Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tesori Delivers a Fine Orchestrated Symphony Directed by Chef Andrew Deuel

Let's call it a "Rhapsody in New," or "Concerto Classico," or maybe "Eden on Adam's." No matter what you name this symphony, each movement was well orchestrated by Tesori located in the Symphony Center, 65 East Adams, Chicago, Illinois.

Tesori merges old world cuisine with new world technique. It proudly boasts an inviting menu along with an extensive wine list. Upon arrival we were greeted by dining room manager Mike who quickly addressed our every need. Mike exudes pride and ensures that patrons leave realizing that good hospitality is an "art-form." He was quick to boast about Tesori and shared with us the specific details and back story of the restaurant. Because of his knowledge, Steve and I chose to let him make the appropriate selections that guaranteed our dining experience would be well versed as well as highlighting the artistry of Chef Andrew. His selections were well coordinated and precise. He was the George Martin to Lennon's Beatles.

We were rewarded with the presence of Rachel, our server for the evening. Her friendly, yet professional demeanor set the stage for a relaxed, yet experiential event. One can never underestimate the value of a server that is able to tune in to your every need. Matching the rhythm of your guests is equal to the fine tuned sensitivity of a highly sought after studio musician. A musician wants to come in and say "this is who I am, this is my style and rhythm" and then have others fall right in line. So it was with Mike, Rachel and their team; they just "get it!"

It wasn't long before Sean, Tesori's general manager, or should I say, "concert-master" came over to greet us. We witnessed him surveying the establishment to underscore the importance that everything was in order and that the maestro would be able to deliver a symphony of flavors without a glitch. Maestro, Chef Andrew is the conductor of this symphony, and rightly so. While Tesori paid special attention to each patron's senses by paying close attention to aesthetic quality, they were also keenly aware that the food is the star of this show.

While Chef Andrew was not adorned with tails and tie, he was well dressed in his crisp whites. Taking a bow, he stood before the orchestra with masterful grace. He deserved a standing ovation, as he delivered with absolute perfection a culinary symphony. From the first course, white zucchini soup, to the last in house gelato and spumoni bomb, this well orchestrated symphony awakened our senses.

Chef Andrew's use of old farmstyle, or more specifically Cucina contadina Italiana, or maybe "fattoria", is infused throughout the menu. No matter how you refer to it, it is superb! Bravo! Unlike many Italian themed cuisine, Chef Andrew infuses celery, carrots, garden freshness and a specialty vegetable broth in many of his well planned out dishes. (If you are coming to Tesori to experience typical Americanized Italian cuisine, you may be surprised. It is important just let go and in the words of the Phantom..."Floating, falling, sweet intoxication,Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation, Let the dream begin" Phantom Of The Opera - Music Of The Night.) Although Chef Andrew Deuel incorporates Cucina contadina Italiana, with a modern farmstead approach, this sensitivity to the needs of both vegan and gluten-free patrons is represented and therefore he embraces a new world approach to his culinary masterpieces.

We began our evening with a light Zardetto (a little bubbly) and assortiti pane italiano e olio d'oliva. Although a roasted tomato soup was the evening's specialty, our prelude was white zucchini soup. Personally, I have come to judge a restaurant by two items, soup and dessert. As Mike aptly put it, the book-ends more on that later). Soup quality and originality is what I expect. Chef Andrew scored with a five star rating with the white zucchini soup. I cannot impress upon you enough how impressed both of us were with this soup. The intermingling of carrot, celery and herbs with the zucchini, lightly drizzled with olive oil for infused richness made this vegetarian creamless soup sing as only Pavarotti could sing! I was shocked that there was no cream or butter used in the preparation of the creamy soup. I would have argued with anyone that the base for this soup was in fact a rich roux, but no, the Chef's pureeing technique is that perfect! Next, we indulged in veal cheeks, anson mills stone ground polenta and charred octopus, san marzano relish,with capers and olives. After savoring the polenta I could have easily stopped and just begged for more, encore, encore! Needless to say, we didn't stop there. The octopus was impressive and, more importantly, the Chef's eight hour process of soaking the meat in red wine made for a delectable Cyprian delight and exemplifies his attention to detail and precision. Next Mike delivered a recommendation by Chef Andrew. A new appetizer pizza, fresh made crust, topped with bechamel sauce, topped with house made ricotta cheese, proscuitto and arugula. It was a nice spin on an old classic. To prepare us for our pasta dish, we gracefully entered into the fourth movement with a sugar beet salad, which presented the perfect blend of color, freshness, crunch and zing. The grand finale, while not the finale, was duck bolognese over house made linguini. While we imagined that we had hit the pinnacle of palatable pleasures, we quickly discovered there was more. Let's call it the encore or, simply put, the other "book-end." Dessert! It was delivered with pageantry and flair as we were presented with trio gelato and sorbetti as well as the spumoni bomb. The trio consisted of vanilla bean gelato, mango/peach sorbetti and drum roll please the Pièce de résistance, grapefruit and mint sorbetti! A simple pink little mound of heaven! We also delighted our taste buds as we savored la bomba/ pistachio and cherry mousse, dark chocolate glaze, chocolate cake, dark cherry gastrique, white chocolate pistachio shard.

Satisfaction guaranteed, Chef Andrew and Tesori delivered a well orchestrated symphony of flavor, texture, aromas and at a price that is guaranteed to make your accountant smile.

Mangiare Bene!
Steve Champagne's Review.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hot Fun in the Summertime, Grazing in the Grass

aka, Farmer's Market Splendor

Today was an ordinary Sunday with an extraordinary kick. Traveling up Red Arrow Highway is one of our favorite things to do and today our travels brought us as far as Skip's Open Air European Market. Originally we were going to pick up a few things bring them home and just enjoy the special treats acquired there. Steve asked, "where would you like to begin?" The place was packed, more vendors than I remember from the last time we were there, and some of our old favorites were still present. I suggested going to the far end and working our way back to the car. It was then that we saw it...Skip's very own steak burgers and sweet corn! Our plans quickly changed. We would be enjoying the palatable pleasures on-sight. Each of us ordered a steak burger. Steve also got corn on the cob, and I went for their grilled peaches topped with blue cheese.

How did it all taste? Heavenly! The burger was so good, that aside from some fresh sliced onion nothing else was necessary. A fabulous burger. The grilled peaches, scrumptious. The corn on the cob, paled next to the intense flavor of the peaches and burger. But, good all the same.

Next stop: Divine Chef Peters, Chesteron, IN are purveyors of infused fine oils and specialty spices. You can always tell the real deal, because they stop what they are doing and tell you all about their product and share a little insight into the specialty that they sell or produce. Our senses were delighted as we sampled, herb/garlic olive oil, Meyer Lemon/Oil blend. Steve enjoyed truffle oil. Delish! I will let the Chef tell you what is so special about his truffle oil. Because they are bottling your oil on the premises you are able to have them increase and decrease certain herbs and spices. In our case, Steve wanted a little more garlic kick to ours. Needless to say the quality was evident and the care given to us was deeply appreciated. Looking forward to having Chef Peters on the show soon! Oh, and dipping into our special blend!

Did someone say pasta? Yes, nestled in the back of the market next to Chef Peters to the right is Pasta Love, Benton Harbor, MI. Pasta Love boasts a fine wide noodle pasta, both gluten free and organic flour. Our selection was the Beet and Parsley. I will report back later. I was assured that all of the pasta types are big sellers. Never pass up a good pasta!

Cheese Please! On the other side of Divine Chef is J2K Capraio, seller of cheese, olives, sausage, and well, just imagine walking into a little Italian market. Everything you need to prepare the perfect Charcuterie was at your reach. J2K is always ready to give you samples of his delicacies, as he is intensely proud of his provisions. Our choice for today, was a Pesto Rosso cheese, New York sharp cheddar and chevre goat cheese (by the way, August is goat cheese month. I have tried to come up with all kinds of goat puns, but, all of them will get your goat and get your nanny in a twist, so I decided not to). Needless to say, the cheese is far superior to anything you will find in local grocery stores, so enjoy while you can.

We hope to bring you these fine purveyors in an up and coming Midwest Monday broadcast. MANGIARE!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Little Italy, Dyer, Serves it Up Big!

A few weeks back one of my ArtSees Diner Radio guests shared that she and her husband love going to an Italian restaurant in Dyer Indiana that is to die for. So, today on our way back from Chicago Hts, where we saw The Drama Group's production of Reefer Madness, all that smoking "the weed" got us hungry! :D No seriously, there was no smoking of weed in the making of this hunger, merely a play on words and an opportunity to plug an amazing show. Did I mention my daughter was in it and was outstanding? Okay, so I digress! Back to the food...and the restaurant, Little Italy

We arrived at the start of their dinner hour, so the place was relatively empty. This gave Steve and I an opportunity to just take in the place without the bustle and noise of a happy dinner hour. The ambiance truly captures a the feel of restaurants in New York's Little Italy. There were moments when Steve and I felt like we were on vacation! "Did it remind us of places we visited in Florida, or was it NYC?" Our conversation settled on it being unique to Northwest Indiana and yes, something experienced in our travels.

Our server was Anthony. Anthony was a true professional, he knew the restaurant, the food, and most importantly, he was not afraid to converse with the patrons. Whether it was making us feel comfortable, laughing at our silly jokes, or just making recommendations on everything from the new Malbec on hand, or patron's favorites, he was on! We took his recommendation for the wine, La Copa Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina his recommendation for food, Entree;Crispy Pork Shoulder,Pasta;Rigatoni with fennel sausage, tomato cream sauce. Because this is a family style restaurant, the food is serve in two sizes, either the Little Italy, or the Big Italy. We went with Anthony's recommendations and we were not disappointed. Choosing the two dishes in Little Italy sizes proved to be more than enough. In addition to the dishes chosen, we requested the red pepper bisque soup topped with goat cheese. I truly believe you can tell so much about a restaurant by the bread, the soup and the dessert. We did not have room for dessert, so I cannot vouch for a triple header on the basics, but, I can guarantee that the hearty bread served with herb infused olive oil is a hit! I can also attest to the fabulous homemade soup.

All of the ingredients are prepared on site. This is the chef-owner's guarantee that we are getting his best. Along with the entree came a dark leafy green salad, with grape tomatoes, arugula and the lemon vinaigrette dressing is a must. A house specialty! Also, with every entree patrons are served a generous portion of bakes ziti, with the house tomato sauce.

"Okay, so LaLuna, how was the food?" I am so glad you asked! It was exceptionally good. The pork was perfect. Prepared over two days to ensure the best quality possible. The pork shoulder is slow cooked in chicken stock, (all prepared on the premises) celery, onions and carrots and cooked to a reduction. Then refrigerated over night, the fat is removed from the pork reduction. Prior to serving the pork shoulder is rubbed with a blend of spices, roasted to a crispy edge and served with portobello mushrooms, carrots and reduction. The ziti was better than most tomato sauce based dishes. I am very particular and rarely find a sauce that sings. This sauce came pretty close, but, the rigatoni, oh mama mia! First of all, the pasta was cooked perfectly. The sauce for the rigatoni was half Alfredo and half tomato. That happens to be one of my favorites. Often times Alfredo sauces let me down. Chef Andrew's Alfredo did not let me down. There was a zing, a garlic edge, pure cream, and butter. The fennel sausage added the right level of sweet herb (not to be confused with the herb mentioned in the beginning of this blog) and fresh peas. The peas lent the perfect balance to the many exciting tastes. Just enough green to keep it light. Both Steve and I felt that the rigatoni sauce was the perfect adornment to the pork dish.

Little Italy, Dyer, Serves it up Big, and receives 2 forks up! We will be going back and encourage you to make this one of your favorites! 1155 JOLIET ST. DYER, IN 46311 219-865-3040 DYERSLITTLEITALY@YAHOO.COM

Friday, August 8, 2014

One Small Step Up for Woman, One Giant Leap for Womankind

It was a great privilege to witness and participate in Step Up Women's Network's Shine and Dine in Chicago. The venue - Bridgeport Arts Center's Skyline Loft - was spacious and hip, the food and drink top shelf, the people beautiful inside and out. My faith in humanity was both rekindled and fanned to bonfire proportions.

Per their website, Step Up Women's Network is "a nonprofit membership organization igniting women & girls to fulfill their potential", "empower[ing] teen girls from under-resourced communities to be confident, college-bound, and career-ready, and propel professional women through connections, collaborations, and continuous development". It was refreshing to see such devotion to a truly practical approach to helping young women find their way into professional circles through personal interaction with strong examples of those who have gone and succeeded before them, and exposure to a well-connected, professional network.

The food was so impressive that I fell several stories off my diet wagon, and will likely be limping around in a culinary haze for days. There was no way to experience all of it, so I'll focus on what I had, which should in no way imply that anything I didn't try wasn't similarly amazing.

Opart Thai House's "Tiger Cry Beef" was my favorite. The word 'succulent' raced to mind, and the sauce was fabulous in its own right. Their "Pad Thai Tofu" was also spectacular, especially with just the right amount of their red hot sauce ("Warning, Will Robinson!").

Filini Bar and Restaurant presented a concoction called "Yellow Fin Tuna Sedani" that looked and tasted like nothing I've ever had. Imagine ziti noodles with a sort of yellowish, orange coating that made them look like Cheetos at a distance, topped with a mix of raw tuna in a proprietary sauce. I have no idea what all the ingredient were, but the overall texture and taste had me repeating a heartfelt "Wow!" after every bite. Richard Kim, the general manager, was a perfect host, sincerely excited about what Filini has to offer, and simply a joy to interact with.

RL's "Beer-Braised Short Rib Sandwich" was unspeakably good. While I regret not having one until I was already stuffed, it was probably a good thing, for I'm not sure I'd have had room for anything else had we stopped by RL's booth first. I *loved* the crunch of the light layer of vegetables situated between the meat and the bottom bun.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken's "Chicken and Grits" were a delicacy. I've never had grits prepared that way, to come out so visually indistinguishable from mashed potatoes. Great sauce on them, too.

Urban BBQ's "Pulled Pork Sliders" were indeed slippery, thrilling my tongue and sliding down my gullet in a way that had me wondering if I'd remembered to chew. Yum!

Vanille Patisserie's "Caramel Macarons" were sinfully sweet. (Mental note to go to confession this week....)

I'm not certain if a singular outfit served the alcoholic beverages, but the selection was great, and the pourers delightful, especially David, who deeply understood the essence of vodka on the rocks.

The care and detail demonstrated by Step Up Women's Network in every aspect of this event made it obvious that they know what they're doing, and are serious about affecting the lives of young women in profound ways. Don't hesitate to donate to Step Up Women's Network with confidence today.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Step Up, Shine & Dine, 2014

National mentorship organization Step Up will honor television personality Catherine De Orio and Step Up alumna Kenia Rodriguez at its fourth annual Shine & Dine on August 7, held at the Bridgeport Art Center’s Skyline Loft. The red carpet evening will feature seasonal fare from top Chicago restaurants and welcome 800 local professionals, all to benefit Step Up’s mentorship programs that propel girls from Chicago’s under-resourced communities to fulfill their potential by empowering them to become confident, college-bound, career-focused, and ready to join the next generation of professional women.

“Shine & Dine is the perfect commemoration of Step Up’s presence in Chicago,” the nonprofit’s founder, Kaye Popofsky Kramer, said. “The culinary evening unites community influencers for a terrific celebration, but also raises vital funds that give Step Up girls a chance.”

De Orio, the host of WTTW’s Check, Please!, will be honored as an inspiration to women and girls in the media and culinary industries. Rodriguez, a member of Step Up’s Class of 2012 and now DePaul University’s Class of 2016, will also share her story during the event’s brief program.

Epicures including Ryan Pitts (RL), Christine Cikowski and Joshua Kulp (Honey Butter Fried Chicken), Lee Ann Whippen (Chicago Q), Mary Punmit (Opart Thai), Kurt Guzowski (TÊTE Charcuterie), Carolina Diaz (Filini Bar and Restaurant), Michael McDonald (ZED451), Sophie Evanoff (Vanille Patisserie) and Mari Luangrath (Foiled Cupcakes) will offer guests special tastings. Farmhouse, RA Sushi, Troquet, and Kaiser Tiger will also host tastings. Cîroc, Peroni, Crafthouse, JIMMY, Paramount Events, Lifeway Kefir and nUM yUMMIES are also on board to offer sips, hors d’oeuvres and desserts.

Tickets start at $125 and are available at or by calling 312.904.2000.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a VIP reception featuring exclusive tastings and cocktails for VIP ticket-holders. General admission is at 6:30 p.m.

For the first time, the event will be held at the Bridgeport Art Center’s Skyline Loft, located at 1200 West 35th Street in Chicago. Thanks to a partnership with Hailo, the taxi-hailing app, registered guests will receive a $15 credit for transportation to or from the event. In addition, the Bridgeport Art Center has a free parking lot for all guests.

Allstate Insurance Company returns to support the event as the Gold Sponsor for the fourth straight year. InStyle and Chicago Sun Times’ SPLASH are the event media partners. Shine & Dine is chaired by Christina Manuel of Lake View, Shayna Cook, of North Center, chairs the Step Up Chicago board of directors, while Evanston’s Angela Elbert chairs Step Up’s national board of directors.

The event’s host committee includes Danni Allen, Jonny Imerman, Candace Jordan, Hon. Stephanie Neely, Susanna Negovan, Whitney Reynolds, Laura Schwartz, Erin Shea Smith, Scott Smith, Mallory Ulaszek, and Amy and Chris Johnson.

Step Up, Shine & Dine 2014 08/04 by ArtSees Diner Radio | Women Podcasts
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