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Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Lobby at The Peninsula - 8/24/13


Let me tell you a secret.

One of the best restaurants in Chicago is located in a hotel lobby.   Literally.    Now, it's The Peninsula lobby, a comically expensive hotel...go ahead, check out their site, look up room prices for a night and tell me you didn't think "did I accidentally ask for a week?   Nope, that's the one night rate!  

Anyway, here's the funny thing.....that place?   Its restaurant is among the top bargains of Chicago fine dining!   Seriously.

The tasting menu is slightly different than many places in that it's not set - you can give input.   The sole request we gave was that one course had sweetbreads......

Amuse bouche


Bread service


Salad #1 - featuring summer squash


Salad #2 - featuring artichoke


Foie gras




Grilled octopus






Palate cleanser of lemon sorbet and passionfruit gel


Cheesecake ice cream, roasted peach, granola, almond cake


Chocolate and and chocolate with some more chocolate


You may not be able to tell, but the amount of food here was.....substantial.  The photos do none of these dishes justice, but you get the idea.

If I was forced to create a list of "favorite places" - there are an array of factors....quality of food and service, value for what you get, and my desire to return.     I don't have a #1 place and a #2 place...I have a group of three or four "these are the best in Chicago" - and The Lobby is there.   Amazing all around.  

what to do?

This blog has been sitting here for a while frequently lingers in my mind....what to do with it?      

Part of me debates just hitting "delete."    

Here's the thing, we don't even drink much wine anymore (we've been in a "cocktail phase" for a few years now).   One of the things about "getting into wine" is you develop a taste for wine, you learn what's good, and the reality is most "really" good (especially red) wine is over $20.  That bottle will last an evening, perhaps two, but realistically one.

For $20, I can buy a liter of Kirkland brand bourbon that will last two weeks.   On it's own?  Not ideal.    Mix a bit of sugar and some bitters...basically all you need.

By no means am I "anti-wine" or anything, we grab sparkling wine all the time, cheap Italian bottles when pasta or pizza is on the menu, chenin blanc with oysters (though a martini with a twist really does the trick as well), blah blah blah.  

The reality is, after years of the blog, this is my takeaway:

A great red wine?   Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet.  $25ish.   Look no farther.

A great sparkling wine?     Go to L Mawby's website, choose the sweetness level you like and go from there.     

A great rose?   Pushpin.  Not sure if it's private label Whole Foods or not but I've only seen it there, but it ranges from $6-10 and when it goes on sale for $6 I grab multiple bottles.  

A great white?   Fetzer Gewurztraminer, you'll get change back on a $10.

There.  That's it.   All you need to know.   There's more out there of course and I'm all for experimenting, but I guess we're in a rut....

So, all that crabbiness aside, every so often I encounter things worth sharing.    So, we'll see...    This blog is's not a "wine blog" as much as it's a "food and drink" blog, but that's how it was going anyway......