Ken's Artisan Bakery


Ken's Artisan Bakery in Portland, Oregon is largely responsible for my obsession with high quality breads. This was the first good U.S. bakery I encountered that branched out from whole grain loaves to stunning European-style breads and pastries.  Ken's brioche and cafe au lait became common study partners for me over those years, and I was truly sad to leave this wonderful bakery behind when I moved back to Chicago.


When Nick and I arrived at the Portland train station, we made our way directly to Ken's for lunch.  Though we had decided on sandwiches, I couldn't resist purchasing one of their mouthwatering croissants.  While explaining to Nick the reasons behind this addition to our lunch menu, the woman in front of us turned around to agree saying, "I lived in France for five years and I keep a vegan diet, but when I am back in Portland I always come here for one. They are the best."


Nick ordered the Pulled Pork Barbecue on a ciabatta roll with fennel coleslaw (pictured first).  I ordered the Croque Portabello with bechamel, fresh thyme, and Gruyere on country bread.  While the train food was better than we had expected, devouring these divine sandwiches helped remind us that good food should taste fresh and satisfying. 

Anyone who may fancy themselves a bread nerd should look at the "Essays" section on the Ken's Artisan Bakery website. With titles like, "What is Good Bread" and " Preferments for Better Living," Ken's essays are not only endearing, but full of first-hand advice from a baker that very clearly loves good bread.

Ken's Artisan Bakery
338 NW 21st Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209

Tonight we are going to see Heart (You stay away from "Barracuda", Sarah Palin!) and on Sunday, after months of fundraising and training, I run the Chicago Half Marathon.  Wish me luck!


Northwest Fast Food

My recent trip to the northwest was by all accounts delicious.  I already shared our train adventure with you, and while there are some elaborate meals that I will divulge in due time, I'd like to share one of my favorite guilty pleasures with you: Burgerville.

Those of you who live in the northwest may be rolling your eyes a bit, but if so, you truly don't know what a little gem you have.  While many of us try to stick to fresh and healthy foods, sometimes only a basket of onion rings and a milkshake will fit the bill.  Now, imagine if  those onion rings were made from local Walla Walla sweet onions and the milkshake was flavored with blackberries from a family farm 20 miles away.  This is something I took for granted when I lived in Portland, but miss when I am looking for some kind of "fast food" in Chicago.


Burgerville was founded in 1961 on three tenets: Fresh, Local, Sustainable.  They use local, vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free beef in their burgers, cage-free eggs in their breakfast items, and hormone-free milk.  They even include biodegradable garden pots and vegetable seed packets in their kids meals. The menu changes seasonally with local ingredients and you don't have to be embarrassed about making meal modifications based on allergies or dietary choices. 


Oh Burgerville...  You make me want to franchise.


In other news, I will be on the tasting panel at the first annual Chicago Luxury Chocolate Salon this weekend. (September 7th from 11 am to 5 pm.)

Featured chocolatiers and confectioners include: Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, The Chocolate Traveler, Cyndy's Sweet Treats, Guittard Chocolate, Confection Diva, Chocolate Gourmet , Katherine Anne Confections, Divine Chocolate USA, rr Chocolats, Mayana Chocolate, Coco Delice Fine Chocolates, Nespresso, Ventana Vineyards, Vermeer Dutch Chocolate Cream Liqueur,, Chocolate For Your Body, and more.

Tickets are $17.50 in advance; $20 at the door.

Eating on the Empire Builder


Before I took a recent train trip from Chicago to Portland, I looked for information on what to expect from the Amtrak dining car.  My search was largely fruitless. To help fill this gap for future riders, I posted an account of my dining experience at Gapers Block, a Chicago-based website that I also write for.  You can read it here.

Nick and I are in the middle of moving to a new neighborhood.  So far, the process has been substantially annoying due to landlord snafus.  We are hoping to be installed in the new apartment late tonight.  I will be back posting regular content as soon as we are settled!

Roasted Red Peppers and Peas


When it is really hot out, I find that I enjoy small snacks in place of large meals. Grazing on nuts, fruits and cheeses with a cool drink in hand is a relaxing way to spend a humid evening. Hummus is a delicious (and quick) addition to any lazy dinner or appetizer spread, and these easy embellishments on the standard chickpea fare will add flavor and and a splash of color.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


.75 C roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
2 Tbl tahini
1 Tbl olive oil
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
.5 tsp salt


Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth. Serve on pita or crostini and garnish with a basil leaf for color.

Pea and Ricotta "Hummus"

(Adapted from 101Cookbooks)


1 C fresh peas (or frozen, thawed)
.3 C ricotta cheese
1 Tbl olive oil
.25 tsp salt
.5 small shallot, minced
.25 C freshly grated Parmesan
zest of half a lemon


Add the peas, ricotta, olive oil, and salt to a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Stir in the remaining ingredients. Serve on pita or crostini and garnish with a shallot sliver for color.

Recent Events


A variety of events have kept me busy over the last few weeks.  I thought I would give you a quick rundown as I plot my next post.

ZAP Zinfandel Tasting: I was recently invited to the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers annual tasting. My fellow Gaper's Block staffer, Andie, was also in attendance and posted a thorough write-up of the event. My favorite wine of the evening was definitely the anomaly in the group; Meeker Winery's FroZin, a Zinfandel ice wine so delicious, I almost want to take it upon myself to find them a Midwestern distributor so that I can taste it again.*

Brunch at Roy's: The folks over at Roy's Chicago recently added a brunch menu.  Nick and I were invited to sample the decadent three-course meal. I have to admit that I wasn't expecting much out of a "Hawaiian fusion" menu, but I was proven wrong.  The standout dishes for us were the appetizers.  Nick ordered the "House Cured Salmon with cucumber ribbons, granny smith apple, watercress and caraway lemon dressing" and I ordered the "Wild Mushroom, Brie & Ricotta Ravioli with crispy leeks and asiago tomato cream" (pictured above).  Additionally, the Lilikoi cream on the fruit they served was superb.  The brunch is pricey ($26.95 for the regular prix fixe menu and $38.95 for the same menu plus "bottomless" mimosas), but I think Roy's would be a nice choice for a special event.*

World Pastry Cup 2009 Reception: The 11th Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie will take place in Lyon, France on January 25-26, 2009.  I was invited to a cocktail reception for the chefs that will be competing on the U.S. team this year.  The chefs had been working diligently on impressive pieces for each of the competition categories: ice sculpting, chocolate and sugar.  We had our fill of hor d'oeuvres and sweets, but the highlight of the evening was the chocolate cake.  A take on a black forest cake, this dessert boasts layers of hazelnut flour and passion fruit cake, dark chocolate cream, and gold leaf (photo: bottom left).  The cake won the U.S. team first prize in the chocolate category during the 2007 competition. The event was sponsored by Valrhona Chocolate and we were happy to be sent home with ten delicious chocolate bars. (Terry of Blue Kitchen was also in attendance, see his write-up here.)*

Urban Golf: My friends and I hosted the 3rd annual Memorial Day weekend urban golf event (CUDGEL).  We had a huge turnout and a few minor catastrophes, but all in all it was the event we have all grown to love. You can find more photos here.

Running: Most of you have probably noticed my marathon link on this page.  I will be up to six miles this Saturday.  The running is going well, save for some shin splints that I am nursing, but the fundraising is not.  I have a few more weeks to decide if I can run with the AIDS Marathon group, or if I should just sign up for general entry.

*Please note that these invitations were complimentary, but that I chose to write about them on my own volition.

Ruinart Champagne and Avec


When Nick took me to the May Street Market for my birthday last week, we picked up a flier for a Champagne tasting.  This past Monday I met my friends Paul and Margaret at the tasting to celebrate my birthday, Paul's birthday and Margaret's return to Chicago after living in Russia for a few years.


Ruinart, established in 1729, is the oldest operating Champagne house.  We had the opportunity to sample the Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and the Ruinart Rosé.  They were both delicious, refreshing and had beautiful coloring.  Both of these varieties run about $60 a bottle. 


I was glad to have a reason to return to the May Street Market so quickly and we were all pleased with the appetizers that they served during the tasting.


May Street Market Mussels.


May Street Market Maytag Blue Cheesecake.

We each drank three glasses of Champagne and enough appetizers to whet our appetites.


We decided to head east to Avec to continue the evening.  We ordered the Roasted Corn Bruschetta with fresh dill, shaved fennel and corn vinaigrette.


Chorizo-Stuffed Madjool Dates with smoked bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce.


A cheese flight of Mistura Biera (raw cow, ewe's milk) from Portugal, Caciocavallo (cow's milk) from Italy and Cabrales (cow, sheep and goat's milk) from Spain.


...and we shared a delicious bottle of wine.  It was a more extravagant Monday night than I am used to, but it was nice to celebrate with Paul and Margaret -- two of the best food and beverage companions I know.



I turned 26 last Friday.  Nick met me after work and we walked from my new job in the Ukrainian Village to the May Street Market in the west loop.

Neither of us had been to the May Street Market before and I was really pleased with his choice.  The host explained to us that their menu changes frequently because they buy their ingredients from local and sustainable resources (he mentioned the Green City Market by name).

Sadly, my photographs of the meal turned out pretty lousy, but I hope you will trust me when I tell you that each one looked stunning. We ordered a 2003 Dona Paula Shiraz-Malbec to go with the following:


On the top left is the "Maytag blue cheesecake  with roasted candied beets, arugula, spiced pecans, and elderflower sorbet." Nick ordered the "roasted venison medallions in a pistachio crust with carrot purée, chive spaetzle, and lingonberry sauce."  I ordered the pumpkin risotto with quinoa and dried cherries. It was fabulous with a very fitting presentation.  For dessert we shared "chocolate-banana bread pudding, caramel ice cream, chocolate sauce, and caramelized banana."  Everything was delicious and I highly recommend a visit.

Nick also bought us tickets to Bruce Springsteen!  The show is in late October and I am very excited to see him for the first time. 

We finished up the night at the Logan Square Small Bar where we enjoyed a variety of beers and our friend Parker's company. (Well, we actually finished the night on the porch with a bit of the Basil Hayden's that Nick bought.)


On Saturday afternoon Nick and I met my parents, my brother and my grandmother at my Uncle Jack and my Uncle Dave’s house in Old Town. We spent the beautiful, sunny day celebrating three birthdays: mine, Jack’s and my grandmother Arlene’s.

Dave is one of the best cooks I know.  He made us a delicious lunch of vegetarian Portobello lasagna, meat lasagna (sauces from scratch of course), Caesar salad, and garlic bread. My mom brought a pretty fruit and yogurt salad as well.


For my birthday my parents gave me a hefty sum to aid in my new computer purchase, which is very exciting!  They also gave me a pair of beautiful earrings from one of my favorite jewelers, Studio 2015 in my hometown of Woodstock. Also, my brother bought me!  That was sweet and thoughtful.  I will do something interesting with it soon.


Jack led us on a walking tour of Old Town where we were charmed by quaint old store fronts and left aghast by $40 million dollar concrete homes. When we returned for dessert we saw the stunning carrot cake that Jack and Dave ordered from Bittersweet. It was giant and delicious.


Nick and I returned home where I found these beautiful flowers from Eileen.  Note the kale, so beautiful.  This may have been the prettiest bouquet I have ever seen.  It was perfect for a late summer/early fall birthday.

We had a quick dinner at Small Bar before my friends arrived.  It was great to see so many people that I love all in one place, many of whom I do not see very often.  Harold arrived with a kitchen torch and butane for me.  We will plan some exciting gastronomic adventure soon to show it off. 

All in all this was one of my most memorable birthdays yet.  Outstanding food, family, friends, good beverages and long walks in Chicago - I don't need much else.

Holland, Michigan


In early July Nick and I took an Amtrak train from Chicago to Holland, Michigan.  We were met at the station by a very sweet young woman who was the keeper of the Dutch Colonial Inn where we had two nights reserved. We had decided on Holland thanks to the New Holland Brewery.  Nick and I are fans of many of their offerings, though most notably their Dragon's Milk.  The bed and breakfast is only about a mile from the brewery and we walked straight there after checking in to our room. 


There were a large number of IPAs on the chalkboard that we had never heard of, so we decided to start with a sampler tray:

Klomp Hatter IPA:  This one reminded us a bit of Gumballhead, with the hops kicking in at the end.  It was pretty good. 
Urele Heavy: A Scotch ale with a light front, a sweet end and a malty roundness throughout.
Nitro Hatter IPA:  This tasted bland and thin to us.
Belgian Hatter IPA: Smelled a bit like cough syrup and had a sharp astringent finish.
Imperial Hatter IPA: Very sweet with a muted hoppy-ness.  Full and luscious at the end.
Black Hatter IPA: This may have been the favorite of the bunch. Very dark in color and had a full earthy taste of toasted barely.  Not terribly complex, but strange and tasty.
Czarist stout: A very chocolaty stout with a frothy mouth-feel that finished pretty thin.
Existential: A sweet and hoppy barleywine.  Very good.


Their food was decent.  I ordered the annoyingly named "Treehugger" for eight bucks ("Vegetarians delight in this display of roughage! Served on a toasted focaccia bun, we pile hummus, cucumber, red onion, Roma tomato, sprouts, chipotle ranch dressing and dill havarti cheese.")  We learned, to our surprise, that the New Holland Brewpub does not own a deep fryer, so no fries...


After we ate we decided to move out back to their patio and ordered some tried and true full sized beers: the Dragon's Milk and Existential.  We had planned our trip around the brewery hours, and were well aware that the website claims the brewpub is open until 2 am on Saturdays.  However, again to our surprise, the kids who run the place (seriously, they all looked about 17)  closed up shop around 12:30 even though the place was packed.  This resulted in a mass exodus of very intoxicated patrons wandering out towards their cars and calling it a night.  Yikes. We walked home with a 22 to share in the garden.


Overall we weren't sure what to think of the New Holland Brewery and Brewpub.  Perhaps we just had bad luck, but no one seemed to know much about beer or really be old enough to drink it.  Their food was mediocre and they seem to be in need of a new manager if closing up shop an hour and a half early when the place is packed makes sense to them.  We were somewhat underwhelmed with the new beers we tried, but we do love the Dragon's Milk and Existential.  All in all I am quite glad we made the trip to the brewery, but I think in the future we will stick to those beers that the New Holland Brewing Company has deemed worthy of distribution. 

Oh, and one more thing, Holland doesn't allow beer or wine sales on Sundays --only liquor... This was an unfortunate surprise to us when we went back for one last try on Sunday afternoon.  Plan accordingly if you visit.  They neglected to mention this on their website we visited, but they now have a small button asking for help in repealing Sunday prohibition.


We really weren't heartbroken to use our time in other ways.  Holland is a charming little town and thanks to the Dutch Colonial Inn, we were able to fully enjoy it.  The Inn had two bikes that they allowed us to take all over town.  We biked the seven miles to the shores of Lake Michigan where the "Big Red Lighthouse" sits.  The views were breathtaking and the weather was perfect.


We then biked over to Windmill Island on the other side of town.  We paid the small admission fee and went straight to "De Zwaan," a 240 year old working Dutch windmill.  Our tour was run by a sweet and knowledgeable young woman dressed in traditional Dutch attire. We were able to climb all around the windmill and learned quite a bit about the tradition behind various decorations and how the milling process works.  Flour is still milled at De Zwaan and visitors can buy the flour in the gift shop.


We then spent about an hour laying around on the lawn and framing shots of Nick fighting the windmill.  Other attractions at Windmill Island include: a working antique carousel, homemade fudge, a working antique Amsterdam street organ, a miniature village and old-time klompen dancing performances.


We returned to the bed and breakfast to lay around and plan for dinner.  Our options were very limited on a Sunday night in Holland, Michigan.  We were going to order a pizza and call it a weekend, but our lovely inn keeper once again came to the rescue.  She scoffed when I asked for delivery recommendations and basically made us take her car back out towards the lighthouse to have a civilized dinner.  She recommended the Piper Restaurant on the water.  They had a lovely balcony overlooking the docks and the cool evening felt wonderful. 


We were both still in the mood for pizza, especially now that we had found a place with a wood oven.  Nick ordered the Meaty Medley: Italian sausage, smoked ham and pepperoni with a five-cheese blend and tomato sauce.   


I designed my own with asparagus and goat cheese.  It was all very tasty.


Holland, Michigan is a beautiful town.  We experienced some great food, interesting beer, gorgeous scenery and unbelievable hospitality.  This was an easy trip from the city and one I would highly recommend.

Waupaca: Chez Marché Café


I have written extensively about Waupaca, Wisconsin -- a small town on a chain of lakes where my family vacations each summer.   A few years ago a small café moved into the space adjoining the Waupaca book store in the old downtown area.  My family has dined here on a few occasions and each time it gets better.  Chez Marché uses local and sustainable products to create vibrant, fresh dishes. 

On our most recent trip my mother ordered a bowl of their Curried Tomato Soup.  I spooned some on top of my bread to enjoy.  It was delicious. One of the fantastic things about this restaurant is that they have posted dozens of recipes on their website.  Sadly, the recipe for this sweet and spicy soup is not included.  I would love to be able to make this for myself in the late summer when there is always an abundance of tomatoes.


My father ordered a simple side salad with some beautiful greens and stunning tomatoes.


We enjoyed good quality olives with excellent bread as we waited for our main courses.


I ordered the Complex Salad: Fresh mixed greens, goat cheese, a poached egg, croutons and herbs in a house vinaigrette.  In addition the salad arrived with cucumbers, tomatoes, thinly sliced onions and one glorious yellow nasturtium.  I should have made a point to ask for the egg runny, as it was slightly cooked when it arrived to me (and warm runny egg yolk on a salad is something I find quite delicious).  But this was my oversight and the salad was otherwise bright, flavorful and satisfying.


My brother Evan ordered Sautéed Garlicky Greens with melted Carr Valley Fontina Cheese.


My father ordered a special for his main course: A rich summer squash gratin.


My mother ordered Prosciutto and Fontina Sacchetini: Small "purses" of pasta filled with Fontina cheese, prosciutto ham, basil, garlic and pepper in a light cream and herb sauce.


The space is quaint, with tables, chairs and tableware in dozens of styles.  Local art adorns the walls and the stage in front is often used for local music and speakers. The Waupaca Peace Group was holding a small meeting and my mother spoke with them about the Peace Group she belongs to in Woodstock.   This restaurant definitely has a community feel to it and the service is always relaxed and friendly.  This restaurant lets us take a break from the more typical grilled food and beer offerings in the area and have a civilized, quiet and local meal together.  (Though we do love our ham/veggie burgers and beer).


The few times we have visited Chez Marché there have not been many other diners.  If you ever find yourself in the area I would highly recommend this restaurant.  We are worried that we will drive into downtown Waupaca one summer to find the café gone.  This little gem deserves to stay around. Bonni Miller, the chef and owner, and has created some lovely dishes.  In a few years I would not be surprised if they are putting out some of the best food in their greater-Wisconsin area.

Salpicón and Lookingglass Alice


Nick is returning to the University of Illinois next week.  I just bought my ten-ride Amtrak ticket and intend to see him frequently, however it will still be an adjustment.

I wanted to plan something nice before the semester started, so I arranged to take the day off from work and made some reservations.

We had been meaning to dine at Salpicón and this seemed like a fine occasion to do so.  We began with Salpicón Margaritas, made with Herradura Silver, Gran Torres and fresh lime juice. As an appetizer we ordered the special, Flores de Calabaza, pictured above.  Three zucchini blossoms were stuffed with goat cheese and epazote, dipped in a light batter, sautéed and served with a roasted poblano cream sauce.


For his main course Nick ordered the Tinga Poblana -- grilled Brookfield Farms pork tenderloin in a spicy roasted tomato-chipotle sauce with chorizo and potatoes, served with a cool avocado-tomatillo sauce.


I ordered the Chiles Doña Queta -- a poblano chile stuffed with huitlacoche (earthy corn mushrooms), fresh corn and zucchini, served in a roasted poblano cream sauce and an ancho chile filled with potatoes, Chihuahua and cotija cheese with a sweet-spiced roasted tomato sauce.

Huitlacoche were new to me.  This fungus grows on corn and has a very different texture than most mushrooms.  The exterior is almost like a cooked pearl onion, while the interior is soft and mealy. Considered a delicacy in Mexico, these mushrooms are apparently considered a disease (and called "corn smut") in the rest of the corn producing world.

Everything we ordered was delicious. I think we were both mildly underwhelmed with the margaritas, but perhaps only because they are always touted as the best around.  The most outstanding part our meal was the same for each dish -- the sauces.  All were distinct, complex and complimented the dishes well.  Their website has a small section of recipes that I am interested in trying. 

(Photo courtesy of the Lookingglass Theatre website)

After dinner we walked to the Lookingglass Theatre for the play Alice. Nick has been mentioning his interest in this play for sometime.  He and I both enjoy theater quite a bit, but oddly had never been to a play together before.  The Lookingglass Theatre is housed in the old water tower pumping station and is a really neat space.  I thought it was a great production with an incredible cast.  I believe that Lauren Hirte, the actor who played Alice, may be one of the strongest women I have ever seen.  Not only did she perform incredible acrobatics during the production, but also carried full grown men in several scenes.  She was a pleasure to watch, as were the other four actors in the production.

It was a fun date and I would recommend one or both of these events to everyone.  A 5 p.m. dinner reservation allowed us plenty of time to leisurely walk the mile to the theater with time to spare before the 7 p.m. production.  We are meeting a group of Nick's friends at Small Bar this weekend for a more typical goodbye event, but I am glad we were able to find time to do something new together.

Northwest Herald features the Algonquin Sub Shop


Pro Bono Baker was mentioned in the Northwest Herald this past week.  Liz Wolgemuth wrote a piece on the Algonquin Sub Shop and quoted my description of the Where’s Waldorf sandwich.  You can read my two posts on the Sub Shop for more information.  I'd venture to say that this is my favorite sandwich in the world.

Download AlgonquinSubShop.doc

BlogHer Conference


I am listening to the keynote breakfast talk: What Humans Do with Artificial Intelligence on day two of the BlogHer Conference here in Chicago. 

Last night I met nearly 40 food bloggers from around the world at Lao Sze Chuan for dinner.  It was quite an experience to meet the authors of some of my favorite food sites in person.  I will post more on Waupaca, the food blogger dinner and BlogHer soon.

(Above: Chinese Eggplant in Garlic Sauce and Garlic Spinach)

Kuma's Corner


Last night Eileen, Nick and I went to Kuma's Corner for dinner.  I just returned from a business trip to Baltimore (more on that in a future post) and Eileen is departing for a 20 day trip to Ireland, Spain and Morocco this evening.  After the insane storms in the afternoon that left many of the streets flooded, knocked trees onto unsuspecting parked cars near my house and flooded and closed Eileen's school, the subsequent calm and balmy evening provided perfect weather for Kuma's patio.  They gave us a lot of "if you sit out there, it is at your own risk" talk when we sat down, but by the time we left the patio was completely full.

The server informed us that the taps were super warm and not recommended that evening.  Turning instead to the bottle menu, we attempted to order about six beers that they were out of.  Fairly annoyed, Nick ordered a Coke and I wound up with a decent, but certainly not new or exciting Great Lakes Elliot Ness amber lager.  It seems like bars and liquor stores are consistently out of what we want lately.  But the real reason for this trip was the incredible food at Kuma's Corner.  Famished, we got to ordering.  Eileen ordered the "Iron Maiden" with chicken breast, avocado, cherry peppers, pepper jack, and chipotle mayo (I forgot to photograph hers). I ordered the "Neurosis" with a veggie burger, cheddar, swiss, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions and horseradish mayo. 


Nick ordered their stunning flagship burger, the "Kuma Burger."  A half pound black angus burger with bacon, cheddar and a fried egg on top.  A truly beautiful and impressive item.  As Nick pointed out, it's like putting the "whole barnyard" in your stomach. All of their burgers are served on delicious pretzel buns that are made by Labriola Baking Company in Chicago.  Sadly, Labriola only provides their artisan breads to restaurants and hotels at the moment.  Though, there seems to be talk of an eventual retail space.


As you can most likely gather from the assortment we ordered, the burgers can be made with traditional beef, chicken breast, chicken fingers or a veggie burger.  They run between $10 - $12 and come with homemade chips or fries.  Their ketchup is noteworthy as they add some subtle spiciness to it.  Aside from the lack of a beer selection on this visit, Kuma's has consistently impressed me with their food and beers.  I keep meaning to order their "Make your own mac and cheese," but with 16 different burgers to choose from I always seem to end up on that side of the menu.

Hot Doug's and Broken Bones

Last weekend Nick and I made plans to finally eat at Hot Doug's together.  However, when I woke up that morning my right hand was twice it's normal size.  I determined that I must have broken my wrist the night before when I tripped over the television that isn't normally in the middle of our kitchen whilst carrying two deck chairs in the door, backwards.  Knowing that the impending emergency room visit would take at least 5 hours, I decided that enjoying a fried veggie corn-dog (which they only offer on weekends) would make the gloomy looking end to the weekend somewhat rewarding (to much protest from Nick, I should add). 

We walked to Hot Doug's from Logan Square, and after a spell where I had to take a break on their lawn because I was sure I was going to faint, we sat down with our selection. 


Nick ordered an elk sausage with a mustard sauce and mustard seed cheese, I enjoyed the aforementioned veggie corn-dog and we split a giant basket of duck-fat fried french fries. 


It was all very greasy and very good.


We also bought celery soda.  I had never tasted it before.  It was definitely sweeter than most things I enjoy, but the taste was so unique that I hardly minded.

We then traveled to my HMO approved hospital where we spent the next many hours. (Conveniently located next to Binny's at least!)  Nick was sweet and put up with the crazy old men and poorly behaved children in the ER waiting room while those tending me decided I might have a novicular fracture. I spent this last week at appointments with my general practitioner and orthopedic surgeons, getting enough x-rays to take a year off of my life, and the verdict is still out.  They basically told me to wear a wrist brace and if it hurts in a few weeks it is broken, if it doesn't hurt in a few weeks it isn't broken.  Ah, modern medicine.  I'm glad I ate first.

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Dinner with a Food Blogger and Mark Bittman's No Knead Bread

I recently had the opportunity to dine with a lovely fellow food blogger, Alanna from A Veggie Venture.   Alanna was in Chicago on business and we decided to meet at a restaurant near her hotel, the Basil Leaf Café.  The restaurant was quiet and the food was quite good.  I ordered the Butternut Squash Ravioli with Fresh Spinach & Roasted Garlic in Basil Oil and would recommend it.  We sat and talked for nearly three hours.  It was a very enjoyable evening. 


During our conversation Mark Bittman's No Knead Bread came up.  I haven't been baking bread very often lately, but this reminder encouraged me to throw together this very simple dough on Monday night. 

When I returned home from work on Tuesday I took the bread through the final rise and baked it in my new cloche.  Nick and I made a nice dinner of goat cheese and roasted tomato ravioli with a garlic cream sauce.  The bread turned out wonderfully, with a gorgeous crust and a light sour taste.  We enjoyed it warm with dill havarti cheese while we finished our wine and watched episodes of 30 Rock.

It seems every food blogger has made this bread, so I won't bother reposting the recipe here (you can also find a video).  I would recommend that bakers, both new and seasoned, give this bread a try.  The results are great.  I do find it a bit funny that the absence of kneading should make bread making so much more accessible.  I actually really enjoy kneading bread.  Rather, it is my impatience with letting dough rise for hours (or days) that is the most bothersome.  However, this recipe provides some great instruction for the home baker, particularly when it comes to creating a good oven environment.  Putting the dough inside of a well preheated container, be it a cloche or heavy pot, will offer dramatically different results than simply placing the dough on a sheet pan.

Thanks for looking me up Alanna, and for reminding me of this great recipe!

Algonquin Sub Shop - Revisited

Nick and I stopped by the Algonquin Sub Shop this past weekend on our way back to the city.  If you are ever in the area and looking for a sandwich, there is no reason to stop anywhere else. 


I posted nearly 2 years ago about another visit, but ate my sandwich before I had the chance to take any pictures.  It has been about 7 years since I ordered my first sandwich here and I still get the same thing -- the Where's Waldorf: crisp apples, grilled green bell peppers, toasted walnuts, spinach, melted brie cheese and Vidalia onion dressing.  Sometimes they will add red onions, tomatoes, and pickles -- I'd recommend ordering without these additions.  Be sure to eat it warm in order to fully appreciate the messy, gooey brie.


Nick ordered the South of the Border with grilled chicken, spicy salsa, melted Jack and Cheddar, tomato, red onion and lettuce.  He at first seemed disappointed with his selection, perhaps due to the sheer volume of choices (there are nearly thirty different subs to choose from) however once it arrived he was very pleased.


The subs cost a bit more than typical fast food fare (around $7 each), but it is well worth it.  Not only is one sandwich more than enough food, but in one stop you can please lacto-ovo vegetarians and omnivores alike.

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7th Annual Feast of the Senses: Part 2

The second half of our evening at the 7th annual Feast of the Senses.


The Catherine Edelman Gallery hosted Butter and their Liquid Guacamole and Chips.  This offering was easily the most exciting of the night.  This was a lovely example of a dramatic deconstruction of a common dish that worked perfectly.  The focus was on flavor, temperature, and texture rather than simply presentation.  The top layer, the "chips", consisted of warm milk and cream infused with tortilla chips and then strained creating a liquid corn chip.  The bottom layer was a cool, creamy, and lightly salted guacamole.  The texture of both layers was silky and the temperature difference aided in the delightfully confusing sensation of tasting a familiar dish, while tactilely experiencing something completely different.

In zg Gallery we sampled meads from Wild Blossom Meadery.  Harold and I have at various times frequented the lovely Bev-Art store, a superb home-brew store on the south-side of Chicago, which sells these meads.  If you have any interest in home-brewing yourself I highly suggest the attentive and expert service provided by this supply store.


The Andrew Bae Gallery hosted the ever delicious and generous Goose Island Brewery. Young women gave away full bottle samples of six of their most popular beers. It was perhaps a shame not to find some more exciting offerings than the standards.

Fox & Obel offered Dry Rubbed BBQ Shrimp on Quinoa Salad.  The Shrimp was perhaps salty to a fault though the salad was quite good boasting well balanced flavors and perfectly cooked quinoa.

Across the street at the Martha Schneider Gallery we sampled a truly delicious and delicate Chilled English Pea "Veloute" with Vanilla, Pistachio, and Shallots from Courtrights Restaurant. The fresh flavors bursting from the chilled peas and the palate warming vanilla and pistachio made for a fantastic soup. If I ever find myself out in Willow Springs, I know where to dine.  In this gallery we also sampled Evolution wine from Sokol Blosser, which was nice but unremarkable.



Vie served Caveny Farms Turkey and Sweet Cherries in the Marx-Saunders Gallery.  This house-cured smoked turkey served with sun-dried sweet cherries, wood-grilled chicories, and herbs was quite good. My father spoke with the owner of Caveny Farms for a bit and he was a very sweet man.  I would love to recommend that you order your Thanksgiving turkey from his business, you will not be disappointed.


In this gallery we also sampled Kobrand Spain wines.  Each of us fell in love with Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial.  This wine from Sardon de Duero was certainly one of the best I have had the opportunity to taste.  I highly recommend it.

Sadly, this brought us to the end of our night.  As we found last year there are far too many enticing offerings at the Feast of the Senses to get through in the few hours of the event. 

We all had an amazing time and I would like to offer my many thanks to Portia Belloc-Lowndes for inviting me once again.  Check out the fantastic book she co-authored, The Slow Food Guide to Chicago.

7th Annual Feast of the Senses: Part 1

The Chicago Art Dealers Association: Feast of the Senses.  Food, wine, art & music.


On June 22nd I met Nick, Harold, and my father in river north to attend the seventh annual Feast of the Senses.  John and I attended this event last year and had a lovely time.  The proceeds from this event were used to benefit three not-for-profit organizations: New Orleans Gumbo, Farm Aid Hurricane Relief, and Purple Asparagus.

After checking in we went directly to the Belloc Lowndes Fine Art Gallery in pursuit of Alinea.  Chef Grant Achatz was serving Chewy Balsamic Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil. I have yet to dine at Alinea due to the prohibitively high cost for my currently empty pockets.  The opportunity to sample this small offering was highly appreciated.  As you can see in these two photographs the item was served on long movable skewers resting on the bar.  The patron was then invited to taste the sample hands-free.


The texture was superb while the flavor was a bit heavy on the balsamic.  You can see the cube of chewy balsamic in the first picture on the bottom of the stack.  Overall this dish was quite delicious, but perhaps the novelty of the presentation won out over taste.

Also in this gallery we sampled Eli's Cheesecake shooters which were good but uninspired. The Abita brewery had samples of several of their beers.  We sampled the Restoration Ale and Purple Haze.  The first was nice and balanced while the second was too fruity and thin, definitely a novelty beer.


We then made our way to the Stephen Kelly Gallery to find ristorante we which was serving one of my favorite dishes from the last Feast of the Senses: Chilled Roasted Garlic Soup with Olive Oil Croutons and Spicy Greens.


The unfailingly nice Mark DiDomenico presided over the table and subsequently invited me to a fantastic Champagne tasting at his hotel a few weeks later. The velvety-smooth texture of the soup is punctuated with the resoundingly clear flavor of the garlic and the cool temperature is both suprising and pleasant.  I highly recommend dining at ristorante we to sample this incredible soup.

Also in this gallery we sampled ciders from the Fox Valley Winery. An unpasteurized and unfiltered Christian Drouin Poiré Pear Cider from Normandy, France at 4.0% ABV and an unpasteurized and unfiltered Lauriston Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie, an apple cider also from Normandy. Both of these were excellent though Harold and I preferred the pear due to the lower final sugar content.


At the Judy Saslow Gallery Collins Caviar served Bloody Mary Gazpacho Shooters with Caviar, Pepper, Lime Sour Cream Float & Fresh Celery. These were good, but it was difficult to taste the caviar.


Heaven on Seven served jambalaya which was delicious though the rice it was served on was quite overcooked.


PRP Wine International served a variety of wines.  Harold was not thrilled with any of them, though I enjoyed their Oligitum Reserva, Cab Blend 2000 from Navarra, Spain.

To read about the second half of our evening head to this post.

Goodbye Berghoff


It recently became apparent that Cindy of Food Migration and I had a bit in common. Namely, living in Chicago with our parents, unemployed, and newly returned from 6 months abroad. (And we both run food blogs of course.) Cindy emailed me and we made a plan to meet one another. I suggested that we get an early lunch at Fontanos and then head to the Berghoff Bar for some final drinks before it closed for "renovations." I wasn't sure how my new friend would take my suggestion to hit a bar before noon, but much to my delight she thought it was "the coolest idea ever." I had a feeling we would get along.


It was my first time at Fontanos. One of my old roommates is a big fan and I kept meaning to stop by. John and I got there early and the sweet woman who ran the shop made us a fresh pot of coffee for free and we watched them move in the goods for the day. Later on we even got to watch them move out two 8 foot long subs! Amazing.

The subs were very good. The bread in particular was excellent. Super soft sub breads (like those of Subway) taste wet and spongy, while still others might be so hard and crusty that they hurt my mouth. This bread, however, had the perfect texture and chewiness. All of the ingredients were high quality, fresh, and perfectly seasoned. I am a fan.


Though some people might not give a lot of pause to the Berghoff closure, it did make me sad. I had a surprise chance to be part of a dinner reservation last Saturday with my parents which was a lot of fun. The restaurant wasn't excellent, but I will sorely miss my standard meal of mushroom strudel and creamed spinach. In addition, the staff was wonderful during all of my experiences -- some of the finest waiters I have had the pleasure to meet, the Berghoff Cafe was a lovely little out of the way place where it was almost always easy to find a table on my lunch break, and the bar. . .


. . .Oh the bar. I am one of those people that loves to read in bars alone. The Berghoff Bar was the place for my enjoyment of this past time. An engrossing book and reasonably priced quality beer was one of my favorite ways to spend my hour after work and before beginning the often long commute home. I have met some of the friendliest folks sitting at that bar, and not one of them asked for my number. For a girl who likes to sit alone in bars, the interest in my literary choices as opposed to whether or not I was single was a welcome change. I know the bar will re-open, but I'm not planning to count my eggs before they hatch. I am openly mourning the end of the only charming and laid-back bar in the loop.


Yesterday, the last day, Cindy, her boyfriend Randy, John, our friend Dan, and I spent the hours between 11:45am and 2:45pm with a crowd of half patrons to half journalists. The bartenders were calm and cool as ever and the pure joy of the employed who had cut work to spend a few hours getting boozed up felt frenetic.


I truly hope the Berghoff Bar retains its character and once the hoopla boils down, I hope things become as lovely as they once were. We shall see.


It was wonderful to meet Cindy and Randy. I hope we can share a few more unemployed afternoons together.

Tastefully Yours


My mother and I went out for a pre-Valentine's lunch last week in Barrington, IL after a misguided attempt to find a new bakery that had been recommended to me. A woman suggested Tastefully Yours to us just before we unhappily entered Einstein Bagels to find something to eat. Located near the train station, this new restaurant doubles as an antique showroom. The decor is unique and quite lovely. Everything from the tables to the salt shakers can be purchased.


My mother sweetly threw ours in with the check after I had fondled them for most of the meal.

The food was pretty good. My mother ordered the grouper po' boy. Panko-crusted grouper with wasabi mayonaise, tomato, and lettuce. It was served with seasoned pita chips and a selction of fruits (grapes, cantaloupe, and pineapple).


I orderd the grilled cheese. Brie with raspberry jam grilled between slices of pecan-walnut bread. It was served with a house salad (mixed greens, carrot, cucumber, and tomato in a balsamic vinaigrette) and the same fruits.


The grilled cheese was good, but it should have been toasted longer in my opinion. The cheese was barely melted and the bread was only warm and pliable. I would have cut the cheese in half and added some fresh apples to the mix, but overall the flavors were nice. The bread was especially tasty.

Sadly, the salad was awful. It consisted of entirely old and wilted greens (as you can see in the above picture). I only managed to eat a few pieces of spinach that had persevered along with the other vegetables. What I did eat divulged a fantastic balsamic vinaigrette. I should have gone with the soup. Oh well.

Tastefully Yours has a great atmosphere and a nice staff. However the service is very slow and they are only open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 2:30pm for lunch and tea on the second Monday of the month beginning at 3pm. They also have a catering service.

I would recommend a lunch stop at Tastefully Yours if you are ever in the Barrington area, though not a special trip.

Tastefully Yours
230 East Main Street
Barrington, IL 60010