Thursday, April 28, 2011

From the Kitchens of Bunny and Brandy

Brandy's Matzoh Brei

1 tbsp of butter
1/3 cup of milk
2 tsp of cinnamon sugar
2 full sheets of plain Matzoh
3 medium eggs
a pinch of salt

Break the matzoh sheets into quarters and set aside.  In a large dish, mix milk, salt, and cinnamon sugar, then soak the matzoh in it and reserve the extra milk.  You don't want the matzoh to be soggy, but it should be pliable.  In a separate bowl, scramble the eggs and mix with the extra milk.  Melt the butter in a frying pan, then add the matzoh and pour egg mixture over the top.  Mix well with a spatula and cook over medium heat until all the liquid is gone.  Serve immediately and top with a syrup of your choice.

* for a savory option, soak matzoh in spiced tomato juice instead of milk and serve with diced tomato, fresh chives, and sour cream.

Bunny's Leftover Easter Benedict

1 hard boiled Easter egg
2 slices leftover Easter ham
1 leftover dinner roll

Hollandaise sauce  
2 egg yolks
1 TBS lemon juice
3 TBS butter
Dash of pepper

Prepare Bunny's easy "double boiler". Fill water in a small pot about 3/4 full. Choose a microwave save bowl that fits just inside the pot, but rests on the lip of the pot. Bring water in the pot to a boil. Melt the butter in the microwave until liquefied. Separate the egg white and place the yolks, lemon juice, and butter in the "double boiler". Stir frequently until the Hollandaise thickens. Sprinkle pepper on top. Set off to the side. 

Warm or toast the leftover dinner roll and cut length wise. Reheat the slices of ham and layer on top of the roll. Peel the Easter egg and slice length wise, layer on top of the ham. Spoon on the Hollandaise sauce. Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Owen and Engine or Fit for a Queen

The Slow and Savory Review

An interesting piece of mail presented itself to Bunny and Brandy's mailboxes a few weeks back; their much anticipated invitations to a certain royal wedding.  Not many know that Bunny and Brandy, long ago in their youth, played nanny to a certain prince (no, not William, Prince Phillip, if you must know), and so they are much beloved by everyone at Buckingham palace, both royal and gentry.  In preparation for this most happy event, Our Ladies spent a good 4 hours hat shopping (an essential item at any British wedding), so when it came time for brunch, they had worked up a pretty good appetite.

Whispers had reached Bunny and Brandy about a certain new pub that claimed to be serving up the most authentic British food anyone could find this side of the Thames.  "We'll be the judge of that!" Brandy proclaimed.  So after their excursion at the haberdashery, Our Ladies headed over to Owen and Engine with eyebrows pre-set in a sceptical expression. 
Obviously knowing they had VIP's on their hands, Bunny and Brandy were taken up stairs to a beautiful dining room, set with plenty of dark woods, flocked wall paper, leather backs arm chairs, and a fire place.  An impressive show, to be sure, only made more impressive once they were told that the owners had designed the place themselves.  "Reminds me of Noel Coward's drawing room," Brandy mused.  "No, no, you're thinking of Cole Porter's den, dear," Bunny corrected her.

The menu did indeed look promising.  Right off the bat, Our Ladies ordered a concoction called Mum's Punch, a mix of rum, cherry brandy, port, and some lemon.  At first sip, Bunny exclaimed that she could imagine drinking this refreshing beverage on a balmy summer day, while Brandy said she could see enjoying it at a lovely Christmas party.  Nicely spiced without too much sweetness, however enjoyed, it was definitely a hit.  The eyebrows began to lower.

Next came their starter, a plate of freshly baked scones accompanied by clotted cream (Bunny squealed with delight when she saw this on the menu) and strawberry jam.  Our Ladies were presented with a plate containing three different scones; a chocolate chip, an Earl Grey, and a cranberry orange.  All were delightfully warm, crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside.  Bunny enjoyed the cranberry orange the most (though how she could taste the scone under a giant glob of clotted cream, we do not know) while Brandy favored the slightly denser texture of the Earl Grey.

Brandy decided upon the seasonal quiche as her entree, which came dotted with Yukon gold potato slices, spinach, red pepper, and cheddar.  The filling was very light and the crust was delicious and buttery.  Brandy had at first regretted her choice and wished she had ordered something more British, but the addition of the potatoes somehow brought the flavors home to Old Blighty.  The side salad however was disappointingly plain, only being a tangle of greens with dressing.  Brandy felt that even a sliced cherry tomato and a few slivers of cheese might have made it a little more enjoyable.

Bunny opted for the English Fry Up, an amazing array of traditional English breakfast items that included baked beans, blood sausage, roasted potatoes, bacon, eggs, and brown bread.  "If they bring me a fried tomato,  then perhaps they really do know what they're doing," Bunny whispered.  She did indeed get her tomato, but something else was missing.  Bunny summoned the lovely waitress, thinking to trip the poor dear up.  "Do you have any brown sauce?" she cooed, "It's just not a fry up without brown sauce."  The waitress smiled and disappeared for a moment behind the highly polished bar before bringing back a small cup to the table.  Bunny looked at her quizzically.  "We make it in house, mam," she said.  Our Ladies jaws collectively dropped. 

Once equipped with the proper condiments, Bunny dived in head first.  The beans came severed in an adorable ceramic cup that resembled a baked bean can.  They were very firm and pleasantly tomatoey.  The blood sausage had a good smokey flavor to it and the potatoes were very flavorful without being too greasy.  Bunny was indeed appeased.

As one final test, Our Ladies chose to order a Rhubarb Crumble for dessert.  Served hot with a boat of cold creme anglaise on the side, before the first bite was even consumed, Our Ladies had to admit that Owen and Engine was their new favorite spot (in fact, once Brandy found out that the owners lived upstairs, she inquired as to whether they had a guest room they might be willing to rent out).  Our Ladies let themselves fall into the warm puddle that was the rhubarb crumble, joyous in it's citrus notes, which were enhanced by the candied oranges on top, and overwhelmed by the richness of the creme anglaise.

After finishing their meal, Bunny and Brandy lingered, asking about everything from the furnishings to the hand pumped ales until they were escorted down the stairs and taken to the door.  Still they lingered, gazing through the windows like two cockney street urchins, longing to be out of the cold.  Needless to say, after they have arrived back from attending the royal wedding, Bunny and Brandy will be carving themselves a place as regulars at this amazing new find.  Batton down the hatches, boys, Our Ladies are here to stay!

The Short and Sweet Review:

Owen and Engine on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tweet or Good Morning Sunshine!

The Slow and Savory Review:

Believe it or not, there are some people out there who don't like Bunny and Brandy.  People who are snobs.  People who are jealous.  People who are, well... French.  Mostly, we are referring to Bunny and Brandy's sworn mortal enemies, Brulee and Brioche, founders of "Brûlée et Brioche Blog Heure du Brunch," which they write from their home in Bitche, France.  There's some disagreement about who started the Brunch Blog first; Brioche says Bunny stole the idea from them in 2010 after being told about their blog while visiting Paris, while Brandy insists that although she and Bunny have only been online since last fall, they would have been blogging much earlier if they had known what a blog was before that point.  Either way, when Bunny and Brandy learned their counterparts were going to be visiting Chicago, there was only one thing to be done... invite them to brunch.

Our Ladies chose Tweet as their battleground, a lovely cafe in Uptown with a litany of its own rules that all the regulars know by heart.  As that Sunday was unseasonably warm, all of Chicago was out in droves, crowding up Tweet's two rooms, front patio, and back patio, causing Our Ladies and guests to wait in the bar for about 40 minutes.  Brulee, unable to control her sweet tooth, started eyeing up the cakes on display by the hostess stand and asked for a piece of Red Velvet to tide them over.  The cake itself was a tad dry, but the thick and rich cream cheese and almond frosting was more than enough to make up for it.  While savoring the cake, Our Ladies had a chance to take in the unusual local art choices spread around the interior.  Bunny gave a tiny yelp at seeing a picture of a naked man holding a tiny silver purse, to which Brioche snickered, "You English are such prudes.  In France, we have real naked men with purses in every restaurant!"

At last called to their table, Our Ladies and guests made their way through the crowd and past several smiling waitresses to a comfy little booth in the back.  The table was pre-crowded with every condiment one could ask for, including a plate of corn bread like chocolate chip banana bread for the brunchers to share.

After sifting through the gigantic and tantalizing menu, orders were placed; for Brioche, the Bim Im Bop, a Korean inspired breakfast bowl, for Brulee the Eggs Florentine (which completely infuriated Bunny), for Bunny the Crab Cake Sandwich (originally she had ordered the Tomato Basil Quiche, but they had sadly just sold the last piece) and for Brandy the Corn Aripas with a side of chicken sausage, as well as a cocktail called the Blue Velvet ("If anyone expects me to get through this brunch sober," she whispered to Bunny, "they are sorely mistaken.").  Ordered for the table to share was a house specialty called Danish Aebleskiever, a sort of oven baked beignet.

Brioche's Bim Im Bop turned out to be quite the hit.  Served with three sauces and loaded with organic brown rice, tons of veggies, and topped by a poached egg, the variety of ingredients insured that every bite had its own unique combo of flavors.

Brulee enjoyed her Eggs Florentine with relish (not literal relish, of course.  The color of traditional Chicago relish is enough to scare off the most discerning diners).  She declared loudly that the hollendais on this particular dish was one of the most delicious and buttery sauces she'd ever had.  Bunny's cheeks were quite obviously growing red and a distinct vein had begun to throb on her temples.  Brulee also reported that her hashbrowns were simple, but good.  Her fruit cup, however, was daintily served like an ice cream sundae with a good variety of morsels for sampling.

Brandy's cocktail was quite pretty to look at, and quite nice to drink as well.  A very clever alternative to the mimosa, it was light and crisp without being too sweet.  Her chicken sausage was rather nice too; it had a good snap and a lovely sweet, juicy interior.  The Corn Aripas, or corn pancakes, came served with a massive chunk of avocado on top, as well as some mildly spicy red sauce and sour cream.  The cakes were a little dry, but combined with the various toppings the effect was a bright, savory flavor that really awakened the taste buds.

Bunny's crab cake sandwich was a little disappointing.  The cake itself tasted good enough, with only sweetness and no fishy notes, but was so tiny that it barely covered half the croissant it was served on.  Bunny had also requested bacon and avocado, half of which she received and half she had to ask the cheerful waitress for.  The consolation was that she received both a fruit cup and a small side salad, so her plate seemed to resemble a colorful garden.

Last but not least were the Dutch Aeleskievers, which came served with maple syrup, orange honey, powered sugar, and some fresh berries.  More cake like than a regular beignet, yet rather light and fluffy on the inside, the confections made the perfect little sweet bite to end brunch with.

After such a table collapsing meal as this (though not wallet collapsing at an average of  under $20 a person), one would think everyone would leave with no more room left for ill will in their bodies.  But even as they waved goodbye to their rivals, Bunny and Brandy just knew that this war was not over.  Luckily, Bunny's brother, Mr. Bacon, knew a few people with good computer skills, who managed to redirect everyone trying to access a certain French brunch blog onto the homepage of Our Beloved Ladies.

The Short and Sweet Review:

Tweet on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 8, 2011

PJ Clarke's or The Lights are on, but...

The Slow and Savory Review:

To buffet, or not to buffet, that is the question.  Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the sweets and savories of outrageous menu choices, or to take plates up to the heating trays and by opposing end the decision making process.  To dine, to eat, to eat, per chance to brunch.  Ay!  There's the rub. For in that meal of brunch, what dishes may come when we have shuffled off to join the line at the make your own omelet station must give us pause.  These and other questions are some of what Bunny and Brandy must ask themselves every Sunday morning, and this Sunday morning the answer happened to be "buffet."

Bunny and Brandy met their dear friend Bailey Blue at PJ Clarke's in Streeterville to partake of their supposedly sumptuous brunch buffet.  Entering through the bar, Our Ladies were told they could choose to sit there, or in the more spacious dining room (either up stairs or downstairs).  Bunny, Brandy, and Bailey did the only logical thing and sat themselves directly in front of the buffet table. 

The dining room was cavernous, with impossibly high ceilings and random objects and pictures awkwardly hung on every inch of wall space.  A massive wine rack dominated one section of the staircase, casting differently colored shadows over the red and white checkered table clothes.  Plenty of smiling (and rather scrumptious, as Brandy pointed out) waiters wandered about the room, delivering glasses of water and complimentary fresh squeezed orange juice.  "Isn't that sweet of them!" Bunny exclaimed.  Our Ladies and guest were given the option of choosing something to eat off the lunch menu, or paying a flat $14.95 for the breakfast buffet.  After much hemming and hawing, all three chose the buffet.

The first thing that struck them was that there weren't very many choices.  Bacon and sausage, pancakes and potatoes, scrambled eggs, a fruit plate, some lox, and a selection of muffins and bagels were the major part of the dishes available for consumption.  There was also a station for making one's own omelet (or rather, pointing awkwardly at ingredients for the chef behind the table to form into an omelet for you).  All three ladies agreed the addition of some sort of salad, some french toast, and one or two other hot items would have helped round off the buffet selections. 

Top Dishes: The bacon was generally applauded by all at the table for being perfectly cooked and having a pleasant smokey taste.  The home made muffins were also quite well done (Bunny chose a lemon poppy seed while Brandy and Bailey chose chocolate) being moist and flavorful.

Bottom Dishes: Bailey and Bunny reported the pancakes to be extremely dry, even after being covered in syrup, whipped cream, and strawberries.  In fact, during the entire time Our Ladies and guest were seated, the pancakes were never once replaced or replenished.  Also the potatoes, according to Brandy, were rather limp, greasy, and flavorless, though Bailey did enjoy them, so perhaps that old adage about great minds thinking alike does not always apply.

Brandy was the only one who opted to create an omelet, which she did with caramelized onions, spinach, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese.  The result was pleasantly fluffy, though Brandy did wish fresh spinach had been used rather than pre-cooked.

There was also a silver platter of petite fours laid out.  Though rather pretty looking (if not a tad out of place beside small boxes of Frosted Flakes and Raisin Bran) most of the bites were nothing spectacular.  Brandy's advice was to steer towards anything that resembled chocolate.

Though a lovely place to relax and have a chat while brunching, PJ Clarke's comes up a little short on the buffet front.  So if you, dear reader, should venture to this establishment, maybe consider choosing from the lunch menu.  For after all, as Brandy puts it, "To thine our meal be true." (Note: Brandy is under the impression that Hamlet was written about breakfast meats).

The Short and Sweet Review:

P.J. Clarke's on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 1, 2011

ING or Very Ing-teresting

The Slow and Savory Review

Let us address the elephant in the room straight away.  No, Our Ladies are not reviewing brunch this week.  This is a special, first time ever dinner review of ING, a new Japanese themed casual molecular dining experience restaurant in the meat packing district of Fulton Market.  The brain child of Moto's Homaro Cantu and Executive Chef Thomas Bowman (who was head chef to ING's previous incarnation, Otom), ING only just opened officially at the beginning of March and has been creating quite the stir with such oddities as hand pulled "infinity" noodles, origami menus, and house made beers, brewed in "nano" batches with unique flavors like curry IPA or coffee and donut Stout.

The cause for this unusual derivation from Bunny and Brandy's brunchly duties was dear old Bunny's birthday (they say to never ask a woman her weight or her age, but in Bunny's case the answer to both questions is the same number).  A group of their finest friends had gathered for the event; Bunny's own Benedict of course had gotten time off from his excavation of a Mayan tomb, Bakewell Burgundy had thrust his understudy onto the stage just as the curtain was rising so that he could attend, Birdie and Biscuit Brown had abandoned their weekly CCCC meeting (Cajun/Creole Citizens of Chicago), and Brandy gave up her usual Saturday night spent drinking alone to go out and drink with everyone.

ING's interior is quite minimalist and modern, with a wavy tiled wall on one side, a wood paneled wall on the other, an awkwardly placed bar, and several comfy six person tables furnished with bright orange plastic chairs and benches.  White coated servers buzzed throughout the room, talking into wireless headsets and generally looking rushed.  Although Our Ladies had obtained reservations for 8:00, they were still asked to wait for about 15 minutes until a table was available.  Once seated with the whole party, an order was placed for the Flight of Beers, which Our Ladies and guests were thinking was going to be a sampling of all the so called Nano Brews.  Sadly, a server informed them all too late that the nano brew's fermentation process had taken longer than anticipated this week and the house brews were unavailable.  Instead, the party was presented with 5 samplings of ING's other beer offerings.  While still a fun way to start the meal, the lack of the nano brews was definitely a big disappointment, especially to Brandy.  "I've tasted every kind of beer you could ever imagine," she ranted, "I was looking forward to being surprised."

Next, Our Ladies and guests were presented with their menus, which were folded into origami cubes and hid an amuse bouche, a single shot of miso soup in a sake glass.  The soup itself had a nice spicy finish, but Bunny felt it was a little salty.  The table chose to partake in ING's dine by the hour option ($45 an hour for how ever many hours you have to spare and you are treated to the chef's choice of dishes from both on and off the menu).  A round of cocktails were also ordered; for Birdie, Biscuit, and Bakewell a concoction called The Stepfather (a sweet and tangy mix of amaretto, absinthe, lemon, and whiskey), for Bunny The Kimura (a light and fresh tasting combo of grapefruit, vodka, St. Germaine liquor, and Aperol), and for Brandy, the ever classy Smoked Manhattan (a slight twist on the traditional mix of bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters).

Soon, the first course was being presented balletically to the table; a seaweed salad with a Japanese rolled omelet (brunch after all!) and tuna tartar served with sticky rice, avocado mouse, and a sesame cracker.  The seaweed salad was surprisingly sweet and fresh tasting with a lovely after taste of sesame oil.  The tuna was exceptionally smooth and flavorful (even Brandy, who never eats cooked fish let alone raw fish, gobbled up the dish), especially the avocado mouse, and the cracker on the side made for a great change in texture.

Next came a soup made from soy sauce marinated seaweed noodles, popped kale and enoci mushrooms, topped with a poached egg.  This proved to be an unpopular dish with both Bunny and Biscuit, who didn't care for the texture of the noodles, nor the blandness of their flavor.  The broth however, once allowed to mix with the yolk from the egg, was pleasantly rich, with a touch of heat from a few strategically placed chili flakes.  The kale was definitely the hit of the dish, having somehow maintained a nice crunch and toasty flavor even after sitting in the broth for several minutes.

The meat course was next, and came in the form of Wagu Beef, sliced thin, skewered, and cooked at the table on hot bricks.  They were then plated with a savory rice crispy square, some brazed Japanese eggplant, and ponzu glaze.  The beef was extremely tender and silky in texture (Bunny thought her piece was under cooked, but Brandy insisted such high quality beef should be served on the rare side).  The rice square, which was breaded with panko, had a nice risotto like filling, but the eggplant was a little overly seasoned with soy sauce and came off very salty.

The final course was dessert, a frozen waffle ice cream (made from pureeing a cooked waffle batter, then "cooking" it on an anti-griddle with liquid nitrogen to make it resemble a waffle) topped with orange sorbet made to look like butter pads, stout maple syrup, and coconut whipped cream.  The frozen waffle was light, creamy, and absolutely tasted of waffle and the orange sorbet added a lovely brightness.  Though utterly delicious, the confection didn't quite fit into the Japanese theme that had been bestowed on the rest of the meal.

A bit on the pricey side, though not nearly as bad as it's next door neighbor Moto, ING definitely delivered on its promises of innovation, quality ingredients, and a unique dining experience.  ING may still have some growing pains to work through, but in the end it seems like the restaurant will make a nice casual companion to its high brow cousin, thus encouraging more people to experiment with what they think they know about what they think they like.

The Short and Sweet Review

Ing Restaurant on Urbanspoon