Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wilde or The Importance of Being Epicurean

The Slow and Savory Review

Last week, we extolled the virtues of vaudeville and the time honored tradition of the music hall scene, but this week we shall be exploring so called legitimate theater.  It is sometimes hard for people of this day and age to imagine having their freedoms stripped from them for something they couldn't help, like the color of their skin, what faith they practiced, or who they fell in love with, but Bunny and Brandy have witnessed plenty of dark and intolerant times, as well as the changes that came about to bring the world out of the darkness.  A significantly dark moment in Brandy's life was the day she heard of the death of Oscar Wilde, who succumbed to a misdiagnosed ear infection caused by a fall he took while in prison for daring to fall in love with another man.  She remembers feeling as though her heart had stopped, her limbs had frozen, and she couldn't think of anything else other than "He's gone.  That great man is gone." 

Brandy could never say why Oscar Wilde was so important to her.  She adored his plays and devoured The Portrait of Dorian Grey, but most of all she worshiped him for his fairy tales, in which his whole tragic idealism of self sacrifice for love was laid out for those with eyes to see.  These, she would tell any one who would listen, were Wilde's true legacy, the crown jewels of his treasury. 

Upon hearing that there was a restaurant in Lakeview that paid tribute to dear old Oscar, Brandy dragged her hapless companion Bunny as well as Biscuit Brown to partake in their brunch selections.  They arrived to find an interior decorated like a proper English lodge; dark woods, dimmed lighting, a small library under a dome of stained glass, and a gorgeous sidewalk setup with Victorian style street lamps and plenty of hanging plants and flowers to delight the eye.  Brandy particularly enjoyed the multiple portraits of Oscar himself adorning the walls.  They chose seats outside, so as to partake in the particularly lovely weather. 

The table was presented with a little snack to start off with, some small crunchy cinnamon coated muffins.  Drinks were ordered straight off: for Bunny a Sweet Tea Vodka and Lemonade, for Brandy a Raspberry Iced Tea, and for Biscuit a concoction called Oscar's Favorite, made with champagne, blue berry vodka, and raspberry liquor.  "Wilde asked for champagne on his death bed," Brandy informed them, "They told him he couldn't afford it, and his last words were, 'I am dying as I have lived, beyond my means.'  Witty till the end, that man."  Biscuit politely nodded while Bunny rolled her eyes.

For her entree, Bunny chose the Carnitas Quesadilla and Eggs, a combo of shredded pork shoulder with cheese, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.  With the slightest hit of spice, the dish was perfect for such a spring morning.  The coldness of the guacamole and sour cream combined nicely with the warm pork and cheese, and the eggs were cooked perfectly.

Biscuit's choice was the Egg Sandwich, a perfect breakfast combo of eggs, bacon, caramelized onion, and tomato on toasted bread.  Though a little sloppy to eat (as egg yolk spilled everywhere on the first bite), Biscuit found this to be a very hearty and filling breakfast.  As her side, she chose the Irish Cheddar Grits, which had the perfect texture.  "As a Southerner I am a grits connoisseur, and I must say I approve," she stated merrily.

Once they stopped Brandy from spouting every Wilde quote in the book (she carried her Complete Works of Oscar Wilde wherever she went) she managed to order the Spinach and Artichoke Omelet, also with a side of the Irish Cheddar Grits.  The omelet was surprisingly delicate and thin, encasing a rather delicious burst of cream cheese and veggies.  Indeed, that day, Brandy was the envy of the table, with the other two ladies continually eyeing her plate as she went on some diatribe about color schemes in the original production of A Woman of No Importance.

As a last little taste of sweetness, Our Ladies and guest shared a plate of pancakes, compete with berry compote.  The pancakes were the perfect mix of fluffy inside and crispy outside, with a freshly griddled look to them.  The berry compote was a nice change of pace from maple syrup, dousing the pancakes in the royal purple of luscious blackberries.

On the upper side of average on price (about $12 a plate), but with an atmosphere that can't be beat, Wilde is perfect for both literary enthusiasts and their less enthused companions.  Though if you should happen to visit while Brandy is there, be prepared for a history lesson, as well as the pop quiz following dessert.

The Short and Sweet Review

Wilde Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bongo Room or Not Enough Room

The Slow and Savory Review

There are not many people who remember the good old days of vaudeville any more.  Oh, those sacred days of slapstick, dancers, jugglers, and whatever rag tag act had managed to talk their way onto the stage that night... it was a glorious time indeed.  And just as there are few left who remember those days, there are even fewer left who remember a certain pair of girls who used to sell merchandise in the lobby of those theaters, doing little dances and jokes for the folks waiting to take their seats, hoping that some day a producer would grant them a ten minute slot and they would become the darlings of the music hall scene.  Their opportunity finally arrived one night at a shoddy little theater in Hampshire called The Bongo Room when Melba Toast and her Toastettes acquired food poisoning from a bad batch of matzoh ball soup.  The girls hastily painted a sign on an old piece of cardboard, calling themselves Bed & Breakfast: The Girls with the Dancing Tongues to emphasize their brilliance at witty repartee.  Sadly, the gentlemen in the audience took their act's title in quite another way, and although the girls did a splendid two-step routine with a pair of parasols, they were quickly booed off the stage.

It is because of this event that Bunny and Brandy were not exactly excited to visit yet another Bongo Room, this one in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago.  Upon arrival, they were told the wait would be about 45 minutes and to check back in half an hour.  Rather than squish into the already crowded back bar, Our Ladies decided to visit a sweet little coffee shop next door, The Worm Hole, which seemed to be a steamy celebration of everything 1980's.  After a quick, small, and rather expensive Chai Latte, Bunny and Brandy checked with the hostess and were told they hadn't quite made it up the list.  After almost another 45 minutes of waiting Our Ladies were finally taken to a table, albeit a small and drafty one in the middle of a rather noisy floor.

The interior was rather stark and colorless, which Brandy found surprising for a restaurant that only serves breakfast and lunch.  "Also, they have a full bar," she whispered to Bunny, "That seems rather strange for somewhere that doesn't even serve dinner, but I must say I'm glad to see it."  But having already had their fill of drinks next door, they decided to get right to the food. 

Bunny chose an omelet that contained chirizo, avocado, potato,and chihuahua cheese.  The omelet was gigantic, completely encasing the filling under the pillow of eggs.  The eggs themselves were unexpectedly fluffy,and the filling was not too spicy, with the chirizo being the most present flavor.  Bunny worried that there wasn't any cheese in the dish. but Brandy haughtily insisted that perhaps because the chihuahua cheese was mild that she simply wasn't tasting it.  The potatoes on the side had an unexpected spice to them as well.

Brandy decided on the Vegetarian Croissant Sandwich, which came with cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, spinach, Muenster cheese, and an egg served on a croissant.  As Brandy chose an over easy egg, the dish was very difficult to eat as a sandwich, and so she eventually opted for a fork and knife.  The croissant was nice and buttery, as well as being perfectly toasted, and all of the veggies were fresh and light.  Sadly, there seemed to be a distinct lack of cheesiness to Brandy's dish as well ("I think they forgot my cheese altogether," Brandy huffed upon cutting into the sandwich), which Bunny could not help snickering, "Perhaps the cheese is just too mild."

As a close, Our Ladies decided to split an order of White Chocolate 4 Berry Cheesecake Flapjacks, a confection so impossibly delicious sounding that surely it could not be as good as its title implied.  As it happens, it was.  On the first bite, both Our Ladies were plunged into pancake bliss.  Not only were the berries fresh and sweet, not only was the white chocolate sauce creamy and rich, but the flapjacks themselves (each of which was about a foot in diameter) were moist, fluffy, and perfect in every way.  It was a good ten minutes before Our Ladies were able to speak after cleaning that particular plate.

Barely after standing their table was cleaned and Bunny and Brandy were sent on their way.  Their uneasiness with going to Bongo Room seemed to have been cured, though as Bunny pointed out, it was probably a place better left for a week day morning when the crowds wouldn't be as bad.  With reasonable prices for the amount of food received (about $10 a dish on average) going to Bongo Room was well worth the memories of the shattered dreams it brought up.  Perhaps, some day, Bed & Breakfast will make their triumphant return to the stage, but for now, Bunny and Brandy will settle for another order of those pancakes...

The Short and Sweet Review

Bongo Room on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sweets and Savories or Black Tie, Tennis Shoes

The Slow and Savory Review

A few weeks ago, Bunny and Brandy tackled one of the hardest questions about brunch; to buffet or not to buffet.  This week, they decided to tackle yet another decision that wracks the brains of brunchers everywhere: is the Prix Fixe menu really worth it?  They decided to test the waters at Sweets and Savories, an unassuming little spot just shy of the DePaul campus which offered a three course brunch with tea and coffee included for just $16 a person.

Upon entering, Bunny and Brandy found Sweets and Savories to be a rather cramped and under decorated space (though the crampedness might have been due to a setting for a large party in the middle of the floor).  "If you're not going to put up any art," Brandy huffed, gesturing to a large unadorned taupe colored wall, "At least paint the bloody wall an interesting shade." The staff seemed very friendly and eager to please, taking them to a table by the window and immediately presenting them with their first course, a plate of assorted breakfast pastries, including a rather average blueberry muffin, a slightly hard and cold cinnamon bun, and some rather nice cinnamon rugalas.

Our Ladies each ordered a cup of tea; for Brandy one of the fancier teas, a Raspberry Pomegranate Green Tea, where as Bunny went for some good old fashioned English Breakfast Tea.  "Good morning for a cuppa," Bunny sighed, "Though, not many mornings are bad for a cuppa."  Sugar was provided in a neat little bowl on the table, but sadly their request for some milk for their tea went unheeded.

For their second courses, Our Ladies had some decisions to make.  Bunny settled upon the Butternut Squash Soup, which was rather nice, though she wasn't quite sure about the addition of Gorgonzola cheese to it.  Brandy rather liked it, saying that it helped to cut the sweetness of the soup, which was also laced with cinnamon.  Our Ladies both agreed the soup could have stood to be a little more hearty.  Brandy chose the Irish Oatmeal.  She felt it was a little watery, and despite a slight brown sugar flavor and having some dried fruits on top, it was rather bland.

For her final course, Bunny chose the House Burger with Duck Patte and Truffle Mayo.  As sides were not included in the Prix Fixe menu, the burger came simply served, with just a bit of lettuce for garnish.  It was very nicely cooked, still pink and juicy on the inside, and Bunny thought the truffle mayo was a very nice touch.

Brandy decided upon the Breakfast Risotto, an unusual sounding twist on the traditional diner dish, complete with bacon, white truffle oil, and a poached egg on top.  The consistency of the risotto was almost more like grits, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.  It was cheesy and rich with flavor, though the white truffle oil wasn't particularly noticeable.  The egg on top was cooked perfectly, which is always a plus in Bunny and Brandy's book.

As a special surprise, Our Ladies were treated to one more dish, a plate of French Toast.  Though tasty without being greasy, there was nothing special about the dish, which came with sliced strawberries and maple syrup.  "Some caramelized peaches or a more interesting bread would have been loads better," Bunny whispered, and Brandy nodded in agreement.

After all, they did decide that for the money spent, the brunch in general was worth the price.  The main thing that seemed the stick with Our Ladies was that Sweets and Savories can't quite seem to decided whether it is an upscale establishment, or a casual one, and if only they would pick one or the other, a wonderful spot could start to flourish properly.

The Short and Sweet Review

Sweets & Savories on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 6, 2011

Deleece Pub and Grill or Delee-cious!

The Slow and Savory Review

As Bunny and Brandy have been sworn to secrecy about their part in organizing a certain Royal Wedding, not much can be said about their absence from the brunch scene.  "Managing to stay out of all those pictures was quite the trick!" Brandy proclaimed.  Bunny simply reminded her "But there's nothing a good hat can't hide."

Our Ladies chose to get back into the swing of things by brunching at Deleece Pub and Grill on Clark (not to be confused with Deleece restaurant on Southport, which offers a similar brunch menu).  Surrounded by some of the best brunch spots Lakeview has to offer including Bunny and Brandy favorite Socca only a few doors down, Our Ladies had high expectations for this establishment.   The interior was a little stark and heavy for brunch with nothing much to look at other than an industrial fire place and a stylishly cracked slate floor.  Our Ladies were also disappointed to see there weren't many beverage choices, i.e. coffees, other than the special of the day, $15 for unlimited mimosas ("If I wasn't recovering from the open bar at the wedding, I'd order two glasses for myself," Brandy whispered).

Bunny's choice for brunch was a delicious sounding Lobster Benedict, served with a white truffle hollandaise.  Bunny was delighted to see that no concession was made for the dish, which came with great hunks of lobster meat over wilted spinach, all of which tasted fresh and bright.  The eggs were perfectly poached and the hollandaise too was outstanding with that savory quality of the truffle coming out with every bite, making one's mouth water for the next bite before you could even finish chewing.  The dish was served with some lovely roasted potatoes on the side, which had just enough flavor to convince Our Ladies that they had not just been thrown onto the plate to fill space.  It is very sad to report that although this dish was exquisite, Bunny found a rather large egg shell sitting on top of one of the benedicts.  The very kind server offered to take the dish off her bill or replace it as soon as the atrocity was discovered.

Brandy zeroed in on an unusual dish, Breakfast Mac and Cheese; a mixture of pasta, beschamel sauce, chopped tomato, and bacon with two over medium eggs on top.  Her choice entree was brought out in a giant white bowl, looking and smelling magnificent.  Of the eggs on top, one was cooked beautifully, and the other a little over done, with no yolk to run into the rest of the dish.  Though usually not a fan of raw tomato, Brandy appreciated it in this dish for its ability to break up the richness of the sauce.  The bacon also was a nice touch, not only for its smokey flavor, but for a bit of different texture.

Brandy also opted for a half order of French Toast, which came with caramelized pears, pecans, and whipped cream.  The French toast had a lovely ginger flavor to it and was delightfully crunchy on the outside.  She soon wished she had splurged and ordered the full version to take home.

Though the food at Deleece was amazing, the service left something to be desired.  Water glasses went unfilled and the bill took quite a while to reach the table.  This would have been excusable, except for the fact that the restaurant was practically deserted (perhaps there were more people out on the patio Our Ladies didn't know about).  All in all a very fine brunch when the food was considered, and for the price (only about $15 a person) generous portions and excellent quality are to be found.  Perhaps those $15 mimosas aren't such a bad idea after all...

The Short and Sweet Review

Deleece Grill Pub on Urbanspoon