Saturday, July 18, 2009

Frontera Grill - Chicago

On a recent trip to Chicago, JJ and I made a stop at Frontera Grill. We had seen the owner, Rick Bayless on Top Chef Masters recently and we were both pretty impressed. He won his episode with a dish inspired by Mexican street food. We got to the restaurant around 1:30 on a Friday afternoon and there was an hour and a half wait. There was a bar area toward the back of the restaurant with first come, first serve seating. We opted for that route because we were hungry and got to see some of the kitchen in action.

When we first received our menus, we were a bit overwhelmed because everything sounded so delicious. The first task was to decide what our drink order was. I chose to go with the Agua del Dia which was a fresh fruit cooler; water infused with pineapple, mint, cucumber, and lime. It was the most refreshing drink I have ever tasted. I only took tiny little sips throughout the meal to savor it and to make it last as long as possible. I have to find out how to make this drink! (I'll attempt in a later post.)

Our waitress was very helpful and took us through the entire menu, mentioning her favorites. Our favorite way to eat at a new restaurant is to try a few small plates. That way, we don't get too full and we get to sample a variety of dishes.

First, we went with the Trio of Ceviche which came out in little martini glasses surrounded by white corn chips. It included:
Ceviche Fronterizo: lime marinated Hawaiian sunfish with tomatoes, olives, cilantro and green chile.
Ceviche Yucateco: steamed organic shrimp and calamari tossed with lime, orange, habanero, avocado, jicama and cilantro.
Ceviche de Atun "Chamoy": sashimi-grade Hawaiian Ahi Tuna tossed with crunchy jicama and tangy, fruity, spiced red-chile apricot chamoy salsa with an almond crunch.
Each Ceviche was so different, but all had the same fresh quality. My favorite was the last one on the list because it was sweet and savory all in one dish. It hit every tastebud on my tongue and I think my mouth was singing. JJ even attempted to drink the juice out of the martini glass after all remnants had been eaten..that's how good this food was!

Then, we ordered Tamal at Elotero: fresh-ground corn masa tamales studded with sweet corn, steamed in corn husks, topped with homeade fresh lime mayonnaise, powdered quajilo chile, queso anejo.
This dish was inspired from Mexican streetfood, as well. I am usually not a huge fan of tamales because they do not have a ton of flavor, but this tamale was different. The flavor was like sweet American cornbread recipe, but the texture was smooth and creamy. Absolutely amazing!

Our third dish to try was the Top Chef Masters winner: Tacos de Lengua: soft tacos of homeade chorizo, browned beef tongue and Yukon gold potatoes. Topped with avocado-tomatillo salsa, queso anejo, and bacon.
We are pretty adventurous eaters and didn't even hesitate at the sound of "beef tongue." You never know, until you try. That's my motto. The beef tongue blended really well with all of the other ingredients and did not have a distinct flavor. It tasted like really flavorful beef.

For dessert, our waitress talked up the ice cream so well that even though we were on the brink of being full, she had us persuaded. She brought us out two scoops of ice cream in a sundae dish. One scoop was Negro Modelo chocolate ice cream and the other scoop, a mint infused vanilla. On the side, came a smaller dish of warm goat milk caramel sauce to pour on top. After scraping the bowl and looking at each other in utter disbelief that we just ate a meal so amazing...guess who walks out of the kitchen in his chef whites? Rick Bayless! He was obviously working since he was in the service station, but I was so elated after the meal we ate- I walked right up to him, put my hand on his shoulder and told him that the food was absolutely amazing and that we had seen him on Top Chef and had to come try out his restaurant and I probably rambled along a little more...yadda yadda. He politely replied,
"Oh, thank you very much," with a tone that said- "Stop touching me, Can't you see I am working?"

It didn't phase me. After a meal like that, nothing could ruin it.

If you are ever in the Chicago area, I strongly suggest you check it out!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Italian Ice Cream Float

My favorite refreshing dessert of the summer has to be the Italian Ice Cream float I made with New York style vanilla ice cream and San Pellgrino's Limonata. Try it on a hot summer day or night and you will not be disappointed.

I love the way the carbonation creates an icy crust around the scoop of smooth vanilla ice cream. Eat with a spoon and a straw. When the ice cream is all melted or eaten, the leftover creamy lemony drink that is left, is to die for.