Tag Archives: Restaurants

Atwood Cafe in the Hotel Burnham

State Street Entrance

Gleaming floors and vintage Chicago warmth welcome you to the Hotel Burnham via the State Street entrance.  Just to your left in the photo (above) are the open doors that lead you right to the Atwood Cafe where you’ll find:

Cozy Views of State Street

Afternoon sunlight spilling in from Washington Avenue

Afternoon sunlight spilling in from Washington Avenue

Yes, we had to wait 90 minutes (this is how we spent it), but it was worth it!  (Make a reservation if you’d rather not take the scenic route to lunch!)  If you love food and quotes, the menus here will bring delight:


However, a bloody mary is only truly tempting if I can add fresh horseradish ~ and there was none available.  (Note to self: pack fresh horseradish.) Kidding.  I’d never admit that I would do that!

On to ordering:

Lemon poached loch duart salmon nicoise

VERY pleased with my salmon nicoise salad.  It was a “big salad” as stated on the menu and the salmon was perfectly prepared.  (Sometimes cooked salmon can get “fishy” on me and I love fish so it’s really off-putting when it goes so far that I don’t like it.)  You’ll note the pickle and onion off to the left side – garnishments of the angus burger across the table that didn’t have a chance of being photographed!  The salt-pepper fries were outstanding, too!

** I had a really tough time choosing: would love to hear if you’ve had the “crispy lobster rangoon” or the “graham cracker fried calamari”…**

We’d have ordered more main course food but it was the day after Thanksgiving and we thought we’d surely be satiated with what we’d ordered.  We were pleased that we underestimated our bellies since that left room for a bit of dessert (ok, we were plenty full but the dessert menu had so many options!)

Mid-way through warm Michigan apple-walnut dumpling

I show you this dish, already slightly devoured – an homage to the aroma, the appearance of this delectable dessert – irresistible.  I lost my head.  The camera-phone slipped to the floor.  It was the “When Harry Met Sally” Meg Ryan diner moment.  Phew.  Ok.  You get the idea.

Peppermint always brings a girl back to her senses, so it was the white peppermint hot chocolate for me:

That IS a giant homemade marshmellow!

In the end, yes, we felt like we could leave the table with an “oink” but we came in just under the advisory of a very well known celebrity:

Pig with sage advice

The quote above is from the dessert menu and is well heeded advice, there are so many desserts here I’d like to try.

Thanks in advance for recommendations ~ OR if you haven’t tried one, which one sounds too good to pass up for next time!?

warm roasted banana-white chocolate bread pudding
banana caramel
lemon-buttermilk panna cotta
summer berry compote, fresh mint
fresh key lime tart
toasted coconut crust, blackberry coulis
summer strawberry shortcake
vanilla-butter pound cake, lemon custard, chantilly cream
fried fresh peach pies
cashew brittle, bourbon sauce , vanilla bean gelato
brown sugar cheesecake
creamy butterscotch sauce
warm tart cherry dumpling
lemon curd gelato, apricot compote
vanilla bean crème brûlée
fresh raspberries
dark chocolate soufflé cake
rum zabaione, chocolate sauce
gelato and sorbet
selections vary daily
prairie fruits farm artisan cheese plate
little bloom on the prairie: Champaign, Illinois
krotovina: Champaign, Illinois
roxanne: Champaign, Illinois

FYI: The Atwood Cafe is located at 1 West Washington, Chicago, IL 60602


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A Week of Chicago Eats

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

FAVORITE Chicago pizza, Giordano’s ~


Admittedly, there are a LOT of excellent pizzerias in Chicago but I find Giordano’s crazy-good, convenient, and consistent.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hope your Thanksgiving was grand.  Everything was excellent, but homemade cheesecake took the cake!



Friday – November 27, 20009

One of my favorite cafes, Atwood:

Black Friday Bloody Mary

More about Atwood later!

A late-day warm up: Vosge’s Haut Chocolat in the North Bridge Mall on Michigan Avenue.

All Kinds of Chocolate Bar

“Haut chocolat” makes wonderful “hot chocolate.”  I tried the “Bianca” white chocolate  with lavender and lemon myrtle.”  Ohhhhhh…I don’t have taste-buds sufficiently civilized to describe such savvy sweets!  All I give you is one word, “more!”  You can also purchase it to make it at home.

Oooh, but they have a “how to taste Chocolate guide” on-line!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I baked!

These are yummy white-chocolate-walnut-cranberry cookies.  More about this later…

Sunday, November 29, 2009 – A day of rest!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Great little treat at Bin 36!

Holidays, uncorked!

I snuck in here for a glass of wine to celebrate my NaNoWriMo win (I gave myself three “bys” and this is number 2, I had a glass on Thanksgiving Day).  I knew to skip the garlic hummus but I did try the Gougeres.  They were good but surprisingly somewhat “spicy” and my new friend agreed.  Sitting at the bar, I shared them with a visitor from San Diego and she shared her Salmon Salad with me.  You can’t beat meeting a stranger at the bar and sharing good conversation and appetizers!  (The Salmon Salad was excellent!)  The bartender couldn’t explain the spiciness of the Gougeres, he offered, “pepper?” Now as I re-read the on-line menu, they are termed, “Warm Gourgeres” ~ I thought it’d referred to temperature (hot, warm, cold) but perhaps it is meant as is “spicy” warmth?

Surprise Plate of Salmon Salad!

Surprise Smoked Salmon Shared With Me

The wine I’d chosen was the 2006 Tempranillo, Codice, from Caltayud, Spain, described as: “Sexy, supple texture, medium-bodied, with a fleshy red plum leather and mineral profile” but I didn’t find it as sexy as its description.  (Could my “wine taste buds” be out-of-shape!?)

I will go back to Bin 36 – it was a fun and lively atmosphere (especially for a Monday night) and their domestic cheese list is impressive ~ looking forward to some tasting!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

foodlife !!

At foodlife, Water Tower Place

foodlife is so convenient and reasonably priced, really (especially for Mag Mile eats.  You can also grab a glass of wine from $2.95, but no, I didn’t!)  The food selection is vast (Italian, Sushi, Soup Bar…I usually enjoy the Stir-Fry though!) The shrimp they add is very fresh-tasting, cooked to order!

eat foodlife

BTW – right now, they have $100 gift certificates, with a special “bonus” $25 gift that may be used at many “Lettuce Entertain You” restaurants, nationwide.  (The gift can only be used 1/1/10 – 4/14/10)  They’re available at the back of foodlife in Mity Nice Grill, (which I’ve heard from an “insider” has some of the city’s best French Onion soup – have you had it?)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Gage

Excellent Lunch

And yes, wine I did!  The most I’ve ever paid for a glass of wine is $15, until I yesterday, $16 very-buttery-worthwhile chardonnay.  (This wine was my third “by” –  and last – until after January 17th, 2010, so I wanted to go out strong!) The scallops : “perfect.”  Perfect portion, perfectly prepared, seasoned ~ wonderful taste and texture!  (This lunch was worth every penny – scallops $15 – however the alcohol, in general, seemed a bit steep.)

I bought their $100 gift certificate and received the additional $25.00 bonus (1/1/10 – 3/31/10).  The Gage will be a usual destination.  I enjoyed the cozy atmosphere of the bar, while looking out at Michigan Avenue passers-by.  (Steps from Millenium Park.)  It was the perfect stop for me between the Chicago Cultural Center and The Art Institute.  The servers were pleasant and helpful, the manager personally checked on diners.  Thank you!

(I was curious how others received “The Gage” so I checked it out on TripAdvisor too.  If you aren’t in the mood for “very loud,” save it for another day.  I had a late lunch, about 1:15, and it was fine!)

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Hunter and Gatherer of Dining Value

“Hunter/gatherer” days are in the past for many of us.  Our modern lifestyle is abundant, but can be expensive.   We dine out often and I do hunt for great restaurants and gather information to make our dining-out lifestyle as affordable as possible.

I regularly use three excellent resources for exceptional value.

restaurant.com When first referred to this site, I thought certainly, “scam!”  BUT NOT SO!  I paid $1.00 each for $25.00 gift certificates to fine restaurants.  We were at “Crab Landing” in Half Moon Bay when the moment of truth came.  I handed over my at-home printed $25 gift certificate.


$25 certificate

Voila!, $25.00 was subtracted from our bill!  I used another at Avalon for my first visit to their establishment –  I had one of the finest dining experiences of my life.  I have a certificate for King Crab in Chicago – a place I regularly enjoying going anyway. Whether it’s looking for a new place to try or visiting and old stand-by, restaurant.com is a simple way to increase your buying power.  Though the regular price shows $25 certificates for $10, after you sign up, they’ll send you promotions.  Today, if you enter the coupon code “ENTREE,” they’re only $2.00!  I still think it’s too good to be true, but sometimes life is that way!

opentable.com is great!  I’m signed up and use their free service to make reservations.  The benefit of opentable is that you have many restaurants at your fingertips, plus you accumulate “dining reward points” for booking through them.  (I find it also helpful when traveling – you can put in an area or zip code and it gives you list of nearby eateries.)  You only need 2,000 points to receive a $20 dining certificate.  We visited Farallon in San Francisco and that was a 1,000 point reservation in itself! (Farallon was amazing, worth every spendy cent.)

Jellyfish Bar, Farallon

Jellyfish Bar, Farallon

Third, when I’m just undecided on whether to try a particular restaurant, I’ve found tripadvisor.com to be a great source of reviews in bulk – seems the quantity and quality of the reviews are exceptional!  It was what ultimately made my choice to even go to Farallon as we only had one night in SF and wanted a very special, memorable experience.  OK, just one more shot of Farallon:

Main Dining Room, Farallon

Main Dining Room, Farallon

So, that’s a recipe for success (at least has been both satisfying and financially rewarding) for us when dining out.  Yes, it takes a bit of time to hunt for opportunities on-line and gather information, but it becomes quick and easy once you’ve done it a couple of times.  Probably just like when man first began hunting with bow and arrow…

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A “Balloon to the Moon” Dining Experience

OK, I haven’t talked about food OR service OR good business sense in awhile and I, myself, was starving for a nibble of all three.  When I read this:

With tantalizing entrees and sweeter afterthoughts, served up by exceptional people delivering extraordinary experiences. Avalon – where impassioned food meets gracious service – building relationships that inspire, stimulate, enrich.

I nearly fell to the floor (yes, like a lead balloon.)  WHAT?  This is either extravagant over-promising or…do I dare hope…

No!  I refuse.  I’ve been led down this road by imposters.  I will go to though, I will try the food, but I will NOT be lured in for a moment to think that

1.)  the entrees will truly be tantalizing

2.)  that dessert will be sweeter afterthoughts

3.)  “exceptional people” will be delivering to me an “extraordinary experience”  C’MON FOLKS

4.)  there will be “Impassioned food?”  DITTO

5.)  there will be Gracious service?  (So no sideways looks when I eventually request more water?  Not that one should have to ask…)

6.)  that RELATIONSHIPS (using the “R” word!?) are valued and will

7.)  Inspire (Like a true “Buddha in Business“?)

8.) Stimulate

9.)  Enrich

Sure, maybe two or at most, three of these can occur.  This is a lot of extremely high expectation-setting, blowing up a happy balloon.  There are many simple side-steps that can burst that lil’ balloon, that can stomp it into the ground.

But that little balloon, she did float right up high in the night, almost touching the moon.  Maybe had she left room for a “sweeter afterthought,” the moon is where she would have landed. With all her skepticism, maybe she wasn’t ready for the moon.  Brushing right up against it was satisfying enough.

It was so incredible, I didn’t even stop to take a photo.  Couldn’t be bothered.

As a matter of fact, I’m going to leave you now, as I have one of last night’s perfectly seared Maine diver scallops on mascarpone cream corn waiting for me in the refrigerator.  If only I had more of yesterday’s special soup, the decadent porcini-lobster bisque.  Rich, but not so as to overpower. Not the slightest hint of oilness which I’ve found can be a failure to any rich cream soup.  No wonder a chef himself brought it to our table; I would be proud too, had I prepared it.  If only I had time to tell you about the hostess who smiled and greeted us and, when our 8:00 table was ready at 7:45, gave a choice of seating preference.  I wish I’d found out if it was the manager or owner himself who’d come to our table to check on how everything was, but at the moment, I really didn’t care.  I was immersed in every aspect of what was promised, of what is, and dare I believe, of what will be another lunar adventure next time, Avalon.


Filed under AZ, Customer service, Restaurants

Oh, the Wine I Will Drink


Wine. I really like it.

I especially like the ones with a good finish. That said, I’m giving it up 100% while pursuing two other finishes: the 50,000 words in the month of November required to “win” NaNoWriMo and the 13.1 miles of the  P.F. Chang’s Rock-n-Roll half marathon in Phoenix on January 17, 2010.

I’m devoting most of November to writing furiously while living in Chicago (I’m calling it “ChiMo”), but will have to tromp back to Phoenix if I freak out from the cold weather.  To stay warm there, I’ll be running…the races I’m aiming to do in Chicago: The Trick or Treat Trot, The Turkey Trot and The Rudolph Ramble.  I was logging what I’m doing, (also logging at NaNoWritMo) and it occurred to me that I’m not logging what I’m not doing.  Drinking wine!

I thought that it deserved at least an “honorable mention” in this physical and writerly fitness endeavor, so I’m handling it here.

My wine-forgone diary:

October 17, 2009 – The Carefree Station – oh man, what an extensive wine list, actually, all types of wines, beers and spirits, not to mention many several dinner menus.  Highly recommended!

October 18, 2009 – Shugrue’s in Sedona – WOW, talk about a view! We came for lunch.  Incredible menu.  I had the ahi tacos & hub had the chicken fingers (cf). I wince when the cf is ordered on such an amazing menu…but the chicken had the last laugh. I’ve never called a cf “amazing” but these were.

Sipping Chardonnay...one day...

Shugrue's...sipping Chardonnay...one day...

If you’re in the Valley, Northern Arizona, Chicago-land/suburbs, or Las Vegas, where’s a great place I can go and not have a glass of wine?

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Weekly Sushi Fix

Sushi.  Can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it yet.

White Monster Roll at PURE

White Monster Roll at PURE

It’s my thing.

I also appreciate the decor in sushi places.  Contemporary, clean, minimalist.  Except for the places that are strip-mall tiny with plain chairs that have those burgandy color seats which stick to your legs when you wear shorts. Plain restaurant chairs with anything but plain restaurant food.  That’s strip-mall sushi.

Tonight’s venture was not strip-mall sushi, it was to “PURE” (north).  We were complaining that we were really in the mood for “Kamehachi,” a restaurant in Chicago, but tonight were we in Scottsdale.  We’d never been to PURE so we decided to check it out and we weren’t disappointed!  The decor was minimalist but interesting.  Mixtures of different wood tones, white leather and dark chairs, mirrors, “trees” and interesting lighting, but not so interesting as to be distracting.

Light, wood, reflections set the mood at PURE

Light, wood, reflections set the mood at PURE

The right balance, it was, just like the food and the service.  (Pic doesn’t do justice)

The server knew her wines and her sushi.  She described three chardonnays clearly and concisely.  (I go “buttery.”)  I asked about raw instead of baked ahi on the “White Monster Roll” and she said, “of course, that’s the way I always do it.”  The other roll we had was the “Fire Dragon Roll.”  Just the right amount of fire!  Note: mushrooms in the miso soup.

The alcohol was a bit spendy ($15 for my buttery) and $6 for a bottle of fat tire, but other than that, prices were reasonable.  Definitely will check it out again & even better, at happy hour!


or at Kamehachi: Sushi Restaurant Chicago | Delivery | Sushi Catering | Corporate Catering Chicago | Sushi Chicago

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“Carnival of Cuisine” at The Venetian

August 15, Las Vegas

August 15, Las Vegas

Second annual.  My first. What was excellent: from Tao Asian Bistro, the Lobster Dumplings in Shitake Miso Broth, yeeeuuum.  What should never happen: beer meets ice cream, as in “Blue Moon” + Vanilla= no. The photo to the right shows center stage: chefs from premier restaurants giving instruction.

I wasn’t too concerned with that however, I was interested in the food and drink. For flat $50 entry, ballroom was open from 12:30 – 4:00.

Admission covered as much food as you could stand-in-line for (the lines were insane for the first two and a half hours, really) and alcohol.  Yes, you read correctly: AND alcohol.  Stranger still: no lines for the alcohol.  There were reds, whites, blends, and mixed drinks available (and that sincerely sinister “Blue Moon” concoction which looked so good, but really gave my taste buds a nasty jolt.  Drink this regularly and you will cure yourself of both beer and ice cream forever.) See..doesn’t it look good?

Blue Moan (Blue Moon ala mode)

Blue Moan (Blue Moon ala mode)

On to better things like: lobster bisque, black cod miso (from Woo), fig salad with shavings of cheese, shrimp shumai, ahi tuna taquitos, gourmet sandwiches & giant meatballs.  Some of the signage wasn’t very good – verbal descriptions only at some tables, plus long lines so that made capturing long descriptions difficult.  Plus of course, I’m juggling plates, glasses and enjoying myself so I’m not overly concerned with every last detail.  Anyway, here were some of my other favorites:

Tasmanian ocean trout with fennel and pearled barley

Tasmanian ocean trout with fennel and pearled barley

Kudos to “Restaurant Charlie” for not only having great sample portion sizes but also for incredible cuisine & wonderful signage.  Both this Tasmanian ocean trout and their Japanese tai was excellent (though, actually, I haven’t ever tasted tai before so I really have nothing to compare it to, except to the knowledge that I’ve never a “Blue Moan” either and you know when something just isn’t right.  Tai, we will meet again.)

Japanese tai, black grapes and celery

Japanese tai, black grapes and celery

Other notable yum-factors:

Aforementioned lobster dumpling...

Aforementioned lobster dumpling...

Seared Ahi Tuna on a Corn, Shitake and Cabbage Chow Chow

Seared Ahi Tuna on a Corn, Shitake and Cabbage Chow Chow

One other thing I really have to mention – such beautiful visual arrangements:

At the wine bar

At the wine bar

At each cocktail station

At each cocktail station

At the food stations, here's Woo

At the food stations, here's Woo

After braving the long lines at the beginning of the event, it was nice to just sit back, enjoy something called a “Back Nine” (my new favorite cocktail of Grey Goose Citron, ice tea and Limoncello garnished with a sprig of mint) while listening to the live band belt out the theme from the “Pink Panther” and nibbling a bit of an itty-bitty dessert:

Itty Bitty Dessert

Itty Bitty Dessert

Fortunately, you are never alone at these kinds of events; mingling with the crowd was great while I was separated from my Foodie Friends.  I met some locals on a “stay-cation” and was approached by the traveling entertainment.  Of course, a photo:


And if that weren’t enough.  If you didn’t get enough food, wine, dessert, coffee and cocktails, If you weren’t satiated (oooh, I forgot to mention that I also had java and a fine chocolate something or other with a raspberry top), then there was always the one last thing of which you could partake at this event:



All in all, I’d highly recommend this event.  Though this year seemed a bit chaotic, I overheard chefs and guests alike commenting that it was better organized last year.  But, still, for $50.00 it was a beyond-well-worth-it-over-the-top value!  What else should I have expected: Vegas is always over the top!

You, too, will be saying:

"Nooo, no more"

"Nooo, no more"

Please comment if you’ve been to this event or to similar ones around the country – what did you think?

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