When it comes to comfort food, grilled cheese pretty much tops my list, especially when it’s combined with tomato soup. Use truffled taleggio cheese, add balsamic caramelized onions and fried rosemary and this simple dish from childhood becomes a gourmet treat for the adult.
Dave Lieberman, of Food Network fame, created this variation for the W Hotels of Chicago to be served in their Living Room bars, as well as being offered for room service. I stopped in at W City Center last week and tried that and his other creations. One of these was a warm balsamic asparagus, pea, and baby arugula salad with shaved pecorino. Moroccan chicken kebabs were served with cucumber yogurt sauce (basically tzatziki) and Harissa ketchup. “Harissa” is a hot red pepper paste from North Africa, so don’t make the mistake of dipping into it like it’s Heinz (like I did!). City Center also offers a meatball hoagie, while Lake Shore includes rosemary garlic skirt steak on its menu.
While there I also tried the new “Cool Cocktails” being offered in Whiskey Blue (City Center) and Whiskey Sky (Lake Shore):
- Grapes of Wrath Martini: Vodka, Elderflower, apple juice, lemon juice, and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. This was a little too sweet for my palate, but appealing because of another throwback to my youth: it tasted and smelled surprisingly like Welch’s.
- Peachy Keen: Absolut Peach, lemon juice, simple syrup, basil and apple juice. The basil mixed with the rest almost gave it a mint taste. Instead of the super-sweet Fuzzy Navel’s of my younger years, this almost reminded me of a real peach.
- Absinthe Minded: Grapefruit vodka, grapefruit juice, simple syrup, Absinthe (yes, Absinthe) and champagne. Generally I dislike grapefruit and can discern the most infinitesimal amount. Not in this drink. It was my favorite, and the least sweet of the four. Could be something to do with the legendary absinthe.
- Raki Mojito: Raki, sparkling water, lime, cucumber juice, mint leaves, sugar in the raw. This drink was actually very similar to Absinthe Minded, which after learning about Raki made sense. This aperitif is anise-flavored, the predominant flavor of absinthe, and like the formerly banned liquor turns cloudy when mixed with water.
The “Cravings By Dave Lieberman” menus are available until December and the Cool Cocktails through the summer.
Ristorante WE, Whiskey Blue
W City Center, 172 W Adams St
Wave, Whiskey Sky
W Lake Shore, 644 N Lake Shore Dr