Tastebud Tours- Chicago Food Tours

***** (5 stars)

What a wonderful afternoon I had on Tastebud Tour’s 1893 World’s Fair Tour! We met at the private Cliff Dwellers Club, which offers a spectacular view of The Art Center and surrounding park.

I was greeted by the owner of the company, Lynn, who introduced our group of seven to “Bertha Honore Palmer.” Well, Bertha has actually been dead for about a hundred years, so the part was played–magnificently–by Tiffany, an actress and 1893 World’s Fair expert. For the next three hours she remained completely in character as she shared stories about Bertha’s life and accomplishments, and brought the fair to life through the innovations it introduced.

These innovations included a lot of food! You definitely need to begin this tour hungry. We started with a relaxing hour long lunch (that newfangled food, the hamburger, was featured) as we learned about the organization of the fair. We finished off four delicious pies and then made our way to many more stops on an approximately 1.5 mile walk that included hot dogs, popcorn, brownies and more.

We even visited Bertha’s house, which is now the Palmer Hilton. The tour ended at the famous Bergdorf, where we admired the murals of the exposition, sampled their chili con carne and root beer, and said our goodbyes.  What a great tour!

Tastebud Tours- Chicago Food Tours
1345 N Greeview Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(219) 929-6648
http://www.yelp.com/biz/tastebud-food-tours-chicago

LAKEHouse Restaurant

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*** (3 stars)

This restaurant, located in the former Cascades space, has been completely remodeled into a trendy and airy space. Unfortunately the food and service could still use some remodeling.

There’s nothing really wrong with the menu, but the more creative the dishes, the less the flavors seem to click. For example, the idea of making a shrimp cocktail using grilled, chilled shrimp sounds inventive, but turns out to produce a fairly off-putting texture.

The house pizza combined citrus, boursin cheese, asparagus and chicken, but somehow managed to be nearly flavorless. It’s the only time I’ve ever put salt and pepper on a pizza.

The LAKEhouse salad bowl combines interesting ingredients such as figs, spicy pecans, arugula and parmesan cheese, but they don’t really work together.

The best thing I had was the “cauliflower steak”. Like many of the dishes on the menu, the name is not descriptive. It’s simply cauliflower and several other vegetables that have been nicely grilled.

An extensive cocktail list tends toward sweeter drinks. The wine list offers quite a few selections, although the most interesting ones are available only by the bottle.

Service was well-intentioned, but not at the level of a fine dining restaurant; perhaps is is more appropriate for breakfast or lunch, when the space serves as the hotel’s coffee shop.

LAKEHouse Restaurant
1 Grand Cypress Blvd
Orlando, FL 32836
(407) 239-1234
http://www.yelp.com/biz/lakehouse-restaurant-orlando

Next: Terroir

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***** (5 stars)

Terroir is a very ambitious menu, and the most expensive so far, because of the wine quality.

In this case the wines were chosen first, and the food designed to match. I didn’t find a lot of great matches during this meal, but I did enjoy the wines, which were much higher end than usual. Standouts were the Krug Champagne Grand Cuvee (served twice, in two different glasses) and the Sauternes and Madeira, but they were really all good.

Another interesting bit of wine service was the chenin blanc tasting, with three different appellations served side by side.

Our favorite food course, surprisingly, was the snail roe with smoldering eucalyptus leaves—not a course for the timid, but absolutely delicious.

17 courses, 16 wines.

As always a convivial staff enthusiastically shared information and their love of what they’re doing. A great dining experience.

Next
953 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 226-0858
http://www.yelp.com/biz/next-chicago-2

Next – Trio

***** (5 stars)

Trio is an even more spectacular menu than Modern Chinese. This homage to Chef’s first restaurant ten years ago pulls out some vintage tricks, and reminds us of how cutting edge that restaurant was.

21 courses, many of them home runs. Very lavish ingredients, beginning with a generous serving of Osetra, and two courses using foie gras in completely different ways.

My favorite course was a surprise, the smoked figs was that perfect union of unexpected flavors that turns the whole into much more than the individual parts.

A few of Alinea’s serving tricks were used for some of the courses, but they’re more playful and less pretentious than at Alinea.

As always a convivial staff enthusiastically sharing information and their love of what they’re doing. A great dining experience.

Next
953 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 226-0858
http://www.yelp.com/biz/next-chicago-2

Next – Modern Chinese

***** (5 stars)

I approached Next with some trepidation because I’m not a fan of Alinea, its sister restaurant. I found the atmosphere and service there stiff, and grew tired of the dictatorial way we were instructed to consume each course.

I’m happy to say that Next is nothing like that. Service is professional but relaxed, and the servers are happy, informative and passionate about the food they’re serving.

As to the food, there’s little point in mentioning it… or the decor, for that matter. Because the restaurant evolves into something completely new and different every four months, and you’re unlikely to go twice during any given incarnation, you just need to put your trust in the culinary team and expect something special.

That’s certainly what we received the night we visited. There were several home runs and nothing forgettable about the Modern Chinese menu.

I also like the ticketing system. It was refreshing to have no transaction at the end of the meal. The food, wine pairing and tip were all included, and were certainly fairly priced for the experience we received. It left me anxious to return to experience future incarnations of this excellent restaurant.

Next
953 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 226-0858
http://www.yelp.com/biz/next-chicago-2