Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

TASTE Palate
by LEE GERSTEIN
2003-10-15

This article shared 2107 times since Wed Oct 15, 2003
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


When was the last time you spent $25 for breakfast? It's easy in Las Vegas, where the once bargain basement buffets have given way to luxurious feasts fit for Nero. Sure, you can still find $4.99 all-you-can-eat affairs, but get ready for gummy pastry and deep-fried pizza puffs.

At the Bellagio, where you do, indeed, fork over $25 for breakfast (and wait in line to do so), you can choose from a mind-boggling array of treats, from fruits and salads to meats and cheeses, with plenty of time for upper-end seafood, and pastries as well. OK, most people are eating a combo of breakfast and lunch, but they always find room to end with an assortment of the fancy pastries.

At the Bellagio, there is a team entirely devoted just to the making of Danish.

The kitchen makes 15,000 pastries a day for banquets, the hotel and the restaurants; 5,000 are Danish just for the buffets. So, is it really a surprise that the pastry shop uses approximately 42 tons of butter a year?

At a hotel kitchen in Chicago, a pastry chef who asks to remain anonymous says that the kitchen in the Bellagio is like another world. Here, at home, the kitchens are smaller, and so is the demand. That isn't to say there aren't problems. Special orders especially irk this dessert specialist.

'I'm not talking about sauce on the side or food allergy things,' the chef explains. 'I'm talking about changing the whole damn plate as if the menu is self serve. This sauce with this meat with this vegetable, or, for me, this fruit with this cake with this sorbet.'

I was a born special orderer. While other kids were thrilled to go to McDonald's, I fretted and whined. See, special orders (a plain hamburger) threw them for a loop. Since all the burgers were pre-made, my plain burger resulted in a long wait at the register.

My parents tried the tactic of leaving me alone at the register after all their food came, and they were seated. The reasoning was that I would give up my silly battle for an unadorned sandwich, and just eat the ketchup and mustard the next time. Never happened.

We switched to Burger King, whose motto at the time was 'Special Orders Don't Upset Us.' Sure enough, my plain burger came out with the rest of the food. Unfortunately, there was still a problem for little Mr. Finicky. Sesame seeds on the top of the bun.

So, while the rest of the family enjoyed their burgers, I made a big production out of picking off each individual seed. Surely my parents will someday be waving down at me from a very high place in heaven.

I wouldn't have lasted five minutes with the pastry chef, who is especially annoyed when diners request items that aren't even on the menu in any form, something I only did once, and, again, can blame on being a kid.

My favorite restaurant growing up was the Bow Wow, on Devon. This was nothing fancy. My parents always seemed happy to go, probably because I was so excited to eat something as the restaurant intended to prepare it. Drummettes. Really just chicken wings cut in half to resemble miniature drumsticks, the deep-fried drummettes were caviar to me.

Then, one day that seemed like any other, I ordered the drummettes. 'You gotta order something that's on the menu,' said the waitress. My heart sank. For some reason God was punishing me (or more likely my parents), and had taken my beloved drummettes off the menu.

Still, I ordered something that was once on the menu. Not so, at the hotel. 'People ask for items as if we take the time to make other things just hoping that maybe tonight will be the night someone has had a mindmeld with us and will order something we don't offer.'

Surprisingly, diners request items not on the menu all the time. 'Sure I could make it, if you want to wait half an hour and can ask all the other tables to hang on because this one wants something special.'

At this particular hotel restaurant, people ask for cookies all the time—which is not on the menu. 'Oh yeah, we make dozens all day and let them sit out. This isn't a bakery. We don't just make things and wait for people to buy them. We make everything to order. I hate doing these special orders.'

So, next time you're eating out, you may want to think twice before asking for a different sauce on your linguine. '(Those diners) are a royal pain in the ass. Our chef designs platings specifically for the components and once you start changing things, it can all go to Hell.'

_____

When my dad worked in advertising, he came home with a McDonald's poster for their fish sandwich, that still hangs in the kitchen today. What made it special is that it was from France, and says Filet de Poisson, which cracked me up. OK, so I was only seven.

It still cracks me up. The juxtaposition of the French language, usually appearing in my life only on fine restaurant menus, with the big glamour shot of the fried fish sandwich may not be a gut buster, but it's amusing.

Fortunately, the offerings listed under Les Poissons at Brasserie Jo are nothing to laugh at. Returning to this handsome restaurant after some time away, I was pleasantly surprised to find a consistency but not complacency.

As part of the Lettuce Entertain You enterprise, Brasserie Jo has managed to forge its own identity, thanks in part to Chef and co-owner Jean Joho's (also partnered with Rich Melman on Everest and Las Vegas' Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel) influence. So, yes, Joho's signature shrimp bag is on the menu, heralded as 'The Famous Shrimp Bag,' which is deservedly popular and impressive, as the bag is opened up, and you begin to eat your large shrimp with lobster sauce, fresh peas, and herbed rice.

But, as I often do while eating, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Take a deep breath and peruse the hors d'oeuvres, or as you and I call them, appetizers. Start light with a fresh grilled asparagus salad, or go heavy, which is quite easy to do. The war goat cheese tartelette is rich and slightly sweet, but small enough not to overwhelm, and is even served with a petite salad, so it's almost like you're not even ordering cheese in a butter crust. The truly hedonistic will have to choose between chicken liver mousse and foie gras maison en torchon. Actually, the truly hedonistic will order both, along with the onion soup, which has a nice, hefty, warm-you-up-in-the-winter layer of gruyere cheese on top.

Those hoping to avoid the heart specialist can order a simple house salad with mixed greens, beets, and cucumbers. Heartier salads include a Belgian endive with blue cheese, or a frisee salad with bacon, croutons, and poached egg.

If you want more seafood than just your entrée, plenty of options are available as starters. You can view much of it near the entrance at a large seafood bar, which displays much of the offerings on a bed of crushed ice. Try a half dozen oysters on the half shell or steamed mussels in either a white wine or cream ale sauce. Or, what the hell, just order Le Grand Jo, which brings a massive and impressive selection of oysters, shrimps, mussels, and Jonah crab claws to your table, as well as every eye in the restaurant.

If you do choose seafood as your entrée, other choices include peppercorn-crusted swordfish with frites, sautéed walleye pike in a warm mustard vinaigrette, with a frisee salad, or a delicate sautéed filet of sole, served with capers and rice.

Classic steaks include, of course, a steak frites and pommes frites, or the smooth steak bordelaise in a red wine butter sauce, with, yep, more of those pommes frites. A thicker steak can be found with the 10 oz. New York strip, served either with a deep rich béarnaise sauce or au poivre.

You may want to plan your visit to Brasserie Jo to coincide with one of their regular daily specials, which include a veal wiener schnitzel with sautéed spinach on Tuesdays, roasted sea bass with white beans on Wednesdays, and chicken pot au feu with horseradish cream on Sundays.

Don't miss the desserts, including one of my favorite presentations of profiteroles. Puff pastry are sliced in half and sandwich scoops of rich vanilla ice cream, and brought to your table by a server wielding a ceramic pitcher filled with a warm, thick fudge sauce. Holding the pitcher high above the dessert, they pour a healthy serving (yes, you can ask them to continue), and get out of the way just soon enough to avoid being stabbed with a fork..

Over the years, the Lettuce Entertain You group has continued to refine the space, moving the host stand, and removing some bar tables, to allow for more seating. Still, the signature palms remain, the ceilings are high, and the attractive oversized bar draws the eye to its large octagonal clock mounted in the framework of a large back light that curves up into the ceiling.

Service is professional and knowledgeable about both the food and the extensive list of drinks. Servers are assisted ably by a team of secondary servers and bussers, even when the restaurant is full, which is often. Reservations are a good idea.

Brasserie Jo is located at 59 W. Hubbard. Valet parking is available (and necessary). Brasserie Jo is open Monday through Thursday 5-10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 5-11 p.m.

--------------------------------------

See the front page, left side directory of www.WindyCityMediaGroup.com for Dining Out listings.


This article shared 2107 times since Wed Oct 15, 2003
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

STAYCATION REVIEW Sofitel Chicago 2022-08-17
- Bonjour! If you're like me, you've walked past the Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile (20 E. Chestnut St.; https://www.sofitel-chicago.com/) a million times. You've probably also admired the hotel's unique architecture almost ...


Gay News

Taste of Greektown festival returns to Chicago Aug. 26-28 2022-08-14
-- From a press release - CHICAGO—Greektown Chicago's Taste of Greektown festival returns for its 32nd year this summer with the city's largest celebration of Hellenic cuisine and culture on Friday-Sunday, Aug. 26-28 along Halsted Street from Adams to Van Buren. The ...


Gay News

UpRising Bakery allowed to hold drag brunch, other events 2022-08-04
- UpRising Bakery—a Lake in the Hills business extensively vandalized after scheduling a brunch event featuring drag performers—will be able to host the rescheduled event and other programs after reaching an agreement with Lake in the Hills ...


Gay News

'Dining Out for Life' taking place Aug. 11 2022-08-03
- The annual event known as Dining Out for Life will take place Thursday, Aug. 11. People can join the Chicago restaurant community in ensuring essential services are available to people living with HIV during the daylong ...


Gay News

SAVOR Museum of Ice Cream; Epic challenge; Cafe Sophie closed 2022-08-03
- After 2 million visitors across seven sold-out locations, the Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC) has found its latest sweet spot in the historic Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave. MOIC can be distinguished by its pink ...


Gay News

SAVOR Travelle at the Langham maintains high standards 2022-07-31
- For years, The Langham has been considered one of the top hotels not only in Chicago, but throughout the world, with the luxury stop having stops from Hong Kong to Boston to Sydney. And for years, ...


Gay News

Chicago Gourmet reveals 2022 lineup 2022-07-28
- Chicago Gourmet, one of the nation's most distinguished food festivals, has revealed a lineup of acclaimed chef participants for the 2022 weekend culinary celebration. Founding sponsor Illinois Restaurant Association, together ...


Gay News

SAVOR Bird's Eye Bar & Grill; Sweet Mandy B's marks 20 years 2022-07-24
- Feast while dining among the beasts. Located in the heart of the Lincoln Park Zoo, Bird's Eye Bar & Grill (https://www.lpzoo.org/venue/birds-eye-bar-grill/; right above the venue's gift shop) provides a respite from walking around and seei ...


Gay News

Suburban bakery cancels drag event after controversy, vandalism [UPDATE] 2022-07-21
- After protests, controversy and repeated vandalism, a suburban bakery's planned all-ages drag show/brunch has been canceled, ABC 7 Chicago reported. ...


Gay News

SAVOR Kala Modern Greek 2022-07-20
- Kala Modern Greek (2523 N. Clark St.; https://www.kalachicago.com/) is a charming spot in the heart of Lincoln Park that attracts a mix of residents and workers. ...


Gay News

SAVOR Spanish spot Jaleo by Jose Andres 2022-07-18
- One of the best compliments I feel a restaurant can receive is if it can make items you previously felt indifferent about or even hated seem almost addictive. That was the case with ...


Gay News

SAVOR The return of NoMI 2022-07-06
- Michigan Avenue denizens and shoppers, rejoice! NoMI (800 N. Michigan Ave.; https://www.nomichicago.com/)—the upscale dining destination located at the Park Hyatt Chicago—has reopened after a hiatus of five months. The reopening ...


Gay News

Food website: Chicago bakery among top LGBTQ-owned spots in the U.S. 2022-07-03
- The food website Taste of Home has listed what it feels are the top LGBTQ-owned restaurants in the country—and a Chicago bakery is among the spots. Jennivee's Bakery, 3301 N. Sheffield Ave., "is a queer-owned and ...


Gay News

SAVOR VietFive owner Tuan Huynh talks cafe, equity, hot-dog empanadas 2022-06-15
- Located in an area of Chicago West Loop that includes various restaurants and several fitness venues, VietFive (1116 W. Madison St.; https://www.vietfive.com/) certainly stands out—for all the right reasons. According ...


Gay News

James Beard Awards: One Chicago chef wins, Nobody's Darling falls short 2022-06-14
- On June 13, the James Beard Foundation announced its 2022 Restaurant and Chef Award winners during the live James Beard Awards Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony presented by Capital One at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. ...


 



Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 

Sponsor


Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.