Monday, May 4, 2009

Grilling at home - Beer Can chicken

Beautiful Chicago weather (finally) led to a desire to cook something outside and have some friends over. Thus my third trip down beer can chicken lane.

I have a very reliable recipe from the folks at Cooks Illustrated, and proceeded to make three chickens, braised kale, broccoli salad, German potato salad, sour cream muffins, and blondies for dessert.

Everything was pretty good, but there were nine people, and the completely devoured all three chickens. In a very short amount of time. The kale was great. I always forget how much I love kale. The muffins were a first try and were surprisingly good for having only 3 ingredients. The chicken was delicious and moist, but I need to get the skin crisper all the way around. there were some non-crisp skin sections, but the chicken was still good.

And blondies are my go-to dessert on short notice. I always have the ingredients, and I can make them in 30 minutes including baking and oven heating time.

Good times.....

Afternoon weekday dining - Hop Leaf

Sorry for the time between posts. Life gets in the way sometimes. Luckily I have a number of posts to make, I just have to go through and write them. Last Monday night I had a visit from Jayadev, one of our writers from Connecticut. He got in to Chicago around 4, and neither of us had eaten lunch. This means that we could get to one of the great Chicago food and drink establishments before the after work crowd.

The Hopleaf is a "gastropub" in the traditional sense of the word. Large and varied beer selection, well prepared upscale bar food with a European spin. They have a few good things on their menu. The brisket is fine, the ham and cheese sandwich is great, and the frites with aioli are AMAZING. But I'm trying to expand my seafood horizons. I've never been a fan of fish or seafood (perhaps because I've only lived in Idaho and Chicago, both rather landlocked), but I really like the preparation of fish and seafood. So I'm trying to force myself to like more of it. I had a decent mussels experience a few months ago, so Jayadev and I got the mussells and frites for two. I know the Hopleaf is famous for their mussels, so I thought it might work out. if not, I had the frites to fall back on.

I started with a cold asparagus soup. Forgettable. Only mentioning for completeness.

Then the mussels and frites. Frites were awesome. No surprise. The mussels had the right texture and flavor, and I was able to finish my portion. I still don't love them, but I do love dipping bread in the broth left over. I have been made to understand that everyone loves the broth, and there may be other people who only eat mussels to get to the bottom of the bucket. I do think I had a bit of "mussel fatigue" (sorry about the pun) as I got towards the bottom. Just got a little tired of the experience, but I definitely filled up on them, and will do so again I'm sure.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Weekday dining - Tweet

This is hopefully the first in a somewhat regular series about dining in Chicago... On weekdays... At popular breakfast and lunch spots... When the rest of the city is working. I work on most weekends, leaving me with two weekdays off each week. Chicago has a great roster of breakfast / brunch and lunch places that get PACKED on weekends. Lines out the door and around the block. But for most of these places, if you show up on a Thursday at 10am, there's no wait. Not bad.

Even though I went last week, I went to Tweet again this week. How else can I devote an entire post to a restaurant if I do it from memory? I met up with Ryan, Michelle, and James, who had just finished walking around Montrose beach. (Yes, i should have walked too. I didn't.) Our servers were the 2 guys who are always there on Thursdays: Ted, and another very nice competent server whose name I don't know. After the usual jokes about having no biscuits and gravy available, we got down to business.

First, coffee. I am only recently a coffee drinker, and I use way more cream and sugar than most people can handle, but I do like good coffee. And they brew good coffee. And there's a fresh cup of cream that appears on the table when you order the coffee. I do like that better than plastic cups of half and half.

They do LOTS of things well at Tweet. Literally every time I go, I get the biscuits and gravy.

And I usually 2 eggs on the side, and hashbrowns. I didn't bother with a picture of the eggs:

The biscuits are always fresh, the gravy is well seasoned and has lots of sausage, and the hash browns are amazing. The pictures don't do any of it justice. The hash browns look rather ordinary, perhaps like they were frozen. Let me assure you this is not the case. They are just cooked to a perfect golden brown, and have this amazing richness to them. I finally asked why they were so good. The answer: cooked in 100% clarified butter. Hmm. Naturally.

How do I know the other stuff is good? Because I eat of of other plates, obviously. I can say that Tweet has the best French toast I've ever had in Chicago. This is what Michelle's order looked like today. Sorry about the shadows from the sun.

Looks good, right?

Ryan always gets the vegetarian biscuits and gravy. I've never tried them. I can't wrap my head around vegetarian gravy. Don't you need animal fat and pan drippings for gravy? But he seems to like it:

And James got some sort of a breakfast burrito. They have a whole list of them. You order by number. This might have been # 5:

I must say, it was a great meal. Ted brought us out some complimentary fresh squeezed orange juice. It's part of our VIP treatment. I would highly recommend that anyone in the area try out Tweet for breakfast or brunch. Just be forewarned, if you go on a weekend, you WILL wait quite awhile.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Philly: Checking In, Dining Out

I feel terrible. I haven't posted to this site in too long, and it's not like I haven't been eating. I don't have a good excuse, but I promise to try to do better in the future. So, back to the eating and reporting. I don't have anything amazing on the burner (ha HA!) so to speak, mostly because I'm sitting in class and can only remember the bowl of cereal I had for breakfast. BUT...I have plans. Stay tuned for upcoming editions of Scrumptudelphia on topics including:

*Inexpensive-yet-invaluable Mexican food delivered rain or shine by bike from El Jarocho.

*Luchalibre masks and white pants juxtaposed with myriad ceviches, tongue tacos and savory bone marrow from DISTRITO.

*The new and improved Drew Coursin Cookies (now with TWO POUNDS OF M&Ms per batch!)

*The merits of Belgian street waffles eaten neither in Belgium nor on the street.

*And more!!

In addition to new content, be prepared for the stellar input of co-gormands including Jax, Smash and the lovely M. Hurray!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

... The next night

You should all read the previous post. The food is much more interesting, and there is a brief discussion of my return to food blogging.

But this is what pushed me into posting again:

Nothing exciting there. It's four Vienna Beef polish sausages that I grilled along with some onions. Got home from work Saturday, wanted to fix something quick, saw the sausages in the fridge, and literally 9 minutes later had this plate of food ready for Akira and I to eat. Had some leftover collards greens, some jalepeno krunchers chips, and some rather turgid grape tomatoes. There was nothing special about the meal, but that plate of food looked good. So I took a picture. And decided I wanted to share it somewhere.

And I remembered the blog.

Not sure when I'll post again. We'll see.

**Tap Tap** Is this thing on?

Is it possible to resurrect a food blog, even one that never had a high readership?

No idea.

But I have been thinking quite a bit recently about the great food city that I live in.

It's Chicago, for those of you who don't know...

In any case, I have had some money concerns recently, and I've realized that I still eat some pretty amazing food. Mainly because I live in a great food city, probably also because I prioritize food as an essential expense. There are SO MANY great food options here, even on a tighter budget.

So I thought I'd explore some of those, and maybe try to entice a few of my co-bloggers back.

They don't know that I am posting right now, and all of their lives have changed quite a bit since they last posted. However, I'm pretty sure they are all eating interesting things.

I work an odd schedule. I only worked a partial day on Wednesday, then had Thursday and Friday off, and worked all weekend. As I described the gluttony of Wednesday through Friday to my boss, it hit me that I enjoyed that span of eating so much, I should probably tell the world about it. The world, in this case, consists of my co-workers and my roommates. That's a small group, so I thought I'd post it here.

Wednesday. 4/1/09. As a tribute to my mom, who is from Wisconsin and whose birthday is on April first, I had to leave work early so as to avoid going into overtime for the week. Since I was heading through the southwest suburbs back to my apartment, I realized that if I took a certain path home, I would go by a Culver's. This place is a Wisconsin based fast food chain that has started to spread out quite a bit. To my palate, they tie with In-N-Out for best fast food burger ever. So I had a late lunch there around 2 pm. Double Butterburger with cheese basket is only $4.99 right now. Great food, great price. Called my mom to wish her a Happy Birthday. She was jealous, and then gave me a guilt trip for not flying to Boise to surprise her for her birthday. Serves me right for going to Culver's alone. That experience should be shared.

Thursday. Woke up. Roommate # 1, the Asian one, was off last week, and roommate # 2, the student, doesn't have class on Thursdays. I arranged to meet up with Rick, the new dad, for an early lunch at Hot Doug's. Akira (roommate # 1) and Joe (roommate # 2) both agreed to come. So we went to Doug's at 10:45 am. It's been discussed on this blog before, but I'm too lazy to look for it and link to it. Hot Doug's is one of the best restaurants in Chicago. No one will agree with this until they actually go there, but trust me. Or trust the internet. Do a google search, or just go the link I included a few sentences ago and look at the specials menu. His food is REAL. His food is CHEAP. His food is AMAZING. Best fries I've ever had. Anyway, I had the Cinci style chili dog, 'cause everyone was doing it, and I had the Burgundy Wine Pork Sausage with Bacon-Garlic Mayonnaise and Camembert Cheese. And shared some fries. It was unspeakably good. Anyone who wants to visit Chicago, this place has to be on your itinerary. Get in touch with me. I'll take you.

After lunch, I realized I wanted to make Collard Greens. I like the idea of greens. I have a fascination with "Southern Food." I watched the Good Eats episode about greens. So I wanted to make them. Couldn't make them as a meal unto themselves, so I plotted what else to make. I realized I wanted something grilled. Joe's mom provided us with some home grown ground beef. So I thawed that and made an America's Test Kitchen-based recipe for Well Done burgers. (I have a slight fear of underdone ground beef unless it is ground to order). I also made the oven baked onion rings from the same ATK episode, and sour cream and onion smashed potatoes. Not the healthiest of meals, but it was REALLY good. The burgers were superb, the onion rings were surprisingly good, the potatoes were a little runnier than I usually like, but definitely delicious, and the Collards were GREAT. I need to investigate these hearty greens a little more. Usually if I go down that route it's just kale, but mustard greens and turnip greens are now calling ti me. As for the burgers, home grown ANYTHING is so amazing, and that includes beef. Can't say enough about it. And it was a relatively cheap meal. The beef was free, for us, and then everything else was less than a dollar a pound. Potatoes? Collards? Onions? Cheap! The most expensive part of the meal was the ham hock that went into the greens! Oh, yeah. I almost forgot the chocolate mocha cake with chocolate marscapone mocha frosting that I made. It was pretty good, too. All of the roommates joined me for dinner (Akira, Joe, Dane and Hensley), and Leo made an appearance as well.

Friday I woke up and went for an 11 am brunch at Tweet. Tweet may have made it on to the blog before, too, but just in case, let me tell you something. They have the best biscuits and gravy in Chicago, as well as the best hash browns. (I use hyperbole a lot, but they really are that good). They also have a cool space to work in, and very nice waitstaff. Went with David, a friend I used to work with. It was a great time, and we had some great food. Truth be told, I go to Tweet almost every week, so it will make a return appearance here at some point I'm sure. It's not the cheapest breakfast in town, but for quality AND quantity, it can't be beat. Another place I would travel a long way to visit.

Friday night some friends wanted to go to That Little Mexican Cafe. It's a cool place with great margaritas, very good guacamole, and a grilled pork tenderloin entree that really makes me happy. Good company with David, Ryan, James, and Alan. Good food. Easily the most expensive meal I ate over the past few days, but it was worth it. Plus David paid because I agreed to drive him to my place, give him some chocolate cake, and then drive him home. Definitely worth it.

All of that eating in the span of two and a half days made me realize that I missed writing about food, even for the small audience, but the meal that made me sit back down and start typing again came the next night...