Some of my favorites could be considered luxuries. Others are simply great ingredients, barely altered to preserve their integrity. And this time of year, I try to consume at least a little bit of each of them. They are reminders, to me at least, why Chicago is a great city to eat in.
There are so many dishes, ingredients and restaurants to be thankful for this time of year. Where to begin? Let's start with something hyper-seasonal like white truffles. Usually offered as a pricey supplement, these subterranean treasures from italy are now available at nomi kitchen, on the seventh floor of the Park Hyatt and as rich and earthy as a plate of handmade pasta with wild mushrooms is, it gets even more decadent - and aromatic - when a few grams of white truffles are gently shaved all over the plate.
Near the end of November, I'm also thankful for nantucket bay scallops. These thumb-sized beauties have been available the past few weeks at Dirk's Fish and Gourmet Shop in Lincoln Park, where it doesn't take much to convince me to pick up a pound.
"Marshmallows of the sea, they're sweet and flavorful," said owner Dirk Fucik. "You don't even have to cook it. You can eat a lot of scallops for sushi and they taste good, but these guys, even a non-fish eater who doesn't like fish, will taste this and be amazed at how good it tastes."
If you don't want to cook them, you can always head over to Shaw's Crab House, where they're getting the tiny little scallops in regularly this time of year. And the preparation couldn't be simpler: sautéed with a little bit of butter, and served with a side of spinach, they're a sweet little indulgence.
So are the stone crabs, coming in fresh from florida this time of year. The season began a month ago, and at Joe's Seafood, prime steak and stone crab, they're cracking dozens of claws everyday, always available in a few different sizes, serving them with a delicious mustard sauce.
"It's famous from the original restaurant in miami, Joe's Stone Crab; we buy all of our stone crab from them," said John Aldape, the GM at Joe's. "We brought it here to Chicago almost 12 years ago, and it's something that really has become a phenomenon."
For dessert, I tend to shy away from key lime pie, and go straight for the Boston cream pie: layers of moist white cake with creamy vanilla custard and a thin cap of chocolate ganache.. Crowned by a healthy drizzle of hot fudge. Lordy.
"I joke about how every time we have a seasonal pie, it's my favorite. I don't taste the Boston as often as I probably should, knowing it's your favorite, but when I do, it's always a pleaser," said Aldape.
A few other favorites include superdawg on the Northwest Side, Lula in Logan Square and Old-Fashioned Doughnuts on the Far South Side.
Things Steve is Thankful for:
800 N. Michigan Ave.
Nantucket Bay Scallops:
Dirk's Fish & Gourmet Shop
2070 N. Clybourn Ave.
Shaw's Crab House
21 E. Hubbard St.
1900 E. Higgins Rd., Schaumburg
Stone Crabs and Boston Cream Pie:
Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
60 E. Grand Ave.
6363 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-763-0660
333 S. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling; 847-459-1900
2537 N. Kedzie Ave., 773-489-9554
Old Fashioned Doughnuts
11248 S. Michigan Ave.