Posts Tagged ‘restaurant review’

h1

Brunch Mitten Style

12.4.2010

Paul, the child, and I went to the D for Thanksgiving. And brunch must be had no matter the city. My parents were good enough to oblige us by taking us to The Gathering Place in Northville for happy morning eats.

The restaurant is located in a house (Not one that people live in, but that might be fun. “Nice robe, ma’am. Don’t mind us, we’re just here for brunch.”) Tables are scattered in various rooms with large, open windows. It’s one of those bright and cheery places that make brunch a sunny affair. This is not a hangover-nursing brunch place.

What We Ate

I had the spicy shrimp frittata. Eggs frittatized with shrimp, peppers, potatoes, and a mole sauce. It was spicy, but I still asked for Tabasco. They gave me the dregs of the Tabasco bottle—which was just as well because ooh man, the mole hit me with a bit of a vengeance. Served with toast of choice and homemade jam.

Paul went with a sweet dish, which is a bit unusual for him, especially considering they had a chorizo-based dish on the menu. He said he had plate envy, but his malted waffle looked tasty enough to me. It had apple and apple goo on top. He did cave to his meat tendencies by ordering a side of sausage.

My mom had eggs Benedict. They were perfectly formed, sitting on toast rounds. My dad went with a dish that had “sassy” in its name. It was the aforementioned chorizo dish with spicy potato-based hash. Avocado slices on the side.

What We Drank

Well, the child had a bottle during the meal, but since that’s not on the menu, I’ll stick with the adult beverages. Coffee for Paul and I, tea for the mum, and water for my dad. The tea comes in a cute individual pot.

All around yummy goodness. I highly recommend it to those driving around the mitten looking for eggs, waffles, and other assorted brunch goodies. Oh, they also do lunch and dinner as well.

Location: 505 N. Center Street in Northville, MI (south of Eight Mile Road). They have parking next to the building. Of course, it’s suburban Detroit, so parking is a bit of a given.

h1

Anniversary Dinner: LM Restaurant

11.18.2010

Paul and I celebrated our anniversary dinner last week at LM Restaurant. It’s a French bistro up in Lincoln Square. We got there a wee bit early so we could have a drink at the bar. I usually recommend this as a nice way to slide into dinner, but in this case, it might add stress to your evening. LM’s bar is really short—four stools short. As there is no waiting area at the door and patrons can eat at the bar, you’ll be lucky to get a place for that pre-dinner drink. Of course, Paul and I are the luckiest people ever so we each had a wickedly strong cocktail before dinner.

The restaurant itself is that traditional long and narrow Chicago affair. The décor is very light and airy. We went on a Saturday night at 8:30, and it was crowded but not horribly loud. They do have the problem plaguing a lot of restaurants today—the tables are pretty much on top of each other. So, we were able to easily listen to our neighbors’ conversation. Unfortunately, they were quite dull and talked about work the entire time. (They probably thought we were equally dull as our conversation seemed to revolve around Stalin and Russian caviar. Oh yes, Paul and I are true romantics and like to discuss dictators during our evenings out.)

What We Ate

Appetizers: Paul had something completely unremarkable (it must have been unremarkable because I can’t even remember what he ate and I tried some of it). I had the tuna tartar which came with espelette aioli and heart of palm. Espelette is a fancy French chili pepper. So, imagine the small tuna bits in a perfectly formed oval all spicy and yummy. I definitely won this round.

Main Course: But, Paul won the main course round. He had the roasted pork loin with macaroni gratin, swiss chard, bacon, and prunes. I know, I know, you say the word prunes and everyone flips out. Eww that must be icky like old lady food. Well, sorry, prunes are awesome especially when they are baked with bacon and put on top of the loins of an animal. And, the square of macaroni gratin? Oh, I want to gratin my macaroni from here on out. The dish was a little bit of heaven and I should have ordered it. Instead, I went for the roasted duck breast which was served with gold turnips, apple, Brussels sprouts, and lavender honey. Judging by the description, I should have been the clear winner, correct? Well, no. The duck was not crispy or flavored. It was just kind of eh. Pluralizing sprouts is a bit misleading as there was one Brussels sprout taken apart and artistically placed on the plate. Everything sat on top of the lavender honey which I loved, but didn’t realize was there until very near the end. Lavender honey is good. I would perhaps use it in tea.

Dessert: Sleepy, sleepy Paul struck again. He had a cup of coffee (served in a personal French press). I had the chocolate pot de crème (yum!).

What We Drank

For pre-dinner cocktails, I had the black tea infused vodka. Super strong and made with house made lemonade (which I would hope was house made since lemonade is pretty easy to make). Paul had the Campari martini (not served in a martini glass, by the way) which was made from vodka, Campari, orange bitters, and grapefruit juice. I was not a fan.

With dinner, we drank a 2006 Foulaquier Pic St Loup L’orphee Grenache/Syrah. It was red and winy. See? I am not a wine snob. I call it like I see it. Because I am trying to get back on the lush bandwagon, I had a glass of 1994 Roze’s Late Bottled Vinage with dessert. That’s a port, which has a very special place in my anniversary heart. The whole reason I have an anniversary to celebrate is because Paul flew me to Portugal, got me drunk on port, and proposed. (We both admit that it’s a long way to bring someone just to get them sloppy drunk, but it was all very thrilling at the time.) Anyway, my husband was falling asleep at the dinner table and I’m boozing it up. Honestly, isn’t that what anniversaries are all about?

Location: LM is located in Lincoln Square at 4539 N. Lincoln. Street parking is not the best, but it’s not impossible. Also, there’s a parking lot a few doors down (across from the Old Town School of Folk Music.

h1

Behind on Brunching: Wishbone and Tweet

7.12.2010

So, I have been getting crazy with the Cheez Whiz doing brunch lately. (Yeah, I’m that old that I reference lyrics from 1994. Not only did I do music pre-digital, I did it pre-CD. Eat that, young ‘uns.) Besides being a bit feisty, I’m behind on my thoughts on brunch.

Brunch, for those of you who may not know me well, is my favoritist of favorite meals. Mostly because you can have a sandwich AND pancakes on one plate and no gives it a second thought. Fried chicken and waffles? Oh, yes you can! And, omelets! The good lord has never invented a more perfect dish. Eggs folded with whatever foodstuffs for which you might have a hankering. Best of all? You don’t have to get up at the ass-crack of dawn to brunch. Heavenly, I say. Here are two restaurants where I’ve brunched at recently.

Wishbone

With two large city locations (and one out the suburbs), Wishbone is a good choice for low-wait time brunching. I would call it Southern-inspired (although they call it Southern reconstruction). Six of one, half dozen of the other. It’s tasty and as we live south of the Madison line, we went to the West Loop location when my mom was in town. Keep in mind that this location closes between 3 and 5, so if you like to brunch on the late side, get in before 2:30 (when the kitchen takes last brunch orders and the bar menu turns over from mimosas to dinner cocktails).

What We Ate

I had the corn cakes which are pancakes made from corn meal, bits o’ corn and scallions. They come with red pepper sauce and two eggs as you like them. And, yes, they taste fabulous with syrup—just the right amount of sweet and savory. Surprising everyone at the table and eschewing the biscuits and gravy, Paul had the North Carolina crab cakes which comes with hollandaise sauce; two eggs; home fries, beans, or grits; and a corn muffin, biscuit, or toast. So, I guess there’s enough food there for Paul. My mom went for the Louisiana chicken salad—blackened and warm chicken on a bed of mixed greens with a corn muffin or biscuit. I can’t really remember what my sister had, but she seemed to like it.

What We Drank

Sweet teas and waters all around. We dined al fresco. There’s a surcharge for alcoholic beverages on the patio. Really? You have to charge us extra? Boo.

Location: 1001 W. Washington (you know, right near where Oprah hangs out).

Tweet

Owned by the folks who own Big Chicks (right next door), Tweet has an amazingly large menu which stresses organic ingredients. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. If it’s crowded when you get there, pop over to Big Chicks and wait at their bar. They make great bellinis, Bloody Marys, and mimosas. Space is limited (with a few outdoor tables when the weather is nice). They also have a decent “keep the kids entertained” basket that they bring to tables with wee ones.

What We Ate

I LOVE their quiche of the day platter. It is always a sure fire hit for my insides. But, since I always get that and wanted to try something else, I ordered David Sharpe’s omelet. Basically, a three-egger with sautéed asparagus, shallots, and Swiss cheese. Comes with toast and potatoes (although I had salad). And, fresh fruit or compote. As I’m not a big fan of melons, I always choose the compote which contains apples and pears made mushy by sugar and heat.

Tweet has a copious number of specials each brunch period. My friends ordered mostly off of that menu. One ordered the breakfast tortillas with chorizo. It was a gooey pile of sauces and burrito fixins laid atop stacks of tortilla rounds. Another friend did the make your own omelet. Again, these are three-egg omelets so they are rather large. And, the third friend at our table ordered one of the special omelets. I can’t remember what it was called, but it had bacon and veggies tucked inside.

What We Drank

Coffee all around except for me. I had a vanilla chai with soy. It came in a tall glass plus an accompanying carafe. So much chai, so very good.

Location: 5020 N. Sheridan Road. There’s street parking, and depending on the time of day, it might actually be easy.

h1

Grabbing Some Grub Mexican-Style: Dinner at Adobo Grill

7.2.2010

You can totally tell that class is out for a few weeks as I catch up with everyone I haven’t seen in the last 10 weeks. After work this week, I got some dinner with a friend (and her adorable son) He’s not exactly eating the solid food yet, but still decided to join us–mostly because his mother put him in the car and he really had no option. We went to Adobo Grill in Wicker Park. This is their second location and a bit roomier than the Old Town spot. Plus, there is a large outdoor seating area street-side. And, since we’ve been having delightful weather, it was nice to actually be able to sit in the sun.

What We Ate

Appetizer: We had to have the guacamole and chips. The guac is made and served tableside (unless you’re outside because they can’t get that honking cart through the door). But they do ask you if you want it mild, medium, or spicy. We opted for medium which is just like regular guac and not spicy at all, so go figure.

Entrees: My friend got the fish tacos which are served with your traditional side of beans and rice. They’re Baja-style beer-battered tilapia. I had the pulled-pork empanadas. There were just two, which was OK because I totally gorged on the guacamole and chips. The sauce was a bit disturbing though. Now, it just might be pregnancy taste buds, but it kind of tasted like the sauce from a Chef Boyardee can. (I could be wrong about this because I’ve only had Chef Boyardee once, but it certainly left a rather foul impression on my young mind.) I think next time I’ll stick with the tacos or the vegetarian plate.

Dessert: We both ordered the flan. And no, we didn’t share. I’m just piggy like that. The flan is… well… flan. You can’t really get it wrong.

What We Drank

My friend had a strawberry margarita which was actually made with fresh fruit (you can see the bits floating around in there) rather than a mix. Real fruit is yummier! While I waited for her to arrive, I ordered a lemonade at the bar. They only had limeade which was fine. Until I got the bar bill–$3.50 for a glass of non-alcoholic limeade. (Sigh. I know that as a bartender, you depend on more expensive drink orders so you can get a nice tip. And, I understand, but I’m a pregnant lady. I would have given you a bigger tip because of my lack of alcoholic beverage. Plus, it’s a mid-week day at 6:00. There was NO ONE in the bar. Cheap. That’s all it is. Cheap.) I had water with my dinner. (Not out of spite, but I really didn’t fancy paying $3.50 for another limeade.)

Location: 2005 W. Division (first restaurant west of Damen, right across from the D&D and now shuttered sketchy video rental place)

h1

After-Work “Drinks” at the Bull and Bear

7.1.2010

So, first off I went to grab some grub and drinks with a friend after work/acupuncture. Since my acupuncturist is near the Merchandise Mart, we decided to drop in at the Bull and Bear. Before I even start, I need to say that they have one of the worst web sites I’ve encountered in a while. I may have been in this business too long, but crazy scrolling crap at the top and music just scream web sites circa 1999. Seriously, I have to click a link to “launch” the site? (I guess maybe they were going for a retro something or other because I certainly LOVE when the back button takes me back to the home page instead of the page I just left.) And, then I clicked over to the site designer’s site. Um, yeah falling yellow dots. Thanks.

OK, on to the restaurant—which is really a “masculine” sports bar on steroids. (Read that as a whole lotta wood paneling and mega huge flatscreens behind the bar with airing various games.) Complete masculine bar theme with young girls in Hooters-esque bright pink tank tops, and you’ve got yourself some serious mojo going on. Oh! And, if you call ahead, you can reserve a table with its own pay-by-the-ounce beer tap. What’s on tap? One domestic and one import. The domestic is NOT a local brew, but rather an ick-style Miller or Bud.

If you can wade through all of that nonsense, the food isn’t half bad. By half, I mean my comments are going to be that half was good and half was bad.

What We Ate

Appetizers: We split an order of wings (five different sauces to choose from… we went with medium). Comes with blue cheese and ranch dressing on a pretty white platter with assorted vegetables. They were tasty. Crispy skin with plenty o’ the BBQ sauce. Plus, the table runner brought us warm, slightly damp washcloths with lemon wedges on top for the cleaning up.

Entrees: My friend had the gazpacho sans croutons and I had the Bull and Bear burger. The burger was an American Kobe beef (which we all know by now is not actual Kobe, but if it gets dupes like me to pay $18 for a burger, I guess restaurants will continue to call crap Kobe) with a sweet onion marmalade and melted gruyere on a brioche bun. It came with a side of truffle fries and smoked bacon aioli. My friend seemed to like her soup. The burger was good in a falling apart messy sort of way. My irritation was the truffle fries? Seriously? There’s no way I believe you’re dropping that sort of cash to fry my potatoes in truffle oil. And, if you drizzled the truffle oil on top, why bother? They’re fried potatoes. They don’t need extra oil drizzle. Use good oil (or better yet duck fat), but truffle oil? Give me a break.

What We Drank

I had an iced tea, my friend had water. Now, this is where I would go back. You can order any of their drink specials as pitchers. Yes, you and your friend both want pink lemonade and vodka? Order a pitcher for $30. And, they’re not small pitchers either. I don’t know if this is the norm for ALL cocktails on their menu, but I imagine if you can reasonably make it in pitcher size, they probably offer it. And, they have Prosecco by the glass or bottle. (Certain people I know would find this a more than adequate reason to make the trip.)

My verdict is that the food is OK, a bit over priced, but still a cut above your typical bar food. You should go for the drinks though and to leer at the servers in their tight tank tops, if that’s your thing.

Location: 431 N. Wells Street (at the corner of Illinois). Outdoor seating available under the super huge umbrellas.

h1

Don’t Let the Overly Pink Web Site Get to You: Dinner at Province

6.28.2010

Classes wrapped up last week. For those who care, I aced both of them. But that was really never in doubt. Culinary school seems to be a bit easy on grading—show up, chop stuff, get at least a B. If you try a bit harder, an A+ in your future!

My mom was in town last weekend and my sister moved into her new apartment, so there was a copious amount of eating out. The weekend was great fun until some douche bag stole my mother’s wallet. Grrrr douche bags. Fortunately, she realized it pretty quickly and within a half an hour of the theft, my dad had cancelled the credit cards. (Not before the douche bag had charged $900 worth of crap at a grocery store and another few hundred at Target.)

But, let us move on to happier things. Like dinner at Province. The five of us (my mom, Paul, sister, sister’s boyfriend, and I) dined al fresco after having a drinky-poo at the bar. And, please, if you click the above link for their web site, do not be alarmed by the obviously crazy, bright pink. I don’t know who thought that pink was the way to go for web marketing, but they should be shot. It’s just not conducive to a dining establishment. Victoria Secret—yes, restaurant—no. And, that’s the funny thing. There is very little in the way of pink going on inside the actual restaurant. It’s a nice, clean space with white, black, and stainless steel. Tre mod, my friends.

The menu is broken into small bites (literally one bite items), and plates of varying sizes (small, big, and bigger). So, you can go in with the “let’s all share small plates” mentality or you can be selfish and just get the big/bigger plates. We went with the combo approach.

What We Ate

Amuse-bouche: They brought out a mini cup of pickled something (onion or beets) with a whipped something on top. As one of my dining companions mentioned, “Seems a bit like fruit on the bottom yogurt.” In my opinion, the whipped something was air-filled ranch dressing. My bouche was amused though. So, well done on that score.

Appetizers: We as a table shared a few o f the small plates to start. Everyone else had a tray o’ oysters. They looked lovely. By now, we all know the drill of how I was jealous and can’t wait to get alien out of my belly so I can go back to eating raw stuff. We also shared a melted goat cheese fondue with pickled vegetables and herbed crisps. Surprisingly, the pickled veggies came inside the fondue (we were all excited about dipping them into the cheese). No worries, it was still fantastic. Finally, we had the brioche French toast and Iberico prok belly with chipotle-honey syrup. Like a little breakfast sandwich. The fondue won the table’s vote, but I really like the French toast. The waiter also brought out a plate of crisps with some little sweet potato buns. (I know you pay for it eventually, but I love a restaurant that gives you free goodies.)

Main courses:

  • I had the grilled beef tenderloin with Spanish blue cheese toast on top of buttermilk whipped potatoes. The small toasts sat on top and everything was drizzled with some sort of sweet (port maybe?) reduction sauce. A bit salty, but the tenderloin was cooked to rare perfection.
  • Paul had the marinated and grilled skirt steak with potato grain and their house-made chimichurri. I can’t say whether the sauce was of the green or red variety as Paul ate too fast for me to even take notice. I think he liked it.
  • My mom went with the ten-hour BBQ’d lamb which came with roasted eggplant, chorizo, and cornbread. Yeah, this looked about that good. I’m not a fan of eggplant, but mix it with sausage and lamb and I call it a winner.
  • The sister opted for the rare Hawaiian tuna with baby bok choy, spring onions, romesco, and caper vinaigrette. Romesco is a traditional Spanish sauce usually made from some sort of nut and red bell pepper so it’s surprisingly bright orange with a bit of chunky texture. An interesting combo for the tuna and bok choy. But it seemed to work.
  • Her boy/man-friend had the pan roasted Alaskan halibut with artichokes, spring garlic, and preserved lemon. By the way, preserved lemon is one of my new favorite things. I am also a fan of using sugared or candied lemons as garnishes and sides. It just screams a bit o’ summer fresh.

Sides: We split two sides—the braised greens and the roasted artichoke hearts. The greens were a definite winner (mostly because the artichoke hearts just had a blah flavor and dull color).

Dessert: My mom and I were the only ones to venture into the dessert realm. I will let you know up front that she definitely won this round. Her dessert was, to say the least, kick ass. I had the lemon pudding cake which came with seedling farm berry salsa and frozen lemon yogurt. Tasty, but not as good as the peanut butter and chocolate flan sandwich that my mom had. It came with chocolate sorbet, meringue crisps, and peanut crunchy bits. I would go back just to eat that dessert. No joke.

More free stuff: And, finally, on our way out… free cookies. Paul’s review of the free cookies? “These are the best free cookies I’ve ever eaten.”

What We Drank

At the bar: Paul had a martini with some very piney gin. I believe Emily had a champagne cocktail made with house-made blood orange grenadine. The rest of the party had various wines while I had sparkling water.

With the meal: Our waiter made me a pink lemonade spritzer with ginger and some other fun concoction. I love it when they can get creative and yummy at the same time. Paul had Three Floyd’s with dinner while Emily and her boy/man-friend had wine. My mom passed on a second drink. She said, “No thank you. I want to be able to enjoy my dinner.” (She’s a notorious lightweight when it comes to alcoholic beverages. Score one for Dad and cheap dates!)

Last words? The indoor and outdoor eating area is big enough to not feel crowded but still feel like you’re having dinner in a restaurant and not some vast hall. Food is definitely worth the price and the wine list is extensive.

Location: 161 N. Jefferson, near the Clinton Green/Pink line stop. Street parking seems to be readily available.

h1

Saving Baby Lives Makes Me Hungry: Dinner at Flo

6.18.2010

After our infant and toddler CPR class Thursday night, Paul and I grabbed a dinner bite at Flo. I can’t really speak to the atmosphere as we dined al fresco. It was a good night for it, and my only complaint was that the wrought iron chairs had no cushions. How old am I? Very, very old.

Paul has eaten brunch at Flo before, so I asked him what type of food they served, he said, “Nice American type food. Kind of fusion-like.” I opened the menu to find, well, American but more Meso-American. Totally Mexican.

What We Ate

Appetizer: Guacamole with tostada chips: Chunkiest guac on the face of the planet. Like one quarter of an avocado chunks.

Entrée: Paul had the pollo relleno which was a chicken breast stuffed with chipotle pepita pesto, spinach, and goat cheese. It was swimming in diabla sauce with a side of rice and grilled vegetables. The breast was from some sort of mutant chicken that must have weighed 150 lbs judging by the size of its boob. The diabla sauce was hot and spicy. I ordered the Baja tilapia Ttacos. When they came they were covered in cheese and a white, creamy sauce. I re-read the menu and totally missed that they had asiago cheese on them (who puts cheese on a fish taco?). But, it said nothing about cream sauce. So, for the first time in my life, I sent a plate back to the kitchen (with sincere apologies). My reorder was the carnitas tacos. Slow roasted pork, pico de gallo, pickled jalapenos, and shredded cabbage in corn (or flour) tortillas. My choice of side was the corn salad. Tacos were tasty, the tortilla chips in the corn salad were a bit soggy and not such a good idea.

What We Drank

Paul had the Daisy Cutter Pale Ale from Half Acre (in a can). He liked the beer but was unsure of the pairing with his super spicy diabla sauce. I had lemonade. The pairing of the lemonade with the tacos was just fine. I mean, it’s lemon-freaking-ade. I wish it had been a mojito. (And, yes, I jest about pairing lemonade with tacos… everyone knows that tacos are best paired with mango.)

Location: Flo Café, 1434 W. Chicago Avenue (Bishop dead-ends right in front of it). They have some really nice afternoon specials Tuesday through Friday until 5:30.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.