One of the perks of my job at Windy City Times involves bringing readers information and thoughts regarding just a few of Chicagoland's thousands of restaurantswhich includes everything from behind-the-scenes interviews with chefs to, of course, critiques of dishes.
Below are just a few of the highlights of Savor 2015:
Senza: One of the greatest local culinary tragedies this year involved the January closing of Senza, a Michelin-starred Lake View restaurant. There was a single gluten-free menu of nine to 12 coursesand every item was beyond delicious. ( In addition to that, the server actually brought me a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a can of Yoo-Hoo when I jokingly suggested I wasn't full. ) Fortunately, husband-and-wife duo Noah and Cara Sandoval are slated to open Oriole in the Loop early next year.
Melanie Diamond-Manlusoc: Diamond-Manlusoc the pastry chef at the much-revered restaurant Spiaggiaand she happens to be an out lesbian. What's more is that the gelato specialist had a fascinating and fulfilling lifeand that she schooled me on a concept I didn't think was possible: pairing desserts with beer.
Magnolia Bakery: Chicago has scores of bakeries, but this one ( part of a global chain ) can satisfy any sweet tooth. Although I still wish there were sandwiches, soups and the like, there's no complaint about the cookies, mini-cheesecakes, scores of cupcakes and other sweet items available.
Taus Authentic Food & Drink: Chef Michael Taus went from closing Zealous to opening this Division Street restaurant with cuisine that he described to me as "modern French with global influences." I still dream about the seared foie ( in a mini-brioche sandwich with apple-smoked bacon and Japanese pickles ).
Piccolo Sogno Due: Chef/Partner Tony Priolo made magic happen again ( following Piccolo Sogno ) with this River North spot. With its coastal Italian cuisine, I actually like this place more than its predecessor.
Chuck's: A Kerry Simon Kitchen: Located in the Hard Rock Hotel, this spot features some pretty innovative and delicious items, including the Classic Chicago Hot Dog Flatbread, which tastes exactly like the best hot dog you've ever had. The only pall over this is Simon's unfortunate passing earlier this year.
Firefly Kitchen: Really good restaurants are certainly not confined within city limits. Wilmette's Firefly Kitchen really impressed me, thanks to Chef Dean Salerno's smoked-pork mac 'n' cheese and Maine lobster spring rolls.
Table fifty-two closing
On Thursday, Dec. 31, Table fifty-two will serve its final dinner service at 52 W. Elm St.
For nearly a decade, Table fifty-two has served both A-list celebrities and Chicago natives alike, providing elevated Southern cuisine and hospitality at the hands of Chef Art Smith, who once cooked for Oprah Winfrey.
"I feel that I've reached my peak at Table fifty-two. Everything I set out to accomplish there has been accomplished," Smith said in a statement. "Moving forward, I'm excited for a new culinary challenge."
Next year, Smith and Ideology Entertainment plan to reopen the space as Blue Door Kitchen & Garden.
Visit www.tablefifty-two.com .