Bye Bye Restaurant Week! See ya next year!

Mesa Grille

This year is the second year that Chicago has done restaurant week. How I managed to NOT know about it last year is beyond me, but whatevs. At least I had three lovely dinners this year so that I am sure to not let next year’s event pass me by.

My first “restaurant week” exposure was in NYC last July. We went to see the Yankees during their final stint at “old yankee stadium”. I, of course, had other sites planned. And I don’t mean the Statue of Liberty or Wall Street. I do, of course, mean restaurants and food. A great long weekend full of sinful, lovely, scrumptuous food choices. Of course, site-seeing is nice, but much nicer if you’ve got awesome flavors of ice cream at the hole-in-the-wall Chinatown ice cream shoppe to look forward to between sites! If you go to NYC you MUST go to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory . I won’t tell you what flavor to get, but if you’re smart, and I think you might be, get the Taro. The other 2-4 scoops you get is up to you.

So back to restaurant week. Now NYC has a much larger following in the way of participating restaurants. We found out a little too late and had to do some other things (you know, like watch that Yankees game that we made the trip for! Woo hoo!!), so we only had limited opportunity to book a restaurant. I had to use one of those nights to hit up the best thai restaurant ever: Tao. But upon dining at Tao, we saw that they did in fact participate in restaurant week, but for lunch only. Surely I can find a lunchtime day to eat there again (and don’t worry – I did). The other must-eat place was Bobby Flay’s restaurant, Mesa Grill. I adore him and of course had to partake in some southwest fare. The cherry bread pudding was spifirific. I was so excited about it that I had to be a tourist and have my picture taken outside the restaurant.

My ramblings regarding NYC’s week of course do have somewhat of a purpose on this post. Once I found out about Chi-town’s restaurant week, I wondered if it could compare to the delicious cuisine that NYC’s week had to offer. I knew the list of restaurants was a little smaller, but I examined the list closely and made my choices carefully. Since hubby and I are in class three weeknights between the two of us, we had to make the most of last weekend and our one free weeknight, so we got 3 dinners in. I had to let him pick one, and of course he chooses steakhouses and Ruth’s Chris it was. Very good, but in my mind it was nothing compared to my choices: Farmerie 58 and Carnivale – two places I had on my “outside of Bucktown places to eat” list (I have a separate “Bucktown places to eat” list just for our ‘hood). I’ll talk about the first.

I’d been eyeing Farmerie 58 on my way home every day. Now that I get to work downtown I get to drive by all sorts of eateries which essentially means that I will never ever run out of dinner spots. Farmerie 58 has a nice ambience about it. The downstairs is super bar-like and all of the dining spots are upstairs. They have a raw bar (which I will check out at one point), but this time we focused on the 3 course $32 menu. I wish I’d taken a picture of the first course (Butternut Squash veloute) – my favorite veggie – butternut squash. Yum. But here’s the other two dishes (I would have taken pictures of Chris’ food but he was already looking at me as if I’d grown antlers).

Farmerie 58 short ribs

Short ribs with potato gallette, baby carrots, cauliflower puree, and a red wine demi-glace. Aside from picking lots of fat off of the short ribs, I ate it all up. Even the demi-glace was sopped up with my fingers. I am a classy girl.

Dessert: White Chocolate Bread Pudding. I can’t seem to ever resist bread pudding. But should I? No!!!! It was served with roasted quince, caramel popcorn, and vanilla anglaise. With all of those ingredients, it just had to be good. And it was. The popcorn was really neat.

Farmerie 58 bread pudding

Are you sold yet? If you live in Chicago and haven’t been here, you have to go. It’s quite lovely.

Overall, I’d say that Chicago’s restaurant week was successful. 3 restaurants, 3 great dishes at each, and 3 memorable experiences. But with wine and drinks, over $300!! Ouch! Clearly we are staying in a for a few weeks….

Update: Sniff sniff….. Farmerie 58 is now closed (Fall, 2009) 😦

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