Tag Archives: David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago in the James Hotel

Loire Valley Wine Tasting in Chicago at the W Hotel on Lake Shore Drive

French red wine from the Loire Valley region o...

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What a great day for the Loire Valley French Wine Tasting on the 33rd floor of W Hotel on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. It was definitely a Vino con Vista opportunity with plenty of French wine and wine-makers. The central part of the  Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire in France was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List  in  2000.

 

The Loire is the longest river in France and it is characterized by elegant historic chateaux and 300 miles of distinctive terroir that supports numerous vineyards along the river banks. This region is the leading producer of white French wines. The region is cloaked  with lovely vineyards and microclimates that produce distinctive varietals and wine styles. It is one of the most diverse wine regions in France with 69 appelations that include red, white, elegant sparkling wines and refreshing rose wines. There are distinct climates and a variety of soil types that divide the Loire Valley into 5 distinct regions.

The first vines were probably planted during Roman occupation 2000 years ago. Afterwards, the Augustinian and Benedictine Brothers enhanced the wine-making practices in this region.

I tasted some interesting Rose wines and plenty of earthy 100% Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc is one of the world’s major red grape varieties and was introduced to the region in the 11th century. It  is frequently blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to produce a Bordeaux style wine. In the Loire region, it is  not blended with other grapes so it is lighter in color than Bordeaux blends. It is used in the development of Chinon and certain roses in the Touraine appelation.

Today I spoke to Philippe Porche, a charming wine-maker from the Saumur-Champigny region in Parnay located on the south bank of the Loire River decreed an AOC in 1957.  Cabernet Franc is the predominant grape in the area.  He and his viticulturist wife founded the estate in 2005 and produce some interesting Cabernet Franc wines. I favored the garnet-colored full-bodied and velvety  “Le Fou du Roi” that was aged in oak.  This lovely couple is looking for an importer @ www.domainederocheville.fr. Feel free to contact them if you are interested in importing  luscious wines from this region. Tell them that Vino con Vista sent you.

There is a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier and Chicago’s Landmark high rises from the former “Pinnacle Room” of the hotel where I spent my Senior Prom.Chicago Illinois It’s always exciting to re-live your youth.

Chicago Architecture

Domaine de Roche Ville Winery

Lake Michigan

It was such a beautiful spring day that I decided to stroll down Ontario Street heading westbound after the wine-tasting. I longingly gazed at the wide array of restaurants on Ontario Street that I patronize. They run the gamut from divine to sublime. Here’s a sampling of my “Chicago Foodie Nation” favorites:

Les Nomades is an outstanding French Restaurant that offers a Prix Fixe menu of four courses for $115 in a swanky turn-of-the-century brownstones mansion on Ontario Street. It is the perfect place to enjoy French cuisine after a Loire Valley wine-tasting event at the W Hotel down the street.

Chicago Restaurants

Chicago French Restaurants

Another one of my favorites is the Capital Grille Steakhouse where I can’t stop eating the crunchy potato chips at the bar. I love the grilled salmon served over a bed of  veggies with a side of creamed spinach. They have an extensive wine list and have won numerous awards for their outstanding burgers!

Chicago RestaurantsOntario and St. Clair in Chicago

Capital Grille ChicagoChicago Restaurants

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Italian Restaurants in Chicago

Chicago Italian Restaurants

Across the street from the Capital Grille, I enjoy dining on the outdoor patio of the Coco Pazzo Cafe when the weather is nice. They have an outstanding lunch menu and recently won an award from the Italian government for their “Authentic” Italian cuisine. Quartino was another “Authentic” Italian-award winning restaurant. I took cooking lessons with the chef and he taught me to add some water from the pasta to my sauce–what a novel idea!! The Red Head Piano Bar is another one of my favorites night spots. They have great wine-tasintg events.

Authentic Italian Restaurants in ChicagoRestaurants in Chicago

There are plenty of famous classic Chicago  “Steak-Houses” on Ontario. Lawry’s serves an incredible Prime Rib and I love the “Aged Filet Mignon” and mushrooms at David Burke’s Primehouse in the James Hotel. The Chicago Chop House has a wide array of delicious “sizzlin steaks.”

You will never be hungry or thirsty on Ontairo Street in Chicago. This city is a haven for Foodies!

Chicago is a Haven for Foodies

Chicago Steak HouseDavid Burke's Primehouse

Stop in at the the Hard Rock Cafe if you’re up for some live music. There are also some landmark fast food joints on Ontario including “Rock and Roll” McDonalds with a Rock and Roll Museum filled with memorabilia that my guitar-playing son adores.

Portillo’s has a great Italian Beef sandwich and classic Chicago hot dog and the drive-thru is always packed. Make sure you try the decadent chocolate cake . Chicago DestinationsM Burger is another fast food option that people are raving about.

Chicago Hot Dogs and Beef Sandwiches

Burgers in Chicago

Plan a trip to the Loire Valley and explore some of the majestic castles with spectacular medieval architecture: Chambord, Cheverny, Villandry and Chenonceau.

 

1. Villandry was built by the same man that designed much of Chambord (François I Finance Minister Jean Le Breton). Villandry is actually most renowned for what is outside of the castle. However, while Chambord remains Le Breton’s main achievement in construction, it is Villandry where he used all of the Renaissance gardening tricks he had picked up while working as an ambassador in Italy. The castle remained in the Le Breton family until the early 20th century, when it was purchased by Joachim Carvallo, who spent a whole of time, money and devotion to rebuilding, expanding and repairing the beautiful gardens. Today the gardens at Villandry are considered one of the best examples of Renaissance style gardens in the world and boasts a water garden, flower gardens and vegetable gardens laid out in formal patterns created with low box hedges—making it a must-see on any castle tour of the Loire.

2. Chambord is one of France’s most recognizable castles known for its distinct French Renaissance architecture, which blends late French Gothic and newer Italian Renaissance motifs. Chambord is also the largest castle in the Loire. Chambord was first built by King Francois I as a hunting lodge (I know you picture a hunting lodge as being more of a log cabin than a magnificent model of French Renaissance architecture, but it was a KING’S hunting lodge, after all).  Chambord has 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces and 84 staircases. It is most known for its façade, which through more than 800 sculpted columns was designed to look like the skyline of Constantinople, with 11 kinds of different towers and different types of chimneys. Chambord also has a double-helix staircase that serves as the centerpiece to the castle and was rumored to have been designed (or inspired) by Leonardo da Vinci during his time at nearby Clos de Luce.

4. Chenonceau is one of my favorite castles in the Loire Valley. Chennonceau was built in 1513 by Catherine Briçonnet and later embellished by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de’ Medici, the Chateau de Chenonceau contains exquisite interiors and has idyllic gardens that look over River Cher.

Originally a small castle along the banks of the River Cher, the castle got its current design in the 16th century when it was seized by the crown for unpaid debts. In 1547, King Henri II offered the castle to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. and she had Chenonceau’s  arched bridge built. It spans the river. She is also responsible for the gorgeous flower and vegetable gardens set in buttressed stone terraces.

Upon King Henri II’s death in 1559, his clearly bitter widow and regent Catherine de Medici had Poitiers expelled from the castle and she moved into the scenic spot herself, adding even more extensive gardens. Since then the castle was privately owned for years and even used as a make-shift hospital for soldiers during WWII; its gallery bridge’s southern door provided access to the unoccupied Free Zone while the castle’s main entrance was in the Nazi occupied zone. Chenonceau today is one of the most visited and popular of the Loire castles and its Renaissance architecture and well-lit gallery and beautiful gardens.

5. Amboise is perched up on a strategic point along the Loire River and was originally built as a fort. In 1434, the castle was seized by King Charles VII after its owner (from which the castle got its name), Louis Amboise, was convicted and killed for supposedly plotting against the King. In the 15th century that the castle was lavishly rebuilt and added onto, starting with its late French Gothic architecture, until Italian builders were brought in and the castle’s style changed to Renaissance.While the castle became a favorite retreat for many French Kings (King François I was raised primarily at the castle), Amboise’s most famous guest was Leonardo da Vinci, who came to the castle in 1515 as a guest of the King and stayed in nearby Clos de Luce. What is most notable about Amboise, however, is known for its unique blend of Gothic and Renaissance architecture and large formal garden.

6. Blois was always a favorite getaway town for French kings; the castle in this quaint little Loire town is best known as the birthplace of King Louis XII as well as the primary residence for Henri IV’s exiled wife Marie de Medici, and later for the Duke of Orléans (brother of Louis XIII and uncle of Louis XIV). However, the castle has a long and prominent history and its Renaissance architecture and picturesque spot along the banks of the Loire make it a definite worthwhile stop on your Loire castle tour. In fact, the castle was the main resort for the French court during the 16th century and was also the location for the famed States General meetings held by Henri III in 1576 and 1588, where several prominent nobles were sentenced to death. The castle also plays a role in the famous Three Musketeers series by Alexandre Dumas as an important retreat for some of France’s most famous and powerful kings.

7. Cheverny was also given to Diane de Poitiers by her lover, King Henri II. Chenonceau was her favorite and primary residence. Poitiers sold Château de Cheverny to the former owner’s son who had originally built the castle between 1624 and 1630. The castle passed between owners until 1914, when the owner made it the first castle to be opened to the public; the family still owns and operates the castle to this day. The castle is renowned for its beautiful interiors and collection of furniture, tapestries and rare objects d’art. There is also a pack of about 70 dogs that are kept on the grounds and taken out for hunts twice weekly.

 

8. Clos Lucé is not really a  “Château de la Loire”; it is a large mansion located just 500 meters from  the Château d’Amboise by way of an underground passageway and is notable mostly for its most famous resident, Leonardo da Vinci. In 1515, King François I invited the Italian painter and inventor to Amboise and offered him the manor to use as a home and studio. When Da Vinci arrived in 1516 he came with three paintings, including the famed Mona Lisa, and lived in the mansion for the last three years of his life. Visitors to Amboise should not hesitate to hop on over to Clos Lucé, where you can peruse a museum that includes forty models of various machines designed by Leonardo.

9. Langeais is a perfect example of Medieval French architecture. It is located near the Brittany frontier and had a significant role in the battle between the French and English. The structure dates back to the 10th century and was built on a cliff which offered a strategic location overlooking the Loire River. The castle was actually fortified and expanded under the rule of Richard I of England (when English kings ruled this region of France) until King Philippe II of France recaptured the castle in 1206. The castle was also where Anne of Brittany and King Charles VIII wed, thus uniting France and Brittany. Today, the dark and ominous looking castle is replete with a great collection of Medieval tapestries.

Château de Langeais

 

 

Destinations in Chicago

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Valentine’s Day Restaurants that I Love in Chicago

Chocolate Bar at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago

Image by benchilada via Flickr

Oysters and Oatmeal dish from Schwa in Chicago

Oysters and Oatmeal dish from Schwa in Chicago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Chicago River is the south border of ...

English: Chicago River is the south border of the Near North Side and Streeterville and the north border of Chicago Loop, Lakeshore East and Illinois Center (viewed from Lake Shore Drive with Trump International Hotel and Tower at jog in the river in the center. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joe's Stone Crab

Joe’s Stone Crab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Location of Schwa (restaurant) in Chi...

English: Location of Schwa (restaurant) in Chicago in detail south of North Avenue (Chicago), north of Division Street (Chicago), east of Milwaukee Avenue (Chicago) and west of Chicago River and Kennedy Expressway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Skyline (Photo credit: Frank Kehren)

Here’s are some of the restaurants that I love!

1. The impressive Lobby Restaurant of the Peninsula Hotel offered a starter buffet of roasted vegetables, crabmeat ceviche over a medley of fresh fruit and an assortment of cheeses and charcuterie options. I usually order  the salmon.

2.  Sepia is a delightful restaurant in Chicago. The dining room is located in a former 1890’s print studio and it is filled with photography memorabilia. Executive chef Andrew Zimmerman graduated first in his class at the prestigious French Culinary Institute and it is reflected in his Meditterranean influenced cuisine. The urban eatery has exposed brick walls and is located at 123 N. Jefferson Street in Chicago just east of the Kennedy Expressway between Washington and Randolf. I love the porchetta.

Restaurant Week Chicagao 2011

Sepia Restaurant in Chicago

3. NAHA is located at 500 N. Clark St. where executive chef Carrie Nahabedian merges her Armenian roots with Mediterranean influenced flavors that earned her a Michelin star. She was the former executive chef at the Four Seasons Properties in Beverly Hills and Santa Barbara. I love the  braised Mishima Ranch “Kobe” Wagyu Beef Brisket with Beluga lentils, bacon roasted parsnips and carrots. For dessert order bananas with vanilla mousseline and salted caramel.

Restaurant Week Chicago 2011

4. David Burke”s Primehouse is located in the James Hotel at 616 N. Rush. I love the Surf and Turf Dumplings filled with lobster mousse or braised short-ribs. Have a dry-aged classic fillet served with a side of mushrooms and mashed potatoes. For dessert, I enjoy the pinapple upside down cake with rum caramel and sour cherry sorbet.

5. Le Colonial has one of my favorite French-Vietnamese inspired menus. It is located Rush Street and is housed in a two-story vintage townhouse  decorated in the millieu of 1920’s Siagon. I indulge in the Cha Gio for starters; these fried spring rolls are outstanding! Follow up with the “Bun Thit Nuong”;  BBQ pork served over angel-hair noodles. For dessert try, the crispy banana wonton.

Restaurant Week in Chicago

6. Schwa’s Chef Michael Carlson worked under Spiaggia’s chef Paul Bartolotta. He turned down the position of sous-chef at Alinea. Since then he has earned a string of prestigious press:  he graced the cover of Food & Wine magazine as one of the Best New Chefs, won the Jean Banchet Award for rising chef of the year, GQ magazine did a nine-page feature on Schwa and Chef Carlson saying that Schwa was “The Most Revolutionary Restaurant In America” and in 2010 he got a “Best Chef” nomination from the esteemed James Beard Foundation. Schwa is at 1466 N. Ashland in Wicker Park seats 26 people; good luck getting in. There is no liquor license or wine list. Just amazing food! Call 773-252-1466 for reservations.

Famed Quail Egg Ravioli from Schwa in Chicago

Famed Quail Egg Ravioli from Schwa in Chicago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Our Philosophy – A restaurant that is part of a new movement; a community of chefs who work collaboratively and share openly. A house with no front or back; a house where chefs are servers, and serving is about creating dialogue. A menu that moves with the seasons; a menu designed to illustrate the diversity of a dish and highlight how one ingredient can be presented in a variety of ways. Taking the unusual and making it enjoyable. Taking the rustic and making it unforgettable.” http://www.schwa.com

Schwa (restaurant)

Schwa (restaurant) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7. The Atwood Cafe in the loop on State Street is one of my favorite dining rooms and is located in the elegantly-renovated Hotel  Burnham across from Macy’s on Washington. I love the Ahi Tuna appetizer. They serve one of the best pork chops in town. The chocolate dessert is always decadent.

Upper facade

Upper facade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8. Blackbird’s award-winning restaurant at 619 W. Randolph has fabulous seared scallops for a starter with a roasted chicken entree and a choclate ganache dessert.

9. Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab at 60 E. Grand is the Chicago outpost of Miami’s legendary Joe’s Stone Crab. For dinner have a cup of chowder of bisque with crab claws, king crab legs or steak and don’t leave without indulging in the famous key lime pie for dessert.

10. I also love Terzo Piano at the Art Institute and Aria on Chicago’s east side at the Fairmont Hotel  http://www.ariachicago.com.

11. You can never go wrong at Piccolo Sogno, one of my all time favorites Italian restaurants in Chicago!

For French Food head over to Les Nomades in a lavish Streeterville townhouse. You will never be disappointed!

.Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com

Salute and Buon Appetito 

English: Executive Chef and Owner of the Stant...

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Filed under Attractions in Chicago, Buon Appetito, Chicago, Chicago Architecture, Chicago Hotels, Chicago Restaurant Week 2011, Chicago Restaurants, michelin guide to chicago restaurants, Restaurant Week in Chicago