Happy Birthday to ME :)

>> Thursday, October 22, 2009

(photo credit here)

Well, it's here, today is my birthday!! Jef got me a WONDERFUL present, Tom Colicchio's Think Like a Chef (it's one of two parts, the other part is in transit but apparently somehow correlates to this gift).

What I already love about this "cookbook" is its not just a list of recipes, but instead teaches you the process of how to make things delicious. When I was first starting to get into cooking, I would often follow a recipe verbatim and it would turn out good. However, if I tried any sort of variation on the dish that is where I would run into trouble (mostly if I tried to switch proteins). It's here that I understood in order to make a dish successful you have to understand how to cook each component perfectly.

Much like Julie and Julia, I have decided that I am going to cook through Tom's entire cookbook. Renee and Tom doesn't have quite the same ring so I am still working on a name (Lessons from the Top (?)), but I will say this, I can't remember the last time I was so excited to embark on a project!! I will be starting in about two weeks when I am moved into my new apartment and have my kitchen set up. So be looking for posts then!

Thanks to everyone who has continued to read my little ole blog :) This will be 180th post! Can you believe it?!


Smoke Daddy's

>> Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I can't say it enough, I love barbeque. I love everything about it, the sauce, the smoke, the fat, everything. So when my new friend Sara suggested that we go to Smoke Daddy's for dinner on our first friend date, I happily agreed. Located in Wicker Park, an area to the northwest of Chicago, this bbq joint was relatively easy to get to. I have a hard time navigating around my new city (praise for Google Maps!) so being able to easily get to this place was a big plus!

Upon entering the bar/restaurant you could smell the smoke down the street; this is always a good sign. Once inside the place was decorated just in time for Halloween, complete with cobwebs and fake spiders. We sit down and automatically I am happy as my eyes focus on the different bbq sauces at the end of the table. As I start to peruse the menu, I am sticker shocked but for a much better reason, the prices here are extremely reasonable! BBQ places can sometimes run on the more expensive side (shocking, I know), I'm assuming for all the labor that must be put into a delicious meal, however most of the sandwiches here run from $8.50-$11 and include one side, combo platters and ribs range from $11.95 to $24.95 which come with two sides- not too bad for a mountain of food!

I opt for the pulled pork sandwich with macaroni and cheese (more on this later) and a side of cornbread, which I asked be sent out immediately as I was starving and Sara went with the burger, Carolina style (which includes coleslaw on the burger).

The cornbread arrived and I knew I was in for a treat. It was about 2 - 2 1/2 inches thick and about 2 inches wide, piping hot and screaming for some butter! Never one to deny my food anything it wants, I added a heaping amount of butter and took a bite into the crunchy outer layer then just sat in silence as the sweet, spicy cornbread melted in my mouth. That's right, melted. I have no doubt that this cornbread was made in a cast iron skillet as it had that crunchy bottom texture that can only be achieved through cast iron. Furthermore, they added jalapeƱos, which as my loyal readers know, I love nothing more than a good spicy/sweet combo.

Satisfied and ready for more, our food came out quickly and we dove right in. Much like the lobster roll in New Hampshire, Smoke Daddy's understands the importance of a well buttered roll. It can provide the right amount of texture that will make or break a dish. This bun was on point. The bbq was smokey and tender, although being from the South we like ours a little more chopped and with some more fat, but honestly I really cant complain, it was tasty! Sara's burger was cooked to perfection (medium rare) and the coleslaw added a tangy crunch that I wasn't prepared to like, but did! Then I moved on to the mac and cheese...

I should preface this whole next paragraph by saying - this is why we went to Smoke Daddy's...

The mac and cheese came out in a little pot and was topped with bread crumbs. Bread crumbs you might ask? Yes, bread crumbs. Listen, I too was skeptical, but if there is one thing I know from all my dining experiences is trust the kitchen. Don't alter orders, eat it as is and you will be happy. So that's what I did, I stuck my fork in and hoped for the best (I didn't want to upset Sara). Let me say this, you have probably never heard me order mac and cheese before on this blog and that is for good reason, I just don't like it from restaurants...I've worked in the food industry and know that most places let it sit and get dried out...I am not interested in that at all. So when I ordered this I was expecting the worst. However, I found that Smoke Daddy's did a nice job of balancing the cream and the cheese and it made for a delicious side dish. The bread crumbs offered a contrast in texture that can be needed when eating noodles. Overall, it was very successful!

If you are looking for reasonably priced barbeque, and good drink specials (Miller light bottles were $2 on Wednesday) I would suggest Smoke Daddy's!

Smoke Daddy's
1804 W. Division
Chicago, IL 60622


Made the Move to Chicago!

>> Thursday, October 15, 2009

(Photo Credit: Phil Velasquez. click here)

Some of you may have noticed my tweets or facebook statuses mostly discuss Chicago now. Well good reason, I moved! I loved New York and will always love New York, and despite my move I doubt that there is any greater city, but for me it was just time. I spent two years there and wouldn't take back a second of them. However, I have a lot of family in Michigan and Jef is in Chicago, not to mention I can keep my day job, so for me it was a logical next move!

I am SO excited to see what the city has to offer. As you have read, I've been several times before, but now I really ready to emerse myself in the culinary scene. I've already had some big hits!

So Foodies, I hope you will stay with me through this journey and still enjoy reading about all of my culinary adventures. I promise there will still be restaurants, recipes and product reviews!

My first Chicago-based post should be coming soon, but until then, check out the poll on the right side about Top Chef :)


Beach Plum

>> Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dear Foodies, you may have noticed I have been a traveling fool lately. This past weekend my travels took me to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. That's right New Hampshire. While I guess I have never given much thought to this New England state, I will say that I enjoyed my stay there more than I have a lot of places. The people, the homes, the beach, overall I don't know how anyone could not like this place. Despite the brisk weather (I mean it was October) people were still out walking and running along the beach, riding bikes, exercising more than most places I have seen. I am assuming this is to counteract the amount of lobster rolls that are consumed, which brings me to the subject of the this post: the Beach Plum's lobstah roll.

The Beach Plum is located along a winding stretch of Ocean Boulevard in North Hampton, New Hampshire just south of Portsmouth. Nestled between huge beach houses along the beach, this stand (specializing in ice cream) was still pretty packed with orders despite the 40 degree weather. I was with my new friend Rachel (who writes a fabulous interior design blog here) and we were hungry. Having wandered around aimlessly for three hours in search of bikes (long story, click on the here for the full story) we both decided it was lobster roll time!!

For those of you who may not know, a lobster roll is a New England treat comprised of lobster that dressed in mayo and served on a buttered hot dog bun. Some people may chose to add scallions, celery, tomato or lettuce. I would like to think of myself as a traditionalist when it comes to new food; I want it just as it was originally intended.

So we ordered our rolls and when they were ready for pick up I think I can honestly say that both of our mouths dropped open. There must have been at least 6 oz. of lobster on this sandwich. I mean, the thing was heavy to pick up! Served with chips and a pickle, we were racing home to try this treat.

Propped up at the dining table, we quickly opened our plastic boxes and dug in. While I am not a HUGE fan of lobster, I was very impressed with the tenderness of the lobster served here. The butter from the roll added a sweetness to the sandwich that was necessary in all bites. The mayo was just a side note and definitely did not overpower the lobster (something I have experienced in lobster rolls prior to this). Overall, this roll was one for my books.

The weekend in New Hampshire was great. The wedding we were attending was full of great people, many I like to think of as new friends. We all had such a good time there are talks about going back next year just for fun!

If you are ever in the NH area, the Beach Plum is a must stop. Very friendly staff, beautiful views and great food - doesn't get much better!

Beach Plum
17 Ocean Blvd.
North Hampton, NH 03862



>> Thursday, October 8, 2009

Let me preface this review by saying that it was my last Friday night in New York and I really wanted to have a special night out and eat someplace I had never eaten. So I met up with my friend Maggie and we were all set to go to La Esquina. Upon my arrival I received several furious texts from Maggie telling me how rude the staff was and that there was no way we were going to eat there on my last Friday. I quickly agreed and we headed east, further into NoLita (North of Little Italy). It's here that we came across Public. I had eaten at Public for brunch and had a fabulous time so I knew dinner would be just as delightful.

We walk into the converted warehouse space (which we later learned everything in the restaurant is meant for public use, thus why they give you pencils and soap) and are greeted by the hostess. Now, showing up on a Friday night without a reservation is about as Taboo as it comes in the New York dining scene, however I just knew that I would be lucky this night. We charm the hostess who finally agrees to seat us, but ONLY because it's my last night. 

Starving we ordered bread immediately and sipped on delicious cocktails. The server came back and it was go time. We ordered:

  • Cauliflower and gorgonzola soup with pickled bosc pear relish and annatto oil
  • Spiced Berkshire pork loin, warm guindilla chili and spaetzle salad, chamomile poached apricots and pistachio nuts
  • Australian barramundi with vanilla celeriac puree, braised garlic greens, verjus and muscat grape sauce

The cauliflower soup was so smooth and velvety that I had a hard time believe that it was cauliflower at all. It seem utterly impossible that someone could get cauliflower that smooth. The pear relish and annaotto oil gave the dish depth and the gorgonzola was ever so subtle in the background. A beautiful start.

Our entrees came out a little later than we would have liked (I mean we were starving), but sincerely they were worth it. Maggie ordered the pot and let me just say it had so many flavors it was hard to nail down which on I liked the most, the spicy/sweet thing is always a big hit with me. I ordered the barramundi. I love a good crispy skin on a fish, and I firmly believe that you have to have good crispy skin to have a truly amazing fish. There, I said it. Anyways, the crispy, salty skin contrasted against the smooth, sweet vanilla celeriac puree was a dream. I cleaned my plate in about five minutes.

I loved everything about our evening; the staff, the food and most of all the company. We finished our night we a free glass of champagne and headed out for my last night out on the town.
This really was the perfect meal to end on J

210 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10012



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