Tuesday, December 30, 2014

South Bay: Jastea

Before Sharetea opened in San Jose, we went frequently to Jastea:


















The parking lot is a nightmare around dinnertime because Kickin' Crab is just a few doors down.  Jastea takes advantage of its captive audience by walking among the mob waiting outside Kickin' Crab with a tray of tea samples.  Smart strategy.

Anyway, we didn't need a free sample to stop by Jastea:


















The interior is very simple, as is its menu.  You pick a tea base, add either milk or milk foam, then pick a topping.  There are two sweetness levels: regular and less.  You can also choose if you want your drink cold or hot.

A basic milk tea with pearls will set you back $3.55.  The cups are pretty big though:


















My favorite tea is actually not on the menu.  Jastea was offering free samples inside the store one day and we got to try their roasted milk tea.  We haven't turned back since.

All the drinks run sweet at Jastea, so if you're cautious of cavities, go for less sweet.  I usually like my drinks sweet and even I can't handle how Jastea's regular sweetness level.

Jastea gives points through FiveStars.  Nine drinks will get you a free one.

My one issue with Jastea is its logo.  Look at it.  Doesn't it look like Tastea instead of Jastea?

Too bad the name Tastea has already been taken, because it's much wittier than Jastea.  Don't you think?


Jastea
2671 Cropley Ave
San Jose, CA 95132
(408) 649-6049

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Chicago: Bang Bang Pie (Revisited)

Our last night in Chicago was spent hanging around Queen G's house.  We invited all the girls over and ordered delivery from Cermitas Puebla, the highlight of which was the chicharron quesadilla.

Let's stop and think about this.  Chicharron.  In a quesadilla.  Where has this genius been all my life?  (In Chicago, apparently.)  I would post about it if I could, but my photos didn't come out so great.  Next time, for sure.

We toyed with the idea of finally making it to Edzo's Tuesday morning before our afternoon flight back home.  But it was rainy and we were lazy, so instead we walked a couple blocks from Queen G's house to Bang Bang Pie:


















We weren't the only ones braving the rain:


















We bought everything to go to enjoy with Queen G at home.  We got the bacon biscuit ($7):


















It came with candied bacon, collard greens, an egg, and hot sauce.

We also got the has biscuit ($6.50):


















Looks like a mess, but see if you can make out the roasted brussels sprouts, oyster mushrooms, butternut squash, and egg.

Can't leave Bang Bang Pie with pie, right?  We got the apple cider cream ($5):


















The cider custard was very dense, almost flan-like in consistency.  It came in a graham cracker crust and topped with cinnamon sugar.  I don't like the texture of flan...so I didn't particularly enjoy this pie.  Especially after my sister commented that it tasted like sneeze.

Umm.  All of a sudden, that's all I could taste.  Sneeze.  Gah.  My sister is the worst.

The chocolate pecan pie ($5), however, was amazing:


















Dark chocolate, maple sorgum filling, and pecans, all in a graham cracker crust.

So many biscuits on our last trip to Chicago.  We had biscuits a total of three times in three days.  Sorry Bang Bang, while your biscuits were warm and butter and magical, the biscuit winner is A Taste of Heaven.  Can't beat the pies at Bang Bang though!

A great, big, fat thank you to all of my friends in Chicago who took the time out of their busy schedules to hang with me.  A even bigger and fatter thank you to CK and Queen G who opened their homes to my sister and me.

Chicago, this isn't goodbye!  I'll definitely be back.  I still have unfinished business with Edzo's.


Bang Bang Pie
2051 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 276-8888
http://www.bangbangpies.com/

Monday, December 22, 2014

Chicago: Stan's Donuts & Coffee

No girlfriend reunion is complete without dessert.  After lunch at Dove's, we walked a bit down the street to Stan's Donuts:


















The interior was very hipster girly glam:


















With so many gorgeous donuts to choose from, we took a ridiculously long time to make our selection:


















So long that we got out of line to let other more prepared people go ahead.

All the donuts looked so good that we ended up getting five donuts for the three of us.

We got the nutella banana pocket:


















It wouldn't be called a nutella banana pocket without nutella and banana inside:


















Besides the pistachio glazed, we also got the toffee cake:


















And the lemon curd:


















Which we wished was a bit more tangy:


















And finally, the apple fritter:


















For someone who isn't a huge lover of donuts, it's surprising how often I have them.  It's not that I don't enjoy them, because I love myself a fluffy donut just as much as the next person. (Especially when it comes in the form of a pistachio glazed or a nutella pocket.)  It's just that I always crave french fries afterward.

If I was a donut lover, I would constantly be at Stan's Donuts.  But the donuts don't come cheap.  The regular ones are $1.75 each while the specialty ones are either $2.50 or $3.25 each.

Thank you, Goddess C, for taking the time out of your busy weekday to meet up for lunch!  Double thank you for treating us to donuts!  You better come visit the Bay soon or I'm going to go drag your ass over here myself.

Love ya!
  

Stan's Donuts & Coffee
1560 N. Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 360-7386
http://www.stansdonutschicago.com/

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chicago: Dove's Luncheonette

I didn't want CK to take time off work, so I promised to spend the weekend with her and the weekdays with Queen G.  My sister's interview at the University of Chicago was on Monday.  After my sister and CK left that morning, I packed up all our luggage and hopped on the bus to Queen G's place.

We sat around a bit just catching up before meeting up with Goddess C for lunch.  I wanted to do Edzo's, but the universe really didn't seem to want me to go because Edzo's is closed on Mondays.  Argh.

Instead, we did Dove's Luncheonette in Wicker Park, which Queen G had been dying to try:


















Dove's Luncheonette is essentially an hipster-ized Tex-Mex diner:


















There's really no other way to explain it.

We started with the roasted romanesco ($7):


















Now this was salad done right.  Broccoli romansco dressed with pipian verde (pumpkin seed sauce) and fried lemons.  Fried lemons.  Creamy and tangy with a bit of a crunch.  So good.

One of the daily specials was blood sausage and grits ($9).  How could we possibly turn that down?:


















I used to hate grits, but since having a few amazing grits experiences, I'm now a fan.  It has to be done well though.  And Dove's does it well.  So well.

For those of you who don't know, I love egg yolks with an all-consuming passion.  It is so precious to me that I hate to lose even a smidgen of it.  My preferred method of eating egg yolks is to simply pop the whole thing in my mouth.  How else can you guarantee catching every single drop of the liquid gold?  Because my girls know me so well, they let me take one of the egg yolks.

I love my friends.

Anyway, I digress.  Apparently the most popular dish at Dove's is its chicken fried chicken ($15):























I'm not surprised.  Just look at it.  It's beautiful.  Perfectly crispy buttermilk fried chicken smothered in chorizo verde gravy and sprinkled with sweet peas and green beans.  I was this close to picking up the plate and licking it clean.

Dove's Luncheonette is the perfect addition to the Publican and Avec family.  Seemingly simple dishes prepared with a loving flair, super friendly staff, and just an overall comfortable atmosphere.

It wasn't Edzo's, but I didn't mind one bit.


Dove's Luncheonette
1545 North Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 645-4060
http://www.doveschicago.com/

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
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