years of such success, it came as a surprise to many that Mario decided it was
time to make a few changes. He recently
rolled out an updated menu and re-launched with a fresh new name: Mario’sTable.
If you are a
devoted fan of Mario’s, don’t despair!
And, even better, along with the new name and updated interior comes two not-to-be-missed weekly specials including:
always excelled at the solo diner process.
Many of the regulars come alone and have made Mario’s their “go to” spot
for dining alone. Even as a newcomer,
however, Mario himself made me feel entirely at home. The entire experience was superb for a single
diner – from the greeting, to the seating options, to the service. This is definitely one of the spots in
Chicago which I would recommend to anyone choosing to dine solo. The newly-refurbished menu offers smaller
plate options on most appetizers and entrees, so the options for a solo diner
are now much friendlier than ever before.
Mario's Table is located at 21 West Goethe, on the corner of Goethe and Dearborn. They are open Monday - Saturday, 4:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m/ amd closed on Sundays and major holidays. They also offer delivery from Clark to the lake and Maple to North Ave.
For more information call 312-944-0199, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow them on Facebook.
Chicago Restaurant Week is a celebration of Chicago's finest culinary talents. The 10-day experience begins February 1 and runs through February 10 with more than 250 participating restaurants featuring prix fixe lunches for $22 and dinners for $33 and $44, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity. Online reservations are now available, but selling out fast at many restaurants at www.eatitupchicago.com.
First Bites Bash is supported by: American Express, Blue
Moon, NBC5 Chicago, Peroni, Tasting Table and Time Out Chicago magazine.
Follow them on Twitter @ChooseChicago and join the
conversations #firstbitesbash and #chicagorestaurantweek.
In recent years, the "farm to table" concept has taken the restaurant world by storm. Chicago has a wealth of options for fresh, locally-sourced food prepared by world-class chefs. What we often forget is that the Chicago suburbs have some equally fantastic dining options. Nowhere are they doing it better than at the Artisan Table in Naperville under the talented care of Executive Chef Sean Curry. He has a career that has taken him from food trucks, to fine restaurants in France, to upscale resorts, to the movie catering business. Luckily, he has finally landed in the Chicago suburbs.
Located in the new Chicago Marriott Naperville, the Artisan Table is not just your standard hotel restaurant. Chef Curry has taken the concept of "farm to table" and elevated it to new heights, making this restaurant a definite destination for anyone serious about supporting local artisans while enjoying a stupendous meal. Recently, I had the pleasure to accept an invitation to attend a media preview at Artisan Table. Believe me, you won't walk away from this restaurant either hungry or unsatisfied. Everything, from decor to service to food, exceeded expectations.
This particular event was designed to highlight the local vendors with whom Chef Curry has created strong relationships. Not only does Curry focus on fresh, sustainable ingredients, but he also focuses wherever possible on local purveyors. Perhaps the most local of all are the bees. Yes, you read that correctly: bees. There are over 60,000 honey bees living on the roof of the Marriott and Chef Curry has integrated the fresh honey into a multitude of dishes. The bees are under the care of Bronwyn Weaver of Bron's Bees. Incidentally, Bronwyn is also the owner of Heritage Prairie Farm in La Fox, Illinois, the provider of most of the restaurant's fresh produce.
Other artisan purveyors and local farmers present at the event were:
Guests can enjoy some fresh honey comb with an artisan cheese plate, perhaps with some local charcuterie. For entrees, Chef Curry has filled his menu versions of simple comfort food - steaks, chicken, short ribs, fresh fish, crab cakes. The fresh ingredients and the attention to detail, however, turn these menu staples into superb fine dining. The salads are fresh and colorful, including a stupendous version of the standard "wedge" salad. When you use farm fresh lettuce, candied local bacon, heirloom tomatoes, and artisan blue cheese, then the standard wedge kicks up several notches into something truly special.
Whatever you do, don't forget to leave room for dessert! The pastry chef has a deft hand and a creative spirit. During the event, we were presented with plates of six different desserts including honey cheesecake, blackberry tart, campfire smores, and a Summer Breeze sundae (lemon ice cream, blueberry lavender compote, waffle cone pieces, and white chocolate chunks). The standout desserts for me, however, were The Artisan and the Whoopie Pie Flight.
The Whoopie Pie Flight consisted of four small versions of the iconic pie but with intriguing flavor combinations - Fluffer Nutter, Chocolate Chipotle, and Banana Split. The best of bunch was the Maple Bacon pie. Anyone who ever reads one of my reviews or blogs knows already that I believe "bacon makes everything better." In this case, it is certainly true.
The Artisan dessert consisted of sweet corn shortbread, olive oil basil ice cream, and blistered heirloom tomatoes. If you see this on the menu, order it. Sweet and savory combine to create the perfect synthesis and the tomatoes are an inspired accompaniment. Topped off with the incredible coffee from Crop to Cup Coffee, this was a perfect ending to a memorable meal.
The Artisan Table kitchen is open from 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. for breakfast, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for lunch and 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for dinner. The lounge is open from 11 a.m. until midnight serving handcrafted beverages and a version of the restaurant’s main menu. Reservations are not required, but can be made by calling 630-505-4900.
The Chicago Marriott Naperville opened in April 2012 and is the newest and largest full-service hotel in Chicago’s western suburbs. The hotel and restaurant are easily accessible from Chicago, located at 1801 North Naper Boulevard in Naperville, just off of I-88 at the Naperville Road exit. More information about the hotel can be found at www.VisitChicagoMarriottNaperville.com.
Table For One, Please!
For others who happen to be single, and even for many of you who are attached but occasionally find yourself cooking and eating home alone, there is a whole art to “solo dining at home.” From time to time I will blog about great recipes and cooking techniques for the solo cook/diner. The focus of today’s post, however, is a slightly fun and funky twist on that solo dining at home concept.
Although these were not Dungeness crab, I discovered this wonderful online tutorial about how to cook and clean a Dungeness crab, and the technique is identical for snow crab. Crabs (as well as lobster) must be alive when you cook them. Yes, I know this sounds cruel but it’s just the fact of life at the top of the food chain.
I filled the pot with salted, boiling water and cooked the two crabs for 14 minutes (based on an average of 7 minutes per pound). Once done, I immediately washed them in cold water to stop the cooking process and cool them down for cleaning. Check the tutorial for details on cleaning the crabs.
Fresh crab is sweet, succulent, and almost buttery. The lemon is truly all that you need as an accompaniment. I paired the crab with a French Sauvignon Blanc. The tart, citrusy wine was an absolutely perfect accompaniment to the sweet, buttery crab. After trying out that pairing, I cannot imagine a better way to enjoy fresh seafood!
Here’s how the rest of the crab played out for me as a solo diner.
Solo cooking/dining at home can be just as entertaining as dining out at a fraction of the cost . . . and the leftovers can extend your solo dining fun for several days!
Table For One, Please!
Aqua Best Seafood ships gourmet fish, lobster, shellfish, and unique caviar products around the globe. Best known for their work with Dorothy Hamilton and the French Culinary Institute, they’ve spearheaded the charge to educate both consumers and chefs about Fourchu Lobster, and the differences between fresh and traditional frozen seafood products. For more information, or to order, go to Aquabestnyc.com.
The Crave Local Network helps you discover the very best your city has to offer. Our local sources have scoured countless local restaurants, businesses and events, to bring our members the best each city has to offer. Find new gourmet foods, wine, cocktail brands and recipes, and things to do near you. Get notified of local and national sales and specials, exclusive tastings, hotel getaways, spa deals, and much more. Join now for free at CraveLocal.com.
In the past several years, the “farm to table” craze has swept the
restaurant world. Many restaurants do it
well, but perhaps none so well and so specifically as Niche Restaurant in
Geneva, IL. Not only do they focus on
locally-sourced products . . . they actually own their own farm!
The meats for Niche are almost exclusively sourced from another local
farm. The Hasselman Family Farm is
located in Marengo, IL, owned and operated by Scott Hasselman. They specialize in pork, chicken, beef, and
eggs and are Animal Welfare Approved.
For the media dinner, Chef Serena Perdue and Wine Director Vince Balistreri concocted a staggering 6-course meal based on the local produce, local meats, and fine vintage wines for which Niche has become famous.
Course #1 – Compressed Watermelon – Watermelon compressed with Banyuls vinegar, pineapple basil, avocado lime, and cucumber mint. Paired with a 2006 Bonny Doon “Riesling to live,” Monterey (Sparkling). The slightly off-dry Riesling was a perfect accompaniment to the multiple flavors of this inventive appetizer. The cucumber mint was particularly excellent with the watermelon.
Course #2 – Warm Tomato Tart – Concassé tomatoes, warm tomato jam, burrata, Wisconsin parmesan sable, arugula, fresh herb vinaigrette. Paired with a 2010 Calera, Vin Gris, Central Coast. Burrata (like bacon) makes everything better and this was a perfect small bite made with the fresh, heirloom tomatoes.
Course #3 – Zucchini Bread – Foie gras torchon, St. Germaine, zucchini toast, fresh apricot, walnut oil. Paired with a 2008 Bonny Doon “Vinferno,” White Blend, Beeswax Vineyard. The zucchini bread was excellent, but what elevated this up a few notches was the addition of the foie gras and the subtle flavor of the St. Germaine – an amazing and improbably combination.
Course #4 – Hasselman Pork - Roast pork loin, spaghetti squash, baby summer squash, stuffed zucchini blossoms, goat cheese, mascarpone, truffle. Paired with a 2001 Bonny Doon, Le Cigare Volant, Rhone Blend, California (Magnum). Truly, this was one of the best pork loins I have tasted in quite some time. The squash was fresh and flavorful and the wine pairing was tremendously successful, both accenting the flavors and enhancing them.
Course #5 – Smoked Hanger – Smoked and grilled Hanger steak, sage croquette, roasted red and gold beets, crab apple, apple gastrique. Paired with a 2002 Pillar Rock, Stag’s Leap District (Magnum). Of the courses, this was my favorite. The hanger steak was tremendously flavorful and the Stag’s Leap cabernet was one of the most superb cabs I have tasted in quite a while. The combination of the smoky flavor of the steak and the full-bodied fruit of the cabernet was one of those moments that make you understand the power of perfect wine pairing.
Course #6 – Praline Bar – Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, hazelnut crunch, caramel. Paired with a 1908 Madeira Boal. Yes, you read that correctly. 1908! The 104-year-old wine was rich, slightly smoky, and an excellent accompaniment with the praline.
And let’s face it . . . who can pass up the chance to try a wine that’s old enough to remember the last time the Cubs won a World Series?
Chef Serena Perdue creates American Contemporary cuisine influenced by
her traditional French training. She carefully prepares each dish to bring out
as much flavor and love as possible, hoping to please the palate as well as the
eye. She believes that good food takes time, and great food takes work. Niche
fosters relationships with local growers and suppliers in order to highlight
the freshest Midwestern produce and products. Their menu is constantly evolving
and changes seasonally. Check out their
Dinner Menu, Dessert Menu,
and the Small Plates Menu.
General Manager and Wine Director Vince Balistreri has created an award
winning all-American wine list featuring mostly limited production, boutique,
and cult wines that highlight the best that America has to offer. Niche boasts
a cellar of approximately 270 different wines, as well as around fifteen
rotating wines that are offered by the glass. He believes that wine is a
compliment to the meal; they emphasize food friendly varietals to enhance and
accentuate the constantly changing menu. Niche Restaurant was awarded the
prestigious Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator in 2010 and 2011. Check out their extensive Wine List,
as well as Beers,
and Specialty Cocktails.
Table For One, Please!
Just a few doors down from where I parked my car, I walked past a somewhat unassuming facade advertising a restaurant with what I perceived to be a singularly odd name, "Sawtooth." Looking in the windows, I was immediately intrigued by the decor and the well-stocked bar, so I decided to check it out. Note to self, "Boy am I glad I did!"
Sawtooth Restaurant takes its name from the culantro herb, Ngò Gai also known as sawtooth, named for its long, slender, serrated leaves. This herb is commonly used in Vietnamese cooking due to its wonderful fragrance and taste.
Sawtooth is a restaurant and lounge serving authentic Vietnamese cuisine. The menu is based on small plates served as a communal meal, a shared experience customary in Vietnamese dining. The interior decor is sleek, sophisticated, and tremendously inviting.
During this visit, I ordered one item from the "Soup, Salad & Noodle" portion of the menu and one from the "Appetizer" portion. Don't be fooled by the concept of "small" plates. By the time I finished the salad, I found that could only finish half of the appetizer and had to take the rest home. Sawtooth absolutely provides value for the money, both in quantity and quality.
For my appetizer, I decided to the Wild King Salmon Rolls (crispy egg rolls with salmon, jicama, carrots, and glass noodles). The portion size was gigantic! I finished half of it and had to pack the rest to take home. If you are a fan of salmon, then this is a "must try" item.
You can follow Sawtooth on Twitter or on Facebook. They are located on the NW corner of Randolph St. and Ada St. in the West Loop at 1350 W. Randolph Street.
Table For One, Please!
Although many of the concepts discussed don’t necessarily resonate to me, there are a few that made me go “Aha!” I particularly love the quote from Chris Gregory:
“ You’ve committed to the reservation, the table, the menu. When we see a single diner come in, we see someone who’s gone out of their way to come here.”
Hooray! I hope every restaraunt owner/manager in the universe reads that one. I also resonated strongly with this quote:
“People eating alone aren’t paying attention to flirting with a date. Instead, their attention goes to themselves and their food.”
For me this is entirely the case. When dining alone, I get to eat what I want and never have to feel pressured by someone else to order something. Also, while eating, I am focused as much as possible on my experience and am not distracted by feeling the need to engage in conversation.
Take a moment to read the article and leave your comments here. I would love to start a lively discussion of the interesting points brought up here, particularly the reference to being “sleazy.” I can’t wait to read your commentary on that one!
Please read the article and comment here. Let’s get a good discussion going!
Table For One, Please
True "Mexican" cuisine is not only amazingly tasty, it is varied and exciting. I still don't enjoy the taste of jalapeño peppers or cilantro (just a personal idiosyncrasy), but moving beyond those two flavors I have discovered a whole new horizon in cuisine.
In order to explore my newly-acquired taste for Mexican food, I recently ventured into Maya del Sol for a solo dining experience. For both cuisine and for decent single dining treatment, I definitely recommend a visit to this charming restaurant.
Here is one of the few areas in which Maya del Sol fell just a bit short in my assessment. When I entered I requested a table for one and the hostess uttered the dreaded, "Just one?" I took a deep breath and responded (probably just a bit snarkily), "Yes. I am dining alone tonight so I only need a table for one." She paused for a second, then smiled and said, "Right this way, Sir." In general, she was quite pleasant and I know she didn't mean anything by her use of the word, "just."
As a solo diner, I absolutely don't mind when they take me to a two-top table. After all, why waste a huge table on a busy night? The two-top booths at Maya del Sol are a bit on the small side and I can imagine with two people they might feel crowded. But for one, it was a comfortable location with a nice view of the dining room.
Here again, there were two minor irritating moments. The person who came to pour water asked me if I was expecting another person. When I said, "No," he paused with a strange look on his face and said, "Oh, I guess I should remove the other place setting." He then stood there, apparently waiting for a response, so I said, "Yes, that might be a good idea." I actually found it humorous until the server came up, looked at the table and said, "Are you dining alone tonight?"
At this point, I had a minor snarky moment again and said (quite pointedly), "Yes. I am sitting here alone and I intend to have dinner alone. Is that ok with you?"
OK, OK. I know . . . that was a bit abrupt, but after three times I think I was just a bit sensitive. To her credit, the server laughed, broke the tension, and spent the rest of the meal both attentive and funny. In fact, she and I bonded by laughing about some high-maintenance diners who had been sitting near me. Overall, once we became friends, the rest of the experience was superior.
I indulged in a margarita (actually, two of them). Again, this was an excellent choice. They use top-quality tequila and the drinks are made fresh without any pre-packaged mixes. This was a true and tasty cocktail made with fresh lime juice and served "up."
When I left, the server engaged me in conversation and thanked me for coming. The hostess also stopped me, asked about my experience and invited me to return. In general, they left me with a very positive feeling as a single diner.
Table For One Please