Friday, September 27, 2013

Best of Bunny and Brandy with

As you may remember, dear readers, last year Brandy started a new tradition: a little list looking back on some of her and her friends' favorite brunches in Chicago.  Brandy wished to update this database of excellence, if you will, but this year with the help of, we're bringing you the Best of Bunny and Brandy in a whole new way! is a great new website and app for the food enthusiast.  There, members can make "collections" of their favorite recipes and restaurants, categorizing them however they like for easy browsing and sharing.

Check out Brandy's collection of her favorite Chicago Breakfasts

Stay tuned this week to our Facebook and Twitter pages for more exciting content, and then on Wednesday for a special edition post where Brandy will share three more of her hand picked collections on!

The writers of this blog have been compensated by Glam Media for the information contained in this post, but the opinions expressed have not been influenced.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Public House or The First Annual Foot Ball

The Short and Sweet Review

Though she has lived in Chicago for many years now, Brandy has never really understood all the excitement that usually accompanies the start of football season.  "Its just transitioning from one silly game to another.  I really don't see what all the bother is about," she often complains when she sees jersey wearing patrons crowding into bars across the city, "In England, we only get this excited about a sport when a referee makes a bad call or a star athlete marries a pop singer."

In order to educate herself a little more on the subject, Brandy enlisted the help of her friend Bailey Blue.  "You're a Midwestern girl, so you must know all about American football," Brandy said to her, "So explain to me why its called football when the players mostly use their hands?"  "Explaining the rules of football would be much easier while watching an actual game.  Why don't we find a nice bar or gastro pub to have brunch at and you can see and feel the excitement for yourself?" Bailey suggested.  Never one to turn down an invitation to brunch, Brandy agreed, and it was decided that Public House in River North was to be the destination.

Public House was surprisingly vast and wide, with bar seating in either direction and a more private, elevated area to the back.  Though fairly dark inside, the room was lit up by several interesting displays, such a wall of green glass bottles and a digital aquarium that really seemed to confuse Brandy.  "Is that what we're eating?" she whispered to Bailey, "Because I'm not in the mood for seafood this morning."

First up were the cocktails, with Bailey going for a traditional Bloody Mary (to which she could have added something called a "Loaded Skewer" which would have made ordering a meal unnecessary as it contained things like a chicken wing, bacon, shrimp, and several kinds of cheese and vegetation).  Bailey felt the mix was a little thinner than she was used to, but provided a great kick of spice that really helped to wake one up.  Brandy went with a wondrous flight of cocktails entitled "The Breakfast Trio," consisting of the the Cinnamon Toast Crunch (horchata flavored rum and whiskey), The Pick Me Up (vanilla vodka, coffee liqueur, and espresso form), and The Pancake Stack (butterscotch liqueur and whiskey with an orange juice chaser).  Brandy simply adored this little collection of shots, from the warming Cinnamon Toast Crunch to the powerful Pick Me Up and the syrupy sweet Pancake Stack, whose fresh orange juice chaser was even a welcome fourth wheel.

After advising Brandy on the proper kinds of food to be consumed while watching football ("Stick to anything with beer, cheese, or meat in it," Bailey told her), the two ladies started off with some Fried Cheese Curds and a House Made Pretzel.  The cheese curds were devilishly scrumptious, being coated in a light, almost tempura like batter and came with a tangy eggplant caponata and a creamy parmesan peppercorn dipping sauce.  Though dipping the crunchy, gooey bits of fried cheese into even more cheese seemed somehow cannibalistic to Brandy, she decided it was all in the spirit of the event.  The pretzel was warm, incredibly soft, and came with a cup of "beer cheese" made from 3-year aged cheddar for dipping that Bailey said she could probably drink a glass of.

Next, the pair split an order of Donut Fried French Toast, a dish so impossible sounding it had to be tried.  The donuts, which were crisp on the outside and incredibly tender on the inside, had been coated in cinnamon sugar, drizzled with creme anglais, and topped with blueberry and blackberry jam that provided a nice tart contrast to the otherwise very sweet dish.  "Normally they make me take copious notes on my meals," Brandy said slowly, "But in this case, I think the picture will do more justice to this dish than my words ever will."

For her entree, Bailey went for the carb heavy Biscuits and Gravy and a side of thick cut peppered bacon.  The biscuits looked more like two cakes smothered in a creamy, white gravy and though massive, were light and fluffy on the inside with a nice crunchy top.  But for Bailey, they really only served as a vehicle for the delectable gravy.  Smooth and creamy without the obtrusive amount of sausage flavor that most other cream gravies seem to have (this gravy's base was made from Big Fork bacon sausage, which gave it more of a smokiness and less of a spiced flavor), Bailey couldn't help closing her eyes and grinning as she savored every bite.  Even the bacon was well above average, coming in such thick slabs that Bailey jokingly referred to them as "Strips of bark off a bacon tree."

Brandy decided on the Smoked Kobe Beef Brisket Dip, a twist on the classic French dip with caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, a jus flavored with stout.  The beef was amazingly tender, almost melting on the tongue, while the onions added a nice sweetness that counteracted perfectly with the salty, deeply flavor jus.  Even the fries on the side, which had been hand cut and covered in a dry rub seasoning, seemed classic, yet original.

Though ready for a nap as they were, Bailey and Brandy just couldn't resist sampling one of the desserts, and so indulged in the Bananas and Waffles, a spectacular sundae comprised of banana beer gelato, chocolate covered pretzels, housemade marshmallows, bruleed banana slices, and a caramelized waffle.  Sweet, smokey, gooey, crunchy, and slightly salty, there could have been no other choice of a dessert more fitting for a day of football.

All told with drinks, 2 appetizers, three entrees, and a dessert between them, the total bill was about $50 a person, which by any standard is a pretty fair price to pay for such a bounty of game time goodies.  Brandy may have entered into Public House with a skeptical frame of mind in regards to American football culture, but after such a flavorful, hearty, and fun breakfast in an equally buzzing, joyous, and fun atmosphere, she found herself a little more willing to sit through the ups and the downs of a game.  "Now, which team are we rooting for then?" she asked Bailey as they waddled outside, "I know the Greenbay Packers have something to do with cheese.  Do they give it out for free?  If so, I shall be rooting for them."  Bailey quickly corrected this mistake.

*The writers of this blog were invited by the restaurant to sample food free of charge in return for an honest review.

The Short and Sweet Review

Public House on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 13, 2013

Postcards from Bunny: Bento Box Treats with Takashi at Macy's

Seeing as how several dozen presidents and monarchs have finished their reigns since the last time Brandy was in any sort of school classroom, its understandable that the "Back to School" season is always somewhat confusing for her.  "What do they mean by back to school?" she often wonders, "The children don't leave school until they are 18 or 22 or 30 even these days, they're constantly in school!  Seems to me, its more the 'End of the Break that's Slightly Longer than All the Other Breaks We Take Throughout the Year Season.'"

To help Brandy be a little more empathetic with the parents of the world, Bunny sent her to another one of Macy's on State Street's amazing cooking demos from a member of the Culinary Council, as it was to be a Back to School themed afternoon with snacks meant for a busy student's lunchbox.  Brandy was a little hesitant at first, but once she learned the star of the day was none other than Takashi Yagihashi, famed for his namesake restaurant in Bucktown and Slurping Turtle in the Loop, she decided to make an exception.  "Normally I don't pay any mind to the young and their goings on, but I suppose this one time, I can stand to learn something."

The afternoon started off with a refreshing carbonated cranberry lemonade, garnished with a sprig of mint.  Brandy was three cups into the day before she realized the beverage was non alcoholic.  "I suppose a wine spritzer after school would be a bit of a faux pas," she mused.

Chef Takashi started off with Shrimp Shumai, a steamed dumpling filled with chopped shrimp, water chestnuts and mushrooms and topped with a soy sauce/mustard dressing.  These perfect little pockets had the a delightfully chewy outside and a tender, salty filling.  Chef paired them with a little bit of steamed bok choy and said that if someone wanted to make a larger batch of them, that they freeze extremely well and could even be deep fried for a more crunchy shell.

Next Chef Takashi demonstrated Chicken Yakitori, a sort of Japanese shish kebob with juicy chunks of boneless chicken breast, thigh, and leg meat skewered with onions, green peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and fresh scallions.  "These make perfect snacks for a BBQ or picnic too!" Chef Takashi proudly proclaimed.  The secret to these tasty bites was definitely the marinade, a traditional Japanese concoction called Tukedare, which consisted of soy sauce, sugar, fresh ginger juice, sesame oil, lemon juice, kombu (a type of seaweed), and a Japanese spice blend called Togarashi.

Finally Chef Takashi prepared his famous Chicken Tatsuta-Age, a Japanese style fried chicken served with a spicy Asian Slaw.  Again, the secret to juicy, flavorful chicken was down to the marinade, flavored with garlic, ginger, mirin, and sesame oil.  Chef Takashi advised using potato starch to coat the chicken, as it lent a better crunch and flavor than corn starch once fried.

As one last flourish, the chef gave the audience some tips on how to properly steam rice, then assembled a few pieces of all of the goodies he'd prepared into a lovely bento style lunch box, which he said would be sure to make everyone's children "Never want to leave their parents homes!"

At the end of it all, Brandy actually found herself slightly wishing she had some classes to attend just so that she could take with her a fabulous lunch like this one (all of the items Chef Takashi prepared we meant to be eaten at room temperature so no ice packs of microwave were necessary).  But instead, she compromised by buying a brand new rice cooker, a floral backpack ("This will be perfect for carrying my darning supplies to Quilting Club!"), and enjoying a bowl of noodles from Takashi's own Noodles on the seventh floor of Macy's on State Street.  She may not be going back to school any time soon, but Brandy was now happy enough to welcome in the season with the rest of the world.

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

Friday, September 6, 2013

From the Kitchens of Bunny and Brandy: Dueling Breakfast Risottos

We all know that Brandy likes to occasionally experiment in her own kitchen when it comes time for brunch, and the following recipes are two of Brandy's inventions thus far.  It all started when she had the idea for a restaurant that would sell thirty one flavors of risotto by the scoop full.  The idea never quite took shape, but here are two of Brandy's favorite concoctions:

Savory Breakfast Risotto with Bacon and Asparagus

1 1/2 cups of White Arborio Rice
4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 pound of lean thick cut bacon, diced (Brandy used Back Bacon from Spencer's Jolly Posh British Foods)
1 bunch of pencil thin asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

Add the broth to a medium sauce pan and bring up to a simmer.  Maintain the simmer over low heat.

Heat a skillet to medium high heat and add the bacon, cook for 2 minutes or until the fat has rendered off the meat.  Add the onion and continue to cook both until the onions have turned translucent.  Add the rice and stir to coat the grains.  Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for another three minutes or until the rice begins to take on a toasted look.

Add one cup of the hot broth to the rice and stir to incorporate.  Cover and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, stirring frequently to prevent the bottom from burning.  Continue adding the broth by 1/2 a cup at a time, each time waiting until the liquid had been absorbed before adding more.  Once half the broth is left, add the asparagus to the rice mixture.

After the final bit of broth has been absorbed, turn off the heat and add the cheese, stirring to help melt and incorporate.  Serve immediately, topped with a poached egg.

Sweet Breakfast Risotto with Peaches and Maple Syrup

1 1/2 cups of White Arborio Rice
4 cups of apple juice
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
4 large peaches, skinned and diced (Brandy used organic peaches from Klug Orchards)
1/2 cup of chopped pecans
3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
1/3 cup cream cheese
a pinch of salt

Add the apple juice to a medium sauce pan and bring up to a simmer.  Maintain the simmer over low heat.

Heat a skillet to medium high and melt butter until slightly brown.  Add the rice and stir to coat the grains.  Cook for three minutes or until the rice begins to take on a toasted look.

Turn the heat down to medium low and add one cup of the hot juice to the rice, stirring to incorporate.  Cover and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, stirring frequently to prevent the bottom from burning.  Continue adding the juice by 1/2 a cup at a time, each time waiting until the liquid had been absorbed before adding more.

After the first cup of juice has been absorbed, add the peaches.  After half the juice has been absorbed, add the pecans.  After 3/4 of the juice has been absorbed, add the maple syrup.  After the final bit of juice has been absorbed, turn off the heat and add the cream cheese, stirring to help melt and incorporate.  Serve immediately with a sprinkle cinnamon.