Friday, February 22, 2013

Guest Post: Best Bottomless Brunches

Greetings dear readers!  We have a special treat for you this week (we know how you all love special treats); a very special guest, Lizz Riggs from has penned us a list of her favorite Bottomless Chicago Brunches.  So without further ado, bottoms up!

Best of Brunch: Bottomless Boozing in Chicago

As Bunny and Brandy have proven, Chicago is a hot spot for brunch every weekend.  Whether you’re looking for a healthy way to start your Sunday or something to soak up the mistakes of the previous night, you can definitely find a wonderful spot to indulge one morning. When many people brunch, there’s something a little more important than the eggs and french toast. They’re looking for the bottomless booze. Who doesn’t love all you can drink bloody mary’s, mimosas and champagne? When you’re looking for the best bottomless cocktails on a Sunday morning, you can’t go wrong with these spots.

1. Angelina Ristorante is an Italian restaurant in Lakeview. They have a full brunch menu and the option of a champagne brunch that includes a dish from the menu and bottomless champagne drinks for $21 a person. Choose from a mimosa, Bellini, Kir Royale or just straight bottomless champagne if that’s more your style. You've got plenty of options for your meal, and all are bottomless and delish. They get pretty crowded for brunch, so it’s best not to come absolutely famished, because you might have to wait 20 minutes or so. Luckily, the wait is worth it, because on top of the champagne drinks you literally can’t get enough of, the food is amazing. I don’t eat eggs, so I’ve never personally tried any of those dishes on the menu, although I hear they’re amazing, but I have fallen victim to all of the pastas on the menu (a surprisingly perfect start to a Sunday morning), the delicious and fresh Bosco salad, and everyone’s favorite, the banana stuffed French Toast.

2. Broadway Cellars is a little farther North, but only by about 8 minutes up North Lakeshore Drive. They serve bottomless mimosas and bloody mary's for just $10, which is about what you pay for just one drink at some other places, so I’d say it’s well worth it. They have tons of menu items that I've heard rave reviews about, most of which have eggs, but there are a few things that I really love here. The apple pancakes are really delicious when you’re in the mood for something sweet, and the baked caprese sandwich is just right when you want something salty but meatless. And of course, they’re known for their wine, and even though there’s no bottomless option for that, they've got a great selection for sampling and wine pairings.

3. Lokal has the deal when it comes to bottomless booze. $7 for bottomless mimosas, but it has to be while you’re eating. If you finish your food and stick around to keep drinking, they charge you $2 per refill. They also have bottomless bloody mary’s ($9) and champagne ($12) but the mimosas are truly the real deal. I love a good beer on a Sunday morning too, and when I’m not in the mood for the standard brunch booze, Lokal has a great selection of beer on tap. The food on the menu here is not as elegant and delightful as many other places, but it’s good nonetheless. They have great sandwiches and I've always been intrigued (but never had the guts) to try the “cheese & pickles.” At least it’s always there for when a moment of adventure arises...

4. Deleece Grill Pub is another Lakeview favorite for bottomless mimosas. The wait is never as long here, and who can say no to mac and cheese? They serve it six ways! It’s $15 for the bottomless mimosas here, and a good selection of wines, beers and whiskeys for the non-mimosa-loving patrons in your party.

5. Victory’s Banner is a great spot in Roscoe Village for those who don’t want a hangover at 2pm on a Sunday, but still want bottomless drinks. They make their own Chai lattes from scratch, and you can get have all you can drink (hot or cold) for just $5. Personally, I’m a big fan of the blackened chicken wrap, but who doesn’t love a delicious chocolate chip waffle to go with all that Chai?

No matter where you do your brunching in Chicago, there are plenty of places to make it bottomless.

This article was written by Lizz Riggs, editor of, a site dedicated to helping travelers find things to do, deals and Chicago hotels.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Batter and Berries or French Quarter Toast

The Slow and Savory Review

Its surprising how much one can pack into a day sometimes.  Even in her advanced age, Brandy keeps busier than even her doctors advise her to, filling her days with trips to various meetings for societies, clubs, guilds, and even the occasional comity.  So it came as quite a surprise to her when on Tuesday morning she checked her schedule book to find only one listing (she was to meet Bear Buttercup, who was in town, that evening to discuss his actress wife, Bambi's, next career move).  "How can this be?" she wondered, "For goodness' sake!  It's Fat Tuesday and the State of the Union is tonight and..." and then it occurred to her just what a special day it was, "Pancake Day."  She instantly had no other choice but to spend her free time that morning on a little weekday brunch.

Brandy chose Batter and Berries, a vibrant Creole inspired breakfast/lunch spot in the heart of Lincoln Park.  The restaurant was unexpectedly busy for a week day (Brandy supposed a lot of people had the same idea as she did) but she was taken to a table fairly quickly.  The bright yellow walls were decorated in a colorful if random mix of art and nic-naks, lending a cheerful air to the surroundings.  The place was positively buzzing, but the some what echoy acoustics and closely placed tables made things perhaps a little loud.  Brandy felt comfortable at her little mosaic table regardless, but worried about what it might have been like on a weekend.

It took a little while finally to get an order in, then another little while to get the food, but everything turned out to be worth the wait.  Brandy started off with a Flight of French Toast (yes, it was Pancake Day, but Brandy has always had a prevalent rebellious streak) boasting four flavors: Lemon, Blueberry, Strawberry, and Caramel.  The toast itself seemed to have been coated in pearl sugar, giving each bite an amazing crunch and chew, almost like a liege waffle.  Brandy found the lemon to be bright without even a hint of sourness. The blueberry was rich in flavor, having been dipped in a specially made batter that actually had pureed blueberries in it.  The strawberry toast was probably the most conventional of the varieties presented.  It was maybe a little on the sweet side for Brandy's liking, but was still very true to the strawberry flavor.  Lastly was the caramel, which was rather decadent and more dessert like.

As an entree, Brandy requested the Deconstructed Steak Omelette with a side of homemade hashbrowns, which were certainly one of the best Brandy had every tasted: intensely crispy on the outside, with the interior of the potatoes just a little al dente, Brandy had never encountered hashbrowns that had so clearly been made from scratch.  The omelette consisted of dense eggs (Brandy prefers her omelettes dense.  "I don't want something so fluffy its going to float away.  Brunch should fill you up, after all.  If you leave the table without a satisfied groan, you've done it wrong.") enclosing melted Swiss cheese and topped with sliced steak, onions, mushrooms, and a red wine demi-glaze.  The flavor of the sauce was amazing in its complexity with just a touch of peppery goodness.  The steak was wonderfully tender and cooked to perfection, and the onions and mushrooms just added to the luxury of the meal.  The only thing Brandy was unsure about was the choice to serve the dish on a transparent glass plate, which just seemed a little formal for such a laid back restaurant.

Slowly Brandy extracted herself from her seat with about $30 less in her pocket (most dishes were between $10 and $15, which seemed a little bit much to Brandy, but one can't argue with quality and deliciousness) and a whole free afternoon in front of her.  "Maybe a quick walk around the block to shake off this meal," she thought, "And then, dare I say it, a second brunch!"

The Short and Sweet Review

Batter & Berries on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rockit Burger Bar or Rock and Rolls

The Slow and Savory Review

We all get older, that is a fact of life, but for someone with an old soul like Brandy, sometimes its hard ot pinpoint just how much they've aged.  Brandy's true age is a well guarded secret (rumor has it that Ernest Hemmingway was the last person Brandy told her real age to, and he died with that information unexposed) so much so that she usually doesn't even celebrate her birthday, but this year for some reason was a little different.  Whispers began immediately that this birthday must be a special one when Brandy sent out a few invitations, requesting her friends to meet her at Rockit Burger Bar, right across the street from Wrigley Field, to celebrate her "coming of age," as she put it.

A regular cast of characters like Bailey Blue, Hawke, and Polish rock star Baranina were joined by new friends like Brocco Lee Binto (inventor of the controversial Cyber Cycle, a self peddling bicycle that has a tendency to take its riders several miles away from their intended destination) and Bain Marie Bistre (owner of Doggie Delights Bakery, a subsidiary of Honey Bee Bakery, that produces all natural and delicious treats for canines).  None of those gathered quite knew what they were in for.  "How old do you think she really is?" Bailey asked Hawke.  "Do you think this is her hundredth birthday?" mused Bain Marie.  "I've known her for twenty years and I only just learn when her birthday was!" said Brocco.  Finally Brandy arrived and joined her friends at the stately bar while their table was readied.  Worried about upsetting the poor dear, no one said a word about it being her birthday, but simply acted as if this were any old brunch she had invited them to.

The main dining room had a polished but laid back atmosphere, boasting huge televisions on every wall that had been bordered in interesting wood paneling to make them blend into the rest of room, creating a sort of dressed up sports bar kind of feel.  Most everyone partook of the $5 mimosas (Brandy was a little surprised more interesting cocktails weren't on offer), except for poor Bain Marie, who sipped on some tea due to a soar throat ("Silly me!  I was mixing a batch of Butter Biscuits when I accidently inhaled half a bag of wheat germ!" Bain Marie said with a cough).

Straight away, Brandy insisted on ordering a starter for the table, the Burgers and Fries poutine, which in addition to the traditional fries, gravy, and cheese curds, added ground beef, shredded lettuce, and tomato to make for a wonderfully salty snack.  The gravy was perfect and light, the fries crispy and tender, the cheese curds just a little bit melted, and the crisp vegetables helped to balance all of the fattiness.  "Its like when you have left overs from a late night burger place," Hawke said, "And you re-heat them all together, but this time they are freshly made and awesome."  Most of the table had never experienced the joy of a poutine before, so Brandy seemed happy enough to have introduced them all.

Bailey sampled the Buffalo Mac and Cheese for her entree, which seemed an odd combo at first, but wound up being a delightful mix of ooey gooey pasta goodness and spicy chucks of  chicken, topped off with blue cheese crumbles.  "Really great stuff!" Bailey exclaimed, "Like dipping hot wings in some mac and cheese!"

Hawke went more traditional with the Patty Melt, here with mushrooms, onions, and two kinds of cheese.  He felt his sandwich was a little over toasted, almost to the point of being burnt, and that the meat was a little more under done than he would have liked, and that the overall dish was just average.

Bain Marie went for the Eggs Benedict with House Potatoes.  The benedict was pretty traditional (Brandy would have loved to have seen something a little more creative, like a Benedict Burger, but alas) but very well done.  The potatoes were especially nice, with a good coating of spice on the outside.

Brocco, a recently converted vegetarian, went for the Vegetarian Burger, featuring the Barbecue Red Bean patty, as well as some cheese and a host of veggies.  Brocco said that the barbecue flavor really shone through, and that the seasoned fries on the side were really well matched to the burger.  "I'll have to program my Cyber Cycle to remember this place!" he said through a mouthful of burger.

Brandy pulled out the big guns with the Truffle Burger and a side of Truffle Fries ("It really must be a big day," Bain Marie whispered to Baranina, who due to her contract with her record company had expended all allowable calories on one bite of poutine and was now snacking on a lemon wedge as her entree).  Brandy thought the burger could not have been more perfect; juicy, medium rare, and with just the subtlest hint of truffle oil mixed in with the mushrooms and cheese.  "Adding ketchup to this would be sacrilege," Brandy instructed the others.  The fries were also quite good with a little sprinkle of Parmesan cheese to liven things up.

It was only when Brandy tried to order some dessert from the sweet faced and very attentive waitress that the truth finally came out.  "We'd love the Dessert Nachos for the table, dear," Brandy said.  "Is it a special occasion?" the girl asked.  "Someone's birthday," Brandy said with a wink and a grin.  "Then the nachos are on the house!" their server replied, making everyone at the table give a cheer.  The nachos come out with a candle on top, a lovely little surprise that made Brandy smile before she blew it out.  Everyone waited with baited breath for Brandy to say something, which Brandy took as an opportunity to gobble up a good portion of the dessert, which consisted of crispy triangles of fried dough covered in cinnamon and sugar, sliced strawberries, and vanilla ice cream.  Brandy found it to be all rather light and a great mix of textures.

After paying the bill (entrees averaged around $12-$14, but considerable portion size and quality made up for the price) and exchanging a few hugs, the party began to part ways, still as confused as ever as to whether or not they had really just attended a birthday celebration.  It was Bailey who, after Brocco had ridden away on his Cyber Cycle (almost heading straight into the Wrigley Field ice skating rink), finally said, "Happy birthday, Brandy."  "Oh my dear, its not my birthday," Brandy said kindly, "I just said that to get the dessert.  Bye bye now."  But somehow, Bailey didn't quite believe that was true.

The Short and Sweet Review

Rockit Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 1, 2013

From the Kitchens of Bunny and Brandy

Greetings football fans!  Its time for Bunny and Brandy's annual Superbowl Recipe spectacular!  This year we have something very special.  You may have noticed by now that Our Ladies harbor a soft spot for everything Homaro Cantu does, including his twin restaurants on Fulton Market, MOTO and ING.  Recently, Chef Cantu has premiered his very first cookbook, but as can be expected with a mad scientist such as he, this cookbook is not your ordinary cookbook.  This is the Miracle Berry Diet Cookbook, so named because all of its recipes have been created completely free of refined sugar and are meant to be enhanced by the use of the Miracle Berry, a small red berry from West Africa that resembles a cranberry and does something truly amazing; it makes sour things taste sweet.  Chef Cantu's favorite trick is to have his diners take a taste of pure lemon, then eat a miracle berry (or some powder made from the berry) and then have them taste the lemon again, only to find that it has turned into instant lemonade.  Check out this recent clip of Chef Cantu on Good Morning America:

Being absolutely fascinated by the concept of "flavor tripping" we asked Chef Cantu if he might be willing to let us give our readers a little sneak peek at what exactly these recipes might look like, and much to our surprise, he said yes (honestly, the man will agree to anything on Twitter)!  So after careful consideration, we present you with the following.

*Links to the cookbook, ING Restaurant, where to get miracle berries, and more provided at the end of this post!

Blackberry Ricotta Tarts
These cheesy little pastries are just the thing for a sweet after dinner bite, or a first thing in the morning indulgence.  Because of the purple berries and golden phyllo dough crust, we thought these would be the perfect thing for any Baltimore Ravens fans at your pre-Super Bowl brunch.  Brandy found that the subtle orange flavor made these tarts lovely even without the miracle berry, but with it they became more decedent and rich.
  • 1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
  • Canola oil spray
  • 5 sheets phyllo dough, thawed overnight in a refrigerator
  • 2 tablespoons of unslated butter or margarine, melted
  • 4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
     Drain the ricotta in a fine-mesh strainer for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray six 3 inch tart pans with removable bottoms with canola oil.  
     With the phyllo sheets in a stack, trace six squares (3 squares across and 2 squares verticle).  Using a sharp knife, cut through all 5 sheets of dough along the traced lines.  Line each tart pan with 5 sheets of dough, lightly brushing melted butter between each layer.  Trim the edges of the dough flush with the top of the pans.
     In a bowl, combine cream cheese, ricotta (discard the whey), honey, egg, orange zest, vanilla, and nutmeg.  Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.  Pour an equal amount of filling into each tart pan.
     Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Let the tarts cool for a minutes or two.  Arrange the berries on the top, and drizzle a little lemon juice over the fruit before serving.  When you are ready to eat, let the miracle berry tablet dissolve on your tongue and then enjoy the dish.
     Replacing 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/4 cup of honey and the sweetness from the berry saves 22 calories per serving

Sweet Butternut Squash Risotto
The reddish golden color of the squash in this dish, plus the fact that every one knows rice is the perfect San Fransico treat, makes this sweet risotto a wonderful option for the 49ers fans at your get together.  Brandy loved this recipe as is for a slightly sweet take on a traditional risotto, or with miracle berry to make it more along the lines of a rice pudding.  Chef Cantu suggests serving this with French Toast sticks to imitate garlic bread.

  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2 cups apple juice (natural, sugar free)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 ounces fresh goat cheese (about 3/4 cup)
     Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Toss the squash with the olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast for 30 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking.  Squash should be fork tender when done.
     Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a skillet.  Stir in the rice and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Combine apple juice and water and slowly add, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and allowing all the liquid to be absorbed before adding more.  Continue cooking until the rice is al dente.  Stir in the cream cheese and season with a pinch of salt.
     After the squash has been cooking for about 25 minutes, crumble the goat cheese into a small baking dish and warm in the oven for 5 minutes, or until the cheese starts to melt and brown along the edges.
     Mash half of the squash and stir into the risotto.  Ladle the risotto into bowls, and top with remaining squash cubes and melted goat cheese.  When you are ready to eat, let the miracle berry tablet dissolve on your tongue and then enjoy the dish.
     Replacing 2 tablespoons of packed brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of sugar with the sweetness from the berry saves 34 calories per serving.