Friday, December 5, 2014

The Lyric Opera vs Bar Takito

What shenanigans has me waking up at 6  o'clock in the morning? the Lyric Opera! Last September 6, 2014, the Lyric Opera once again opened it's vault of costumes. It had been a decade since the costume vault did such a thing. The possibility of obtaining a ridiculous cape and ball gown to wear as I clean my living room, shouting out "The Queen of the Night Aria" from the Magic Flute Opera by Mozart, was something I could not miss!

Dull eyed and disheveled tail, I envisioned rows of velvet, sequins, chiffon, and whatever man made materials have been created. I'm so excited I could literally smell that waft of moth balls in the air! I started my trek to the Lyric to meet up with Karla Fantastic, who shares the same  affection for early morning shopping insanity.  Hey, the early bird gets the worm right? 
Courtesy of Google
Wrong! We were not early! We were late, we were very late for this important date! The line was 5 people deep surrounding the city block! Eh...I'll just clean my living room wearing sane people clothes. Let's go eat instead!

Look at the bridge closely. Those are people in line!
The velvety lining to my shattered operatic dreams was the fact that Bar Takito is open for brunch to feed the hungry monster in me that had been belting out baritone sounds of "FEED ME!" 

Upon arriving, we were greeted by a bright and sunshiny space and a friendly host, who convinced me that it's not that early in my world. An empty Bar Takito was a refreshing contrast to the pandemonium I just witnessed. I guess it was that early that we practically opened this place. KF and I couldn't help but play pretend VIP...the only VIP we can afford. Ha!

Feeling the need to get in our vitamins and minerals, we were looking for something fresh. Our bright eyed server Steven recommended  "Aji," to which I quickly exclaimed, "oh fish!" No! It's a sauce made with spices, it almost tasted like an elevated salsa verde.

Next up, Tacos!

Coffee Braised Beef Taco: Beer tortilla,queso Oaxaca, pickled squash, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and peanuts. I bit in to this thinking that I would get a second cup of coffee. It was far from that. I almost could not tell that there was coffee, but at the same time, there was a nice earthy warm flavor that just envelopes your senses...maybe that was the coffee. I was not disappointed at all!

Pork Belly Taco: Turmeric tortilla, smoked queso fresco, aji amarillo, pickled jicama, arugula, pepitas. The only thing I can say about this taco is..."get it!" The pork belly says it all!
For the big finish...

I can't remember what the chocolate square looking dessert was called! How horrible! In any case, it reminds me of  a tres leches cake soaked in chocolate milk. Delicious! The floral dessert that looks like a Hawaiian vacation is  the Popcorn Butterscotch Mouse, which is sprinkled with almond crunch. I just had a nibble of this, and I do get the popcorn butterscotch flavor, but I vote for the chocolate square; whatever it's called. Just show the friendly folks at Bar Takito this picture and point to it!

As early as it was, the food and the great service at Bar Takito was a winner, the whole experience was like a good morning greeting accompanied by a mariachi band. This early bird turned out to have gotten the worm after all, but it would have even been better if I was wearing the garb I was imagining I would find in the vault.

Oh Karla Fantastic says..."Hi Steven!"


Sunday, October 5, 2014

GPS! Are We in The Right Place? @ Takito Kitchen

Remember that time we called summer, when the hot asphalt was covered with swells of street fests? Warming up in a hoodie as I write this in 40F something weather  is suffocating my brain cells, and I'm starting to forget! Before I completely erase the remnants of summer 2014 clean, let me take you on a reminiscing journey. It was one hot Sunday in what was a not so hot summer in Chicago, and my friend Honeybadger (HB), badgered me to get out and get some sun! OK fine! I have some noshing redemption to do because I mistakenly took HB to a mexican place that I would not be caught blogging about... the fact that we ordered chicken fingers in a mexican spot says it all. It was just convenient ok! So enter my pick for redemption....Bar Takito. I excitedly poked my GPS to take us there! As I obediently followed it,  I was salivating as I raved to HB all about this place, and how it just opened..blah blah blah. Screech! Halt! Alto! Why are we in Wicker Park in the thick of a streetfest and not the West Loop?!!! GPS took us to Takito Kitchen instead! Well, streetfest + patio + margarita = feels like summer anyway so...let's live in this moment! 

Let's get this party started with their seasonal Blueberry Tequila. Staring at the rim I wondered, "is this cinnamon sugar?" Sip sip...NO it's salt and something spicy!  I somehow acquired the sweet, sour, spicy...but not salty margarita, and this one almost fits the bill. It did not taste like fake blueberry juice, but actual smashed up berries. No cough syrup here my friends. I'de like another one or five please...with a straw on it!

To satisfy the need for solid food, we ordered these....

Yucatan Style Chicken Taco on corn tortilla, recado verde, pepitas, ricotta cheese, corn kimchi, & scallions: I saw the word Kimchi, and was immediately intrigued with the unity of Korea and Mexico. Kimchi is an acquired taste, which I haven't quite acquired, but on this taco, I'm ready for an acquisition. This is a union that I will not object to! It gave the chicken a unique tang. The pepitas or pumkin seeds sprinkled all throughout  provided an earthy balance, and a nice texture addition. Nom nom crunch! The use of ricotta cheese seemed so seamless, it's as if tacos have always been made with with them for centuries!

Maple Creek Pork Belly Taco on sesame tortilla, morita salsa, Oaxan cheese, pickled onions, arugula, avocado, & peanuts : They need to rename this taco as "My Favorite Things Taco!" As I have said in a previous post, pork belly is just another word for bacon, but meatier. The homey flavor hug of the pork belly was brightened up by the arugula, and the avocado provided me with a sense of comfort that this will ward off the hangover, and at the same time allowing me to pretend that it's all healthy fat...even the pork fat! I pretended to save room for my post meal ice cream ritual, so I carried my take out box in and around the streetfest like I was carrying a diamond. I counted the hours until it's acceptable to eat again. Oh glorious leftovers.
 My GPS leading me to do a wrong turn turned out oh so right! I'm going to tell my GPS to take me back to this place stat! If you are a lover of mexican food with a twist, Takito Kitchen is your kind of kitchen. Mission food redemption accomplished! Oh yah, about Bar Takito...I made it there eventually! Stay tuned for that story.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

What?! We're Eating at The Mall?! @e+o

Wanting something out of the ordinary and close to "Chiburbia" ( Chicago suburbs), I recalled hearing that Chef Rodelio Aglibot, who is responsible for everything delicious at Sunda , has brought his culinary genius to Randhurst Mall in Mt. Prospect called E+O. Knowing what this guy can do to food, I did not even flinch at the thought of eating at the mall...and they have pappardelle!

House made pappardelle, short rib, sour cream:
Of course! What did you expect? Well, I actually expected the typical Italian tomato sauce as the short rib ragu. Oh no no! The ragu had an earthy beef stew nature, with a hint of sweetness. It reminded me of a really good pulled pork sauce. Swirling the sour cream around turned the sauce into one creamy slurp of heaven! Oh yeah...clean plate club.

My noshing partner for this adventure is my friend Dr. Cracker (D.C.) He had the steak, but I don't recall what it was called, but I remember it having a roasted fenel bulb. Prior to this experience, I did not know what a fenel bulb looks like or tastes like. It had a meaty but celery crunch, and it seems that it would take on seasonings very well. D.C. is a big steak snob, often stating that his fillet mignon trumps most steak houses out there...he actually liked this.

The Chiburbia culinary adventure was too good not to do I did! This time, I dragged Karla Fantastic. She was filled with doubt as I nonchalantly said "We're going to eat at the mall." I can't believe she agreed to this idea.

 She had the Kale Salad with bulgur, parsley, lemon, pecorino, currants,pine nuts, sweet onions, and olive oil. Holy medley of flavor and textures! There were different types of crunches that I experienced in one bite, and I swear there was lobster in there, although it wasn't mentioned. I heard that the next day leftovers of this dish was even better!

Another dish was the Double or Nothing Sushi with shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, mango, albacore, salmon, tuna, escolar, sesame sauce, tobiko, and nori. This did not need to swim in the pool of soy sauce and wasabi. I think if I had access to that, I most likely would've ruined the flavor masterpiece.

My insatiable craving for carbs won again, and I ended up with the Smoked Chicken Carbonara with fusilli pasta,duck skin, peas, pecorino, and duck skin! Just put a bird on it!...bird egg, bird, bird skin. Everything is indeed better with an egg on top. The egg made a creamy sauce that enveloped the spiral noodles. The peaceful zen as my teeth digs into the carbs is shaken by the crunchy duck skin. Shake me some more!!!  Oh I have news goose...I had left overs! I popped this in the microwave the next day, waiting to eat pasta in a a pool of oil as most carbonara dishes suffer from. To my delight, there was no sign of an oil pool. It tasted like it did when it was first served! 

E+O number 3! In celebration of being born, a little catering stumbled on my office. The smorgasbord included chicken sandwiches with lemon aioli, garden ciabatta sandwich for the vegetarians, turkey sandwiches and crab cake sandwiches with avocado and lemon remoulade. Being that it was my birthday, I felt adventurous, and put my mild seafood allergy to the test. I picked the crab cake sandwich. No benadryl needed. That my noshers is the true test of freshness. I somehow only itch when it's not fresh. The crab cake was real crab cake, and not just filler cake, and the avocado and lemon remoulade joined forces to create a creamy and tangy medley in my mouth! 
For dessert, were donut hole looking things, but it tasted like carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies, and thumbprint cookies. To take these sweet things to the next level, it came with chocolate and creme anglaise type dipping sauces. Oh was it hard to leave the lunch room.

No cocktails were served during lunch, but they do serve strong but amazing craft cocktails. Call me a lightweight, but one was enough. Remember you still have to drive out of Chiburbia! 

This place is definitely worth breaking out of the city bubble for! Multiple experiences of this place has proven it! Oh and their outdoor patio makes you forget you're within mall limits. Breathe in the fresh Chiburban air. Now hop in your rental car, eat at E+O before you head on over to Ikea...yes it's close to Ikea.

The inside looks like this...



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

OhMyGosh! Cookie Dough Buckeyes!

Some people's passion are just so strong and infectious, you couldn't help but subscribe to their cause. Enter The Great Dane's love affair with the Ohio State Buckeyes. I however, have no affiliations with any of the Big 10 teams. Coming from a small private university gives me a lot of wiggle room to root for the team of whoever was throwing a party. Go Meat!

Ok, maybe TGD has infected me with a little bit of enthusiasm. I mean, look at this mascot! It's just waiting for a hug!
Scrolling through my Pinterest board of things to do, I came across Something Swanky's   Cookie Dough Buckeyes recipe! The traditional buckeye is made out of  peanut butter and chocolate. Call me crazy, but I'm not crazy over peanut butter and chocolate combinations. Wait! Don't get me wrong, if you present me with a peanut butter cup, I will gladly eat it!

So with the OSU kickoff extravaganza that TGD has planned, it was only appropriate to make some buckeyes...for breakfast! Oh the joy of before-noon games.

 Let the kitchen adventure begin! 

My personal twist on this adventure calls for the following ingredients:

-1/2 cup butter
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-1/2 tsp salt. I decided to be fancy, and used Cabernet salt
-1 1/4 cup flour
-1/4 cup milk. WHOLE milk is preferred. I just feel that it's how mother nature intended it.
-Approximately 1 cup of chocolate chips. It will help if you have a bag of it. Need I convince you?
-Splash of vanilla. I wish I had an actual vanilla bean.

Candy Melts for dipping.

This is how you do it...
Cream the brown sugar and softened butter together, then dump the rest of the ingredients in! Oh, if you need explicit instructions, don't dump the Candy Melts in!

I used my 70's style hand mixer to mix everything. It makes it so much more civilized than wrestling with the bowl and a spatula...just be careful about cranking the mixer up too high too soon. It's snowing...flour!

When everything is well combined,  go wash you hands and sing your ABC's, and start forming them into balls. I used a melon baller to get them as close to uniform sized as possible, and shaped them with my impeccably clean hands.

For the Candy Melt, since it's just chocolate colored and fake flavored, I added a few handfuls of the chocolate chips to give it a chocolatey kick. Approximately 2:1 Candy Melt to chocolate chip ratio. I used a toothpick as a dipping utensil, and then just smoothed out the toothpick holes after the chocolate has hardened.

O.H. I. O! Ready for kickoff! 
TGD was impressed by this arrangement.

Great success! OSU beat the Navy  37-17...and that this did not make it in the Pinterest fail club. So shocked! My addition of the Cabarnet salt balanced out the sweetness of everything. Sometimes, you get a flake of the salt, which was a welcomed depth of flavor. Adding the chocolate chips to the Candy Melt made the chocolate coating taste like I slaved over tempering chocolate.  It was a sweet pre-game treat...and post game celebration gorge fest. 

Time to scroll through Pinterest for more things to do in the kitchen that does not require fire.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Wine and a Movie @ City Winery

 If you're wondering what Mistaken for Strangers is all about, watch this trailer!

"Hey! Do you wanna go see a movie?" My constant response to that question is usually "Meh..." Well, this time, I actually said yes to a movie without hesitation. Karla Fantastic scored tickets to the documentary Mistaken for Strangers, at City Winery My brain automatically drowned out the word movie, and just heard food and wine! Let's do this!
The documentary is viewed through the eyes of Tom Berninger, who's the brother of The National's frontman Matt Berninger. It takes you through Tom's rough journey as his brother's roadie, where you see the stark contrast between awkward, needing to be launched Tom, and his rock star brother. If you're a big fan of The National, you might be able to pick through little details that might add an interesting element to this, where as I recieved it as a flat lined documentary that probably would not have gained such notoriety without it being tied to The Nationals.  There were moments where I chuckled, but they were few and far between...and fueled by half priced wine. K.F. and I discussed that perhaps Mommy Berninger was like..."Matt, help out your brother . Give him a shot."

This was how it looks like to watch a movie at City Winery. Not bad.
Enough with the movie, let's talk taste bud entertainment! 

My Libation of choice was the West Loop White 2013: I picked this wine by way of "When in Rome..." I believe it was a sauvignon blanc / riesling combination. Ok I'm not a wine expert, but my untrained palate experienced sweet, light, and tangy notes. I felt that it could have used a little hint of the refreshing factor, but it did not quite hit the mark. It was not bad for the price. 
I'm going to steal this beaker idea for my next soiree.

City Winery subscribes to the shareable plate movement. Being that it was after work on a Tuesday, I was ready to eat carbs! Lots of it!

Dipping Flight: It's a Pita party, with pools of Humus, Babaganuj, and Muhammara. Is it safe to assume that most Noshers know and have had humus? It's basically creamed up chickpeas. Dippin-licious! Babaganuj or Babaganoush is an Arabic dish made from mushed up egglants. This is my first time eating this! I always thought that the name had a fun ring to it. The Muhammara is a paste of peppers...etc. As my pita took a nose dive into the different dips, I could not really make out the difference from the three pools. I was expecting the muhammara to be spicy, but not so much. I still enjoyed the carb fest enough to not even notice that the pita tasted a little stale until K.F. pointed it out. How hungry was I?

Roast Pork Belly: "sarsaparilla seasoning, savory french toast, maple-bourbon sauce." Holy pig! This amazing! I'm such a fan of sweet and savory dishes, but this one is just a cut above. The french toast was fluffy in the middle, but still had a nice crunch that complemented the buttery pork belly. I wanted more of the french toast to sop up the the maple-bourbon sauce. I can eat this for breakfast...but ER trips for chest pains would totally make me late for work. 
 Braised Duck Tacos: "guacamatillo salsa, cabage salad, white tortilla." When you think duck, you think fat, and possibly greasy. This taco was the opposite of that. It was tender, not greasy. The cabbage added a nice texture, and gave it a fresh flavor. It almost tasted healthy, but the delicious kind of healthy. The guacamatillo was like a guacamole crema. It was a great dipping complement, adding richness to the tacos. It did not leave me wanting spicy salsa.

That's the end? We'll that was how I felt about the movie. With the movie over, it was time to get the party started! Dessert time! 

With it being such a beautiful crisp summer night, it was only appropriate to enjoy dessert al fresco. City Winery's outdoor patio makes me think of how summers are spent in Vino Town, Italy ( Yes, I made that place up). 

Again, "When in Rome..." was utilized with picking my sugar of choice.

 Summer-Time Snowball: "chocolate mouse, marshmallow creme filling, flourless chocolate care, pistachio sauce, pistachio tuile, pistachio gelato, toasted coconut." The long list of what comprises this delicious dome describes it best. I tasted every bit of it with each bite. It tasted exactly how I imagined that list would taste like... but can I have more gelato?

Despite the lack luster documentary, and the not so flavorful dipping flight, the rest of the meal deserve a repeat visit, and who would not want to take another trip to the friendly vineyard of Vino Town, Italy?