October was a very special month for me, because it marks the anniversary of the launch of my blog, it is my birthday month, and most importantly, it is National Seafood Month!
From their ever-changing menu that uses only seasonal ingredients, carefully crafted by Chefs Brian Fisher and Mari Katsumura, we tried a medley of bread and butters served with a nice selection of wines. My favorite thing I ate were the Parker House Rolls, which were fluff, mildly glazed wit Benton’s ham and lots of cultured butter. There was also an eclectic spread of butters to go with your bread and the meat eaters gorged on a Chicken Liver Mousse that looked really appetizing. I need a pat on my back for not deviating from my pescetarian diet.
Entente has all the right ingredients to become Lakeview’s new hot spot!
October brought more partnerships with seafood companies such as Spence & Co., Ltd, a company that specializes in smoked fish, most popularly salmon.
I love salmon and was happy to welcome samples of all different kinds of smoked salmon at my doorstep, a few weeks ago.
The Salmon Pinwheel perfectly showcased the company’s motto of innovation and technique. Initially intimidated to eat these fancy looking bites, these went down easy! I think these mini appetizers may have transformed me to a salmon lover for life. They were perfectly sized salmon pieces folded in with layers of cream cheese and dill. I took their recommendation and put them on cucumber slices, which made them all the more delicious.
The Lox in a Box kit was just fun, and I’m a lover of anything interactive and convenient. For those unforeseen guests or for nights you don’t have time to make dinner, the lox kit is perfect. Complete with crackers, salmon and cream cheese, these little bites are ready whenever you are!
Among the various samples of Gravlox and the Novalox, was the unmatched Citrus Cured Smoked Salmon. I simply couldn’t get over the freshness that the citrus zest brought to the fish, and how perfectly thin and translucent the salmon slices were. These dry-cured, tender slices of salmon had just the most amazing texture and complexity of flavor.
And let me not forget two amazing packages of Smoked Trout Pate and the Smoked Salmon Pate that were sent, which were both creamy and went well with toast and crackers. I ate this for breakfast, an afternoon snack, and sometimes, dessert!
The next batch of seafood goodies I received were two big packages of traditional and gluten-free crab cakes from Handy. Wow, these were truly a treat! Made with the freshest of crab, and a blend of simple ingredients such as celery salt, lemon juice and scallions, these were the real deal! Also handmade and all natural! I was mainly impressed by how well the crab cakes were packed and held up even in high heat, without losing their moisture. And the gluten free version was just as tasty; you would ever know the difference!
I was invited tothe First Look at Rotithat opened downtown on the corner on the corner of Michigan and Lake. This preview dinner had dine-in seating and free meals for guests. Roti is one of my favorite fast food places in the city, because the food is fast but also full of integrity. Every location I’ve been too is clean and the ingredients are always fresh. I ordered my Salmon Kabobs in a rice plate with their green chili sauce with a side of their pearly, yellow couscous, red cabbage slaw, hummus and lots of feta cheese. My plate probably had every color of the rainbow; almost too pretty to mess up. The kabobs were very juicy, with edges slightly charred, and blended in perfectly with the green chili marinade. The food at Roti is healthy and even with a little indulgence in carbs you still won’t feel the guilt. The other highlight was freshly baked, warm chocolate chip cookies that were being handed out, and you know that sugar instantly brings a smile to my face. Thanks Roti for a wonderful evening and a pleasant meal! I will be sure to return soon!
I hosted my second Media Dinner at Tocco Ristorante the following week. Owner Bruno Abate has been a friend for a long time and I have always loved the food there, but this was a spread like no other. Famed Michelin star rated Chef Domenica Acamporaset up a wonderful coursed dinner with items such as the Aquarello Risotto, Homemade TortelliIn a Black Truffle Sauce and Oven Roasted Veal Tenderloin in a Porcini Ragout. The goal was to feature authentic Italian food that goes beyond just pizza and pasta, and Chef did just that. I think the night’s favorite was the steaky Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass, which was served in a crustacean jus. The fish was melty soft and sat on a pile of a blue potato mash and some crispy leeks that enhanced the fish even more.
Food bloggers who attended were surprised yet delighted to find such delicious seafood at an Italian restaurant. I especially had fun with actual pieces of gold that were scattered in my risotto. Something about that felt very royal. Don’t get me wrong, we did have pizza, which was as usual, perfectly light and crispy and actually served as an appetizer at this event. No stone was left unturned by Chef, and dinner ended with an awesome homemade Ricotta Cake served with chocolate mousse. Bruno may be the best host in town, and it helps that his restaurant is equipped with a stellar staff that can give patrons a true taste of Italy. Everyone who visited the restaurant for the first time raved about how they couldn’t wait to come back. I was mostly happy that Chef’s culinary prowess received much deserved attention.
For my birthday this year, my girlfriends took me to The Angry Crab at the Wicker park location. My friends obviously know me well and that seafood is always the safe way to my heart. Now as you know, I get to eat my fair share of seafood, but then every once in awhile, I discover a place like The Angry Crab, which is so amazing that makes you feel like I a first-time pescetarian. Wow! This place should be the starting point for all fish eaters in my opinion. We ate the most delicious garlic noodles that looked very simple in appearance but were basically a flavor burst in every bite. And the only other comment I’ll make about this dish is that if you don’t like garlic, then avoid them. But who doesn’t like garlic? We ordered a couple bags of the mussels, shrimp and stone crab boil, and my hands-down vote would be for the mussels. They were beautifully marinated and nicely held on to the spices they were doused in. We sipped and slurped the broth like soup. All the meat was top quality and the garlic bread we ordered on the side was perfect to soak up any jus we may have missed. I’d be happy to make this a birthday tradition.
The birthday festivities weren’t over and another group of friends treated me to La Sardine a few days later. I know, I’m a lucky girl. And I love that my friends know that seafood and French food make me happy. I am also glad that I saved La Sardine for a special occasion because it was truly remarkable. As a group of ten people with different dietary preferences, I felt like at some point, we had pretty much everything from the menu at our table. This included rabbit, oxtail, and steak.
But to report specifically on the seafood, the mussels were the best I’ve ever had and there was consensus about that at the table. The salted codfish dip was just as wonderful, not fishy as I expected it to be and came with a very cute presentation. My new measure of good seafood at French restaurants is the Bouillabaisse, and the fish stew was fantastic. A divinely aromatic seafood soup, perfectly spicy, and with very generous portions of monkfish, clams, mussels, shrimp and lobster in equal proportions. The broth had delicate hints of fennel and cayenne, and grilled toast with garlic butter carefully placed in the bowl was just the perfect finishing touch. With every bite, I was beaming ear to ear, just like a birthday girl should and I happily ate my leftovers for lunch the next day. The whole vibe at La Sardine was warm and comforting; a cozy bistro with beautiful cherry wood accents all of which truly adds to the appeal. It is safe to say that La Sardine is one of the best French gems we have in our city.