Before this weekend I had never been to Chicago. I'd flown over it before and seen it, but never actually been there. Mrs. Robot, on the other hand (assuming you have two hands) has been to Chicago a number of times for work. A few years ago she was a producer for a PBS documentary about immigration and did a piece about the mexican population there and how they have kept a lot of their culture intact and all this nice stuff. She also got a speeding ticket that was a bit of a pain to resolve.
Did I mention that the 'fashionable' ladies here do that cuff thing with their jeans that was popular a number of years ago?
Oh, and we went to Robie House! Yay!
Hot Dog We had a list of hot dog places that we wanted to hit up, but ran out of time and only had a single hot dog the whole weekend. I think we may have gone to the Times Square of hot dog places. Tomato and pickles and relish on a hot dog = tasty. And slightly healthier I suppose.
Of course that Doug's hot dog place was on our list but it would have been a large time investment since they are only open for like five hours, there are massive lines, and it's apparently in a far-away neighborhood.
Mexican Part One
When Mrs. Robot was in Chicago for work back in 2004, she would always catch that Rick Bayless television show and became a fan. Back in NYC, we found that one of the PBS stations carried it (sometimes) and she got me a bit addicted to it as well. It's a great show because he would go to Mexico and talk about the history and culture of the particular dish he was making... and then back in Chicago he'd make it.
After being a fan of his show for a few years we decided we had to go to Chicago and try his food.
A few months ago I called to make a reservation and was able to score a 9:45pm table on Saturday night. Eeeek.
So, we finally made it to Topolobampo (his fancier restaurant). He had recently won the whole Top Chef Masters show and they were featuring a tasting menu of his winning meal - which was kind of goofy (as seen on TV!) but we had to do it.
It was awesome. This is what we had:
Codorniz estilo Oklahoma Barbeque
Basically barbequed quail. I traditionally don't like the generic barbeque sauce that certain states slather on their food - but this sauce was delicious. The quail was quite tasty and the little deconstructed cole slaw (with watermelon) was all very good - but that sauce... good lord.
Oh, and it included "chile threads" which were little crispy threads of chile peppers. Brilliant.
Atun de Mole Negro "seared Hawaiian ahi tuna in Oaxacan black mole with plantain-filled tamal, grilled nopal salad, roasted knob onions, three nut crunch"
Yes, that was all very tasty and interesting. But once again the sauce in this dish (the Oaxacan black mole) made me want to lick the actual plate. Sweet Jeebus.
Arroz Negro a la Tumbada
"black rice 'a la tumbada' with Maine lobster, tender squid, PEI mussels, grilled octopus and homemade chorizo in fresh tomato-jalapeno broth. Pickled vegetables, prosciutto pearls"
The lobster in this dish was superb. Chorizo delicious. Grilled octopus and mussels were yum. Pickled vegtables, especially the pickled cauliflower, were great. But once again, it was all over-shadowed by the part that you might have least expected: the black rice was just stupid good. I don't know how to describe... looked like black rice (duh) but a bit mushy. Tasted like delicious.
"overnight-braised Maple Creek Farm suckling pig 'pibil' with crispy pig's foot, sour orange jellies, habanero-pickled onions, sunchoke pudding."
Our pal Irene does Cochinita pibil. In fact hers is the only one I've ever had and it's delicious. When we were in Puerto Rico over New Years, she actually made it in NYC, froze it, and brought it with her in her luggage.
So, my theory is that any pork that is slow roasted can't be bad.
Of course, this one was as well. Brilliant. But, like the other dishes, the items on the side were just as brilliant. The 'sour orange jellies' were fascinating. Sunchoke pudding was perfect.
There was a big tart (oh, hush). It was tasty, but actually a bit too large and I honestly didn't have the room in my food gut. On my reservation I had mentioned that it was kind of an anniversary dinner and they wrote "happy anniversary" on the plate in chocolate. Ladies seem to like that kind of stuff.
Brilliant meal. The staff took great care of us. Also they had a bottle of old Reisling on their wine list that I had to order.
If you are in Chicago, get a reservation here and do one of the tasting menus. That's my recommendation.
Mexican Part Two Sol de Mexico is located somewhere in Chicago. I don't know where - the internet will tell you. We took a cab out there.
It was a Sunday night and there were maybe two other tables while we were there. We were greeted by the very friendly host and chatted with him for a while. Being that the restaurant was quiet, it was as if we had shown up in his home.
Dinner was great. We had some sort of mixed appetizer platter with many yummy things but my favorite was the superb ceviche. I don't know how to really describe it (we also had a bit of wine) but it had a real depth of flavor to it. Deep. Layered. I don't know what I am talking about.
For our entrees we had the rack of lamb with black mole and the ostrich with red mole. I love lamb and their lamb was quite good but was outshined by the declious and spicy mole. Stupid good. The ostrich was quite tasty. I think Mrs. Robot might have liked it a bit more than I did.
Dessert was a fruit tart-y dish and then goat milk tres leches lollipops (we had the lollipops in the cab ride home and I suspect the cab driver thought we were doing something other than enjoying lollipops).