmette, which used to be called Convito Italiano, carries the best Italian oils.

Fox & Obel has an extensive selection of high end Italian, Greek, Spanish, and Provencal oils, and a few from California.

Much depends on your preferences. I greatly enjoy the olive oil served with the delicious rosemary focaccia at Coco Pazzo Cafe. It's called Monini. I have found this oil only at Caputo's Market in Elmwood Park. They stock Monini Fruttato and Monini Originale. Fruttato is of course fruity, grassy, and full-bodied, delicious, to my taste, for about $12 per liter, Originale is about $10, and a bit softer, but nice. Both are a terrific bargain.

Caputo's also stocks many oils in 3 liter cans, including their house oil, but they don't seem to stock oils at the very highest end, like Castello di Ama, Capezzana, Laudemio, Lungarotti, Marfuga, and others . Fox has some of those, Williams-Sonoma carries half a dozen at the high end, and Whole Foods surely has a few.

If he's still there, a man named Al Cirillo, a professor at Northwestern, is also affiliated with Convito and knows a great deal about oils. He sold me a bottle of Capezzana years ago, 3/4 liter for $26, but prices are higher now. He said, "You'll think this is a gyp, or you'll become addicted." I laughed, bought the oil, and thought it was from heaven. Any question anyone has about olive oil, he can answer.

All of that said, I would avoid Jewel and Dominick's, and also, Trader Joe's seems to limit their inventory to the lowest price-point choices.

Coco Pazzo Cafe
636 N St Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

Convito Cafe and Market
1515 Sheridan Rd, Wilmette, IL 60091

Mar 11, 2011
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

Where can you buy brioche bread?

Nsxtasy's point is well taken, Fox & Obel sells good bread, brioche and many other varieties, and they start baking at sunrise, 8 am until noon is a good time to buy. Swedish Bakery at Clark & Balmoral sells brioche in large rolls, and they also sell brioche loaves, which they simply call "egg bread". 3 types are available, plain, crust dressed with sesame seeds, and crust dressed with poppy seeds, all excellent.
Trader Joe's sells brioche in the form of large hamburger buns, 6 to a bag. Very tasty, but I'm sure they don't bake these on the premises. That said, I don't recall buying a bag that wasn't fresh.

You shouldn't have any trouble finding brioche, but phoning ahead of time is wise, because quantities baked each day vary from one bakery to another.

Swedish Bakery
5348 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

Feb 20, 2011
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

Affordable caterer or other party plan B?

Strongly recommended is Michael's.

They have everything, literally. They can tailor food for any ethnic group, any religious celebration, any size crowd, they can recommend a suitable space anywhere in the Chicago area, they'll bring whatever you need. I've hired them 4 or 5 times, and was delighted with the prices, service, food, and the vast menu of choices. They're the complete package.
Good luck!
I urge you to visit their website and phone them, chat with one of their reps for a few minutes.

Jan 19, 2011
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

What edibles or food related items do you bring home from a visit to Paris?

Ingrid, the suggestions posted already are excellent, but you mention "food-related items" also. If you haven't already been there, Dehillerin is an amazing store, and its website does not begin to display the astonishing inventory of kitchenwares there.

For many of us, it is impossible to visit Paris without bringing something back from Dehillerin, whether it's a commercial grade saute or sauce pan, or something easier to carry, such as a specialty knife, whisk, chinois, whatever. A trip to Paris, for someone living in the States, is a treasure, and it can be nice to return home with not only consumables, but something that will last. Every time I prepare dinner with my Mauviel copper saute or roasting pan, it brings a smile and warm memories of Paris.

Nov 16, 2010
Greg in Chicago in France

Food Scars - Things you will never eat again.

Reading this thread has been interesting, although laced with sadness, foods associated with illness and loss. However, it's very interesting to read about the various associations people have with certain foods.
I had no idea that so many people have issues with mushrooms, although I always find it disturbing to see the amount of dirt released when one soaks fresh ones. My own dislike for using canned mushrooms for convenience, in a pinch, has ripened into a decision never to buy them again, but primarily because there's no flavor, none.

My own Waterloo in childhood was lima beans, simply couldn't get them down, and that was long before I found published articles here and there, stating that lima beans have traces of cyanide.
I've never eaten a green olive, although I can now handle black ones, minced, tossed with pasta, or on top of nachos.

Canned tuna fish is now on my list. Someone on the Comedy Channel once said, "I used to eat canned tuna, but now, when I want mercury, I just eat a thermometer."

And, being Swedish, it is safe to say that my first bite of Lutefisk, at age 5, long ago, was my last.

Reasonably priced bistro dinners in Chicago?

Kiki's Bistro is a terrific place to eat, festive, Mon Ami Gabi is also, though not exactly close to Steppenwolf.

One of Chicago's best kept secrets is the Red Rooster, at 2100 N. Halsted, next door to Cafe Bernard, same kitchen. Red Rooster is Parisian grubby, intimate, modestly priced bistro menu and wine list, but great food. Many Chicagoans don't know about it, even.

Their website doesn't have photos, alas.

I have never taken anyone there who didn't love it. If you decide to give it a try, you'd be wise to get a reservation, they have only about 8 tables. You could always have a glass of wine there before going to Steppenwolf, or drop in after for dessert and coffee, if you'd care to.

Kiki's Bistro
900 N. Franklin St., Chicago, IL 60610

Mon Ami Gabi
2300 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

Cafe Bernard
2100 N Halsted St Apt 3R, Chicago, IL 60614

Sep 29, 2010
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

Restaurant recommendations for Thanksgiving

It is good advice indeed to keep tabs on the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times as Thanksgiving approaches, because a review of the choices available is printed annually, with comments and prices.
That said, Thanksgiving is big business for the Chicago food industry. The suggestion to consider one of the grand hotels is a good one. Most will have buffets, buffets have their flaws, but many assets as well.
I cannot comment on the Thanksgiving buffets, not having tried them, however, the Four Seasons Chicago has never disappointed. I've enjoyed their Sunday brunch, it's grand, offers everything, custom omelets, carved meats, seafood, shrimp, crab claws, pasta choices, Asian stir-fry, a sea of desserts. I don't recall bad service, ever.
I have stopped in for a bite to eat late, after the opera, and enjoyed it greatly, knowing that they are usually open until at least midnight, my point being, the service and good cooking are always to be expected.
It's not inexpensive, Sunday brunch is $70 now, roughly, drinks extra, the Thanksgiving spread is surely a bit more, but you and your family members, or guests, will feel special, it is a grand cafe, and a wonderful choice for Thanksgiving.
I live near the hotel, and have been told by guests and friends over the years that they have greatly enjoyed Seasons, and felt well taken care of. The Drake, Fairmont, Swissotel, Sofitel, Ritz-Carlton, and many others, don't do a bad job either. Kids are welcome at all of the above.

Sep 04, 2010
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

Best Steak Frites in Paris?

I have not ordered steak frites at a great many Paris cafes, but enjoyed Chez Denise so much on my first visit, I returned the following evening, ordering onglet (hanger steak, w/frites) both times. In the attached photo taken from a New York Times article, I believe that the man on the left is having onglet. A Chez Denise portion of that is two large steaks.

Although the frites probably were not worth a special trip, they were eminently satisfactory, and plentiful, enough for two people. Rarely have I ever dined among so many people having such an enjoyable, animated, festive evening, as at Chez Denise, and almost all of them seemed to be French.

Aug 06, 2010
Greg in Chicago in France

Thanks for the Fox & Obel rec...and a funny story

Fox & Obel has a lot of overpriced stuff, $40/lb and up for some of the meats and fish. I live nearby and and avoided the place for years. However, I've learned that they do have some tremendous deals. Their rotisserie chickens for $4/lb are hot from the oven, and are much tastier and leaner than anyone's. Their cheese selection is excellent, maybe as good as Whole Foods, maybe not.

For a local, it's a godsend. One can run over there and buy terrific desserts, homemade pasta sauces, their wine selection is good, and they have plenty of reasonably-priced selections. Their selection of coffee beans is extensive, and their bakery is the best in the neighborhood.

When I have dinner guests, I like to serve a Caesar Salad, and Fox sells white anchovies. They're $28/lb, but one only needs a few ounces to transform a routine salad into a delicacy.

If you bought your food at Fox and went out to Ravinia, you partook of our treasures. You received good recommendations.

Jul 20, 2010
Greg in Chicago in Chicago Area

Cooking Classes in Nice, France

A friend of mine lives in Nice, and took a cooking class at L'Univers de Christian Plumail and loved it, conducted in his kitchen with just a few people, on a Saturday, I believe. She said that Chef Plumail is a terrific chef and a most gracious man. The website for his cafe is
I found his Email somewhere, then misplaced it. It's I'm fairly sure. If that isn't it, it's He'd surely reply if you contacted him. His cafe, I recall, is 1 Michelin star, not 3, but I'm told that it's a most enjoyable place to dine.

Jul 01, 2010
Greg in Chicago in France

Best local eats in Cannes?

La Potiniere is the polar opposite of "off the beaten path", it's across the street from the Palais des Festivals, but I had a wonderful lunch there a few years ago. Their website has a virtual tour at Festive, casual, movie posters and photos, of course, everywhere.

Cannes also has a fresh market, Tuesdays, I believe. I've never seen anything like it, meats, fish, flowers, fresh herbs, green, white, and purple asparagus, honey, condiments, fleur de sel in a dozen flavors. For a few Euros, I bought a package of herbes du Provence the size of a brick. Hard to imagine anyone not enjoying a visit to this large and wonderful market.

Apr 20, 2010
Greg in Chicago in France