Friday, July 19, 2013

25 Degrees or Hot Town, Summer in the City

The Slow and Savory Review

There is no one, and we mean no one, who takes a heat wave as badly as Brandy.  Usually once the temperatures in Chicago climb over 80 degrees, its hard to convince Brandy to move away from the nearest air conditioning vent, let alone to leave the house for any reason less than a fire.  "The English are not made for this kind of heat," she complains from her living room, pointing several fans at different parts of her body, "We don't tan, we don't even burn.  The English disintegrate in the sun."  So when the temperatures began to rise this week, several of Brandy's friends became concerned when she stopped showing up for book club meetings, quilting society rallies, and other such social events.

Just to make sure she was ok, Brandy's old friends Hawke from The Cider Press and Bain Marie Bistre (owner of Doggie Delights Bakery, a subsidiary of Honey Bee Bakery, that produces all natural and delicious treats for canines) decided to drag her from the safety of her chilly house by offering the one thing they knew she wouldn't turn down: brunch.  "God help you if you take me anywhere that isn't cool!" Brandy scolded them.  "Don't worry," said Bain Marie, "The place we've picked is plenty cool, in more ways than one."  "What's the cocktail menu like?" Brandy inquired skeptically   "Extensive," said Hawke, and that seemed to be enough to convince Brandy to go with them.

They arrived in River North at 25 Degrees (so named for the exact temperature difference between a raw and a well done burger) to find a buzzing gastro-pub type of establishment, boasting not only several delicious sounding burger concoctions, but a newly revamped brunch menu to boot.  The inside of 25 Degrees had a sort of classic, old fashioned, classy interior with high tables surrounding a heavy wooden bar and leather covered booths bumped up against red damask walls.  The over all effect was tasteful and inviting, which helped to convince Brandy to tear herself away from her search for an ice machine to dive into.  Though it was a tad loud, the atmosphere seemed to be generally upbeat and relaxed.

To help them cool off, Bain Marie and Brandy ordered a couple of boozy lemonades: The Lemon Buzz and the Summertime.  The Lemon Buzz had an excellent bright flavor, a good hit of sweetness, and just the right amount of fizz to keep things refreshing.  The Summertime was a combination of watermelon, vodka, and basil which was extremely fresh and subtle, less sweet than the Lemon Buzz, but still just as refreshing.

To start off, the group ordered the Bacon Wrapped Dates and the Tempura Green Beans.  The beans were nicely crisp, not too heavy or greasy, but had a lovely saltiness to them.  But the group agreed that the dates were truly something special.  The bacon was perfectly charred and wonderfully smokey, while the dates provided a kick of sweetness and a creamy mouth feel.  The only problem with them was that the plate had seven morsels on it, causing a sort of Mexican standoff amongst Brandy, Bain Marie, and Hawke for the last one (Bain Marie won by tricking the other two into reaching for two of her Bacon Buddy dog biscuits, which she had slipped unnoticed out of her pocket and onto the plate).

For his entree, Hawke chose the Breakfast Quesadilla, with eggs, beans, chirizo, and queso fresco.  Hawke loved that the dish came with generous portions of chunky guacamole, spicey pico de gallo, and sour cream on the side so that he could customize each bite.  The quesadilla itself had a good punch from the chirizo, but Hawke found that each bite varied in its filling.  "It's not necessarily a bad thing though," he said, "I like a bit of surprise."

Bain Marie went for the Number Two Scramble, which mixed eggs with spinach, goat cheese, onion, and sun dried tomatoes.  Bain Marie was especially impressed by the side of potato hash as well as the chibata bread, which resembled a bruscetta more than just every day toast.  The eggs themselves were soft in texture, and the spinach lent a brilliant freshness to the dish.  Bain Marie did feel that the dish was a little heavy on the onions and a little light on the goat cheese, but over all quite a nice mix.  "Its not something I would give to the dogs, obviously, but it does nicely for me, " Bain Marie smiled.

Brandy chose the Number One Burger, which came topped with bacon, arugula, tangy thousand island dressing, and caramelized onions with fries on the side.  The fries were a little uneventful, but done well.  Brandy's first impression of the burger was that it had a true beefy flavor, which may sound boring, but as she put it herself, "Sometimes a burger gets too big for its britches with a bunch of fancy toppings and forgets to actually taste like a burger."  Brandy really loved the sharpness of the Aderkasse Reserve, a sharp white cheese that helped to tie together the richness of the smokey bacon, the crisp peppy arugula, and the unusual, but delicious choice of dressing.

To finish things off, Brandy and Hawk indulged in some of the ice cream and booze laden treats on offer.  Hawke went with the Bean and Beer, a traditional root beer float with a shot of whiskey to make things interesting.  Though not a big drinker (other than cider, of course), Hawke rather liked the combination.  Brandy went for the Salty Caramel Shake, which was made with vanilla ice cream, butterscotch liquor, and came topped with fresh whipped cream and pink sea salt.  The result was strong, indulgent, and utterly brilliant.  "If anything today made it worth braving this heat, it was this!" Brandy exclaimed before attempting to lick the glass clean.

After all was said and done, Brandy was rather happy that she had decided to leave the house and come out to brunch.  The food was bold, yet familiar, the service cheerful and prompt, and for all they had enjoyed that day (6 cocktails, 2 appetizers, and three entrees), the bill seemed reasonable at just about $40 a person after tax and tip.  So it may have been no surprise that when it came time to leave, Brandy was a little reluctant to abandon the still largely unexplored cocktail menu for the oven like heat outside.

*The writers of this blog were given the food and drink mentioned in this post at the invitation of the restaurant in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

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