Apr 272014
 
Pop-up Chocolate Bar

Confections, p√Ętisseries, and snacks await at NoMI.

Love chocolate? Make plans to pop into the Park Hyatt (800 North Michigan) to experience the desserts featured in the Boutique Chocolate pop-up. The temporary shop is the brainchild of NoMI pastry chef, Chef Meg Galus, who clearly loves sweets, “Chocolate is something I’m passionate about. I think it speaks to our guests and is something we could produce in an upscale way. I want to showcase the art of chocolate. I’ll be down here working and showing guests the process that we go through.”

Among the items to tempt chocolate fiends are five mousses that use the same recipe but change out the type of chocolate. Chef Galus hopes the vertical will illustrate differences beyond percentage of chocolate and demonstrate how terrior influences taste. She went the distance to find the best too, “I normally have 12-15 chocolates in my kitchen, but right now I have 45. I have some from Africa and Boliva and some that are a mix. I have stacks of chocolate everywhere.”

I personally enjoyed the Meyer Lemon Lollipops that backed the delicate citrus flavors with a satisfying creamy chocolate. The Chocolate Chip cookies, the gold standard of childhood chocolate consumption, also scored well with large dark chocolate hunks. The final measure of decadence were the chocolate-chewy pistachio nougats that I couldn’t seem to stop sampling.

NoMI’s Boutique Chocolate will be at the Park Hyatt Chicago Library between April 26 through May 11 from 1-8pm. Items are available for sale by the piece, though personalized gift packages are available.

Pop-up Chocolate Bar

Get a chocolate fix in a range of sizes.

I was not financially compensated for this post. Access was provided to me for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

Mar 052014
 

The plan last weekend was to enjoy date night at a trendy new seafood restaurant. But as the day wore on and the snow piled up, I really wasn’t feeling trendy. We kicked around some ideas…Italian, French, macaroni and cheese, until we agreed that what we really wanted was comfort — stick to the bones, grade-A comfort food.

We found what we were looking for at Chicago Q.

Appetizer | Chicago Q

A trio of popular barbecue goodies began the meal.

The complimentary chips and bread & butter pickles were amazing, but did nothing to stop us from over-ordering hush puppies, fresh crab with avocado, and the barbecue trio for starters. The hush puppies came with an amazing hot sauce — I couldn’t get enough. We dipped the oh-so-tender dry-rubbed chicken, brisket, and pulled pork in each of the four house sauces before settling on favorites. My combo was the brisket in vinegary Carolina sauce, and his was the brisket in sweet, tangy hot sauce over honey cornbread. Neither of us were disappointed.

The main order of St. Louis slab was even more tender and succulent than the barbecue sampler, but at this point a half-order would have been prudent. Sometimes too much meat is too much. A chunk of poblano cheddar corn bread rounded out the plate, but the bruleed macaroni and cheese was the star of the side dishes. I thought at first the sauce was a too runny, but cooled to a creamy texture. I could have made a meal from any of the sides alone.

Our waiter was excellent and a credit to the front of the house. Not only did he make great drink recommendations and keep the pile of plates balanced, he also talked us into dessert. Cookies with a vanilla bourbon milkshake? Yeah, we went there. The cookies were warm and the shake was boozy — a tasty finish to the evening.

Despite our best efforts, we took home enough barbecue, sides, and sauce to last for two days. The boyfriend picked up an ambition to start mixing milkshakes and I can’t wait to start pickling again. The barbecue? We know where to find the experts and heaping plates of comfort.

Chicago Q
1160 N Dearborn Street

Feb 262014
 
5 Spice Chocolate Stuffed French Toast | Jellyfish

French Toast stuffed with chocolate is genius.

Weekend brunch in Chicago is a dicey proposition — finding the latest spot before it becomes popular is key. The better the food, the longer the crowded, shivering wait in the cold. And after the line? The deafening clink of coffee mugs and regretful gossip drowns out the recitation of specials that have sold out.

Often the best options are to go early, go late, or stay home. Fortunately there’s another choice! You could consider downtown sushi hot spot, Jellyfish* as an alternative to the mad brunch scramble.

Chicken and Green Tea Waffles | Jellyfish

Enjoy an Asian take on chicken and waffles.

Jellyfish is best known as a cool sushi restaurant, but I like it better for its chill brunch vibe. The vibrant blue lights and thump-y music fade to reveal a quiet, tucked away spot along the popular shopping corridor. In the daytime the restaurant reminds me a bit of a tree-house.

If you have a choice, elect to sit in sunny atrium area. It’s bright, fairly quiet, and lined with comfortable couches along the tables. During my meal, I was able to hold a conversation without once raising my voice or asking anyone to repeat what was said. A relaxing brunch time rarity.

Eel Benedict | Jellyfish

The best of breakfast and sushi in one roll.

Available Saturday and Sunday between 11:30 A.M. – 3 P.M., Chef Jason Im offers an Asian twist on breakfast favorites like French toast as well as a uniquely breakfast twist on Japanese classics.

We put ourselves in Chef’s hands, and he delivered excellent coffee along with the menu favorites — starting with the Crispy Chicken and Green Tea Waffles. I’ve never been a huge fan of chicken and waffles, but maybe that’s because I’ve never had such tender hunks of chicken atop pastry. The green tea added subtly to the waffles and the coconut drizzle lent an exotic vibe to the dish. Perfect.

Not satisfied to stuff us, Chef also plated a 5 Spice Chocolate Stuffed French Toast to try. The brioche was curiously light though the bread was able to deliver the generous filling, candied blueberries, and hazelnut whipped cream without falling apart. Absolutely delicious, though I would be just as happy to see this dish on the dessert menu.

Airy atrium | Jellyfish

The atrium is a convivial spot for brunch.

Eel Benedict sushi completed brunch. Mainly filled with tamago, a smidgen of eel and avocado rounded out the roll. A generous amount of edamame, corn, and hollandaise was drizzled over each bite. I liked this breakfast version of sushi, though I craved a bit more savory to balance out the sweet. It’s a great choice for the sushi-phobic.

Though we didn’t get a chance to try all the dishes on this trip, I will be back for the Fruit Sushi, stuffed with tropical sweets and topped with shaved chocolate. I also want to try the Lychee Mimosa or Coconut Gimlet with my meal. The lighter island influences are a nice change from heartier menus found elsewhere.

In all, I enjoyed Jellyfish for its unusual take on brunch classics as well as the quiet, civilized atmosphere. If I need a weekend brunch choice, I will keep them in mind. Have you been? Let me know what you think!

Jellyfish
1009 N Rush Street, 2nd Floor

For reservations, call Jellyfish at (312) 660-3111.

*Brunch provided courtesy of Jellyfish for this review.