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Filtering by Tag: chicago

Our Chicago Food Tour

Ben Ashby


A WEEKEND IN CHICAGO

TWO DAYS - FOUR MEALS - ONE CITY

 

A few weeks ago we headed up to Chicago for the weekend. The goal was to visit a few of our favorite restaurants. We managed to get four stops in over the two and a half days in Chicago. I've been trying to figure out what sort of food Chicago is known for...beyond hot dogs I'm not really sure what their signature foods are....but they have a thriving restaurant scene....

 

BERNIE'S LUNCH & SUPPER

Bernie's was a new one for me. Sure I'd seen its wall designs in many an Instagram photo...but I had yet to visit this trendy spot on N. Orleans Street. For our visit to Bernie's we asked for a sampling of the menu. Typically when we are visiting places for the first time I feel it is best that they select the dishes instead of us. I reckon it is an excuse to avoid the monotony I usually do on trips—way too many burgers. 

We started with two different salads, moved on to a delightful mussels dish that was the highlight of the evening, moved towards a prosciutto and toasty bread number, and ended with the most wonderfully creamy parfait. 

I do have some tips for visiting Bernie's...go as early as possible and get the good seats by the windows. This place is super trendy and super perfect for all those Instagram and Snapchat moments. We were surprised at how quickly the place filled.

We did a selection of small plates and appetizers at Bernie's and all shared. Their menu is broad and this felt like a good way to try it all.

— @Bernies_Chicago — @ChefRyanSand

 

 

FRONTIER

Frontier in Wicker Park is by far my favorite restaurant in all of Chicago. I make an annual trek to the frontier themed spot. Yes...I said frontier themed...as in high class Americana foods. They had me at the bacon flight and the reeled me in with their selection of wild boar, bison, and a variety of bacon options. 

For our brunch at Frontier we started with the beignets, which are one of the chef's signature foods. Designed around his grandmother's recipe and better than any you'll get in New Orleans. 

If you're going purely for the sweets skip the meat and go straight for the house-made pop tarts. They're massive and a part combination of tart, sweet, and flaky goodness. Frontier fills up fast so we always go early for brunch. Grab the big booth in the front for the perfect photo light. 

After the pop tart grab some bacon and and apple butter....an absolutely delightful combination. I have an obsession with french fries. Frontier doesn't disappoint. The sandwiches are all perfect for a hot summer's day. 

— @FrontierChicago — @ChefJup

 

 

G & O

G and O (Grand and Ogden) is actually the final place we visited on our trip. After three insanely large meals we decided we'd have to go small at G and O. G and O is a local diner style place with tons of outdoor seating. It appeared to be filled with groups of friends that were there to hang out on a Sunday morning.  

I had the spiced biscuits and gravy...which had to be the very best biscuits and gravy I've ever had north of the Mason Dixon Line. A perfectly sized portion of perfectly soft biscuits covered in perfectly spiced sausage gravy was the perfect end to a very nice food tour of Chicago. 

If you're looking for something more filling go for the oatmeal. The portion was huge. After four meals that all included bacon...it may be safe to say that Chicago should just be called the Bacon CIty. Each of the four places we visited serves their own version of thick cut bacon. It would be unfair to select which place did it best...instead you're just going to have to visit them all!

— @GrandandOgden

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COCHON VOLANT

This was not our first rodeo at Cochon Volant. We knew to come prepared for a big meal. Last year we visited for brunch. This year it was decided we would go for dinner. That was a wise decision. 

I'm going to go ahead and call it now —Cochon Volant has the best steak in Chicago. Yes, yes I did bring 3/4 of the steak back to Kentucky with me and eat it in bed the next day. I have no shame. 

Cochon Volant is just south of the river in downtown Chicago. It is perfectly decorated with surfaces that glitter and glow. The accents are encrusted in brass and the room really is aesthetic perfection....but that isn't we were there. If the interiors are perfection...there isn't a word to describe the food. 

I love steak tartar. It is one of my favorite foods. I think steak in general is a favorite. We started with an appetizer of tartar. I could have made it my entire meal. Cochon Volant is known for their boards. We learned that last time at brunch with their pickle board. This time we went for a cheese board and a pickle board. These seemed like pleasant ways to cleanse the palette between courses. 

For our main courses I went with an dry aged steak, and as I already said it is enough of a reason to visit Chicago. It is served with french fries, but let's be honest...you're going to want to skip those and hold off for desert. Nick had two entrees. He started with a crab leg platter. A petite display of unbelievably fresh crab awaited him...and a shrimp cocktail. 

We closed out our food tour of Chicago with creme brûlée and chocolate mousse. I am not usually a mousse fan...but like everything else at Cochon Volant it is done to perfection.

— @CochonVolant_ — @ChefMattAyala

—@Jschatan — @JonasFalk_ #FlyingPigGram

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Sure, I know what you're thinking...but only four restaurants...you have so much left of Chicago to cover. Oh yes, I agree, you are totally right..rest assured we are already planning many return trips. Chicago is one of the easiest of the major US cities to navigate. Chicago is also much more affordable than New York City. 

If you're a bacon lover...time to load up the car and head to Chicago. 

Tatine

Ben Ashby

Sometimes inspiration is found in unlikely places. Other times it only seems natural. The ladies over at Tatine seem to find things a little more natural and easy to come by than most. Rock n' Roll is their inspiration but instead of that coming at the hands of marketing and polls it happened through passion. 

The company started by inches not leaps and bounds. Margo Breznik first started teaching herself the art of candle making her tiny Chicago apartments kitchen. Soon after that she opened a store that simultaneously fronted as furniture and home decor while she made candles on the premises as well. As more and more interest grew in what she was creating she decided to go into wholesale. 

"I'm a self taught business person. It's a continuous growing process. One that I love. I'm constantly learning and always challenged.I always aspired to do something creative for a living. I worked in the music business for 10 years, then worked at a foreign and independent film company for 8 years."

A move to New York City came next, and landed her a job working for an architecture firm, but it was mostly numbers all the live long day. Moving back to Chicago she began working for a direct marketing company and according to her "paid the bills", but not being able to express herself in design she filled that need by teaching herself how to make candles after work and every weekend. By researching fragrances for hours upon hours she couldn't wait to get out of work to make candles. So she decided to take a huge risk, quit her job, borrowed $10,000 from family and opened a store to showcase the Tatine brand in 2001.

"I was dying to do a build out, create an atmosphere and share my work for people to bring into their homes. The store was well received and I kept it open for 7 years when I decided to flip the coin, take another huge, scary risk and walk away from what I built, and completely rebrand, redesign and go wholesale."

So the first three months after closing she was scared, tearful, and quite worrisome. She went from having this beautiful store with daily sales, to no income as she was rebuilding and redesigning the entire brand, which takes time and patience.

She kept at it, and invested everything she had into it, and low and behold it paid off for her. Anthropologie came calling and she went into production hand crafting approx. 50,000 individual candles for their stores Nationwide. At this point she was the only employee! Her friends & family helped when they could, but it was a labor of love for her to say the least. They hired her to produce two more lines for them and this combined, resulted her working 8 months solid, 10 to 12 hour days without a single day off. So it is only fitting that some tears fell into the wax of some of those candles. That much work would be exhausting and not without a meltdown or three for anyone, but for her it was the most incredible learning experience and so worth it. Now in her 15th year in business those days are what she leans on to realize what has gotten her to this point. 

We decided to ask her some question about how she made it this far!  

Q: Other than rock n' roll what inspires you?

A: I'd definitely have to say the world of design. In particular I'm very influenced by modern British, Industrial and Scandinavian design; in furniture, interiors, and products. Design magazines are sacred for me I'm constantly on the lookout for the latest trends and things that inspire. This does not mean that I disregard tradition. I find a blending of the two elements most interesting.

In addition, traveling is a constant source of inspiration for me. Any chance I get I'm off exploring! The sights and sounds and scents of places I've traveled to inspire many of our fragrances, in both literal and abstract ways.  

Q: Where do you see the company going over the next 5 years?

A: The sky's the limit! We're experiencing a moment of tremendous growth. One I've worked very hard at attaining. And I have hundreds of ideas! And I like to change things up, keep current. Naturally I anticipate continued growth. 

Q: What are your candles made of? How do you pick your scents?

A: Our candles are made of 100% soy wax. And our scents are a product of a lot of thoughtful blending and experimenting until we get just the right fragrance. I pride myself on our fragrances. I won't put just anything out there until I feel it's unique and the best it can possibly be. It's a task I really enjoy.                                                                                                                

Q: How often do you change scents on both of your products? 

A: We have many classic fragrances which people love. And those we tend to keep around. However, I do love change. So I am consistently unveiling new scents in all of our collections. 

Q: Is there anything you guys are developing?

A: We've expanded our company to include apothecary products over the last year or so. And this has been very exciting! We're now producing a pump soap and lotion as well as a line of hand soaps. We're adding new fragrances to those and we also have an exciting plan to introduce another new product. But that's still a secret! As I mentioned before, you can always count on Tatine to have something new and exciting up our silky sleeves.

Q: How long does your development take? Do you fail often? And do we always get to see your successes?

A: Development periods differ. The ideas come relatively easily. But full development can take some time, over the course of several months. This is due to the fact that alongside product creation we also design all of our packaging. There's a lot of back and forth during that process. But I find that process rather thrilling! I must say, we have not experienced any complete failures. Of course some lines or fragrances end up being more popular than others. And we've discontinued fragrances or lines due to lesser sales. But I see this as positive. It allows us to understand and adapt to our market, while still speaking and creating from the soul.

And up until now yes, you have seen all of our successes for the most part. We have done huge jobs for big brands like Anthropologie, Williams & Sonoma, Terrain, and smaller projects for Robert De Niro's Greenwich Hotel, Ian Shrager's Public hotels to name a few. These collaborations are generally custom, so they aren't sold as part of the Tatine brand, but they still represent us. These collabs allow us to learn and grow, and generate the revenue to develop and design for Tatine.

Q: Do you team up with other makers often? 

A: We do collaborations with other brands and build products and fragrances for them from the ground up. We don't do private label though, we are a design studio and we love to create custom, exclusive products for other brands that represent them, and help them tell their stories. We give the same attention to detail, love and care to these collaborations, as we do to developing products for our own brand. We love creating!

Q: Does living in the midwest offer opportunities to partner with both the east and west coast more? 

A: Not necessarily, in this day and age it doesn't really matter where you live, you can develop and design for anyone, anywhere. The joy is when brands reach out to us because they love our work.

Q: Who are your favorite makers?

A: I have so many! I am so inspired by products and brands that live and breathe the hearts of the makers. I have a great deal of adoration for Le Labo and Cire Trudon. Their fragrances are outstanding. I'm also inspired by interior design and design in general. For example, when traveling, I get so inspired, the designs of places like St.John Bread & Wine and Fernandez & Wells in London inspired me a great deal. Their restaurant build outs and aesthetic inspired the gut rehab I did in my own kitchen, and being in their environments highly influenced the style of my brand.  

Q: Was there steady growth or a big boom?

A: Actually, a bit of both. It's been steady all along but there have been a few high profile companies who bought deep and created somewhat of a boom for us.

Q: Where is the end goal to get your products?

A: Right now, we are working to build an international presence. We have some big accounts in Tokyo, Australia, and Korea, and we are currently in production on a big job going off to Switzerland. I'd love representation in England, France, Germany, Sweden, Italy, you name it.

Q: Any crazy stories about how a product came about or anyone who has bought one?

A: Well, if you consider sauntering by certain rock gods' homes in London and being inspired by the escapade and translating that into a fragrance crazy, then yeah! We have indeed also had a few notable musicians purchase our product and some that even visited our production studio. But of course our lips are sealed!