Friday, December 23, 2011

Vincent or Starry Starry Late Morning

The Slow and Savory Review

Not many know that Brandy is deathly afraid of anything that reminds her in any way of Holland.  No one in living memory has even been able to pin down the exact story, but we do know it has something to do with a clogging contest and an arrant windmill blade.  If fact, whenever Brandy is asked to recount the event, she mumbles some thing about tulips and takes a hit from her hip flask.

Perhaps this is the reason she was so wary of visiting Vincent, the so called "American bistro with a heavy Dutch accent," in Andersonville.  Biscuit Brown practically had to drag her there (Biscuit had heard tell of Vincent's famously decedent Bloody Marys), and once there had to deny Brandy's requests to blindfold her. The beautiful clean decor did ease Brandy's panic, especially when she saw the abundance of lit candles, which reflected off the various mirrors hung around the room, creating a stunningly warming effect.

To settle her nerves, Brandy ordered a cocktail called The Getaway, a sort of bitter blood orange flavored punch.  The bitterness did shine through at first, and then finished sweet, which Brandy rather enjoyed.  Biscuit chose the Cheesemonger Bloody Mary, a traditional spicy tomato cocktail which came with what looked to be an entire cheese board, complete with stone ground mustard and pumpernickel bread (another possible option, Vincent's Bloody Ear, a Bloody Mary inspired by the restaurant's name sake Vincent Van Goegh, came with a fried pig's ear.  "I refuse to eat anything I can buy in a pet store," Biscuit was heard to comment.)  Biscuit loved the drink for its spices, but had some issues drinking the chunkier bits through her straw.

After Brandy stopped nervously eyeing a pair of decorative clogs in the corner, she ordered the Fried Oysters over Snert.  Beautifully plated on a cutting board with a fresh hunk of bread and a sea salt dusted mound of butter, Brandy's fear began to subside as soon as she saw the dish.  The snert, which Brandy soon figured out was a sort of porridge like split pea soup, was warm and comforting, with big chunks of bacon and carrots to break up the gentle taste of peas.  The oysters could not have been cooked more perfectly; lightly crunchy on the outside, but supple, fluffy, and briny on the inside, they lent a perfect contrast to the soft snert.  Brandy was left with so much butter after she had finished the dish (it was a VERY generous portion of butter) that she considered asking their lovely waitress to box it for her, so as not to waste it, of course.

Biscuit chose a simpler dish, a Bacon, Cheddar, and Tart Apple omelet, which also came served with a fresh baked biscuit and house potatoes.  The omelet was on the dense side, which Biscuit rather liked, and the mix of textures and flavors was spot on.  The potatoes were soft and tasty, but Biscuit really loved the biscuit, which had just enough crunch on the outside, but was soft and moist inside.  "I know biscuits, and this is most certainly a good one," Biscuit commented as she slathered more apple butter onto the baked treat.

To finish up, Brandy and Biscuit split an order of pancakes, topped with brown sugar bacon, breakfast sausage, and kumquat jam.  The bacon was heavenly; crispy and sweet to the point of almost being like candy.  Brandy desperately wished for more than just the two pieces they'd been provided with.  The sausage was nice as well, with a good snap on the casing and a lovely herbaceous quality to the meat.  The pancakes were not the typical light as air confections most other places strive for, but rather of a more adult density, with nice toasty bits around the edges.  The kumquat jam provided a lovely sour bitterness to the dish that ever so slightly tickled the taste buds. 

After such a filling and warm meal, Brandy's terror of the Dutch had all but disappeared.  "If I had known a little bit of snert was all it took, I could have avoided a lot of awkwardness over the years," Brandy huffed as they left.  Although most of the dishes were over $10, the amount of sides and the generous portions more than made up for the slight priciness.  "Not to mention that $12 for a Bloody Mary may seem expensive until you see the cheese plate that comes with it!" Biscuit pointed out.  With this lovely spot in mind, Brandy has now decided to spend her Christmas at the International Clogging Championship in Holland and she wished us to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of Holidays!

The Short and Sweet Review

Vincent on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 16, 2011

Crepe Town or Fully Stuffed

The Slow and Savory Review

It's difficult to pinpoint a country Brandy has not sampled the cuisine of a thousand times over.  She has munched on Moroccan, nibbled on Nepalese, crunched on Croatian, sampled Spanish, and even tasted Tanzanian.  She is so well traveled that customs agents the world over take it for granted that there are at least three bottles of wine in her bags at any given time and wave her through without question.  Therefore, it is rather hard to surprise her any more with an exotic ancient recipe from some far corner of the world.  However, there is something which does excite her, something that she rarely sees, and even more rarely sees done right.  That thing is the ever popular Fusion Cuisine; a combination of two or more contrasting international cuisines into one marvelous marriage of mangiare.

It was the prospect of good fusion food that lead Brandy to Crepe Town, a small but hip crepe boutique just off the Sheridan Red Line Stop.  Founded by a couple from Thailand and offering not only crepes, but fusion pasta dishes and a variety of snackables, Brandy instantly found this place intriguing.  The interior was clean and modern with pops of bright color behind the coffee bar.  Soft jazz (which many find hokey and old fashioned, but Brandy feels puts one in the mood for a relaxed meal) played in the background. Brandy found a lovely seat near the window and settled in to peruse the menu.  She found it quite helpful that the crepes had been sectioned off into three categories, "Savory," "Sweet," and "Breakfast."  "If only all the restaurants I frequent had their menus set up this way, I'd be a very happy woman," Brandy mumbled to herself.

She started off with a Green Tea Latte, which came delicately served with cold whipped cream on the top.  The flavor was just as vibrant as the color (the drink was smartly served in a clear glass, so as to see the remarkable shade of green), tasting almost like warm, melted ice cream.  After the first sip, Brandy made up her mind to order a second cup.

After a long inner debate, Brandy settled on the BBQ Breakfast Crepe, a mix of scrambled eggs, cheese, and bacon mixed with sweet BBQ sauce and folded into a BBQ flavored crepe.  While the crepe itself was not the delicate French kind, Brandy appreciated its texture when mixed with the filling.  The filling itself was idyllic; the eggs were cooked perfectly and the bacon's smokiness balanced the sweetness of the sauce, just as the sauce's slight vinegar bite balanced the richness of the melty cheese.  A nice side salad was also provided, which was topped with a lovely vinaigrette, which also provided contrast to the BBQ.

Because no brunch is complete without both a sweet and a savory option (and because she can never settle on just one course) Brandy chose the Blueberry Cheesecake Crepe for her dessert.  Once again, the crepe had more chew than a traditional French style crepe, but Brandy thought this added a much needed bit of texture to the dish.  The cheesecake interior was soft, fluffy, and rich, and Brandy relished every fork full.  Topped with not only fresh blueberries but also blueberry compote, the delightful mix of creamy, tangy, and sweet was utter perfection.

Fast, friendly service, relaxed atmosphere, and vibrant food made this stop one of Brandy's all time favorites.  She is quite excited to return and sample a plate of Tom Kah Pasta for dinner, finished with several more plates of Blueberry Cheesecake, and washed down by about 25 glasses of the Green Tea Latte.  We suspect she may be obsessed.

The Short and Sweet Review

Crepe Town on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 9, 2011

Kitsch'n or Camping Out and Up

The Slow and Savory Review

It seems a fairly common thing to attach nostalgia to breakfast more than any other meal.  Most of us have a fond memories of being presented some scrumptious offering on a weekend morning by our parents, whether it was a buffet of French toast, pancakes, and crispy bacon, or a simple bowl of sugar coated, marshmallow dotted, chocolate milk making cereal.  Brandy's own fond memories of her childhood weekend breakfasts (two eggs over easy, a warm buttery crumpet, blood sausage, roasted tomato, baked beans, and a fresh cup of milky tea) have stuck with her throughout the years and definitely influence how she judges a perfect breakfast to this day.

The unfortunate part of this phenomenon is that every single person has a different idea of what those nostalgic breakfasts should taste like.  So when word reached Brandy of the supposed home of nostalgic comfort food, Kitsch'n in Roscoe Village, she placed one eyebrow firmly into the "sceptical" position.  Perennial tag along Biscuit Brown was there to offer the "young person's" perspective (Brandy considers Biscuit to be a young person for the soul fact that she did not live through both World Wars). 

Upon entering, one is quite literally slapped in the face with 70's and 80's nostalgia, from the brightly colored walls adorned with various old toys and advertisements for now extinct beers to the coffee mugs, each emblazoned with the diner's afro-sporting logo.  A short wait of 15 minutes or so passed quickly before Brandy and guest were seated at an accommodatingly large table.  "This is not childhood nostalgia," Brandy said huffily, looking around, "At least not my childhood.  Why I was already getting senior discounts when most of these things were current."  "I think its supposed to just be a sort of general nostalgia for the time period.  I loved the 70's personally.  They used to call me the Dixie Disco Queen," Biscuit retorted, wistfully.

The array of odd sounding brunch cocktails immediately attracted Brandy's attention and she decided upon a concoction called a "Tang-tini," which seemed to be some sort of orange flavored powdered drink mix infused alcohol.  The effect was rather underwhelming once the "kitsch" value was taken away.  Biscuit chose the Deluxe Mimosa, which didn't seem to have any difference to a regular mimosa, but was still pleasantly bright and acidic.

After a rather long wait for food (their friendly bespectacled waitress kindly informed them that a problem with a large table in the back room of the restaurant had held up the kitchen, but that she would be treating them to a round of mimosas to make up for it) their entrees finally arrived.  To start off with, they split an order of Coconut French Toast, which came served with an array of fresh strawberries and pineapple, as well as a raspberry dipping sauce.  The toast was soft and eggy, with just a little texture and sweetness added from the flaked coconut coating.  The dipping sauce was also a nice touch, which helped to cut the richness of the toast.

Biscuit's main dish was the Chicken and Waffles, a rather large and flat slab of chicken breast served with a traditional Belgian waffle.  Both elements of the dish was rather bland and under seasoned, though the chicken did have a nice crunch to it (the waffle didn't seem to have anything remarkable about it).  On the side was a sort of delicious honey sauce, which Biscuit really loved.

Brandy chose the Crab Cake Benedict, which came served with a cornbread hash and a small salad.  The hash was definitely a nice and unusual touch, tasting rather sweet and spicy.  The salad came undressed, which Brandy thought was a bit odd.  "I'm used to being the only thing undressed at breakfast," she said.  The crab cakes had a good crunch on the outside and were nicely fresh and light on the inside.  The eggs came just the slightest bit over done (no runny yolk on one, but the other was perfect) and the hollendais was unnoticeable.

While Kitsch'n may not have inspired Brandy's sense of nostalgia in particular, it did make for a nice neighborhood stop with a homey feel, or as Biscuit put it "Like a secret hideout in a friend's basement."  Colorful atmosphere matches the colorful plates the food comes served on, and an all over friendly staff certainly makes up for any waiting for tables or food.  Brandy is rather determined to return, if only to sample all of the entertaining sounding cocktails.

The Short and Sweet Review

Kitsch'n on Roscoe on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 2, 2011

Postcards from Bunny


Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner!  Congrats JBo for guessing "Chai Tea Latte!"  You're won your very own Dolce Gusto personal coffee machine!  Email us your name and address to have your prize sent to you.  Congrats again!!!!!!!!

Time for some early holiday fun friends!  Our dear Bunny has asked us to hold a little Happy Holidays contest for you all, and the winner of said contest is going to be sent a brand new Nescafe Dolce Gusto personal coffee machine!  Keep it for yourself, or gift it to a loved one for a holiday of your choosing! 

Here's the rules: as Bunny has been spending time with a cult of mind reading nomads in Mongolia, she has decided to see who among our fans can guess what delicious flavor of Nescafe Dolce Gusto she has written on the inside on this paper.  All you have to do is make your best guess in the comment section and the first person to get it right wins this lovely new appliance!  Each comment should contain one guess, but you can guess up to three times.  The winner will be posted on this space, so keep an eye out.  Good luck and Happy Holidays from all of us at Bunny and Brandy's Brunchtime Blog!

Valentino Vineyards or A Day in Wine Country

Greetings friends of Bunny and Brandy!  Before we begin with our regularly scheduled blog post, we have exciting news for all of you!  At 2:00pm CST today, Bunny and Brandy will be giving away a Brand New Nescafe Dolce Gusto Coffee Machine as a special holiday treat for our loyal readers!  To win this lovely miracle of caffeinated engineering (which Bunny and Brandy previously profiled in this post), simply log into this space at 2:00pm CST today to find out the specifics.  And now for this week's post:

Today we have a bit of an unusual review for you, dear readers, in that you will not see a single piece of food in it!  That's right, today's post is about a lovely "liquid brunch" Brandy attended.

Outlandish, we know, but this all started when Brandy's dear friend Bailey Blue phoned her up and asked her for some company at a wine tasting at a vineyard in Long Grove.  "A vineyard in Illinois?" Brandy exclaimed, one eyebrow firmly raised in suspicion (it took 20 years just to convince Brandy that good wines were to be found in California, let alone anywhere else in the USA).  "You must trust me on this.  It's going to be a lot of fun! get to drink wine on a Sunday morning without looking like a lush," Bailey insisted, and other such assurances eventually persuaded Brandy into joining her.

The two arrived at the long driveway in front of Valentino Vineyards in Long Grove, IL just after noon, or as Brandy calls it, "The Glass Lifting Hour."  The beautiful winery sat in the middle of the 20 acre estate, surrounded by winding rows of grape vines and other lovely foliage that gave one the feeling of being in the middle of a Christmas card before the snow had been painted in.  Once at the main house, Brandy reported feeling as though she was entering someones house (as indeed she was, as the winery also played home to its founder and owner, Rudolph Valentino DiTommaso, and his family.  The tasting room and wine shop was in what seemed like a converted kitchen that overlooked the back of the estate, which housed even more grapevines and a marvelous little pond where we're told weddings are regularly held.  Brandy, who was still sceptical, but wasn't going to turn down a drink, took her seat with Bailey at a table in the back of the room and awaited the presentation by Rudolph himself.

Leaning casually against a wall as though he was telling an amusing story to a house full of distant relatives, Rudolph explained how his viticulturalism began as a hobby he'd learned from his Italian grandparents, then grew to a reality after purchasing the 20 acre plot of land, originally for development of custom built houses.  He explained with great joy the differences between the variety of grapes he grew and how through a long, laborious, and expensive process his winery had just been certified organic.  Then came the part Brandy had been waiting for, the tasting.

First up was a Seyval Blanc 2006 (retail $37 a bottle, special price $15), a white wine made from a rare grape hybrid.  It's appealing deep golden color hinted at its nutty and appley notes, which Rudolph mentioned goes very well with dishes like sushi and lemon chicken.  The mouth feel was incredibly smooth and the finish pristine.

Next came the Bianca 2005 (retail $33, special price $19), which was more full bodied than the first wine.  Brandy got a sort of caramelly/burnt sugar taste when she tried this wine, which she especially liked.  Rudolph suggested pairing it with spicier dishes like Thai curry.  Bailey mentioned that this lovely wine was her favorite of the day and later bought a bottle of it to take home with her.
Then came the Signature Red 2006 (retail $66, special price $47), a smooth and subtle wine that Rudolph said would go with a simple salt and pepper steak.  The flavor of this wine was just too lacking for Brandy, who likes something a wee bit stronger, especially in a red.

Following that was the Dechaunac 2006 (retail $63, special price $ 46), which was a touch sweeter than the previous wine, with hints of bright red fruits.  Food parings for this wine were said to be salmon, turkey, or anything peppery or grilled.  Apparently, this wine had won an International Medal, to which Brandy responded, "Well I have an Olympic Bronze in Curling, but you don't see me wearing it to wine tastings."  Bailey politely tried to explain that no one in the room was in competition with the wine, not even Brandy.

The Marechal Foch Reserve 2005 followed (retail $54, special price $39), a burgundy style wine with a deep garnet color.  This was Brandy's favorite of the reds, as it had a deep earthiness with hints of black cherry and just the tiniest bit of chocolate.  Brandy found this wine very easy to drink like the others, which was explained when Rudolph mentioned that his wines were low on sufites, thus giving them a more natural smoothness and preventing headaches for those who were sensitive to such additives.

As a bonus, Rudolph threw in his White Port, which Brandy had been eyeing on the wine list (retail $69, special price $49).  Fortified with Cognac, the port had a lovely floral bouquet, and was brilliantly sweet and light with no thick syrupy mouth feel one sometimes gets with red ports.  As with most ports, Rudolph suggested it pared well with fruits, cheeses, and chocolate.  This was Brandy's winner of the day, and she was so impressed with it that she purchased a bottle of their Limone Dessert Wine to sample at home.

Brandy's worry about an Illinois based vineyard has since been dispelled and she has been raving about this friendly, inviting, and educational visit.  Unfortunately, Bailey was still unable to convince her that wearing a medal to a wine tasting is not the "in" thing to do, unless you are yourself a bottle of wine.

P.S.  You know you're getting close to the winery when the little fellow in this picture appears outside your window.