Tag Archives: sandwich

First Slice Pie Cafe

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I adventured all the way up to the far North side, beyond Devon Ave, to the part of the city where the grid breaks down and I no longer recognize whether I’m in Chicago or Skokie, or even which way is the lake. It was a journey to hang with my friend Whitney, to go to Target and bring her cat to the vet with my car.

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We stopped for lunch at cafe that came recommended for its pie. Not that I was up late the night before obsessing over pie in my pajamas… OK I was. I really wanted some pie.  First Slice Pie Cafe puts out an excellent slice. Based on my friend’s Southern background, we shared a huge slice of French Silk. The chocolate mousse was silky as advertised.

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To balance the sweet with the savory, we shared a ham sandwich with melted Wisconsin cheddar and sundried tomato. I love how soft (yet still toasty warm) the bread it came on was. Thank you internet for a great recommendation for pie! My name is Arthur and I’m a pie addict.

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Pontual

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Following my early morning adventure, I returned to the hotel to knock out. Regrettably, I did not text my friend, who was worried all day. I finally awoke to loud rapping on the door to my room. It was dark outside. Groggily, I got out of bed and greeted Tiago, my friend and colleague from Chicago, who was on the other side! As a younger man, Tiago graduated from hospitality school in Porto. Now he had taken time away from his family visit in Lisbon, woke my sorry ass up and was ready to show me the old stomping grounds.

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Tiago was hungry so we looked into good late night snack bars. Ironically enough, we chose Café Pontual: Pontual means “punctual” in Portuguese. Unironically, the snacks here are delicious. We had Porto’s signature sandwich, the little Frenchy, made even more decadent with the addition of an over easy egg running into the slow-cooked tomato – beer sauce. We also shared a plate of alheira, pork-free poultry sausage invented by the Jews during the Inquisition.

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Reenergized by Pontual’s midnight munchies, I texted my friend to apologize and let her know that I was alive and well, happily eating unhealthy food again.  Tiago had a beer. I was too late to be punctual, but I was not too late for late night snacks at Pontual.

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Francesinha

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My Portuguese videogame friend, who I was meeting for the first time that day, already knew me well enough to know that high on the list for my first visit to her country was the Francesinha. My first night in town she took me to Requinte, in neighboring Matosinhos, one of the most respected and beloved purveyors of Porto’s signature sandwich. That Saturday night there was a big football match between Porto and Lisbon, heated rivals, and the place was jammed with band camp boy scout nerds. For us to get a table would have meant waiting about an hour.

francesinha porto portugal sandwich dipping sauce steak pork cafe requinte deliciosa

Fortunately my friend is an amazing communicator and successfully stressed the importance of the American getting to eat one of these bad boys. After placing the order for takeaway, my friend excused herself briefly. I found myself standing alone at the bar, being awkwardly and intensely eyeballed by one of the establishment’s operators. Big man, thick neck, he did not even blink as he stared me down. I sheepishly asked in English if everything was OK: worst case response, I thought, punch in the face. Best case scenario, strong man tells me the secret to winning the heart of a Portuguese woman. The guy gruffly waved me out of the way: I was blocking his view of the football match.

francesinha porto portugal sandwich dipping sauce steak pork cafe requinte deliciosa

The Francesinha shares elements of classic North American dipping sandwiches like the au jus of Chicago’s Italian Beef and the roasted tomato sauce of Guadalajara’s Torta Ahogada. The Francesinha however is more complex than these, stuffed with salty ham and savory beef, beer cooked down into its tangy sauce and lightly sharp cheese melted over its entirety… I only managed to eat half (for this I was judged harshly by both my friend and her father, despite my pleas of portion control, watching my waistline, on a diet, etc) but damn. Just writing this I wish I had the other half back!

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El De Moño Rojo

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It was one of those days. Despite the new alarm clock, I overslept and missed one of the last weekly meetings of the year. In his walkthrough, Chef Rick saw a server struggling to open a bottle of wine. She couldn’t get the aluminum wrapper off the top of the bottle, and Chef tried to help her with his tasting spoon.

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It was the kind of day where darkness and uncertainty, circular chaos, seemed to take on a life of its own. I listened to Nelly’s “Country Grammar” weaving my bike through rush hour traffic.

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Chicken Parm

 

As the manager of Xoco, I live with a dark secret: my addiction for PQM chicken parm!  Take it from someone who eats at least one awesome torta a day: the PQM chicken parm is a must have sandwich. As in, I must have one just writing this. I need one a week, at least.

  

I love that it comes with Deep River chips. They’re made in Connecticut (where I’m from) and I can’t stop eating them. The pickle is also top notch.  Get the chicken parm.  Everything else is amazing too, it’s just…  Chicken Parm Is The Thing You Cannot Not Get.

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Plan B

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I was visiting the world’s best aunty from Chicago this summer. She picked me up at the airport and drove me to Glastonbury for an early dinner at one of her favorite restaurant’s: Bricco’s. Unfortunately, it was too early and Bricco’s wasn’t open yet, so we walked across the parking lot to the much heralded Plan B for hamburgers.

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I have eaten many times at all of the best burger spots in Chicago (Au Cheval, Kuma’s, etc.) and Plan B measures up! It’s the real deal. My bacon burger was juicy and pink with tons of pure beef flavor, along with char from the grill, crispy bacon and melted cheese.

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The most awesome part was the way Plan B grinds their meat: it’s a little more finely ground than most, which seems to allow the seasoning to penetrate all the way through, making each bite more addictive than the last. My aunt loved her mini burgers but only ate 2/3. I have serious regrets that I forgot that last little guy in her refrigerator.

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Connecticut is back on the burger map! Plan B is smart, with local craft beers, complimentary pickles whose recipe seems to have to come straight from Rein’s Deli, and a juicy, unique burger. Not to take anything away from Harry’s Hamburgers, my favorite CT burger, but I’ll be going back to Plan B!

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The Richard James

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Chef Richard, legendary Chicago chef who has helmed Frontera Grill for over a decade, personally made me a torta, after I pestered him with a few middle of the night requests. It was a Torta Arabe, with pork, spicy green chile and cooling yogurt, amazing. Chef even used a secret technique to keep the bread from overtoasting, and it was perfectly golden crispy!

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Ethan’s sister Nikki and her friend visited Xoco on Saturday, and they ate at the same table that their parents had eaten at a couple years ago. Instead of a table number, it shall hence be referred to as, “The Goldwater Table.”

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Lake Placid Inn

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Etta and I loved this charming old school Northwoods breakfast joint. The woman who waited on our table kept the restaurant open a little later in the afternoon than normal to accommodate an elderly couple visiting from Wausua. Turns out she is the owner who also lived in Wausua, and they reminisced about the early eighties when Wausau was awarded the All America City Award.

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The bloody mary was punchy and flavorful and right up Etta’s alley. I enjoyed a welcome bite of coffee cake after we had placed our food orders. The breakfast was the star of the experience here. I had the Weed Bed, a fishing term, not what happens slumber-wise post munchies. Crispy potatoes and American cheese blanketed eggs over easy and thick cut bacon. The bread was homemade and richly delicious.

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Popol Vuh

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Im reading books about the history of the Yucatan because we are going there in July. During Raven Beauty’s training, I used the Maya as a metaphor showing the importance of building on tradition at Xoco. The Mayan writing system of glyphs was phonetic-based and could be used to express any thought, just like English.

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In the fifteen hundreds the Spanish burned ALL the books and persecuted Mayan writers and thereby dismantled and destroyed the entire written language. Imagine how training at Xoco would be if all the systems and standards set by leaders like previous manager Max and Chef Amado was suddenly gone.

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Would someone brand new to the restaurant look at the Bill Blair art and see the 7 dimensions of the Xoco experience? To illustrate my point I drew the 7 dimensions on register paper and crumpled it up and tossed my drawings in the wood-burning oven. But first I took this screenshot. The next day we used the screenshot to take a tour of the 7 pieces of art.

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Martin and Lionel

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Tom Skilling Blog Headline: Wet start to a wet weekend.

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Mood Scale: The father of a party that included six teenage girls approached me to let me know they were there to celebrate a 16th birthday. The young woman celebrating is a big fan of Xoco! I recommended The Bomb as being the dessert for the occasion, and they also got 3 churros with soft serve. Vanessa, Raven, Miguel and I brought it out with a candle and sang happy birthday, and the father had his wife take a photo of us presenting the dessert. That’s one for the family album!

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