Friday, October 25, 2013

Sensational Bites or Sweetest Day

The Slow and Savory Review

There is a fine line between breakfast and dessert.  When are sweets too sweet for breakfast?  Why can you have a muffin in the morning, but not a cupcake?  If a pie has a fruit filling, how is it any different than a Danish?  These are question that plague Brandy constantly.  As we all know, Brandy has a head filled with sweet teeth which often influence her brunching decisions.  "If someone can put bacon in their chocolate chip cookie, should I not be able to eat that cookie for breakfast?" she has been known to ponder.

On the prowl one morning for a quick and easy brunch, Brandy stumbled across Sensational Bites Dessert Cafe.  "It says dessert, but I'm sure there has to be something I can have for brunch in there," Brandy mused, "After all, dessert is just brunch's more promiscuous cousin."  Inside Brandy found a small but charming storefront, whose glass cases were filled with colorful and delicious looking treats.  She did a few quick rounds with one of the helpful girls behind the counter, picking what she felt was a good variety of what was on offer.

Brandy started off with two quiches, one a Spinach and Feta and the other a Bacon and Cheddar.  Both had very dense, eggy fillings and buttery, flaky crusts.  Brandy particularly liked the the rustic crust which was the perfect thickness.  The filling was a bit heavy for her tastes, but the flavorings were bright and bold.  The spinach was particularly fresh tasting, combining with the feta cheese to make something reminiscent of a spanakopita, but the bacon was Brandy's particular favorite as the cheddar made it more creamy and smooth with a great smokey flavor.

Of the myriad of  beautiful cupcakes on display, Brandy chose three:  Boston Cream, Pumpkin Cream Cheese, and S'Mores.  The Boston Cream was very traditional, with a spongy yellow cake, a good dollop of pastry cream, and a decadent chocolate coating.  The Pumpkin Cream Cheese had a perfect pumpkin flavor, which is often hard to bring out over the fall spices associated with it, and the frosting was perfectly creamy and smooth without being too overwhelming.  The S'mores cupcake was the real standout with its graham cracker flavored cake, chocolate ganache filling and toasted marshmallow top.

Brandy also selected an Apple and Cranberry Scone to enjoy with her tea.  The scone had a lovely fruit flavor through out, a chewy texture, and a crunchy sugar coating top.  "Thank goodness!" Brandy exclaimed, "Finally, a real scone!  I was getting so tired of those lumps of dough the Americans think are scones."

Lastly was Brandy's favorite of the lot, the White Chocolate Raspberry Bar.  Though it may not have been a proper breakfast item, once Brandy tasted this little chunk of heaven, she didn't much care.  The bar was essentially a rich, creamy, and decadent cheese cake dotted with a bright raspberry jam and set on top of a thin, buttery graham cracked crust.  There were no words, Brandy reported, for how delightfully sinful this treat was, and she would have happily eaten it again at any time of day.

For 2 quiches, 3 cupcakes, a scone, and the cheesecake bar, Brandy's total only came out to about $27, which she felt was a more than fair price.  Everything she got was traditional, but bright, flavorful, and filled with love and care, which is all that one can ask for from a neighborhood bakery.  "I don't know if what I just ate was more dessert than brunch," Brandy said, rubbing her full belly, "All I know is it was delicious, and delicious food should be eaten at every meal.  That also means I can go get another one of those cheesecake bars for dinner."

The Short and Sweet Review
Sensational Bites on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sprout or New Sprig of Life

The Slow and Savory Review

Brandy is a big believer in second chances in most circumstances (we are of course not counting her tendency to publicly rank coffee house barristas based on their efficiency and cheerfulness).  "Life is one big learning opportunity.  You can't expect everyone to get things right the first time around," she often preaches, "Except for those damn barristas.  Make your mistakes while you're training, not while you're making my pumpkin spice latte!"

It was with this philosophy in mind that Brandy decided to finally take a chance on the infamous Sprout in Lincoln Park.  Notorious for its former policy of not allowing children at brunch (a policy Brandy wasn't all that opposed to), Sprout, which is the big sister of one of Brandy's all time favorite spots, Frog 'N Snail, recently overhauled their entire brunch menu, basing their new dishes on the philosophy of "recovery" and more casual, neighborhood dining than their previous incarnation.  As Sprout had been on Brandy's radar for ages, she took the opportunity to finally sample their wears, dragging her good friend Bailey Blue along with her.  "But there's a Bears game today!" Bailey half whined.  "You can watch your American football game later.  Sunday morning are made for brunches, not beers."

Sprout's interior wasn't the small, packed space Brandy had thought it would be, but instead held a sunny room at the front, an open second room with a long, elegant bar, and a few private tables separated from the main area for a more quiet conversation.  The inside had been decorated with little touches of nature, like sticks and Spanish moss, giving just a hint here and there of greens and browns.  Brandy absolutely loved the sunroom, which had brick floors and walls and came topped with two skylights, giving diners all the pleasure of eating on a porch without having to worry about the elements.

Once Brandy and Bailey had settled into their table, they were treated to a plate of warm, sliced bread, drizzled in olive oil, and sprinkled with just a tiny bit of sugar.  "This is how they start brunch in Spain," a server explained, "With a little bit of house made focaccia."  Brandy and Bailey simply adored the soft but hearty bread, and the little touch of sweetness was enough to liven up the palate for the rest of the meal.

Brandy began her meal with one of the signature cocktails, called the Nuts and Berries, which was a beautifully layered mix of blackberry and hazelnut liquors served over ice.  Brandy thought the blackberry flavor dominated the hazelnut a little bit, but didn't make the drink too sweet, adding more of a subtle tartness and almost herbal like aftertaste.  "Its a nice transition drink from summer to fall," she mused while fishing for the plump red cherry at the bottom of the glass.  Bailey went with a simple mimosa, which had an excellent balance of acid, sweetness, and fizz.

Bailey and Brandy decided to split an order of the Shrimp and Grits.  Plated like it was ready for a magazine cover, Brandy just barely suppressed a gasp when the dish was set down between them.  The grits were silky smooth and creamy with just a little bit of stone ground texture to them.  The shrimp were gigantic, but tender, and shockingly fresh.  "It's been so long since I had a decent shrimp in Chicago that I'd almost forgotten how lovely they can be!" Brandy swooned.  The dish had also been enrobed in a delicate brown butter sauce which made every bite rich and succulent, but not heavy or greasy.

Bailey went with the Mish Mash Lamb Hash as her entree, a rustic mix of lamb sausage, salsa verde, caramelized shallots, and potatoes.  Bailey really loved the zing and spice of the salsa, which mixed well with the hearty lamb sausage.  The potatoes, she noted, were particularly tender and melt in your mouth smooth.  "I wouldn't mind waking up to this every morning!" she commented, "Reminds me of my childhood on the farm.  But the farmer who would serve this to his family would be awfully fancy.  I mean monocle wearing fancy."

Brandy went with the Ricotta Bread Pudding, which came served with an egg on top and a side of herb salad.  The first bite was an explosion of texture, as the top of the bread pudding had a brilliant crunch, while the center remained soft, but the texture as well as the herbaceous flavor reminded Brandy more of a Thanksgiving stuffing than a bread pudding.  "I would think a bread pudding would be even softer with more of an eggy flavor," she mused.  She also thought the herb salad was a bit too much when combined with the already well seasoned bread.  After Bailey had tasted it, they both agreed that the dish would have made an excellent side, but fell a little flat as an entree.

The kitchen surprised the ladies with a little dessert treat, a Parsnip Milkshake with a wafer of dehydrated chocolate mousse.  Brandy loved the unusual earthiness of this creamy treat, which was matched well by the crunchy meringue like chocolate.  "Who would have thought a milkshake that tastes slightly of carrots could be so refreshing!" Brandy exclaimed.  Bailey nodded in agreement while knocking back the rest of her dessert like it was a shucked oyster.

All in all, Brandy was impressed with Sprout's new friendlier attitude, and with most dishes coming in between $10-$15, the menu was just as accessible.  "Though if their aim was recovery, I can't say they've succeeded," Brandy yawned, "Because the atmosphere was is relaxed that I seem to have been lulled into a mid afternoon nap."  Bailey debated waking her, but instead decided to order another mimosa, watch the Bears game on the television over the bar, and wait for dinner service.

The writers of this blog were invited by the restaurant to sample their food at no charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

Sprout on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tea Time with Brandy: Part 2, Sweet Snacks

For part two of Tea Time with Brandy, we're tasting something sweet!

Recently, Dulce Caramel Co. of Buffalo Grove contacted Brandy in hopes that she might give them a little feedback on some of their signature snacks, and as Brandy's sweet tooth controls most functions of her brain, she gratefully agreed.  All of Dulce Caramel Co.'s creative confections are made with their signature Dulce De Leche, a milky soft caramel popular in South America, which is hand crafted by Chef Graciela Schargorodsky, who herself was born and raised in Argentina.

Brandy was privileged to try two flavors of Dulce Caramel Co.'s signature Alfajors, the "Tradicional" and the Dark Chocolate.  An Alfajor, according to Dulce Caramel Co.'s website, is a "delicate, melt in your mouth confection, made of two thin buttery sable cookies with a smooth layer of dulce de leche or fruit spread interior."  "Sounds like the perfect kind of tea time snack to me!" Brandy exclaimed when she first read this.

The Tradicional was rather tender and a little crumbly, with a soft coconut flavor to it.  Though the cookie was supple, Brandy felt it overwhelmed the delicate dulce de leche a little, but she loved the simple, buttery flavor of it.

The Dark Chocolate had a slight different texture, being more moist and soft.  The chocolate shell that covered the confection was a perfect thickness that enhanced both the caramel filling and the slightly spiced cookies.  Brandy detected a hint of orange flavor to this confection that she very much enjoyed.

Brandy would have been quite happy to down several more of these tasty tidbits with her tea, as both the Tradicional and Dark Chocolate Alfajors lent themselves easily to accompanying a hot sipping beverage.  "I can imagine curling up in front of a fire with a box of these beauties, a strong Chamomile, and good book and not moving again until the box was empty," Brandy swooned,  "Which reminds me, I should call the chimney sweep.  My floo's been blocked up since last Christmas."

The writers of this blog were sent samples by Dulce Caramel Co. for the purposes of product review.

Teatime with Brandy: Part 1, Savory Snacks

Greetings, dearies!  We are premiering a new segment here at Bunny and Brandy's Brunchtime Blog.  As Brandy's expertise in tasting and judging has been called on for review of a few exciting products, we've decided to title these posts Tea Time with Brandy, and it is here that she will share her thoughts on her favorite new snacks.

First up we have some new healthy treats from Bolthouse Farms, one of Brandy's favorite producers of wholesome and organic juices, dressings, and other all natural deliciousness.  Among their newest products are some handy little snacks called Shakedowns, which are 25 calorie packs of baby carrots and a special seasoning that puts them on par flavor wise with less healthy alternatives like potato chips.  Shakedowns come in two zingy flavors: Chili Lime and Ranch.

The packaging on the Shakedown packets is quite clever, with the seasonings stored in one corner of the bag until the snacker should pull the bag apart, thus releasing the seasoning into the carrots.  This is where the name comes into play because after the seasonings have been released, one is to shake the bag vigorously, thus distributing the seasoning onto the carrots, which are then ready for snacking.

Brandy found the seasonings to be a bit intense for her liking, so instead of releasing the entire packets (which were also rather heavy in sodium at 200mg in a serving), she prefered to cut the packets off for a more controlled dipping method.  The Chili Lime had a very strong citrus flavor, which was matched well by a soft heat that only fleetingly lingered on Brandy's tongue.   Brandy found the Ranch flavor to be a little more traditional, with a creamy buttermilk flavor that would please most finicky palates.

All in all, Brandy really loved Shakedowns for the delivery method of the seasonings, even if she didn't take full advantage of it, and she thought that the two vibrant flavors should be enough to please any serial snackers out there.  "I can't wait to see what other flavors they come up with," Brandy mused while munching away, "Perhaps a Brie and Pickle flavor?  That should do well.  Americans like cheese on everything, in my experience."

Ok, maybe we exaggerated Brandy's taste maker expertise...

The writers of this blog were sent samples by Bolthouse Farms for the purposes of product review.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Festival Report: Chicago Gourmet 2013

If you've been with us for a few years, you'll know Brandy's all time favorite food event of the year is definitely the Chicago Gourmet Festival, which took place this past weekend in Millenium Park.  "Chicago Gourmet represents everything I love about the Chicago food scene," Brandy says, "Food, wine, cocktails, celebrity chefs, diversity, cocktails, and wine.  Did I mention the food?"  And this year, there were even more of the things Brandy loves with several new tasting experiences, hundreds of wineries, dozens of spirit vendors, and over 150 local, national, and international chefs.

Brandy started the day feeling positively out of place amongst the media elite as they toasted in the start of the festival.  Some of the days' top celebrity chefs were present, like Graham Elliot, Sarah Moulton, Hugh Acheson, and Hubert Keller as well as the big wigs at Bon Appetite Magazine like editor and chief Adam Rapoport and select representatives of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.  "I go to a lot of food and wine festivals, as you can all imagine," Adam Rapoport extolled, "And I can say that Chicago Gourmet is the most smoothly run, diverse, and enjoyable festival I attend all year."  "Here here!" Brandy cheered, downing her champagne and having to ask for another for the official toast.

There were many stand outs among the chef tasting pavilions this year.  Right off the bat, Brandy fell in love with offerings from The Refinery, which boasted a juicy bite of Wagyu Beef Short Rib and a light Sticky Toffee Pudding.  Jellyfish brought a delightful bite of succulent sushi topped with crispy sweet potato and a sweet soy sauce that was perfect for such a warm fall day.  Gibson's Restaurant Group brought a bounty of choices to their tent, the best of which was an incredibly tender Prime Rib Slider and Level 2 at the Hyatt brought a Sweet Potato Polenta with Pulled Pork that tasted like a mouthful of autumn.
New to the festivals this year were the Dessert Tasting Pavillion and the La Femme du Chef Pavillion, both of which specialized in showcasing two previously under represented groups: pastry chefs and female chefs.  Black Dog Gelato brought a bold dish to the Dessert Pavillion: a Red Pepper Gelato Tart.  Not being a huge fan of pepper flavor in general (Brandy nearly threw a cocktail in the face of a bar tender after sipping what she thought was a fruit punch only to find it spiked with red pepper juice) Brandy still had to admire their adventurous spirit.  Sixteen from the Trump Hotel presented three impressive variations of a rootbeer float, one of which was an airy liquorice scented cake.  Over at the La Femme tent, Brandy's perennial favorite Amanda Downing from Rockit Bar and Grill brought a Brie Burger with caramelized onions, but the true standout was Megan Neubeck from Terzo Piano at the Art Institute of Chicago with a mind boggling Sweet Corn Panna Cotta with Peach, Ginger, and Mint.

As always, there were plenty of cocktails and wines for the tasting.  Brandy took special note of the Absolut Vodka Tent, which was previewing an upcoming limited edition bottle that paid tribute to the colorful Chicago skyline.  Another favorite beverage came from the Palmer House Hilton, which had a Lavender Lemonade so refreshing that Brandy had to go back for a second cup.

Brandy also noticed a trend towards giving people something to take with them, an incredibly smart move as the amount of food at the festival can sometimes be overwhelming, to say the least.  Zed 451 handed out packets of their signature spice mix, The Coffeecake Connection had pre-packed their signature and cinnamon gluten free cakes in to-go bags, and CS Magazine had bags of crunchy caramel popcorn for the taking while the Bon Appetite tent had goodies from Werther's Originals.

After her gullet was thoroughly stuffed, Brandy settled in for a couple of cooking demos.  First up was Brandy's old friend, Chef Takashi Yagihashi, and fresh off the plane from Japan Chef Hideaki Matsuo, who teamed up for an enlightening demonstration of traditional Japanese cooking techniques.  Takashi was his usual witty self, getting the crowd to giggle by just flashing them an excellently timed grin, while Chef Matsuo flashed his amazing knife skills, like making one continuous ribbon from a chunk of cucumber.  After that, Sarah Moulton and Gale Gand took the stage to talk about what they learned from the great Julia Child.  "What she always told me was, 'Eat everything in moderation,'" Chef Gand explained, causing Chef Moulton to counter, "But what she meant was eat everything in moderation!"  If there is a better motto for the Chicago Gourmet festival than that, we'd like to hear it!

Don't forget to visit Bunny and Brandy's Facebook page for lots more pictures from Chicago Gourmet!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Best of Bunny and Brandy with Part 2

Greetings brunchers!  We hope you enjoyed last week's post featuring Brandy's collection of the best Breakfasts in Chicago on  As promised, Here are the other three special award categories Brandy has given out this year:

While you're enjoying the collections Brandy has put together, don't forget to join yourself and start creating your own collections of delectable recipes and desirable restaurants.  And of course, don't forget to follow Bunny and Brandy for more detailed guides to their favorite Chicago eateries!