Davanti Enoteca


Chicken liver

Tuna sandwich and mushroom soup

Cauliflower steak

***** (5 stars)

I’ve walked past this place for two years, associating it with hotel coffee shops and the donut shop that shares its entrance. I just assumed it wasn’t noteworthy. Wrong!

We had a great lunch here. First, the decor is among the nicest of Italian restaurants in Chicago, with rich brick and wood finishes and pleasant lighting.

The lunch menu offers a variety of starters and a few pizzas and sandwiches. But the deal is the half sandwich special which includes a salad or the soup of the day, and is currently a mere $10.

My wife selected the tuna sandwich and cream of mushroom soup. Both were flat-out amazing. It was one of the best tuna sandwiches I’ve ever tasted! It’s unusual, because the tuna is topped with giardiniera, a pickled mixture of peppers, carrots, cauliflower and other vegetables. And it’s served in what looks like pita bread, but is a light consistency like focaccia. The soup was great too, but very rich.

Speaking of rich, I asked for the Pate Vasi off the dinner menu, which they graciously made for us. It’s a jar filled with a delightfully creamy chicken liver pate, served with perfectly grilled slices of bread. The two of us shared half of this, and took the rest home because it was too good to get away.

As my entree I had the cauliflower steak appetizer, a large slab of cauliflower nicely browned, served atop an olive tapenade and covered in a slightly sweet white sauce. I didn’t care for the crispy garbanzo beans on top, but the rest was good, the primary flavor being the tapenade.

Service was attentive and friendly. As the name enoteca implies, the wine list is extensive, both by bottle and glass.

Overall this was one of the best lunches I’ve had in a while, and I won’t walk past this place the next time I’m in the mood for Italian food!

Davanti Enoteca
30 E Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 605-5900

Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen

**** (4 stars)

This vibrant space off the Marriott lobby offers appetizers, small plates and beer. The concept is local sourcing from the property’s farm, although that’s not apparent in a lot of the items, since they aren’t raising pigs or cows or fish.

Many of the beers are microbrewed. I liked the porter I had, although the menu changes so often you can’t count on the selections listed on the sample menus outside the door actually matching the menu inside. Since they’re both just pieces of printer paper, I’m not sure why.

The background music is lively, so it’s a better after convention spot to have a drink than a place for a relaxing meal.

Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen
4040 Central Florida Pkwy
Orlando, FL 32837
(866) 435-7627

Old Jameson Distillery

*** (3 stars)

The Jameson “Distillery” is really a visitor center, as the distillery is now on the other side of Ireland.

The regularly scheduled tours include a well produced film, and recreations of several of the original distillery’s operation. Our tour guide was knowledgable.

At the conclusion of the tour, everyone gets a generous serving of Jameson, and a few lucky guests are chosen to taste comparative samples of Jameson, Scotch and Jack Daniels. I was chosen, and it was interesting, since I’m a fan of Jameson 18 and single malt Scotch. The Jameson was much smoother, the Scotch was peaty/smokey and a bit harsh, and the Jack very perfumey and rough. But I found the regular Jameson also pretty rough after having only had the 12 and 18 before.

The point was that Irish whiskey is triple distilled, which makes it smoother, adn that point was well made.

A large percentage of the facility is devoted to a very nice tasting room, shop, and a cafe.

Old Jameson Distillery
Bow Street
Smithfield Village
, Dublin 7
+353 1 8072355

Mars’ Cheese Castle

**** (4 stars)

We passed this place on a drive to Milwaukee, and although we didn’t stop, I felt compelled to return.

It was everything I expected, and more. Actually I was expecting nothing but a tacky tourist trap. But you can’t really call it a trap, since hundreds of fans return here, again and again. Why? Because of the sheer volume of “stuff” they have.

Yes, there are T-shirts and souvenirs. But really the place is about cheese, beer, gourmet foods and wine, not necessarily in that order. They also have  a ton of hot sauces.

The beer selection alone is vast. And there were many gourmet honeys, syrups, seasonings and biscuits I’d never seen before. Unfortunately the prices are pretty much at the level you’d expect, so I didn’t actually buy anything, but plenty of people were loading up.

The cheeses I tried were actually fairly bland and forgettable, but then I’m more of a European cheese person.

Mars’ Cheese Castle
2800 W Frontage Rd
Kenosha, WI 53144
(800) 655-6147

Convito Cafe & Market

IMG_6921**** (4 stars)

What lovely place for a al fresco lunch on a nice day! Plentiful patio seating, most of it nicely shaded make this a terrific (and popular) place to enjoy a nice day outside.

We particularly likes the salmon flatbread, with its pungent base of boursin cheese. I also enjoyed the trio of cold salads, which featured a particularly tasty chicken salad the day we visited.

The blood orange mimosas are a nice midday drink. I thought the ginger beer could have used a bit more kick; its heavy emphasis on citrus made it more like lemonade.

Definitely a nice respite from downtown sidewalk dining!

Convito Cafe & Market
1515 Sheridan Rd
Wilmette, IL 60091
(847) 251-3654

B-21 Fine Wine & Spirits

***** (5 stars)

This is the most comprehensive collection of wines and single malt scotch in Central Florida. Great customer service. A few tips:

They deliver to the Orlando and other more distant areas once every two weeks..

Their quarterly (or so) tasting events are a great deal. For $25 you can sample close to 100 wines including some very pricey ones, and attend a sit down seminar. The annual Burgundy event is my favorite.

On the 21st of each month they have free shipping to anywhere if you buy a mixed case.

B-21 Fine Wine & Spirits
43380 US Hwy 19 N
Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
(727) 937-5049

Pete Miller’s Seafood & Prime Steak

**** (4 stars)

Pete Millers has that clubby feel I like in a steakhouse. The steaks aren’t particularly life-changing, but the ambiance is great, and there’s live entertainment that is pleasant without making conversation impossible. A good place for a business dinner.

Pete Miller’s Seafood & Prime Steak
1557 Sherman Ave
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 328-0399