December 2013


Chicago | Illinois10 Dec 2013 12:57 pm

Michael Kornick, chef/owner of MK the restaurant on Franklin Street, hosted a tasting menu last night at a benefit for the Lake Street location of Inspiration Kitchens. The Inspiration Corporation offers cooking and food service training at this and an Uptown location, as well as operating a soup kitchen type sit-down restaurant in Uptown where clients are served with respect and choose menu items of their liking. Michael started sponsoring this organization over 20 years ago and continues to pay back to the restaurant community by helping provide a training ground which creates jobs and assists students in arranging housing, completing the course work, and eventually being hired as line chefs and servers in some of Chicago’s finest restaurants.

Now to the tasting menu.

The appetizers of chicken liver pate and cornichon (mild and flavorful pate which was not over-powering), butternut squash soup served in a small glass with chive, cumin and chili oil (drinking it out of the glass pronounced the chili oil flavors), and salmon tar tare with capers, tarragon and fennel were all surprising (as most of MK’s cooking).

Wild & seasonal mushroom pot pie with rosemary and thyme with a flaky top crust was complex and tasty – salt did not mask the gentle flavors of the various fungi.

The warm goat cheese salad included caramelized shallots and marcona (Spanish) almonds. The goat cheese was rolled into a ball, and rolled on to crushed almonds and toasted/baked for 4 minutes at 350 deg F (I will try this myself).

The main course of smoked & roasted Berkshire pork loin was seasoned with cinnamon and brown sugar and smoked at Micheal’s County BBQ restaurant on Taylor Street, then roasted on site on Lake Street. The loin was served with granny smith baked apple, savoy cabbage, prune and stone ground mustard. I will definitely try the cinnamon and brown sugar flavors on my next pork tenderloin and remember to cook it less well done. This dish has an Alsace influence¬† – the chef’s 1984 visit to the Alsace region brought this to his repertoire. In fact all of the dishes on the tasting menu were influenced by his travels between 1982 and 1985.

The pecan caramel tartlet with creme fraiche was recently on his County BBQ menu (only taken off recently because of a new local partnership with a pie baker). His policy is to not offer any item on his current restaurant menus at such events – he is always looking for new tastes to offer his lucky patrons.

Conclusion: thanks, Michael for such a wonderful evening. Also thanks for trying my 2012 CA Syrah (and not commenting after you tasted it – I am assuming the best).

Inspiration Kitchens
3504 West Lake Street
Chicago, IL 60624
(773) 801-1110
http://www.inspirationkitchens.org

Italian | San Francisco | Tony's Top Ten05 Dec 2013 09:37 am

This one makes my Top Ten!

Chef/Owner Sergio Giusti brings his home cooking knowledge from a small town near Firenze – and his food is some of the best Italian food I have eaten outside of Italy. He spent time in Chicago for years and knows all of the better Chicago Italian restaurants and their chefs (La Scarola, Piccolo Sogno, Bruna’s, Coco Pazzo, etc.) – I am sorry he left Chicago!

This small, noisy restaurant in a happening part of San Francisco (you definitely need a reservation most nights) has an exciting ambiance (more like a New York spot) Рbut why not go where the in-crowd goes? One of his specialties is gnocchi with a light cream tomato sauce Рthe gnocchi melt in your mouth. The roast chicken is perfectly prepared with the right spices and tenderness. The Veal Saltimbocca Alla Romano was tender with just the right amount of prosciutto and fontina cheese.

Salt alert: none needed here – Sergio does not mask the flavor of his cooking with too much salt – what a concept.

Next time I will have the Malanzane Alla Leonardo Da Vinci – my quest for the best Malanzane continues.

Wine list is thorough but not ridiculous; nice Barbera de Alba and Dolcetta de Alba choices along with other great Italian wines.

Also, the prices are very reasonable.

1429 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 392-8585
Firenze by Night website