This Weekend: Bike Races, Food Trucks, and 16 Candles – The Glencoe Grand Prix

The forecast is 80 degrees and sunny for this Saturday’s 8th annual Glencoe Grand Prix!  Come to picturesque Glencoe for the bike races – both amateur and professional – and stay for the food and fun.  Or come for the food and stay for the races and fun.  One of the great additions to this year’s event is the presence of twelve food trucks, and the good news is: they’ll be around for the entire event.

Start the day by cheering on riders while noshing on doughnuts and biscnuts (a doughnut/biscuit hybrid…um, dying to try this) from Endgrain or gourmet egg sandwiches from Eastman Egg.  Before stopping by the highly popular kid races at noon, you can lunch on just about anything – Lillie Q’s barbecue, The Salsa Truck’s classic Mexican street food, Grill Chasers’ chicken, Tamale Spaceship’s authentic Mexican cuisine, or Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese from Chicago Lunch Box.  And don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth with cupcakes and gelato from Flirty Cupcakes and Gelato Italiano!

Though you can visit any food truck at any time during the event, I’m planning to save Chicago Pizza Boss’s wood-oven pizza and arancini, Chubby Wieners’ hot dogs and fries, and gooey gourmet grilled cheese from Toasty Cheese (with gluten free options!) for my evening and late night meals.  I’ll need to pre- and post-dance carb load for the can’t miss 80’s cover band 16 Candles who will perform at the event-closing Block Party.  Don’t fret if you haven’t stepped foot on a dance floor since the actual 80’s – a beer from Goose Island or a glass of wine from The Bottle Shop in Wilmette will help you lose your inhibitions.

Click each link within the post to view corresponding food truck information and menus.  Prepare to get extremely hungry.

Click here for the full schedule of Glencoe Grand Prix events and here for a story I wrote two years ago on the history and evolution of the Glencoe Grand Prix and the event’s founder, Jon Knouse. 

The funds from the Glencoe Grand Prix directly support the Glencoe Schools and their technology initiatives.  Illinois Bone & Joint Institute is this year’s title sponsor.

Photo via the GGP website.


An Unforgettable Night at NEXT

Image 10Last night, I had the extraordinary experience of dining at Next for a best friend’s 40th birthday celebration.  19 courses, 3 1/2 hours, rare wine pairings.  I am exhausted and bleary-eyed (we were at the 10pm seating, finishing at 1:30am) but I must get the words down while the night is fresh in my mind.Image 3Next, created by Chef Grant Achatz (of Alinea fame) and his business partner Nick Kokonas, is unlike any restaurant in the world.  The cuisine is changed entirely every four months (“A Tour of Thailand”, “Belle Epoque”, “Kyoto”, and wild game focused “The Hunt” are past examples) and you must purchase tickets through Next’s website rather than call and make reservations.  Tickets sell quickly.  An entire four months can sell out in mere minutes!  Serendipitously, the birthday girl is vegan, Next’s exploration of vegan cuisine fell on her birthday month, AND she was able to acquire tickets.

The inventiveness, the art, the execution – all of those elements are still floating around in my head.  It was as if we were wandering through an enchanted forest, stumbling upon Lilliputian-sized food placed on lichen-dotted rocks, floating in ponds and teetering atop branches.Image 5The two photos above illustrate how even lighting and shadows play integral roles in the theatrical experience that is Next.  (You’ll have to excuse my bad iPhoto shots – I wish I would have had my good camera, but I didn’t want to spoil the mood or drive my tablemates crazy.)  Below, sourdough crackers dusted in green tea powder pose as edible tree tops.  The crackers were used to scoop up roasted avocado spiked with fried kale slathered on a rock (seen in the following image). Image 9Image 8My absolute favorite bite of the night was the tempura swiss chard with douchi (a fermented black soybean concoction) seen below.Image 6And the wine. Oh, the wine!!  The Gramont Nuits-Saint-Georges (a 2009 pinot noir)- served with the divine mushroom course –  was truly one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted.  The curry roasted cauliflower with naan (below) was another favorite. Image 2Next would not have been the unforgettable experience it was without the skilled, knowledgeable, tireless waitstaff (a special thank you to  Dave for putting up with my eight thousand questions!).  Thorough without being pedantic, they presented the 19th course (and 7th wine pairing) at 1:15am with the same level of enthusiasm as the first.Image 11ImageTo answer a few questions you may have:

  1. Yes, even the three non-vegan meat lovers were thrilled with dinner.
  2. No, we did not leave hungry.
  3. And yes, we were smart enough to arrange transportation home.

Next’s next menu is Bocuse d’Or, based on the prestigious international cooking competition held biannually in Lyon, France.

Next is located at 953 West Fulton Market in Chicago.  Click here to register for tickets.

Sunday Brunch at Little Goat

It is just as amazing as you imagined.  Stephanie Izard, Top Chef champion and genius behind Girl and the Goat, has nailed it again with Little Goat Diner in Chicago.  She’s so good that when you eat anything she has created, you think, “I thought I knew what great tasted like, but I was so wrong.  THIS is great!”.  And you are sad for a minute because you know she has ruined you, but your plate of heaven quickly distracts you from this miserable thought.

Little Goat 1 blogClockwise, from top left: (1) Husband to the rescue with lattes from adjoining Little Goat Bread.  (2) Kids loved the rotating goat sign.  (3) Smoked Corned Beef Hash with Poached Eggs.  Trust me when I say no hash will ever compare to this.  (4) Waiting for our table with mini-me.  (5) Hannah’s Smoked Pork and Toffee Crunch Milkshake.  Yes, you read that correctly.  (6) A glimpse of the inventive comfort food menu.

Little Goat 2 blogClockwise, from top left: (1) The best 14-year-old on the planet, our son Will.  (2) Chicago el tracks and blue sky.  (3) Leftover hash.  We had to save room for dessert!  (4) Clever check-holding magnet board and the remains of a warm butterscotch caramel-topped banana gelato sundae.  (5)  I wasn’t kidding.  (6) Tempting treats to go at Little Goat Bread.

all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

Little Goat Diner: 820 West Randolph Street, Chicago, 60607.  Sadly, no reservations.  Open breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night.  Click this link for hours.

A Day Off in Chicago

Yesterday our family played hookie and became tourists for a day in our own backyard.  We visited famous landmarks, cruised along in a double-decker tour bus, took a ride on a giant ferris wheel, and got in everyone’s way while taking a million pictures.

Our first stop was Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower).  We took an ear popping elevator ride up to the 103rd floor and marveled at the views alongside tourists from all over the world.  When you love a city as much as I love Chicago, it gives you great joy to see others appreciate its extraordinary beauty and architectural significance.

Views from the top – North, East, and South.

Marina City, famously depicted on the cover of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Wilco being another Chicago treasure).

Cloud Gate at Millennium Park.

Snapping a picture of my children in the reflection of Cloud Gate (a.k.a. The Bean).  The Bean polishers must have been off over the holiday weekend because it was filthy.Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain, an ultramodern interpretation of traditional gargoyle fountains.

The Frank Gehry designed Pritzker Pavilion.

I really wanted to see the Lichtenstein retrospective at the Art Institute, but I was outvoted.  I promise to get there this summer and report back.

Lunch at The Gage, above and below.

Architectural detail on the surrounding buildings.  I fell head over heels for the stripes.

Last stop – Navy Pier.

In line for the Ferris wheel.  It was modeled after the very first Ferris wheel, which was built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  (If you haven’t read Devil in the White City which takes place in Chicago during the construction of the 1893 Exposition, I highly recommend it.)

A view of the John Hancock building from the Ferris wheel.

A final view from the Pier.

All photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

Girls’ Night Out

Yippee!!!  Tonight I am joining seven spectacular women in Chicago to celebrate a friend’s milestone birthday.

Quintessential denim and heels pairing?  Check.

The birthday girl’s favorite champagne?  Check.

Fabulous dinner reservations?  Check.

Dance-all-night plans?  Check.

Requisite morning-after advil/think thin bar/coconut water/blister band-aid rescue kit in the suitcase?  Check.

À votre santé!

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New York Revisited

Let us go back to New York and revisit three favorite experiences (after Freemans, of course):

The famous French macaron shop, Laduree (see above). Located on Madison Avenue between 70th and 71st streets, Laduree’s only shop stateside is as beautiful and sweet as the amazing confections it sells.  My first impulse was take one of each (there must have been 25!) but I chose Salted Caramel, Pistachio, and Cassis Violette (a jammy blackcurrant).  I have had many macarons in my life as they are among my favorite sweets, and Laduree’s live up to their reputation as the best of the best.

Vermeer’s Mistress and Maid (1666-1667)

Turner’s Fishing Boats Entering Calais Harbor c.1803

Mere steps from Laduree, the incomparable Frick Collection.  Built in 1913, the neoclassical mansion was designed to house American Industrialist Henry Clay Frick’s collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture, and decorative arts.  Viewing the steel magnate’s breathtaking collection in such an intimate setting was a rare and moving experience.

And finally, Saturday afternoon with a college friend brunching at DBGB Kitchen and Bar, Daniel Bouloud’s casual space in the East Village.  After catching up over Bloodys and omelets (with a side of their famous house made sausage), we worked off the calories perusing the fabulous shops in SoHo.  Kirna Zabete may be my new kryptonite!

Freemans Love

New York did not disappoint.  A full recap of the weekend’s adventures will come, but I could not wait to share our favorite night at my favorite spot in the city: Freemans.  Rustic, chic, dark, cozy and intimate, Freemans serves the most amazing cocktails alongside perfectly portioned, mostly-American comfort food.  Let’s start with the drinks (shouldn’t we always?):

The Winter Blanket was exactly that – cozy and enveloping.  Made with Jamaican rum, allspice, ginger, orgeat and lime, it had the perfect amount of spice, sweetness and warmth.  Next came the plate of Devils on Horseback.  Divine little dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon.  Thank goodness the smart folks in the kitchen only give you five, because we could have eaten many, many more.  And room had to be saved for dinner!

I chose the Hunters Stew.  A game lover’s dream, it was rich but not overly so, with perfectly done medallions of venison, boar and elk in a dense broth.  Enjoyed with a side of creamed kale and a great, full-bodied glass of Cab.  Amusing aside: a man approached and tapped me on my fox gilet-covered shoulder and asked what I was having.  When I explained the above dish, he exclaimed, “you are eating that AND wearing fur?  PETA would have a field day with you!”  But I digress.  Back to the food, which brings us to dessert.  Bananas Foster with Rum Butterscotch served over vanilla ice cream.  Our only complaint of the night was that the bananas-to-ice-cream-ratio was off, but it was still insanely good.  And though we were stuffed, we ordered an after dinner drink as we did not want to leave the warm atmosphere and spirited bar conversation.  I asked the bartender to surprise me with something involving coffee, and this is what he brought:

I don’t know if it was truly the best coffee drink I have ever had or if it just tasted that way because I was blissful, but I found it fitting that the thick sweet cream melted down the inside of my glass into dreamy heart-shaped dollops.


At the bar with friend Amy Stigler of Monograham.  I said it was dark and cozy!

Freemans. 8 Rivington Street. 212-420-0012