Friday, August 26, 2011

Street Food Festival or Alone in the Crowd

The Slow and Savory Review
Its the beginning of a new era, friends, a radical new time where one lone food adventurer has wandered out into the vast metropolis that is Chicago to find the ultimate brunch destinations.  But having lost her dearest friend, Brandy thought it best to start her lonesome journey in a slightly different way.  Having heard some buzz about a new kind of food festival being held at Galleria Marchetti Brandy bought herself a $40 ticket (early bird tickets were cheaper, but sold out quickly, and there was also a VIP ticket option that opted the holder into cooking classes held throughout the day) and set out to carry on Bunny's legacy.

This food festival, creatively titled Street Food Artistry, was the first of its kind, celebrating the diversity of Chicago Food Trucks, street performers and urban artists.  A few paintings, splashed with more than an ounce of urbaness, were scattered around the reception hall, and different groups from tap dancers to musicians had been asked to perform throughout the day.

The interior of the space was a little more suited for a wedding than a food festival, with a large white tent housing sampling tables form several restaurants and local food companies, which was sandwiched by two lovely gardens that had been sprinkled with food trucks and food carts.

Brandy started outside with the star of the event, the Macy's A Go-Go Food Truck which had partnered with chef Takashi Yagihashi of Takashi (which Bunny and Brandy famously covered in a previous post).  She was given a lovely noodle salad by Chef Takashi himself and made herself comfortable at one of the out door tables (though her chair developed a nasty habit of sinking into the moist ground).  The dish was a little odd, being a mixture of a chef's salad with lettuce, tomato, and ham, and a chilled noodle salad with black mushrooms, cucumber, and shrimp  Brandy wished Chef Takashi had been allowed to serve something freshly made, but sadly Chicago has outlawed all cooking aboard anything with wheels.

Next was the Bergstein's NY Deli Truck which was offering some selections of sliders.  Brandy chose a BBQ Beef Slider on the recommendation of the girl in the truck.  The sandwich was definitely one of the highlights of those gathered at the festival , which is saying something as nearly everyone had some sort of BBQ dish.

Inside the tent, Brandy joined the line for the restaurant samples, some of which already had food trucks and some of which were planning ones for the future.  First came English, which Brandy expected to be her favorite.  Unfortunately, all they had on offer was a BBQ chicken slider with a zingy but greasy sauce, hardly authentic English food.

Next was Wow Bao, Chicago's favorite bao bun chain with attitude.  They had brought along several of their most popular flavors, so Brandy chose an edamame bao, which proved pleasantly soft on the outside with crunchy veggies on the interior.

E.Leaven presented a full meal in bite size with their short rib sandwich, vegetable medly with popcorn (yes, dear readers, popcorn) and a mocha French macaroon.  While the vegetable dish was not particularly a hit with Brandy (she felt the popcorn had been made soggy and the whole effect was like a rather strange salsa), the sandwich was definitely the star on the plate, with tender meat, a succulent creamy sauce, and fresh baked bread.  The cookie was also a nice touch, though Brandy heard rumors that other plates had contained brownies with hot sauce in them!

Following that, Bistro One West served up a pulled BBQ pork slider on a cheddar biscuit with a very colorful and crispy coleslaw.  By now, Brandy was a little BBQ-ed out, but she did like the slaw especially.
Last of the restaurant tables, Dawali presented Brandy with a huge plate of Mediterranean goodness.  A few falafel balls to start (which didn't have the crunch Brandy expected them to have), then a bite each of a chicken shawarma wrap and a beef shawarma wrap (the chicken was the winner of the two), then a pastry stuffed with ground lamb which had excellent spice, and a hearty helping of some incredibly creamy hummus with two pieces of supple pita bread.  And yet there was still more food to go!
Out in the second garden was the Homage Street Food Truck, a group of new comers to the food truck game, who were sporting probably the most varied menu at the festival, with dishes from Puetro Rico, India, Viet Nam, and all over the world.  Brandy chose a Buckwheat Noodle dish that came served in a tiny take out container (Brandy amazed everyone with her chopstick dexterity).  The noodles were dressed with a sauce that was spicy, sweet, sour, and savory all at the same time.  Brandy supposed that they would have been a bit much as an entree, but were perfect in the sampling size.

Last but not least was the Puffs of Doom Cart which served artisanal cream puffs.  From traditional flavors like strawberry, chocolate, and peanut butter, to more exciting choices like Earl Grey and apricot basil, if seemed there was a cream puff for every taste bud.  Brandy chose the most unusual sounding one, which was based off a Mexican drink made with orange and spices.  The total effect of the confection reminded Brandy of Orange Spice Tea at Christmas time.  Brandy feels that desserts should always remind one of something happy, so in that respect, this was a total success.

A fantastic debut in all for the Street Food Artistry Festival.  The abundance of good food and lively entertainment did help Brandy to forget she was on her own for a little while.  But next week, we shall see how she does on her own at a more traditional brunch spot.

The Short and Sweet Review

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sola or Aloha Means Hello and Goodbye

The Slow and Savory Review

Dear Readers, it is our unfortunate duty to report some rather sad news.  We will not mince words, we will not waffle on and on, we won't even try to sugar coat this tearful news with tiny little delicate roses made of royal icing.  There is not point in avoiding it, no giving you false hope with "good news" before the bad.  We would never do these things to you, dear readers, we would never cover over the pothole of such information with a bunch of flowery words. We would never pause, freeze, delay, postpone, suspend, shelve, or look through a thesaurus to stall for time.  Now then...

Our dear and beloved Bunny has been called away by her darling husband Benedict to assist in his excavations and shall no longer be able to attend brunch with Brandy every Sunday.  Now now, don't worry, she won't be leaving us forever.  Bunny, from time to time when reception permits, will be filling a new role by leaving us "Post Cards" with fun little links, recipes, and more.  But it is with a heavy heart that we here present for you the story of the last regular brunch with Bunny and Brandy.

The chosen restaurant was Sola, an upscale Hawaiian themed restaurant in the North Center neighborhood (its actually just down the street from last week's entry, Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro and was actually the original choice for last week, but had to be scrapped as the restaurant was closed for some silly little music festival of some sort).  The interior was a little stark, but bright, with some nice little touches in design but nothing to suggest what kind of food was about to be enjoyed.  "Maybe its a little played out, but just a picture of a pineapple would have sufficed," Bunny remarked. 

Drinks were ordered straight away, as Brandy wasn't ready to get overly emotional about Bunny's leaving and needed something to "stiffen my upper lip," as she put it.  Bunny ordered a Maui-Mosa, a tropical twist on the original with pineapple and passion fruit juice instead of orange.  Brandy decided on the traditional Pine Colada.  Sadly, the drinks didn't make it to the table before the appetizer...or before the entree.  Our Ladies watched as the bartender sauntered back any forth, lazily mixing and pouring, then continued to watch as the drinks sat...and sat...and sat, until they were finally brought to the table 25 minutes after the order was placed.  Sadly, they were not worth the wait.  Bunny's Maui-Mosa smelled rather odd and just tasted of champagne, as the juices had sunk to the bottle of the glass, and Bunny's Pina Colada was virtually undrinkable, tasting of cold, watery, rancid rum and nothing else.

They began their meal with Malasadas, a sort of fried dough coated in sugar and served with warm chocolate sauce and raspberry puree.  They were nicely crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and all around lovely.  The sauces were the true standout though, with the raspberry being the favorite of the two, though the chocolate was brilliantly rich and deep without being too sweet.  Brandy thought she detected some flavor in the chocolate she couldn't quite name, until Bunny realized it was hazelnut.

For her entree, Brandy selected the Steak and Egg, which was much more exciting than it sounds.  The "steak" was thin slices of tender wagyu beef covered in a red wine reduction and served over a mixture of crisp veggies (brussel sprouts, sugar snap peas, carrots, etc.), while the egg was actually coated with panko bread crumbs and fried whole, truly an impressive feat.  Once cut open, the egg yolk ran into the peppery veggies, mixing with the red wine sauce to make a delicious coating for everything on the plate.  The beef was melting on the fork and aided by just the tiniest bit of sweetness from the sauce.  A rather elegant and lovely dish in all.

Bunny, or course, had to go for her old standby of the Benedict, but this time it came with braised beef short rib and pesto.  The meat was cooked to perfection, and the hollandaise was rather lighter and fresher than hollandaise of days gone by, tasting almost like sour cream.  The presentation did look a tad sloppy in comparison with Brandy's lovely plate, and the potatoes on the side was slightly under seasoned and soggy.

Food wise, Sola delivered on all fronts, but sadly everywhere else seemed to be lacking, especially in the drinks department (trust us when we say that the Pina Colada must have been bad if Brandy was unwilling to finish it). 

And so, it is with a heavy heart that we send Bunny on her way to fun and adventure in her travels across the globe.  Bon Voyage, Bunny, and we hope you will be back to brunch with us and for us soon!

The Short and Sweet Review:

Sola on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro or No Overalls in the Chowder, but there's Guiness in the Mac and Cheese!

The Slow and Savory Review

(Please enjoy the musical accompaniment below while reading this weeks' entry)

Celebrity is a funny old thing.  Exactly how many people need to recognize one for one to be considered famous?  According to an old Liverpudlian friend of Bunny and Brandy's who was in town not long ago, fame is in the eyes of the beholders, not the beholded.  So when Bunny and Brandy took their seats at Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro and found themselves being beholded by the occupants of the table beside them, they didn't quite know how to react. 

After a few moments of awkward glances, the wide eyed duo beside Our Ladies finally got up the courage to ask, "Excuse me, are you Bunny and Brandy?"  A slight nod from Brandy elicited a squeal of joy and a request that they might dine with Chicago's most "famous" brunch bloggers.  Bunny cheerfully gestured to two empty seats at their table and Our Ladies found themselves joined by their two biggest fans, who went by the names of Bubble and Squeak.

Mrs. Murphy and Sons is what Our Ladies have come to expect from an upscale Irish pub; dark woods and a typical assortment of bric a brak to convince one of its Celtic credibility, like a book filled telephone box, a tea set in a china hutch, and the most fully stocked bar one could hope for.  Several dining areas and a sidewalk porch provided a variety of places to enjoy one's meal, including a private party room and a lounge upstairs.

Looking over the entrees on offer, about half were traditional Irish fair like Corned Beef and Black Pudding, and the other half had Irishness thrust upon them by dousing them in some sort of alcohol. 

Bubble and Squeak, being ultimate fans, ordered a pair of Benedicts: for Bubble, the Smoked Salmon Benedict, and for Squeak, the Corned Beef Hash Benedict.  Both had a lovely Hollandaise sauce, but Bubble thought her eggs were a little under done (she had asked for over hard).  Bubble commented that she really enjoyed the taste of dill in her dish, while Squeak said the Corned Beef was amongst the best he'd ever had.

Brandy got two small dishes, as is her fashion: the Guinness Mac and Cheese (yes, dear reader, your eyes do not deceive you) and the Sticky Toffee Pudding Oatmeal Brulee.  The mac and cheese had a lovely buttery crumble on top, and the interior was a little soupy, but very creamy and rich, being helped along by the creamy stout.  The oatmeal took a little while to cool to an edible temperature, but once consumed was a wonderful mix of textures from the crunchy brulee top and the candied walnuts to the melted spiced butter and delicately cooked oats.

Bunny chose from the "Add Liquor to make it Irish" section of the menu and got the Bailey's and Bananas French Toast.  It came as a thick slice of brioche covered in strawberries, bananas, and a creamy sauce.  At first bite, the Irish Cream taste wasn't exactly present, though the bread was soft, sweet, and delicious.  But after the sauce had cooled a bit, the Bailey's became more present.  Bunny felt the strawberries were just on this side of not fresh, but otherwise she thoroughly enjoyed the dish.

The service was impeccable except for a slightly long wait for the check, but Bubble and Squeak didn't seem to mind the extra time with their heroes.  Befuddled by the experience of being so adored, Our Ladies wondered if Mrs. Murphy and her anonymous sons have ever gotten the same treatment.

The Short and Sweet Review

Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bistro 110 or A Fondu Farwell

The Slow and Savory Review

It's always hard to say goodbye, no matter how old you get.  It's a fact of life that friends come and go, which is a blessing and a curse, but we never seem to be ready for the changes that come our way.  So it is with a heavy heart that Our Ladies, accompanied by Biscuit Brown, headed to Bistro 110 on the Gold Coast, which after nearly 25 years as a traditional French/Cajun haunt is about to be re designated as a pizza, tapas, and wine restaurant. 

Bistro 110  is surprisingly spacious inside, with several different areas of interest.  Cute touches brought in the New Orleans feel, such as wrought iron hat wracks on the walls and traditional French white table linens.  A little old fashioned for some, perhaps, but there seemed to be a decent amount of revelers presents for Bistro's final brunch.  A four man jazz band stood at the back of the room, playing cheerful classics like "When the Saints Go Marching In" to the delight of the diners.

The menu offered a few options: a 2 course prix fixe, a 3 course prix fixe, or individual options.  Brandy, noticing that a drink was only $5 with the prix fixe, opted for that option, while the other two preferred just entrees.  Both Brandy and Biscuit sampled a French Margarita, a bright twist on the original with orange replacing lime.  Bunny chose the Bellini, which was also quite lovely and a good opener to brunch.

The meal began with some fresh baked bread, butter, and black raspberry jam, which was actually quite nice.  All three ladies commented that they would gladly make a meal from just this, the jam was that enticingly delectable.

For starters, Brandy insisted on a bowl of French Onion Soup.  This particular incarnation of the traditional soup was made with not only yellow onions, but also leeks and spring onions, adding to its rich flavor.  Of course, Brandy was only in it for the cheese, which did not disappoint in its gooeyness.
As a side for the table, a plate of Pommes Frites and Angle Hair Onions was ordered.  Arriving in a tangle of fried goodness, Our Ladies and guest simply could not stop picking at the plate.

Brandy chose the Quiche Lorraine as her entree, which came served with a small salad of greens.  This quiche, dear readers, was the lightest, fluffiest, most airy quiche known to man.  Bits of bacon added just the right hit of smokiness, bringing the richness of the egg to the forefront, and the delicate crust was wafer thin, so as not to interfere with the heavenly interior.

Bunny picked the Crepes A La Fricassee, a savory baked crepe dish with plenty of cheese on top and chicken inside.  Bunny commented that she thought this dish reminiscent of a cheese enchilada, but with more delicate flavors.

Biscuit ordered (much to Bunny's chagrin) the Voodoo Eggs Benedict, which came with smoked pork belly and voodoo potatoes.  At first, the wrong dish was brought to the table (the Eggs Louisiana which is made with Crab Cakes) but the mistake was soon corrected.  Disappointingly, the "smoked pork belly" seemed to be nothing more than sliced ham, but the eggs were poached well and the sauce was quite lovely.  The potatoes were the real surprise, though.  Appearing to be hot and spicy, they were actually quite creamy and sweet, having been cooked with bell pepper and tomato.

The round out the meal, Our Ladies and guest shared a Creme Brulee.  Another dish served very traditionally, its sugar crust certainly did not disappoint for cracking.  The custard within was somewhat cold in spots and warm in others, which was strange, but all in all it was light and delectable.  Bunny and Brandy both agreed that it could have benefited from a few fresh berries on top.

Bistro 110 will surely be dearly missed for its combination of traditional French fair, warm service, and relaxing decor (not to mention the amazing Jazz band).  We tip our hats to you, Bistro 110, and here's hoping your new incarnation will be as delightful as its predecessor!

The Short and Sweet Review

Bistro 110 on Urbanspoon