Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chicago: Sulejman's Butcher Shop

While we were finishing up brunch at A Taste of Heaven, we ironed out our plan for the rest of the day.  We decided on doing some shopping, then dropping by CK's sister house to congratulate her on her pregnancy before meeting up with CK's husband for dinner at Edzo's.

My Chinese-ness would not allow me to visit CK's sister without bringing a gift.  My go-to has always been Asian pears, but CK suggested bureks from Sulejman's Butcher Shop instead:


























I knew there was a reason why I keep CK around.  She knows where the good stuff is.  Especially when it's off the beaten path.

You wouldn't be able to guess by looking at the decor, but Sulejman's is a Bosnian butcher shop where you can also buy traditional Bosnian goodies.  It is super simple (and by simple, I mean sterile) inside:


















There were a lot of sandwiches that sounded amazing, but we wanted a snack, not another meal.  Oh, no.  We had to save stomach space for dinner at Edzo's after all.

CK recommended the meat bureks, but the proprietor told us that they were out.  Crisis was averted when he told us there were still potato bureks left:


















I'd never heard of a burek before, much less had one.  It's basically a flaky pastry filled with love.  Love can come in the form of cheese, meat, or in our case, potato:


















An order costs $6.50 and will get you four bureks and a tummyful of joy.

Joy.  Who doesn't want joy?

We hung out with CK's sister for a bit, then it was back to CK's house to wait for her husband.  Except there was some kind of miscommunication because CK's husband came back late and we started watching The Mindy Project and...well, we never made it to Edzo's.

We ended up doing a late night Superdawg run instead.


Sulejman's Butcher Shop
5705 W Dempster St
Morton Grove, IL 60053
(773) 420-7812

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chicago: A Taste of Heaven

CK's husband had a golf game Sunday morning, so that left us girls to enjoy our day unencumbered.  (Sorry, AG.  It's more fun when it's just us girls.)

The plan was to hit up A Taste of Heaven for breakfast and then Edzo's for lunch.  But of course, we took our sweet time, got caught up in TV-land, and ended up arriving at A Taste of Heaven more around brunch time:


















It was packed inside.  Instead of waiting, we opted to brave the chill and sit outside.

Instead of ordering a light breakfast, as we should have done, we went all-out brunch.

We got the corned beef hash ($11.75):


















The corned beef came with bell peppers, red onions, seasoned hash browns, and two eggs however you want.  CK asked for ours to be basted.  The beef came in huge chunks and while it seemed rather simple, it was delicious.  Especially with the horseradish sauce on the side.

A Taste of Heaven was on the food itinerary for the day because of one thing: their biscuits.  CK said that when she's in the area, she'll drop by just to buy some biscuits to go.  But on weekends, the silverland ($11.45) is so popular that A Taste of Heaven won't permit biscuit to go orders:


















What is the silverland, you ask?  I can tell you, but it won't be the same as having it yourself.  The silverland is basically two cornmeal biscuits topped with sausage gravy and two scrambled eggs.  Doesn't sound too crazy...but it is.  Those fluffy eggs.  That gravy (which strangely enough reminded us of tikka masala).  And those BISCUITS.

Ohmygawd, those biscuits.  Crackly on the outside and soft, soft, soft on the inside.  Slightly sweet thanks to the cornmeal and so amazing I wanted to buy a dozen to take home.  To California.

Compared to the silverland, the grilled cheese omelette ($10.75) was just aight:


















Mozzarella, cheddar, feta, grilled brioche...yea, yea, yea.  Back to the biscuits.

If you live in Chicago and you haven't had the biscuits from A Taste of Heaven yet, shame on you.  That's right.  I, whose entire blog is called "No Shame", just said shame on you.

Get your butt to A Taste of Heaven right now.

At the end of our meal, CK smoothly stole the bill.  Not.  It was almost painful watching her watch for our server, then assaulting him only to discover he was carrying the bill for another table, and finally awkwardly excusing herself to "use the restroom."

My sister and I looked at each other and silently agreed just to let CK have it.

When CK came back with the bill all taken care of, we patted her on the back and then gasped when we spotted her to go bag.

CK really wanted us to try A Taste of Heaven's signature cake, Jeanine's cake:


















We didn't actually get to dig into it until the next night at Queen G's house.  But after almost two days in the fridge, it made quite an impression.  Very moist cake with very light frosting and tangy berry filling.  I would love it have it again fresh.

Anyway, long story short, we didn't make it to Edzo's for lunch.  There was simply no stomach space left.


A Taste of Heaven
5401 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 989-0151

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Chicago: Portage Grounds

Saturday morning, CK took us on a brisk walk through Portage Park.  It was nice to breathe in the crisp autumn air...and to get a simple breakfast at Portage Grounds, located just across the street from the park:


















After collecting our purchases, we sat our tushes down at a table outside.

I enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate while both my sister ad CK went with Americanos:


























There were two reasons why CK dragged us through the park.  The first was this raspberry white chocolate scone:


















Like me, she'd always found scones to be dry and unappetizing.  Until this one.  I was skeptical at first.  But I really shouldn't have been.  I should know by now that CK knows her food.  The scone was moist and just sweet enough.

The second reason was this caramel pumpkin pecan donut:


















It was glazed with caramel, sprinkled with pecans, and filled with pumpkin cream:


















My dislike of pumpkin is not a secret.  Pumpkin pie.  Pumpkin oreos.  Pumpkin spice latte.  Blech.  Not my cup of tea.  All the same, I always try everything at least once.

So I tried the donut.  Objectively, I can see how a pumpkin lover would enjoy it.

Me?  I preferred the scone.


Portage Grounds
5501 W Irving Park Rd
Chicago, IL 60641
(773) 930-3693
http://www.portagegrounds.com/

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chicago: Honey Butter Fried Chicken

My sister is currently applying for med school, which means that she's been flying around going to interviews all over the country.  Back in October, she did Philly, Nashville, and Chicago all in one trip.

I tagged along on the Chicago leg just because why not?  It'd been two years since I was in Chicago and I figured a visit was long overdue.  So I took two comp days and away I went.

Going back to Chicago, I only had one goal and that was to see my friends.  I didn't care if we stayed in and watched TV the whole time, but if possible, I hoped to fit in three things: Maxwell Street Market, Edzo's, and Mott's St.  All food.

Of course.

My Mott St dreams were doused before I even got on the plane.  Sundays at Mott St are Supper Sundays, which means a set menu and reservations required.  Mondays are closed.  As we were scheduled to leave Tuesday, that left us with only Saturday.  Unfortunately, I wanted to do Mott St with Queen G and I'd reserved Saturday night entirely for CK.

CK picked me up at the airport Saturday afternoon with my sister already in the car.  The first thing we did after getting a tour of her house was eat kimchi buns and discuss what to have for dinner...and what to have for second dinner...and then what to eat on Sunday  CK was determined to keep us stuffed.

Sometime between the kimchi buns and the apple cider, CK gently warned me that Maxwell Street Market might also be a no-go.  Apparently, some kind of marathon was going on that Sunday, which meant traffic hell.

Ah, well.  One out of three wouldn't be bad.  Edzo's it was.

The plan was to go to Honey Butter Fried Chicken, a relatively new restaurant in the area, for first dinner and then Edzo's for second dinner.  Except as usual, all the best laid plans always go awry.  We got sucked into CK's TV and didn't leave for Honey Butter Fried Chicken until much later than originally intended:


























Honey Butter Fried Chicken is quintessential Chicago.  Kinda woodsy and SUPER hipster:


















You get in line, place your order at the counter, and then take your number to your table (when one becomes available).

There's a bar in the back with an interesting drink menu.  CK's husband and my sister got themselves some alcohol, but I was talked into getting a soda.  All the sodas at Honey Butter are craft sodas.  There are also a few flavored teas.  CK recommended mixing a couple sodas/teas, but I went with straight ginger soda;


























Just the right blend of sweet and spicy.  And bottomless for $2,50, though I didn't get any refills.  Fail.

CK went WAY overboard.  But what else is new?  She ordered the pimento mac 'n cheese ($3.75), the creamed corn with Thai green curry ($3.75), and two biscuits:


















That's right.  The creamed corn is made with Thai green chili.

Here's a close up of a glorious biscuit:


















Crackly on the outside and soft on the inside.  Yum.

As if that wasn't enough sides, she also ordered a kale and cabbage slaw ($3.50):


















The slaw came with yogurt cumin dressing and dried pomegranate.

Then came the chicken and grits ($9):


















Cauliflower and roasted chicken on a bed of cheesy grits.  So damn good.

But way too much for four people given that we'd planned to have second dinner.  Not to mention CK also ordered 8-piece fried chicken ($28), which came with five corn muffins:


























The signature of Honey Butter Fried Chicken is this:


















Honey butter.  ($1 each if you want extra.)  Everything is good by itself, but honey butter makes it phenomenal.  Slather it on everything.  The biscuits,  The cute little corn muffins.  And yes, the chicken.  You won't question it until after you leave and realize, "What have I done?!"

Needless to say, we didn't make it to Edzo's.

I'm not as young as I used to be.  I'm starting to think second dinners are a thing of the past.


Honey Butter Fried Chicken
3361 N Elston Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 478-4000
http://www.honeybutter.com/

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

South Bay: Maru Ichi

I remember going to Maru Ichi quite often with my mother as a kid.  My mom is a noodle fanatic, so she's able to sniff out all the noodle places in our vicinity.  For some reason (maybe better options popped up or the noodles weren't as good anymore), we stopped going.

Then one night in October, while trying to think of where to go for dinner with my Ahyi, Maru Ichi came back up and we decided it was about time to check it out again:


















I remember having to wait in a massive line to enter the restaurant in the past, but no such line was in sight the night we went:


















It's never been a secret that I prefer rice to noodles.  None of the ramen options really tempted me, so I opted to piggyback off my sister's order.  She got the Combo C ($11.48), which allowed her to pick a noodle and a rice bowl.  She went with the nabeyaki udon (for an additional $2):


















And I picked the negitoro don (raw fatty tuna and green onion over rice):


















The tuna wasn't seasoned at all, so the bowl was rather bland.  And dry.  I ended up dousing it in soy sauce to add some flavor.

Both my mother and my ahyi ordered ramen.  I didn't personally try the ramen, but they seemed rather underwhelmed.

I guess we rediscovered why we stopped going to Maru Ichi.

If you want to give Maru Ichi a try, make sure you bring cash.  They don't take cards.


Maru Ichi
530 Barber Ln
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 434-5991

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

South Bay: Maya's Cafe

After hiking through Almaden Quicksilver County Park only to discover that yes, we are in a drought (it's hard to refute the evidence when you see a nearly dry reservoir), we stopped by Maya's Cafe for a much needed pick me up:


























We sat in the parking lot of the park for quite a while Yelping all the restaurants in the area.  When we came across Maya's Cafe, we all started yelling, "Pupusas!" and that was that.

The restaurant is tiny, but obviously quite popular:


















The menu was in Spanish and didn't come with any descriptions, so we had to rely mostly on Yelp photos and combine our rudimentary knowledge of Spanish food terms to decide what to order.

The chips were complimentary:


















The tortillas came with the entrees:


















You can choose between corn and flour.  We went with corn.

Maya's Cafe is known for its Honduran menu.  Of course, you can get your usual burritos and tacos, but we figured we should stick with the Honduran specials to try something new.

We got the sopa de mondongo ($10.99):


















The tripe soup was slightly sweet (probably from the plantain - or was it banana? - in it) and very, very delicious.  Especially with rice.

We also got the tajadas con carne molida ($10):


















Think nachos, but made with plantain chips and smothered with meat and veggies.  I was so excited to try it that my hands were shaking.  Hence the blurry photo.

Oh, heck.  Who am I fooling?  My hands are always shaky.  It's why I became a lawyer instead of a doctor as most Asian kids grow up to be.  (Never mind the fact that I hated science in school.)

What I was most excited about, however, were our two pupusas ($3.50 each):


















If you've never had a pupusa before, get off your computer/laptop/tablet/phone right now and get yourself some.  Actually, turn your computer/laptop/tablet/phone back on and find the nearest pupusa restaurant first.

Our server recommended the jalapeno chicken, which wasn't on the menu:


















And the cheese with beans, which was:


















I preferred the cheese with beans because the filling was smoother and almost creamy.

Seriously missed the pickled veggies though.  It was kind of strange having pupusas without it.  Not sure if that's more of Salvadoran tradition than an Honduran one.

Oh, well.  They still tasted great.

It was our first time giving Honduran cuisine a try and we give it a big two thumbs up!  I'll definitely be back.


Maya's Cafe
2616 Union Ave
San Jose, CA 95124
(408) 559-8700

Friday, November 28, 2014

South Bay: Claw Shack

Claw Shack opened by my house quite a while ago, but we were so loyal to Boiling Crab back then that we never bothered to give it a try.  Then we were tempted away by Kickin' Crab and the gates were busted wide open.  All of a sudden, we wanted to try all the Cajun seafood places in the area.

So to Claw Shack we went:


















The restaurant was nowhere as busy as either Boiling Crab or Kickin' Crab, which meant we were seated immediately:


















First things first.  We were brought styrofoam plates and plastic bibs:


















Like Kickin' Crab, Claw Shack offers garlic noodles ($7.99):


















The garlic noodles at Kickin' Crab had way more garlic, but the noodles at Claw Shack were cooked better.

Like Kickin' Crab, Claw Shack offers a couple combo options.  All came with two corn, two potatoes, and five pieces of Cajun sausage.  Combo 1 consists of 1 lb of crawfish and 1 lb of shrimp with the heads attached.  Combo 2 includes 1 lb of crawfish and 1 lb of shrimp without their heads attached.  The price difference is just three bucks, with the decapitated shrimp costing more.

We went with combo 1 ($26.99), but substituted  the crawfish with clams:


















My family has just never been fond of crawfish.  Lots of work for minimal payoff.  Clams are much tastier.  And the point of eating whole shrimp is to suck out the head juices, right?  So combo 1 all the way.

You can choose what type of sauce you want your seafood to come in and also how spicy.  We got the shambalang, which is a mix of all the other sauces (house, garlicky, spcial, casian, carlic-butter, lemon pepper, and Shackie's).  My family is a bit weak when it comes to spiciness, so we got mild.

T was with us and she loves to attempt to burn her tongue off.  When we joked about it with our waitress, she offered to bring T a side of Claw Shack's spiciest sauce:


















T barely flinched.  In fact, even my sister was able to eat it without feeling the burn.  Apparently Claw Shack's spiciest isn't really all that spicy.  I would't no.  I wasn't taking any chances.

For my mother, we got the clam chowder ($4.99):


















Which, unfortunately, tasted like it came out of a can.

I'm a lazy eater.  I prefer not to peel shrimp, so the seafood sampler ($14.99) was really for me:


















It included deep fried shrimp, calamari, and fish.

We'd heard a lot about Claw Shack's chicken wings, so we got a batch ($8.99), which came with eight fried wings and Cajun fries:


























There are a bunch of flavors to change from.  We decided on half garlic honey and half lemon pepper.  I liked the garlic honey, but while the flavor was good, the chicken itself was rather dry.

Our conclusion at the end of the meal was that in all aspects, Claw Shacks loses to Boiling Crab and Kickin' Crab.  In terms of sauce, Kickin' Crab has the most garlicky, which we love, and both Boiling Crab and Kickin' Crab give much more of it than Claw Shack does.  The best fried fish still goes to Boiling Crab.  And even the Cajun fries are better at both Boiling Crab and Kickin' Crab.

Sorry, Claw Shack.  Though your service was great, it looks like we won't be back.


Claw Shack
1696 Berryessa Rd
San Jose, CA 95133
(408) 649-6741
http://www.clawshack.com/
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