NRA Chicago – Day Two

As I’m sure you can imagine, we were quite exhausted after the first evening in Chicago. Luckily, I was able to sleep in a little before hitting the floor at the NRA show. The show was held at McCormick Place — which consists of approximately 2.7 million sq. ft. of exhibit halls.

The show was absolutely ENORMOUS. The floors were full of booths upon booths upon booths of food vendors. There were dozens of cooking demonstrations and thousands of product samples in every direction. After eating the equivalent of my body weight in free food, Christian and I opted to leave the show early in order to soak in some Chi-town culture. The intention was to go to the Cubs game, however, I used my feminine wiles to convince Christian that The Art Institute of Chicago Museum was a better choice. (Although a huge fan of sports — baseball has no interest to me and I could care less about the Cubs).

After a few hours of enjoying art, we embarked up on yet another restaurant hopping adventure

First Stop: Quartino, “an urban Italian neighborhood restaurant and wine bar offering authentic regional Italian food and wine in a lively, welcoming atmosphere with attentive and personable service.” We opted to sit in the bar area, in lieu of the dinning room.

For Quarantino, Chef/Partner John Coletta developed a menu representing the best of Italy’s culinary regions. The small plate style menu, served in reasonable portions and designed for sharing, is perfect for large groups and adventurous diners ready for a unique experience. Christian and I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with John Coletta, as he was friends with the couple next to us and had joined them for a drink.

For my beverage, I chose a 1/2 carafe of 2006 Dolcetta D’Alba — while my Christian went with the Orangecello Martini (a twist on Limoncello). Food wise, we shared the Sicillan Eggplant Bruschette, Variety of Olives, Duck Prosciutto, Roasted Beets Salad with ricotta salata and walnuts, Tri Culour Salad with lemon and EVOO, and the Seared Sea Scallops with lemon and caperberries. We also had a generous supply of bread and olive oil throughout the meal.

Remember what I said in the previous post about going to the locals for advice? Well, as it turns out — the friends of the chef that were sitting next to us also happened to be food connaisseurs, specializing in the city of Chicago. They gave us a list of must see destinations and sent us on our way.

Second Stop: The Frontera Grill. All you foodies can just hate me now. Frontera Grill was the winner of the 2007 “Outstanding Restaurant” award at the James Beard Foundation Awards.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in the best restaurant, eat! And although we were full of Italian deliciousness — Christian and I could not resist the temptation of Frontera Grill.

Food wise, we went with the Trio, Trio, Trio: a sampling of Ceviche Fronterizo, Ceviche Yucateco and Ceviche Playero. ( Ceviche Fronterizo: lime-marinated Hawaiian blue marlin with tomatoes, olives, cilantro, jícama and green chile. Ceviche Playero: Baja bay scallops, Alaskan king crab, Honey Manila mango, Mexican papaya, pineapple and jicama with Oaxacan pasilla, grapefruit, lime and garlic (my personal favorite). Ceviche Yucateco: steamed organic shrimp and calamari tossed with lime, orange, habanero, avocado, jícama and cilantro.)

Throughout the evening we also enjoyed three orders of Taquitos de Pollo: crispy taquitos filled with chicken and poblanos, with homemade sour cream, salsa verde, añejo cheese and guacamole. Despite my chicken aversion, I gobbled these delicious treats down faster than they could be delivered (it was the fabulous guacamole that tricked me).

As for the beverages, margaritas were the choice drink of the evening. I enjoyed a classic margarita with fresh lime juice, citron liquor and blue agave tequila. Christian opted for more creative versions, including a bacon infused margarita and a margarita made with rhubarb (it was NEON pink — no joke). We both also indulged in shots of top shelf anejos tequilla with some people we met at the bar.

Apparently we lingered too long, because the couple we met at Quartino ended up stopping in too. They were shocked to hear that we had not made it to any of the other locations and demanded to show us around town — and how could we refuse? At that point, we were also joined by the president of the NRA of New Zealand as well. The five of us piled into a taxi to tour the town some more.

Third Stop: Carnivale: “a reflection of Latin culture and community, as explosive an passionate as the people themselves. The kaleidoscope of bright colors, salsa music and playful decor ignites the sense of being in a Latin house party, all in a unique Kleineresque setting.” The decor of Carnivale looks just as one would think it should.

While there, we ordered a round of Caipirihnas — the national drink of Brazil. Caipirihnas are made with cachaça (pronounced IPA: [ˌkaˈʃasɐ]), sugar and lime. Cachaça is Brazil’s most common distilled alcoholic beverage. Cachaça is made from sugarcane alcohol, obtained from the fermentation of sugarcane juice which is afterwards distilled.

Fourth Stop: Sushi Samba, a Chicago sushi bar. Unfortunately, we arrived there late on a Sunday night and the kitchen was in the middle of closing. We did, however, enjoy multiple orders of Sawagani, flash fried Japanese river crab as well as some more delicious Caipirihnas.

Luckily, Chicago closes down early on Sunday nights — because after Sushi Samba I’m not sure I would have been able to make it anywhere else. Tired and full of delicious food and drinks, Christian and I parted ways with the group and returned to the hotel.

Up next: Day Three

About The Beer Wench

Ashley is a self-proclaimed craft beer evangelist & social media maven on a mission to advance the craft beer industry through education, inspiration and advocacy. She is currently the “Director of Awesomeness” at Bison Brewing in Berkeley, CA — where her responsibilities include everything from marketing, sales, PR, social media & events. Ashley is also a freelance consultant and professional speaker on the subjects of social media, beer mixology, food & beverage pairings. She is the founder of & as well as a regular contributor to

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