20 Best New Restaurants of 2012

Exploring Barrel Aging with Classic Cocktails

By Marcus Reidy

The finished product

The finished product

Due to the fire we had last summer, I found myself out of regular bartending work for 3 ½ months. I decided to use this time to my advantage and test some new mixology projects that I thought would work well for our reopening. Most of the cocktails on our current menu are a result of that 3 1/2 month experimentation period. The “6.28,” for example, is named after the date of that June blaze, and features a house-made syrup infused with smoked tea.
Amongst all of my ideas for the new recipes, the one thing I was most excited ti attempt was a barrel aged cocktail. This notion was inspired by a trip I took to Portland at the beginning of the summer. Though I had heard of barrel aged cocktails before, and had even enjoyed a few here in our own city, I was eager to try one made by the man who really helped popularize the concept. He is Jeffrey Morgenthaler of the bar Clyde Common. Upon tasting his barrel aged Negroni, I knew that I wanted to implement this technique at our restaurant. Typically a beautiful, bittersweet cocktail, his barrel aged Negroni presents a more rounded fusion of bitter and sweet, and a rich, burnt orange flavor.
Unfortunately, the day I came back home from my west coast trip was the very same day of our fire. But perhaps this was a blessing in some ways. This gave me 3 ½ months to come up with the perfect cocktail for my barrel aging endeavor. I knew immediately that I wanted it to be a whiskey cocktail, strictly for selfish reasons. Next, I wanted it to involve sweet vermouth. The slight oxidation of vermouth seems to add richness to a drink. Finally, it had to be an “all booze” cocktail; aging anything with juice isn’t a good idea. After extensive research, I decided on an old New Orleans classic, the Vieux Carre. This cocktail comprises equal parts Templeton Rye, Carpano-Antica sweet vermouth, E&J brandy, a splash of Benedictine, and a dash each of Peychaud and Angostura bitters. All ingredients are stirred gently and served over one large, slow-melting ice cube. It’s a tasty, sweet, and boozy cocktail, with a slightly bitter fullness.
About three weeks ago, after acquiring a used Templeton Rye barrel, I began to age the Vieux Carre. I added all the booze ingredients, minus the bitters, undiluted to the barrel. Then I sealed it and let it sit. After 2 ½ weeks I decided we should pull our first batch and test it. In just this brief aging period, a drastic change had occurred. The charred oak of the barrel imparted vanilla and caramel notes to the Carpano-Antica and Templeton Rye, and yielded a prevalent burnt orange character. These emerging aromatic flavors softened the bite of the alcohol. Even non-diluted, this aged version is mellow, rich, and smooth. Adding the bitters to order creates a wonderfully full-flavored, dangerously sippable cocktail that I hope you will come in and enjoy while supplies last!
Unassuming deliciousness in a barrel await.

Unassuming deliciousness in a barrel await.

Bringing News of Verjus to You!

As promised, while we finish our repairs, we are going to the source to find the very best of what is going on out there and bring it back to you this fall.  Our first trip was this past Monday we headed up to Hickory Creek Farms  for their Verjus celebration.  Fortunately, it was one of those rare below 90 degree days and only about 90 minutes from Chicago, in other words, the perfect day trip.  Indeed it was.


What is verjus you ask?  Good question, verjus (translated literally – greenjuice is the very first pressing of grapes during the season).  It can also be done with sour fruits such as crab apples.  Historically it was used in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, it is also found in Syrian Cuisine.  As what you ask?  Think vinegar substitute (heck it is really an unfermented vinegar — could certainly be fermented in a a barrel or cask of your choosing).  In cooking it can be used when a mild acidity is called for.  It is similar to a little citrus juice although the flavor is a bit rounder.


Beyond the obvious uses, our hosts (including Beverly Malen) encouraged us to try Verjus Cocktails from Adam Seger  including a fantastically herbaceous Rooibos, Verjus & Rum Punch w/ sour cherries and herbs, a Gin, Verjus & Ginger Beer Cocktail w/ fresh thyme and a Verjus Manhattan w/ Rye.  Important to note: all the spirits were from the fantastic newcomer to the local spirits scene, Journeyman.  They are located in Three Oaks a very short drive from Chicago and well worth the visit.



Palazzolo’s Sorbetti


After a nice covered trolley tour of the vineyards we returned to a tasty feast of goat, which had been roasted by Chef Leonard of another West Suburban local fav, Marion Street.   A feast under the apple tree was accompanied by the wines of Hickory Creek as well as some wines from a Long Island vineyard that may make an appearance on our fall list.  The meal finished with a little crushing of the grapes and a verjus sorbetti from Palazzolo’s Gelato.  The result was a delicious and refreshing alternative to the more traditional lemon or lime flavors.



So the versatile verjus reminds us that everything old is certainly new again.  We have one question for you?  Do you verjus?  Well if you want to try check out the very brief recipe below and let us know if you have new successes of your own using this interesting acid.


How to Make your own Verjus:

Note/Disclaimer: you need a lot of grapes to attempt this.  Figure about a pound and a quater of green wine grapes for one cup of verjus.  Try Midland or call a local winery to see if you can acquire… with the very dry summer it may be a more difficult task then usual.


You will need a food mill (wine press is great if you have one), fine strainer, grapes, mason jars to store the juice.  First stem the grapes as much as possible, then run through the food mill in batches.  Then pour through a fine mesh strainer to catch the rest of fruit (you will still have a little sediment on the bottom).  You can strain directly into sterile mason jars or a spouted container useful for mixing cocktails or into a punchbowl for immediate serving.  As with most things food related it is best used fresh but will hold for up to 6 mos if you add citric acid and a little sodium metabisulfate.  If sulfites disagree with you this is probably not something you want to do.


Happy pressing!






Pulled My Chair Up Close To The Mediterranean Table!

Sometimes it is easy to forget some of the simpler pleasures of life. Here at AM we were reminded of this recently when we welcomed our marketing intern Duri Kwon, who is joining us on an exchange program from her native South Korea. Among the things included in her orientation to the restaurant was some basic training in Mediterranean food and wine.

She is also learning to work with us on our blog and other projects, so we asked her to write a practice entry about an experience here, working with us. She chose to write about the Grilled Octopus dish she tasted as her first experience with Med food. We were so smitten by her description we thought we would share it here on the blog with all of you…….hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Thanks Duri and welcome!

Med 101 – by Duri Kwon

My first week at Autre Monde Café was a series of surprises. It started with the menu. It was easiest, to start by pick out the terms that I recognized. French & Spanish were familiar but Italian terms… not so much! Welcome to the Mediterranean table!

Though I had not eaten Mediterranean style octopus in Korea, I believed the flavors would be similar to an octopus dish at home. The Grilled Octopus l’escala was served to me glistening, under the intimate lights, octopus nestled with bright, red tomatoes on a long white dish, looked inviting and worked up my appetite. I expected a flavor & texture that were salty and hard; but my first bite of octopus told me I was wrong. The flavor was AMAZING. The texture was very simple, tender like beef, but sweeter. I cleared my plate, this was just as filling as a steak! Now, I have to get ready for the many additional menu surprises that await me.

Mediterranean food at Autre Monde, first impression, is creative and the flavor is beyond my imagination. I am passionate about experiencing more. I have already begun to think about how I can share this delicious feeling with others. For today, since I am still learning the finer points of English I will say it in my native Korean. If you tried something amazing there and wanted to tell others how good it was, you would just say ‘kkeut nae jaw yo’ with no doubt.

Our 10 day trip to Europe

Rainy Morning Market Visit - Split

John & I have just returned from a whirlwind trip to Italy and Croatia. Three countries in 10 days with 5 of them at Vin-Italy in Verona, then a visit to Emilio Bulfon and his amazing estate in Fruili, then on to Trieste and finally a drive across the border and through Slovenia, down the spectacular coastline of Croatia arriving finally in Split. After several days there and a visit to John’s family to say hello and see their winemaking facilities we headed back up to Italy to stay at Lake Garda for a night before braving the Milan traffic for the flight home. All in all a fantastic trip which energized us and filled us with inspiration for the spring & summer menu and of course wine events.

Over the next few weeks we will share the trip with you and introduce you to some of our favorite wines & winemakers from the trip, many of whom you will have the chance to meet at the restaurants in coming months. Also, look for some new entries from our chefs on techniques they use in the kitchen and of course more on the greenhouse & patio!

On Jasci Atteso Pecorino…..or…”How I Learned to Love a Non-cheesy wine”…. by John Aranza

Jasci Atteso Pecorino

Pecorino, one may recall, is a tasty cheese from the Adriatic side of Italy. Known for its beautiful briny quality that is reminiscent of salt & sea. But did you know it is also and incredible under-dog of a varietal once on the verge of extinction?

My first encounter with this illusive grape goes back 11 years to Verona during Vin Italy. Traveling with my mentor Henry Bishop, I felt Robin to Batman….and as was typical of him, carefully laid-out plans led to an introduction; which I pleasantly can say made a remarkable first impression. This was also my threshold moment into what a wine was capable of outside the expected norms.

This obscure varietal originates in the Marche region of Italy (central-east). The name is rumored to come from the fact that the sheep of the region would nibble these grapes along with their requisite grasslands as they were being herded to lowland pastures. These journey’s resulting in the eventual milking of the sheep and this milk being used by the artisan cheese-makersof the area using this milk to produce lush and salty Pecorino cheese. As it typical with Italy the elements of a region are often brought together harmoniously resulting in exemplary food & wine.

Small vineyards producing this grape are found scattered throughout the Marche & Abruzzo, which is where ours is found. The Pecorino we serve currently is not typical, very rich & structured where these wines usually offer a lighter, less intense expression of the grape. The grape itself is very white and thin-skinned. The fragility of the grape is in fact the reason it almost faded into legend, as it’s slight-physique can lead to early splitting and sometimes rot. Fruit yield then, understandably is limited.

That which survives however is quite the go-getter…. usually reaching full ripeness by September being it is well-suited for the harsher climate of these regions. The result is a rich, viscous, yellow-fruit nose which leads to a salty, minerality which is quite unexpected. Jasci produces this very limited, bio-dynamic, 2007 juice in Abruzzo. Suggested pairing would be our goat-cheese tortalacci, which has a brown-butter sauce complimented by black truffle…or simply enjoy with any sheep’s milk cheese, and reminisce about the great lengths this vino has traveled to become a food-driven-contender!

To Henry!

Henry Bishop III

Pasta 101 Class Recap & Recipes

As promised we are back to share some insights and recipes from our very first cooking class, Pasta 101. In this class Chef Dan Pancake took participant through a hands on journey in making fresh pasta, cutting noodles, filling a ravioli style pasta and making a few simple summer sauces. After the students were finished with their time in the kitchen, they moved to the dining room to enjoy the fruits of their labor as cooked for them by Dan. Paired with Med wines selected by owner and wine director John Aranza it was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. As we are in the height of tomato season, we thought we would share with you a basic pasta dough recipe and a toasted garlic, tomato sauce that showcases the height of Italian simplicity and yields a delicious dish. We have been making this all summer with tomatoes from the Greenhouse, Cakeridge Farms and the local farmers market. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Making Pasta from Scratch

Making pasta dough from scratch is quick and produces excellent results. There are several variables that affect the final product:
? Flour type and grind
? Eggs (whole, yolks)
? Ambient conditions in the kitchen
? Additives to the pasta dough (spinach, beet, etc…)
The most critical variable is flour. At Autre Monde, we use only Farina “00”, which is a hard, Winter durham type wheat flour. The “00” refers to the size of the grind, and is the finest flour available. Ours is imported from Italy, and can be found at Italian specialty shops in the area.
Basic Fresh Pasta Dough Recipe:
1 kg 00 Flour
8 ea Whole large eggs
4 ea Egg yolks
2 Tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
This dough can be made easily in a stand mixer with a dough hook, by starting with the eggs and olive oil in the bowl. Mix until combined, then add the flour and watch for the dough to come together in a smooth ball. Wet or dry dough can be corrected by adding a small amount of flour, or another egg yolk. Ambient conditions (mostly humidity) can have a significant impact on how much moisture the dough will require.
Remove the dough from the mixer and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to use.

Chef Pancake Demos Saucing Technique


Napolitano Style Fresh Tomato Sauce Serves 4

1 lb Fresh Pasta dough
1 pt Ripe cherry tomatoes (e.g., Sun Golds, Juliets, Sweet 100s)
1 tsp Minced fresh garlic
2 Tbl Fresh basil, chiffonade
½ Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Grana Padano or Pecorino will work)
1 TT Sea salt/Kosher salt and Cracked Black Pepper (can sub Pepperoncino)

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, and crush each with your fingers, into a large bowl. Add the garlic, basil, EVOO, cheese, salt & pepper. Reserve at room temperature.
Roll out the pasta into desired shape (Tagliatelle, chitarra, stracci). Bring 5-6 qts of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 3-4 minutes or until just tender. Strain the pasta, and reserve the pasta water.
Toss the hot pasta into the bowl with the fresh sauce and cheese. Let sit for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce coats the pasta.
Divide the pasta between 4 plates, and add additional cheese is desired. Drizzle with EVOO.

Chef discusses results with the class.

Out and About

So we have been remiss in blogging admittedly for the past month or so and for that we apologize. We have some fun posts cued up so look for some recipes, wine chatting and other fun things in the weeks to come. In the mean time we thought we would share with you a few off premise Autre Monde sightings that will be happening in the next few weeks in case you plan to seek us out there.


The first is next weekend on the 16th and 17th of October, we will have a booth at the Berwyn Oktoberfest. This year we plan to offer two kinds of Pinxtos (little tapas style snacks popular in the Basque Country in Spain). We will be doing a grilled lamb skewer and a grilled veg skewer. For more info on the fest visit http://www.berwynoktoberfest.com/.


We have also been invited to participate in Chicago Gourmet (an upscale version of the Taste) featuring some of Chicagoland’s best chefs and wine personalities. Happening September 23rd – 25th and filled with demos, tastings and more, we can’t wait to be a part of it. We will be there on Sunday. For tickets and more info check out: http://www.illinoisrestaurants.org/associations/2039/chicagogourmet/?page=297

Lots of Good to Come from the Greenhouse

Cilantro & French Breakfast Radishes

Well, we just couldn’t be more pleased with our opening few weeks. It has been so nice to meet so many of our neighbors and to hear that many of you are as excited as we are that we are here, so a big thank you for all the support. With that said we have neglected our blog duties for last week but we are back with an update on everything we have growing in and around the greenhouse as well as an update on the mural and the patio ETA.
Also I know many of you have asked about signage and it should be installed by this Friday, until then, you know where we are!

It is exciting to see many of our plant begin to bear fruit. Lots of the tomatoes are flowering and/or fruiting and the peppers as well. We also have loads of herb and veg seedling that we plan to transplant to a friends beds to keep us supplied with additional herbs for the rest of the season. The greenhouse has proved to be invaluable in providing some climate stasis for our plants which have been trying to keep up with the crazy weather patterns of this season. To date our only major challenge was dealing with some aphids on a cucumber plant and some arugula. This is what we discovered was best, isolate the affected plant (ie: get it out of the greenhouse. Do not try soapy water on the leaves (it will burn them) introduce ladybugs (they can deal with the problem in a fashion that only mother nature can create) or use a mild organic pesticide and then allow the afflicted plant to rest and hopefully recover. Water and proper feeding will help.

We are really looking forward to using our tomatoes and peppers in the coming months. At present we have 18 varieties of heirlooms, 10 different varieties of peppers, a number of herbs, fennel, lettuces, caper bushes, a lemon tree, zucchini, cucumber and a Ponderosa lemon tree that is growing by leaps and bounds from the little seedling we purchased back in may. The pear mint & Kaliteri Oregano plants have begun to flourish and we look forward to using them in the second half of the season.

We also have a handmade pasta class coming up on July 16th at noon. Participants will learn how to make dough, use a pasta roller, cut noodles and fill a ravioli. All capped off with lunch and wine. Give us a call at 708-775-8122 if you would like to attend or email us at info@autremondecafe.net.

Our patio is slated to open in a week or two and we hope to introduce weekend brunch in August. It’s shaping up to be a fun and busy summer! If you haven’t been in yet we hope to see you soon!

Guess What……We’re Open!!!!

Read More About the Restaurant Here!

Just a quick note this week to let you all know that our doors are indeed open, the wine is flowing and the wood grill is fired up. We hope to welcome all of you who have been so enthusiastic and encouraging . For menus and the wine list check our web page at Autre Monde Cafe. To read the lovely article Time Out Chicago wrote about the cafe click here.

A Little Story About Collaboration

[dropcap1]S[/dropcap1]o we all know that no large project gets done without the generous help of lots of folks. We thought the story of how our bar and tabletops are being constructed was no exception and pretty interesting to boot. With that in mind and by way of letting you all know we really are getting close to opening (we have tables!) this post is devoted to that tale.
Throughout our construction phase on this project, we have tried to used sustainable and repurposed materials wherever possible. We have had pretty good success in finding some of our lighting, our tabletops and bases, other finishing items and design pieces and even some bar ware in this fashion. Most of the refinishing of smaller pieces we did ourselves, but when it came to the carpentry we knew to throw in the towel and seek help elsewhere. This is the story of those devoted souls that made our vision for the interior really come to life.

Unloading the Ash at the woodshop

The table tops and bar tops for the restaurant were crafted from wood graciously made available to us by our Chef’s family and hails from their farm in Ohio. The tables tops are constructed from vintage ash wood from fallen trees that had been collected from their property over the years. The bar (which is also almost finished) has been constructed from vintage poplar collected in the same fashion. The trees were rough cut and stored for future use in a big barn on their property. Lumber in this condition is not like the wood you see at Home Depot. It needs to be hand planed (evened out), custom cut piece by piece and biscuits (small joiners that fit between the wood) must be used to fuse the individual slabs of wood together. Mind you, we knew next to nothing about this process at the beginning of our project, w only knew we wanted to used reclaimed wood. Now, we speak carpenterease pretty well. Any of you who have done a big improvement project likely know what I am referring to, watching your crew work requires many of us urbanites to learn to speak “builder’s English” with all that entails.

One of the things that we definitely learned more about was the character and colors of these vintage woods. Ash for example, such as that used for our tabletops, is a very hard wood and has some lovely, blonde & honey toned color variations. We love the natural color and decided that we would have them finished with a natural clear coat, the craftsmanship and natural durability of the wood ensured that these tops will last a very long time. Poplar has deeper color changes, but again we loved the natural character and finished as is. It too will likely wear well gaining more character with age.

Mennonite Woodshop

The table tops were built by a group of Mennonites from the Ohio River Valley that have done work for many in the area for years. Their expert craftsmanship of the table tops cannot be understated, especially when you consider that all the work they do is by hand, with no help of modern power tools or electricity. Their wood shop is outfitted with all manner of vintage tools that allow them to get the job done. When the table tops arrived with Chef Dan from his weekend home at the farm, we were blown away by the simple beauty of what had been created. We will let you judge for yourself, but we just love them. This weekend we will be receiving the two remaining tables which are long communal tables that they are building for us as I write this post.

The Finished Product

The bar is another story. It has been designed and crafted all on site by our brother in law, who is a custom home builder. He has been tremendously generous to take on this project and has labored for the past few weeks, cutting, planing and biscuiting wood on site as he built out the bar to our exact dimensions. He is still working to finish it this week but you will all see it soon and again we think it is just delicious. We are heading into the last few weeks of pre-opening hoopla and can’t wait to show you all the finished product. We hope that when you dine with us these little stories of how it all comes together, enrich your experience. See you soon!