Laura Leigh Bean
Illustration, Visual Branding + Design
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Posts in "Restaurants"
Chicago Restaurant Review: Nellcote
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Could any restaurant in the entire city of Chicago be cuter?

The answer is definitively NO, it could not.

We have had the best of intentions of getting ourselves out to the West Loop for oh, the last six months now to see what all the hype was about. On our holiday seester date, we finally made the reservation and headed over on a cold and gloomy Saturday morning.

I think if we had to sum up the whole experience in one sentence, it would be, "WHAT WERE WE WAITING FOR?"

These photos do not do the decor justice. How can a restaurant be both warm and cozy and totally over the top opulent at the same time? It hurts my brain to think about such deep thoughts, but that's exactly what Nellcote does. Gorgeous chandeliers and wainscot ceilings contrast create this warm and glowy space that we just never wanted to leave.

You're greeted with a choice of the Times or US Magazine (naturally, I went for celebrity gossip and Ali bettered herself as an informed citizen) and if you're as lucky as us, you're seated with an absolutely fabulous waiter that I'm bummed is not my friend in real life. Perhaps if we keep going back enough....

We happened to be in when they were showing The Holiday behind the bar, so that was a cozy little surprise.

When we were happily snuggled in to our table with mimosas and trashy magazines/serious newspapers, I told Ali, "I'd come back even if the food tastes like dirt!"

Happily, we were a far stretch from dirt.

We were immediately served a an adorable charcuterie plate with cheeses, jams and prosciutto. As we munched away, we perused the menu and then ended up ordering purely based on our waiter's recommendations. How do you pick just one thing when everything sounds so delicious? #whitegirlproblems

The lobster benedict had huge chunks of lobster under a blanket of smoked paprika hollandaise. The eggs were poached perfectly and melted into the hash underneath.

The simple salad served with the quiche almost stole the show - blasphemy, I know, but the champagne vinaigrette was delicious. The quiche itself was light, fluffy and so creamy.

We opted out of ordering our waiter's recommendation of the sausage and potatoes because it just sounded like too much food (I know, who were we kidding?) but to our surprise and delight, they brought an order to our table for us to try along with our entrees. We ate every last bite of both and both will forever be tacked on to our brunch orders at Nellcote.

We sat around watching The Holiday, chatting, reading and drinking mimosas for an extra hour or two and then reluctantly headed out into the cold. We stepped one foot outside and wondered why on earth we had ever left.

We will be back for you, Nellcote! If brunch was any indication, dinner would be to die for... I'm just envisioning those beautiful chandeliers lit up at night and the cocktails arriving from behind the bar.

Fun tip - Nellcote's NYE party sounds like an absolute blast! http://www.eventstand.com/event/nellcotenye for tickets.

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Chicago Restaurant Review - RPM!
(I wanted to name this post RP-YUM but I'm pretty sure Ali would disown me.)

As Ali mentioned, we had one of the most incredible dinners last week and I have been seriously lagging in sharing the delicious details.

After reading the menu online basically all day, we were pretty excited come Friday night. We often text each other just to make the other one want whatever food we're craving and it was a bit out of control before our visit. Proof:



I'd heard great things about RPM, of course, but I have to admit -- despite the drool-worthy photos on the website, I was a bit of a skeptic. I thought that at least a part of the rave reviews HAD to be just Chicago celebrity hype. Let's be clear, though, as an ardent fan of Team Rancic, this in no way deterred my desire to check it out. I'd suffer through some mediocre pasta for a Giuliana sighting at a beautiful restaurant with a fun scene, no problem.

Wellllll, I'm happy to report that I was totally and completely wrong.

As I suspected, we found the restaurant was beautifully decorated and the people watching killer, but the food stole the show.



House-made ricotta, so simple but definitely my personal favorite. Like a happy fluffy cheese cloud from heaven.



Prime beef meatballs... Smothered in Parmesan and served in the skillet they baked in, these tasted like Giulianas cute little Italian mother was firmly planted in just around the corner in the kitchen rolling these little balls of love by hand.



We chose the tuna carpaccio to break up all of the rich foods with something a bit lighter and were awfully happy with that decision. The freshest, smoothest tuna, so deeply colored it almost looked like salmon with little sprinkles of black garlic for the most interesting hint of flavor.



This might surprise you, but I can count the number of times Ali and I have ordered dessert in the last 5 years on one hand, and that's because the number is one. We're not mad at it, we'd just rather have another glass of wine or more fried olives. The Affogato float came highly recommended by a trusted source, however, so we went for it. A grown up float with an intense bottled coffee poured over creamy vanilla gelato, this was the absolute perfect ending to a fantastic dinner.

Unpictured but amazing -

  • Fried olives

  • Chicken liver on toast

  • Lobster caprese

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Pork chop as big as my head for the manly man at the table

  • Spaghetti carbonara

RPM, we will be back! Sneaking in early on a weekday to the bar area to try a few small plates without the months-long wait for reservations may be our new tactic, but I'd honestly sit on the curb in the  alley outside the kitchen if someone would just be so kind as to hand me a cup of that ricotta and a spoon.

San Francisco + Napa: Bouchon Bakery
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I have no earthly idea where to start in describing the last 3 weeks of my life. I’ve never been away from home for that long and while I was definitely happy to see my own bed and pillow Monday night, my little 3-week adventure was one that I’ll never forget.

So instead of trying to write one big post for London and then one for San Francisco, I think I’ll just blog about some of the particularly memorable experiences – you know, like cheese. (See: Halloumi :))

We happened to be in SF/Napa for TWO Bears games and while JB was a trooper about missing the Monday night game with all of the Giants-going-to-the-World-Series madness, missing this past Sunday’s game was not optional. This meant spending an incredible Napa morning in a dark bar, so as a trade off, we headed out super early for a run through Yountville which culminated in a stop at Bouchon Bakery.

I had heard rave reviews of Thomas Keller’s Parisian bakery in NYC, so nothing could have made me happier than seeing that cute little yellow house off the side of the road, line out the door and great smells a half mile away. I did a bit of reading and Yountville was actually their first location, with locations in NYC, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills added later.

I quickly negated our three-mile run (and then some) with the coffee of my dreams and after agonizing for ten minutes over the pastry case, settled on two scones: chocolate cherry and bacon cheddar. They were perfection -- buttery, crumbly, just sweet enough.

If you have the chance to go to a Bouchon bakery, please go! Run! Or walk, but go, and have a pastry for me.