Friday, July 29, 2016

Lark or And Your Bird Can Brunch

The Slow and Savory Review

Aristotle had Plato.  Sherlock had Mycroft.  Luke had Yoda.  Brandy has Belvedere,

Yes indeed, there is one person in this world who might know more about brunch than Brandy and that person goes by the singular name of Belvedere.  Brandy met Belvedere one chilly autumn evening at an experimental theater performance in the basement of a cracker factory.  The doom and gloom of the absurdist piece wasn't quite as effective as its director had hoped due to the pervasive smell of butter in the air, which had given Brandy a case of the giggles throughout the performance.  Belvedere, there to review the show for a major publication, was quite taken with the irreverent girl and offered to take her out to brunch the following morning, and Brandy, intrigued by the tuxedoed man who seemed to have a martini permanently embedded in his fist, readily agreed.  The following morning, she was taught exactly how to evaluate a mimosa, how to judge the consistency of French toast, and how an eggs benedict is correctly assembled.  It was an education she carried with her for the rest of her life.

So when Brandy learned that Belvedere would be visiting Chicago (a rare event, as the man is highly in demand in his native Pittsburgh, where he ghost writes for a rather entertaining cultural program), Brandy knew she had to take him somewhere fantastic for brunch.  "I want to try something new," he told her, "So new that it should be somewhere even you haven't tried yet."  Brandy was distraught by this request, as she wondered how on earth she was going to impress his formidable palate with somewhere she hadn't put her stamp of approval on.

Thinking back to her visit to Replay in Andersonville earlier in the year, she realized that the same chef that had created the whimsy and originality on their menu had recently premiered a new restaurant in the Boystown neighborhood called Lark.  Lark shared some of the same crowd pleasing dishes as Replay, but with even more exciting additions, the least of which was an extensive selection of freshly made Neapolitan style pizzas.  "This could be as safe a bet as I'm going to get," she pondered, "Goodness me, I haven't been this nervous about a brunch since that fateful day we met!"

Lark had a beautiful, sunny interior which welcomed in the neighborhood with large windows at the front and a bustling bar, at which Brandy and Belvedere grabbed a couple of bright and fresh mimosas before heading to their seat near the stone pizza oven.  "Fresh juice, excellent ratio, not too sweet.  It's... acceptable," Belvedere pronounced, as Brandy let go a sigh of relief.

To start the meal, they placed an order for a plate of Smoked Bacon Arancini and at Belvedere's request (much to Brandy's surprise) a plate of Nachos.  The arancini were fairly light with a smokey, silky interior and a crispy exterior, which Brandy rather enjoyed.  The nachos, though, were quite the surprise with their crisp and freshly made chips, the cool dollops of guacamole and sour cream, juicy morsels of pico de gallo, and a touch of sweetness from a sprinkling of pickled peppers, topped off with some tender chunks of flat iron steak.  Brandy was truly shocked by how much she was enjoying the nachos, but Belvedere seemed non plussed.  "It simply sounded to me like everything one needs to sap up the previous night's...vices.  Never underestimate the value of a plate of chips," he said, sagely.

Moving on to something sweet, Brandy insisted they try an order of the Pineapple and Blueberry Pancakes.  Brandy was pleased to see these pancakes also came adorned with a snowfall of coconut and a side of homemade vanilla pineapple maple syrup.  "I never order pancakes unless they are something truly unique," she told Belvedere, "And these look like nothing I've ever seen."  The pancakes were substantial, but also fluffy, and had blueberries mixed throughout them as well as topping them.  Brandy just adored the caramelized flavor of the pineapple mixed with the coconut and tart berries to makes something at once exotic and familiar.

Following that, Belvedere ordered not one, but all of the Benedicts on the menu.  "How else is one to judge the true value of a brunch?" he explained when he saw that Brandy was looking slightly embarrassed by his gluttony.  The Lobster Benedict was just as good as Brandy remembered it from Replay with big chunks of lobster, a soft pretzel roll, and an herby hollandaise,  The Crab Cake Benedict had a loose texture to the cake with a bell peppery note, accented by an Old Bay infused hollandaise that gave it a real New England flavor.  Lastly, the Smoked Salmon Benedict was the perfect combination of a traditional benedict and a lox plate with fresh pesto hollandaise and some arugula and tomato to give the entire thing some levity.  "I've seen the rainbow for the colors," Belvedere said cryptically, "But now I need to study the clouds to truly see the sky."

Brandy took this to mean that Belvedere wished to try the signature dish of the restaurant, a wood fired Neapolitan pizza, and there was no better choice than the Breakfast Pizza with mozerella, ricotta, smoked ham, and a sunny side up egg.  The hand tossed crust was thin and crispy with the slightest bit of chew to it, and the woods used to cook it (apple, cherry, and oak) really infused it with tons of flavor.  Brandy especially liked that the cheeses had been made in house, while Belvedere liked that the smokiness of the meat didn't overwhelm everything else.  "All one would need to perfect this would be a little salad on the side," Belvedere suggested.

Anxious as their meal finally came to an end, Brandy looked to her friend for his honest opinion.  "I thought the prices were what I would expect for that caliber of food," he started to say, "And the food itself was well prepared and thought out.  But what really impressed me was the staff, who seemed to know every tiny intricacy of the menu, which speaks to the passion they have to see a new comer to the Chicago dining scene survive.  I do so like to see a well informed staff."  And so, with a final sigh of relief, Brandy realized that she had actually succeeded in impressing her mentor and friend.  "Now, thinking in advance of our next meal," said Belvedere, "I've heard wonderful things about an Italian man named Al and his unique beef preparation."

The writers of this blog were invited to dine by the restaurant free of charge in exchange for and honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

Lark Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

From the Kitchens of Bunny and Brandy: Composed Toasts with Amish Roll Butter

Brandy has a butter problem.  She loves it, perhaps a bit too much.  When she was a child, she even used to sneak bites off the butter her mother kept on the counter.  "Not the healthiest practice in the world, I'd imagine, but I suspect that is what gave me the refined palate I have today," says Brandy.

Because of that love for butter, Brandy has become pretty picky about the butter she uses on a daily basis.  "No overly salted, artificially colored, flavorless butter will do for me," she says, "When butter is the base upon which you build your dish, why on earth would you want to use an inferior product?  It's like laying down a foundation of plastic straws to build a sky scraper!"

With that in mind, Brandy recently had the chance to try some extraordinary products from Minerva Dairy, America's oldest family owned cheese and butter dairy.  Minerva Dairy specializes in Amish Roll Butter, a slow churned product that is made in small batches and is free from hormones, artificial flavors, and contains a whole 84% butterfat.  Brandy was especially interested in the flavored butters, which came in varieties like Garlic and Herb, Smoked, Pumpkin Spice, and Maple Syrup.  "Not only is the quality of this butter amazing, but these flavors are so intense and pure!" Brandy exclaimed when she first tried the butters.  Her method of testing the flavors was to make some simple pieces of toast, and that is what gave her a brilliant idea for how to best feature these brilliant butters.

The composed toast has become all the rage among the brunch elite in the last few years as a way to showcase superior bread, seasonable vegetables, and artisan condiments, so naturally, Brandy had to come up with her own version, or versions rather.  Inspired by the flavors of the Minerva Dairy Amish Roll Butters, Brandy devised a quartet of seasonal inspired toasts, loaded with bold flavors and the freshest ingredients.

Winter Toast

For the winter toast, Brandy chose to use the Maple butter, the most delicately flavored of the bunch with a slight sweetness to it.  She paired this with a pecan raisin bread, some un-curred bacon jam, a sharp and soft brie cheese, and some sweetened dried cranberries.  "Makes me think of sitting by fire with a cozy blanket," Brandy said, tasting her creation, "Creamy, slightly sweet, slightly salty, and just delicious!"

Fall Toast

Moving on to the majesty of fall, Brandy once again used the pecan raisin bread, but this time she slathered it in the Pumpkin Spice butter and added some crumbled goat cheese, fig butter, and candied pecans for an extra crunch.  This sweet toast was nicely spiced with earthy flavors that had Brandy dreaming of red and orange leaves and the smell of rain in the air.  "Fall is so close, yet so far away," she sighed, "But this year I've got the jump on the pumpkin spice mania!"

Summer Toast

Imagining grills billowing smoke high into the air, Brandy turned to the Smoked butter for this one.  As this butter had the strongest flavor of the bunch, she knew she had to pair it with some pretty rich ingredients, so she used a roasted garlic bread, some thinly sliced sirloin steak, a dose of caramelized onions, and a drizzle of sweet balsamic vinegar glaze.  "It's like a steak house in a single bite!" she exclaimed upon tasting her creation, "Fresh and fruity flavors are all well and good, but if one's summer doesn't predominantly taste like meat and smoke, then I consider it a wasted season."

Spring Toast

Finally, Brandy sliced up the roasted garlic bread once more, but this time she added the Garlic and Herb butter along with a red pesto (made with sun dried tomatoes), some fresh baby spinach, and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese to create a lighter version of a bruschetta.  "Anyone who says there's too much garlic on this toast can never truly be a friend of mine," she shrugged before sitting down to devour all of her toast concoctions.

The writers of this blog were sent products by the company free of charge in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Wild Monk or Home, Home on La Grange

The Slow and Savory Review

Brandy has made it her mission this summer to get out of the city and really explore the suburbs.  "As much as I love urban life, sometimes I just crave the quiet and space that only the suburbs can offer," Brandy has been known to comment, "I must really be showing my age if the suburbs are suddenly becoming appealing!"

Of course, the easiest way to explore an unfamiliar area is locate the best brunches on offer and make a good old fashioned road trip to try them out.  This is exactly what Brandy and her good friend Starr decided to do.  "Where shall we explore next?" Brandy asked her pal.  "Have you been to La Grange yet?  I hear there's some great places out that way," responded Starr.  "La Grange you say?  No, can't say I've explored that particular avenue just yet.  What do you say to a little Sunday drive?"

The spot they zeroed in on went by the name of Wild Monk and professed to be neighborhood bar with a menu of twisted pub classics.  Wild Monk boasted a darker toned and informal feel in the vain of a fashionable dive bar with raw wood tables and light aluminum chairs.  Brandy very much liked the art on the wall by the entrance, which looked like bottle caps formed into abstract hills and valleys.  "I would imagine a place like this at night would feel perfectly normal, but in the daylight hours, it does feel slightly out of place on a sunny suburban street!" Brandy contemplated.

Starting off the morning properly, Brandy ordered a Bourbon Bacon Sour and Starr went for the Corpse Bride from the signature cocktails menu.  Starr's drink, which was made with gin, blood orange, lime, and a rose liqueur, had a bright and bold flavor with a real depth that ended on a light floral note.  Brandy's drink was nicely tart with a smokey and smooth finish, a wonderful twist on the classic cocktail, made especially unique by the use of a house made bacon infused St. Germaine.  "One would expect a bacon cocktail to be rather heavy," said Brandy, "But this is actually quite refreshing.  That's not a word one usually associates with bacon."

On the savory side, Brandy and Starr chose two plates to share; the Chorizo and Egg Tacos, and of course, the Poutine.  The tacos were actually quite delightful with a nice slow burn of heat from the spicy sausage, which made them more substantial than they looked, but still light enough that they didn't weigh the consumer down.  "Feta cheese is an odd choice here though," commented Brandy, "Not bad, necessarily, but odd."  The poutine also had a rather unique twist to it, which was a sprinkling of golden raisins along with the cheese and a veal gravy.  The hand cut fries on the poutine were perfectly crispy and salted, while the gravy had a lovely, meaty flavor, but the dish seemed to have substituted actual cheese curds for a small sprinkling of shredded cheese.  Being the poutine expert that she is, Brandy slightly disapproved of this fact, but was willing to forgive the dish because of its delicious gravy and the uniqueness of the raisins, which added a slight sweetness to every other bite.  "I only wish the raisins had been plumped a bit," Brandy said, "But I can't say that I've ever seen a poutine quite like this one!"

Transitioning into sweets, Brandy and Starr ordered the Chicken and Waffles.  Much to their surprise and befuddlement, the chicken, instead of the traditional breast or thigh, was thin strips laid across the waffle and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  "They certainly know how to keep things interesting here!" Brandy laughed.  "The waffle was rather dense, but had a nice malty flavor, while the chicken added a good punch of pepper in it's coating.  While the menu had listed the waffles being topped somewhat differently, they ended up being accompanied by a blood orange jam and some maple syrup, which Brandy rather enjoyed, as the mix of the two kept each bite slightly different and exciting.

Lastly, they went full on sweet with an order of Banana Bread Pancakes.  This dish was rather disappointing, as it arrived not looking like what was described on the menu at all.  The pancakes were dense and doughy (Brandy suspected they had been made with the same batter as the waffles) and rather than having flavor added to them, they were simply served with sliced bananas on top.  While the menu had listed a banana bread beer maple syrup as a condiment, the one that was served seemed to be a pretty generic syrup instead, and the dish also came accompanied by the same blood orange jam as the waffles, which did help to change the flavor up a bit.  "I have no issue with pancakes like these, per say," said Brandy, "But if they had been described properly on the menu, I most likely would not have ordered them."

All in all, Brandy and Starr's little trip out to La Grange proved to be a nice one, though not as spectacular as they might have hoped.  Wild Monk certainly had their hearts in the right place with exciting ideas, a relaxed atmosphere, and friendly service (not to mention very reasonable prices that would make someone used to city markups sigh with relief), but the execution of the final product was just not quite there.  "One can certainly see an effort being made, and perhaps on another day, everything could have fallen into place and been absolutely wonderful, but today, it was just ok," Brandy said, "So for now, back home to the city, but perhaps a return to La Grange at a later date will be in order."

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

The Short and Sweet Review
Wild Monk Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Tea Time with Brandy: Brunch from Gourmet Gift Baskets

Lately, Brandy has been waxing nostalgic for the days when she and Bunny were brunching partners every single weekend.  Even though the two old friends still speak quite regularly, and indeed do see each other from time to time as Bunny passes through Chicago in between her flights all across the world, they don't usually have a chance to brunch together more than once or twice a year, and that makes Brandy rather sad.  "As much as I love catching up with all my other friends in Chicago over some eggs benedict and mimosas, I can't help missing my oldest and dearest friend of them all," sighs Brandy on occasion.  This longing for days gone by, however, did give Brandy a wonderful idea.  "If we can't be in the same city for brunch, perhaps I can bring brunch to her."

As luck would have it, Brandy had recently discovered, an absolute foodie's paradise of gifts and goodies for every occasion.  The hundreds of baskets and gifts are all themed for various life events both big and small, from weddings and birthdays to backyard BBQ's and movie nights, and contain only hand crafted and high quality products, hand picked by a team of gifting experts.  Brandy's eyes grew bigger with each click as she beheld all sorts of things, like summer cake pops shaped like ice cream cones, craft brewed beers sampling buckets, and even tins filled with gourmet treats for cats and dogs!  But focusing in on her goal of sending a little brunch Bunny's way, she zeroed in on one basket in particular: The Ultimate New England Brunch Basket was simply jam packed with goodies both sweet and savory that would have any brunch fan salivating.

Bunny was practically in tears when she received Brandy's present with a note attached, reading, "Make sure you share some of this with me!"  So Bunny decided the best thing to do would be to send her friend pictures of everything in the basket as she tried them.  First up, Bunny pulled out the Broadbent's Hickory Smoked Peppered Country Bacon ("I can't believe they didn't even forget the bacon!" she squealed) and fried it up until crisp and golden.  Then she combined the canister of Stonewall Kitchen Farmhouse Pancake Mix and the tin of Wild Maine Blueberries for the perfect fluffy blueberry pancakes, and topped them with some of the Maple Guys Pure New Hampshire Maple Syrup.  Lastly, she brewed up a fresh pot of the Coffee Masters Vanilla Nut flavored coffee.  "I'm calling this one the 'All American Brunch,'" she said to Brandy, sending her a picture of the meal.

 A few days after she'd finished off all the pancakes and bacon, Bunny once again dove into the basket.  This time, she pulled out the Village Mixes Blueberry Crisp and set to baking up a fresh and fruity treat with it.  Next, she whipped up a batch of the Apricot Maple Nut Oatmeal by Holly's Oatmeal and topped it once again with a drizzle of maple syrup and also some Granny Smith Apple Chips by Bare Fruit for a touch of tartness.  "I'm calling this combo the 'Fruity Favorites,'" she said in her next message to Brandy.

Once all the fruity favorites had been consumed, Bunny knew just what to do with the rest of the basket.  She baked up a few dozen scones from the included Stonewall Kitchen mix and slathered them in the Clearbrook Farms Blueberry Preserves.  Then she brewed a pot of the Davidson's Earl Grey Tea (her favorite, of course!) and set out the The Original Carlsbad Oblaten Strawberry Tea Wafers and the Effie's Homemade Oatcake Biscuits, a buttery treat that turned out to be her favorite item from the basket.  "Lastly, we have Tea Time!" she messaged to Brandy, along with several pictures of her chomping on the buttery biscuits and the flaky scones.

Brandy felt a great gladness at being able to share a brunch with her friend again, even across such a great distance, but after seeing Bunny's pictures of all the goodies she received, Brandy also felt a small pang of jealousy.  "I'm glad you enjoyed everything!" she messaged Bunny, "But now I'm craving fresh scones and bacon and oatmeal!"  Just as she sent the message, there was a knock at Brandy's door, and upon opening it, she found the very same brunch basket sitting there!  "You did ask me to share ;-)"  Bunny messaged her back.

The writers of this blog were provided with the products mentioned free of charge in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Festival Report: Taste of Chicago 2016

Food festivals come and go, but in Chicago, there is only one original, the Taste of Chicago.  While Taste of Chicago used to conjure images of dripping ice cream cones, deep fried dough, and sloppy pizza slices, Brandy has discovered in recent years that there is so much more to be discovered that is fresh and healthy.  "Far be it for me to condemn the eating of massive amounts of calories at a food festival, but all that greasy, heavy food stops being fun when it's 90 degrees and humid!" says Brandy, "I much prefer to keep things light and fresh when I attend this particular festival so that I can keep my energy high."

Luckily for Brandy, Humana has been keeping an eye out for those who are minded like she is.  For the last few years they have been bringing in a a team of nutritional physicians who identify a list of Healthier Choices (noted on booth menus with a green H) among the hundreds of offerings at the festival so that those who wish to avoid high calorie contents can enjoy the festival right along side their more indulgent friends.  This year’s program featured 75 healthy food options, including 43 vegetarian options and six gluten free options, from 29 Chicago restaurants that met the nutritional criteria.  Not only that, but Humana set up a rewards system, much like a scavenger hunt, wherein participants can collect stamps from booths who are slinging Healthier Choice options and cash those in for fun items and experiences at the Humana booth.

Brandy started off at the Farmer's Fridge booth with a couple of fresh appetizers.  First, she sampled a lovely Avocado Toast with pickled red onion and feta cheese.  Next, she opted for some Chili Lime Watermelon, which was exactly what it sounded like; blocks of fresh and juicy watermelon sprinkled with chili powder and served with a wedge of lime.  "It's like an edible cocktail!" Brandy exclaimed when she tasted the sweet, sour, and salty concoction.

Next up, she went for some more hearty fair.  Stopping over at Beat Kitchen, she picked up a Vegetarian Slider, which was a bean-based patty topped with tomato, red onion, and greens.  "What a delightful alternative to a heavy, oily burger!" she exclaimed, "I would go so far as to say that even meat eaters would be pleased with something like this."  Speaking of meat eaters, Brandy next visited the Porkchop booth and snagged a Chicken Slider.  Again, this was hearty enough to satisfy her cravings, but light enough to keep her feeling great, with lots of tender spiced chicken, tangy BBQ sauce, and a soft bun.  And then to prove to herself that she could still eat adventurously while still letting the Humana choices guide her, Brandy stopped off at the Chicago's Dog House booth for a spicy and smokey Alligator Sausage (the other choice being a rabbit and rattlesnake sausage, but for some reason, Brandy has a thing about eating bunnies...).

Lastly, Brandy was thrilled to see that sticking to Healthier Choices didn't exclude dessert.  She stopped over at the Dinky Donuts booth for a couple of freshly prepared donut holes, which she chose to top with the Old Fashioned Cream Pie coating.  These donuts were the perfect kind of sweet bite with just enough sugar to give Brandy a little pep in her step.  Her last stop of the day was to the Caffe Gelato booth for a heaping helping of creamy and cool Pineapple Sorbet.  Indeed, the portion size (and this was the tasting portion, not even the full size) was so generous that it was hard to believe this decadent little treat actually fell under the Healthier Options guidelines, especially considering the smoothness of the sorbet, which made it seem almost like ice cream.

"Following those little green H's around all day has certainly not led me astray," Brandy commented as she finished off her sorbet while hiding from a little  mid afternoon rain shower, "I am most definitely full, I got to try lots of different foods, and I don't feel like a disgusting sweaty mess!  I'd say this was a winning strategy all the way around."

The writers of this blog were given complimentary tickets by Humana in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Dinner at Ugo's Kitchen and Bar

The unthinkable happened.  Brandy slept through brunch.  Her schedule had simply been so busy that she slept straight through the acceptable brunching hours and regained consciousness only after the only possible meal to be had was dinner.  Distraught at her own lack of an internal clock, she phoned her good friend Starr from Chicago Foodie Girl.  "Granted, I did get in at an ungodly hour.  My swing dancing class went late into the evening when the Glenn Miller Tribute Orchestra showed up half way through and played every song recorded in 1944.  But I haven't failed to wake up in time for brunch since Jimmy Carter was in office!"  To quell her panic, Starr suggested the two of them head out for a little dinner.  "Just pretend it's a very early brunch," she suggested.

They chose to visit Ugo's Kitchen and Bar in Logan Square, a young restaurant owned and operated by Chef Stephen Hasson, whose background is mainly in the most prestigious fine dining restaurants in Chicago.  Ugo's, named after Chef Hasson's beloved grandfather, opened last fall, serving Italian favorites made with the highest quality ingredients in a casual setting.

Of course, the evening began with a few cocktails.  Brandy went with the the tart and smokey Middleton, made with rye, cherry liquor, and lime juice, which she felt was an excellent sipping drink, while Starr picked the Vera, a refreshing and soft concoction made with gin, citrus, rosemary, and aloe liqueur with a slightly herbacious flavor, but they both agreed that the Blood Orange Daiquiri was their favorite with a refined sweetness and a stunningly delicious and delicate floral flavor from the addition of hibiscus.

As they sipped their cocktails, they snacked on a charcuterie plate, which included a pork rillette, two types of pickles (dill and bread and butter), a pungent horseradish mustard, strawberry rhubarb jam, red wine poached pears, and warm salted ciabatta bread, all made in house, along with some marcona almonds and a mild Spanish bleu cheese.  The rillette was incredibly smooth and spread easily on the warm bread, while the spicy mustard perked up the taste buds.  The smooth and creamy bleu cheese was the perfect pairing with the the fruitier options on the plate, while the pickles (which Brandy usually dislikes) were sweet, crunchy, and absolutely delightful.  "This may sound silly, but with all the deliciousness on this plate, I am most loving this warm bread!" Starr admitted, "There's just something so good about a fluffy, sturdy, buttery bread, kissed with a little salt.  It just makes me feel happy."

Next up, the two enjoyed the house Kale Caesar Salad and some of the Market Bruschetta.  The bruschetta had a very complex flavor that started off herbal and vegetative before ending on a sweet note, but was still very fresh tasting, having been topped with eggplant, olives, tomatoes, and capers.  "How very interesting!" Brandy exclaimed after the first bite, "This tastes exactly like sitting under the Tuscan sun in August!"  The salad was a nice twist on the classic Caesar with the kale giving it a more interesting texture.  The addition of filleted anchovies also added quite a punch of fishy flavor that would make any seafood addict swoon.

Following that, Starr and Brandy indulged in both of the pasta dishes on the menu, a Carbonara and a Pappardelle, both of which were prepared with house made pasta.  The Carbonara was incredibly creamy and decadent without being overwhelmed by the crispy pancetta, while the pasta itself was amazingly tender and delicate.  The Pappardelle had been dressed with maitake mushrooms, olives, hazelnuts, arugula pesto, and some shaved parmesan and was also impossibly tender and delicate while still holding up under the weight of all the other ingredients.  The flavor of this dish was very earthy, but a few pickled ramps helped to brighten things up.  "If that bruschetta was an afternoon in Tuscany, this pasta is an early evening in the forests of  Calabria!" said Brandy.

Now positively bursting, but yearning to see what else Ugo's had in store, the ladies sampled a simple Margherita pizza, done Neapolitan style with a thin and chewy crust.  The crust also had a wonderfully buttery flavor that Brandy and Starr liked very much, as it really let the simple ingredients shine, especially the house made mozzarella.  "I don't think I could eat another bite," Starr sighed.  "There's a dessert menu," said Brandy, pointing to the hand painted pizza paddles behind her with the list of sweets on offer.  "Alright, maybe I can handle another bite or two then," replied Starr.

And so they ended their feast with a scoop of Cappuccino Chip Gelato and a surprising item for such a traditional Italian menu, a Banana Cream Pie.  The gelato (house made, of course) had a very strong coffee flavor that was not for the light of heart and came dotted with crispy little chips of bittersweet chocolate and espresso beans, making for a dessert that was much more adult and sophisticated than one would have thought upon first glance.  The banana cream pie, however, was the real surprise, as it's silky smooth texture was perfectly complimented by the cracker crust, which had just the right touch of salt in it to make it truly unique.

Even after missing out on a day's worth of brunch, Brandy suddenly felt much better about life after discovering Ugo's brand of handmade and high quality, yet rustic Italian favorites.  "The funny thing is, I never would have discovered this spot if it hadn't been for the fact that I slept past brunch," said Brandy, "It just goes to show you that sometimes things are just meant to be, and I was certainly meant to come and enjoy this meal.  Though I can't help wondering what a place like this could do with a brunch menu!"

The writers of this blog were invited by the restaurant to dine free of charge in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

Ugo's Kitchen & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato