Interviewing Chef Takashi & Eating Great Food At The JBF’s Taste America

Chef Takashi Yagihashi and Alicia Lauhon at the James Beard Foundation's Taste America Chicago

Chef Takashi Yagihashi and Alicia Lauhon at the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America Chicago

I attended the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America Chicago a prestigious ten-city tour across America where James Beard award-winning chefs design and prepare menus in support of up-and-coming chefs. The money raised at the Taste America dinners go in part to scholarships and education for upcoming chefs.

I had the pleasure of interviewing chefs Takashi Yagihashi, Thomas Lents and Jimmy Bannos Jr.

When speaking about his James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest, Chef Takashi said he felt lucky as there are so many great chefs in the Midwest and in the country. But that winning was also a recognition of hard work.

Chef Bannos shared his love of Le Pigeon restaurant and feeling honored for winning the James Beard Rising Star award as well as feeling so proud of his team.

For Chef Lents it was a real honor to host the dinner with, “The number of chefs and quality of chefs we have tonight. It’s a good group of chefs and we get to have a good time and it’s for a good cause.” When asked about up-and-coming chefs he said there were many but singled out Jake Bickelhaupt from 42 Grams in Chicago.

When asked for any advice for up-and coming chefs all three echoed the need to make sure you are ready to put in the time and sacrifice everything, don’t worry about the pay, find the best chef in your city and try to intern and make sure you know cooking is not just one year, not just a decade it’s a lifetime thing.

Here’s and insider video of the chefs and speeches.

There was a reception before dinner with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. Every chef did an amazing job. My favorite was a tie between the beautifully presented and ultra rich Duck and Foie Gras Ragout from Dave Beran of Next and Takashi’s Takoyaki of Japanese Octopus.

Foie Gras and Boar Tenderloin with Pomegrante – Jimmy Bannos, Jr. of Purple Pig.

Taste America Chicago Foie Gras Boar Tenderloin with Pomegranate

Taste America Chicago Foie Gras Boar Tenderloin with Pomegranate

Duck and Foie Gras Ragout, Duck Egg, and Plum Jus – Dave Beran of Next.

Taste America Chicago Duck and Foie Gras

French Kiss Oyser with Confit Pumpkin and Spaghetti Squash, Cider, Juniper, and Hemp – Carrie Nahabedian of Naha.

Taste America Chicago French Kis Oyster

Assorted Savory Cookies – Mindy Segal
Foie Gras Buttercream Sandwich
Duck Rillette & Apple Butter Rugelach
Bacon Butterscotch
Nut & Seed Biscotti with Dunbarton Blue Cheese

Taste America Chicago Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate

Taste America Chicago Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate

Takoyaki of Japanese Octopus with Proscuitto, Aioli, and Bonito Flakes – Takashi Yagihashi of Takashi and Slurping Turtle.

Taste America Chicago Takoyaki Japanese Octopus

The four-course dinner was created by Grant Achatz (Alinea) and Sean Brock (McGrady’s, Husk) and it was a tour de force of flavors.

Checkout the Tastemade video of the food!

The Cured Trout and Roe, Charred Leek, and Brined Apple from Thomas Lents was my favorite dish. The trout tasted like it just jumped out of a lake and was balanced well with the fishiness of the roe and sweetness of the apple. Not to mention it was lovely to look at. Paired with 2012 Feudi di San Gregorio, Greco di Tufo.

Taste America Chicago Cured Trout

Taste America Chicago Cured Trout

From chef Sean Brock the Shrimp with Cabbage, Hominy, and Black Truffle paired with 2012 Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Planeta.

Taste America Chicago Shrimp with Cabbage Hominy Black Truffle

Taste America Chicago Shrimp with Cabbage Hominy Black Truffle

Chef Grant Achtaz was inspired by his childhood memories for the Braised Brisket, Flavors of Root Beer dish paired with 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, “Philip”, Mazzei, Toscana.

Taste America Braised Brisket Flavors of Root Beer

Chef Brock created an interesting dessert flavors with Carolina Gold Rice Parfait with Geranium and Elderberries and paired with 2010 Moscato d’Asti, “Moncucco”, Fontanafredda.

Taste America Chicago Carolina Gold Rice Parfait with Geranium and Elderberries




Wasabi Chicago Spicy Roasted Garlic Miso Ramen

Enjoying A Bowl Of Ramen At Wasabi – Logan Square, Chicago

Wasabi Chicago Spicy Roasted Garlic Miso Ramen

Wasabi is one of the few Japanese owned Japanese restaurants in Chicago so I had some high hopes for a good bowl of ramen. This tiny casual spot fills up in a flash and does not take reservations. Get here by 5:30 if you don’t want to wait on a Saturday. Also, BYOB.

In addition to ramen the menu offers a variety of sushi and small plates such as seaweed salad, pork buns, grilled skewers and tempura. The Tonkotsu ramen has a 40+ cooking process made with kurobuta pork from small farms in Iowa. I really wish they served a ramen flight because I wanted to try each kind. We decided on:

Continue reading

Dinner Overlooking the Piazzetta – Pulalli Wine Bar, Capri

Pulalli Wine Bar Clocktower Capri

Tucked up next to the clock tower and over looking the famous Piazza Umberto Pulalli Wine bar has excellent wine, fresh food and a birds eye view of the beautiful people and celebrities that float in and out of the piazzeta in Capri, Italy. Lucia is running a small kitchen with bold tastes.

See the views for yourself in the Tastemade video I made!

The service is friendly and informal. We chatted with Lucia and she told us the history of the building (inn from the early 1900s), went through the extensive wine list (wines from all over Italy) and shared her thoughts on tourists (varied by country). Continue reading

Bohemian House – River North, Chicago

Boho Chicago Sign

Bringing some Germans to Bohemian House seemed like a good idea to gauge the Czech, Austrian and German inspired food. The first thing you notice about BoHo is the homey decor that mixes equal parts rustic and elegance.

Lively (bordering on loud), attentive service and comfortable atmosphere give you the feeling you were invited to a really big dinner party. My favorite small plate was the salt & vinegar chips served with horseradish-onion dip. Silver dollar pancakes sized chips with a nice crunch, zing of vinegar and topped off with crispy parsley.

BoHo Chicago SALT & VINEGAR CHIPSThe deviled eggs were pretty to look at and the beef pierogi were the fanciest presentation I have seen in a while.

The pork schnitzel served with German potato salad, dill sauce and charred lemon was received well. I asked if there was any difference and they noted that schnitzel in Germany is served thinner but they liked the “Chicago take.” The grilled chicken paprikash is a generous portion with an interesting mix of flavors and textures with pickeled sweet peppers, braised kale and Czhech potato dumplings.

I ordered the Spätzle with pork belly, smoked corn, leeks and peppers. For what could be a heavy dish this was surprisingly light, not counting the pork belly, I’ll get to that in a moment. Our server poured some pork broth over everything and I got to work. The corn provided a nice crunch to accompany the soft and light spätzle. The peppers were pickled and added a nice acidic note to the richness of the sauce and a visual punch of red. The Germans were a bit aghast at the pork belly and its size. I let them know this was how we do it in Chicago.

Boho Chicago Spatzle

BoHo offers a  good selection of Czech and German beers to wash down the food. The Bohemian Bee is a good cocktail for gin lovers, served with honey, lemon and a sage leaf. Every sip provided an extra sensory experience with a whiff of sage from the delicate leaf floating in the glass.

There isn’t much variety in dinner options in River North and the Bohemian House offers a nice break from norm with its Midwest take on Eastern European food. It’s also a great place to have a drink, nibble on small plates and relax in a beautiful room.

Boho Chicago Bohemian Bee

Up Your Romantic Dinner Game at Terrazza Brunella – Capri, Italy

Image via

Image via

Walk the Bougainvillea lined streets of Capri to Terrazza Brunella sitting atop a cliff overlooking the Marina Piccola. This really is one of the most romantic restaurants with a break taking view. Fresh caught fish and produce grown right there in Capri fill the menu. Try the branzino fish and octopus carpaccio. Friendly service and comfortable atmosphere, reservations recommended.

You must check out the view, here!

Terrazza Brunella View Terrazza Brunella Capri Bougainvillea Continue reading