My recent, decadent meals at the newly opened Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio and Bohemian House (BOHO) got me thinking about the intrinsic relationship between food and love…and lust.
“I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.” – Nora Ephron
The late Nora Ephron was one of the greatest comedic essayists of our time. She was also a brilliant screenplay writer. There is no funnier, indulgent or iconic moment in cinematic history than Meg Ryan’s faked orgasm during the diner scene in When Harry Met Sally.
Food, like love and lust, is part of our id. It makes perfect sense that we
sometimes eat our feelings when we are depressed or joyful. It’s a natural way to self-soothe as well as celebrate. The folks at Monteverde and BOHO understand this and they are both serving up decadent plates of love.
I dropped by Monteverde a couple of weeks ago for an early dinner. Former Top Chef contestant and Spiaggia alum, Chef Sarah Grueneberg, is at the helm of this new Italian destination in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood.
Monteverde is located just 3 blocks south and 1 block west of the Morgan ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Green and Pink Lines. So, ditch the car. You’re going to appreciate a bit of exercise before and after eating here 🙂
Upon arriving at Monteverde, I grabbed a high-top in the bar area near a sunny window along Madison St.
I wanted a cocktail. More specificially I wanted a Venetian Spritz. It’s an iconic Italian drink which is usually made with Campari or Aperol, Prosecco, soda water and orange. I was so hoping that Monteverde would do it justice. They nailed it!
Their Saffron Spritz is made with Strega (an herbal liquor), Carpano Dry (vermouth), Prosecco and orange bitters. So fancy! Also, It packed a nice alcoholic punch without getting me hammered. It was a perfectly seductive way to begin my orgasmic experience that evening. One was enough 🙂
The menu at Monteverde is divided into an enticing selection of snacks, small plates, house made pastas of different shapes and sizes and larger plates for the table to share. You are able to ogle the different pastas which are hanging around the bar and open kitchen. Monteverde is part “pastificio” or pasta factory, after all.
I surprised myself by starting off with an order of Chef Grueneberg’s artichoke and cauliflower crostini. Best crostini ever! No joke. It’s not that I haven’t had good crostini elsewhere. It’s just that those crostini were not nearly as decadent and orgasmic as this version.
First off, the bread was astoundingly good. It was thick cut. Most restaurants are not usually that generous with the quality and thickness of the bread used in their crostini. Monteverde’s was chewy yet just crunchy enough.
The topping was a creamy, spicy, drool-inducing combination of artichoke, cauliflower, fontina and ricotta cheeses and Savini black truffles. It dripped with fatty goodness. I am still salivating at the thought of it. This was not some bullshit crostini. It was made with a lot of attention and love. Sure, I felt a bit naughty as I consumed the entire serving. It was a a bold move, considering what I ordered next.
Just try to choose among the delicious pastas at Monteverde. It’s difficult. They all sound so enticing. Since I was dining solo on my virgin voyage there, I stuck with the eye-catching raviolo special on the menu. A raviolo is one large stuffed pasta (rather than a several smaller ravioli). It is traditionally prepared with a runny egg yolk in the center. The other ingredients are up to the whim and imagination of the chef.
Chef Grueneberg really delivered with her raviolo made with a pesto of in-season ramps and a sweet and tangy marianara sauce. After taking in the intoxicating aroma of this bright and beautiful dish, I cut into the raviolo. I watched the gooey egg yolk and creamy pesto ooze out over the pasta. That was one sexy dish. I could almost hear some ’70s porno music in my head. I realize that ramps will be in season for about another minute but, the texture of the pasta and perfection of the egg and marianara sauce here are reason enough to keep some version of this raviolo on the menu. Pretty please, Chef Sarah?!
Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio is located at 1020 W. Madisont St.
Bohemian House (BOHO):
When my super cool, friend, Anca, suggested we have lunch at BOHO, I could not refuse. Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos is serving up some traditional and orgasmic dishes of his own at this pretty River North spot. It specializes in Czech, Austrian and German fare. Anca is from Romania, also part of Central Europe, so I was interested to see what she thought of this place.
BOHO is located at the corner of Illinois and State Sts., just 1 block south the the Grand ‘L’ stop, along the CTA Red Line.
The lunch menu is more limited than the dinner menu but we had no problem finding a few dishes to satisfy us. Central European food is known for being heavy on the meat and dairy. If you are looking for fish, BOHO is probably not for you. Here’s how our lunch went down:
Anca started with this colorful and comforting spring potato and fava bean soup. It was made with a vegetable stock and garnished with some crunchy grilled onions. A smoky paprika créme fraiche finished this dish and bumped up the sexy factor. Lovely!
I chose this fresh roasted beet salad for my first course. Yellow and purple beets were the star of the plate. They were nestled in spicy greens with some blood orange, crispy wild rice, a toasted caraway vinaigrette and some créme fraiche. it was a perfectly balanced salad with great contrast of textures. It was exactly the way I like to build my own salads at home.
Anca chose the spätzle (a soft egg noodle) accompanied by hen of the woods mushrooms, broccoli, caramelized onions and emmentaler cheese. This was such a beautifully crafted and edgy spin on a traditional dish. Even though BOHO made their spätzle in a vegetarian way, it was still very hearty and comforting. All the veggies and the cheese were bursting with tons of flavor. The texture of the spätzle was soft with just enough bite. Winner!
I ordered the most hefty item on the menu for my main course – the open face pork schnitzel. This is a meal that can carry you through a couple of days without needing to eat anything else 😉 It was worth every bite. Moist and lightly breaded pork sat atop a slice of thick and chewy rye bread which was dressed with horseradish cream and tangy sauerkraut.
The dish was finished with some Emmentaler cheese, house made mustard, fresh dill and….ta- da! – a fried egg. So many layers of lusciousness! Do you think I felt guilty? Do you think I felt shame? No way. I ate half of the schnitzel and I felt just naughty enough to dream about eating the rest of it the next day 😉
Since Anca and I were reveling in our lunch at BOHO, we decided to end our afternoon on a sweet note. There were only two selections on the dessert menu that day. We went with the house made doughnuts.
They hit the table nice and warm. They were super light which we really appreciated. Neither one of us likes heavy, cake-like doughnuts. BOHO’s doughnuts were accompanied by some Bavarian cream, apricot marmalade and vanilla sugar. Just make sure to get these, if you decide to pay a visit to BOHO. Oh, by the way…Anca assures me the coffee at BOHO is great. She had 3 or 4 cups of the specially blended Bow Truss coffee served here. That is quite the testimonial, since she never drinks more than 1 small cup a day. I’ll remember this tip for my next visit during brunch.
Bohemian House is location at 11 W. Illinois St.
I wish Nora Ephron were still alive to taste the wonderfully decadent meals at Monteverde and Bohemian House. I do believe she would have enjoyed them just as much as potatoes 🙂
Do you have some favorite orgasmic restaurants you’d like to share with me? I would love to hear all about it! Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Red, Green and Pink Lines to Monteverde and Bohemian House. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!