Friday, January 13, 2017

Harvest Moon or Moonage Daydream

The Slow and Savory Review

While Bunny and Brandy were busy branding 2017 "The Year of Togetherness," Brandy's friend Bailey was making a different New Year's resolution in the form of returning to her love of art. "I barely painted at all last year. I miss it so much. Being covered in splatters of color, having pigment under my fingernails, getting splinters from gripping the brushes too tightly... Oh, I miss it so much." "Well then," said Brandy, "Why don't you bring out a canvas and get to it?" "I need some inspiration!" Bailey sighed, "With everything that happened last year, I just sort of... lost touch with my creative spark. I need to find something to ignite my imagination." "Well, I know my little old brain box always works best when I'm well fed." "Brunch is your solution to everything, isn't it?" "Brunch is the world's solution to everything, darling, not just mine."

Thinking about Bailey's artistic inclinations, Brandy was drawn to an eccentric little spot in Bucktown called Harvest Moon. Backing up its Bohemian vibes with a local and seasonal inspired menu, a rotating selection of local beers, and local live musicians, Harvest Moon stood poised to become a favorite hangout for artistic types from all over the city.

From the very start, Brandy was enchanted by the design and feel of Harvest Moon. Large surreal murals of Edwardian women filled the space on the brick walls not taken up by the high backed booths, which adorably resembled over sized arm chairs. The bar's back wall and sides had been covered in moss and lit with tiny fairy lights for an extra touch of magic, while the ceiling had been decorated with a patchwork of empty picture frames. The layout was open and flexible enough to allow for different table configurations, which came in handy when one took into consideration the stage at the back of the room, which throughout the week would host live musicians, DJ's, and trivia nights. "I simply adore the decor," Brandy swooned, "This place is like a speakeasy in Wonderland!"

The brunch menu was limited to a few signature entrees accompanied by traditional brunch cocktail options (like bottomless mimosas and Bloody Mary's, though the bloodies came in some very interesting sounding flavors), so Brandy and Bailey decided to just split a few dishes between them while sipping on some mimosas. First up, they started with the intriguing sounding Breakfast Pot Pie. Brandy had been hoping for something quiche-like, but the dish actually more closely resembled a frittata. Coming served in a miniature cast iron pot, the dish consisted of an eggy mixture with spinach and bacon topped by a circle of puff pastry. Brandy enjoyed that these traditional breakfast flavors were being combined in such a new and interesting way, especially the bacon, which had been crumbled so as to function almost as a flavoring salt.

Next up, they tried the Shrimp and Grits, which like the pot pie, ended up more resembling another traditional brunch dish. Instead of southern style grits, this dish actually came with a block of polenta, which was surrounded by several large shrimp, a spicy tomato sauce, and topped with a fried egg. The spice in the tomato sauce certainly wasn't kidding around and had both Bailey and Brandy reaching for their drinks after the first bite. "This reminds me more of the Spanish dish, Eggs in Purgatory," said Brandy, "Quite ingenious to combine the two dishes into one." The shrimp were nicely tender and the egg too was perfectly cooked. "And look, we got a double yolk!" Bailey exclaimed, pointing to the egg, "Those are good luck, you know!"

Following that, the two dived into the Chicken and Waffles. The chicken was quite a generous portion of leg resting on a large waffle, which had more of the crumbled bacon mixed into the batter. Bailey, the expert on fried chicken, really approved of the cornmeal coating on the chicken, which had a great crunch, as well as the tender meat. The waffle, on the other hand, was a bit dense for her taste and even though it had been dotted with bacon, didn't seem to have much flavor. "The whole point of chicken and waffles is that it should combine sweet and savory," Brandy observed, "So in my opinion, the waffle generally needs to be firmly on the sweet side. Otherwise, what you've got is more chicken and a biscuit." Of course, a good slick of maple syrup helped to bring the flavors together a little better, but still, both ladies felt the waffle needed a reformulation to really live up to the delicious chicken.

Lastly, they ended on a sweet note with an order of the Cinnamon Apple French Toast. The toast came served with cooked green apples and plenty of whipped cream. While well done, there wasn't anything really remarkable about the dish that set it apart from similar dishes at other establishments. The apples were nicely sweet and tart at the same time, the toast was eggy and well caramelized, and the cream added a nice bit of decadence. "You know me," said Bailey, "I'm never going to turn my nose up at anything with apples in it."

The service at Harvest Moon was relaxed and friendly, leaving Brandy with not just the feeling of being taken care of, but of having actually made a human connection. The prices were quite good for the dishes as well, mostly ranging from about $10-$15 a plate, but it seemed that most of the plates were devoid of side dishes, which had to be ordered separately. "So, do you feel inspired yet?" Brandy asked as Bailey finished up her last piece of chicken. "Oh yes, I think I've definitely found my inspiration. You know how the chef here has combined ideas from several different dishes to create new ones? I think I want to try something similar by combining different styles of art to create a whole new genre!" "Sounds good to me," said Brandy, "After all, the greatest meal known to man was created when some intelligent person decided to combine breakfast and lunch."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine at the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

Friday, January 6, 2017

Jerry Sandwiches or Grateful Bread

The Slow and Savory Review

There was a time in the 1960's when Brandy had occasion to visit a certain area of California known as Haight-Ashbury. She had been told there was a terrific tea shop in this particular intersection from which she could buy almost any variety of loose leaf tea she could dream of. At a time before the internet made the acquisition of rare goods almost instant, this was quite a prospect. "They did indeed have plenty of varietals that excited me greatly," Brandy later recounted, "But there was an odd smell in that shop I could never quite pinpoint." During her time there, Brandy also became an unlikely fan of the kind of music being produced by the free spirited residents. "I used to be able to sit on the steps of the building I was staying in and hear guitars and tambourines all the way down the street. It was very lovely, though I do wish they could have played a little more ragtime or jitterbug every once in a while."

Remembering this had been a particularly happy period of Brandy's life, her good friend Mama Bee decided to take Brandy on a little adventure to a restaurant inspired by that very same spirit of freedom and discovery: Jerry's Sandwiches. Named after the leader of one of the biggest bands to come out of the psychedelic era, Jerry's boasts a menu of over 100 sandwiches with influences in flavor and composition from all over the country. Mama Bee figured this would be just the kind of place where Brandy might be able to find something really unique among a huge variety of choices, much like she had all those years ago in that little tea shop in San Francisco.

The Jerry's in Lincoln Square had an open, welcoming vibe with a fireplace off to one side and pops of teal paint on the walls to liven up the space. Nothing pretentious or fancy, but this was also not some hole in the wall deli. "It feels like the perfect kind of neighborhood place," said Brandy, "Where one can come in for a drink, a bite, and enjoy a game. It's rare in this day and age to fine a place that offers that kind of feel without trying to be something else as well."

Speaking of drinks, Mama Bee chose the Abuelita's Old Fashioned to start off her meal. This fun twist on a traditional Old Fashioned was made with a Mexican vanilla bean infused syrup, chocolate bitters, and Mexican hot chocolate spices placed inside a cinnamon stick, so that when one swirled the stick around, the drink swirled into its final form. Both Mama Bee and Brandy (who was able to steal a sip while Mama Bee wasn't looking) loved this sweet and spicy concoction that had the aura of a spiced cider, but an almost creamy and smooth finish. Brandy went with the Leatherbone cocktail, as she has a great affinity for smokey drinks. This one combined bourbon, bitters, and a leather scented syrup in a bold, smokey cocktail that almost emulated puffing away on a cigar. "This is what you call a Sipping Cocktail," Brandy commented, "That is to say, it's something to enjoy over a long meal."

For their starters, Brandy and Mama Bee split an order of Fried Cheese Curds and the house special Corn Dogs, which every month were made with a different sausage at their core. The cheese curds were fairly standard for what they were, but well done with a melty interior and a lightly crisp exterior. The unique thing about them was that they could be ordered with a side of soup for dipping into, which in this case was a butternut squash bisque, working quite well for adding some more earthy notes to the experience. The corndogs were quite interesting, as this particular sausage was a Hungarian smoked sausage, which gave each bite a warmth and a burst of flavor. The sausage had been sliced into rounds and then coated in a cornmeal batter, deep fried, and served with a skewer in them, so they didn't exactly resemble fair ground corndogs, but thankfully, they didn't taste like them either. Brandy and Mama Bee got an extra joy from dipping them into a spicy honey mustard for an extra bit of kick.

After a meaty and cheesy opening to their meal, Mama Bee decided to stick on the side of vegetation and ordered a sandwich called the Jenny F. Brandy was actually surprised by this, as Mama Bee has a somewhat low tolerance for heat, and the sandwich mainly featured green chilies and sliced jalapenos along with fried onions, fresh mozzarella, avocado, shredded lettuce, and a southwestern mayo (Mama Bee also added on some bacon because, as she put it, "Bacon makes everything better! Even vegetarian dishes!") all on a potato bun. The sandwich certainly packed a subtle punch that sneaked up on Mama Bee, but the avocado and the heartiness of the potato bun helped to balance things out. The veggies were all nicely crisp, the unusual combination or which made for something one doesn't often see in a mainly vegetarian sandwich. "Usually you see some tomato, lettuce, cheese, and that's about it," said Mama Bee, "I'm always glad to see the new and exciting ways people come up with for giving veggie fans more exciting options."

Brandy went in the opposite direction and ordered the Western Burger with a side of Cider Slaw and Caramelized Potatoes.  This meaty option came saddled with fried onions, bacon, cheddar cheese, ranch dressing, a house BBQ sauce, and some crispy shredded lettuce on a pretzel bun. With the onions and bacon coming in to play, the burger had a nice bit of crunch to it, which Brandy greatly enjoyed. The flavors of the various toppings and sauces all sort of vied for attention at once, like an overly talented ensemble cast in a movie, meaning the beef was not the central focus of the burger. Though she usually likes to be able to taste the meat of a burger first and foremost, Brandy didn't mind this one so much, as the various bold flavors all sort of worked well together.

"Even though I greatly enjoyed my burger, I have to admit that I'm quite curious about the 99 other options on this menu," said Brandy, "That's the problem with such a variety of choices. You'll always end up wondering what could have been." "Did you ever wonder what you were missing out on at that tea shop in Haight-Ashbury?" asked Mama Bee. "Oh constantly," Brandy replied, "There were all these bearded fellows in denim jeans and fringed vests who used to come in and ask for the 'special blend.' Yet when I asked for the 'special blend,' the owner told me he didn't think I would like it. From what I saw, it seemed perfectly acceptable to me, though he sold it pre-packaged in tiny little plastic bags... I never did get to sample it."

The writers of this blog were invited by the restaurant to dine free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

Jerry's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Food News: Avec 2017 Collaborative Brunch Series

After the whirlwind year that was 2016, Bunny and Brandy have decided that their theme for 2017 should be Togetherness. "Most people promise to eat healthy and that sort of thing for New Year's," said Brandy in their joint statement (made via satellite, of course), "But we think that in the current climate, there's simply more productive things we could be doing, and that starts with working together." "Yes indeed!" squeaked Bunny, "After all, shouldn't brunch be about togetherness? It's the only meal that successfully combines the opposing forces of sweet and savory. Come to think of it, brunch itself is a combination of two different meals, working together harmoniously to create the ultimate in gastronomic experiences!"

In the spirit of togetherness, avec has announced that they will be continuing their successful guest brunching series from last year, in which they bring in chefs from restaurants across the city to contribute signature dishes to avec's already existing brunch menu. The series kicks off this weekend with the wizards from Honey Butter Fried Chicken bringing dishes like:

  • Biscuits & Gravy: Fried Chicken Strips, Buttermilk Biscuit, Fried Egg, Rosemary Gravy, Roasted Fennel, and Preserved Lemon
  • Fried Chicken & French Toast: with Bourbon Maple Syrup, Honey Butter, Dried Mandarin Orange, Dates, and Almonds
  • avec’d Up OG Sandwich: Fried Chicken Strips, Candied Jalapeño Mayo, Crunchy Slaw, and a Fried Egg on Avec Ciabatta
  • “HBFC” Deluxe: Focaccia with Pimento Cheese, Honey Buffalo Drizzle, and Scallions

    The series then continues about once a month with a diverse array of cuisines and chefs:
"There is absolutely no better way to demonstrate our new found desire to promote Togetherness than by witnessing what avec is doing first hand," Brandy concluded. "We cannot wait to see what all these collaborations have in store!" Bunny added with a wink.

Stay tuned to see which of these fabulous brunches Bunny and Brandy plan to attend and let us know in the comments below which ones you are looking forward to!

Friday, December 30, 2016

True Food Kitchen or Clean Slate

The Slow and Savory Review

"Ugh..." Brandy moaned. She and her good friend Brocco had just attended a Christmas cookie exchange, where they had gorged themselves on sables, snickerdoodles, and sugar cookies until their teeth were vibrating. "I regret nothing," sighed Brocco, "But I have a feeling that might change later on. I guess this is why people always try to get healthy in the New Year. A whole month of this kind of gluttony can induce all sorts of latent guilty feelings." "Guilt schmilt," Brandy replied. "Didn't you make a resolution last year to eat a little more mindfully?" asked Brocco, carefully. "I did, but with the way this year has gone, I needed all the sugar, caffeine, carbs, and booze I could get my hands on. The stress of the Cubs being in the World Series alone had me cleaning off the whiskey shelves at the grocery store." "Well, let's make a deal to start fresh in 2017. What do you say?" Brandy hesitated.

To entice her into entering his pact, Brocco decided to take Brandy to the newly opened True Food Kitchen, a transplant from Arizona that specializes in healthy, mindful meals that are more than just low on calories. True Food Kitchen concentrates on creating dishes that maximize nutrition, encouraging the immune system and discouraging inflammation in the body, so as to give one the best kind of jump start to a healthy way of life. Of course, the mention of "healthy" food always causes Brandy to lift a skeptical eyebrow, but having had her fair share of good-for-you food that was actually quite delicious, she was more than willing to give this place a shot.

Walking into True Food Kitchen almost felt like walking into a sunlit garden, as green was absolutely everywhere. There were living plants on the booth dividers, sculpted moss graffiti on the walls, and huge windows to let in plenty of light.

The cocktails were of great interest to Brandy and Brocco right off the bat, as they too had been formulated to be as nutritious as possible. Brocco favored the Thai Grapefruit Martini, a simple yet bright and smooth mix of vodka, grapefruit juice, and basil. Brandy went for the Autumn Orchard Sour, with apple juice, muddled pear, lemon zest, and mulled brandy, resulting in a nicely spiced cocktail that Brandy thought might have even been enjoyable hot. Not long after their drink order had been placed, Brandy suddenly realized there was something she had missed on the hot drinks side of the menu. "A Matcha Horchata?" she exclaimed. "Oh, I simply must try that! Those are two of my favorite things in the world!" She was rewarded with a frothy, spiced, silky hot cup of magical liquid that she actually enjoyed even more than the cocktail.

Brocco and Brandy decided to start off their meal with a trio of appetizers: Charred Cauliflower, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and Edamame Dumplings. Brandy loved the texture on the cauliflower, which was still crisp with some deliciously browned edges, giving it a toasty yet creamy flavor with a hint of sourness. Brocco enjoyed the brussels sprouts with their unexpected brightness, which came from the addition of some artichoke hearts and golden raisins, and the slight bit of crunch from some roasted hazelnuts. Both of them agreed the real gem on the table was the Edamame Dumplings; seemingly delicate, they actually packed quite a punch of flavor from the warm dashi broth they sat in and a well balanced hit of white truffle oil. "I'm glad you suggested these because I didn't think they'd be this delicious just looking at them on the menu. I always forget about vegetables!" said Brocco. "What can I say?" Brandy replied. "I've got good instincts."

For his entree, Brocco decided to go for the oh so fashionable Smashed Avocado Toast. "I've seen these things all over Instagram, but I've never had one," he joyfully admitted to Brandy. He found the combination of the smooth avocado, the smoked gouda, the peppery arugula, and the toasty black sesame to be quite light and refreshing, but he found himself longing for a bit of starch on the side. Brocco decided to curb his craving for a little something more with an order of the Quinoa Johnny Cakes, which came dressed with sliced bananas, a dollop of greek yogurt, and some good old maple syrup. While the texture of the Johnny cakes was quite fluffy and soft, the quinoa added a nice bit of crunch to them. "They taste just like regular pancakes for the most part," said Brocco, "Which is why I wish they had a little something extra. You know, to really set them apart from your average run of the mill flapjacks."

Brandy decided on the Organic Egg Sandwich, which consisted of manchego cheese, fresh tomato, roasted turkey, smashed avocado, along with an egg on a grilled seed bread, served with a side of sweet potato hash. Due to the slippery nature of some of the ingredients, the sandwich didn't quite hold together through the eating of it, which has long been a pet peeve of Brandy's, but the flavors were quite hearty, yet fresh. Brandy particularly loved the sweet potatoes on the side, which were a nice change of pace, having been prepared with some charred onions for an extra bit of flavor.

"Well, I must say, if this is what healthy eating looks like in this day and age, it's not so bad," said Brandy as she finished up the dregs of her matcha drink. "I think I could get to like this kind of thing on a regular basis," agreed Brocco, "Though with the addition of an occasional cheat day here and there." Though the food was rather tasty and obviously fairly high quality, Brandy did feel that the prices were a tad on the high side for some of the dishes, especially considering the portion sizes, but understandable once one took into account both the freshness of the ingredients and the location of the restaurant. "Well, I'd say we more than made up for that three dozen cookies we consumed the other day, This should put us back on an even keel." said Brandy. "Umm... I don't think it works that way," Brocco muttered to himself.

The writers of this blog were invited by the restaurant to dine free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Year's Day Brunch Guide 2017

Oak Park
Novo- 10:00 to 3:00 Featured items include short rib hash and eggs, prosciutto benedict, buttermilk pancakes with quince jam, oysters of the day, smoked trout BLT, pear and fig flatbread, and farmhouse mac and cheese. Beverages and bubbles include bloody marys, bellinis, Novo mimosas, tea, espresso and more.

D.S. Tequila Company- 11:00 to 3:00 Mimosa fairies will buzz about with their beverage backpacks refilling mugs ($16 with any brunch entree purchase) while Texan-style bloody marys will be featured for $5. The menu includes appetizers (monkey bread; trash can nachos; nine layer dip), egg dishes (hangover killer skillet; green chilaquiles; Betty Sue's chicken and biscuits), salads (cobb; BBQ chicken; taco), burgers (burgundy; barnyard; ragin' rajas), tacos (cuban veggie; tequila shrimp; al pastor) and sweets (root beer float; churros; cookie skillet)

Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club- 11:00 to 4:00 Diva Madam X will welcome guests for a midday meal with plenty of song, dance, and glitter while Chef JoAnn Witherell’s menu will feature favorites like chicken and waffles, rice krispie french toast, crab cake benedict, chilaquiles and more. Imbibing is made easy with a $14.95 drink package that includes mimosas, bloody marys, bellinis, sangria and specialty martinis. Kit Kat will also be offering $7 Stoli martinis all day.

Bar Pastoral- Ring in 2017 with Bar Pastoral’s Disco brunch and hash out plans for the New Year with #hash! The Build-Your-Own Hash menu comes with scones, coffee and funky disco beats all morning long. the Bubble Bar will be also be offering bottomless mimosas.

Myron Mixon's Smoke Show Barbecue- Starting at 11:00. David Mixon’s Bloody Mary features Tito’s vodka, Zing Zang bloody mary mix garnished with smoked bacon, two burnt ends, sausage slice, celery, pickle, cocktail onion, jalapeno pepper and Myron Mixon's Rub A Dub Dub Rib Rub rim ($16). The dining menu includes a sharable King's Feast, ribs, burnt ends, cupcake chicken, BBQ deviled eggs, brisket melt and more.

Roscoe Village
Commonwealth Tavern- 11:00 to 2:00. On both January 1 and 2, guests will enjoy a $3 Build-Your-Own Mimosa Bar with various fruits and juices and a $6 Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar stacked with hot sauces, veggies, meats and more. Menu highlights include Brunch Schnitzel (herb aioli, smoked potatoes, pickled red onion, fried egg; $14), Pig Muffin (maple pig head, farm egg, American cheese, English muffin; $12), and Kentucky Hot Brown (smoked turkey, bacon, tomato, beer cheese, sourdough, $14).  

Andersonville/Lincoln Square
Appellation- Champagne and Fried Chicken Menu for $22: Greet 2017 and recover from 2016 with Appellation’s family-style Fried Chicken & Champagne brunch. This old school country brunch comes with all the fried chicken fixings, including black eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread. Unlimited mimosas will be offered at the Bubble Bar. 

Jerry's Sandwiches- Special brunch items include Jerry’s "Heralded" Bloody Mary (house spicy tomato mix with vodka, jalapeño, red onion, cilantro, Bourbon Hot Spiced Cider (exotic house spiced cider with Zack Harris bourbon); Cranberry Sauced (house cranberry sauce, spiced syrup, Ransom Old Tom gin, Allspice Dram, lime juice, Fee Brothers cranberry bitters).  Southern Fried Chicken on a Waffle (house pickle, white cheddar, lettuce, maple syrup aioli) Jerry’s Monte Cristo (French toast, root beer ham, arugula, red onion, gruyere, Swiss, cracked black pepper, strawberry jam, maple syrup)

Tavern on Little Fort- 10:00 to 2:00. Brunch highlights on January 1 and 2 include the Breakfast Burger (70-percent brisket and 30-percent bacon patty, tavern sauce, bread and butter pickles, fried egg, New England bun; $15), Breakfast Bagel (ham, scrambled egg, beer cheese; $12), and Vegetable Frittata (asparagus, tomato chile relish, aioli, parmesan; $12). Featured drink specials include a $3 Build-Your-Own Mimosa Bar and $5 Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar.

Wicker Park
Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya- 11:30 to 2:30. Highlights include Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen (rich pork broth flavored with Yamaguchi soy sauce, topped with black garlic oil), perfect for ramen lovers looking for something that's hearty, rich and full of flavor, and Yuzu Shio Ramen (French sea salt, kelp and Japanese citrus based), a unique, refreshing ramen unlike the traditional ramen stereotype of meaty and creamy.

Kanela (includes all locations)- 7:00 to 3:00 Eggnog Pancake special (eggnog batter, apple cranberry compote, nutmeg and brandy creme anglaise) for $14 each. The Wicker park location will also offer a special Hot Chocolate French Toast for $13.49 featuring thick sliced challah bread soaked in hot chocolate, toasted then stuffed with homemade marshmallow fluff and topped with a semi-sweet hot chocolate ganache and mini toasted marshmallows.

River North
Devon Seafood Grill- 1@:00 to 3:00 The New Year’s Day brunch buffet costs $29 for adults and $17 for children ages 4-12, plus tax and gratuity. Children under 4 eat free. Guests have the option to add bottomless mimosas to their brunch for an additional $10. The brunch buffet spread features: Omelettes prepared to order with your choice of Cheddar & Pepper Jack, Mushrooms, Red Onions, Green & Red Peppers, Spinach, Tomato, Andouille Sausage and Ham; Slow Roasted Prime Rib carving station; a Chilled Seafood Display featuring Smoked Trout, Peppered Mackerel, Smoked Salmon, Oysters on the Half Shell, Shrimp Cocktail, Shrimp Ceviche, Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Char Crusted Ahi Tuna, and Smoked Mussels.

Cantina Laredo- 11:30 to 3:00. Menu includes Crab Cake Benedict; Chicken Fajita Omelet; Huevos Rancheros; French Toast served with Mexican brandy butter; Chilaquiles; Spinach & Artichoke Omelet; Asada y Huevos; and more. As an added bonus, all brunch entrees include a complimentary mimosa, bloody maria or non-alcoholic beverage. 

Rockit- Savory biscuits & gravy or sweet strawberry shortcake waffles? You can have both when you brunch with us all this week! We’re opening at 10am every day and celebrating the holiday season by serving up our delectable brunch alongside our lunch menu. Stop in today through Friday for a new kind of lunch break!

Taco Joint (also Lincoln Park location)- 11:00 to 3:00 Bottomless Brunch package (choice of any brunch entree plus unlimited beverages for $32 per person). Menu features favorites like chorizo n' eggs, carnitas pancakes, breakfast burrito, steak n' eggs, taco platter and chicken chilaquiles

Old Town
Old Town Social- Wear PJ's and receive a gift card equal to what you spend. Brunch will feature the 100 ingredient Bloody Mary Bar as well as classics like French toast and Eggs Benedict.

Timothy O'Toole's Pub- 10:00 to 2:00. Brunch will feature build-your-own mimosas ($4) and bloody marys ($6.50), as well as Chef Corey Grupe’s comfort food brunch fare, like Irish breakfast, pretzel french toast, rise and shine burger, and The Popeye.

Belly Up Smokehouse & Saloon- 10:00 to 3:00 Drink specials include $20.17 bottomless mimosas, $20.17 bottomless bloody marys (featuring a build-your-own bloody mary bar with wings, hot links, celery, onion rings, cheddar cubes, shrimp cocktail, mini grilled cheese, pickles (raw & fried), candied bacon, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, olives, bleu cheese stuffed olives and beef sliders) Brunch menu includes Smoked Brisket Hash (12-hour smoked brisket, potatoes, peppers, crispy onion, fried egg, red-eye barbecue sauce; $13), Pork and Grits (smoked pork belly, cheddar grits, red-eye barbecue sauce, scallions; $12) and more.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Postcards from Bunny: Last Minute Foodie Gifts

Bunny was in a last minute scramble. It was a week before Christmas and she hadn't finished her Christmas shopping, owing to a few too many hours spent in airports being tossed back and forth between flights. "I thought I had a few more days! Oh goodness, what am I going to do now?" she squealed as she glanced at the date on her phone after her latest 12 hour flight had ended. "There's only one thing for it. Time to do dive into cyberspace and spend some money! But where to start?"

That was when Bunny suddenly remembered the brunch basket Brandy had sent her in the summer. "Wasn't that an absolute treat?" she thought to herself. "Brunch is such a universally great foodie gift because it combines sweet and savory things, so there's a little something to please every palate. But I do have friends who certainly prefer one over the other. Hmmmm..."

For those on her list with a sweet tooth, Bunny eyed the Holiday Popcorn Sampler from King of Pop, a collection of 10 wintery flavors in snack sized bags. This was no decorative tin with the standard caramel, butter, and cheese dusted popcorn. No, this collection included flavors like Dark Chocolate Peppermint, Gingerbread Spice, Cinnamon Bun, and Eggnog. Bunny really loved how shareable this gift was, making it an easy present for a larger group or family. The smaller sized bags also ensured that the gift receiver could continue to enjoy the popcorn for some time to come without having to worry about it going stale.

For the savory fiends, Bunny had to get the Bloody Mary gift basket from Gourmet Gift Baskets. Not only was this a brilliant gift for brunch fans, it also made a perfect snack pack for game days. The bottle of spicy Bloody Mary mix was accompanied by nibbles and garnishes like peppery cheeses, summer sausage, sour dough pretzel pieces, and roasted peanuts. Bunny could perfectly picture a table laid out with all the fixings for a Bloody Mary bar, ready to be massacred by a gaggle of blood thirsty football fans on New Year's Day.

Bunny was mostly relieved to discover that both of these sites offered expedited shipping, meaning that even though she had left her shopping for the last minute, there was still a good chance that the presents would arrive by Christmas day. "There now, I feel so much better," she sighed. It wasn't until she had been in the air for five hours or so that she suddenly remembered she hadn't bought anything for Brandy, setting off yet another wave of panicked internet shopping. "Quick! Someone call Sky Mall!"

The writers of this blog were sent products free of charge in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Papa Ray's or It's No Game

The Slow and Savory Review

"The holidays can wait," said Hawk with a steely timber in his voice. "Winter weekends are for football and not much else, as far as I'm concerned." Brandy took this in. When he had first called saying he needed help picking something out, she had assumed he meant a present for his dear wife, Bailey. "No, no. I need help picking up some food for the game this Sunday!" he had laughed. "I just thought you'd be the perfect person to ask about where to go." "I deal in a lot of things, but game day food isn't usually one of them," Brandy responded, perplexed. "Have you thought about some wings or pizza or that sort of thing?" "Of course, but I don't just want any old pizza and wings. I want the best possible, because if my team starts losing, well... then at least I'll be eating something delicious."

Brandy put some thought and research into this unusual brunch request before landing on a home grown franchise called Papa Ray's, which has several locations throughout Chicago, all of which abide by the same tenants of making everything, from the dough to the sauce, in house and as fresh as possible. Stopping into the little store front in Uptown, Brandy and Hawk were greeted warmly by a couple of gentlemen behind the counter. Though the location does most of its business through delivery, an effort had been made to give those coming in for a quick slice a nice, warm place to sit down for a moment or two that resembled the neighborhood pizzerias of old. "Oh wow," Hawk exclaimed, looking at the menu, "I hadn't expected so many choices. I'm not sure what we should get." "Well, there's only one thing for it," said Brandy, "We better try a little bit of everything,"

Hawk's preliminary test was the wings, of which he ordered two different kinds: traditional wings with garlic and parmesan, and boneless wings with the house BBQ sauce. Both had a really great crisp exterior that didn't overtake the juicy chicken meat within. There was also quite a bit of meat to be had, even on the traditional wings, and the fact that they had never been frozen meant that the meat was succulent and supple. Hawk really liked that the garlic and parmesan wasn't too over powering a flavor, while Brandy very much enjoyed the BBQ sauce, which favored a more tangy vinegar flavor rather than an overly sweet one.

Speaking of the BBQ sauce, Brandy had also requested an order of the Rib Tips, which came slathered in the red stuff and served over a bed of fries. This was really where the sauce shown brightly, lending a tiny bit of heat to the tender rib tips, which again were generously meaty. The fries were a surprise as well, being more than just filler, they held their own, keeping crisp even under the weight of all the sauce. "Now this is some game day type food that one wouldn't normally think of, am I right?" said Brandy. "Pizza and wings are all well and good, but if you were to lay out a platter of these little darlings for your fellow fanatics to snack on, I think they'd be pretty pleased. There's nothing like ripping into some real meat while one grits their teeth during a decisive play."

Next, Hawk and Brandy moved on to the signature Mac and Cheese, which they customized with a bit of sausage, mushrooms, and spinach. Brandy was positively delighted with this pan of ooey gooey cheesy goodness. Unlike a lot of pizzeria mac and cheeses, this one actually had a strong cheesy flavor. Rather than being coated in a creamier sauce that can feel more indulgent than it tastes, this was a sharp, melty cheddar that clung to everything, from the pasta to the fork to the plate. "My goodness, I certainly wasn't expecting to enjoy this as much as I am," said Brandy. Hawk repeatedly stabbed at the large chucks of sausage scattered throughout, saying he very much enjoyed how the bits of meat and veg ensured that every bite was its own mini adventure.

Finally, Hawk and Brandy decided to split a massive calzone, which had been filled with fresh tomatoes, spinach, garlic, and basil and served with a side of the house pizza sauce. Yet again, Brandy was pleasantly surprised by this pizzaria staple, most because of its impossible buttery and light crust. "Normally when I think of a calzone, I imagine a thick, doughy crust, but this! This is almost like a pastry crust! How delicious!" Of course, the monster had plenty of melty cheese inside, but the freshness of the basil and tomatoes really balanced things out and kept it from being just a mouthful of carbs and dairy. "Wait, how is this thing less than $10?" Hawk exclaimed. "This is easily enough to feed two people! With a couple of these at the tailgating party, no one's going to care how bad the game's going!"

And so, laden down with bags and boxes of goodies, Hawk and Brandy headed out of Papa Ray's, ready to set up the most epic football watch party outside of the Super Bowl. "I still can't believe how good their prices are," said Hawk. "I can't believe how fresh and delicious their food was!" Brandy replied. "Wait, you didn't know in advance that this place was going to be that good?" Hawk asked, stopping in his tracks. "One can only do so much preliminary work," said Brandy, "The truest test is always done in person with taste-buds armed and ready to go."

The writers of this blog were invited by the restaurant to dine free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review