Category Archives: seafood

Tortoise Supper Club – drink up and give to worthy causes

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Feel welcome in the cozy classy atmosphere of Tortoise Supper Club

Just discovered the Tortoise Supper Club during a press event featuring D.E.W. Tullamore Irish whiskey’s “DEW and a Brew” tour through Chicago. Love the leather-and-wood ambience and loved the food and service, too. Now this cozy, classy restaurant, known for its steaks, chops and fresh seafood, is inviting us to come have a special cocktail so they can donate $3 per drink to the worthy cause of the month.

Cocktails for a Cause teams the supper club each month with a local non-profit to help raise awareness and funds for that organization.  The restaurant/lounge creates an original limited edition cocktail and donates $3 of every one sold to that month’s non-profit partner.

This month, Tortoise Supper Club teams up with The Miracle Center, which provides arts-education-based programming for inner-city Chicago kids.  Through its afterschool and summertime programs, youths aged 11 – 22 work together to develop full-scale theater productions that are then performed for the general public.  These programs help kids strengthen their creative problem-solving abilities and build self-esteem by developing their leadership and general life skills.

Curtain Call is this March’s Cocktail for a Cause. House-infused dill vodka is mixed with fresh-squeezed lime juice and a housemade honey syrup, finished with a couple dashes of grapefruit bitters and garnished with a touch of grapefruit zest. Even if you’re not a huge fan of mixed drinks, this one sounds like a winner.

No reservations required. Just come in and relax this month, meet the owners who are almost always onsite greeting guests, and know that 3 bucks of your Curtain Call price will be donated directly to The Miracle Center.

P.S. Weekly specials include Half Priced Signature Cocktails on Wednesdays, Sautéed Frog Legs and Buttermilk Battered Cod on Fridays, Northwoods Dry Rubbed Prime Rib on Saturdays and $1 Oysters / $1 Shrimp Cocktail from 4:30 – 6:30 pm on weekdays.  Live Sinatra-style jazz music is played in the lounge every Friday and Saturday night.

 

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2 more Chicago restaurants with wondrously-warm-winter news

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As the temperatures continue to be chillingly above normal, we can all feel free to keep exploring our restaurant options, sans hoods, gloves and scarves. Check these announcements out:

Seasides carryoutw fried chicken

Seaside’s opens Monday, March 13 for carryout and delivery from the team behind Oyster Bah in Lincoln Park. The menu focuses on fried chicken, slow-cooked BBQ ribs, fresh Maine lobster, and sides, all fit for sharing. Harking back to childhood memories of the Jersey Shore, Oyster Bah and Shaw’s Crab House Partner, Bill “Seaside” Nevruz, brings family-style simple, delicious fare to take-home .

Seaside’s shares kitchen space at Oyster Bah. Order in person or online for pick up Mondays-Thursdays 5 -10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 4 – 11pm, and Sundays from 4 – 9pm. Or get delivery through the Door Dash app. Right now, diners who place an order through Door Dash can receive $5 off (with a minimum purchase of $15) by using promo code LETTUCEEATS.
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Ella Elli1349 W. Cornelia Ave., the eleventh concept by 4 Star Restaurant Group (Tuco and Blondie, Crosby’s Kitchen, Remington’s), opened in Lakeview just off Southport Avenue last night, Tuesday, March 6. With culinary operations led by 4 Star Executive Chef Matt Eversman and branding and design development by Chicago-based Grip (Girl & The Goat, GT Fish & Oyster), the 75-seat concept is a warm, intimate lounge space to enjoy cuisine created with global influences, a unique wine list and classic cocktails.
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Guests can enjoy dishes by 4 Star Executive Chef Matt Eversman, alongside Executive Chef Nolan Narut that range from charcuterie and toasts, vegetables and salads to pizzas and pastas, meats, fish, and desserts. Cured Meats and Pickles, Artisanal Cheeses and Steak Tartar, with toast options like the Prosciutto Butter Toast with radish and dill.

Vegetables and salads are stand-outs at Ella Elli. Crispy Grain Salad with goat cheese and shaved vegetables, Roasted Carrots with crème fraiche, harissa and pickled celery. From the wood-burning pizza oven comes Roasted Oyster Mushroom with goat cheese. Pastas include Rigatoni with roasted cauliflower, mint and chilies. Seafoods include Hamachi Crudo with persevered lemon relish and Wood-Oven Octopus with crispy potatoes and salsa verde. Meats: Burger Au Poivre with St. André triple cream and watercress, or Lamb Scottadito with spiced yogurt and harissa. Desserts include Profiteroles with mint gelato and espresso dark chocolate sauce, and Spanish Blue Cheese Beignets with cardamom powedered sugar, fresh lemon and fig-balsamic glaze.
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3 days only! 312 Chicago celebrates 19 years with $19 specials

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312 Chicago celebrates 19 years!

As a thank you to customers in celebration of 19 years in Chicago’s bustling Theater District and across from City Hall,  312 Chicago, 136 N. LaSalle, and Chef Luca are offering *all* dinner entrees for $19 each as well as $19 bottles of select red and white wine. Starting on their anniversary, 3/12/17 and evenings through Tuesday 3/14, you can get everything  at the party price – check the list below. Reservations are encouraged.

Here’s the complete menu:

  • Salmone, $27: Roasted Faroe Island Salmon, Tri-Colored Lentils, Cippolini Onions, Baby Spinach, Lemon Sauce
  • Branzino, $28: Mediterranean Skin-On Sea Bass, Cauliflower Puree, Manila Clams, Zucchini and Yellow Squash, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Garlic White Wine Sauce
  • Cacciucco, $29: Sauteed Scallops, Shrimp, Tuna, Mussels, Clams, Lobster, Light Spicy Tomato Broth, Grilled Garlic Crostini
  • Pollo, $23: Roasted Chicken Breast, Beech Mushrooms, Crispy Onion, Sweet Grilled Corn, Creamy Polenta, Chicken Succo
  • Maiale, $26: Roasted‎ Pork Chop, Black Tuscan Kale, Potato Cake, Prosciutto, Brandy Cream Sauce
  • Filetto, $35: Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Tri-Colored Fingerling Potatoes, Truffle Butter, Porcini Mushroom Sauce
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3 city & 1 ‘burbs – Spots for live music with good food

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Do you expect exceptional food when you go out for live music? Chicago has a few places that make this a priority. In the city, where you can get there by cab or public transport:

  1. Bandera, 535 N. Michigan. Jazz & blues every night. Cocktails, lunch and dinner in sexy, subtle lighting.
  2. Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Steak, 521 N. Rush St. Seafood, oysters, crab, sea bass, etc. and prime steaks. Pricey but highly rated.
  3. Buddy Guy’s Legends, 700 S. Wabash. Rockin’ good music and down home Southern-inspired dishes. Word is, Buddy himself sits in sometimes!

And we just heard about one in the ‘burbs that’s making food a priority, too: 210 Restaurant and Live Music Lounge, 210 Green Bay Road, Highwood, IL. Co-owner and Executive Chef Jeff Tomchek Chef Jeff Tomchek KCI_0733lo resbrings 30 years of experience in several countries honing his abilities to turn fresh, high quality, locally sourced produce and ingredients into menu items that span regional and global cuisines as well as barbecue and Southern-style dishes. 

Appetizers include Hawaiian Tuna Poke with toasted Macadamia Nuts ($13 Hawaiian Tuna Poke with Toasted Macadamia Nuts 210 KCI_0537 lo res.jpg); Roast Local Corn Mexican Street Food Style ($5/$8); Korean Chicken Wings ($12); and Tomato Bisque ($5/$8). Salads include Roast Beets with Bean Hummas, Arugula & Pine Nuts ($12); Frillman Farms Heirloom Tomato with Burrata & Basil ($11); and a Crispy Chicken Chopped Salad with Chipotle Ranch ($18).

Main dishes Baby Back Ribs Dry Rub and Pit Smoked 210 a KCI_0626 lo res.jpginclude Baby Back Ribs, Dry Rub & Pit Smoked (taste $8, half $16/full slab $24); Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich with Arugula & Remoulade ($13); Roast Scottish Salmon with corn mashed potatoes and Mexican Truffle Vinaigrette ($24); and Andouille Jambalaya with Louisiana Style BBQ Shrimp ($19).

Roast Cauliflower with Thai Three Flavor Sauce 210 KCI_0718lo resThis place even lets you get your vegetables in with original presentations like Roast Local Eggplant with Moroccan Spices ($9); Miso Glazed Acorn Squash ($8); Roast Cauliflower with Thai three flavor sauce ($8) and Bacon Braised Collard Greens ($8); and Not Yo Mamma’s Mac & Cheese ($8); and Local Bi Color Corn Sautéed with Peppers & Onions ($8). Seasonal offerings and daily specials are listed on the website.

If you live in the city and want to enjoy 210 Restaurant and Live Music Lounge, consider finding a nice hotel in the area so you can stay as long as you like and not have to worry about driving home. If you live nearby, get thee hence and try it soon.

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Binge on ’em all week before Shaw’s Oyster Fest

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Indulge all week before Shaw's Oyster Fest 2016
Indulge all week before Shaw’s Oyster Fest 2016

Oyster Fest Presented by Shaw’s Crab House returns to Chicago on Friday, September 30, 2016 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Chicago’s River North for its 28th year featuring great food and live music. Shaw’s Chicago and its sister restaurant, Oyster Bah, are great at creating fun food events all year, but check out the fun they’ve got planned for Oyster Fest week.

Sunday, September 25
William Fèvre Chablis Dinner at Shaw’s Crab House Chicago: This four-course dinner, plus reception, includes chablis selections and seafood pairings. Guests can enjoy glasses of Champagne Henriot and Bouchard Père & Fils courtesy of William Fèvre sister estates in Champagne and Burgundy. Priced at $75 per guest (tax and gratuity not included), the dinner will begin with a 6 p.m. reception and seated dinner at 6:30 p.m. Reserve at 312-527-2722. Event menu here.
Tuesday, September 27
Founders Beer Dinner at Shaw’s Crab House Chicago: Founders Brewing Co. has teamed up with Shaw’s as a sponsor of this year’s Oyster Fest, pouring delicious brews all festival-long. In celebration of the partnership, Founders is co-hosting a four course beer dinner with special guest and co-founder, Dave Engbers. The cost is $75 per guest (tax and gratuity not included), beginning with a reception at 6 p.m. and seated dinner at 6:30 p.m. Reserve at 312-527-2722. Event menu here.
Wednesday, September 28
Oysters, Oysters, and More Oysters at Shaw’s Crab House Chicago: Chicago Gourmets have teamed up with Shaw’s to welcome special guest and author Cynthia Nims for an oyster luncheon celebrating the recent publication of her book,Oysters: Recipes That Bring Home a Taste of the Sea. The luncheon features recipes from Cynthia’s book plus wine pairings and is priced at $75 per person (tax & gratuity not included) and will begin at noon. Reserve at chicagourmet.org.
Meet-and-greet the author who’ll sign books in the Oyster Bar from 4 to 6 p.m. where books will be available for purchase.
Happy Hour with Rowan Jacobsen at Oyster Bah: James Beard award-winning food writer Rowan Jacobsen will join us to promote his upcoming book, The Essential Oyster: A Salty Appreciation of Taste and Temptation (out on October 4th). From 4 to 6 p.m. Rowan will be posting up at the oyster bar as the guest shucker, but will also curate the day’s oyster list and introduce oyster pairings with his favorite William Fèvre chablis wines. Click here to stay tuned on wine features.
Thursday, September 29
Books, Oysters, and Cocktails with Rowan Jacobsen at Shaw’s Crab House Chicago: Rowan Jacobsen will also be hitting up Shaw’s Chicago to promote his book and from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Oyster Bar, guests receive a signed copy of Rowan’s new book, slurp down on Rowan’s favorite oysters (plus snacks) and enjoy some custom cocktails from our local bartender friends in Chicago’s cocktail scene. The event is priced at $75 per person and reservations are recommended. Call 312-527-2722 or visit the website here.
All week long: Oyster Bar Happy Hour: Starting Monday, September 26, Shaw’s Chicago will be featuring all day Happy Hour in the Oyster Bar! Enjoy one East coast and one West coast variety on special all week long at half-price ($18 per dozen).
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Shaw’s Oyster Fest 2016 offers VIP access!

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Get some at Shaw's Oyster Fest 2016
Get some at Shaw’s Oyster Fest 2016

Oyster Fest Presented by Shaw’s Crab House returns to Chicago on Friday, September 30, 2016 from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the corner of Hubbard St. and Rush St. in River North. More than 3,000 guests – got that? – are expected at this year’s Festival. Underline that number: 3000. This is your clue to think about going for the new VIP ticket (see below) so you can rise above the madding crowd.

                              
The Food and Drinks                                                       
Besides the music, four local blues bands including headliner, Bumpus, you’ll get to pick your favorite fresh seafood from Shaw’s Crab House. Look for six varieties of  premium-quality oysters, both East Coast and West Coast, on the half shell as well as other Festival favorites like King Crab Bites, Lobster Rolls, Clam Chowder, Fish Tacos, and more.
                              
Wash ’em all down with your favorite cocktails, wine and/or beer, including this year’s hugely aromatic selections like All Day IPA and KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) from Founder’s Brewing Co.,  based in Grand Rapids, MI.

Tickets
Tickets go on-sale today at oysterfestchicago.com and will be sold in the following two tiers:
  1. General admission ($20)- festival admission
  2. VIP admission ($50)- festival admission, table & waiter service, access to full liquor cash bar, clear sightline/up close to the stage, and access to “luxury” running water trailer bathrooms – as opposed to port-a-potty units.
The Music
Steeped in Chicago blues tradition, Shaw’s Crab House has invited an exciting lineup of blues bands– regulars at The House of Blues, Kingston Mines, Buddy Guy’s and Shaw’s Oyster Bar– to provide continuous music throughout the evening. Emceed by 93XRT’s Lin Brehmer, the day’s bands include:
  • The Friends Band, the friendliest band in town with a fun dance style- 3 to 4 p.m.
  • Big Dog Mercer, the owner of one soulful voice and winner of the 2015 Kankakee Valley Music Awards Best Blues Band- 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
  • Breezy Rodio, an up-and-coming bluesman with impressive guitar skills and disciple of the famed Linsey Alexander –6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
  • And headliner, Bumpus, a nine-piece funk band that’s gotten great reviews from the Chicago Reader, Tribune, and Sun-Times and has opened for bands like The Roots and The Wailers- 8:15 to 9:30 p.m.
  • And don’t forget the night’s Oyster Slurp-Off Grand Finale where one competitor walks away the 2016 champ and the Oyster Hall of Fame Inductee celebration from 7:15 to 7:45 p.m.
Kids 12 and under are free and, as always, all food and beverage are additional and can be purchased by buying Oyster Bucks at the festival. Following the fest, Shaw’s Chicago will host an Oyster Fest after party with live music until 1 a.m.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit oysterfestchicago.com and be sure to follow all the action with #OysterFestChi.
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Osteria La Madia

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Update: As of March 25, 2017, Osteria La Madia is closed. The owners are now focused on building their Firecakes brand.
Osteria La Madia, 59 Grand Ave., sits in the heart of the red-hot River North section of downtown Chicago – a great place for drinks and unique appetizers. Or try their handmade, wood-fire-grilled pizzas or a full meal from among entrees that include fresh seafood to short ribs and housemade pastas with a variety of proteins. Several salads on offer range from a selection of greens with unique dressings to a full-meal version of Ahi Tuna Nicoise.
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The bar and a small seating area form a cozy spot at the front of the divided space. Then a line of booths leads down a short path to the main two-level, large, airy dining area set with varying size tables and comfortable chairs. And the wood-fire grills are centered at the back of the space; it’s cool to watch the pizzas being made behind the protective glass shield. The overall effect is of a room that’s spacious with cozy areas. The decor is unobtrusively simple yet modern with a truly comfortable ambiance.
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Osteria La Madia's fabulous Spinach cheese fondue
Osteria La Madia’s fabulous Spinach cheese fondue

Our server happily recommended favorites when we asked. She especially recommended the Spinach & Taleggio Fondue appetizer. Picturing something oozing with oily cheese, we hesitated but decided to trust her – she said it is the restaurant’s most popular appetizer. We were amazed when she brought out a platter with a huge slab of puffy, clearly-wood-fired, pita-type bread that dwarfed a small crock of beautifully smooth and creamy-looking green sauce drizzled with truffle oil. The proper approach, she explained, was to rip off a piece of the bread, place it on your individual plate and spoon some of the green stuff over top. Wow, it was really good. Would never believe it was spinach – rich with the velvety consistency of heavy cream without betraying the slightest hint of iron, as spinach can sometimes do, or greasiness, as melted cheeses often do. The truffle oil dribbled on top gave the fondue extra pizzaz. The Sardinian bread was made of the same dough they use for their pizzas, several of which we’d tried and enjoyed on an earlier visit. They offer a wide variety of unique pizza toppings and offer several of them at bargain prices during their bar-only happy hour (currently 4:30 to 6:30 M-F). Excellent way to slake your thirst and gratify your hunger after work.

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Our other appetizer, the mussels in a tomato onion broth was simply scrumptious. The mussels perfectly cooked, the broth deeply flavored with stock and tomato and just a hint of spice. I couldn’t resist mixing some of the dark, rich, red broth with some of the spinach fondue. It turned out to be a fabulous flavor combination, although mixing the colors green and red results in a not-too-attractive shade of grayish brown. I didn’t care; it tasted SO good.
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The heirloom tomato salad was in season and just delightful. The bright range cherry tomatoes were super sweet and tasty. And the thick slice from a giant red tomato reminded us both of the tomatoes our fathers used to grow. Hard to get much better than that. The burrata was gooey and creamy and good.

Housemade ricotta-stuffed tortellacci with summer vegetables and truffle shavings
Housemade ricotta-stuffed tortellacci with summer vegetables and truffle shavings

Our entrees: scallops were nicely seared without being overdone, while the side dish of farro was a bit salty; the housemade ricotta-stuffed pasta and vegetables were all good individually without feeling quite melded in the overall dish. In any case we enjoyed both dishes, and they went perfectly with the fine, light red wine our server recommended from among the nicely rounded list of wines by the bottle and by the glass (priced as 4oz, 7oz and full bottle portions). A shared dish of strawberry gelato along with an after-dinner liqueur put a mellow ending on a nice evening. We’d gotten there early and by the time we finished, the place was hopping with diners, including several large families sharing a meal together.

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The whole experience was lovely, with wonderful service in comfortable surroundings. We’d recommend visiting Osteria La Madia any time; check their hours of operation here. In case you don’t want to fight traffic or pay through the nose for parking, get to La Madia in a snap via the 156, 36 or 22 buses or the Red Line (Grand/State station). It’s a short walk from any of those lines. You’ll feel welcome while you’re there and leave feeling glad you came.

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And by the way, the same folks who operate La Madia also operate the top-rated Firecakes bakeries. If you like donuts, do not fail to visit one of their locations. Hint: We highly recommend the coconut cream-topped cake donut. And La Madia recently started offering brunch on Saturdays and Sundays (10 – 3pm) and guess what? You can feast on Firecakes donuts there in addition to either their prix fixe brunch or lots of variety priced a la carte.
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The restaurant provided a meal to facilitate this review. All opinions are strictly those of the writer.
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How to tell a good mussel from a bad one

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Is there a way to tell a good mussel from a bad one without tasting it? I haven’t found a reliable one yet – except the sense of smell.

Mussels at Trouville fish market
Mussels at Trouville fish market (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I once decided to try a restaurant in the just-getting-trendy neighborhood known as Tremont in Cleveland, where I owned a rental property at the time and dreamed I might one day retire. The community charmed me because it was the only place in Cleveland–my home for 33 years – that reminded me of Chicago. A bar or restaurant or pizza/takeout place on virtually every corner of its delightfully walkable streets. I didn’t imagine at the time that I would joyfully end up back in my beloved home town.

Anyway, there was a restaurant a block down from my property that I’d heard good things about. So I went in one night and was thrilled to see they had mussels on the menu. Now I like mine in a simple wine broth with garlic and lots of butter and good bread. I was hungry, so I was eager for them to arrive. When they finally did, an overwhelming smell greeted me before the plate even hit the table – it was awful.

I pointed this out to the waitress and she actually tried to tell me I was mistaken. That’s how mussels are supposed to smell, she insisted. Hey, have you ever smelled a bad mussel? There’s a rotten odor about them. Sometimes the smell isn’t immediately noticeable and if you bite into one like that, you’ll immediately spit it out. It’s unmistakeably not something you want to eat. And they don’t have to look bad at all to have this smell.

If the first time I’d ever eaten mussels they tasted like that, I’d never have ordered them again, no matter how much people assured me. The waitress finally agreed haughtily to take them back. After that appalling customer service, I was seriously disinclined to take her up on her reluctant offer to substitute another dish.

So it’s time for mussels to be in season. And some Chicago restaurants are making special deals on these tasty little seafood treats served in their black shiny shells. Go out and enjoy yourself at one of these – and don’t take any guff if you get a bad one.

And I’d love to hear if you run into one that meets their marketing claim to include “the best mussel dishes in town.”

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