Friday, February 25, 2011

Over Easy or Over a Little Too Quickly?

The Slow and Savory Review

On a deary, rainy, mostly unpleasant, yet rather English Sunday, Bunny and Brandy decided to invite a very special guest to brunch with them, that special guest being the ever insightful and most delightful Krista from Passport Delicious!  They chose Over Easy Cafe in Ravenswood as their meeting place, where the three of them hunkered under an umbrella while waiting for a table.  Over Easy being a rather small establishment with a very loyal clientele, it took nearly an hour for Our Ladies and Guest to be led inside to a table (though the wait was helped by a very handily placed coffee dispenser located just outside the door).

The interior of Over Easy was quite homey, yet modern, with eggs being very prominently on display (in pictures on the walls, as curtains, and even as card holders on the tables).  Once warm, seated, and acclimated to their surroundings, Bunny and Brandy ordered some coffee and tea respectively.  Brandy's tea came in its own cast iron kettle, and was of the loose leaf variety.  Our Ladies (and Krista too, as she has lived in London) are always glad to see tea served in its loose leaf form as opposed to bagged.  "There is just something about brewing one's tea without a bag," Brandy always says, "It's somewhat like being a trapeze artist with no net.  If there ever was a way to make tea dangerous, this would be it." 

The waitress was extremely friendly, and patient, as Brandy's failing eyesight didn't allow her to peruse the menu quite as fast as the other two.  Finally, the decisions were made: for Bunny, the Enchiladas Mextecca (a Mexican inspired breakfast plate with eggs and chorizo wrapped in tortillas and covered in green chili sauce) for Brandy Simone de Beauvoir's Favorite Breakfast Sandwich (eggs and pancetta with gruyere cheese) with a side of corn cakes, and for Krista, the ever so popular Sassy Eggs (two over easy eggs, chorizo/potato hash with a variety of peppers, guacamole, and sour cream).

The food came out quite literally about five minutes after the order was placed, a benefit of having such a small space.  In fact, the space was so small, there was barely enough room on the table for all of their dishes.  Bunny suspected the table they had been taken to was not really meant for three people, but that they had been rushed inside to prevent them from standing in the rain any longer.  First up was Krista's Sassy Eggs.  As there was a framed picture of the dish on the wall just over Krista's shoulder, Our Party had a standard by which to compare.  As a combo of hot and cold, the dish succeeded in its balance, but the actual temperature of the food was called into question.  The "hot" was only "warm" at best.  Never the less, it was a satisfying bite of food, and probably has served more than one hung over Chicagoian a world of good.

Bunny's Enchiladas were very similar, though more spicy.  The dusting of parsley on the plate counteracted with the cilantro already in the dish, making it a tad herby as well.  But over all, it was another dish where the individual elements didn't seem too impressive, but the completed bite was definitely satisfying.

Brandy's sandwich came severed with a side of red potato hash, which was less of a "hash" and more diced potatoes, which were nicely cooked, but blandly spiced.  The sandwich itself was a little heavy on the pancetta and a little light on the cheese (for Brandy's taste anyway, but Brandy tends not to be satisfied with the amount of cheese on any given dish unless is it 100% cheese).  The bread, how ever, was unexpectedly soft and delicious.  So often, Brandy explained, breakfast sandwiches tend to be severed on bread that is either overly hard or overly toasted, and this was definitely a nice change of pace.  The Corn Cakes were the standouts, tasting like a lighter version of corn bread.  On the side was a sort of red pepper dipping sauce that allowed the corn cakes to light up with flavor.

Most plates at Over Easy were priced over $10, so not the cheapest brunch that can be found, but a good value for the amount of food.  But after waiting 45+ minutes for a table, the meal felt a little rushed, having been ordered and consumed in just about the same amount of time as the wait.  A little above average, helped by a very friendly and accommodating staff, Over Easy Cafe may be great after a long night, but not so great after a long morning.

The Short and Sweet Review

Over Easy Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Crepes a Latte or P-sychidelic P-aris

The Slow and Savory Review

Being trapped in an underground bomb shelter for 5 days can do wonders for one's appetite.  Bunny and Brandy learned this the hard way.  So when Sunday rolled around, they were eager to get out into the world again and sample something a little different.  Word had reached them about a certain unique establishment off the Irving Park Brown Line, selling unconventional crepes and coffee confections, which sounded to them like the bees knees (the Bees Knees, or rather L'abeille à Genoux being the creperie where Bunny and Benedict first met in Paris long, long ago).

They found the place to be sunny, bustling, spacious, and blatantly whimsical, sporting such interior design choices as a clock tower, lamp post, and bright blue and yellow painted ceilings.  The food retrieval system was unique as well: one would order at the front of the cafe and receive a oblong playing card on a stand, by which the servers could connect you to your order (apparently, if you draw the Joker card, your meal is free!).  One is then left to find a table that suits your individual party's needs, and every table has pre-wrapped silverware ready in a handily portable caddy.  After several minutes of observing the customs of this interesting environment, Our Ladies braved the line, placed their orders, picked a table beside the window, and waited.

First to arrive were the beverages, for Bunny a Peanut Butter Mocha, a decadent concoction with coffee, chocolate, whipped cream, and of course peanut butter.  "It makes you think of childhood without being too juvenile." Bunny was heard to exclaim.  "Sounds just like you," Brandy snickered to herself.  Brandy ordered the Toasted Marshmallow Latte, an equally sugar filled treat with a surprisingly grown up feel to it.  Once pushing through the layer of splendidly bruleed marshmallow fluff, a full bodied latte presented itself.  Brandy was pleased that the drinks weren't merely flavored with syrups and such, but rather made authentically true to the advertised taste experience.

For starters, Brandy ordered the Baked Apple and Brie crepe, which came with a small fruit cup on the side.  The crepe itself was light and thin as a good crepe should be, but not without flavor.  As the open kitchen enables everyone to witness the crepes being made, their freshness was assured.  The filling for this particular crepe was very rich, but well balanced.  The brie was melted completely, taking away any of the bitterness that fresh brie can sometimes harbor, and leaving only sweet creaminess.  The apples were diced and dotted throughout the interior of the crepe.  Brandy had worried the filling might have been too sweet, but there was also wilted spinach and walnuts inside to make it a truly savory dish.  Brandy's only complaint, in fact was that she would have preferred a small spinach salad on the side as apposed to the fruit cup, just to heighten the savoriness of the dish even more.

Bunny opted for the Chicken Satay Crepe, an exotic sounding mix of sliced chicken, carrots, green onion, and peanut sauce.  Though it was most definitely a fusion of two very different cuisines, some how they blended seamlessly.  The peanut sauce did not over power the dish at all, nor did it weigh the dish down, allowing the freshness of the ingredients to shine through.  On the side was a lovely little salad, made from a thick slice of tomato, some red onion, and feta cheese.  Bunny was very pleased with the portion size and for once cleaned her plate completely.

Brandy, whose mother used to like to say she had a hollow leg, ordered dessert, which came in the form of a Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Crepe.  Served enticingly with a large mound of whipped cream, the crepe was enough to take both of Our Ladies' breaths away.  Brandy, ever the champion eater, had to pause between bites to savor the richness of the chocolate within, as well as the fresh raspberries hidden throughout like jewels in a dark treasure chest.  A sublime ending to a wonderful meal.
Both Our Ladies left Crepes a Latte in a blissful mood, comfortably full bellies, and barely anything missing from their wallets.  A wonderful place for adults looking for something a little out of the norm as well as adults looking to introduce kids to new and exciting things they wouldn't see elsewhere.  Here's hoping you pull the Joker!

The Short and Sweet Review

Crepes a Latte the cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 11, 2011

From the Kitchens of Bunny and Brandy

Funny Story.  When Our Ladies heard about the Great Blizzard of 2011 approaching, Bunny suggested that they hunker down in her decommissioned underground bomb shelter until the storm subsided.  Having not used the bomb shelter as anything more than a game room for few decades, certain features of said bomb shelter had fallen into disrepair, such as the rust that had found a home over the door latching device.  So after the storm had passed (and Our Ladies had passed a pleasant evening playing snooker) Bunny and Brandy discovered that freeing themselves from the bomb shelter was going to be a slight bit more difficult than it had been to enter it.

Eventually Benedict, Bunny's hubby, returned from one of his archaeological digs to find his dear wife and her cantankerous friend had been missing for several days.  The mystery of where they were was solved fairly quickly when he heard shouting coming from the bomb shelter in the back garden (Brandy had discovered a bottle of cooking sherry in the shelter's pantry and, in order to deal with cabin fever, began verbally reciting the entirety of Winston Churchill's autobiography).  As it was Super Bowl Sunday, Benedict decided to spare his wife the boredom of watching American football (after all, she'd been in there for nearly 6 days already, a few more hours wouldn't hurt) and released the poor dears at around 9:00 pm. 

As their release came far too long after brunch, Our Ladies decided to fend for themselves this week.  And so, we present yet another installment of From The Kitchens of Bunny and Brandy.

Single Serving Quiche Cups

8 large eggs
1 medium onion, chopped
1 10 ounce package of frozen spinach
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 tube of crescent roll dough
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of black pepper

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat each section of a 12 slot muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.  Defrost spinach in microwave oven, then drain (works best to place spinach in cheese cloth and squeeze until almost no water comes out).  Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, scramble all the eggs together. Add the onion, cheese, spinach, salt, and pepper, then mix until combined.

Unwrap crescent roll dough and section off into 2 inch wide rounds (about 1/4 inch thick).  Place one round into the bottom of each section of the muffin tin.  Spoon egg mixture over dough rounds until filled level with the muffin tin.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack.

Crecy Soup

1 pound of carrots chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 medium sized leeks chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 medium yellow onions roughly chopped
1 head of garlic minced
1 herb sachet (rosemary, sage, and thyme tied in cheese cloth)
1/4 cup of butter
1/3 cup of flour
6 cups of chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
2 table spoons of orange juice
1 cup of heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat and saute garlic until caramelized.  Add carrots, leeks, and onion, and cook for 5-10 minutes or until leeks begin to wilt.  Add flour and stir to cover vegetables.  Slowly begin to add chicken stock, making sure flour does not clump.  Add herb sachet and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes.  Add sugar and cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove pot from heat, remove herb sachet and transfer soup in batches into a blender and puree until smooth.  Add soup back to pot, mix in orange juice, cream, salt, and pepper.  Garnish with shredded Gruyere cheese and chopped chives.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Breakfast Club or Retro-rama

The Slow and Savory Review

Before the blizzard of 2011 hit (or as some have dubbed it "Snowpocalypse") our dear Bunny attended an event so peculiar, so amazingly insane, so suicidally mental that it can only happen once a year.  That's right, Bunny attended the Polar Bear Plunge, where rugged and quite cranially challenged personages leap into the freezing cold waters of Lake Michigan.  Of course, Bunny may have misunderstood the nature of this event, as she had brought with her a bucket of fresh mackerel as snacks for the participants, but never the less, she had a wonderful time.  She also met a very interesting lady by the name of Betty Blanco, a naturalist and survivalist who was eager to sample this strange meal called Brunch that Bunny was so enthusiastic about.

So the following morning, off they went, along with Brandy of course, to the West Side's own Breakfast Club, a quaint pink palace, hidden among row houses in an industrial neighborhood.  The interior of the Breakfast Club was cute and kitchy, complete with giant eating utensils on the wall, a pink flamingo oddly placed in a pitcher, and servers wearing pink tops to match the wall paper.  The tables were packed in tight and the vibe was surprisingly bustling, considering the quietness of the outside street.  "Do you think they would give me the name of their decorator?" Bunny was heard to whisper.

A few minutes waiting brought Our Ladies and guest to a table underneath an informative white board, which encouraged patrons to try Breakfast Club's famous cinnamon rolls.  Other items on the menu proved to be a mix of traditional and unconventional, but nothing too out of the norm.  The one surprise was the extensive bar selections for a place that doesn't even serve dinner.  And at about $5 cocktail, Brandy seriously thought about squandering her entire "Change found of the Street" fund.  "It's either this, or that unicorn ash tray I saw at a thrift store," she pondered.

Betty Blanco ordered a Skillet Breakfast, complete with eggs, potatoes, meats, and veggies.  It was a filling selection indeed, though she did insist that the individual components were rather bland.  It was only upon combining them together that the dish began to come alive.  "Not quite what I'm used to, mind," she said, "I've been cooking over a camp fire in the wilderness for the last 5 years.  Things just don't taste the same to me if they haven't been roasted over pine cones."

Brandy indulged her savory tooth this week by ordering the Bacon Avocado Burrito with a side of classic French Toast, supposedly another one of Breakfast Club's specialities.  The burrito came with a side of house fried potatoes, which while pleasantly crunchy, didn't have much flavor.  The burrito itself was doused in what the menu called "Ole Sauce" which was a tad on the spicy side, flavored with bell peppers and tomato.  It did the trick with the packed and dense burrito, blending well with the coolness of the avocado and cutting through the fattiness off the bacon.  The French Toast, though it was only a lowly side dish, was the real star here.  Made from challah bread, the French Toast was so fluffy and lovely, so cinnamony and rich, that Brandy regretted her choice of entrees and debated ordering more French Toast to go.

Bunny decided both her sweet ans savory cravings needed quenching, so she ordered Stuffed Potato Pancakes and Taffy Apple Pancakes.  The stuffed potato pancakes came plated more as little sandwiches, with the pancakes forming the bread and mozzarella cheese and bacon as the filling.  A delicate balance must have been employed not to render them too greasy, but they were decidedly rich.  The Taffy Apple Pancakes on the other hand were a tad lacking.  Though the pancakes themselves were fluffy, not too dry, and tasted of cinnamon, there was not nearly enough of the apple and caramel topping to render them interesting for more than a few bites.

A tad over priced considering the quality and selection of dishes, Breakfast Club does make for a crowd pleaser, offering comfortable and safe selections.  There are definitely more exciting things to be found in the great city of Chicago, but for a quirky yet comforting atmosphere, and some of the most cheerful servers one is likely to find on a Sunday morning, Breakfast Club is worth the visit.

P.S.  When leaving this establishment, beware.  A monster so horrible lurks just to the left that no name can summarize its terrifyingly mangled edifice except... Mr. Blobby.

The Short and Sweet Review:

Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon