Seven Dining Highlights In Chicago, Spring 2015, James Beard Weekend

Twenty minutes before our dinner reservations at Next, we made a stop at Publican to eat. That's how it was gonna be in Chicago, the weekend for the 2015 James Beard Awards, the first ever held in the "City with Big Shoulders". (Check out the Carl Sandburg poem "Chicago" below.) 

Here are the dining highlights of that three-night trip last weekend with Nancy Silverton, chef Dahlia Narvaez, chef Chris Feldmeier, chef Liz "Go Go" Hong and Chicago legend chef Matt Kim.

1. Tournedos Rossini  at  Next -  The theme for Next, Grant Achatz's sometimes futuristic/sometimes throwback brilliant restaurant on West Fulton Market, was Paris Bistro. When I saw this Careme or Escoffier ( debatable, still) classic tribute to the composer on the enticing menu  I told the server "bring whatever you think, but just make sure one of the plates is Tournedos Rossini."  The kitchen, led by executive chef Dave Beran and chef de cuisine Jenner Tomaska came on strong with about half of the menu. But, the peak was the Rossini, the heart of the filet of beef on buttered toast, topped with foie gras and black truffles bathed in a  veal stock, butter, truffle, foie gras and Madeira sauce as dark as the Southside and as rich as the Gold Coast.

The dish was described by Jeff Gordinier in a 2012 New York Times article "A Pool of Memories", as "...if you want a phrase that summons all the voluptuous pleasure of haute cuisine in its heyday, “tournedos Rossini” does the trick." 

It did the trick at Next.  Liz "Go Go" Hong kept repeating "The steak. The steak. The steak" like she was a,gourmet Col. Kurtz.         The current menu is Tapas.       

2. Stuffed Parpardelle  at - Nico Osteria -  When our lunch crew saw this on the menu at Nico Osteria, Feldmeier said "How the fuck do you stuff a parpardelle?" (Or maybe I said that.)  I'm still not sure. Maybe with a razor blade, like the way Paulie sliced the garlic in "Good Fellas". How ever chef de cusine Erling Wu-Bower did it at this Rush Street newcomer, he did it right. Stuffed with milk-braised pork, it was pasta dish of the trip, and a contender for the prestigious POTS** award,. 

Nico Osteria is from the team of executive chef Paul Kahan and Donnie Madia, who won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur  in the United States this year.

3. Sopa Azteca at Frontera Grill -  Where do you take Dario Cecchini, the world's most famous butcher, to dinner in Chicago? To a Mexican restaurant, Nancy figured. So it was Frontera Grill,the less cutting edge of Rick Bayless' two adjoining homages to the food south of the border. The other is Topolobampo.

There was much to enjoy (Nancy ate nearly a half  liter of guacamole (with chips) at the bar before Dario and his storied wife Kimberly arrived), but these little sopa stood out. They were tortilla cups with pasilla broth, chicken, avocado, some local cheese and crema.

4Gerry's Adobo Dog at Publican Quality Meats - GerryRuiz is one of the butcher's at Publican Quality Meats  - and nephew of George "I'll Stuff My Chorizo in Your Dates" Ruiz -  and he makes a mean "Latinized" version of the classic Chicago hot dog. It's adobo sausage, chimichurri, avocado, cilantro pickled cucumber, onion and mojo rojo on a lobster roll.

Chef de cuzine Missy Corey had previously rejected Gerry's idea of a Gerry's adobo soda pop, a Gerry's adobo gelato, a Gerry's adobo Wellington and a Gerry's rack of adobo before admitting he was finally on to something with the adobo dog

5, Assorted fett' unta at Nico Osteria. - These, thick-sliced, olive-oiled brushed bread, one topped with baccala, dungeness crab and celery another with brussels sprouts and some cheese, were resistible, but barely.  

6.  Garrett caramel popcorn tin  in the hotel room  -  This was in a goodie bag Nancy got from the James Beard people and was devoured late at night in our hotel room. Say what? Oh, what hotel did we stay at?  The Waldorf Astoria.  (Always wanted to say that, even if this one ain't on Park Avenue.)

7. Fritos,   Original  - I flew , damn, I really am blanking on the. oh , yeah Frontier Airlines. Don't. Two night flights provided no food or drink except some room temp water.  So the 50 cent bag of Fritos I had in my computer case were relished like they were, like they were tournedos Rossini. Well, not quite.

What? I can't hear you. Speak up, G. Oh, what hotel did we stay at? The Waldorf.

** POTS - Pasta of the Spring

Parpardelle stuffed with pork. What a gig. A parpardelle stuffer

Parpardelle stuffed with pork. What a gig. A parpardelle stuffer

Tournedos rossini

Tournedos rossini



Hog Butcher for the World,

   Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,

   Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;

   Stormy, husky, brawling,

   City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.

And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.

And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.

And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:

Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.

Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,





   Building, breaking, rebuilding,

Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,

Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,

Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,

Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,


Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.