See Gino, See Gino Eat, C Chicago

C Chicago

Earlier this year a great friend and I went to a popular seafood restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighbourhood. The name showed up in countless reviews as being one of the best in the city. My friend and I enjoyed the presentation and the atmosphere. The food was comme ci, comme ça. When my friend mentioned a seafood restaurant that opened recently in River North I thought of our experience at the “hyped up” restaurant. Well, C Chicago at 20 W. Kinzie Street did not fail us.

Lobsterscargot

Lobsterscargot

We started with a dish that you can share — lobstercargot. This was C Chicago’s take on escargot, but with lobster instead. It had been prepared lumache style. Brought to the table and polated atop crostinis, you could smell the garlic. There were six morsels that set the tone for the rest of the evening.

King Crab Bisque

King Crab Bisque

My friend and I are fans of bisques at seafood restaurants. Much like me, she loves it more when there is no bacon in the recipe. C Chicago again excels by not going below the Mason-Dixon Line with the king crab bisque. The servers bring a bowl to the table with charred corn, peppers, and croutons in the shape of cut calamari. And there at the table, they pour the bisque. The presentation pales in comparison to the delicious flavour.

King Crab Claw

King Crab Claw

My friend loves king crab. With it being in season, she ordered a claw. Much of the claw had been cracked while there was still a little work to be done at the table. From what I could see, there was quite a bit of meat inside. My friend’s expressions of food bliss were all I needed to know that this was a splendid culinary option.

Dover Sole

As to the main dishes, C Chicago tilts the scale well beyond a 10 out of 10. The dover sole is filleted at the table, leaving you with some extremely meaty fish that is then accented with a brown butter drizzle. The saucepan of brown butter is left in case you wish to add more. Honestly, the fish was delectable without the brown butter.

Salmon

The salmon, which is usually prepared rare, but medium well during our visit, was indescribably mouth-watering. Accompanied with salmon roe and a verjus vinaigrette, the only thing missing was a slice of bread to go around the plate afterwards. From the seafood options that we had, it was evident that C Chicago is vying to have its name on the list of top seafood restaurants in Chicago.

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Chocolate Ganache Cake

With there being no rush, we waited before having dessert. There was key lime pie, which came as a dome atop a graham cracker crust. There was no “surprise bite” at the back of the jaw and the pie was not sweet in the excessive sense. There was a proper balance that actually made it possible to taste lime, not lime flavouring. The decadent dessert for the evening was a chocolate ganache cake. This looked like the dainty chocolate cakes I’ve had at several bakeries, cakes with cornbread texture. The chocolate ganache cake at C Chicago was “moyse” — yes, I spelled that incorrectly. Served with strawberries, a raspberry sauce, and a white chocolate sauce, we enjoyed this thoroughly with coffee.

Those who have been in Chicago for many years may remember Keefer’s Steakhouse that was at the corner of Kinzie Street and Dearborn Street. Well, Keefer’s had closed in 2014 and C Chicago since replaced the restaurant. I cannot speak for the menu offerings that the predecessor had, but I can attest that the successor was a thoroughly satisfying experience. I have a witness, my great friend, who can also tell you how the food at that certain restaurant I mentioned earlier had made us start questioning seafood restaurants in the River North area that received way too much press on atmosphere and not necessarily on the food.

C Chicago Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pizza Capri, Hyde Park Haunt

Pizza Capri

When I lived in Hyde Park, several friends and I would block every Thursday to gather at any of the great restaurants in the neighbourhood. Given the multicultural environment in Hyde Park, there were restaurants representative accordingly. One of our favourites was Pizza Capri at 1501 E. 53rd Street. With so many Italian restaurants in Chicago having menus full of dishes with red sauces, Pizza Capri switched up a bit by adding cream sauces and other menu items that differ from the usual Italian restaurant fare.

Potato Soup, Bread, Olive Oil

Potato Soup, Bread, Olive Oil

Fast forward to 2015 and I had a craving for something to feast on from Pizza Capri. Opting to indulge a three course meal, I started with a cup of potato soup, along with the complimentary bread and olive oil accented with herbs. The potato soup popped with the flavour of potatoes and it was seasoned well enough that I didn’t miss any salt in the recipe. Instead of pasta, I ordered a small rosemary potato and chicken pizza. This was a complete deviation from a pizza with a tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings ranging from sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, and other ingredients. This pizza was simply divine. And with it being thin crust, it was hearty, but not to the point of me not being able to finish all of it.

Rosemary Potato and Chicken Pizza

Rosemary Potato and Chicken Pizza

Knowing that I was going to have a finale of coffee and dessert, I waited for about 15-20 minutes before having a cappuccino and a flourless chocolate cake. Just like I remember from my days past, the cappuccino was brewed well enough that I could take it without any sweeteners. As to the flourless chocolate cake, it was addictive. With the consistency of a mousse, atop a crème anglaise, topped with strawberries, and drizzled with chocolate syrup, it was the perfect companion to the cappuccino.

Cappuccino

Cappuccino

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Since my first visit to Pizza Capri in the lat 90’s, the service and the high quality of the food have always been consistent. There are a few items on the menu that have classic red sauces and you can never fail by ordering any of the items. There are also specialty pizzas and other Italian dishes like alfredos and pasta in cream sauces that are also winners. But since my friends and I are now on different continents, whenever we have a reunion in Chicago, Pizza Capri is where we come together.

Pizza Capri Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food and Photography, Gino’s Way

Recently, I returned to Oceanique, at 505 Main Street in Evanston, Illinois. With this recent visit being my fourth one since February, that says a lot. So, I will not give another review since I gave a raving review already. What I will do in this post is focus on an aspect of photographing food I have encountered in very difficult settings consisting of extremely low lighting and I will show you a few “before” and “after” shots I captured during my latest dining experience for reference.

I shot the photos in a setting with dark and conflicting lighting. There was a flicker in the lights, undetectable with the naked eye, but noticeable when looking at compositions through the viewfinder of the camera. Adding to the lighting were brown walls and white tablecloths that created an orange tint to the photos. Once you click on the photos and see them enlarged, you will notice how the lighting warmed the photos and overpowered the colours in some of the menu items. Using the “before” photo of Escargot, Salad, Duck Confit for reference, pay attention to the base of the wine glass in the upper left-hand corner of the photo. Put a footnote there, for I will mention that photo again later.

 

Lobster Salad

Lobster Salad

Scallop Under Kimchi

Scallop Under Kimchi

Escargot, Salad, Duck Confit

Escargot, Salad, Duck Confit

Chocolate Sunrise Cake

Chocolate Sunrise Cake

Before explaining how I transformed the shots of my recent dining excursion to “after” compositions, here are some logistics. I have four digital cameras that I use interchangeably when capturing impressions of food for blogging. There are the Nikon D90, Canon Rebel XS, Canon Rebel XT, and a Nikon 1 J1. The Nikon 1 J1 has become my constant companion. It is compact enough that I can manage it and have room on the table when I’m not using it. I can switch lenses on it much like I do with my prosumer cameras. Always cognizant of the restaurants’ staff and other diners, I never use flash on my cameras. I photograph with the cameras in manual mode so that I can allow in enough light and not have bursts of light distracting anyone. If lighting is too dim and I think there could be the possibility for blurred photos, I use a small tripod and a remote to the camera. Depending on how much food I order or how long I am at a restaurant, the zealot in me will photograph hundreds of photos from various angles before the server places the bill on the table.

As  you can see from the above gallery, I do post production on the photos. Referencing the photo of Escargot, Salad, Duck Confit, note that the glass that was originally in the upper left-hand corner of the photo is not in the final composition. I cropped the photo to remove the glass and made a minor perspective correction so that viewers zoom in on the food only. I applied white balance correction to remove the orange colouring cast the in the “before” shots. Doing this makes the natural colours of the food pop without any need for colour enhancements. My tools of choice for post production editing are Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Coral Paint Shop Pro. Unlike graphics artists who turn actors and actresses into alabaster dolls, I avoid manipulating food photos to the point of practically recreating a mockery of the original composition. Yes, I correct colour casts, remove artifacts, and crop to fill the frame. Still, I prefer not to detract from the original composition unnecessarily.

Not everyone who photographs food will be as overzealous with their photography as I am. In many cases, untouched photos do a better job of putting viewers at the table. I have often thought of my photos as looking staged. I look at past photos I captured years ago when I started blogging. They were some cool shots that came to life thanks to my point-and-shoot Konika-Minolta. My hobby is an addiction and there is no way that I want to let you see my passion in an unappetizing way. Wait, was that a bad pun? If only I could edit it the way that I do my photographs.