June 2010 Archives

All Our Dreams Came True

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Last night, Fuzzy and I did something that we've been dreaming about for years.

We made our own ice cream.

I have to start by making a confession. I think the world knows that I hate Woot.com but the other night, Fuzzy came in and said the following: "Um, I don't want to upset you, but there is a really deal right now for ice cream makers on Woot." My hatred for Woot was overshadowed by my love of homemade ice cream and a good bargain. So we got it.

And it is glorious. Shiny and red, like our toaster oven. And last night, we let 'er spin. We started with a simple vanilla, but I can't wait to try fun flavors and the slushy cocktail that they included a recipe for.

Tonight we try the full frozen version, but we couldn't help but give the "soft serve" a little taste. It was Super Yum!

UPDATE: The homemade ice cream is AMAZING! Icy and sweet and delish. WE DID IT! 


First Ice Cream.jpg

Fuzzy adds:

The model of ice cream maker we got was a Cuisinart ICE-25-R. It's the kind of ice cream maker that has a special bowl that you freeze ahead of time. The advantage over the older style of icecream maker is that you don't have to keep supply of rock salt on hand. The disadvantage is that you have to clear out space in the freezer and freeze the bowl for 6-24 hours ahead of time, depending on how cold your freezer is. And if you want to make two batches in a row, you'll have to have an extra bowl and even more space in the freezer.

We started with the simplest recipe in the booklet that came with the machine: a cup of milk, 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 cups of cream, vanilla extract. Right out of the machine after 25 minutes of churning, the consistency of the ice cream was much like soft serve, and it melted pretty quickly. But after overnighting in the freezer (the recipe book said at least 4 hours) it was a nice ice-creamy consistency.

My Summer of Flights--The Duke of Perth

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I like to have a special theme for my drinking each summer--just a little something fun to sample and learn about. Since two years ago was my "Summer of White" and last year was my "Summer of Weiss Beer," I dedided that 2007 would be my "Summer of Flights." To kick things off, Fuzzy and I decided to try the Duke of Perth's Whiskey Flights. Since we're big fans of the Duke of Perth (and their fish and chips), we've been eyeballing them for some time, but we always find ourselves with a car, or a show or some other reason to not drink. So when we found we had last Friday free, we went for it!Whiskey flightsThey offer 4 flights--three of them are $18 each, and one is a whammy of a $70 flight, each with a different theme. Fuzzy opted for the Roving Dover, and I dove into the For Peat's Sake. As well as three samples each, they provide menus for each flight with descriptions of each's Nose, Body, Palate, and Finish. From left to right, they were weaker to stronger (not that the weakest was "weak"), and I found that my favorite was the first one, a Talisker 10 year from Skye. Likewise, Fuzzy's first one was his favorite, a Glenkinchie 10 year from Lowland. I was glad that our food came quickly, cause samples of six whiskeys on an empty stomach could have made for a different evening.All in all, it was delicious, and the awesome atmosphere (the patio is open!), friendly waitstaff, and delicious food and drinks makes this Highly Recommended in my book!The Duke of Perth is at 2913 N. Clark Street in Lakeview.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblogs, Jun 12, 2007: My Summer of Flights--The Duke of Perth)

They were mighty warriors...

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From the menu at Opera:

Crisp Eight Immortal Squid Garlic Mayonnaise, Sweet Chili, 5 Spice Dipping Salt
Ah, the Crisp Eight Immortal Squid. They were a mighty lot, forced to roam the earth...wreaking havoc any chance they could. Only one man could take away their power, which was also their curse...one man and his boiling pot. That man is the great and mighty Chef Paul Wildermuth.But alas, this is a tale for another time, dear children. Now eat your dinner and run to bed.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblogs, Apr 10, 2007: They were mighty warriors...)

Bacon Strip Pancakes

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So this picture made the internet rounds a few weeks ago, an old Rath Bacon/Aunt Jemima cross-promotion ad (seemly first posted here) and I forwarded it to Erica with a reflexive "want!"

Bacon Strip Pancakes

But this last weekend I realized that unlike a lot of bacon extravagances, bacon strip pancakes are pretty achievable. And achieve them I did. Now, my bacon didn't lay quite as flat, nor was my homemade pancake batter quite as smooth as the ad:

Bacon Strip Pancakes

And here they are as part of a complete breakfast:

Bacon Strip Pancakes

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, May 6, 2010: Bacon Strip Pancakes)

BBQ Hash

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When Erica and I were on our honeymoon in Sante Fe, we had an incredible BBQ Brisket Hash at the Cowgirl BBQ. It has, well, let me quote the menu, "Cowgirl's spicy smoked brisket hash has potatoes and bacon and is
topped with two poached organic eggs, Hollandaise sauce and flour tortillas". So, pretty fancy. What I've been making at home is much less fancy, but fully 75% as tasty. So here's my recipe:

Order some BBQ for dinner and order a little too much--a full slab is almost always cheaper than twice a half slab. Saturday night we got Bar-B-Que Bob's delivered and got pork ribs, beef ribs, and a free small rib tips with a coupon. So we had almost all the beef ribs left over, and plenty of fries. In the morning, cut the meat off the bone and cut into bite-size pieces. Cut the left over fries into thirds or so. Heat up the meat and fries in a frying pan. When they're warm, throw in a couple eggs and scramble together. Serve.


(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, Jan 18, 2010: BBQ Hash)

Punch Party Recipes

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Erica and punch

A couple of weeks ago we saw a Good Eats episode about punch that really struck our fancy and so we decided to have a genteel little get-together to try out the recipe (since it involves whole bottles of champagne, it's not really something you can just make a glass or two of). It was also a good opportunity to make some fancy appetizer recipes we'd been eyeing.

The punch was even tastier than I'd hoped, but it had a kick to it for sure.


Here's the menu with links to the original recipes, and I've also included the recipes with any variations we used after the jump, for my own future reference.

And it wasn't a fancy appetizer, per se, but we did also have some leftover Green chile pork stew with potatoes from the night before, recipe from Making Light.

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, Jul 20, 2009: Punch Party Recipes)

Haribo Cocktail Acid

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Haribo Cocktail Acid

Yeah man! Score some of this Acid and you'll be seeing frogs and fried eggs and cokes and alien egg pods just floating in the air, dude. And everything is, like, electric. Whoa.

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, Dec 29, 2008: Haribo Cocktail Acid)

Christmas Menu

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Cassoulet - serving suggestion

I don't remember how we got it in our heads, but Erica and I decided that a cassoulet would be the perfect dish to make for our first Christmas together in Chicago. When I'm making something rustic, I hate to trust just one source (recipes like that are made to be adapted) so I looked at both the Les Halles and How to Cook Everything recipes, but ended up going (mostly) with a recipe from the website of the Amateur Gourmet.

I'm a big fan of duck and so I was really excited to try making duck confit as step one of the recipe. Top Chef Chicago had lulled me into believing that I could walk into any Whole Foods and have a great selection of duck. Maybe so if I had gone to the same one on Halsted that the contestants were always going to, but we went to the one up in Evanston that used to be a Wild Oats (in the middle of Tuesday's snowstorm, so I was not inclined to dash about town searching for ingredients). The only duck they had was a whole, frozen Muscovy duck that was going to set us back $90. We picked up some chicken legs instead. And their selection of sausage was also pretty slim, so I picked up some Dominick's brand Italian sausage on Christmas Eve.

The cassoulet was in the oven about an hour longer than I thought it would be, but since it was just the two of us, there was no one waiting on the dinner and we just had some toast and jam to tide us over. And I left it under the broiler (to brown the bread crumbs) just a hair long and burned the very top layer of bread crumbs and had to scrape it off. But otherwise it was perfect. The three meats (the chicken, sausage, and bacon) infused the beans with so much flavor it was ridiculous.

I also made a chocolate hazelnut tart (from the Les Halles cookbook) and it didn't firm up quite as much as I thought it would, but even melty chocolate and hazelnuts is still chocolate and hazelnuts. And it went especially well with Intelligentsia espresso (I finally got the stovetop espresso maker working right-- thanks Becky and Andy!).

When it came time for some dinner, we both thought that that leftover cassoulet might be a little rich for a second meal in the same day. Tuesday night we had gone out to Laschet's Inn for German food with Kate and Dan. With the memory of that still in our heads, some spaetzle and gravy seemed like the perfect sort of capper to the day. We had some Chachere's instant gravy in the cabinet and spaetzle can't be that hard to make, can it? Indeed, it isn't. Yum.

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, Dec 25, 2008: Christmas Menu)

Earthquake Chips

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Earthquake Chips

Man, "Earthquake" flavor. Oh, I'm sorry "Earthquake brand flavor". That's got to be some sort of flavor explosion! What's that you say, California Chips? "A perfect blend of all our flavors shaken into one!" Sounds great.

Orrrrr.... maybe they just taste like regular BBQ chips only with about 1/4 of the flavoring. Boringest earthquake ever.

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, Dec 14, 2008: Earthquake Chips)

Bacon Party 2: Bakin' with Bacon

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The Bacon selection

Ryan mentioned to Erica, as one does in conversation, that he had a chocolate-chip/bacon cookie recipe that he wanted to make again, but that it would take a special occasion because it was a bit of work. Erica told him about our bacon/fashion evening and suggested that maybe just "cooking a bunch of bacon" might be enough of special occasion. Everyone agreed. Bacon Party!

The menu:

  • mulled wine (just because it's cold out)
  • bacon-wrapped dates
  • bacon-wrapped scallops
  • bacon-wrapped steak
  • zucchini and yellow squash (sauteed in bacon grease)
  • garden salad with BacOs
  • bacon and chocolate chip cookies with maple glaze
  • bacon crumble apple pie

(Troy also brought Bacon Salt, but we didn't really use it, since everything already tasted like bacon. And right the end of the evening we found a Mo's Bacon Bar and some people had a nibble.)

We only used 3 1/2 pounds of fresh bacon (a pound of pre-cooked bacon went into the cookies, but most of those were saved to share with friends and co-workers, so that hardly counts) so that's not that bad -- just about a half-a-pound each. I'm feeling pretty salted this morning, but the mulled wine (and the bourbon and the malört) probably didn't help.


Bacon and Chocolate Chip Cookies With Maple Glaze

Bacon chocolate chip cookies with maple glaze

Originally from the "Never Bashful with Butter" blog, which no longer exists, but was recovered via the Wayback Machine. Recipe tweaked by Ryan Riley.

3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond (or hazelnut) extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups bacon bits

*An important note- Be sure to use real bacon bits, not Bacos. Also, you can make your own bacon bits, just make sure you pat down the bacon chunks with paper towels to remove as much extra bacon grease as possible. Ryan uses pre-cooked, packaged bacon bits, but then fries them up a bit to get them good and crispy.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Beat together the butter, sugars, flavouring and eggs until creamy. In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir together. Dough will be slightly soft. If you want a cakier cookie, add another half cup of flour. Add in chocolate chips and bacon bits (reserve some larger pieces of bacon for a topping). Stir until well integrated. Place dough on a sheet of waxed paper and refrigerate at least an hour. Remove dough from fridge, pinch off 1 1/2 inch pieces of dough and roll into balls. Set dough balls about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet (We always recommend parchment paper). Flatten dough balls slightly with your fingers in the center.

Bake cookies for about 10 minutes, or until the dough starts to turn golden brown. Allow cookies to cool on a cooling rack while you ready the glaze.

Maple cinnamon glaze:

2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon maple extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
enough water to make a thick glaze (about 3 tablespoons)

Mix all ingredients together until smooth and creamy. If lumpy, use a whisk.

Spread a small amount of the glaze on the top of each cookie and top with a small piece of crisp cooked bacon.

Bacon Crumble Apple Pie

Bacon Crumble Apple Pie

(recipe from Charles Pierce, Every Day with Rachael Ray, April 2008)

1/2 pound sliced bacon
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1/2 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
3 golden delicious apples (about 1 1/2 pounds total)—peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
One 9-inch store-bought pie shell, prebaked according to package directions

Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp; drain and crumble.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and brown sugar; add the butter and, using your fingers, incorporate the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the bacon and cheese; refrigerate.

Line a baking sheet with foil.

In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the granulated sugar and lemon peel. Transfer to the pie shell and sprinkle with the sugar-bacon topping.

Place the pie on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Cover loosely with foil and bake until golden and the apples are tender when pierced, 40 to 45 minutes; let cool before serving.

Bacon-wrapped Dates

Bacon-wrapped dates

Cut bacon slices in half or thirds (depending on how bacony you want them). Wrap dates in bacon and skewer with toothpick. Broil in the oven for 6 minutes, flip dates, and broil for another 6 minutes or so, until bacon is crispy.

Bacon-wrapped Scallops

Bacon-wrapped scallops

Get good-sized scallops. Defrost them, if frozen. Cut bacon slices in half. Scallops cook fast, so if you want crispy bacon, you'll need to pre-cook the bacon a little and then let it cool off before you wrap the scallops. We had enough crispy bacon in this meal, so I skipped that step. Wrap each scallop in bacon and skewer with toothpick. Put in the broiler for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the scallops, and top with a little brown sugar. Return to the broiler for another 3 minutes.

Bacon-wrapped Steak

Bacon-wrapped steak

Maybe Noah will share his exact recipe, but it's something like "cut steak into scallop-sized chunks, wrap with thick-cut bacon, and grill".

Update: Noah writes:

before cutting the steak into scallop sized pieces, run a serated knife across both sides, making very shallow jaggedy grooves in the meat. sprinkle liberally with garlic salt, and rub it into the meat, using your fingers, or, your face.. pour on Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce, and rub that in with your fingers. works better than your face. I don't know why. then, cut the steak into scallop sized pieces. cut thick slices of bacon in half, and wrap around the steak, securing with two toothpicks, perpendicular to eachother. Grill until both sides of the steak are brown and the grooves are black. take off the grill, and put on a plate, tenting for about 15 minutes under aluminum foil.


die from awesome.

Update: photos from Ryan of the evening.

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, Nov 10, 2008: Bacon Party 2: Bakin' with Bacon)

Hot Apfel Toddy

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1 shot of Apple Schnapps*
1 slice of lemon
1 spoonful of sugar
dash of cinnamon

Combine in mug. Fill with hot water.

Nothing fancy, just warming and delicious.

* I used Schönauer Apfel, "Imported from Germany", but I'm sure any non-Pucker Apple Schnapps will do.

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, Nov 1, 2008: Hot Apfel Toddy)

Apple Dumplings

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Apple Dumplings

I suppose if you dump 2 cups of butter and sugar over anything it would taste good, but these apple dumplings were extraordinarily good. We made them without the Mountain Dew, but only because we forgot to get a can.

(via Making Light)

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, Mar 6, 2008: Apple Dumplings)

Dirty Chai

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Dirty Chai = (Soy) Chai + a shot of espresso.

I only heard of it recently from Sean Bonner, but they knew it by name at my local Starbucks. Turns out it's been around since at least July 2006.

It's not just the caffiene -- the espresso really lends to/intensifies the earthy flavors of the chai. It's a perfect winter drink.

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, Jan 23, 2008: Dirty Chai)

Jeppson's Malort

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Jeppson's MalortJohn Hodgman drank Jeppson's Malort* when he visited Chicago last week. Poor son-of-a-bitch.

I was first forced to drink Malort as the last shot of the night at my bachelor party at The Sovereign. It tasted, let us not beat around the bush, like ass. But maybe, I thought, my taste buds were off from the cigars, and it has that cute little Chicago flag-shield on the label, and it's made in Chicago (well, in Florida, but for Chicago), and the little pamphlet the bartender handed me (yes, there's a booklet) challenged my manhood: "Most first-time drinkers of Jeppson Malort reject our liquor. Its strong, sharp taste is not for everyone. Our liquor is rugged and unrelenting (even brutal) to the palate. During almost 70 years of American distribution, we found only 1 out of 49 men will drink Jeppson Malort after the first 'shock-glass.'"

So, I bought a bottle. And we had a little tasting.

Kate: "Nail polish remover. It's a little sweet, you know like they add that scent to nail polish remover."

Shaun: "Bug spray, with Robitussin. Because bug spray on its own would probably be a little thin, so they mix in the Robitussin to thicken it up."

Fuzzy: "Varnish remover. With herbs."

Erica: "Why did you make me drink that!? I can still taste it!" (From the pamphlet: "It is not possible to forget our two-fisted liquor. The taste just lingers and lasts - seemingly forever.")

* It clearly says "Malört" right on the bottle, but everyone spells it "Mallort". Probably, after one shot they see double Ls.

(Originally written for the Chicago Metblog)

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, Oct 4, 2006: Jeppson's Malort)


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Sazerac at the Rib Room

Sadly, when people think of New Orleans and drinking these days the first image that pops into their mind is probably drunken frat guys at Mardi Gras. Which is true. But New Orleans has more than just drinking volume, it's got drinking history. I mean, this is the city where the modern cocktail was invented.

And the first cocktail that was invented was (arguably) the Sazerac. I was turned onto the Sazerac by a link from Making Light and started making them back in 2005. A Sazerac isn't too complicated to make, but it does involve three ingredients that you probably don't have in your standard home bar -- rye whiskey, Herbsaint liqueur, and Peychaud's bitters. If you've seen my home bar, you know that obscure liquors are my stock-in-trade, so finding all those pieces was no problem. And we've enjoyed the Sazeracs I've made, but never having had one that anyone else had made, there's always a lingering question of whether I'm doing it "right". So on a December 2006 trip to New Orleans, Erica and I decided to check in with some experts.

The place to get a Sazerac would be the Sazerac Bar at the then Fairmont, but the Fairmont was still closed from Katrina damage. (The hotel reopened in 2009 as the Roosevelt and the bar is open as well.) So we went to the Rib Room at the Omni Royal Orleans for Sazeracs and dessert.

So, yes, I was making them fine (the Rib Room uses Angostura bitters in addition to the Peychaud's bitters, but we'll let that slide).

Here's the recipe:
1/2 teaspoon Herbsaint (you could also use absinthe now that's it legal again in the US)
1 teaspoon of simple syrup
4 dashes Peychaud's bitters
You could use a tiny, tiny drop of Angostura bitters, but I think that's wrong
2 ounces rye whiskey (you'd think "Sazerac Rye" would be the best choice, but I prefer Old Overholt)
Strip of lemon peel

Chill a rocks glass. In another glass or Boston shaker combine ice, simple syrup, bitters, and rye. Stir gently to chill. Pour the Herbsaint into the chilled rocks glass and coat the inside of glass, pouring out the excess. Strain whiskey mixture into the rocks glass. Twist lemon peel over mixture to release lemon oil and then rub peel over the rim of the glass. Drink.

I got my recipe from Chuck Taggart's Gumbo Pages and he's got lots of more explicit directions and variations.

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, December 8, 2006: Drinking our way across the South - the Sazerac)

Margarita Tour

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Here was the plan: a Saturday afternoon with nothing important to do, two couples, four places known for margaritas. Each person would order an appetizer and take care of the bill at one restaurant, so that it all evens out.

Stop 0: Sotol

It's important to be properly fortified before you set out on a journey like this, so we had a sip of Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol before we took the train south. Hmm... smooooth.

Stop 1: Uncle Julio's Hacienda, 855 W North Ave

We all were going to mostly stick with traditional (or at least, non-frozen) margaritas, but the Swirl is the signature drink at Uncle Julio's and I'm a sucker for a signature drink. The florescent flamingo lets you know you're not in for subtle flavors, but I did enjoy it.

Everyone else got the Julio's Gold margarita on the rocks and we got a bowl of Chile con Queso for the table. Hmmm... cheeeese.

The Swirl at Uncle Julio's Margarita at Uncle Julio's

Stop 2: Adobo Grill, 1610 N Wells

At Adobo the signature dish is the Guacamole which is prepared fresh, tableside. (I'm also a sucker for food that's a show) so that had to be our appetizer. And we had the Adobo Margarita all around. None of us were brave enough to add a "smoky floater" to our Margarita (an extra shot of del Maguey Chichicapa), which in retrospect I regret.

Margarita at Adobo Grill

Stop 3: El Nuevo Mexicano, 2914 N Clark

We had a lot of choices when we were assembling the route for this tour, and Cesar's, just a few blocks north, was a strong contender with, if nothing else, their huge neon sign proclaiming that they have "killer margaritas". So I'm not sure how El Nuevo Mexicano made it onto the list, but it turned out to be a good choice if for no other reason than that it was getting to be dinner time and Cesar's was pretty packed. (Margarita tours can't wait!)

I was starting to feel the alcohol by this stop and so I ordered a pomegranate margarita under some sort of mistaken impression that the fruit juice would be healthier or something. Instead, it was a bit too sweet for my tastes and so it was the only drink I was unable to finish on the tour. We had a plate of Garnachas with ground beef which were tasty, but a small portion for four people.

Pomegranite Margarita at El Nuevo Mexicano

Stop 4: La Fonda, 5350 N Broadway St

I was back on my game by the time we got to La Fonda. It was my turn to order the appetizer and I was feeling a bit noshy so we got two kinds of plantains (hmm... plantains) -- the Tostonachos Caribenos and sweet plantains, and some rice and beans. We got the Gold or Special or whatever (I forget their name for their Top Shelf margarita) all around. I think it might have been my favorite of the tour, though that may have been the 4 previous drinks talking.

Margarita at La Fonda

Like I said, there are plenty of places that didn't make the cut just because of time and not drinking-ourselves-into-oblivion. Next time maybe we'll hit Frontera Grill, Cesar's, and wherever you suggest in the comments...

(Originally posted on FuzzyCo, Sept 8, 2009: Margarita Tour)

Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer

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Pizza Beer

The tag line of Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer is "Beer so good it deserves... a wine glass!" I'd suggest a shot glass, because that's as much of this beer as you're going to want to drink.

"I like pizza and I like beer. So why wouldn't I want to combine the two?" you might think. And that, I guess, is the question the Seefurth family of Campton, IL asked themselves. The answer, unfortunately, is that you wouldn't want to combine the two because it tastes terrible.

And it's not that it doesn't taste like pizza -- this ale "brewed with oregano, basil, tomato, and garlic" certainly has the aftertaste of a big bite of pizza. The problem is that it's the wrong order. You'd take a big bite of pizza and then a swig of beer to cleanse your palate for the next bite. WIth this beer, all you've got is the lingering taste of pizza. Drinking it on its own is unsettling -- all the aftertaste of a greasy slice without the actual pizza. And the only food I could imagine pairing it with would be... pizza, in which case it would be overkill.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Oct 12, 2008: Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer)

San Soo Gap San

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Korean BBQ

I had Korean BBQ for the first time last week at San Soo Gap San (5247 N Western) and I'm an instant convert. When you order any of the main meat dishes, a glowing brazier of real charcoal coals in placed in the middle of your table and your meat comes delightfully marinated, but raw. So you grill the meat yourself, which means that the entire meal is accompanied by the sounds and smells of grilling meat. It also, of neccessity, spaces out the meat through the meal, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the copious banchan -- the cornucopia of small dishes that accompany the meal. There were, seriously, 15 or so small dishes. We had very little idea what anything was, but that was half the fun. It all makes for a very social meal I'd recommend for 3 to 6.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Apr 14, 2008: San Soo Gap San)


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There's one thing that makes the prospect of an early morning flight out of Midway bearable -- the thought of an Artopita from Pegasus On-the-fly. An Artopita is a tasty breakfast sandwich, fluffy eggs, cheese, and ham, spinach, or mushrooms in a flakey phyllo shell. It's the "Arto"-pita, because Pegasus is the Midway branch of Greektown's Artopolis(306 S Halsted). I've never gone to Artopolis for breakfast -- I'm not sure the Artopita is a delicacy worth driving across town for. But bleary-eyed at Midway at 6:40 am it's a much better way to wake up than McDonald's.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Dec 11, 2007: Artopita)

Kuma's Corner

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Andrew Huff, of Gapers Block, etc., is one of my Flickr contacts and so I happened to see his photo of a giant hamburger float across my browser last week. It was the Mastodon from Kuma's Corner and I remembered that they had gotten top marks in Time Out's Pub Burger shootout. So when, a few days later, Erica and I happened to be in the neighborhood around dinner time, we decided to check it out.

I'll cut to the chase: the food was just OK and we had a lousy time.

Now I know plenty of people disagree with us, and I'll freely admit that it's possible that our lousy time (which I'll get to) is influencing my opinion of the food. Kuma's claim to fame are their half-pound Angus beef burgers, which come in 16 varieties, all named after metal bands. The Led Zepplin, for example, comes topped with pulled pork, bacon, cheddar, and pickles. The Mayhem has jalapeños, pancetta, pepper jack, and giardinera mayo. Etc.

Erica and I went halfies on the Famous Kuma Burger -- bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg -- and the Slayer -- a mess of fries topped with the burger patty, chili, cherry peppers, andouille sausage, onions, jack cheese, "and anger". Erica liked the egg on the burger and the Slayer is certainly plenty of food, but I thought the burger patties were pretty dry (we'd ordered them medium but they were pretty well-done) and nowhere near as flavorful as they could have been.

As to the lousy time, it had two parts: waiting and metal. We did arrive hungry and during the dinner rush, but the wait times still seemed excessive. "At least we're in a bar," we thought, "so we can wait with beer," but it was full 15 minutes between our drink order and beer arriving. And it was an hour until we got our food. And during that wait time, we were listening to metal. Loud metal. Continuous, very loud, very angry metal. "If this music is meant to make you want to kill someone, it's working," Erica said. I had to ask her to repeat herself, because we could barely hear each other across the table. I'm no metal-hater -- I had plenty of AC/DC patches on my high school backpack -- but damn that was a painful night.

So many people like Kuma's so much that I have to throw out the list of maybes: maybe we were sitting right under a speaker; maybe we would have had a better time out on the patio; maybe we wouldn't have minded the wait if we weren't so hungry when we got there (what were we thinking, going to a restaurant hungry?); maybe Erica wouldn't have been as uncomfortable if she had more visible tattoos. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Jul 23, 2007: Kuma's Corner)

Together at Last

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Bacon can make just about any food taste better. And just about anything tastes good covered in chocolate. So why not put the two together? Which is just what Chicago-based chocolatier Vosges Haut-Chocolat has done with their Mo's Bacon Bar.

This is no joke-food, like the Jones Cola Turkey Dinner Soda or what-have-you, it's a for-real-eating candy bar (and at $7 a pop, it'd better be). Small pieces of crispy bacon are embedded in a really rich milk chocolate. The texture of the bacon is just the sort of crunchy contrast to the creamy chocolate as in countless other candy bars, and the saltiness pairs well with the sweet. And just so I know I'm not crazy, Erica likes it too.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat
520 N Michigan (North Bridge Mall)
951 W Armitage

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Jul 22, 2007: Together at Last)


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Shandy fixin's

Our dear Wisconsin friends at Leinenkugel's have a new summer brew showing up in bottles and at bars that have "Leinekugel's Seasonal" on the menu -- the Summer Shandy. Leine's are making their Shandy as a wheat beer with "lemonade flavor". Erica and I have been drinking and enoying it, especially on these recent scorchers, but it was reminding me of the Shandies I had as a youth* in Australia.

In my recollection, the Shandy in Australia was half beer and half English-style lemonade, which is halfway between American lemonade and Sprite. And a quick peek at the Wikipedia entry for Shandy showed that around the world a Shandy can be just about any kind of soft drink mixed in with beer. Perhaps the biggest difference between that style of Shandy and Leine's premade one is that the mixed ones dilute the alcohol, which means that on a hot summer day, you can drink more of them without getting quite so sloshed**.

So the only thing for it was to pick up a bunch of Shandy fixin's and have an old-fashioned Shandy taste-off.

Since we were comparing to Leine's Summer Shandy, I wanted a comparable beer without the lemonade flavor and so I grabbed some Leine's Sunset Wheat***. All the Shandies were half-beer and half-mixer:

We started out with some solid American lemonade: Simply Lemonade-brand:
Fuzzy: Smooth, light, very refreshing and almost frighteningly drinkable.
Erica: Awesome and delicious.

I thought R.W. Knudsen Spritzer Jamaican Lemonade might be something like the Austalian lemonade I was remembering (but it's not):
Erica: Tastes more artifical -- I'd rather just drink the spritzer.
Fuzzy: Pretty weak and watered-down.

The Wikipedia entry had mentioned a number of variations of ginger ale or ginger beer, so we thought we'd try Canada Dry Ginger Ale:
Erica: Like watered-down beer.
Fuzzy: Yeah, also pretty weak.

Since regular ginger ale seemed too weak, we tried some Sprecher Ginger Ale, which claims on the bottle that it's "icy-cool and spicy-hot with real ginger". In fact, by itself the Sprecher Ginger Ale doesn't have that strong of a ginger kick and it isn't much better mixed with beer:
Erica: Maybe it'd taste good with some fruit in it. It's a little bitter.
Fuzzy: Blah.

I'm a big fan of Limeade, so why not:
Erica: I'd rather drink Limeade on its own without messing it up with beer.
Fuzzy: The lime doesn't mesh as well with the beer as the lemon did.

Another entry in the maybe-it's-like-English-lemonade was Trader Joe's French Market Pink Lemonade:
Erica: Uh-oh, this might be my favorite. It's sweet and fizzy. Plus, anything pink you can't go wrong with.
Fuzzy: I'll give it a close second after the regular lemonade.

After trying all those variations, we gave the Leine's Summer Shandy another taste and frankly it came up short:
Erica: Huh, this is now my least favorite. It's kind of bitter.
Fuzzy: Weird, I really liked it yesterday.

So, the regular lemonade and the Trader Joe's fizzy pink lemonade were both favorites. And if the weather stays this hot, I think we'll be drinking plenty of both.

* By youth I mean 18, and that was legal for bars there. So there.
** That may, of course, be a positive or a negative for you.
***After all our tasting was over, I noticed that the label described it as "beer with natural flavors". WTF? Flavors? The whole test is ruined and we'll have to conduct it again (and again and again)!

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Jul 9, 2007: Shandy!)

Fuzzy's Hecky's Ribs Hash

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On Sunday morning I found myself with a leftover 3/4 of an order of Hecky's rib tips. It seemed a bit early for straight meat and I flashed back to a brisket hash I'd had at the Cowgirl in Sante Fe. And what's a hash but meat and eggs and potatoes? And the rib tips were still resting on the french fries they been served on! So, Fuzzy's Hecky's Ribs Hash:

3/4 of a leftover order of rib tips, with french fries.
8 eggs.

Spray some spray oil into a skillet, heat to low heat.
De-bone and -gristle the ribtibs into the skillet*.
Throw the french fries into the skillet.
Mash at the french fries with the edge of a spatula and stir the meat and french fries until warm.
Add eggs and scramble.
Serves 4. Goes great with grapefruit mimosas, which makes no sense, but it's true.

* This step is messy and tedious and makes brisket hash sound a lot more sensible.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Jun 4, 2007: Fuzzy's Hecky's Ribs Hash)

Dolomite at Piece

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Dolomite Malt Liquor at Piece

Piece (1927 W North) is already a favorite of Team Gerdes -- Erica likes the exotic pizza toppings like mashed potatoes and artichoke hearts and I like the New Haven-style Plain Crust because I'm not actually a big cheesey-pizza fan. We both like the beer -- the Worryin' Ale has, indeed, washed away many of our worries and the beermosa (a sour German beer and orange juice) is fifty times better than it sounds. Tonight, I ordered the "Brewer's Choice" to get a dollar off my beer and it was the Dolomite -- Piece's own micro-brewed malt liquor. Which they serve in a glass in a paper bag. Erica laughed every single time I took a drink and refused to let me take it out of the bag. It also got me well-buzzed. Got-a-quarter?

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, May 30, 2007: Dolomite at Piece)

Fried Chicken Monday

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In Time Out's recent* Eat Out Awards issue there was a photo callout of a delicious-looking plate of fried chicken for the "Best Use of a Family Recipe" award for West Town Tavern's fried chicken and biscuits. There was a heart-warming story about how Susan Goss learned the recipe from her great-grandmother and the note that they only served fried chicken on Mondays.

Now, I was talking about expectations recently, and I have to say that I had some assumptions about the West Town Tavern, based solely on the name and the fact that they had a "Fried Chicken Monday". I was picturing a dark little bar, with a tiny kitchen in the back. And that the fried chicken might be $6 or $7 a plate.

The West Town Tavern (1329 W Chicago) is a rather fancy, bright and cheerful restaurant with a nice wine selection and $25 entrees. The fried chicken is a steal, for the place, at $17 a plate. That's a little steep for us for a Monday night and we probably would have headed out if we weren't really hungry and hadn't made plans to meet neighborhood friends at the Tavern for drinks after dinner -- a double whammy. So we stayed.

The fried chicken was great -- a great crispy skin and really flavorful all the way through. And the sides were fine, especially the greens. But I'm not sure any fried chicken is worth $17.

* I dunno how many weeks ago it was** -- they're all in a big stack in the bathroom. I'm constantly reading about some awesome show I want to go see, only to realize I'm looking at a 3-month-old issue.

** I found it -- it's the March 29, 2007 issue.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Apr 11, 2007: Fried Chicken Monday)

America's Dog

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Baltimore Dog at America's Dog

I'd been hearing about this new hot dog place downtown (26 E Randolph - there are also locations in Lincoln Park and on Navy Pier) that has "all different kinds of hot dogs". It's no Hot Doug's -- America's Dogs' "city dogs*" are all** plain Vienna Beef dogs with a variety of toppings. That said, the prices are reasonable and my Baltimore Dog (deep-fried dog, cheddar cheese sauce, grilled onions) was quite tasty, in a greasy kinda way.

* FYI, Louisiana is not a city.
** except the Maxwell Street Polish

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Mar 19, 2007: America's Dog)

Soul Vegetarian

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I was a vegetarian for 9 years in a small town in Indiana, so eating out was a long series of grilled cheese sandwiches. When I moved to Chicago, did I avail myself of the many fine vegetarian restaurants available in the city? Nah, I just started eating meat.

So it was that dinner plans* last night with an old friend (from that same aforementioned small town) was the first time I'd ever been to Soul Vegetarian East (205 E 75th). I zipped (amazingly enough) down the Dan Ryan and got rock star parking right in front of this cozy storefront-and-a-half. The staff were all friendly and patient with my "I'm just hanging out waiting for my friend**."

The all-vegan menu has a great variety -- lots of fried appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and entrees like stir-frys and noodles. And everything's reasonably priced -- most entrees and sandwiches are around $6. The Barbeque Twist looked good, and seemed popular with people coming in for carry out, but I went for the dinner special, which last night was orange lentil soup, pepper "steak" with gravy over rice, lima beans, and greens. It was perfect comfort food for a cold and rainy night, and I was stuffed quite full. Erica had highly recommended the soy ice-cream, so I was contemplating trying to fit dessert in as well, but they were all out of ice-cream, so I didn't have to make the decision.

All around, an excellent meal in a friendly place.

And then...

There's probably a nicer way to phrase it, but I turned into a fart machine all night. I guess my meat-eating stomach needs some reminding what veggies are. Sorry to be impolite, but I think y'all deserve the whole story.

* Plans, but not actually meeting up. I got stood up. Jerk.
** Jerk.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Mar 15, 2007: Soul Vegetarian)

Zia's Cafe

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One of the fun things about going out for New Mexican food is the Who's on First routine you get to do when you suggest it to your friends:

"Hey, there's a New Mexican place on Armitage I think we should try."

"It seems kind of out of our way just for a new Mexican place."

"Well, I'm really in the mood for some New Mexican food."

"Yeah, but aren't there Mexican places all over the city?"

Repeat until you remember to mention "Sante Fe" or "green chiles".

I've been craving New Mexican cuisine fairly constantly since I got back from my honeymoon this summer in Sante Fe. And the bar was set pretty high then, since we were basically eating our way through the Sante Fe Reporter's Best Of 2006 and Restaurant Guide lists. So, I found myself, eventually, in Zia's Cafe (340 W Armitage), one of the few New Mexican restaurants in Chicago.

Erica got the chicken enchillada with green chiles and I got the chicken stuffed sopapilla with green chiles, so our meals were mostly identical except for the wrapping around our chicken. I was really happy with the right side of my plate, but somewhat disappointed with the left. Which is to say, the stuffed sopapilla was really good -- the green chiles were alright and the chicken was great, tender and spicey. But the other side of the plate was filled with bog-standard Chicago mushy refried-beans and "Spanish" rice -- not the flavorful whole beans I'd come to expect from my (admittedly skewed) time in Sante Fe. The sopapillas that came with the meal, though, totally won me over. They were hot and light and delicious with the intense honey that was right on the table.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Feb 25, 2007: Zia's Cafe)

Pumpkin Beers: Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale

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Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale

Every Fall Erica and I get excited about pumpkin beers. And every Fall we completely forget which ones we had liked the year before and which we didn't. So I'm mainly doing a service to me-a-year-from-now by recording some mini-reviews of this Autumn's pumpkin beers.

And let's be clear -- nobody wants pumpkin beer. What we want is clove, nutmeg, and allspice beer -- pumpkin pie flavor, basically. The trick is to get it somewhere between so-subtle-that-all-you-taste-is-beer and Pepsi Holiday Spice.

Pumpkin beer is something of a niche market and so we're usually drinking the products of a number of small breweries. But all that my local Jewel had in the way of pumpkin beers was Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale, brewed by Molson Canadian and imported by Blue Moon Brewing Company (themselves a subsidiary of Coors). So we start off the year with a mega-brewery beer.

The first bottle of Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale -- well, what did I just say about not wanting? It tasted like someone had pureed a pumpkin and mixed it into a beer. A little slimy, in fact. And I couldn't taste the spices at all. A second bottle seemed much more on the mark. It veers towards the subtle end of the spectrum, but we've got that cozy Autumn feeling going on (and not just because I've had two bottles of beer). Erica also gives it the thumbs up.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Oct 23, 2006: Pumpkin Beers: Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale)

Bacon-wrapped bacon

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Wednesday night, for the next couple of weeks, is FashionNight(tm) around our house -- the start of the season of ANTM and the end of Project Runway have intersected. And what says Fashion(tm) more than... bacon! We picked up two pounds of bacon on the way home and made bacon-wrapped shrimp, bacon-wrapped scallops, bacon-wrapped dates, and just-plain bacon. And salad-in-a-bag and rolls so we didn't feel like exclusive carnivores.

Bacon-wrapped Scallops

brown sugar

Wrap bacon around each scallop, secure with toothpicks, and place on cookie sheet. Sprinkle brown sugar on top of the scallop. Place in broiler for 4 minutes, flip scallops, broil for 4 more minutes.

Bacon-wrapped Dates


Cut bacon strips in half. Wrap bacon around dates, secure with toothpicks, and place on cookie sheet. Place in broiler, broil until bacon is crispy, turn over and broil until other side is crispy, too.

Bacon-wrapped Shrimp

shrimps with tails removed
what's that stuff called? Oh, yeah, bacon

If you're all fancy and prepared, you can marinate the shrimp for a hour in some sort of citrus marinade. But if the show is already on TV, we gotta get these shrimps going, so just toss some Chachere's on them. Cut bacon strips in half, place on cookie sheet and cook in oven for a few minutes -- remove bacon before it gets crispy. Wrap bacon around a pair of shrimps and impale on skewer. Place on grill and grill until bacon is crispy and shrimps are cooked (4 or 5 minutes).

Just Bacon


Since you already have the broiler going, put bacon strips on a cookie sheet and broil it until crispy on both sides.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Sep 28, 2006: Bacon-wrapped bacon)

Bar food: the Chicken Chop at Konak

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Chicken Chop at Konak

The beer selection is so much better at Hopleaf, right next door. And just a block a north, Simon's is much more cozy. But the kitchen at Konak is open late and features their signature chicken chop -- a heavily-marinated chicken leg thigh grilled to bar-food-perfection. Served on a pita, with a twice-baked potato. For late night bar food, this is fine dining.

5150 N Clark, Chicago
Cash only!

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Sep 12, 2006: Bar food: the Chicken Chop at Konak)

My Summer of Ceviche: Last Two

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The weather outside tells me I need to wrap up any "summer"-related activities, so here are the last two ceviches of my summer...

Ceviche at Twisted Spoke

I hadn't been back to the Spoke (3369 N Clark) in a while, so I was excited to be back and try the ceviche that got me started on this whole kick in the first place. And you know what? Maybe it needs to be experienced at the end of a long, hard night of running around with a camera. As an afternoon meal I noticed how tomato-juicy it was -- I really had to dig around to find some solid bits in there. It was also, in comparison to most of the other ceviches I've had this summer, a bit bland.

The main selling point of the Twisted Spoke's ceviche is its volume -- for just a few dollars more than the appetizer size, you get a full pint glass of ceviche. And hey, there's always cheap whiskey at the Spoke!

Ceviche at That Little Mexican Cafe

After months of an empty space with a small "Coming Soon" sign in the window, That Little Mexican Cafe, which has received mixed reviews for their Evanston location, finally opened on the corner of Bryn Mawr and Winthrop. I'd had a late lunch and one of the specials of the day was a ceviche appetizer, so that was my dinner.

TLMC's ceviche breaks my usual rule that ceviche relies on the contrast between the textures of the fish or shrimp and that of the tortilla chips. I was halfway through the bowl and I was about write it off as rather bland and uninteresting when I had a spoonful without one of the thick and heavy chips. The difference was incredible. The ceviche was spicy and shrimpy (in a good way) but the chips were completely absorbing the flavor.

FYI: The Evanston location is known for their margaritas, but the Bryn Mawr location is still BYOB.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Aug 31, 2006: My Summer of Ceviche: Last Two)

My Summer of Ceviche: Home Attempt #1

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How to make ceviche at home:

While out doing last-minute shopping for your wedding rehearsal dinner, decide that a perfect addition to the carefully planned and budgeted meal would be ceviche, which you have never made before. Use your fancy phone to google for "ceviche recipe" and so find this recipe. Decide you like shrimp more than fish and notice that avocados are on sale. Purchase:

2 lbs of frozen, raw shrimp
4 lemons
6 limes (because they're smaller)
a medium white onion
2 ripe-looking tomatoes
1 serrano chili
a bunch of cilantro
4 avocados

Also get the stuff you actually went to the store to purchase and go home.

Juice the lemons and limes and put the juice in a 9"x12" Pyrex dish. Thaw the shrimp by running cold water over them for a few minutes. Shell the shrimp and cut into 1/2" pieces, putting the pieces into the citrus juice as you go. It will take a long time. Your fiancee will stop by occasionally and gently, and reasonably, suggest that maybe someone else could cut up the shrimp while you do things that only you can get done, like finish up the thank you cards for members of the wedding party. Make vague noises about finishing up soon and stubbornly continue. When the shrimp have all been cut, stir and level the shrimp in the lemon/lime juice to make sure all the shrimp are covered. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and put into the fridge.

Chop the rest of the ingredients, mix, and place aside in a bowl. Wait two hours, then mix the remaining ingredients into the Pyrex pan. Plan on taking it out in an hour or so. Get involved in conversations and forget about the ceviche until nearly the end of the evening. Serve to the remaining guests on El Rey tortilla chips. Put away 2 pounds of ceviche. Sunday (two days later) wonder how long ceviche keeps, decide to chance it, and savor the super-marinated flavor.

Forget to take a picture.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Aug 25, 2006: My Summer of Ceviche: Home Attempt #1)

My Summer of Ceviche: The Caterer

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I include this ceviche largely for completeness:

If you're ever at a wedding in Santa Fe and a caterer offers you a shot glass of ceviche as an hors d'oeuvre, I'm going to advise against taking it because a) it was kind of bland, b) I've really decided that a big part of the appeal of ceviche for me is the contrast between the crunch of the chip and the squish of the seafood and the shot glass lacks that contrast, and c) it was probably what gave me the mild food poisoning that kept me up half the night with unpleasant bodily functions.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Aug 7, 2006: My Summer of Ceviche: The Caterer)

My Summer of Ceviche: Restaurant Traspasada

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tostadas de ceviche

There's a Mexican restaurant, Restaurant Traspasada (3144 N California), around the corner from a place I've been doing some moonlighting, and I was really happy to discover it because it's a little bit of an eatery-wasteland (Hot Doug's is always closed by the time I get over there). It's a nice place -- all winter long my taco dinner came with home-made chicken soup, just because.

So when I walked in this week and the posted special was 3 tostadas de cevhiche de pescado and a Corona for $10.95, well the summer of ceviche required that be my dinner.

The three tostadas were each covered with mayonnaise (probably. I think.) and a good-sized pile of ceviche, topped by healthy chunks of avocado. The ceviche was not very fishy (and I'm not sure what kind of fish it was), and in fact was fairly bland in general, with not much of the bite or tang I've come to expect from ceviches. I did load on some hot sauce that had been placed on the table after I ordered the ceviche, but it didn't really heat up the flavor that much. Though, I do have to confess that as I was swallowing the last bite, I realized that I had also been given a styrofoam cup with three limes and had completely overlooked it. So maybe there was my tang. Oops. Anyway, it was good, but not great. I think I'll be back to the pork tacos the next time I'm there.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Jun 21, 2006: My Summer of Ceviche: Restaurant Traspasada)

My Summer of Ceviche - Ole Ole

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Last year when we were performing the Neutrino Project as a late-night show at the Improv Kitchen, I got into a routine -- every night after the show the whole crew would head over the Twisted Spoke and I'd have a beer and ceviche, which they serve in a hearty pint glass. I was devastated when, late in the run, my waiter announced that ceviche was a seasonal item and they had switched to their winter menu.

So, now that summer has returned, I've decided to get a little obsessive and make this my Summer of Ceviche -- I'm going to try to hit as many places in town as possible that serve fish 'cooked' in acidic fruit juices (that is, ceviche).

I started with the closest restaurant to my house that serves ceviche -- Ole Ole (5413 N Clark). Ole Ole has two varieties of ceviche -- a mixed seafood (shrimp, calimari, scallop) marinated in a tomato base, and a fish of the day (which was Mako Shark on our visit) marinated in a lime juice. I wanted to get both, and we decided to fill out our meal with some of their appetizer and tapas selection. The last place I ate small-plate style food (cough, Lennox Lounge*) the portions were tiny, so with that in mind we ordered an array of items. It turns out the portions are not small at Ole Ole. There were two of us, but we had enough food for four. And we only spent $60 (with two drinks each).

The food was great -- the black beans and rice and fried plantains were both surprisingly good for side dishes. My Caipirinha was tasty and plenty strong. And the ceviches were everything I hoped for -- tangy, fish-ful, the shellfish ceviche somewhat spicier.

Oh, and for desert we just walked across the street to bon bon (5410 N Clark) and got a truffle each. Theoretically they close at 8 on the weekends, but the owner, Elizabeth, told us that she stays open as long as there's traffic (which let us get in at 8:30) and that she was considering longer summer hours.

* Don't get me wrong about the Lennox Lounge -- the food was great, the staff was friendly, the atmosphere is delightful. Just, you know, small portions.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Jun 12, 2006: My Summer of Ceviche - Ole Ole)

Coke Blak

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Coca-Cola Blak

Are we a test market for this stuff, or is it nationwide already? I see that they released it in France in January. Anyway it was 50% off at Dominick's and I'm a sucker for new soft drinks anyway.

It tastes exactly like coffee-flavored Coke. Which, I suppose, is what it is. Now, I love Coke, and I love coffee. But even I'm not sold on this odd little concoction. But I've got 3 more bottles to decide.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Apr 11, 2006: Coke Blak)

Glögg Off!

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We agree wholeheartedly with Chicagoist's Chuck Sudo, Glögg is the way to make it through the winter. But let's be serious -- are we going to make our own Glögg? No, we are lazy. That is why we are drinking spiced, spiked wine instead of doing laundry.

So for your benefit, Erica and went to Binny's this weekend and said, "give us one of each Glögg you have. We're gonna have an old-fashioned Glögg-off!"


We decided to drink samples of each bottle in order of ascending alcohol content, under some theory that that would let us better retain our taste buds through the process. To clear our palate between Glöggs we had some slices of Manchego (an incredible Spanish cheese) that we had also picked up at Binny's after being enticed by an in-store tasting with actual Spanish people. And for times' sake, we didn't use a double-boiler or anything fancy to heat the Glöggs -- we microwaved them in demitasse cups for 20 seconds. (Cf. "lazy" above. Also, that's how we drank Mr. Hans' all last winter.)

So we started with St. Christopher Glühwein at 8.5% alcohol by volume. Now, St. Christopher is a) from Germany, not Scandinavia and b) not actually a Glögg because there's no distilled liquor added to the wine. But you know what, it's pretty tasty. The back of the bottle says it contains red table wine, sugar and aromatic spices (cinnamon and clove). And that seems to be enough -- subtle but tasty, and it would be pretty easy to add a shot of vodka or brandy to punch it up if you felt you needed that (I think mixing two liquids doesn't violate my laziness rules). And it's $5.99 for a 1 liter bottle.

Next up was Vin Glögg, "A Winter Wine," from Glunz Family Winery & Cellars, at 13.5% alc/vol. We had high-hopes for Vin Glögg -- it's local (-ish. Glunz are in Greyslake, but the Glögg is made with California port and red wine), in a very attractive bottle, and is flavored with blended oils of citrus fruits, nuts, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, "and a couple of secret ingredients." And is it ever flavored! As soon as we opened the bottle we exclaimed, "citrus-time!" Vin Glögg is almost over-poweringly citrused and spiced. Erica says it was like drinking a fruity drink, rather than wine. A tag on the bottle suggests that "some folks like to add a cinnamon stick or a couple of cloves or a twist of lemon or orange rind" but I can't imagine doing so -- the resulting flavor explosion might kill you. $9.99 for a 1 liter bottle.

And last, but not least, our old friend Mr. Hans' Andersonville Glögg, "A Taste of Scandinavia". As far as I know, this is the Glögg served at both Hopleaf and Simon's. We first encountered Glögg at the Hopleaf last winter. At the Hopleaf most drinks come in a specific glass and the special glass for Glögg, it turns out, is an old-fashioned punch glass, which always makes me feel like I'm getting drunk with my aunt. And getting drunk you will be -- Mr. Hans' is a stiff 19% alc/vol. At our tasting, we struggled hard to discern what might be the spices making up the "fine wines, brandies, and select spices" that go into Mr. Hans', but the best we could come up with was "rocket fuel." But if you come in from the cold and want something to warm your toes, Mr. Hans' Rocket Fuel may be just the ticket. $9.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Without going into the complicated rating system we used, we give the Glögg-off Gold Medal to the not-a-Glögg-at all St. Christopher Glühwein, the Silver to Mr. Hans', and the Bronze to Vin Glögg.

As we invite some friends over to help us finish off the 2.75 liters of Glögg we have in our kitchen, we may try some of the suggested additions to Glögg drinking, like adding a raisins and a blanched almond to each cup. But that might be too much like work.

Oh, and while we're on the topic of hot alcoholic beverages, I'll mention our other favorite no-work-but-heating-it beverage, also a Hopleaf discovery: Quelque Chose. A tart cherry beer, I'm willing to go the extra mile and get out a pan of water to gently heat a bottle of Quelque Chose.

(Originally posted on the Chicago Metblog, Dec 19, 2005: Glögg Off!)

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