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Chicago Restaurant Reviews from the Curious Cook

As you can imagine, there are many many perks working with Coton Colors…but of course, one of my very favorite perks is all the inspiring food Laura and I get to eat when we are on the road or at market and the fun people we come across. That being said, a few weeks ago Laura, Kristin, Nancy and I visited the International Housewares Show in Chicago where we worked and ate like crazy women!

Here is a little sample of what we sampled along with my rating and review…Eat your heart out!

The PURPLE Pig (Rating- Outstanding)

Cheese, Swine & Wine just about explains it! FYI the food at The PURPLE Pig was just simply over the top! This mind blowing dining experience was fantastic, and I highly recommend it. By the way {and you may already know this…} tapas are smaller portion plates of food that are fun to eat and easy to share.

Our antipasti choices included a charred purple cauliflower pickled salad with toasted breadcrumbs and parsley and a shaved brussel sprout, pecorino & parmigiano reggiano salad. Nancy made these choices and they were both her absolute favorites. Two other tapas we loved were the fried eggplant parmesan balls and the whipped feta with diced cucumbers that they served with extra garlicky grilled bruschetta. Yummy! So about that time I could have stopped, but we had already placed the whole order, so we powered on…although I did ask the waitress to have the kitchen slow down the delivery because we were feeling somewhat “pushed” and for them to not bring the next few dishes all at once. Next, Kristin and I tasted the mussels with pancetta, creme franche & marjoram. But in my opinion, two of the best things I tasted all night were the milk braised pork shoulder and the braised whole turkey leg served with lentils. I truly think that it was the best turkey I have ever tasted in my whole life. It was crispy, delicious and even at the end of the night, I could not stop eating turkey leg of all things! Eaters anonymous here I come. We thought we were done then, but not until we had our last bite of chocolate tart with lemon curd. A rich and a wonderful ending to a most memorable meal!

The James (Rating- Good)

Hit this spot for drinks one night. Their house specialty drink is made of raspberry vodka, elder flower liquor, shaken and garnished with fresh raspberries. Laura and Kristin thought it was too sweet, but I think a little more vodka could fix that. The best way to describe this cocktail is that it tastes like a sweet tart. Mmmm.

Le Colonial (Rating- Very Good)

This up-scale French-Vietnamese restaurant specializes in tropical cocktails & wonderfully flavorful dishes that can be served family style. The upstairs bar at Le Colonial has a more balmy porch feel than the downstairs dining room. With its comfortable couches and palms, it appears to be a bit dark & mysterious. I kept expecting bump into Bogart and hear him say “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine…” and then I would say “play it once Sam. For old time sake…” and then he would say “Here’s looking at you, kid!” Ok, you get the picture, it was the perfect setting to enjoy my Asian Garden Martini and Kristin her fun and fancy French Martini, while Laura was smart and played it safe with white wine.

The Asian Garden Martini is made from vodka, Limoncello & cilantro. Truthfully, this drink was too sweet for me, so I approached the bartender and asked if he would pour my martini over a tall glass of ice, top it off with club soda and add a squeeze of lime. Yes! It was a awesome drink for me and I don’t usually drink cocktails with dinner {I’m a red wine and beer kind of gal} but to my surprise it paired perfectly with the food. I was so pleased that the bartender actually agreed with me about the sweetness and he could not have been more accommodating.

Kristin will have to give you a report on her fabulous French Martini, because I could only handle one. What’s the saying…one martini, two martini, three martini, floor!

So we made our way down stairs to a beautiful candle lit 1920′s style formal dining room. What an exceptional meal including…

PHO- Hearty ox tail soup with rice noodles, beef tenderloin slices & aromatic herbs. Initially, it tasted more like a comforting chicken soup. But the soup was served with hoisin sauce, hot chili sauce & lime wedges. It was wildly surprising how much the sauces and lime deepened and enriched the beef flavor of soup.

GOI CUON - Soft salad rolls of shrimp, rice vermicelli, lettuce, bean sprouts & aromatic herbs in rice paper, with a peanut plum dipping sauce. Pretty straight forward, a little salad wrapped in rice paper. Excellent idea that we could expand on…Laura would prefer basil instead of cilantro.

GA XAO XA OT- Wok seared lemongrass chicken with portobello mushrooms & basil chili sauce. This dish also included a variety of stir fried lettuces. Very spicy, but enjoyable.

MEANWHILE- About this time I finished my Asian Garden Martini “remix”… but before they served the grilled filet mignon, a magical glass of Malbec showed up. Talk about perfect timing, there is a God! Don’t ya just love it when things happen to fall in place?

BO BITET TOM NUONG- Grilled filet mignon and sauteed shrimp, served with tomato rice pilaf and mesclun greens. The beef was seasoned extremely well and again, a very nice dish.

CA NUONG LA CHUOI- Grilled trout, topped with oyster mushrooms, dried mushrooms & cellophane noodles, served steamed in a banana leaf with curry sauce on the side. This trout and the ox tail soup were by far our favorites! After this mountain of a meal we were all too full for dessert. What a trip to remember!!

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