Chicago Bites and Sights

Chicago in May 2013

Hi Everyone! How was your weekend?!

Mine went by in a blur. I was in Chicago for work from Friday to Monday, and I am still adjusting from the time change, large quantities of pork, and a noticeable deficiency in all things green (and by that, I mean vegetables).

Thankfully, we were blessed with fantastic weather in Chicago and some amazing meals. In fact, my entire weekend centered around food.

After arriving in Chicago on Friday and checking in to our hotel, two of my co-workers and I walked over to Rick Bayless's casual cafe, XOCO, which specializes in tortas (Mexican sandwiches). We arrived hungry and thirsty, and after waiting for 15 minutes for a seat, we finally took our first bite of sandwich heaven.

Ahogada Torta at XOXO in Chicago

Let me introduce you to the Ahogada, which was described as "Golden pork carnitas, black beans, tomato broth, spicy arbol chile sauce, pickled onions". It was pure bliss, from the crunchy bread to the tender pork. The broth was flavorful and had just the right amount of heat, and the pickled onions added a nice punch of acid. I ate EVERY.LAST.BITE.

Woodland Mushroom Torta XOCO

My co-worker, Abbe, had the Woodland-Mushroom Torta (above), which was filled to the brim with wild mushrooms, arugula, goat cheese, black beans and fresh salsa, and she assured me that she would be ten-pounds heavier if a XOCO were within a 10-mile radius of our office in Manhattan.

After a walk to Millennium Park and a much-needed bath, our Friday feasting continued with wine on our hotel's terrace and dinner at Trenchermen, which is located in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago in an old Turkish bath house. The bar, which is positioned in what once was the bath, is enormous, and the original bath tiles still decorate the walls.

The menu at Trenchermen is light-hearted and creative. We started our meal by sharing plates of pickled tots (think tater tots but a mix of mashed potato and pickles instead), gnocchi, a kale salad with carrot-quinoa bread, a plate of homemade ham, and focaccia served with hot sauce and jam. 

Trenchermen Restaurant

After being assured by our waiter that the fried chicken on the menu came with "excessively indulgent" grits, I needed know additional encouragement.

Fried Chicken with Grits and Hot Sauce Trenchermen

The "Three Sisters Grits" were hands down the highlight of the meal. The chefs at Trenchermen sift out any fine grains and then toast the large grains and cook them with cream and butter to achieve a coarse, yet luxurious gruel that has an incredible amount of flavor.

And don't worry, we also had dessert. Shockingly enough Chai Tofu ice cream can be pleasing in the hands of the right chef and more satisfying than the rather dense whiskey-caramel glazed donuts on the menu.

Saturday afternoon we "fasted", choosing to indulge in ice cream and protein bars for lunch while walking the floor of the McCormick Place convention center. But by dinner time we were hungry (surprise surprise) and found ourselves on the outside patio at Sable Kitchen & Bar.

Bacon Jam
Rainbow Salad Sable Chicago

Little did I know that bacon jam with goat cheese and toasted bread could be the perfect beginning to a meal of small plates, while a rainbow salad revived me and provided just enough nutrients to help me survive a long day of work on Sunday.

The only thing that was missing from this trip? More sleep, more greens, more walks, and Chicago deep-dish pizza.

Happy Cooking,
Pippa