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Best of Chicago 2012 » Food & Drink

Best 500-Calorie "Sack Lunch" 

Allium's Brown Bag special at Bloomingdale's

In the bag—well, actually on china—are three courses: an asparagus-leek terrine, grilled wild salmon with beet quinoa and English pea relish, and a scoop of chocolate sorbet. And, yes, they really do total less than 500 calories. Chef Kevin Hickey says the inspiration for this limited-time collaboration came with the transformation of Seasons, the Four Seasons' fine-dining establishment, into Allium, where he's offering seasonal "anti-hotel dining." Pastry chef Scott Gerken's sorbet—just 32 calories or so per serving—was an early hit off the new menu, and guests were clamoring for more healthy fare. "I've struggled with weight my whole life," says Hickey. "I know that one sandwich at 600 to 700 calories isn't going to help you out." So for his first course he went with green and white market asparagus and leeks, blanched rather than sauteed to make his terrine free of fat and dairy. Grilled salmon, a natural, was paired with beets and peas for their sweetness, which helps satisfy cravings; quinoa—whose caloric content made it "a challenge," Hickey says—adds texture and fiber. And the secret to that ultra-low-cal sorbet? French chocolate that's 99 percent cocoa, hence practically free of fat. Available Monday through Friday, the lunch is served at the Bobbi Brown counter in Bloomingdale's, where it comes with a makeover and a Little Brown Bag cosmetics clutch.

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(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)