Chicago is a mecca for foodies and slow food movement idealists. It seems a new trendy (and good!) restaurant pops up on every corner almost every week and even in this tough economic environment outdoor tables were packed even on weeknights. I always know a good meal when I think about it days, months, even years later. The Everest Room for my 16th birthday still brings memories of salmon mousse.
Chef Jean Joho, of Everest fame, has a delightful place on Hubbard Street called Brasserie Jo. The menu is classic French with regional specific cuisine demonstrating Joho's true knowledge of not just his origins in Alsace, but all of France. A live band played on Bastille Day as I enjoyed my Chicken liver mousse and country pate, sampled some of my mom's escargot and feasted on Steak au poivre, pommes gallette and roasted vegetables. The night I dined there, the Tour de France was in the Loire Valley. Naturally, there were featured wines from the region as well as dishes. Loire Valley wines typically don't travel well, so we strayed away from that, but my grandpa Jon ordered the braised rabbit leg, onions, and shallots in vouvray sauce which is very traditional to the region. Chef Joho came out later and with a charm unique to the French, wrote down a couple of restaurants I must try in Nice and Paris when I return with his signature to ensure my ability to get a table sans reservation. A truly perfect evening.
My second meal worth mentioning was at May Street Market. With homey, new-classic decor and a well thought out menu utilizing seasonal ingredients in innovative ways, this is definitely a new favorite. A concept I hadn't seen before gives you the option to dine either prix fixe, or in the Market Room or Bistro Room off the main menu, enabling you to tailor your dining experience. The menu is varied enough for a variety of palates without losing its vision and the dishes are well thought out and incredibly flavorful. While in a few cases I thought they were gilding the lily a bit, the zucchini chutney on the side of my fried green tomato salad seemed an odd choice, but the vine ripened tomato salad and lemon vinaigrette were the type of details that really do make these dishes stand out. My entree was quite memorable, r