Monthly Archives: January 2013

Egg Shack

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Eggshack is found right off the highway on the stretch of 127th St called Obama Drive. Back in 2010 it was the first street in the country to be named after President Obama. I found the shack thanks to Chef Moyo at Frontera Grill. According to my chef the shack has the best ham on the bone in Chicagoland.

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I take his wisdom to heart- Etta and I went to the far South Side. The eggs were perfectly cooked, potatoes crispy on the outside, and chef was right. The ham on the bone was worth the trip- meaty but tender and full of hammy flavor. Best I have had. The ladies who work there are great too.

Smart Museum of Art

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Visited the smart museum on a rainy winter Sunday afternoon, it was a smart choice. Greeted by a giant photograph of Indian city facing the cafe and gift shop. The few prints and books on sale were high quality, as were the statement making pieces of jewelry made by local designers. A Japanese tourist was unable to find the correct doorway to exit the washroom.

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The museum is a small and eclectic collection of again, high quality pieces. There is furniture from Frank Lloyd Wright and a massive Rothko and strange faces painted by Frenchmen. Read about a Russian artist who claimed to have been carried into the world by the talons of an eagle, dropped into the arms of a witch, who became his mother.

Aguamiel

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Chef Kike made the sauces amazing at Frontera Grill for so many years, when I heard he opened a new restaurant in Clarendon Hills I had to make the drive from Chicago for a date with Etta. High expectations were exceeded by the top notch restaurant Aguamiel, named after the honeywater of the agave plant (that becomes tequila and mezcal) which can be fermented into pulque. The place is situated in the center of town among gift shops and an ice cream parlor and abundant parking. Inside the restaurant was toasty in winter and cozy with a fireplace, hand blown glasses on the tables matched by hanging lampshades at the bar, and intriguing art including humanscale sculpture, paintings and the restaurant’s insignia in metal above the fireplace. Chef Kike’s signature sauces shine at Aguamiel. From the table salsas served with tortilla chips to the spicy brightly acidic tomato guajillo sauce cutting the rich slow cooked shortribs, the flavors were big and bold.

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The best may have been the smoky serrano chile sauce accompanying the grilled shrimp entree- deeply flavorful, complex, a hot herbacious campfire. Ceviche was a mouthwateringly acidic starter with albacore tuna cooked in the acid of lime, the heat of chiles accented by the salt of diced olives. Sopes featured rich shredded beef in buttery corn masa complimented by roasted tomatoes and onions. The food was so delicious. The 1800 margarita- blanco tequila, fresh squeezed lime, limey and bright with a touch of sweetness from agave nectar, and cadillac margarita- smoother and rounder from tequila aged in oak, orange liquor lingering on the palette, were both excellent, as was the prompt service. Chef Kike who worked for so many years at Frontera Grill has a place whose standards of Mexican cuisine and service deserve to be around for many years to come. Well done and thank you, Chef.

Ham on the Bone

topolobampo tortilla soup 3rdarm

I have been following through on my new years resolution to bring in sweets for the kitchen every Friday. I went to D’amato’s bakery and picked up a chocolate Swedish flop. Next Friday i rode to their competitor in the neighborhood, Upper Crust Bakery, for Irish soda bread.

chef moyo frontera grill 3rdarm

Arctic air brought some wicked cold temperatures to Chicago. Chef Moyo made a pot of shortrib and mushroom risotto and I ate two bowls. Had my first serving of tortilla soup for the winter, the artisan jack and homemade sour cream dissolving into and super enriching the pasilla chile broth.

Duke of Topolobampo

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I turned 30 at Boss bar with my friends Jonathan and Miguel who I worked with at Xoco. In the morning Etta made me bacon and eggs and a smoothie. She got me a large gift certificate for cowboy clothes. It was a saturday night and her food gave me good energy to be a fine dining host. After work I sat at the bar surrounded by my coworkers and friends and felt important- it a great birthday.

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Victoria brought me a piece of chocolate coconut cake topped with candied peanuts and a candle. Jordan made a $35 margarita with Riazul anejo, cognac and gold leaf. I checked in on yelp and at 11:11 became the Duke of Topolobampo. Chef Rick and Deann came over and bowed when i told them my title. To celebrate Etta and I went for hotdogs at Gene’s and Jude’s, and in the morning had brunch with Meghan at Mixteco Grill.

New York Bagel & Bialy

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What a gem- open 24 hours and cash only. I picked up lox, chive cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches on everything bagels for my sweetie’s bday. Because I had made the longish drive from the Ukrainian village, I also stocked up on lox spread and a dozen bagels, along with a half inch thick slice of halva.

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The bagels do taste like they’re made with some of that good East Coast water- toothsome chew. I also got a bottle of champagne for my sweet. Etta got a champagne bday brunch. Roly Poly meowed but wouldn’t eat the lox. We forced it down his gullet. He is still licking his lips.

Huevos Motulenos

large beat frontera grill 3rdarm

I’m back at work. Had a char cheddar from Phil’s to settle the stomach. Received my 25% off card from Bob Chinn’s for my upcoming 30th birthday. Etta turns 29 tomorrow. I have a Quake 2 match at 10pm.

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I wrote down the name of a painting from the Getty Center that reminded me of work- “Van Tromp, going about to please his masters, ships a sea, getting a good wetting.”

Guisados

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Amazing tacos- we got two plates of the small tacos with all the variations. Its all done top notch. The pibil and mole poblano were favorites- the thick little tortillas are a treat in of themselves. Adding all those delicious toppings makes it the best.

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Wow we don’t have tacos like this in Chicago. Makes me think that maybe Jonathan Gold was right. As chef Rick Bayless has said (I paraphrase) the one thing he’s learned about Mexican food is that one lifetime is not enough to try it all. The last bite of food I had in LA.

Assembling California

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For an extremely large percentage of the history of the world, there was no California. That is, according to present theory. I don’t mean to suggest that California was underwater and has since come up. I mean to say that of the varied terranes and physiographic provinces that we now call California nothing whatever was there. The continent ended far to the east, the continental shelf as well. Where California has come to be, there was only blue sea reaching down some miles to ocean-crustal rock, which was moving, as it does, into subduction zones to be consumed. Ocean floors with an aggregate area many times the size of the present Pacific were made at spreading centers, moved around the curve of the earth, and melted in trenches before there ever was so much as a kilogram of California. Then, a piece at a time—according to present theory—parts began to assemble.

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An island arc here, a piece of a continent there—a Japan at a time, a New Zealand, a Madagascar—came crunching in upon the continent and have thus far adhered. Baja is about to detach. A great deal more may go with it. Some parts of California arrived head-on, and others came sliding in on transform faults, in the manner of that Sierra granite west of the San Andreas. In 1906, the jump of the great earthquake—the throw, the offset, the maximum amount of local displacement as one plate moved with respect to the other—was something like twenty feet. The dynamics that have pieced together the whole of California have consisted of tens of thousands of earthquakes as great as that—tens of thousands of examples of what people like to singularize as “the big one”—and many millions of earthquakes of lesser magnitude.

-John McPhee

Black Market Liquor Bar

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I recommend reading Steph C.’s review of why Black Market is awesome. The Paper Plane with bourbon, aperol, amaro and lemon was balanced and perfect. Chef Antonia Lofaso was at the helm of the kitchen. Fried cauliflower was impossibly fluffy with a bright lemon aioli. Peel and eat lemon pepper shrimp were large and juicy with orange segments and more aioli.

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Chicken wings Korean style were addictive in a spicy cucumber kimchi. Arctic char with celery root, pea tendrils and radish was surrounded by a moat of brown butter- so rich. The sticky toffee pudding was huge and richer. Here’s the thing- order 1 or 2 dishes at a time and wait to see how full you get.

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