Pumped

While having dinner at the too-cool-for-my-own-good Pump Room at the swanky Public Chicago hotel, I came to a realization: I’d love to be one of those travelers that just seems to hang out all day, lounging around the lobby of their plush hotel, requesting 11am wake-up calls and then worrying only about when their in-room massage is scheduled or what time dinner is.

If I was one of those travelers, which time and money constraints keep me from being, I’d check in to a place like the Public, and just bask in the awesomeness of it all. More precisely, I would eat three square meals a day at The Pump Room, and sip cocktails in between (and during) meals in the uber chic bar or the stylish lobby. (This would also all take place during winter so I wouldn’t have to leave the hotel. )

Alas, I’m not that kind of traveler. But during an awesome dinner at the Pump Room during my recent jaunt with the beau, I pretended to be, at least for the duration of dinner. The Jean-Georges restaurant seems to have borrowed lots of menu items from another JG restaurant, the always-without-fail delicious ABC Kitchen in New York, which was more than fine by me since that pretty much guaranteed the food would be amazing. And it was.

Lessons in deliciousness: coating calamari in pretzel crumbs.

The boy and I started out with an order of pretzel dusted calamari, something I’d already had (and loved) at ABC. With both a tangy, sweet marinara sauce and a creamy, spicy mustard aioli, this was just more of a good thing. Every city in the world should have a place to get this dish.

It’s always a good time for flatbread, especially if it involves truffles.

And because I don’t believe in holding back while on vacation, we also got one of Pump Room’s whole wheat flatbreads, the one with black truffle, fontina and frisee salad. It was just the right amount of doughy, cheesy and truffley (yea, I know, not a real word).

Fried chicken on a bed of spinach, wait for it, in spicy butter. Mind blown, huh?

For the entree, I went with fried organic chicken cause really, is there anything harder to resist than good fried chicken? This one came with spinach and a velvety, fiery homemade hot sauce butter. Crunchy skin, tender, juicy meat, and spinach to make you understand Popeye a million times over. Heaven on a dish, no lie, people.

Short rib and pureed potatoes. YES please.

Flaneur ordered the glazed beef short rib with potato puree and a crunchy, cheddar garnish.The spicy peppers gave a tasty heat to the hearty, delicious meat. I’m never a huge fan of short ribs, but this could make a believer out of anyone.

Dessert

And finally, because I wouldn’t dare leave a restaurant like this without dessert, we split the creme fraiche cheesecake with blood orange sorbet, fennel crisps and kumquat marmalade. With its creamy consistency and fresh, clean fruity flavors, it was a nice, subtle note to end the dinner on. I could have eaten four more though, just for the record.

A new obsession in an unlikely place

I’m gonna come clean about something: I kind of really don’t like Little Italy. The spaghetti and meatballs (not Italian), the guidos (obnoxiously not Italian), the greasy haired waiters standing on the sidewalk trying to lure customers with “Ciao bella!” (Listen buddy, it didn’t work in Italy, it sure as hell isn’t working on grimey ass Mott Street.) All of it just bugs me.

But now that I’ve been to Parm, the Torrisi spinoff located smack dab in the middle of Little Italy on Mulberry Street, I’m willing to overlook everything I dislike about the neighborhood because here’s my next confession: I’m kind of obsessed with Parm.

The best calamari I've ever had

When I was in college, I had a serious love affair with Krispy Kreme, especially when their famous “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign was lit up. When I walked into Parm and noticed they have a similar sign, this one advertising calamari, I got that same giddy rush.  The sign is modest though, because if it were up to me it would read, “THE BEST DAMN CALAMARI IN THE WORLD. HERE NOW.” Seriously, that good. Battered and fried to a perfect not-too-chewy or rubbery consistency, Parm’s calamari are soft and juicy with chunks of spicy fried peppers added in for an extra kick. And while it comes with the classic tangy marinara sauce, Parm’s also comes with a delicious Tabasco infused mayo. Continue reading