Friday, October 31, 2014

Festival Report: Taste Talks

As if Chicago Gourmet wasn't enough, this year the Windy City had a second indulgent weekend of food to look forward to.  Taste Talks, a three day food festival that premiered in Brooklyn last year, came to Chicago at the beginning of October, bringing with it a slew of events to dazzle even the most casual food fan.  The goal of the festival is not only to introduce people to new and exciting dinning experiences, but also provide a forum for ideas about the future of food to take root and flourish.  Though still recovering from the hedonistic pleasure dome that was Chicago Gourmet, Brandy just knew that she would have to check out the Taste Talks premier Chicago events for herself.  "I am the past, present, and future of food," she told herself as she selected events from the website (tickets for everything could be purchased individually for between $10-$90 per event or via an all in one pass for $100-$385), "So of course I have to go and make sure this thing lives up to Chicago's high standards for food festivals.  Besides, I've never been one to scoff at a room full of celebrity chefs!"

The weekend kicked off at Kinmont with the Mother of Pearl dinner.  About 90 diners gathered together at the seafood-centric restaurant for a seven course meal inspired by oysters and champagne, even beginning with live shucking from Island Creek Oysters.  A multitude of chefs collaborated on the meal itself, featuring things like Alfred Norgeira from Analogue delivering a roasted oyster on the half shell with a salted beignet, Jason Vincent (formerly of Nightwood) bringing a smokey shellfish chowder, and Abraham Conlon from Fat Rice with a red wine braised octopus, blood sausage puree, and purple potatoes.  Kinmont, the host restaurant, provided a twist on a shrimp cocktail with a butter poached shrimp, shaved celery, and whole mustard seeds, but also what was probably the highlight of the dinner, a full on seafood boil, complete with whole lobsters, head on shrimps, crawfish, red potatoes, corn on the cob, and mussels.  From the moment the servers began bringing in the giant wood trays laden with the fruits of the sea ("Goodness, those people are going to need a chiropractor in the morning!" Brandy exclaimed as she watched the brave servers enter the room with the heavy trays over their heads), the communal tables of what had been strangers making awkward conversation an hour ago suddenly became grinning, cheering children on Christmas morning as they grabbed for hunks of lobster claws and traded secrets about how to crack into them.  The meal ended on an extremely satisfying note with Sarah Mispagel from Nightwood delivering a sweet corn panna cotta topped with blueberries, sweet kettle corn, and peach tea flavored ice cream.

Saturday was all about the panels: a series of 45 minute sessions that covered topics all over the board, from the popularity of cider to underground dinners and fireside chats with the likes of Rick Bayless and Jeni Britton Bauer from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream.  Brandy attended three of the sessions at Open Secret Studios (the day's worth of panels were split between Open Secret, Kaiser Tiger, and Soho House, all of which were within a 15 minute walk of each other so that attendees could freely move between the locations in between sessions), which started off with a panel entitled The Greener Path, a discussion about running restaurants that focused on plant based foods.  Following that, Brandy attended a demonstration on food photography and styling, which she greatly enjoyed ("Now I know how to do this Insta-whatsit all the young people are so fond of!" she proudly told anyone who would listen).  Lastly, Brandy attended another panel discussion called The Evolution of the Farm to Table Dinner, which featured the festival's honorary curator, Paul Kahan, along with a group of other James Beard award winning chefs and local farmers.  After the panels ended, the day was capped off with an underground dinner experience created by Pat Sheerin from Trenchermen, but sadly, Brandy was unable to attend the dinner as she was too busy at home trying to create the perfect tablescape to Instagram (even more sadly, Brandy still didn't quite understand what Instagram was and ended up taking several badly lit Polaroid shots, which she placed next to a plate of hashbrowns).

The big event Sunday was the All Star Chef's Barbecue, which featured ten stalls manned by some of the biggest chefs in the region.  The event was seemingly even more organized than Chicago Gourmet; while obviously smaller in scale and not nearly as crowded, none the less Brandy was impressed that attendees were handed a menu that listed what each station was serving and could be checked off so that if one got confused as to which booths they hadn't visited yet, they could easily be pointed in the right direction.  In general, the dishes were pretty adventurous, like the bison heart kielkbasa brought in by John Jackson, Connie Desousa, and Ryan Brosseau, or the grilled goat with an apple slaw from Matty Matheson and Nick Colella.  Paul Kahan was here too, serving up smoked short rib with a drizzle of balsamic syrup, which competed head to head with Edward Kim's distinctly Korean short rib with radish and shiso.  The longest line was unsurprisingly in front of Stephanie Izard's booth, who was presenting a grilled clam bruschetta with pesto, though Brandy suspected that few of the people in line realized that the chef herself (her tradmark wild curls hidden under a ballcap) was the one plating and serving them the dish.  "No one's asking her to pose for an Insta-thingy," Brandy mumbled, "Maybe they're just that excited to try the food!"  One lone cocktail was provided by Three Dots and a Dash, who cleverly served it in a handheld plastic bag, reminiscent of a childhood lunchbox favorite drink.  Three booths boasted desserts with Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate serving up homemade s'mores, Jeni Britton Bauer using her signature ice creams to create a sundae and an affogato with Intelligentsia coffee, and Bang Bang Pie Shop hosting a bake sale of sorts, where they sold slices of pie from restaurants all around the city for $5 a piece, with the proceeds going to benefit No Kid Hungry.  Brandy treated herself to a slice of sugar cream pie from Perennial Virant with raspberries, nectarines, and a drizzle of honey.

Brandy just adored her entire Taste Talks experience.  Not only did it seemingly offer something for every kind of food enthusiast (from industry experts to weekend warriors), the events that made up the weekend were equally entertaining and intriguing.  "I got to try lots of delicious treats, I talked with culinary superstars, I had a dinner unlike anything I'd ever experienced, and I learned to appreciate my food in a whole new way," Brandy gushed, "Though I do have to register my disappointment that nothing about brunch was mentioned all weekend.  Perhaps I could host a panel on my favorite meal if they come back next year!"  Don't forget to check out Facebook page for lots more pictures of all the events!

The writers of this blog were provided with passes to the Taste Talks events at no charge in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

From the Kitchens of Bunny and Brandy: Sweet "Eggs" Benedict with Door to Door Organics

A few weeks ago, Brandy was lucky enough to try out Door to Door Organics food delivery service, and she has been in love with it ever since.  "There is nothing quite so nice as opening up that little box and seeing it chocked full of color and deliciousness," Brandy beams, "It gets my brain working too, because once I see what I've got, ideas start swirling and I have to get to the kitchen before they fly fright out of my brain!"

Brandy decided to take advantage of some of the fresh, seasonal produce, as well as some of the grocery items offered in the Door to Door Organics shop by whipping up a special trick or treat for all of her readers.  This Sweet "Eggs" Benedict may seem at first to be a pretty standard brunch dish, but once dug into, reveals itself to actually be a sweet breakfast pastry with fresh fruit and a sabayon sauce in place of the hollandaise!  Brandy said she was pretty proud of this simple recipe with a dynamic presentation and hoped that it would make some one an easy dish to prepare for a holiday brunch.  Almost everything in the recipe can be purchased directly from Door to Door Organics, so we do hope you try not only the recipe, but the service for yourselves, and if you do, make sure to click here to save $10 off your first order!

The writers of this blog were provided with goods from Door to Door Organics in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Sweet "Eggs" Benedict

4 Cinnamon Rolls (store bought or made from scratch)
2 Apples (crisp red apples work best, like fujis, honeycrisps, or braeburns)
1-2 ripe persimmons (depending on size)
Red fruit jam (Brandy used Autumn Berry preserves, but cranberry or cherry would work well)
1 lemon
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of Sweet Vermouth
pinch of salt

Juice half the lemon into a medium sized bowl and add 1 cup of cold water.  Cut the apples horizontally into 1/2 thick rounds, core and peel, then add the slices to the lemon water for 5 minutes (this will keep the apples from turning brown).

Simmer water in a medium sauce pan and place a medium bowl over it as to form a double boiler.  Add in the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and sweet vermouth to the bowl and begin to whisk.  Make sure to scrape the bowl continuously and adjust the heat level so as to keep the eggs from cooking.  Squeeze the other half of the lemon into the bowl and continue to whisk for about 5 minutes until the mixture triples in volume and turns pale yellow.  Once the sauce is light and airy, remove from the heat and pour into a serving dish.

Cut the top off the cinnamon rolls so that the surface is level and flat.  Spread the red fruit jam on the cinnamon roll, then place an apple ring on top.  Cut the bottom off the persimmon and scoop about a tablespoon's worth of pulp out, placing it in the center of the apple ring to form the yolk of the "egg."  Drizzle the sauce over the top of the apple ring and serve.

Friday, October 24, 2014

mEAT or Brunch on a Stick

The Slow and Savory Review

Usually, when someone says, "I want to make a movie about you," most people would approach the prospect with a certain amount of skepticism, but when Brandy recently heard these very words while attending a screening at the Chicago Film Festival, she was intrigued.  The person saying this to her was a woman by the name of Boxty Ban, an up and coming avant garde director who had gotten into a conversation with Brandy while they were both waiting for the movie to begin and became fascinated by Brandy's tales of her brunching adventures.  "Of course you do, dear," was Brandy's response to this impromptu confession, "Unfortunately, due to my youthful naivety, I am technically still under contract to RKO, so I cannot appear on screen for anyone else."  "My dear lady, RKO has been defunct for quite some time now," said Boxty, tilting down her dark sunglasses and flipping aside a stray lock of hair from her fashionably asymmetrical haircut, "I'm sure that contract is null and void."  "Possibly," Brandy pondered, "But I did make a promise to Howard Hughes, and by God, I don't need his ghost haunting me, so I'm afraid it's simply not possible."  "What if I don't show your face camera?" suggested Boxty.  "A movie where you don't show anyone's face?" Brandy pondered, "I suppose that would put the emphasis on the food, which I can appreciate...Alright, I'll do it!"

Before Boxty could begin filming her vision of a brunch feature film, she asked Brandy to take her out to one of her typical brunches, so Boxty could get an idea of what eating with Brandy would be like.  Brandy chose to take her to mEAT in Streeterville, thinking the fashionable neighborhood, exciting presentations of the food, and the unusual concept of the restaurant (it concentrates on communal and interactive dishes like fondue, meat skewers, and shared side dishes) would appeal to Boxty's artistic temperament.  Though a little off the beaten path, mEAT's Streeterville location was a fairly dimly lit, atmospheric tavern like space with elevated booths and high tables.  Though Brandy felt the lighting was a little on the dark side for brunch, especially as the back part of the space didn't even have any windows for natural illumination, she did like the cozy feeling it created.

The meal began with a choice of brunch cocktail classics: bloody marys and mimosas.  Both were done well, if fairly traditional, but Brandy noticed that the menu featured some more elaborate versions of the drinks and she simply couldn't help but ask about them.  One of the kindly managers obliged her curiosity by bringing over one of the Orange Sherbet Mimosas and a Peach Sherbet Bellini, both of which were rather delightful in their presentations and constructions, being prepared with melted sherbet in place of the juices and topped with fizzy citrus foams.  "I like that they're thinking about the cocktail in a different way here," said Boxty Ban, studying the glasses carefully, "I've always felt that you are what you eat, so if you're eating creatively, you're thinking creatively."  "I find I think creatively while consuming any alcohol in general," Brandy replied.

The first course was decidedly decedent, as the two brunch companions were presented with the Breakfast Fondu, which included a pot of luscious melty cheese sauce and a platter of various goodies to dip into it.  The cheese itself had a surprising sweetness to it, as it consisted of not only fontina and gruyere, but also white wine and honey, both of with made it a great match for almost all of the dippers (while Brandy loved dipping the pieces of sausage, bacon, waffle, and bagels into the mixture, wasn't entirely convinced about dipping things like pineapple and strawberry into the cheese, but Boxty very much liked dipping the green apple slices).

Next was the Bacon and Egg Salad, which consisted of a bed of frisee topped with bacon lardons, an extremely soft poached egg, and a tangy dressing of shallots, mustard, and more bacon.  Always appreciative of sweet and savory combinations in her brunch dishes, Brandy was particularly fond of the vinaigrette that dressed the salad, while Boxty marveled at the nice combination of textures from the chewy bacon, the silky egg, and the frilly greens.

One of the main features of the mEAT menu is unsurprisingly the meaty skewers, and for this particular meal, Brandy and Boxty were treated to the Cinnamon Glazed Bacon Skewer, which was hung on a special stand at their table, so as to show off all of the glossy, bacony goodness.  The large chunks of meat were easy to slide off the skewer with the use of some tongs and had nicely crisp edges to them.  They weren't overwhelmingly sweet, but the cinnamon kick was definitely there.

A second skewer they sampled was the Cinnamon Roll Skewer, which sadly could not be hung like the bacon one, as the kitchen had yet to devise a way to keep the pastries from sliding off.  The rolls had a nice sweet icing to compliment their spicy interior swirl.  "These are the perfect size," Brandy raved, "Sometimes restaurants will give you humongous cinnamon rolls, and even though they might be tasty, they're just too bloody big to finish.  These are a couple of bites a best.  Brilliant."

Three different "sides" were then brought to the table, though both Boxty and Brandy agreed that these could have easily been entrees on their own.  The first was the Salmon Hash, with was a skillet with some flaked fish, potatoes, and leeks in a creamy sauce.  While Brandy liked the flavor of this one, she found herself wishing for a bit of a crunch to break up the similar texture of the tender salmon and the potatoes.  The second side was the Almond French Toast, which was a pretty standard dish but with a nice bit of nuttiness from the sliced almonds on top.  Lastly was the Quinoa with Baked Eggs, which both Brandy and Boxty felt was one of the standouts from the morning.  "It reminds me of the polenta I used to eat every morning during my shoot in Spain," Boxty said, "Rich, but not overly aggressive."  Brandy agreed with her sentiment, but added that she felt that once the egg yolk had been broken and mixed in with the quinoa and veggies that the dish pushed into a more decedent category.

There was something for every budget at mEAT (most of the dishes, including the bigger plates, sides, and skewers came in well under $15), which Boxty very much appreciated, as she was so inspired by her brunch with Brandy that she immediately began budgeting for her brunch feature film.  "I'm going to call it, 'The Rise and Fall of Sweet and Savory,'" Boxty said, making a gesture as if to showcase the title on an invisible marquee.  "I'd go see that," Brandy smiled to herself (she'd had several mimosas at this point), "But can we get Olivier and Gielgud to play Sweet and Savory?"

The Short and Sweet Review
Meat on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Postcards from Bunny: Rick Bayless at Macy's

It's no secret that one of Bunny and Brandy's favorite things to do in Chicago is checking out the Culinary Council demos that happen every few months at Macy's on State Street.  Bunny tries to attend them when ever she can make a quick jot into Chicago, but failing that, she will often send Brandy to watch the stars of the culinary world as they cook live and offer the crowd samples of their dishes so that she can take copious notes and report back to Bunny with the results.

Recently, when Bunny heard that Chicago icon Rick Bayless was going to be doing a demo, she nearly burst into tears as she realized there would be no way for her to attend.  "I've been waiting for them to do a Rick Bayless demo for years!" she cried into the phone.  "Well, I'll go for you and take notes like we've done before," Brandy sighed.  "It won't be the same!" Bunny whined.  Then suddenly, Brandy remembered something.  "He's the one you go all squishy for, isn't he?" she asked Bunny with a smirk.  "I do not go all squishy!" Bunny shrieked.  "I can practically hear you blushing over the phone," Brandy said, "Look, why don't I try that new fangled video chatting thingy while I'm at the demo?  Then you can watch the whole thing from your seat in... where are you now?"  "I'm not entirely sure, but everything smells of curry, so I'm guessing either India or Thailand."

So Brandy trotted down to Macy's on State Street early enough to grab a seat with a good view, and then enlisted the help of a nice young woman beside her to get Bunny on to the screen so she could watch as Rick Bayless entered the kitchen space.  "Oh, it's just like watching his PBS show!" Bunny exclaimed, and Brandy hushed her, wondering briefly how she was going to keep her arm from getting tired holding up the phone the entire time.

Chef Bayless began by making a simple guacamole in the same sort of rustic Mexican cooking with a twist that he is famous for.  "People often add too much lemon or lime juice to their guacamole because they think it will keep the avocado from going brown, and it will, but it also overwhelms the taste," Chef Bayless told the crowd.  He also suggested serving the guacamole as cold as possible, even utilizing a thermionic container like a terracotta flower pot with an ice pack under it when leaving the dip out at a party.  This particular guacamole he spiced up, so to speak, with serrano peppers, as he felt that jalapenos were inconstant in their heat levels, due to genetic manipulation.  He also added a bit of sweetness and crunch with some fennel and green apple, which sounded odd, but as Brandy assured Bunny, actually tasted quite good.

Then Chef Bayless took his guacamole mix and used it to coat some pre-cooked shrimp, plating the dish in a martini glass as he told the crowd how much he liked this kind of thing as an appetizer at parties.  "In America, we're more chippers and dippers," he said, "But in Mexico, this is how you would serve a guacamole, as a sort of dressing."  He also gave the crowd tips on how to cook authentically Mexican by keeping dried chilies in their pantries, buying avocados at Mexican markets (because they cost less and are more ripe), never buying tomatoes out of season (he prefers to use sun dried tomatoes when he can't get fresh), and making sure to rinse your sliced onions to rid them of their natural sulpherous compounds, which not only cause eyes to water, but make digestion difficult and cause food to rot faster.

Lastly, Chef Bayless presented a simple, yet delicious shortbread cookie, which was a combination of a pecan sandy and what people often call Mexican Wedding Cookies (Chef Bayless said the cookies are actually more traditional for things like Christmas than weddings).  Indeed, the crumbly little cookies were so delicious that the chef himself couldn't keep his hands off them, munching away as he took questions from the crowd.  "I'm quite pleasantly surprised," he told everyone, "When I saw we were doing a demo at noon on a Monday, I thought four people would show up and I'd just cook us all a nice lunch!"  "I wouldn't mind that," came Bunny's dreamy voice from the phone screen.  He also spoke about his devotion to yoga, which he practices every day.  "I always make all my difficult decisions while I'm doing yoga," he said, "I find that it puts me in touch with my body, so I'm more aware of when I'm hungry, when I'm tired, I smell things more clearly, and even taste things more clearly."  "No wonder the man is so zen all the time," Brandy whispered to Bunny.

After the demo, Chef Bayless stayed and signed copies of his newest cookbook, Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks (or "The three major food groups," as he put it), so Brandy dutifully joined the line after much begging from the tiny woman in her phone, but by the time she reached the front, Bunny seemed frozen with nerves and couldn't even manage to squeak a "hello" to her hero.  "Don't mind her," Brandy said to a befuddled Chef Bayless, "I think all that talk of yoga gave her a mental picture her senses weren't quite ready for.  She'll be fine in a bit."

The writers of this blog have been compensated by Everywhere Agency for the information contained in this post, but the opinions stated were not influenced.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Food News: Pret a Manger's Fall Menu and Chicago Exclusives

There are many reasons Brandy has grown fond of Pret a Manger over the last few years.  Everything they offer is freshly made, the ingredients are local and top notch, the service is always amazingly friendly, and the menus are ever changing to keep things exciting.  "Places like Pret have spoiled me a little when it comes to fast, casual dining," as Brandy likes to say, "Even on the days I'm not going to some elaborate brunch, I know I can pop into one their shops and find something to satisfy any craving I've got."

Though she couldn't be more pleased with Pret a Manger as it is, Brandy was pleasantly surprised to learn that new items were starting to appear in locations across the city which are Chicago exclusive items.  Feeling as though she is some sort of super hero guardian over Chicago's food scene, Brandy felt compelled to try some of these items out for the good of the city's citizens.

The first Chicago exclusive item she tried was the Angus Beef Melt Toastie, which consisted of thick slices of roast beef, red onions, Swiss cheese, mushrooms, and mustard mayo on a hearty artisan bread.  Brandy loved this combination of flavors, but thought the sandwich was a touch on the dry side on the whole after it had been toasted.  A little cup of beef broth to accompany it would not only have solved this problem, but added a nice little touch of Chicago to the beef.

Next, she sampled the Chicago Meatball Hot Wrap with pork and beef meatballs smothered in marinara sauce and loaded with lots of melty cheese.  The packaging on the wrap was pretty ingenious, as it opened in such a way that one could hold the wrap without getting one's hands messy.  The wrap itself was pretty typical for a meatball sandwich, but done well, and the substitution of the tortilla for the bread meant there was nothing to interfere with the meaty goodness.  Brandy couldn't quite decide what was so Chicago about this Chicago Meatball Hot Wrap, but she liked it just the same.

Deciding to stick with the cheese theme, Brandy then went for the brand new Mac and Cheese, which came in a vegetarian variety with spinach and tomato, and a carnivore variety with bacon (of course, she decided on the bacon one).  The normally rich dish had been cut with cauliflower to make it a little healthier without sacrificing the creaminess, which Brandy surprisingly liked, as it added a bit of crunchy texture as well.  The bacon was nice and smokey and in big enough chunks that any true bacon fan wouldn't be left wondering where it was.

Lastly, Brandy sampled the Sweet Potato Falafel Flatbread, which is a new item in locations all across the country.  The wrap consisted of lots of Middle Eastern flavors with not only the falafel, but a drizzle of tzatziki sauce, pickled cabbage, and fresh herbs.  Though expecting the falafel to be a bit crunchier, Brandy found this version to be soft and sweet, but still with a good amount of texture to it.  The fresh veggies and herbs ensured that every bite was bright and exciting.

There were many more new dishes on the Pret a Manger menu, like the BBQ Pork Hot Wrap, the Spicy Chicken Toastie, and the Chicken Caesar and Bacon Baguette, but Brandy had to put those off for another day.  With what she had sampled so far, she felt she had done her duty and protected the masses from bland, wasteful food for another day, so she was off to another exciting adventure (in other words, she was full, so she went to her knitting circle meeting).

The writers of this blog were invited to dine free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 17, 2014

State and Lake Chicago Tavern or Which Came First, the Chicken of the Bear?

The Slow and Savory Review

Brandy has been so busy lately with different festivals and giveaways that her brunch reviews seem to be a little few and far between, but mostly she's felt guilty about neglecting a promise she made ot a friend last fall.  "You said you'd watch at least one Bears game with me and I'm holding you to that!" her dear friend Bailey Blue said one day.  "Alright, alright.  Find me a brunch place that puts out a good spread and shows the game and I'm in," Brandy relented

Bailey picked State and Lake Chicago Tavern, a sports bar on the classy side, located on the ground floor of the Wit Hotel in the Loop.  Arriving outside, Brandy was a little more than skeptical, mostly because of a certain experience with another restaurant associated with The Wit, but began to feel more at ease once she'd stepped inside and was greeted by a host of greetings from the staff.

State and Lake had nice touches of color, light, and elegance that made one feel all at once comfortable and pampered.  The woods were warm and rich, the bar sparkled from the yellow and orange bottles that surrounded it, and the whole space came off as rather cozy and welcoming.  As they were taken to their table, Brandy made sure to situate herself to face a window out onto State Street so she could people watch, while Bailey focused in on a television for a good view of the Bear's game.

Brunch started with a visit to the bar, but this was no flagging down a bartender, leaning on the counter, and waving money around affair.  The bar they visited was the Make Your Own Bloody Mary and Mimosa Bar.  Bailey was handed a glass with ice and vodka, while Brandy was given a glass half full with champagne, and they were both directed to a spot coked full with mix ins, garnishes, and condiments.  Bailey was delighted to be able to pour her own portion of the house made Bloody Mary mix, sprinkle in the perfect amount of hot sauce, and create a custom skewer with olives, cheese curds, and even bacon.  Brandy, on the other hand, was given a choice of several fresh juices (she chose pineapple) and a veritable orchard of fruits, from which she chose peach slices and brandy soaked cherries.  As they bustled back and forth, picking their various drink accessories, a kindly manager informed them that come the colder weather, an eggnog bar was to be installed as well, with things like dulce de leche pearls and cinnamon sprinkles.

Once their drinks had been appropriately decorated and mixed, the ladies seated themselves once more and settled in for an appetizer of Deviled Eggs.  The eggs themselves were delicately soft and creamy and came served with a bright and slightly astringent salad of arugula, English peas, and Tamworth ham, dressed with meyer lemon.  While Brandy loved the eggs, she wasn't such a huge fan of salad, mainly because of her psychological aversion to lemon (it's a story so long we'd need to purchase a bigger Google storage plan to tell it), but Bailey rather enjoyed the contrast of the salty, prosciutto like ham and the acidic and peppery greens.  "They compliment each other like a kicker and a receiver," Bailey said happily.  Brandy starred blankly at her.

The main event of the day (other than the game) was the Fried Chicken.  A specialty of the house that's only served on Sundays, the chicken was marinated in a brine over night, twice coated in a cornmeal batter and fried, and served with huge, tender biscuits.  Brandy and Bailey put in a for a full order (which turned out to be two buckets of various pieces and 4 biscuits), figuring that would supply them with enough food to get through the game with.  The chicken's coating had an excellent crunch on the outside, but was extremely juicy and flavorful on the inside.  Bailey had the right idea of eating the chicken straight off the bone, while Brandy preferred to pry the meat from the bone with a knife and fork, which did mean that the coating slipped off more easily.  Both Bailey and Brandy felt the texture of the chicken was spot on and that the coating wasn't too dry or thick, but might have been a little on the salty side.  The biscuits were melt in your mouth perfection and came served warm with tiny pots of butter, honey, and raspberry jam.

As a side dish, the ladies shared an order of Creamy Grits with wilted kale and parmesan cheese.  The grits were very smooth and light with a nice nuttiness from the cheese.  Brandy very much appreciated the addition of the kale, which added a bit of bitterness to break up the creaminess, though she almost reached for a little bit of the bacon in Bailey's skewer to dip into the pot.

By the time the cheerful and informative waiter came to the table to inquire about dessert, Brandy and Bailey had stuffed themselves so full of chicken that they couldn't think of enduring another bite.  "But we must have something sweet!" Brandy proclaimed, "It's not brunch if we don't pair some sweet with the savory!"  "Well, there are some boozy milkshakes on the drinks menu," Bailey moaned.  "Done," said Brandy.  They ordered up two of the said shakes: the Devil in a Red Dress for Bailey, which consisted of coffee liquor, dark chocolate ice cream, hot sauce, and sea salt, and the Live Till you Die for Brandy, which was a mix of whiskey, brown sugar caramel ice cream, and pecans, both of which came served in rather adorable cowboy boot shaped glasses.  While Bailey's shake was maybe a little more subtle and tasted like a frozen mocha, Brandy's defintly had a boozy kick that greeted the drinker with each swallow.  "This is certainly not something you'd want teenagers sipping at the soda counter!" Brandy proclaimed, attempting to figure out just how to get the pecans from the bottom of the glass into her mouth.

As the game approached half time, Brandy and Bailey settled up their bill to free up the table and relocated to the bar to finish out the game.  The service at State and Lake was impeccable: informative, friendly, and quick without being intrusive.  The food was definitely on the high side of quality, as reflected in the not terribly outrageous prices (the full order of chicken including the biscuits, for instance, came out to $30) and the extra little touches in presentation were certainly appreciated.  "So will you consider watching a few more games with me this season?" Bailey asked during a time out.  "Perhaps," Brandy mused, "Of course, if you ply me with ice cream, booze, and fried food, I'm liable to do whatever you want me to do."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine at the restaurant free of charge in exchange for an honest review

The Short and Sweet Review

State and Lake Chicago Tavern on Urbanspoon