Monday, April 30, 2012

New York: Serendipity 3

My sister and I were lucky enough to be able to visit New York twice in the span of a month.  The second trip was dedicated entirely to Nana's thesis play.  But of course, we couldn't be in New York and not enjoy ourselves some good food.

We arrived Friday night and immediately Nana took us to a late night dessert binge at Serendipity:
















The wait wasn't as bad as my first visit to Serendipity a few years back, possibly because of the late hour.  We actually could have been seated earlier, but my sister's bus from Baltimore was running a bit late, so we missed our table.

Anyway, no hard feelings.  Not much.

Serendipity has the most...eclectic decor:
















Nana knew precisely what she wanted me to blog about, so she took care of all the ordering.  To prepare ourselves for the onslaught of sweets, we started with a plate of chicken nachos:
















Very Americanized, but just what we needed.

We really should be ashamed of ourselves for what happened next, but hey, no shame, right?  Now keep in mind that there were 4 of us (Nana's undergrad friend, MB, was also in town for Nana's play).

Serendipity is most well known for its frozen hot chocolate:























Don't drink too quickly or you'll risk brainfreeze.  Take my word for it.

Next came the sandtart sundae:
















The coffee ice cream with the sandies and fudge were perfection.

Finally there was the "can't say no" sundae:























It was basically a regular sundae (vanilla ice cream, fudge, banana, whipped cream, nasty cherry) with the addition of a slice of humble pie.  I'm not really sure what humble pie is, but it tasted a lot like peanut butter to me.

I always have a great time at Serendipity...when I'm not waiting in line that is.  While the food might not be all that great and the service can be a tad inattentive, the desserts are awesome (if a bit overpriced).

All in all, a great start to my weekend in New York!


Serendipity
225 E 60th St
New York, NY 10022
(212) 838-3531
http://www.serendipity3.com/

Chicago: Uncle Joe's Jerk Chicken

Before the Bulls v. Knicks game, Goddess C, CK, and I met up at Uncle Joe's for a quick dinner:
















Uncle Joe's is located just a block down from my house and I'm ashamed to say it took me almost 8 months before finally stepping through its doors.

Not a lot going on inside, but people kept coming in to order to-go, so we were quite optimistic:
















CK was devastated when we found out that they were out of beef patties, but she quickly recovered (after the guy threw in a bottled water at a discounted price) and we split a combo dinner of jerk chicken and goat curry:
















The dinner came with plaintains, rice and beans, and a choice of a side.  We went with the mac and cheese.

Surprisingly, that mac and cheese turned out to be the best mac and cheese I've had in a long time.  It was in no shape or form gourmet, but it beat the lobster mac and cheese I had in New York by a mile.  I can't explain what made it so good.  Maybe I was just really hungry and my expectations were really low.  I don't know.  All I know is that I keep thinking about it and often catch myself staring longingly out my living room window toward Uncle Joe's.

Sorry.  You guys probably are more interested in the actual entrees.  The jerk chicken was incredibly juicy, which was a double plus for me.  I'm deathly afraid of dry chicken.  The goat curry was very tender and flavorful and just damn fantastic.

Something in the meal must have been too spicy or too salty because for a few days after, my lips kept peeling.  CK was fine though, so I don't know what it was.

Anyway, I enjoyed myself at Uncle Joe's and I enjoyed myself even more at the Bulls game.  No Jeremy Lin and no D-Rose, but still a very fun experience.  One that could have been exponentially better if the Bulls had just scored 2 more measly points to hit 100 and get us free Big Macs.

I'm no basketball expert, but I think they could have tried harder.  Just sayin'.


Uncle Joe's Jerk Chicken
1461 E Hyde Park Blvd
Chicago, IL 60615
(773) 241-5550
http://unclejoesjerk.com/

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chicago: Jam

We were supposed to celebrate MM's birthday with a brunch plus champagne, but Easter service ran long and Jam had a 30 minute wait, so we only got to spend 15 minutes with MM before she had to head off to work:



As for the rest of us...we changed our party number to 3 and waited to be seated:



Once at our table, we ordered some orange juice, popped open the champagne, and toasted in honor of MM.  Queen G and EK powered through that bottle of champagne (in the most elegant way possible), while I did quite some damage to the carafe of orange juice.

We were quickly brought the cutest little mini apricot muffins as an amuse bouche:




We decided to split 3 plates, the first being the malted custard french toast:




The perfect bite included some macerated cherries, a bit of lime leaf cream, and one or two pink peppercorns.  Simultaneously sweet, sour, refreshing, and creamy.  Yum!

The jamburger was also fantastic:




It came topped with the most gorgeous egg, smoked tomato sauce, and butterkase, a buttery cheese.  On the side were some pretty awesome seasoned fries.

The guisado verde was no laughing matter either:




How does Jam get every single egg to come out so damn perfect?  Geez.  The corn risotto was my favorite part, even compared to the braised beef, tomato crema, and tomatillo on top of it.

Fabulous brunch, no complaints at all.  Except for MM's absence.  Total and complete fail there.  Sorry, MM.  We'll make it up to you.  Promise!


Jam
3057 W Logan Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 292-6011
http://jamrestaurant.com/

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chicago: Mr. Beef

Somehow CK's boyfriend's craving for Asian morphed into a craving for Italian beef.  More than a little random, but I wasn't about to turn down the chance check out Mr. Beef:
















Part of the holy trinity (the other 2 being deep dish and hot dogs), every Chicagoan has their own opinion on where you can find the best Italian beef sandwiches in town.  Mr. Beef is a name that comes up often.

Nothing fancy in this joint, which is fine by me:
















We toyed with the idea of sharing a sandwich for all of 3 seconds before we decided to each get our own.  Here's my Italian beef sandwich, dipped, with sweet peppers:
















A soggy sandwich might not sound very appealing, but trust me, it's AWESOME.  The mess is definitely worth it.  Mr. Beef isn't stingy with the meat and I respect that.  A lot.

Because a sandwich by itself is never enough, we also got us some sides.  Fried mushrooms:
















Fried cheddar cubes:
















And onion rings:
















Though a bit overpriced at $5, the fried cheddar cubes were my favorite.  I could have gone without the mushrooms.

I've had Italian beef sandwiches at 2 places now, Mr. Beef and Al's.  As hard as I try, I can't compare the 2.  Why?  Because I simply can't remember how Al's sandwich tastes.  I blame it on old age.

Besides, I wouldn't be comfortable making any kind of judgment call until after I've gone back to both a few more times.  Gotta be thorough, you know.


Mr. Beef
666 N Orleans St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 337-8500

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chicago: Ann Sather

JH wanted to come over and see CK's new puppy.  And even though we'd just finished a very filling brunch, we still stopped by Jewel to pick up fruit and ice cream.  As if that wasn't enough, when we caught sight of Ann Sather from our car, we made an impromptu stop:
















Ann Sather is supposedly a Swedish breakfast place.  I don't know; I've never eaten there and I don't really have any intention to do so.  I've heard from reliable sources that the food isn't all that great.  However, the cinnamon roll is a must.  Which is what we got:
















And it was, oh, it was.  I can only imagine how much better it would've tasted had it been fresh from the oven.  Oh, yea.  Definitely worth the unplanned stop.

I probably won't ever sit down for a meal at Ann Sather, but I certainly wouldn't mind another cinnamon roll.

Hey everyone, I've hit 500 posts!!  Woot!  That's insane.  I eat out way too much.  Oh, well.  GO ME!


Ann Sather
909 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 348-2378
http://annsather.com/

Chicago: Southport Grocery & Cafe

Southport Grocery & Cafe had been on my list for a while.  (Yes, I have a list.)  So when JH wanted to grab brunch, it was the first place that came to mind.  We left a little late, so we weren't surprised to hear that there was a wait:
















About an hour and a half later, we were seated.  It didn't actually feel that long because JH kept us thoroughly entertained with stories from her recent trip to India.

As there were 4 of us, we each picked a dish.  At least that's how it was supposed to work.  Instead it kind of morphed into a joint decision process.  Regardless of our method, we were all quite happy with what we ended up ordering.

There was the sweet and savory french toast:
















The french toast came covered with smoked ham and baby swiss.  Maple-mustard syrup tagged along on the side.  That's right.  Maple-mustard syrup.  I admit, I wasn't a huge fan of the syrup, but that's because it reminded me of Chinese dried plums, which I dislike.  A lot.

The bread pudding pancakes were simply amazing:
















So incredibly moist.  The cinnamon sugar butter and the vanilla anglaise made it that much more heavenly.

The brisket and gravy was one of my favorites:


The house-smoked brisket gravy had a touch of sweetness.  The biscuits were dense and lovely.  And the eggs had the perfect consistency.

The ramp omelet was one of the specials:
















The omelet was made of wild ramps, broccoli, and brie.  The side of mashed potatoes stole the show for me.  I couldn't get enough of that stuff.

We rotated the plates clockwise around the table, but everyone ended up reaching across to snag a bite of whatever they felt like at the moment.

A really solid breakfast, as expected.  If it were closer and the wait less crazy, I would be at Southport as often as I could.  Gotta try everything on the menu, you know.  There's some cupcake pancakes with my name on them.  CUPCAKE pancakes.  How genius is that?


Southport Grocery & Cafe
3552 N Southport Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 665-0100
http://www.southportgrocery.com/

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chicago: Huck Finn Restaurant

Since we were somewhat in the area (and I'm saying that loosely), we decided we should grab some donuts from Huck Finn after Troha's:
















Open 24 hours a day, Huck Finn is half diner half donut shop.  We were only interested in the donuts:
















The giant donut was impressive, but a little overwhelming:
















We wussed out and went instead with a half dozen box of regular sized donuts:
















Nothing too fancy, as you can see.  The most "gourmet" one was probably the red velvet donut in the top right corner.

We were all really excited about the donuts.  CK's boyfriend couldn't wait, so he bought a long john on the side and we killed it on the car ride home.  The long john was so delicious that we barely stopped ourselves from ripping into the other donuts before we could get home.

It was with big smiles on our faces that we finally cut into the first donut (with a chopstick because we only have a chef's knife in our kitchen and using that would've been overkill) and popped a piece into each of our mouths.

...

Eh?

We tried another donut.

Same reaction.

Huck Finn donuts turned out to be the BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT EVER.  They weren't disgusting by any means, but they just...weren't very good.  We didn't even to bother to finish each donut.  Our final conclusion was that only the yeast donuts are worth trying.  Avoid the cake ones at all costs!

Maybe we just went to the wrong Huck Finn location.  Maybe it was an off day.  Whatever it was, we'll never find out because we have no incentive to return with tried and true Dat Donuts being way closer to our apartment.  Sorry, Huck Finn.


Huck Finn Restaurant
6650 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60629
(773) 581-4285
http://huckfinnrestaurant.com/

Chicago: Troha's Chicken & Shrimp House

The high school that CK's boyfriend teaches at was out for Cesar Chavez Day, so he asked if he could sit in on my law classes to observe the teaching styles of law professors.  Uh...ok?  Why anyone would willingly attend a law class without being required to be there is beyond me, but hey, whatever floats his boat.  

A couple excruciating hours later, classes were over and we were more than ready for lunch.  CK had discovered Troha's a few days prior while scouring through Yelp:
















No tables and chairs at Troha's.  Just a counter and an extensive fried seafood menu:
















We ended up eating our bounty in the parking lot of Huck Finn, where we got donuts for dessert.

I only had my cell phone with me, so I apologize if the photos suck.  Anyway, Troha's had the best jalapeno poppers I've ever had:
















Not spicy at all, which I appreciated.  And the gooey cheese was heavenly.

Clam strips couldn't be passed over:
















What Troha's is known for is its fried shrimp.  We got the dinner, which came with fries:
















We also got a double combo dinner of catfish and perch:
















The dinners came with a choice of a side.  We went with macaroni and potato salads:
















The fried shrimp was kind of ridiculous.  Super plump and lightly breaded, I want to say that it's the best fried shrimp in Chicago.  I certainly prefer Troha's fried shrimp over that of Lawrence's Fisheries.  Paired with the mild and hot sauces?  Perfecto.

As for the fish, the perch was great, but I would bypass the catfish next time.  Some tartar sauce would've been nice too.  The sides weren't too memorable, but that could be because we were too consumed by the fried seafood feast before us to pay them much attention.

Troha's has found a new fan in me.  If they didn't go straight to my thighs, I would be at Troha's once a week for their fried shrimp.  And their jalapeno poppers.


Troha's Chicken & Shrimp House
4151 W 26th St
Chicago, IL 60623
(773) 521-7847
http://www.chicagoshrimphouse.com/

Saturday, April 21, 2012

New York: The Hungarian Pastry Shop

I'm so behind on my posts, it's not even funny.  Ugh.  I should get an A for effort though.  Anyway, here's the last of my spring break posts!  Yay!    

After the High Line, my sister and I once again killed time by doing a crossword on the steps of the library at Columbia.  It got a bit chilly and my sister was starting to get crazy eyes, so we moved indoors to 1) warm up and 2) get some coffee into my sister's system.  The only place I could think of around the area was The Hungarian Pastry Shop:
















Basically your average university coffee shop, but with awesome pastries:
















We asked the lady behind the counter for some help with choosing some goodies.  We finally decided on some kind of custard pastry:
















And a cheese and cherry strudel:























I personally did not like the custard one very much.  The pastry dough was flaky and magnificent, but the custard?  Too dense for my tastes.  My sister, on the other hand, loved it.  To each his own, I suppose.  I much preferred the strudel.

And that wraps up my spring break 2012!  After Nana got off work, we ordered a Papa John's pizza and headed over to DS's house where we played Bible Taboo and charades.  Yes, Bible Taboo.  Now that you know it exists, you know you want it.  Our last day in NY was spent playing Monopoly Deal in Nana's office over halal chicken and rice and McDonald's sweet tea.

Oh, yea.  We really know how the bring the party.


The Hungarian Pastry Shop
1030 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10025
(212) 866-4230

New York: Coolhaus

I really enjoyed walking along the High Line.  If you haven't gone yet, you really should.  It's a great place to relax, people watch, read a book, eat a sandwich, and appreciate how an old rail line can be transformed into a public park.  

The only way to make the experience even better?  Ice cream.  Never mind the fact that we already had ice cream for breakfast.  That's irrelevant.  What does matter though, is that Nana recommended we check out the Coolhaus ice cream sandwich truck and according to Twitter, it just so happened to be in the area.

We tracked it all the way to the 15th floor of this random office building.  There was a bit of a misunderstanding with the doorman, but my sister was determined and we ultimately found the truck:
















When we saw the truck after getting out of the elevator, all we could think about was how the hell they got it up there.

Coolhaus is known for its ice cream sandwiches.  You can mix and match cookie and ice cream pairings.  My sister chose the potato chip and butterscotch cookie and paired that with yogurt and berries ice cream:
















The two ladies at Coolhaus were very nice and let us try as many flavors as we wanted.  I wasn't really in the mood for a messy ice cream sandwich, so I got a cup of the blood orange sorbet:
















Kind of expensive for an ice cream sandwich, but there are a lot of fun flavors and judging from my sister's happy expression, it might be worth it.


Coolhaus
(347) 252-6660

New York: Shake Shack (Revisited)

Every time we hit up New York, my sister and I can't resist the siren call of Shake Shack.  This spring break was no different.  We stopped by for breakfast before heading to the High Line.  It was on the way anyway...sorta.  Whatever.  We had MTA week passes, so we were trying to get as many rides as possible out of those suckers.

All my sister wanted was a custard.  This ice cream for breakfast thing is starting to become a habit.  The flavor of the day just happened to be maple bacon banan-za.  We had to process that for a minute before we both realized hell yea, it was our lucky day!

I expected it to have bacon bits and banana chunks, but the custard turned out to be super smooth:
















Very subtle all around.  Subtle banana flavor, hints of smoky bacon...holy moly.  I mean, I knew the flavor was genius before I tried it, but I didn't think it would be THAT genius.

Well done, Shake Shack.  As usual.

We told Nana about it.  All she could say was "It's not right, man."


Shake Shack
366 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024
(646) 747-8770

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New York: Cafeteria

It was pretty late a night when we were finally able to shake off enough of our food coma from Indian Road Cafe to trek out to Cafeteria for dessert:
















Luckily, Cafeteria is open 24 hours a day.  It also has a bouncer.  Possibly 2.  Can someone please explain that to me?

Our main reason for going down to Cafeteria was to try the deep fried oreos:























It came with espresso chip ice cream and a coffee shake shot, which my sister sneakily killed off when the rest of us weren't looking.

There were 4 oreos, one for each of us.  Perfect:
















Infinitely better than the soggy, oily mess I had previously at a school food fair.  I could pop this stuff like M&Ms.

Since we were there, we figured we should try some other desserts too.  The ultimate peanut butter cup with sea salted peanut brittle turned out to be my absolute favorite of the night:























The peanut butter mousse (was it mousse?) was so creamy and decadent that I wanted to weep.

We also got the strawberry shortcake in a jar:























Light and airy and nowhere as good as either the oreos or the peanut butter cup.

Cafeteria has a weird, trendy vibe.  Besides having bouncers at the door, everyone inside were dressed up to the nines.  More than a little pretentious, but that may be due to the late hour.  Hopefully, the lunch crowd is a bit more casual.

Nana and DS helped break up the strange atmosphere by singing along to Whitney's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" when it came on.  While it might not have won us brownie points with the diners around us, the fabulous hosts certainly loved it.

I would be interested in trying lunch at Cafeteria sometime.  The atmosphere may be a bit uptight, but the food is seriously good and the service friendly.  Plus, their mac & cheese is supposed to be amazing.  And I'm a sucker for mac & cheese.


Cafeteria
119 7th Ave
New York, NY 10010
(212) 414-1717
http://www.cafeteriagroup.com/
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