Monthly Archives: November 2011

[Chicago] Avec

615 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60606
Neighborhood: Near West Side
(312) 377-2002

Our CFO, upon learning that I was in Chicago, suggested that I go try Avec.  Since it’s within a few blocks of where I was staying, and the restaurant does not take reservations (which was perfect because I wasn’t sure when I was going to go), off I went!

Since the restaurant does not take reservations, there was already a big crowd waiting for tables.  Luckily for me, there were some open seatings at the bar, so I was seated right away.  For parties of 2 or more, expect at least a 30 minute wait.  Avec is pretty small, with the bar/kitchen on one side, and communal tables lined up on the other.  Good thing there’s coat check, otherwise it’d be difficult trying to hang a coat on your chair while avoiding bumping into other people!

There are large plates and small plate selections.  To me, it seems like a tapas restaurant.  The restaurant also does half-portions on some of the items, so it’s a good way to try many different dishes.  My fellow neighbors at the bar were really friendly, so we chatted while sharing our food.  Come to find out, one of them is a chef owner at a Toronto restaurant (Campagnolo).  So for those of you who are planning to visit Toronto, go give the restaurant a try!  Campagnolo has really good reviews on Yelp too!


Even the napkin is printed


The bar seating, right next to the kitchen


Started off with the chorizo stuffed dates, which is a misnomer.  It’s more like a chorizo meatball wrapped in bacon.  The date is hidden within the meatball to cut out the bite of the spicy tomato sauce.  This dish was so good and so different!  Comes with bread.  This is the half-portion.  $5  Normal portion comes with 4 meatballs.


Followed by half order of the fermin serrano (Spanish ham) with marinated peaches and cocoa beans.  This was also an unusual combination – the ham went well with the peaches, while the cocoa beans gave an unexpected earthy aroma and flavor.  Mmmm… $10.50


My neighbors graciously insisted that I pair my food with their wine.  The Toronto chef says that this wine is hard to find since it’s from a small vineyard in Sicily.  It’s a really nice red that pairs well with meat.


Third plate:  roasted squid with san marzano tomatoes, guanciale, fideo and fennel aioli.  It’s sort of a squid pasta, quite spicy, but the squid still retained excellent flavor.  Perfect with beer!  $12


Last but not least, dessert!  White chocolate panna cotta with maple figs and walnut shortbread.  The panna cotta is more gelatiny than usual panna cottas, but the walnut shortbread and the maple figs were both good!  $7


All in all, Avec is a great place for a meal!


[Chicago] Dose Market

Inside River East Art Center
435 E Illinois St
Chicago, IL 60611
Two blocks west of  Navy Pier

At the Celebrity Chefs Ball, I met a food writer for one of the local Chicago magazines.  She suggested that I check out Dose Market during my stay – it’s a once a month farmer’s market of some sort (no produce though!), with different types of food and fashion under one roof.  Since it’s on my way to Navy Pier, I swung by to take a look.

Dose Market happens once a month, bringing food and fashion/accessories vendors from around Chicago and the neighboring states.  Admission is $10, and only covers your entrance.  I recommend not eating before hand, so that you can sample the food there.  I ate breakfast before I went and then regretted it, as there were lots of pastry and coffee vendors.  The space inside the Arts Center for the market is pretty small, with 15-20 vendors, so it’s crowded.  Worth checking out if you’re already in the area.


Lots of people inside!


Map of the vendors


Gourmet marshmallows from Indiana.  So yum!


The pastries looked so good but I didn’t get to try…


Exotic spices



Groupon Now!

Groupon Now will be offering $1 lunch deals on Fridays, starting tomorrow.  Check the website tomorrow for details.  🙂

[Chicago] Meli Cafe

301 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60607
Neighborhoods: Greektown, Near West Side, West Loop

(312) 454-0748



I stayed in Greektown while I was in Chicago.  Upon checking in at the hotel, I asked the front desk to recommend a good breakfast place.  The guy recommended the hotel’s restaurant and this local breakfast joint.  So I tried both.  The hotel’s breakfast is slightly better than normal hotel breakfasts, but Meli was really great.  It’s just 2 blocks away from the UIC/Halsted station.  Meli was already packed when I got there around 8am, so be ready for a wait!


The daily menu has lots of interesting options.  The regular menu is also very extensive.


Started off with some hot cocoa


Jams and whipped cream for the toast came in a cute little platter


My breakfast:  corn & crab omelet.  Goat cheese and asparagus went surprisingly well with the corn and crab.  The portion was huge!  Even the potatoes were nicely seasoned and not dry.  Also comes with toast! $12.95

[Chicago] Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chef Ball

I love food events, especially those that contribute toward a good cause.  On my recent trip to Chicago, I found a Travelzoo deal for the celebrity chef ball — $99 as opposed to the regular price of $125.  It’s a once-a-year event in Chicago which draws tons of great chefs, with even more foodies.  All of the proceeds benefit the Meals on Wheels program, which provide home-delivered meals to people in need.  This year’s event was held at the Macy’s on State Street, occupying all of the 9th floor, with 85 chefs.  Yes, 85 chefs!!!  I wish we have this kind of event in LA!  The chefs, all eager to showcase their specialties, bring lots of creative dishes and they don’t skimp on the ingredients either.  Each chef is stationed at a table and presents 1-2 dishes.   You can personally meet all of the chefs, while trying out their creations.  Everything is self-serve, which means, if you really like a dish, you can go back for seconds.  Portions are hor dourves-sized.

Best part about this event, besides the food, is that they provide you with a booklet which contain biographies of all of the chefs, along with their various recipes.  🙂


Lots of people all around!  The event is cocktail-dress formal.


I think this was a meat ball with deviled egg on a stick — didn’t get to try since I was already full at this point!


Kurobuta pork with scallop.  Yum!


Even lobster made its way into the appetizer/salad section – from the Michael Jordan Steakhouse.  I didn’t even know MJ has his own restaurant!


After eating the various dishes, then I found out there was another whole section full of DESSERTS!  Pear sorbet on a waffle cone.  I think this was from Black Dog Gelato.  So good!