Thursday, March 29, 2012

Boston: The Gallows

Our first night in Boston, we tried to get into Franklin Cafe, but there was a wait and we really wanted to just eat and be done with it.  So with the powers of 2 smart phones combined, we found our way to The Gallows:























The decor seems charming enough until you look more closely and notice all the snakes gracing the walls and draping over the light fixtures:
















Note to all the ladies out there: the women's bathroom has a creepy surprise.  Just so you know.

Both my friend and her fiance are vegetarians, so some help was needed to navigate the menu.  Our server was very patient and even came back to our table to clarify when she found out that a dish she'd previously recommended actually included chicken stock.

We all wanted to try the poutine, so to accommodate all of us, we split the early spring poutine, which is completely veggie:
















My sister and I decided to share an appetizer and an entree.  We went with the wild boar meatballs with guinness mushroom gravy and parsnip puree:























And the Irish stew with lamb shoulder and shank, carrots, macombers, spring onions, and mashed potatoes:
















I apologize for the dark photos, but I really hate using flash.

I did enjoy the parsnip puree very much together with the gravy and meatballs.  But while everything was decent, nothing was exactly mind-blowing.  Altogether a good end to our first day of spring break.    


The Gallows
1395 Washington St
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 425-0200
http://www.thegallowsboston.com/

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Boston: Flour Bakery + Cafe

A long, long time ago, I watched an episode of "Throwdown! With Bobby Flay" where a Harvard grad trounced Bobby Flay with her signature sticky buns.  (I love it when Bobby Flay loses.)  Joanne Chang really left an impression on me because: 1) she's Chinese and 2) she graduated Harvard with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics, but went on to become a pastry chef.  How cool is that?

So when we finally committed to visiting Boston over spring break, I knew I had to stop by Flour Bakery + Cafe.  There are 3 locations in Boston.  We swung by the South End one after lunch at Blunch:  

















So many goodies to choose from:
















But of course, we had to go with the sticky bun:
















We carried our sticky bun with us to Boston Common, where we enjoyed it while watching a game of Quidditch.  Yea.  You read that right.  Quidditch.  People actually buy broomsticks, set up hoops, and throw balls at each other.  According to my sister, there are actually hardcore Quidditch TEAMS that COMPETE.  What the hell?

Sorry.  Got off track for a minute there.  The sticky bun.  Was.  Awesome.  Dark, sticky caramel with toasted pecans...my sister was a bit skeptical at first but she changed her tune with one bite.  I can only imagine how much more delicious it would be if we had it warm.

...

Quidditch?!


Flour Bakery + Cafe
1595 Washington St
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 267-4300
http://www.flourbakery.com/

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Boston: Blunch

Now comes the fun part where I get to tell you all about all the food I had during my spring break trip to Boston, Philly, and NYC.  Yay!  

My sister and I flew into Boston separately.  After meeting up at the airport, figuring out which subway and bus to take to MIT, getting hopelessly lost on campus before finally finding my friend's apartment, we followed my friend to a late lunch at Blunch:
















I actually wanted to try Mike and Patty's, which a friend of mine recommended, but thanks to our scenic detour around MIT, we wouldn't have made it there before they closed for the day.  According to Yelp, Blunch is supposed to be a rough equivalent of Mike and Patty's, so we figured what the heck.

Super small interior, but very cozy:
















The staff (she might have been the owner) was incredibly friendly.  We chatted it up a bit before finally deciding on splitting the piglet:
















Black forest ham, smoked bacon, maple aioli, sliced tomatoes, and greens on grilled multigrain bread.  What really made the sandwich was the maple aioli.  Wow.

My sister was adamant about trying the triple chocolate chip cookie:
















Not my favorite cookie, but loved the chewiness of it.

So many interesting sounding sandwiches to choose from at Blunch.  I wish we could have tried all of them.  But alas, a week-long eating spree awaited, so I had to pace myself.

A fantastic way to kick off our spring break though!


Blunch
59 E Springfield St
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 247-8100
http://www.eatblunch.com/

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chicago: Sprinkles Cupcakes

A Do-Rite Donut run turned into an everything-bad-for-you run when we stopped by not only Chick-fil-A, but also Sprinkles Cupcakes after Do-Rite.  It was my first time walking by a Sprinkles and I couldn't not go in:























Lots of cupcakes to choose from and lots of women trying to satisfy their sweet tooth:

















I was really curious about the ginger lemon cupcake:























CK wasn't as enthused as I was about the flavor combo, but it just set off all my yummy sensors.  I love ginger and I love lemon.  What could be better than a ginger lemon cupcake?

Nothing, it turns out.

Even CK had to agree.


Sprinkles Cupcakes
50 E Walton St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 573-1600
http://www.sprinkles.com/

Chicago: Do-Rite Donuts

On our first official day of spring break, CK and I went to check out the new donut joint in town.  We'd been reading about Do-Rite Donuts for weeks and were so excited to finally try it that we almost walked past it:

















How tiny the interior is only makes the array of donuts offered that much more mind-blowing:

















I was tempted to try one of everything.  I had to wrestle with my inner pig, but CK embraced hers and ordered half a dozen right off the bat:

















Sadly, the box got a little abuse from our walk around downtown.  I'm sure CK and her boyfriend enjoyed them all the same.  Clockwise from the upper left corner: maple and bacon, pistachio, carrot cake, peanut butter and jelly bullseye, buttermilk old fashioned, and classic raspberry filled.

That box aside, CK and I selected 3 other donuts to share.  There was the coconut custard:

















The pistachio with meyer lemon glaze:

















And the buttermilk old fashioned:

















I can't decide which one I liked more, the pistachio or the old fashioned.  Both were fantabulous.  The lemon glaze on the pistachio was light and refreshing and the pistachio bits added a nice, nutty crunch.  Meanwhile, the old fashioned was just a good, solid donut.

I can, however, choose between Doughnut Vault and Do-Rite.  For me, Do-Rite wins hands down.  Unlike Doughnut Vault, none of the Do-Rite donuts were overly sweet.  Not to mention there was no 2 hour line.

Definitely not the cheapest donuts around, but every donut at Do-Rite both looked and sounded incredibly interesting.  I honestly want to try every single one.  Guess this means I'll just have to make multiple trips back...that, or release my inner pig.


Do-Rite Donuts
50 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 488-2483
http://www.doritedonuts.com/

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chicago: Girl & The Goat

So I didn't get to catch up on all my posts before I left for the East Coast like I wanted to.  But that's no surprise.  

It's my second day in Boston and I'm waiting for my sister to get ready, so why not take another stab at it?  Better late than never, right?

Anyway, The night before my last final, CK invited me to crash her cousin's reservation at Girl & The Goat:

















As everyone knows, thanks to Chef Stephanie Izard's Top Chef winner status, reservations at Girl & The Goat are hard to come by.  CK's cousin made this one 3 months in advance.  As CK's sister unexpectedly had to work that night, I scored her precious spot at the table.  At the last minute, CK's cousin got sick and couldn't come either, so his wife brought her brother instead.

The interior design paired with the awesome music made for a really fun dining atmosphere:

















There were 6 of us in the party and we decided to each choose 2 dishes.  Mine came out first.  There was the aMAIZing bread:

















It came with the most addictive romesco mole and avocado yogurt.  The bread itself was stuffed with some kind of cheese.

I also picked the crispy duck tongues:

















How can anyone go wrong with duck tongues?  Especially those served with cara cara, roasted shiitakes, thai basil, and crispy wontons.

CK's boyfriend wisely chose the grilled malaspina:

















These beautiful oysters came doused in a smoked uni vinaigrette.  A little bitter, but still delicious.

I don't remember who chose the hen of the woods mushroom ragout (maybe CK's cousin's wife?), but it was one of my favorites of the night:

















There's just something about the sweet potato agnolotti together with the shroom creme fraiche and capers that made this dish AWESOME.  It tasted very Thai to me.

I think the escargot ravioli was CK's boyfriend's 2nd pick:

















The ravioli came in a tamarind-miso sauce with bacon.

CK wanted the sauteed green beans:























Can anyone say crack sauce?  The fish sauce vinaigrette mixed with the sweet cashews?  Brilliant.  (Though a bit salty.)

CK also wanted to try the grilled baby octopus, which came with guanciale, wax beans, radish, and a pistachio-lemon vinaigrette:

















The pistachio was what really won me over.

CK's cousin's wife's brother (what a mouthful) did us all a favor by ordering the crisp braised pork shank:

















The pork itself was fabulous, but together with the pita, the kimchi sauce, the buttermilk dressing, and the butternut-shiitake kimchi, it was heavenly.

As CK's cousin's wife said, we couldn't leave without trying some goat.  So she ordered the confit goat belly:























I didn't actually taste the goat belly because I was too busy being overwhelmed by the lobster and crab chunks swimming among the fennel in bourbon butter.  Super decadent.  Wow.

CK's cousin's wife's brother (hahaha...it cracks me up every time I type that out) also ordered the wood grilled broccoli, but because it came out last, we got it on the house:

















I never really care about the order in which food comes out, but apparently Girl & The Goat does.  Yay!  Free food for us!  The broccoli itself was very smokey, but it also came in a rogue smokey bleu sauce and was topped with spice crispies (whatever that means).  I'm not a blue cheese fan, so I was careful to pick an untainted broccoli.

We were all incredibly stuffed, but nobody even considered not getting dessert.  At our server's recommendation, we went with the chocolate-thai chili gelato:

















It came with a really dark and fudge-y chocolate cake, peanut fluff, pomegranate, and left hand milk stout.

Then just for fun, we threw in the butternut malasadas:

These donut holes were stuffed with hook's cheddar and topped with bourbon gelato and brown butter apples.

While I'm not usually one for Asian fusion, I had a great time moaning over each Asian-themed dish with the others.  Every dish was well-executed and damn delicious.  The meal as a whole was on the expensive side, but it really was worth it.

But while it was an amazing experience, I don't think I would be able to do it again later the same week as CK's cousin and his wife planned on doing.  I need my recovery time.


Girl & The Goat
809 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 492-6262

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chicago: Publican Quality Meats (Revisited Again)

After my final on Monday, there was really no way that I was going to be even remotely productive for the rest of the day.  Even though I had another final coming up on Tuesday.

Instead, CK and I went to meet up with CK's boyfriend before our dinner reservations at Girl & the Goat.  We had some time to kill, so since we were in the area, why not drop by PQM for some pre-dinner snacks?:  

















Yes.  I went again.  Yes, this is my 3rd post on PQM.  No shame, remember?

Our pre-dinner snack turned out to be the cold charcuterie spread ($19):

















5 different kinds of meat, all prepared in new, innovative ways.  I wish I'd paid more attention when we were walked through each one, but alas, it's all a blur.  There was a duck with jam, a turkey with foie gras, a pork belly, some kind of meat spread with gochujang (Korean chili paste), and one other topped with a crunchy salad.

Fail, I know.  But believe me when I say that everything was ridiculously delicious.

CK was really curious about the head cheeses and we sampled two kinds before deciding on the one that tasted like salsa:


















The cilantro in it really gave it a refreshing burst of flavor.  I don't remember what it's called, but ask for the head cheese that tastes like salsa!

I can't get over how much I love PQM.  I know you're all tired of me gushing over it, so I'll try to refrain from writing any additional posts on it.  3 is enough.

Unless I try something else there that blows my mind.  No promises.


Publican Quality Meats


825 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 445-8977
http://publicanqualitymeats.com/

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chicago: Sweet Maple Cafe

The original plan was to lay low after Queen G's birthday and conserve money for spring break.  Hah.  So much for that.  The thing about studying for finals is that you always end up trying to find any excuse NOT to study for finals.  For CK and myself, that meant movie nights and eating out.  

When a late night run to Dat Donuts proved unsatisfactory (the pickings were slim as it was close to closing time), we toyed with the crazy idea of hitting up Huck Finn Donuts at midnight.  But when midnight came around, we were both too pooped to even put on our shoes, much less drive out to McKinley Park.  

So midnight donuts was replaced by brunch at Sweet Maple Cafe:


















Very simple setup, just the way I like it:


















CK had a mini freak out when she thought she overheard the waitresses asking if they'd run out of biscuits.  Luckily, the alleged dwindling supply of biscuits didn't affect our table.

CK ordered the 18th Street country scramble, which consisted of eggs scrambled with chorizo, jalapeno peppers, red and green peppers, and queso fresco:


















She chose grits as her side (not pictured here) and unsurprisingly asked for a biscuit instead of toast.

CK's boyfriend got an order of pancakes and monterrey home fries, basically home fries smothered in bacon, cheddar, and jalapenos:


















I took the scramble route as well, but I decided on the Carmen G's Scramble, which paired eggs with spinach, mushrooms, bacon, and cheddar cheese:


















Not to be left out of the action, I also went with the biscuit.  While tasty with butter and jam, it was still a little on the dense and dry side, as biscuits tend to be.  The egg scramble was good, but not fantastic.

What really made the meal for me was the side of home fries.  Crunchy and perfectly seasoned, I haven't had home fries that good in a long, long time.  Still not quite the level of La Note home fries (it's been so long since I've visited La Note that I'm starting to wonder if I dreamed up their heavenly home fries), but pretty damn amazing all the same.

Sweet Maple is a really cute place with hearty food and generous portions.  For sure a a much better way to spend the day than studying.  I am, however, a bit confused by the Chinese text t-shirts.  Is the owner of Sweet Maple Chinese?  Or is this some kind of gimmick?    


Sweet Maple Cafe
1339 W Taylor St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 243-8908
http://www.sweetmaplecafe.com/

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chicago: Au Cheval

For Queen G's birthday, she gathered an eclectic group of friends for dinner at Au Cheval, Brendan Sodikoff's newest baby: 


It was a miracle that we even got seated.  With a no reservations policy, a party of 13, and a full house, we were really pushing our luck:



We somehow managed to snag 3 separate tables somewhat around the same time.  My group was made up of Empress E, CK, CK's boyfriend, and myself.  The four of us did quite a lot of damage.  I am simultaneously proud...and terrified, to be honest.  

Well, here's what went down that night.  But first, props to whoever designed the lighting at Au Cheval.  The strategically placed beam of light above every table created a spotlight effect that made every food photo look...holy.  Instant Instagram every time.  

We started off with the foie gras and pork-stuffed cabbage: 


















Definitely far more awesome than what any of us were expecting.  The foie gras, the sweet sauce, the cabbage, the porky pork...wow.

The chopped chicken liver with salted butter and toast was the biggest surprise of the night:























Not only did I enjoy the liver, but the toast, my word, the TOAST.  Thick, buttery, and crispy on the outside...cross my heart hope the die the best toast I've ever had.  It was so good I almost cried when our server brought us another plate of toast to finish off the liver.  If I could have that toast every day of my life, I would be the happiest person on earth.  I would probably also be the fattest, but that's irrelevant.

We also got the crispy potato hash with duck heart gravy:


















Definitely sounded very cool, but while tasty, it didn't really measure up to the previous two dishes.  Plus it was a bit on the salty side.  Perfectly cooked egg though.

There was a lot of buzz about the cheese burger, so we had to try it:


















A single cheese burger at Au Cheval actually has two patties, while the double has three.  We went with the single and we were not disappointed.  No nonsense, just the way we like our burgers.

The fried house-made bologna sandwich almost made quite an impression:























We were all quite stuffed by then, but we kept seeing this gorgeous dessert going by to other tables.  We decided to order and eat it in honor of Queen G's birthday:























There it is.  The millefeuille.  The server let us ogle it for a bit before pulling a move that elicited gasps from all of us.  I won't tell you what happened because you really need to experience the shock for yourself. All you need to know is that the millefeuille with its airy puff pastry and rich layers of cream was utterly phenomenal.

We unanimously agreed that Au Cheval is worth a second and a third trip.  Every dish was solid.  Not a single one fell flat.  Even what we got to sample from Queen G's table was delicious.  (There was quite a bit of plate passing going on between our 2 booths.)

It's only open Wednesday through Sunday, but you can get your Au Cheval toast fix from 5:00pm until 2:00am.  Don't leave without trying it.

Oh, and happy birthday, Queen G!  May this new decade bring you new friends, new food finds, and a ton more fun!


Au Cheval
800 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 929-4580
http://aucheval.tumblr.com/
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