Sweet Luxury: Canady Le Chocolatier crafts artisan bon-bons

Photo: Kristine Sherred

A worldly collection of tapestries, ceramics and paintings glow in warm yellow light, while classical melodies glide through the bright display case brimming with chocolates that look almost too delicate to devour. Even traditional milk, dark and white bites dress up under intricate gold leaves or white snowflakes imprinted on the glossy bon-bons.

At Canady Le Chocolatier, one can satiate a desire for chocolate and pumpkin simultaneously with a Pumpkin Pie Truffle, or settle another craving with more than seventy sweet, even spicy, confections.

Holiday suggestions include Amerena Ganache, Creme de Tiramisu and truffles with pistachio, mint, cheesecake or red pepper. Praline and coconut mingle in chocolate ganache; hazelnut blends with caramel butter cream in a Dolce de Leche; toffee bits sweeten the slight kick of a red pepper ganache. Mix and match a personalized assortment—one or two, one pound or two pounds.

“It’s totally up to the customer,” says owner and chocolatier Michael Canady, whose demeanor matches the serenity of his store. “I get the opportunity to experiment once in a while [with flavors], and I like that. It’s always nice to come up with new recipes.” Continue reading

The Polish-Italian Alliance: Flo & Santos makes its case for European harmony

By Michael Nagrant

Save a long tradition of ethnic jokes at their expense, the Italians and the Poles don’t have much in common. With his good work promoting interreligious harmony, validating Darwin and bringing down Communism (although Ronald Reagan might claim that all for himself) Pope John Paul II was probably the brightest spot in their shared history.

Then again, gays, Dr. Jack Kevorkian and women didn’t quite fare as well under JPII. And, with the recent fallout over Pope Benedict’s handling of child-molesting priests, really a legacy of the John Paul II administration since he appointed Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict, to handle such cases, Italian-Polish collaboration has generally been a mixed bag. Trying to change all that: Flo & Santos, a new South Loop one-stop shop for pizza and pierogi.

The name of the place sounds like an episode from the defunct sitcom “Alice” whereby Flo goes on a bad date with a dishwasher from Mel’s Diner and at the end of the night tells him to “Kiss My Grits!” Unfortunately the origins of the name are much less exciting and are a nod to owner Bill Bolton’s (no relation to that no-talent ass-clown Michael) best-childhood-friend’s parents. One imagines dinner in that household (Maxwell Street Polishes and Italian combo beef!) would pretty much rule. The execution of that memory in the South Loop however does not. Continue reading

Resto 100: Chicago’s essential restaurants of 2010

Resto 100 is, as always, a list of “essential” restaurants, which is most definitely not synonymous with “best.” We strive to reflect a world of dining in a constant state of innovative transition, to capture a snapshot of the state of the food world at this time.

As last year, when we first dropped Charlie Trotter’s, we’ve continued to cull the old guard of the high-end, both as a reflection of the economic times and as a call to action for such spots to up their game. This year, TRU, MK and Boka didn’t escape the chopping block. While we don’t deny their importance in creating the food scene we have today, there are many other places we’d rather send folks—for example, Sepia, Bonsoiree or Cibo Matto (where, ironically, chef Todd Stein is a vet of MK).

Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand are two of the most successful cooks this city has, but neither spends a significant amount of time at TRU. This is not so much an observation as it’s a cry for the fact that we really miss Rick’s cooking. We appreciate his cookbooks and that he tried to open a nationwide restaurant chain, but with that not working out, why not return to his roots? It should also be noted that Chef de Cuisine Tim Graham was doing some incredibly innovative work, but was recently transferred to Brasserie Jo.

Boka, which we loved for its Charlie Trotteresque complexity, has frankly been a little inconsistent in its execution on recent visits, and frankly maybe too Trotteresque. We love the direction Perennial has gone, look forward to Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat, and think maybe they outshine the original jewel in Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz’s mini-empire.

That’s not to say you have to be cutting-edge innovative or perfect to make the list. For if you do something old-school or classic and you continue to do it well and you didn’t make your bones by being a game-changer, we honor that as well. This year, we added some overlooked classics including Marie’s Pizza, Ginza and, much to our own surprise, Hyde Park’s Calypso Café. Maybe the biggest surprise was Café des Architectes, which used to be as old-school as it gets. Martial Noguier and his pastry chef Suzanne Imaz are probably two of this city’s most underrated cooks, putting out slighty twisted old-school French gourmet plates flawlessly.

Likewise, the trend of informal, casual rustic dining doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere, and we dig that. To celebrate that movement we’ve added The Bristol, Paramount Room, Brown Trout, Kith and Kin and others.

The beauty of any list, though, is that you may not agree. So drop us a line and let us know.

—Michael Nagrant, Resto 100 editor Continue reading

Resto 100: Chicago’s Essential Restaurants 2009

In the kitchen at Alinea/Photo: Lara Kastner

In the kitchen at Alinea/Photo: Lara Kastner

Resto 100 is, as it has been in years past, a list of “essential” restaurants, which is most definitely not synonymous with “best.” We strive to reflect a world of dining in a constant state of innovative transition, to capture a snapshot of the state of the food world at this time.

In these particular hard economic times, we find ourselves dining out a lot more at the BYOBs, mom-and pop-spots and small ethnic joints than we do at the high end.  That being said, while we didn’t set out to consciously create a list to address our lighter wallets, it sure turned out that way.  More than ever, this list is a cross section of the wealth of culturally diverse and reasonably priced restaurants Chicago is lucky to have. Continue reading