Thursday, February 18, 2010

Frontera Grill

Johnny and I aren't much for celebrating Valentine's Day. There's a sudden frenzy at restaurants which means inflated prices, long reservation waits, and over-crowded dining rooms. What we've decided to do is instead have Valentine's quietly at home and make a point the week before or after to spend a nice day together. This year we "celebrated" on Tuesday, the 16th.

We drove into the city and visited Lincoln Park Zoo! This was the first time either of us had been there and I really loved it. It was smaller than other zoos I've visited, which made it easier to get from habitat to habitat. The animals were also closer to you for viewing than other zoos, which was exciting! We saw a lot of animals I had never seen before like vultures, a sloth, a hedgehog, and many others! I fell in love with and made best friends with an adorable gibbon who sucked his thumb (I did too when I was little!). He stayed glued to the glass right in front of me, stroking with his little hand and squeaking at me. It broke my heart to leave him and I've been missing him the past two days!

After the zoo was something we'd been looking forward to for weeks! *drumroll please* Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill!! I've mentioned before that both Johnny and I are huge Rick fans, watching him on Top Chef, owning his Mexico: One Plate at a Time DVDs, and even have a signed cookbook!

The menus change every few weeks to feature local produce, meats, and sustainable seafood. Tuesday just so happened to be the first night of this new menu! (I apologize in advance for the dark, fuzzy pictures - it wasn't ideal lighting for pictures!)

Beverage-wise Johnny ordered a Topolo Margarita - tequila, orange liqueur, and homemade limonada shaken at the table and I ordered a limonada "soft drink" homemade limonada with sparkling water.

Johnny's choice for appetizers was Sopes Rancheros - crispy corn masa boats with savory shredded beef, roasted tomatoes, avacado, and homemade fresh cheese and they were to-die-for!

After seeing Rick make so many ceviches on One Plate at a Time I ordered the trio, trio, trio as an appetizer - a collection of three ceviches. One was a lime-marinated Hawaiian sunfish, the second was ahi tuna, and the third was shrimp and calamari in orange and habanero. To be completely honest I did not like the tuna one at all (way too sweet), but Johnny loved it. The sunfish one had cilantro, which tastes sort of soapy to me, but the shrimp and calamari one (pictured above) was delicious and I ate the whole thing myself!

Johnny's entree was Carne Asada - natural black Angus rib steak marinated in spicy red chiles and wood grilled. Sides were black beans, sweet plaintains with homemade sour cream, and guacamole. (Overlook his redness, he gets that way if he drinks!)

My entree was Fiada Asada Brava - grass fed flank steak with a handcrushed fire-grilled tomato salsa. The sides are what convinced me - grilled knob onions and sweet corn tamales topped with homemade sour cream and homemade fresh cheese. The tamale was amazing, like a sweet corn bread, probably my favorite item of the night!

For dessert we split a duo flan plate. One was original vanilla, the second was a lime flan with star fruit and tangerine salsa on top. Johnny preferred the vanilla and I preferred the fruit one, so we each had a try of the other, but mainly ate our favorite.

We also both shared a mug of delicious frothy Mexican hot chocolate! This was dark-roasted chocolate brewed and frothed with steamed milk. Really rich and creamy, with a bold flavor almost like coffee - the perfect end to the meal!


Scott K said...

Christina, we've gotten to eat at Frontera twice now and had an incredible experience both times. I actually got to meet Chef Bayless the first time, including visiting him in his test kitchen and watching him prepare a dish!

Mara @ What's For Dinner? said...

I'm so glad you finally went!! I love it there...and wish it wasn't so busy all the time!

Cyndi said...

I'm SO jealous!!

The Sopes Rancheros look absolutely divine and there really is nothing better than a homemade tamale. I LOVE ceviche too. *sigh* I so can't wait to go now.

It's funny that cilantro tastes soapy to you. I used to feel the same way! Everyone in my husband's family thought I was nuts. It even smelled soapy to me. Many years of Mexican cooking later....I love it and add it to anything I can. No more soap. I guess it's an acquired taste.

So tell me...was it as fabulous as you imagined? Will you go back?

Christina said...

Yes, Cyndi it was great! We got there a little after opening and only had to wait 10 or 15 minutes, not bad at all.

Lele said...

Yummmmmmmmmmmmm oh goodness I desperately want to go there. Although I would ideally order something that included both plantains AND tamales. Because having to choose between those two delicious things is horribly difficult.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Aw ... that little monkey ... so sweet! :)

What a great day ... and an amazing meal too. I've always wanted to dine at Frontera Grill. And now I want to even more. Thanks for sharing, it all looks/sounds delicious!

Anonymous said...

Completely jealous of your eats! I haven't been to Rick Bayless' restaurants in TEN YEARS!

Next blogger meet up?!

Christina said...

Lele, I agree! We stared at the menu a good 15 minutes before deciding - it was hard. Luckily we often share and taste off ea. other's plates so I got the best of both worlds!

You're welcome Diva!:)

Biz, definitely! The prices weren't that bad, either. J's entree was the most expensive thing all night at $26.50 and you can see it was huge!!