Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chocolate decadence

After Friday's jaunt into Chicago, the fam and I were eager to sink into what I was told (by a few different websites) was Chicago's best hot chocolate, a Barcelona-inspired concoction at the EasyBake oven-decored Angel Food and Bakery.  They were closed when we finally hunted them down on Friday, but the sign said they would return on Saturday so we made plans to do so as well.

It was worth the wait.

We ordered 4 regular-sized "Barthelona" hot chocolates which I washed down with a peanutbutter cupcake (yes the cupcake actually appeared to be less thick than our drink).  The chocolate, topped with a few inches of homemade whipped-cream, was thick, rich, and dark, texturally quite stunning as a sip of chilled cream and the hot cocoa equivalent of 3 melted chocolate bars mingles in your mouth.  The peanutbutter cupcake was like Haute Reeses.  
I didn't finish either but it wasn't for lack of trying.  The chocolate coma set in shortly after my first sip and bite, and, by the time I gave up, my eyes had started glazing over, the world-filtered through cocoa-colored glasses.  

Angel Food & Bakery is located in Ravenswood and is about 15 minutes from downtown Chicago.  Well worth the trip.  Has anyone tried their homemade twinkies?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lula Cafe in Chicago

Lesson of the day: If you're visiting a new city, ask an aerialist what her favorite restaurant is? I asked E if she had any friends in Chicago, and a friend of hers from ART who just happens to be a Chicago-based aerialist gave me an incredible dining tip: Lula Cafe.

I can't imagine someone creating a restaurant more compatible with my food-activist philosophies and my adventurous palette. The walls are decked with gorgeous photos of farm-fresh produce and the farmers who grow them.   You can probably quiz your server and ask them to source any ingredient on them menu.  You'd find they're all (the ingredients, not the servers) locally grown with organic practices (it can be difficult for small farmers to actually gain organic certification) and, in the case of meats, humanely raised and slaughtered.   Beyond the many many ways that supporting such establishments is absolutely vital in these days of corrupt agribusiness, I think you can actually taste the difference when such care has gone into the raw materials of your meal.  

And, one quick glance at the menu makes it clear that equal care is being put into the innovative entrees that Lula offers.  I started my brunch with a Black Sambal Bloody Mary: strong and spicy (in both senses of the word, both hot and flavorful).  My sister M and I decided to share two of the brunch entrees:their take on Eggs Florentine (with poached eggs, hollandaise, sourdough crostini, tomato coulis, and pickled asparagus) and a fascinating squash dish (Ancho glazed sweet dumpling squash, scrambled eggs, black beans, queso blanco, and pickled brussels sprouts).  The florentine was really quite perfect, offering a nice twist on a Norwegian Eggs Benedict (served with lox instead of bacon) with perfectly cooked striped bass, both flaky and savory.  And while hollandaise-doused eggy brunch items can sometimes overwhelm with their richness, the pickled asparagus (pickled asparagus?  yep!) cut through and complexified the palette.    The squash entree was quite a flavor festival and though I'm not sure it all came together for me, I really found each individual ingredient flawless on its own.  

So, all you Chicagoans and those visiting, hie thee hence to the Lula Cafe.  

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Super Heeb Sandwich (Russ & Daughters)

Had this tasty treat at the Lower East Side legendary lox-spot, Russ & Daughters.  They call it the Super Heeb.  The regular (unsuper) Heeb is an oh-so-fluffy and just fishy-enough whitefish salad on a bagel schmeared with (double-whipped) horseradish creamcheese.  The mild-mannered Heeb earns its cape and long johns (thereby becoming...SUPER!) with a few bounteous dollops of wasabi infused flying fish roe.  Though lots of reviews have praised the Super Heeb's sinus-clearing potency, I think I've just drowned too much gefilte fish in horseradish sauce (and sushi in wasabi) to be impressed on that front.  That said, it is really quite good and a nice way to introduce the smoked-fish averse to their first white-fish salad.

Oh, and did I mention that their lox are sliced so thin that if you dressed yourself in them you'd be violating public decency laws in most states?