Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Signature Room or On Top of the World

The Slow and Savory Review
Our Ladies have been longing for a true Chicago brunch experience, and this week, that opportunity was presented to them in the form of a very special summons. The very affluent and very influential socialites Barry and Blanche Black (dear friends of Our Ladies for many, many years) extended an invitation to Bunny and Brandy to join them at the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building. There, they were told, a fabulous brunch buffet was prepared every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 2:00, and for a flat fee of $45, one could partake in any number of palate pleasing plated provisions.

The elevator ride up to the restaurant is enough to make any tourist squeal with joy at the sheer speed and quantity of ear pops. Sadly, upon exiting the lift, Our Ladies and guests found the famous view from the 95th floor obscured by dense fog. “Is there anything you can do, dear?” Bunny asked Blanche politely. With a wave of her exquisitely bejeweled hand, Blanche simply stated, “It shall be done.” A few moments later, the sun poked its head out from behind the clouds, revealing a spectacular landscape of skyscrapers, lakeside coast line, and bustling city streets. The interior of the Signature was just as stunning, boasting huge art-deco styled chandeliers hung from impossibly high ceilings ("Ah!" Bunny cried, "reminds me of my prom."), exceedingly well dressed tables, and a live piano player playing a live piano live. The staff were very warm and friendly, especially a happy-go-lucky busser name Gabby who could do nothing but smile at every table he passed.

A round of mimosas was ordered before the party “hit the buffet” as they say. Our Ladies reported being overwhelmed by the wonderland of choices before them. To the left, a raw bar, set up with fresh oysters, crab legs, shrimp, and three kinds of caviar, as well as selections of sliced salmon, herring, and five seasonal salad choices. To the right, the dessert table, presented in proper high tea fashion, was laid out with cakes, cream puffs, strudels, and cookies, as well as a vat of home made ice cream. Moving forward brought them into a circular space which housed the breakfast proper. Starting from the left, there was a table dressed with breakfast pasties, such as filled croissants, small muffins and mini bagels. Next came bowls of fruit; pineapple, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, melon and the like, all presented with fresh, house made yogurt and shinning granola, to be mixed as one pleased. Beside that stood a young man, ready to make omelets to order with any combination of veggies or meats you liked. Then came a table laden down with covered tureens, labeled with things like “Poached Eggs Benedict” “Garlic Potatoes” and “French Toast.” At the other side of this table was another nice man, who would slice up your desired amount of roast beef or ham. Lastly came a table with several kinds of fresh baked rolls and crackers, a stockpot full of the soup de jour (shrimp bisque), and a selection of cheeses, cold cuts, and pates.

After loading their plates as full as they would go (“Ladies,” Barry Black reminded them, “It is a buffet after all. You can take as many trips as you like,”) Our Ladies and their gracious hosts sat down for some conversation and comestibles. Bunny’s favorites included the shrimp bisque (“Amazingly savory,” was her declaration), the Eggs Benedict (of which she is one of the world’s leading authorities), and the house made yogurt. Brandy enjoyed the cheese selection immensely, especially the drunken goat cheese (Blanche informed her that Signature Room only uses local cheeses and actually travels to the individual dairies to acquire them), as well as the carved roast beef (“It has almost a cured quality to it,” she mused between forkfuls), and Signature Room’s signature dessert, which consisted of dark chocolate cake, milk and white chocolate mousse, and a topper of chocolate ganache.

A very pleasant brunch indeed is to be found high in the clouds above Chicago. At $45 a person (not including the price of drinks) Signature Room is probably not a place to be enjoyed every week, at least not for the average person. Though if you have the kind of money and influence of the Blacks, you may do as you please, but for the rest of us, Bunny and Brandy would highly recommend making a reservation for you and your holiday guests, as this is definitly the place to celebrate something or someone special.

The Short and Sweet Review:

Signature Room at the 95th on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Orange or The Waiting is the Hardest Part

The Slow and Savory Review
“I don’t know, I’ve heard mixed things,” said Bunny
“I think we should at least give them a try,” replied Brandy huffily, “We owe it to our readers.”
“If you insist,” Bunny relented, “ But you’re going to have to get there early to put us on the list. I hear the wait is atrocious and my sciatica waits for no man… or restaurant.”
“Fine. I’ve been meaning to re-read Winston Churchill’s autobiography anyway."

And so Brandy found her self at Orange in Lincoln Park, Chicago’s only restaurant chain devoted exclusively to brunch. She had arrived at 10:45 in order to get on Orange’s notoriously long Sunday Brunch waiting list. The hostess informed her it would be a wait between 30 and 45 minutes, so Brandy looked about for a place to spend the time. She was disappointed to find only a few wooden chairs stuffed into a corner, all fully occupied and, from the looks of the other patrons standing about, collecting a waiting list of their own. Brandy opted to stand in the small foyer area out of the way and became a reluctant door man for other diners both entering and exiting the establishment. Luckily, just as Bunny arrived, a table opened up (the total wait time only ended up as about 25 minutes).

The interior of Orange was bright and cheerful, scattered with whimsical paintings, but very noisy. Brandy had to raise the level of her hearing aid by several notches just to hear Bunny from across the table. Their server (whose sunny disposition matched the décor perfectly) presented Our Ladies with water, dressed with cucumbers. Neither of Our Ladies cared for the cucumber water (Brandy was heard to say, “I don’t even want lemons in my water without a consultation”) but they did appreciate that it was something not ordinarily seen.

Our ladies began with some of Orange’s made to order juices: Bunny got a Vitamin C rich pineapple and orange blend, while Brandy reluctantly (there was a mimosa bar within her sight) selected apple and grape. Both were joyfully invigorating and obviously very fresh.

As an appetizer, Our Ladies enjoyed some of Orange’s signature Frushi (fruit + sushi). They were each presented with 2 pieces: a strawberry and cantaloupe “maki” and an orange and coconut rice "nigiri.” Though thoroughly delightful and delicious, Our Ladies did find the treats a tad difficult to eat with the chopsticks provided. (Truth be told, this so called appetizer didn't make it to the table until after the main courses had been presented, and even then only after Bunny pointed out it had yet to arrive.)

Brandy’s choice of entrée was the Chai tea infused French toast, which came stuffed with ricotta cheese and topped with caramelized apples. The first few bites, she reported, were delectable, but with no side dishes to refresh the palete, it soon became a little monotonous to eat.

Bunny (who had attempted to order a Reuben sandwich, but was told they were not available) opted for the Green Eggs and Ham: scrambled eggs mixed with basil pesto, diced tomatoes, and ham cubes accompanied by house potatoes and toast. Bunny’s dislike of scrambled eggs was over ridden by this enticing meal, which she finally had to admit was one of the best egg dishes she’d ever had. She especially appreciated that the toast was incorporated into the presentation of the dish and not relegated to one corner of the plate like a naughty child, as so many other places often choose to do.

Orange proved to be a pleasant surprise for Our Ladies, who had expected to be let down by the buildup. With juice, Frushi, main course, and tip the total bill per Lady still came out to less than $20. Their only advice; find a willing party with a high boredom tolerance to do the waiting. Brandy would like it pointed out that she can be hired for this work for the price of a trip to the mimosa bar.

The Short and Sweet Review:

Orange on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Original Pancake House or Back to Basics

The Slow and Savory Review

Our ladies have been eating pretty richly these past few weeks, so this Sunday saw them craving something a little more down to earth. They chose The Original Pancake House, a nationwide franchise with over 100 locations. This particular Original Pancake House was located in Lincoln Park, almost hidden underneath a tall condo building, which made interior of the space a tad dark from lack of windows. “It reminds me of the old bomb shelter in me back garden,” Bunny said wistfully, “Remember Brandy? Gerald built it during the War. We used to have dinner parties down there. It was so cozy.” The majority of the light came from some ornate stained glass panels overhead, which disguised obnoxiously yellow florescent light bulbs. The diner like impression was redeemed by the incredibly delicious smells wafting from the open air kitchen.

Bunny and Brandy were immediately whisked away to a table upon entrance, even though the restaurant seemed packed. Of course they expected to see pancakes on the menu, along with all the usual egg dishes, waffles, French toast, and the like. But upon looking closer, many of the items listed were made with surprisingly sophisticated ingredients. Brandy’s eyes nestled on the crepe selections, many of which boasted fruits flavored in sherry, brandy, and other such liquors. She also noticed fresh homemade quiche, which came in different flavors, depending on the day. Bunny was determined to enjoy the specialty of the house, a Dutch Apple Pancake which Our Ladies were informed would take 15 minutes to prepare.

To start off with, both of Our Ladies ordered a cup of hot chocolate to break the chill of the Chicago morning. Brandy got the Carmel Hot Chocolate, while Bunny’s sweet tooth got the better of her and forced her to order the Halloween Hot Chocolate. Both arrived in enormous mugs, piled high with whipped cream, and while Brandy’s was simply adorned with some caramel syrup, Bunny’s was dressed to the nines with sprinkles, candy corns, and a single pumpkin shaped Peep. Along with all of this coma inducing sugar, hiding under the mountain of whipped cream were honest to goodness marshmallows. “You do not see that in restaurants any more!” Brandy proclaimed between mouthfuls of the half melted confections, “Marshmallows in hot chocolate, my word!”

The main event began soon after the beverages were consumed. Brandy had decided on spinach and bacon quiche, as well as blueberry and sour cream crepes. Though initially impressed that a place such as this would offer fresh, hand made quiches, Brandy felt her dish to be a tad disappointing. “Sometimes a restaurant will tell you a dish is quiche when it’s really omelet pie,” said Brandy, “This is omelet pie.” She reported the crust was nice and flakey, but the filling was overwhelmingly eggy, and the hash browns served with it were very interestingly spiced. The crepes, on the other hand, were exemplary. Simply plated with powered sugar and blueberry compote, the crepes were on the thick side, but tender. The filling was simple, but effective: lightly whipped sour cream and fresh blueberries. Brandy could not help but smack her lips at every bite.

Bunny’s Dutch apple pancake was not your typical pancake. Cooked in a cast iron skillet in the oven, it arrived fluffy and inflated, almost like a soufflé, with cinnamon apples on top. The cooking vessel had nicely crisped and caramelized the edges of the pancake. “It’s just like apple pie!” Bunny exclaimed with delight.

A filling and homey breakfast for between $10 and $15 a person (depending on exactly how filling you want your breakfast to be). What Original Pancake House lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for in taste.

The Short and Sweet Review:

Original Pancake House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kit Kat Lounge or The Home of Strange Feelings

The Slow and Savory Review

Whilst dying her hair the perfect shade of blue (labeled as Starlight Glory), Bunny’s hair dresser Rico suggested the perfect spot for a Halloween brunch, The Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club. He handed her a flyer, boasting of a “Rocky Horror Picture Show Brunch,” (Bunny naturally assumed this was some sort of mountain climbing slide show). “Doesn’t seem like my sort of place,” Brandy was heard to remark when she was shown the flyer. “They have over 50 different martinis,” said Bunny. Brandy snatched the flyer, and with it crumpled in her fist, headed for the door.
Birdie Brown tagged along again this week, having been left on his own whilst his dear wife Biscuit recovered from having a hangnail removed. The party of three were taken to the back room of the lounge, past servers dressed in corsets, platform boots, and various colorful wigs, while movies played on the walls and disco balls twirled about the space.
Our Ladies and guest were presented with the choice of a prix-fixe 2 course menu (which included bottomless bloody martinis or mimosas), or the a la carte menu. While the flyer promised drinks and food themed for the “Rocky Horror” brunch, the choices didn’t seem any different than normal brunch faire.
Our Ladies and guest all opted for some of the a la carte options, with Brandy partaking of the mimosa while Bunny and Birdie chose the bloody martinis, which were all presented with some amusing plastic vampire fangs. Birdie commented that, “It was awful nice of them to provide me with some false chompers, as I’ve left mine at home.” (It is worth noting that on Sundays, all martinis are ½ price and there are many delicious varieties to choose from, if Brandy hasn’t cleared them all out before you arrive.)
While waited on by a very attentive waiter, the food took an inordinately long time to present itself to the table. In the meantime, Our Ladies were presented with some cinnamon sugar fritters and blueberry compote to snack on. They were a tad dry and crunchy, but better than nothing. As a feast for the eyes, the splendiferous Madam X entertained the multitudes by singing musical numbers from Rocky Horror. “It’s a movie,” Brandy explained, “People attend screenings dressed up as perverts and throw things at each other, from what I understand." Birdie got quite a bit of attention from Madam X, as well as the scantily clad servers. “Such stout, strong featured women here,” Birdie chuckled, “I like a handsome woman.” Bunny and Brandy had long ago deduced that these “women” were not all they appeared, but didn’t have the heart to explain things to the dear man.

Finally, the food arrived. Birdie chose the “Big Blue,” a crispy and fluffy, yet sparsely plated waffle, here presented with three syrups: Nutella cream, more blueberry compote, and cayenne maple (the latter of which was reportedly the best of the three). Birdie also ordered a side of Stone Ground Grits, which turned out to be the best thing any of them tasted that morning.

Brandy’s meal consisted of “the Big Bad Wolf”; four sliders with blue cheese and Cajun fries. Brandy felt the sliders were a tad over done, ruining the flavor of what was obviously a very high quality beef. The fries were thinly cut and crispy, but tasted no better than a standard “steak fry.”
Bunny’s plate was the most eye catching, presentation wise. She had ordered the “Big Daddy,” which was eggs Florentine with ham and a tangy béarnaise sauce, severed over whole wheat toast and accompanied by a small greens salad. The eggs were well poached, but the toast was dry and hard to eat, and the greens were undressed for their début.
While the food may not have been worth the wait, the experience of brunching at the Kit Kat Lounge did put Our Ladies and their befuddled guest in the proper Halloween spirit for just about $25 a person. Brandy made plans to return that night and make a 50 course dinner from the martini menu.

The Short and Sweet Review:

Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club on Urbanspoon