The Windy City

One of the first things I did after we decided to head to Chicago after Christmas for a little R&R was book a reservation at Rick Bayless' restaurant Topolobampo. I've been watching Rick for years on his PBS show, Mexico: One Plate at a Time (I could watch cooking shows ALL DAY). Topolo is connected to his other Chicago restaurant, Frontera Grill. After looking online at both the menus, we decided on Topolo. If you plan on stopping in at either one of these (and I think you should), I strongly recommend a reservation. Both places were packed! We couldn't even find a spot for a pre-dinner drink at the bar. Frontera was a lot more laid back and Topolo was a nicer, more "upscale" side.

At Topolo, you can order a la carte or they have three tasting menus to pick from. Each tasting menu is 5 courses and you can opt to have a wine pairing with each course. The server suggested a tasting menu, that way you get to try the most dishes. I chose the Celebration Tasting Menu and Jeff had the Holiday Tasting Menu. We passed on the wine and went for their famous Topolo Margarita. It took us over 2 hours to complete dinner. By the end, I was so full and happy that I wanted to try out Frontera Grill the next day.

I didn't feel comfortable taking pics in the restaurant. But, thanks to the World Wide Web, I was able to find a description and pictures of everything we had. And, a copy of the margarita recipe. Which we have already made since returning ;-)

This was, by far, one of the best meals we have ever eaten. Not only was the food delicious, but the service was awesome. The server knew the menu inside and out and we were never without a fresh margarita.

Topolo Margarita
Made in a shaker and served tableside
Makes about 2 cups, serving 4

Finely grated zest of 1 1/2 limes, about 1 teaspoon
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 large limes...we used 8 small limes)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
Lime wedges
Coarse salt
3/4 cup Sauza Conmemorativo tequila
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Gran Torres orange liqueur OR 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
About 1 cup coarsely broken ice cubes

1. Making 1 1/4 cups of tangy limeade: combine the lime zest, lime juice, sugar and 10 tablespoons of water in a glass or plastic pitcher. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (but no longer than 24 hours). Strain into another pitcher.

2. Finishing and serving the margaritas. Rub the rims of 4 martini glasses with a lime wedge, then dip them in a dish of coarse salt. Refrigerate the glasses if desired. In a shaker, combine the limeade, tequila and orange liqueur. Add ice and shake 10 to 15 seconds, then strain into the prepared glasses.

Celebration Tasting Menu

Tacos de Huitlacoche, Estilo Escuinapa
Crispy tacos of Tracey's huitlacoche, roasted vegetables and truffle, doused with tomato broth and topped with crunchy pickled vegetables and avocado.

Sopa Invernal
Creamy parsnip soup with applewood-smoked Gunthorp chicken, chipotle-roasted fennel and fennel pollen.
Langosta a la Yucateca
Achiote-marinated Maine lobster, pan-roasted, Yucatecan pipian. Amaranth polenta (infused with pumpkinseed sikil pak), garlicky Snug Haven spinach, toasted pepitas, crispy epazote.

Borrego en Salsa de Chile Guajillo y Pera
Roasted rack of Elysian Fields lamb in pear-infused red guajillo chile sauce. Layered budin of Nichols potatoes, Honey Crisp apple and bacon; cascabel-tomatillo salsa; roasted pear; "shoots" salad.
Pastel de Chocolate, Cremosa de Vainilla, Fresas Confitadas
Warm, fudgey chocolate cake, panna cotta-style custard scented with Mexican vanilla, confit of Mick's Michigan strawberries.

Holiday Tasting Menu

Salmon Curtido con Ensalada de Noche Buena
House-cured Alaskan King salmon with Mexican holiday salad of agave-braised beets, crunchy jicama, tangerine and Bayless Garden microgreens. Roasted peanut dressing, Collins citrus-infused white fish roe.

Uchepos Gratinados
Three Sister's Garden sweet corn tamales, steamed in corn husks, then baked with chilaca chile cream and dry Jack cheese. Buttery wild chanterelle mushrooms, freeze-dried sweet corn, watercress.

Atun Sellado con Bacalao
Pan-roasted rare Hawaiian ahi tuna with Ana Elena's celebration bacalao (cod simmered with red pepper, tomato, capers, olives, white wine). Steamed potatoes, "wilted" Snug Haven spinach, fried parsley salad.

Puerco en Mole Negro (de Lujo)
Maple Creek Farm pork three ways: grill-roasted pork loin, 12-hour-braised pork belly, adobo-roasted pork shoulder. Served with classic Oaxacan black mole (made from chilhuacle chiles and 28 other ingredients), Iroquois white corn tortas (infused with Tracey's green garlic), grilled green beans, roasted knob onions and three nut crunch.

Bunuelo de Viento, Helado de Jengibre
Ana Elena's grandmother's crispy rosette "fritter" with slow-poached quince and tequila-infused cranberry salsa. Ginger cookie ice cream.

1 comment:

  1. What a nice escape!

    Happy 2009!

    Looks like a fabulous restaurant...we buy the frontera salsa quite a bit!