Archive for the ‘Chicago’ category

Greek Easter at one of our favorite restaurants

April 20, 2011

Above: David Schneider, owner and executive chef at one of the best Greek restaurants in the U.S., Taxim, in Chicago.

This just in from one of our favorite Greek restaurants in the U.S., Taxim:

In celebration of Greek Easter we will be roasting whole lambs over an open fire this Sunday, April 24th. The lamb will be served with traditional fixings over 5 courses which will include tsoureki bread, magiritsa soup, kokoretsi skewers, xortopites, the whole lamb roast with potatoes and bulgur, and a dessert of manouri cheese and candied mandarin oranges. The 5-course meal will be $75 per person. It commences at 5pm with the tradition of cracking red eggs!

For reservations or more informa tion please call 773-252-1558.

Thank you and Kalo Pasxa!

Click here for our most recent post on Taxim and what we ate there!

Best Greek restaurant 2010

December 8, 2010

Above: There are many great Greek restaurants in the U.S. today, but Chicago restaurateur David Schneider (above) is arguably the category’s most vibrant young proponent.

It’s a tough call. I’ve been to so many amazing Greek restaurants in the U.S. this year, including Michael Psilakis’ Kefi on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (and I have yet to check out Petros in Manhattan Beach, California, where I’ll be dining early next week).

But looking back on a year of eating fantastic Greek food, from the homey family-run Greek eateries to the fast-food gyros joints, from the fine dining white-table-cloth venues to the hour-long waits for a table at the bustling seafood restaurants in Astoria, Queens, my number-one pick for best Greek restaurant in the U.S. is David Schneider’s Taxim in Chicago.

Taxim is named for Taksim Square, the center of the Greek district of Istanbul. For anyone even vaguely familiar with the underlying sociopolitical tension, the significance of the provocative metaphor will be immediately apparent. There’s a reason David didn’t name his place “Athens,” “Santorini,” or “Delphi”: he’s trying to take classic great cuisine into a new realm of culinary awareness and he succeeds gloriously.

The aromas and flavors of his kitchen are precise and balanced, pure and judiciously measured. And his wine list, while not biblical in length, offers a well-thought-out selection, including a wonderful however brief flight of rosé wines (something you don’t see in many Greek restaurants in the U.S.).

As much as I enjoyed my meal there (and talking to David about new trends in Greek cuisine today), the thing that impressed me the most was the level of attention to the restaurant’s décor and the venue’s glamor. As much as I loved Kefi in New York this year, I missed the high design and chic feel of Psilakis’ Anthos (and the ambiance of his first white-table-cloth in the City, Oneira; remember that place?).

As I’ve noted before here, Greek food and Greek wine in this country find themselves in a situation similar to that of Italian food and wine 20 years ago: I’m thrilled to see a young and vibrant restaurateur like David taking the category to the next level — with flying colors…

—Jeremy Parzen (blog master)

1558 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 252-1558

Highly recommended

Greek wine not just for Greek Restaurants

December 2, 2010

Above: The seared scallops paired gorgeously with Boutari Santorini at Naha, one of Chicago’s top destinations for fine dining.

Looking back over a year of tasting a lot of Greek wines and dining in a lot of Greek restaurants (and the many restaurants I experience for my work in Italian wines and beyond), it has occurred to me that the status of Greek wines in the U.S. is similar to that of Italian wines about 20 years ago. Beyond the myriad Greek restaurants in the country and the many Greek gastronomic communities, you typically don’t expect to find Greek wines in non-Hellenic contexts.

But more and more, I’ve been seeing Greek wines pop up on wine lists where you’d least expect it — or at least, you wouldn’t have expected it, even just a few years ago. Recently, I found Greek wines on lists authored by some of the country’s top sommeliers, like Aldo Sohm’s list at Le Bernardin in New York, and Francesco Grosso’s list at Marea, French- and Italian-themed, respectively, high-profile dining destinations.

Above: The cuisine at Naha is pan-Mediterranean and the sommelier and staff have found a number of excellent ways to “apply” Greek wines — in traditional and non-conventional pairings.

One of the more thrilling restaurants I got to try this year was Naha in Chicago, where the restaurant’s pan-Mediterranean menu and farm-to-table approach is complemented by Boutari’s Moschofilero, Santorini, and Naoussa.

Ultimately, it comes down to a very simple set of precepts: wines with balanced alcohol, flavors, and freshness will always win out as the top “food friendly wines,” especially where Mediterranean cuisine is served. After all, as much as you may like big, fat, highly alcoholic, concentrated, fruit-forward Napa Valley Cabernet, there are only so many charred steaks a human being can humanly eat in one year! 😉

500 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60654-7188
(312) 321-6242

Highly recommended…

—Jeremy Parzen (blog master)

Barba Yianni (Chicago): some of the best Greek food I had this year

October 26, 2010

Above: The salad sampler at Barba Yianni in Chicago was one of the best I’ve had this year (Melitzanosalata, Taramosalata, Skordalia).

Sometimes the simplest and most pure things in life are the best. That was certainly the case when I had the good fortune to dine at Barba Yianni, an unassuming family-friendly Greek restaurant in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago earlier this year.

Above: The traditional roast seabass was fantastic and I loved the way it was garnished and dressed. Again, the simplest things in life are often the best, aren’t they?

Since I started working on the Boutari Social Media Project in April of this year, I’ve had the great fortune to eat at some of the best Greek restaurants in the U.S. (Chicago, New York, Houston, San Diego) and many of them take a fascinating haute cuisine approach to traditional Greek cuisine.

Above: There’s nothing like a perfectly roasted chicken. Again, simplicity and a perfect balance in seasoning made this dish stand out among the many Greek meals I’ve had since I began working on this project.

But one of the meals that continues to stick out in my mind (and those of you who follow my blog, Do Bianchi, know that I get to eat out in some of the world’s coolest restaurants thanks to my work) was the meal I had in April at Barba Yianni — a humble, warm taverna where I wasn’t expecting to have one of the best meals of 2010.

And it turns out I’m not alone: after he saw a Tweet about how much I liked my meal, my good friend Anthony, one of the biggest gourmets (not in size but in taste and experience) I know, wrote me to tell me how much he enjoyed his meal here when he was in town guitar shopping (Anthony is also one of the world’s top jazz guitar players!). He travels all over the world and let me tell you: this man knows good food.

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best…

—Jeremy Parzen

Barba Yianni Grecian Taverna
Chicago, IL 60625-2026
(773) 878-6400

Highly recommended

Chicago Examiner wine writer Thomas Caestecker on Boutari Nemea

October 12, 2010

Here’s what “Chicago Budget Wine Examiner” Thomas Caestecker had to say about Boutari Nemea on his blog Value Wine Chicago:

Greek reds are are also versatile, refined and display many of the traits associated with the more well-known grape varietals. The trouble is (as it is with many things) perception. If a wine is from Greece – even if it garners praise from stubborn critics – it gets pigeon-holed with Greek food. Conversely, a number of Italian reds have transcended the tiresome pairings with pasta and meat sauce, and are recommended with many classic recipes. So, it stands to reason that a fine Greek red shouldn’t always require spit-roasted lamb and pita as constant sidekicks.

In fact, the Agiorgitiko (St. George) grape has been cultivated into a fruit-forward, approachable red wine called Nemea – named for one of Greece’s distinct growing regions. It has the acidity to stand up to virtually any braised red meat, but can be served with roast chicken and more gamey poultry, too.

“Nemea is good with just about everything,” says Jim Siannas of Athens grocery in Chicago. “It’s almost like a Burgundy [or] Pinot Noir. And it just keeps getting better.”

A high-quality style of Nemea ($14) comes from Boutari. A medium-bodied red, it’s aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, and has dried cherry and plum flavors, plus some subtle notes of spice. It has good structure, yet is smooth and quite an easy-drinking red. It can be served with a savory Coq au Vin, or any slowly braised meat like short ribs, or a seven-bone roast.

It would also do just fine with any Greek lamb dish. But Agiorgitiko/Nemea is another example of an emerging European varietal: a regional mainstay with international aspirations. It’s not just for Halsted Street’s tavernas anymore.

Check out Thomas’ entire post on Greek wine here.

Chef Crowley’s Boutari recipes

September 16, 2010

Check out Terlato Wines International Executive Chef Colin Crowley’s recipes as featured on WCIU, Chicago’s number-one independently owned television station.

Spicy citrus shrimp

Serves 6 as an appetizer

36 26-30 size shrimp
10 cloves garlic, halved
Juice of one lemon and one orange
Zest of ¼ of one lemon and orange
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients and let marinate for 15 minutes. Cook on a hot grill for approximately 2-3 minutes per side.

Grilled Greek-Style Lamb Chops

Serves 4 as an appetizer

2 racks of New Zealand lamb cut into 16 chops
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dry Greek oregano
¼ cup Greek extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 5 hours.

Over hot grill, cook lamb chops for approximately 3-4 minutes per side for medium. Let rest for 5 minutes and serve.

Traditional Greek octopus by Chef Kostas Anyfantis

August 27, 2010

When heard about the “classic Greek cuisine with a modern touch” by Chef Kostas Anyfantis (left) of Tasso’s Greek Cuisine in Naperville (Chicago), we were intrigued. So, earlier this week, we picked up the phone and spoke to Chef Anyfantis and manager Prokopis Zenardos about what sets their Naperville Greek restaurant apart from the rest.

The answer, we found, lies in a return to the roots of Greek cooking. “All of our fish is flown in fresh, on blue ice three times a week from Greece,” said Zenardos. “We ONLY order what we need and when we run out of fresh fish,” he told us, “we just have to tell the clients were out. But that’s a GOOD thing. We only use cheeses and yogurt flown in directly from Greece. And you won’t find any ‘lemon sauce’ here: we use only Greek extra-virgin olive oil and real lemon juice.”

Chef Anyfantis was kind enough to take a photo of his octopus and share his secret with us.

While many Greek restaurants use large octopus that they then cut into smaller pieces, said Chef Anyfantis, “we only use small, baby octopus, flown in from Greece.” Instead of boiling the sea creature, “we marinate it in traditional spices and Ouzo and then we slow-roast it, as it is done in Greece. We then finish the dish on the grill when it is ordered by a guest.”

Tasso Greek Cuisine
220 South Washington Street
Naperville, IL 60540
(630) 355-8852

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