Friday, December 30, 2016

True Food Kitchen or Clean Slate

The Slow and Savory Review

"Ugh..." Brandy moaned. She and her good friend Brocco had just attended a Christmas cookie exchange, where they had gorged themselves on sables, snickerdoodles, and sugar cookies until their teeth were vibrating. "I regret nothing," sighed Brocco, "But I have a feeling that might change later on. I guess this is why people always try to get healthy in the New Year. A whole month of this kind of gluttony can induce all sorts of latent guilty feelings." "Guilt schmilt," Brandy replied. "Didn't you make a resolution last year to eat a little more mindfully?" asked Brocco, carefully. "I did, but with the way this year has gone, I needed all the sugar, caffeine, carbs, and booze I could get my hands on. The stress of the Cubs being in the World Series alone had me cleaning off the whiskey shelves at the grocery store." "Well, let's make a deal to start fresh in 2017. What do you say?" Brandy hesitated.

To entice her into entering his pact, Brocco decided to take Brandy to the newly opened True Food Kitchen, a transplant from Arizona that specializes in healthy, mindful meals that are more than just low on calories. True Food Kitchen concentrates on creating dishes that maximize nutrition, encouraging the immune system and discouraging inflammation in the body, so as to give one the best kind of jump start to a healthy way of life. Of course, the mention of "healthy" food always causes Brandy to lift a skeptical eyebrow, but having had her fair share of good-for-you food that was actually quite delicious, she was more than willing to give this place a shot.

Walking into True Food Kitchen almost felt like walking into a sunlit garden, as green was absolutely everywhere. There were living plants on the booth dividers, sculpted moss graffiti on the walls, and huge windows to let in plenty of light.

The cocktails were of great interest to Brandy and Brocco right off the bat, as they too had been formulated to be as nutritious as possible. Brocco favored the Thai Grapefruit Martini, a simple yet bright and smooth mix of vodka, grapefruit juice, and basil. Brandy went for the Autumn Orchard Sour, with apple juice, muddled pear, lemon zest, and mulled brandy, resulting in a nicely spiced cocktail that Brandy thought might have even been enjoyable hot. Not long after their drink order had been placed, Brandy suddenly realized there was something she had missed on the hot drinks side of the menu. "A Matcha Horchata?" she exclaimed. "Oh, I simply must try that! Those are two of my favorite things in the world!" She was rewarded with a frothy, spiced, silky hot cup of magical liquid that she actually enjoyed even more than the cocktail.

Brocco and Brandy decided to start off their meal with a trio of appetizers: Charred Cauliflower, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and Edamame Dumplings. Brandy loved the texture on the cauliflower, which was still crisp with some deliciously browned edges, giving it a toasty yet creamy flavor with a hint of sourness. Brocco enjoyed the brussels sprouts with their unexpected brightness, which came from the addition of some artichoke hearts and golden raisins, and the slight bit of crunch from some roasted hazelnuts. Both of them agreed the real gem on the table was the Edamame Dumplings; seemingly delicate, they actually packed quite a punch of flavor from the warm dashi broth they sat in and a well balanced hit of white truffle oil. "I'm glad you suggested these because I didn't think they'd be this delicious just looking at them on the menu. I always forget about vegetables!" said Brocco. "What can I say?" Brandy replied. "I've got good instincts."

For his entree, Brocco decided to go for the oh so fashionable Smashed Avocado Toast. "I've seen these things all over Instagram, but I've never had one," he joyfully admitted to Brandy. He found the combination of the smooth avocado, the smoked gouda, the peppery arugula, and the toasty black sesame to be quite light and refreshing, but he found himself longing for a bit of starch on the side. Brocco decided to curb his craving for a little something more with an order of the Quinoa Johnny Cakes, which came dressed with sliced bananas, a dollop of greek yogurt, and some good old maple syrup. While the texture of the Johnny cakes was quite fluffy and soft, the quinoa added a nice bit of crunch to them. "They taste just like regular pancakes for the most part," said Brocco, "Which is why I wish they had a little something extra. You know, to really set them apart from your average run of the mill flapjacks."

Brandy decided on the Organic Egg Sandwich, which consisted of manchego cheese, fresh tomato, roasted turkey, smashed avocado, along with an egg on a grilled seed bread, served with a side of sweet potato hash. Due to the slippery nature of some of the ingredients, the sandwich didn't quite hold together through the eating of it, which has long been a pet peeve of Brandy's, but the flavors were quite hearty, yet fresh. Brandy particularly loved the sweet potatoes on the side, which were a nice change of pace, having been prepared with some charred onions for an extra bit of flavor.

"Well, I must say, if this is what healthy eating looks like in this day and age, it's not so bad," said Brandy as she finished up the dregs of her matcha drink. "I think I could get to like this kind of thing on a regular basis," agreed Brocco, "Though with the addition of an occasional cheat day here and there." Though the food was rather tasty and obviously fairly high quality, Brandy did feel that the prices were a tad on the high side for some of the dishes, especially considering the portion sizes, but understandable once one took into account both the freshness of the ingredients and the location of the restaurant. "Well, I'd say we more than made up for that three dozen cookies we consumed the other day, This should put us back on an even keel." said Brandy. "Umm... I don't think it works that way," Brocco muttered to himself.

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Year's Day Brunch Guide 2017

Oak Park
Novo- 10:00 to 3:00 Featured items include short rib hash and eggs, prosciutto benedict, buttermilk pancakes with quince jam, oysters of the day, smoked trout BLT, pear and fig flatbread, and farmhouse mac and cheese. Beverages and bubbles include bloody marys, bellinis, Novo mimosas, tea, espresso and more.

D.S. Tequila Company- 11:00 to 3:00 Mimosa fairies will buzz about with their beverage backpacks refilling mugs ($16 with any brunch entree purchase) while Texan-style bloody marys will be featured for $5. The menu includes appetizers (monkey bread; trash can nachos; nine layer dip), egg dishes (hangover killer skillet; green chilaquiles; Betty Sue's chicken and biscuits), salads (cobb; BBQ chicken; taco), burgers (burgundy; barnyard; ragin' rajas), tacos (cuban veggie; tequila shrimp; al pastor) and sweets (root beer float; churros; cookie skillet)

Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club- 11:00 to 4:00 Diva Madam X will welcome guests for a midday meal with plenty of song, dance, and glitter while Chef JoAnn Witherell’s menu will feature favorites like chicken and waffles, rice krispie french toast, crab cake benedict, chilaquiles and more. Imbibing is made easy with a $14.95 drink package that includes mimosas, bloody marys, bellinis, sangria and specialty martinis. Kit Kat will also be offering $7 Stoli martinis all day.

Bar Pastoral- Ring in 2017 with Bar Pastoral’s Disco brunch and hash out plans for the New Year with #hash! The Build-Your-Own Hash menu comes with scones, coffee and funky disco beats all morning long. the Bubble Bar will be also be offering bottomless mimosas.

Myron Mixon's Smoke Show Barbecue- Starting at 11:00. David Mixon’s Bloody Mary features Tito’s vodka, Zing Zang bloody mary mix garnished with smoked bacon, two burnt ends, sausage slice, celery, pickle, cocktail onion, jalapeno pepper and Myron Mixon's Rub A Dub Dub Rib Rub rim ($16). The dining menu includes a sharable King's Feast, ribs, burnt ends, cupcake chicken, BBQ deviled eggs, brisket melt and more.

Roscoe Village
Commonwealth Tavern- 11:00 to 2:00. On both January 1 and 2, guests will enjoy a $3 Build-Your-Own Mimosa Bar with various fruits and juices and a $6 Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar stacked with hot sauces, veggies, meats and more. Menu highlights include Brunch Schnitzel (herb aioli, smoked potatoes, pickled red onion, fried egg; $14), Pig Muffin (maple pig head, farm egg, American cheese, English muffin; $12), and Kentucky Hot Brown (smoked turkey, bacon, tomato, beer cheese, sourdough, $14).  

Andersonville/Lincoln Square
Appellation- Champagne and Fried Chicken Menu for $22: Greet 2017 and recover from 2016 with Appellation’s family-style Fried Chicken & Champagne brunch. This old school country brunch comes with all the fried chicken fixings, including black eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread. Unlimited mimosas will be offered at the Bubble Bar. 

Jerry's Sandwiches- Special brunch items include Jerry’s "Heralded" Bloody Mary (house spicy tomato mix with vodka, jalapeƱo, red onion, cilantro, Bourbon Hot Spiced Cider (exotic house spiced cider with Zack Harris bourbon); Cranberry Sauced (house cranberry sauce, spiced syrup, Ransom Old Tom gin, Allspice Dram, lime juice, Fee Brothers cranberry bitters).  Southern Fried Chicken on a Waffle (house pickle, white cheddar, lettuce, maple syrup aioli) Jerry’s Monte Cristo (French toast, root beer ham, arugula, red onion, gruyere, Swiss, cracked black pepper, strawberry jam, maple syrup)

Tavern on Little Fort- 10:00 to 2:00. Brunch highlights on January 1 and 2 include the Breakfast Burger (70-percent brisket and 30-percent bacon patty, tavern sauce, bread and butter pickles, fried egg, New England bun; $15), Breakfast Bagel (ham, scrambled egg, beer cheese; $12), and Vegetable Frittata (asparagus, tomato chile relish, aioli, parmesan; $12). Featured drink specials include a $3 Build-Your-Own Mimosa Bar and $5 Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar.

Wicker Park
Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya- 11:30 to 2:30. Highlights include Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen (rich pork broth flavored with Yamaguchi soy sauce, topped with black garlic oil), perfect for ramen lovers looking for something that's hearty, rich and full of flavor, and Yuzu Shio Ramen (French sea salt, kelp and Japanese citrus based), a unique, refreshing ramen unlike the traditional ramen stereotype of meaty and creamy.

Kanela (includes all locations)- 7:00 to 3:00 Eggnog Pancake special (eggnog batter, apple cranberry compote, nutmeg and brandy creme anglaise) for $14 each. The Wicker park location will also offer a special Hot Chocolate French Toast for $13.49 featuring thick sliced challah bread soaked in hot chocolate, toasted then stuffed with homemade marshmallow fluff and topped with a semi-sweet hot chocolate ganache and mini toasted marshmallows.

River North
Devon Seafood Grill- 1@:00 to 3:00 The New Year’s Day brunch buffet costs $29 for adults and $17 for children ages 4-12, plus tax and gratuity. Children under 4 eat free. Guests have the option to add bottomless mimosas to their brunch for an additional $10. The brunch buffet spread features: Omelettes prepared to order with your choice of Cheddar & Pepper Jack, Mushrooms, Red Onions, Green & Red Peppers, Spinach, Tomato, Andouille Sausage and Ham; Slow Roasted Prime Rib carving station; a Chilled Seafood Display featuring Smoked Trout, Peppered Mackerel, Smoked Salmon, Oysters on the Half Shell, Shrimp Cocktail, Shrimp Ceviche, Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Char Crusted Ahi Tuna, and Smoked Mussels.

Cantina Laredo- 11:30 to 3:00. Menu includes Crab Cake Benedict; Chicken Fajita Omelet; Huevos Rancheros; French Toast served with Mexican brandy butter; Chilaquiles; Spinach & Artichoke Omelet; Asada y Huevos; and more. As an added bonus, all brunch entrees include a complimentary mimosa, bloody maria or non-alcoholic beverage. 

Rockit- Savory biscuits & gravy or sweet strawberry shortcake waffles? You can have both when you brunch with us all this week! We’re opening at 10am every day and celebrating the holiday season by serving up our delectable brunch alongside our lunch menu. Stop in today through Friday for a new kind of lunch break!

Taco Joint (also Lincoln Park location)- 11:00 to 3:00 Bottomless Brunch package (choice of any brunch entree plus unlimited beverages for $32 per person). Menu features favorites like chorizo n' eggs, carnitas pancakes, breakfast burrito, steak n' eggs, taco platter and chicken chilaquiles

Old Town
Old Town Social- Wear PJ's and receive a gift card equal to what you spend. Brunch will feature the 100 ingredient Bloody Mary Bar as well as classics like French toast and Eggs Benedict.

Timothy O'Toole's Pub- 10:00 to 2:00. Brunch will feature build-your-own mimosas ($4) and bloody marys ($6.50), as well as Chef Corey Grupe’s comfort food brunch fare, like Irish breakfast, pretzel french toast, rise and shine burger, and The Popeye.

Belly Up Smokehouse & Saloon- 10:00 to 3:00 Drink specials include $20.17 bottomless mimosas, $20.17 bottomless bloody marys (featuring a build-your-own bloody mary bar with wings, hot links, celery, onion rings, cheddar cubes, shrimp cocktail, mini grilled cheese, pickles (raw & fried), candied bacon, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, olives, bleu cheese stuffed olives and beef sliders) Brunch menu includes Smoked Brisket Hash (12-hour smoked brisket, potatoes, peppers, crispy onion, fried egg, red-eye barbecue sauce; $13), Pork and Grits (smoked pork belly, cheddar grits, red-eye barbecue sauce, scallions; $12) and more.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Postcards from Bunny: Last Minute Foodie Gifts

Bunny was in a last minute scramble. It was a week before Christmas and she hadn't finished her Christmas shopping, owing to a few too many hours spent in airports being tossed back and forth between flights. "I thought I had a few more days! Oh goodness, what am I going to do now?" she squealed as she glanced at the date on her phone after her latest 12 hour flight had ended. "There's only one thing for it. Time to do dive into cyberspace and spend some money! But where to start?"

That was when Bunny suddenly remembered the brunch basket Brandy had sent her in the summer. "Wasn't that an absolute treat?" she thought to herself. "Brunch is such a universally great foodie gift because it combines sweet and savory things, so there's a little something to please every palate. But I do have friends who certainly prefer one over the other. Hmmmm..."

For those on her list with a sweet tooth, Bunny eyed the Holiday Popcorn Sampler from King of Pop, a collection of 10 wintery flavors in snack sized bags. This was no decorative tin with the standard caramel, butter, and cheese dusted popcorn. No, this collection included flavors like Dark Chocolate Peppermint, Gingerbread Spice, Cinnamon Bun, and Eggnog. Bunny really loved how shareable this gift was, making it an easy present for a larger group or family. The smaller sized bags also ensured that the gift receiver could continue to enjoy the popcorn for some time to come without having to worry about it going stale.

For the savory fiends, Bunny had to get the Bloody Mary gift basket from Gourmet Gift Baskets. Not only was this a brilliant gift for brunch fans, it also made a perfect snack pack for game days. The bottle of spicy Bloody Mary mix was accompanied by nibbles and garnishes like peppery cheeses, summer sausage, sour dough pretzel pieces, and roasted peanuts. Bunny could perfectly picture a table laid out with all the fixings for a Bloody Mary bar, ready to be massacred by a gaggle of blood thirsty football fans on New Year's Day.

Bunny was mostly relieved to discover that both of these sites offered expedited shipping, meaning that even though she had left her shopping for the last minute, there was still a good chance that the presents would arrive by Christmas day. "There now, I feel so much better," she sighed. It wasn't until she had been in the air for five hours or so that she suddenly remembered she hadn't bought anything for Brandy, setting off yet another wave of panicked internet shopping. "Quick! Someone call Sky Mall!"

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

Papa Ray's or It's No Game

The Slow and Savory Review

"The holidays can wait," said Hawk with a steely timber in his voice. "Winter weekends are for football and not much else, as far as I'm concerned." Brandy took this in. When he had first called saying he needed help picking something out, she had assumed he meant a present for his dear wife, Bailey. "No, no. I need help picking up some food for the game this Sunday!" he had laughed. "I just thought you'd be the perfect person to ask about where to go." "I deal in a lot of things, but game day food isn't usually one of them," Brandy responded, perplexed. "Have you thought about some wings or pizza or that sort of thing?" "Of course, but I don't just want any old pizza and wings. I want the best possible, because if my team starts losing, well... then at least I'll be eating something delicious."

Brandy put some thought and research into this unusual brunch request before landing on a home grown franchise called Papa Ray's, which has several locations throughout Chicago, all of which abide by the same tenants of making everything, from the dough to the sauce, in house and as fresh as possible. Stopping into the little store front in Uptown, Brandy and Hawk were greeted warmly by a couple of gentlemen behind the counter. Though the location does most of its business through delivery, an effort had been made to give those coming in for a quick slice a nice, warm place to sit down for a moment or two that resembled the neighborhood pizzerias of old. "Oh wow," Hawk exclaimed, looking at the menu, "I hadn't expected so many choices. I'm not sure what we should get." "Well, there's only one thing for it," said Brandy, "We better try a little bit of everything,"

Hawk's preliminary test was the wings, of which he ordered two different kinds: traditional wings with garlic and parmesan, and boneless wings with the house BBQ sauce. Both had a really great crisp exterior that didn't overtake the juicy chicken meat within. There was also quite a bit of meat to be had, even on the traditional wings, and the fact that they had never been frozen meant that the meat was succulent and supple. Hawk really liked that the garlic and parmesan wasn't too over powering a flavor, while Brandy very much enjoyed the BBQ sauce, which favored a more tangy vinegar flavor rather than an overly sweet one.

Speaking of the BBQ sauce, Brandy had also requested an order of the Rib Tips, which came slathered in the red stuff and served over a bed of fries. This was really where the sauce shown brightly, lending a tiny bit of heat to the tender rib tips, which again were generously meaty. The fries were a surprise as well, being more than just filler, they held their own, keeping crisp even under the weight of all the sauce. "Now this is some game day type food that one wouldn't normally think of, am I right?" said Brandy. "Pizza and wings are all well and good, but if you were to lay out a platter of these little darlings for your fellow fanatics to snack on, I think they'd be pretty pleased. There's nothing like ripping into some real meat while one grits their teeth during a decisive play."

Next, Hawk and Brandy moved on to the signature Mac and Cheese, which they customized with a bit of sausage, mushrooms, and spinach. Brandy was positively delighted with this pan of ooey gooey cheesy goodness. Unlike a lot of pizzeria mac and cheeses, this one actually had a strong cheesy flavor. Rather than being coated in a creamier sauce that can feel more indulgent than it tastes, this was a sharp, melty cheddar that clung to everything, from the pasta to the fork to the plate. "My goodness, I certainly wasn't expecting to enjoy this as much as I am," said Brandy. Hawk repeatedly stabbed at the large chucks of sausage scattered throughout, saying he very much enjoyed how the bits of meat and veg ensured that every bite was its own mini adventure.

Finally, Hawk and Brandy decided to split a massive calzone, which had been filled with fresh tomatoes, spinach, garlic, and basil and served with a side of the house pizza sauce. Yet again, Brandy was pleasantly surprised by this pizzaria staple, most because of its impossible buttery and light crust. "Normally when I think of a calzone, I imagine a thick, doughy crust, but this! This is almost like a pastry crust! How delicious!" Of course, the monster had plenty of melty cheese inside, but the freshness of the basil and tomatoes really balanced things out and kept it from being just a mouthful of carbs and dairy. "Wait, how is this thing less than $10?" Hawk exclaimed. "This is easily enough to feed two people! With a couple of these at the tailgating party, no one's going to care how bad the game's going!"

And so, laden down with bags and boxes of goodies, Hawk and Brandy headed out of Papa Ray's, ready to set up the most epic football watch party outside of the Super Bowl. "I still can't believe how good their prices are," said Hawk. "I can't believe how fresh and delicious their food was!" Brandy replied. "Wait, you didn't know in advance that this place was going to be that good?" Hawk asked, stopping in his tracks. "One can only do so much preliminary work," said Brandy, "The truest test is always done in person with taste-buds armed and ready to go."

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

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hutch American Cafe or Majoring in Brunch Studies

The Slow and Savory Review

"I'm just about to call an Uber, see you in a jiffy!" Brandy's friend Bernais Bamboo texted her. Brandy was already sitting on the train, headed for River North. It was the first snow of the year and she had decided that she needed to be nestled in a cozy restaurant, sipping a drink in order to enjoy it properly, and she had invited her plucky acquaintance to accompany her. "Why is my first instinct to go outside during a snow storm?" Brandy questioned herself. "Everyone else in Chicago seems to have the opposite reaction. Odd, that."

Brandy had decided to visit the city's newest brunch themed restaurant, Hutch American Cafe, an extension of the popular Lakeview spot that started life as one of Brandy's very first brunch favorites. Entirely brunch-centric restaurants have been problematic for Brandy in the past, as they seem to put so much concentration of creating large, all inclusive menus, that uniqueness and seasonality tend to get pushed aside. "The most successful brunch menus I've seen have always been rather small, flexible, and creative without being unapproachable," says Brandy, "Trying to please too many people all at once can sometimes compromise the experience as a whole. I'd rather see a restaurant's personality shine through with some unexpected options rather than be overloaded with old standbys."

"Uber app not working, so going to drive myself. Be there ASAP!" texted Bernais just as Brandy arrived at Hutch. Seeing that the place was already buzzing, she decided to head inside and snag a table rather than stand out in the snow. True to its homey, Americana theme, the inside of Hutch was warm and eclectic, with various nicknacks hanging from the walls and ceilings, exposed brick walls, and a hodgepodge of metal and wooden furniture. Though a little cramped and a little loud, Brandy found the atmosphere actually quite cozy, so much so that she couldn't help but make friends with the tables beside her (the menus even encouraged conversation with strangers).

"Car won't start! Not sure what to do now... Will update soon," said Bernais's text. "Well, I'll just go ahead and order some snacks in the meantime," said Brandy, who by this point was already simultaneously sipping on a cup of coffee and a fresh glass of Blueberry Peach Orange juice. She picked the Tot-chos, a portmanteau dish made of tater tots covered in nacho-like toppings, such as truffle cheese, pico de gallo, avocado, and a fried egg. The tots had a lovely crisp to them at first, but broke down rather quickly under weight of the cheese, veggies, and yolk. Brandy was a bit disappointed in the cheese, which really didn't taste like much of anything, let alone truffle oil, but the pico and the sliced avocado helped to keep things interesting. She actually wished she'd opted to add in chorizo for a bit of heat, but settled for sprinkling in some hot sauce.

"No idea what is happening. No taxis anywhere and every bus is twenty minutes away!" Bernais texted, followed by a frowny face emoji. "Well, I'll just have to order an entree for her," Brandy reasoned, so she picked the Big Biscuit and Fried Chicken. The menu certainly wasn't joking around when is said that the biscuit was big, as the baked good took up the majority of the plate. It had been cut in half with the aforementioned fried chicken being sandwiched in the middle, then topped with two sunny side up eggs, slathered in white gravy, and sprinkled with crumbled bacon. Though tasty, Brandy found that the biscuit pretty much dominated everything else, even the chicken, which was tender, but not very crunchy. The eggs on top were a little under-cooked for Brandy's liking, with some of the whites still translucent and runny, but the bacon made for a nice bit of flavor to break up the dense, crumbly biscuit. "I know its called the Big Biscuit, but perhaps a little less of it would be better," Brandy supposed, "They could call it the Moderately Large Biscuit. Well, doesn't quite have the same ring to it, I suppose."

Brandy ordered for herself the Pulled Bacon sandwich out of sheer curiosity. "What on earth is pulled bacon?" she wondered aloud. As it turned out, the meat was thick cut pork belly with the same texture as pulled pork, but not quite the same tenderness. Brandy actually found the meat a little tough to eat, especially since the bun was incredibly soft and the fried egg on top only complicated the whole hand held nature of the sandwich. In the end, she found it easiest to tackle this beast with a fork and a knife, which made it much more enjoyable and a whole lot less messy. The flavor of the pulled bacon was actually quite nice, and the little bit of heat from the sriracha aioli really added a lot to the experience.

Still hearing nothing from Bernais, Brandy rounded out her meal with some Nutella Dough Poppers. These lovely little pockets were a pleasant surprise, being flaky and chewy and not doughnut-like at all, which was what she had expected. She was delighted that they weren't overly indulgent either, but perfectly sweetened, crispy, and great with a hot cup of coffee. "I'm almost glad Bernais wasn't able to make it today," Brandy admitted to herself, "Because if she had, I would have had to share these little gems."

The service at Hutch had been lovely and friendly, and even though there was a notice on the menu asking patrons to limit themselves to 90 minutes per table, she never felt rushed. The food could have used a little finesse to become something truly unique and special, but it gave Brandy enough of a taste of things to come that she was excited to see what else might be in store. "I'm here, I'm here!" Bernais exclaimed, running up to Brandy outside the restaurant. "I'm sorry, my dear, but I've just finished," said Brandy, "But don't worry. I've got your entree and some Tot-chos right here in my bag for you. Let's get you home. You've had a rough morning."

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

Old Town Social or Bloody Marvelous

The Slow and Savory Review

Brandy's quest to learn to appreciate the Bloody Mary has been a long and arduous journey. "It's a brunch staple, so I feel terrible turning my nose up at the thing, but I simply don't understand the appeal." "Well, now a days, its all about what comes with the drink," said her friend Bailey, who has been Brandy's surrogate Bloody Mary connoisseur for some time now, "People are less worried about the actual flavor of the mix and more concerned with topping them with outrageous stuff, like a slice of pizza or a whole roasted chicken." "One would think that both deliciousness and outrageousness could be achieved simultaneously and not have to be mutually exclusive," Brandy mumbled.

Then came the day Brandy learned of a rather extraordinary offering at Old Town Social: a 99 ingredient Bloody Mary bar. "This must be the kind of thing Bailey was talking about," she said to noone in particular. "Sure, you can dress up the drink all you want with doodads and whatsits, but will it actually taste good? Only one way to find out!" And so, grabbing Bailey and forcing her out into the crisp fall air, Brandy headed down to the bar to see if DIY-ing one's own cocktail into a thing of Instagram dreams could also result in a drink Brandy would actually be able to consume.

Old Town Social had a hunting lodge sort of feel to it, with high vaulted ceilings, lots of eclectic decorations, and mismatched woods and metals, yet it still had the feel of a comfy sports bar where one could easily settle in for the long haul of a football game.

The Hangar 1 Vodka Bloody Mary Bar was, of course, the centerpiece of the Game Day brunch service. From a variety of sauces, pickled veggies, meats, cheeses, herbs, and even a few oddly chosen snack foods, one could create a Bloody Mary so customized that it likely had never existed before and might never exist again. Brandy was a bit overwhelmed at first when she was handed her glass full of Hangar 1 vodka and ice and told to "have at it," but she soon got a picture for the kinds of flavors she wanted to bring out in her beverage. Leaning towards savory rather than spicy, Brandy added in elements like Worcestershire sauce, brown mustard, pickled onions, and crisp sticks of fresh carrot and cucumber. She then adorned her creation with rosemary sprigs to give it an herbal flair, and finally gilded her lily with a chicken wing, a quarter of a grilled cheese sandwich, and two strips of maple bacon. The end result was a flavor she quite enjoyed. "It's sort of like a beef stew in a glass," she commented to Bailey, who actually approved of Brandy's creation. Bailey went a bit more traditional with her drink, staying on the side of vinegared tartness with a little kick of spice from a good sprinkling of lemon pepper.

A round of delicious looking beignets soon made their way to the table, frosted in a snow fall of powdered sugar. Brandy made sure to grab one up while it was still warm so as to indulge in the full experience of biting into a fluffy, melty, airy little pillow of fried dough. "This is everything I would expect from a beignet," she sighed, "Perfect texture, perfect sweetness. A lovely way to start off a meal." "Sorry, what?" said Bailey, who was busy stuffing a second beignet in her mouth while watching the football game on the screen behind Brandy.

For her entree, Bailey picked the Benedict, which came with an herbed hollandaise, pork belly, arugula, and a fresh made buttermilk biscuit. "I really love the hollandaise on this one," Bailey commented, "And with the biscuit instead of an English muffin, it almost makes this more Southern than anything else." Bailey also enjoyed a side of potato casserole, a smooth blend of potatoes, cheese, and onions, all served in a mini cast iron pan, which she thought made for a nice change of pace from the usual kinds of roasted and skillet potatoes served at brunch.

Brandy decided to keep things sweet to balance out her savory drink by ordering the French Toast. This consisted of thick slices of eggy bread topped with tart and caramelized granny smith apples, a good sprinkling of cinnamon, and a crunchy pecan crumble. Brandy thought the flavor of the French toast was absolutely perfect for fall. The apples kept everything from getting too sweet, while the crumble really helped to make the textures more interesting throughout the eating of the dish.

"Well, I suppose it is possible to have an aesthetically pleasing drink as well as a palate pleasing one," Brandy commented as she attempted to distract Bailey from the football game on the screen, "And by being able to customize it to my liking, I think I actually created a Bloody Mary I wouldn't mind having again." "I like that they kept the food menu somewhat uncomplicated so that we could really go ham on the Bloody Mary's without feeling too overwhelmed," said Bailey. "Did you go ham with yours?" Brandy asked, "Because I went bacon with mine!"

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
Old Town Social Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato