Great experience at Wildfire Chicago!

Wildfire Chicago

It was date night last Friday night at Wildfire Chicago. My husband and I were graciously welcomed by the host. We were then greeted by the Maitre’d who showed us to our table. She engaged us in conversation on the way to the table, asking if we were out doing holiday shopping (we had several shopping bags with us). As we sat down, she made sure the table was in order and made sure we were comfortable before departing back to the host area. An overall wonderful first impression!

We started with the chopped salad to share for an appetizer. What a great appetizer option! A generous portion of mixed greens, roasted chicken, avocado, tomato, blue cheese, bacon, scallions, corn, and tortilla strips tossed with a light citrus vinaigrette dressing and served tableside in a large white bowl with tongs. Excellent blend of fresh flavors and unique textures. Each ingredient complimented the others extremely well. The crunch of the tortilla strips, fresh corn, and bacon pieces paired well with the smooth tender chicken, avocado, tomato, and blue cheese crumbles. The citrus vinaigrette dressing was very light yet flavorful and gave the dish a desired citrus flavor to balance the other ingredients.

For an entrée I ordered the Fillet Medallion Trio. Three filet medallions positioned on a circular white plate. Each was topped with a different signature crust- I chose blue cheese, parmesan, and horseradish. Prepared medium-rare, the filet medallions were extremely tender and juicy. The horseradish crust was surprisingly balanced and not at all overwhelming. The parmesan crust had an excellent cheesy aftertaste, and blue cheese crust was very rich and flavorful overall. An excellent entrée choice due to the difference in flavors you get with one dish. Great job!

After we finished our meal, our plates and flatware were cleared. Our server made sure to wait until the table was fully cleared and crumbed before presenting coffee and dessert options which was appreciated. He wished us a good evening and a happy holiday as we stood up to leave as did the host as we left the restaurant. Overall, a great experience at Wildfire Chicago!

 

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Ras Dashen, a wonderful Ethiopian Restaurant on the northside of Chicago

Chicago as a city has so much to offer; fun sightseeing, good theatre, great nightlife and definitely some good eating! When you come to Chicago you are bombarded with an array of different cuisines that will blow you away. I try to venture out to a new local restaurant that I have not been to about once a month. Let’s be real guys, most of us are not billionaires, so like the rest of us I’m trying not to break the bank and still be able to enjoy what Chicago has to offer.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting some friends at ‘Ras Dashen’, an Ethiopian restaurant. It is located on the north side of Chicago on Broadway. If you are traveling from out of town and staying with us at the Hampton Inn & Suites, just take the red line at the grand stop and head north! This was such a great experience! Beware! If you do not like spicy food, this is probably not going to be for you. Since it was our first time there we did not know what to expect. Totally exceeded my expectations. As we entered the restaurant, there was a band playing which was awesome! Then, we were seated at a table that was not really a table (they have actual tables there too, but we wanted the full experience!). They had four chairs surrounding this tall basket in place of a table. As the table top, they used a round tray with Ethiopian art.

The Dining Room at Ras Dashen

The Dining Room at Ras Dashen

We started off with some drinks. I ordered a Peach Martini, usually not a fan of very sweet martinis, but the restaurant recommended it, noting it was quite popular. I took a chance and it was delicious. For the appetizer we ordered the Sambusa, this is such a great dish. It was a little spicy but light and full of flavor. We all ordered our entrées and sides (with an entrée order every table gets a choice of three sides) with the thought of sharing in mind, and good thing too because they prepare the meal on one plate for the entire table. The preparation of the food is so unique. They use a very large round tray as a plate. At the bottom they put Injera, which is the traditional word for flat bread. Then they place the entrée on a section on the Injera in front of the person that ordered it. In between each entre, they place one of the sides in order to provide a little variety. Then you dig in! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that they do not use utensils. You use the Injera to grab the food and you eat with your hands!

Whether you are a local or someone that is visiting from out of town, I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone that is daring and likes spicy food.

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Chicago Steaksnob

Going back almost a 150 years Chicago has been known for the meat packing trade. The Union Stock Yards on the south side was the largest processer of meat for almost 80 years. There isn’t much left of the stock yards now except the original gate…

All of those stock yards laid the foundation for Chicago to have some fantastic steakhouses… And after being in Chicago for 12 years, I have had the opportunity to visit all of the best ones. The most recent one I went to was Mastro’s Steakhouse. The overall experience we had was truly one of a kind, with food that is over the top and service that is second to none. With being in the service industry, you really have to impress me for me to say that the service was that good.

I made the reservations a week out and came in about a half an hour early to sit in the bar. We ordered some cocktails and received a nice heavy handed poured drink. They had someone on the piano and a singer serenading the crowd. They were just loud enough to enjoy, but not so loud that we couldn’t hear each other speak. Our table was ready right on time. The menu has items like Alaskan King Crab Black Truffle Gnocchi and Gorgonzola Mac & Cheese to complement their wide array of perfectly cooked steaks. A few days later, I even got a follow up phone call to ask how my experience was! The entire experience was absolutely perfect. If you get a chance, go visit them. It will cost a few bucks, but if you are going to splurge, this is the place.

Enjoy!

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Date Night: A review of Shaw’s Crab House-Fresh Seafood in Chicago

It was date night last Friday night and Shaw’s Crab House: Fresh Seafood in Chicago was the spot which is just around the corner from the Hampton! We walked up the stairs toward the host stand where we were welcomed graciously and introduced to the maitre’d who showed us to our table. As we sat down, she waited for us to remove our jackets and get situated before handing us the menus. She made sure the table was in order and made sure we were comfortable before departing back to the host area which was much appreciated.

Jose, our server, approached our table welcomed us to the restaurant. His eye contact, friendliness, and casual professionalism made us feel very welcome and excited to start the experience. Jose did an excellent job going through the wine list, appetizer options, and entrée recommendations. He took his time describing the presentation and preparation of several of his favorite recommendations in each of the categories. His salesmanship, honesty, and overall knowledge of the menu were apparent and made us feel very confident with our drink and dinner choices.

We started with Shaw’s Oyster Sampler – twelve fresh oysters including six different varieties of oysters from across the United States including oysters from British Columbia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Prince Edward Island situated on a large bed of freshly shaved ice and circled around three lemon wedges, a small silver ramekin of dark red cocktail sauce, and a small silver ramekin of red wine vinegar and shallot sauce. Very unique and flavorful overall – interesting mix of various textures and flavors. The oysters paired very well with the red cocktail sauce with horseradish and with the flavor of the red wine vinegar shallot sauce. Overall, a great unique first dish.

Shaw's Chicago Oyster Sampler

Shaw's Chicago Oyster Sampler

For an entrée I ordered the Oven Roasted Florida Red Grouper. Large pumpkin seed crusted filet of Florida Red Grouper served next to an orange delicate squash puree sitting in a pool of lemon butter sauce on a large white plate. The preparation of the grouper was excellent with a very tender, warm, flaky interior and a very unique pumpkin seed crusted exterior. The delicate squash puree added a great sweetness to the dish as well as a very unique color combination. The lemon butter sauce paired very well with both the grouper and the squash puree and brought the flavors of both together nicely. Overall, a very seasonal and unique dish! We would most definitely order this again.

We finished our meal by sharing Small taste portions of raspberry pie, pecan pie, key lime pie, and crème brulee served with several small dollops of whipped cream on a long rectangular plate. A great dessert option overall – the raspberry pie and whipped cream were very refreshing and sweet. The pecan pie had an excellent balance between sweet and savory and was very decadent overall. The key lime pie was very light and refreshing and the small dish of crème brulee was very rich and flavorful. Great dessert option!

 

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Cantina Laredo, a Modern Mexican Marvel

Last week I had the pleasure of dining at Cantina Laredo, a Mexican restaurant just steps from the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown in the River North neighborhood. To start, the restaurant is brand spankin’ new as of about a month ago. The space itself has a very contemporary, boutique ambiance which is surprisingly inviting and warm. Speaking of warm, there’s a large fireplace towards the back of the restaurant near the restrooms; I imagine this will be a comfort leading into the winter months!

As for the actual dining experience, everything was excellent. Upon being seated, I was greeted by an appetizing avocado in a beautiful silver bowl on the table. While I was salivating over the possibility of fresh guacamole, I was told by my Server that fresh guacamole is prepared tableside and would I like to place an order? But of course! I’ve been to many a restaurant that offered tableside salad service but the guacamole was a first for me. I invite you to order the same, you won’t be disappointed!

Fresh Quacamole being prepared at Cantina Laredo

Tableside Quacamole prepared fresh at Cantina Laredo

I also selected the Chicken Quesidillas AL Carbon as an appetizer. Simply delightful and probably one of the best Quesidillas I’ve ever had….makes my homemade ones made in the microwave with Kraft Cheese look like a joke.

Chicken Quesadillas Al Carbon at Cantina Laredo

Chicken Quesadillas Al Carbon at Cantina Laredo

For my main course, I selected Enchiladas De Barbacoa which is a slow-roasted brisket and monterey jack cheese enchiladas topped with ranchera sauce. Absolutely declicioso!

Enchiladas De Barbacoa at Cantina Laredo

Enchiladas De Barbacoa at Cantina Laredo

 

Not to name names, but it’s my belief that Cantina Laredo is THE BEST Mexican restaurant in the River North neighborhood of Downtown Chicago. When I dine, my main focus is: “is it yummy?” And “will it fill me up?” The answer to both of these questions is an emphatic “YES!” for Cantina Laredo! Do stop by for a meal soon!

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