travel

i should (and have) xoco

My recent food-drenched visit to see Selina in Chicago starts with a stop at San Francisco Airport’s newly renovated stylish, airy, light-filled and green Terminal 2. With gourmet fare from Tyler Florence at Napa Farms Market and Lark Creek Grill, you can pre-game your squished coach-seat red-eye journey with upgraded cuisine.  We headed to Cat Cora’s lounge, which serves small plates and that all-important pre-flight cocktail. B tried the slider trio, each burger made with lamb, pork (sloppy-joe style) or Wagyu beef, and served with sweet potato fries.  It’s certainly one way to eat all of the animals at the same time.  He thought the beef was the most juicy and delicious, the lamb too dry, and the pork just as messy to eat as it would appear to be.

I had the sourdough grilled cheese and tomato soup with microgreens – although it sounds quite boring the soup was rich and flavorful with a hearty texture.  And you can’t really go wrong with grilled cheese, and in this case the smoky flavor infused into the crispy sourdough added a great complexity.

Our first night we met up with Selina at one of Chicago’s most well known and beloved restaurants, Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill.  First up, at the dramatic and Mexican folk-art filled bar – a signature margarita, of course! I first had a margarita from Bayless’ recipe handcrafted by a former supervisor who swore by them.  I admit that although he wasn’t always the easiest person to work with, those margaritas endeared him to me thoroughly.

Certainly in California we are lucky that authentic and delicious Mexican food is rather ubiquitous, especially in southern California where B grew up spoiled with this indulgence.  Even so, it was with great interest and curiosity that we made our way through the regional Mexican menu, but in the moody lighting not everything photographed so well.  Some highlights: flaky, crispy mushroom empanadas

Gooey melty queso fundido with carnitas:

Selina had the duck breast with Brussels sprouts – this particular vegetable being a recurring theme in much of our meals in Chicago.  We couldn’t figure out the source of the Brussels sprout epidemic afflicting the area’s chefs but thankfully they are tasty.

The following morning, we walked next door to Bayless’ Xoco, a casual Mexican sandwich/street food cafe to continue the feast.  Now, I may have picked our hotel to be within walking distance of Xoco so that we could eat here every morning if we wanted – so what, don’t judge me.  Although dinner at Frontera was good, I really had my hopes up for breakfast when greeted by these colorful beauties:

You can get food to go or have it brought to the communal table or window-watching breakfast bar.  Limonadas in hand, we had pre-breakfast breakfast – B with a perfectly golden ham and cheese empanada:

and I with a glittering airy churro and decadent freshly ground Mexican chocolate:

We each had an open-faced breakfast torta with a spicy tomato sauce, black bean spread, and a poached egg. It was a bit tough to cut, but was reminiscent of my prior dinner post in a delicious and satisfying way.

Over the next few days, much more eating was done (with great distress to our ever-stretching stomachs) so this post is to be continued…

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