Archive for the ‘Drinks’ Category

The Golden Ticket

Posted: October 30, 2012 in Drinks, Food, Lifestyle, Personal

Originally posted in June 2011

What do you do when one of the most respected chefs in the world invites you into his new restaurant for dinner? You do what the Tavernita team did and cancel all other plans to dine at Tickets in Barcelona; Albert Adria’s new concept.




But let’s back up a bit- back to March when our plans to tour three cities in Spain for our research were finally set. The first spot I attempted to make a reservation for was Tickets- which was booked. Since the cocktail gurus The Tippling Brothers are part of our crew- we had no problem settling for 41 Degrees (the adjacent cocktail lounge also by Adria). That was until we arrived during a downpour and caught a glimpse of what we’d be missing as the host- dressed like a circus conductor walked us thru Tickets to get to 41 Degrees.



The restaurant entrance looked like an old time theater combined a Carnival or Circ de Soleil. Alfredo Sandoval (my partner at Tavernita) tried reassuring me as we sat at the 41 Degrees bar; “We will have to go to Tickets next time.” Which was the equivalent of telling a little kid leaving the super market; ‘We can play video games and get a gumball “next time”’.



But I quickly perked up as we sampled the creative cocktails and chatted up the friendly mixologists, and we mentioned that were here from Chicago on a restaurant research trip. Soon, Albert himself emerged from the back- the message had been delivered and he had come over to meet this group including the Chicago chefs. We chatted about my time in Spain, as well as Tavernita and he asked what time our reservation at Tickets was for- and I was jokingly telling him about how we couldn’t get in. He apologized and said things have been crazy with the opening, and booked solid for 3 months strait.

His kindness and lack of ego bummed me out even more that I couldn’t try his food- but not ten minuets passed when Chef emerged again and said: “I have a table for you at Tickets, you can sit down when ever you like, it would be our pleasure to have you.” It took me a few seconds to make the translation in my head, and ran it back a few times to make sure I understood correctly- one of the greatest chefs in the world had just invited us to dinner.



In a shocked state the group of 10 walked into the “Circus like restaurant” and sat down, looking around and snapping photos. Albert came to welcome our table and requested to do a special tasting menu- inquiring about dietary restrictions.



We ordered the house beer that Albert and brother Ferran created and our adventure of Tickets began with our first course.



To be continued…


Originally posted in May 2011

10 best things I loved about the Tavernita Restaurant Spain trip

  • 10 Pintoxs




  • 9   Shrimp Bisque with rice paper at Fuego Negro
  • 8   Kill Bill Cocktail at 41 Degrees 
  • 7   Tapas in La latina neighborhood Madrid




  • 6   Entrecôte & Dover Sole at Branca in San Sebastien




  • 5   Sardines at 3 People Food & Music with Chef Matteo Pancetti




  • 4   Baby Cuttlefish at El Quim de Boqueria
  • 3   Potatos, Fried Eggs and Chrizo at Tapac24




  • 2   Tuna Belly Painted with Iberico Ham Fat at Tickets




  • 1    Albert Adria writing us a menu at Tickets



Tapas Y Pintxos

Posted: October 30, 2012 in Drinks, Food, Lifestyle, Personal, Travel

Originally posted in May 2011

small plates, bites, snacks….no one does these better than Spain.

the little bites of food are called different things in different regions, but are similar in taste and apperance.

in madrid the group walked into a modern bar with a glass case and most were surprised to find they could walk right up to the case and take what they wanted. plates were on the bar and all the customer needs to do is save their toothpicks and be honest with what they had.

we enjoyed mini rounds of crusty breads with tuna mixtures, vegetables and jamon. kelli´s favorite was a mini pie shell filled with a tuna mixture and topped with a sardine as well as a toothpick topped with basil and sundried tomato.

my partner larry silver and i cant get over the richness of the meats…only one bite of jamon and you´ll see the difference immediatley.

after a walk around shops and a little siesta we sat at another spot-this one served us. we had similar small plates and this time tried the patats bravas and tortilla (similar to an egg quiche).

everyone drinks a beer here mixed with lemonade- and while that may sound gross let me assure you it´s refreshing and wonderful.

in san sebastian the little streets are filled with pinxto bars to wander into and stand and eat….picking things right off the bar.

here we sampled more tortillas, and mini breads with crab, tuna and salmon mixtures.

the tortillas in san sebastian were some of the best we have sampled-with different layers of filling and delicious cold.

the mini sandwiches are wearing thin on some- others in our group eat them for snacks and even breakfast. most have either jamon and cheese with tomato spread or just cheese and tomato spread… and they take the place of a typical american breakfast…no cereal here!

now we are off to do a little hike to burn some of this off…next blog will be about the amazing markets in madrid and barcelona!

Originally posted in March 2011

Let me state on the record- I love to go dancing.


There’s few things better than finishing a great service and celebrating with a few cold beers and friends.


But- if service didn’t go well…if even one guest is unhappy with their food- the last place you’ll find me is in a club.


Because to me- food always comes first.


Normally I let my work speak for it’s self- but today’s Time Out Chicago blog was so off-point, that I can’t let it rest.


It read:


The move Ryan Poli swaps Perennial for Tavernita, opening this summer

Analysis Poli’s departure for a Latin/Mediterranean small-plates/nightlife spot doesn’t gel with our impression of the chef, who has previously stuck with finer dining. But dude is definitely obsessed with Spanish food. And clubs. He likes clubs.

Verdict We don’t get it.

Here’s what MY verdict is: Tavernita will be a chef-driven concept where the food and diner’s experience comes first.


A wise man once said: “Why turn away money?” That same man (Rich Melman) is also one of the most successful restaurateurs in the nation…and guess what? His son’s (R.J. and Jerrod) own a successful club (Hub/Sub51) .


Why not invite Tavernita’s guests to stay for post dinner cocktails, or invite another late night set to drink and dine on small bites?


Makes sense to us.


And with that I’ll let my food continue this discussion when Taverinta opens it’s doors.



Originally posted in Jan 2011

My first trip to Angels and Kings in Chicago was memorable for a few reasons. It was one of the first times I hung out with my girlfriend, and it was the first bar in a while that I actually liked.

The grungy, relaxed and anything goes vibe was just the type of spot I love to hang in.

So you can imagine I was a little unsure of the bar moving to the Hard Rock Hotel’s bottom bar. Would it still be cool? And more importantly- would they let me in??

Thursday night when I arrived to the grand opening party it was packed- and I had to push past Pete Wentz (who’s an owner) to get in.

The new AK looked like a dressed up version of the old space, very dark with a mug shot wall.

The place was packed with the who’s who of Chicago and I stood back and watched the action with my friends Ari and Luis. I’d say it was the perfect mix of ages, races and people. Hipsters meshed with Landons…if you get my drift.

While it will never be the original, I think the new AK has some major potential and I can’t wait to go back.

Holiday Buzz

Posted: October 30, 2012 in Drinks, Food, Lifestyle, Personal

Originally posted in Dec 2010

My aunt makes eggnog every year for the holidays…and personally I think she uses it as a sedative while she helps out in the kitchen, and helps organize the whole day.

I love this recipe not only because it reminds me of my aunt Sharron, but
also ‘cause it’s so simple and good.

This is guaranteed to be a hit at your holiday party and is the perfect alternative for people who want to drink without feeling like they’re hardcore boozing.

6 eggs – separated
1/2 c rum
1 c sugar
1 1/2 qts. whole milk
1 1/2 c brandy
3 c whipping cream

Beat egg yolks until thickened and light.
Gradually add sugar beating constantly.
While still beating add brandy and rum gradually.
Chill for 1 hour stirring occasionally.
Add milk slowly.
Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and whipped cream.
Store covered for 24 hours and enjoy!

NYE Plans?

Posted: October 30, 2012 in Drinks, Food, Lifestyle

Originally posted in Dec 2010

Lately it seems like our emails are getting flooded with invites to dinners, and to buy tix for NYE parties, no?


New Years Eve.


Why do we stress so much for this specific day- a day that brings out a variety of emotions for people.


For some, the New Year signifies the chance to put last year behind and wake up with a clean slate.


For others, it’s a chance to reflect on how much one has grown as a person over 365 days.


And yet there’s the people who view the night as party time! To celebrate at a hotel with 2000 random people and get falling down drunk, make out with strangers and wake up feeling like spun cookies.


I’m not knocking how you’ll change from 2010 to 2011 but for me- it will be a night of reflection. So much has changed for me over the past year- for the better.


What does 2011 hold?


I guess there’s no way to know- but we have to be open to the idea of change and be ready for whatever comes our way.

Originally posted in Dec 2010

Restaurant ratings need a major makeover. 

In Chicago the most publications and critics rank on a four star system- give or take.

Think about it- a chef can open a casual spot, with simple food, little décor, no liquor…and yet achieve a four star rating!

Now, the same rating can also be given to a restaurant with world class chefs, the finest china, top product, expensive wine and decadent décor.

Let me offer a new system- that would encompass all dining:

A Three-Bracket System:

1st tier: Dots

A restaurant that is casual and low priced can receive up to four dots. Big Star is a prime example

2nd tier: Asterisk

Think Perennial- a great neighborhood spot offering wines, nice décor and a seasonal menu.

3rd tier: Stars


L20- with their fine dining, creative chef, sommelier and excellent service- a place like L20 would be starred.

A restaurant can jump tiers but in order to do so they would have to meet set criteria.

I’m not saying my system is perfect, but in a day when a rating can make or break a business- it’s only fair that Aliena and Big and Littles can’t receive the same rating.


You with me?


Posted: October 30, 2012 in Drinks, Food, Restaurant Reviews
Perennial Adding Black Truffle Tasting Menu Thursday Tuesday, December 7, 2010, by Ari Bendersky 

With white truffle season at its peak, not all of us can afford to plunk down a small fortune to taste the rare delicacy. Fortunately, black truffles tend to be nearly as decadent, but less expensive. Starting this Thursday, you can live like the other half (or, top 1 percent) when Perennial introduces its black truffle tasting menu. 

For $58, chef Ryan Poli will prepare a four-course tasting menu featuring black truffles in each course. You’ll of course want to pair wine with that, but that’ll be extra. Either way, it’s still a helluva lot cheaper than what it costs for their rare white counterparts.

If you’re ready to indulge, here’s what you’ll get:

· Course 1: roasted chestnut and black truffle soup with creme fraiche
· Course 2: celery root ravioli with oven-dried figs in a black truffle broth
· Course 3: striped bass with black truffle puree, caramelized cauliflower and Brussels sprouts
· Course 4: Truffle Shuffle: a decadent chocolate course, featuring white chocolate truffle dusted in raspberry powder; black truffle with dark chocolate; and milk chocolate cremeux covered in white chocolate ganache served with a yuzu pear gelee and topped with black truffle salad.

And the name truffle shuffle? If you knew it was from Goonies, good on ya.

Cheeky Chef

Posted: October 30, 2012 in Drinks, Food, Lifestyle

Check out my interview with girls Erica and Jessica!