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June 2015


The room is dimly lit, smoked mirrors reflect the light of fluttering candles. Slow and wistful jazz filters over the clink of heavy silver on good chinaware in the background. “Good evening Ma’am come right this way,” says the maitre d’hotel. The Dame saunters over the dark wood floor, heels clacking, a fur stole carelessly thrown over her shoulder – she’s got other things on her mind. FOOD THINGS. MEAT THINGS. The Private Eye slouches in a booth, a few shirt buttons undone, the attitude of a man who also has other things on his mind…if you were the betting sort you’d say they were also FOOD THINGS. “Chicago’s finest? Yes please,” and eschewing the bottles of pink bubbly reclining in a cast iron bathtub full of ice and oysters they clink their glasses before the age-old battle unfolds the way it has since time immemorial…(over who gets the last French fry).
To eat? Perchance to dream? They lock eyes and then forks over a Crab Stuffed Avocado, Bibb lettuce, Dijon-sherry vinaigrette. Between bites of tender, sweet seafood, minimally dressed, they insert bites of delicate Bibb, as unlike rough romaine or fierce arugula as one can get. Dijon dressing smacks of French salads circa 1970. Retro is delicious, there’s a reason certain classics get revisited. If few words are said over the table in the dim lighting, it is because their eyes say it all…or else because their mouths are full.
Next a sea of plates appears, enough to crowd The Dame and the Private Eye into the background. Bone-in 22 oz dry-aged ribeye, aged 30 days wet and then 30 days dry.
Shortrib Stroganoff, cremini mushrooms, handcut fetuccine.
French fries spill out of an enormous paper cone.
Elote style corn, with chili, lime, cilantro and parmesan.
Roasted tomatoes, steak salt and olive oil.
Steam rises from the enormous, hot dishes. Her eyes meet his. A question. His gaze answers it. As Cher from Clueless says, “As if.” She tosses her head, cracks open her napkin. He reaches for the steak. Let the games begin.
The steak is cooked to perfection, a warm and rosy medium with hot crispy fat. After 60 days in the clink, the meat has given up all its excess juices and is the Uber-Meat. Gamey? Perhaps. But what is life really if not a game. He courteously offers her the crispy fat and most of the meat, gentlemanly manners with a savage food, which she devours with a hungry red mouth. He got game, but he’d rather keep it off his dinner table.
The shortribs require no knife and easily give themselves up to the hollow of a spoon. Pushover meat, she snorts. No fight in that food. The characterization of the cream sauce as “light” gives them both pause, a rare silent moment in this Dramatic Dinner. If the cream sauce is “light” then she ain’t no lady and he ain’t no gent and what are they doing in a place like this at this hour of the night?! The bed of noodles has a nice bite, ahhhh food that fights, a springy mouth-feel that betrays their homemade origins. Unlike some characters both she and he know, these noodles have no secrets.
French fries are crisp on the outside and not at all crumbly on the inside, instead retaining the solid texture of well-cooked, high starch potato. She’s above all this you know. No potatoes, thank you kind sir. For these she must make an exception – when he tugs the Roasted Tomatoes slightly closer to him, she eyes the dish and reaches for a few more fries, just a few more.
The Elote corn she thoroughly enjoys, though as she notes at her third helping a Dame cannot keep a figure this fine with food like this on the daily. It is yellow as Blue Box Mac & Cheese, a memory of her distant past, an all too-healthy girlhood on 5th Avenue. Sharp lime expresses itself through the richness like the last time she wore those red shoes with that white dress.
Accent matters. Make a statement.
He, on the other hand, has sliced up the roasted tomatoes and has cleared half the dish. Incredibly acidic, very salty and luxurious, it’s a marvel that a mere fruit can taste so indulgent. It’s like that shopgirl he saw tarted up behind the helpdesk the day his gramophone went south and never came back. Unlike that sly piece (“Amateur,” the Dame snorts through a mouthful of red meat and fat), these tomatoes have real depth and complexity to them, all smoothed over with warm, salty olive oil.
At this point in the evening most tables have receded into a gentle haze of hand grasping and wine glass nursing. The soft jazz is even more distant, lulling The Dame and the Private Eye into a stupor. The 22 oz of meat didn’t hurt either. Just when you think the music has pulled a fast one over everyone and sent the restaurant into a Film Noir wonderland, there comes a “Dessert?”
Despite the late hour, despite the almost empty cone of fries, wild Bolivian chocolate cream pie sings  siren song and neither one has the will to resist. Capped with a giant mound of fluffy whipped cream, the pie is just this side of sweet. Without the cream it would have been unbearably dense and rich, a huge wedge of ganache with a joke of a piecrust to make it a “pie” the same way a pile of bacon and blue cheese becomes a “salad” with a green leaf or two. With the cream the pie just about perfect.
As they go off into the misty night, the Dame trailing her fur behind her, she wonders aloud if real wild chocolate truly is an aphrodisiac as they say. “Forget it,” says the Private Eye, mentally noting to meet his next Dame-in-Distress at a salad bar.

I'd found her there alone... all dolled up but with no place to go.  Why was this beautiful woman with the smoky eye-shadow wearing a fur during the summer?  And what was she doing in his baller P.I. offices overlooking Millennium Park?  
So I spoke.  "hey darlin'," my gaze lingered.  "Whatcha doin... later?"  "FOOD THINGS" she replied, in a blatant non sequitur.  Taken aback, I decided I'd better feed the woman immediately.
I held the cab door, and felt her hand brush mine as she entered.  "FOOD THINGS" she screamed at the cabbie.  I entered behind her.  "Bavette's, and make it quick."  
We entered Bavette's with a smile and a nod to the maitre D'.  "The name's Smith" I said.  "And I'd like my usual table."  
What she didn't know is that I had no usual table.  This was a class joint, the sort the robber barons frequented.   But what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her.  Because no bar in Chicago was going to turn away a dame like this one.  "Right this way sir... madam."  We were led to a booth surrounded by old hardwood paneling.  Mirrors dotted the room, the better to see and be seen.  And slow jazz filled the air.
The waitress caught my eye.  And winked.  What a day this was turning out to be.  More women than a flock full of... my thoughts left me as my date screamed at the waitress.  "FOOD THINGS.  MEAT THINGS."
Waiters and waitresses appeared as if by magic, placing large portions before her.  Silence fell.  Her mouth was full.  This gave me time to examine the food.  We started with ...
Bread.  An inauspicious start?  She grimaced and ignored it.  For my part, the bread was quite tasty.  Good enough to mention in my journal here; I wouldn't usually waste space on bread.
Crab, lettuce and avocado.  Delicious.  It's not meat, but she stayed quiet and smiled while chewing.  Proof positive the dish was a success.
Absurdly-long aged ribeye.  She ordered her steak rare.  Like her men, she said; I responded with a wink and a nod.  And then raised a glass to cover my gulp.  The ribeye was... old.  Tasty, but old.  Too old for me; I prefer them younger.  It was about this time I noticed that we were surrounded by the Beautiful People.  Mostly found in movies, they occasionally are seen in and around Chicago, Miami, New York, and LA.  Tonight, they were at Bavettes.  Strong arms on the men, tiny waists on the women; it was good they were in that order.  I laughed at my joke, and then glanced at her to see if she'd noticed.  Nope; she was focused entirely on the food.
Short rib stroganoff.  Delicious and of Russian origin.  Just like a woman I once... but nevermind.  This dish also met with her approval.  She was beginning to smile more.  At the food, to be sure, but hey, she did glance up at me occasionally.  A good sign.
They don't serve fries in a joint like this.  No sir.  Pomme Frites are what they are, which translate to... fries.  Quite good.  Almost as close as Five Guys, a joint that got started in my hometown.
Roasted Tomatoes were excellent.  I ate most of these, because she was guarding the steak with a knife and a glare.  Quite tasty.
Creamed corn.  Lots of cream.  Not at all corny.  Much like this journal entry, I thought it could probably be improved.
Dessert!  A solid piece of chocolate pie covered in a dense whipped cream.  I like more than my pie this way.  I eyed her, willing my thoughts to be read.  I was sure I'd succeeded when she took a dollop of the whipped cream on her spoon.  And sure I failed when she proceeded to devour the pie without looking once at me.  Where did things go from there?  The same place they always go in chi-town... back to my place.  Bavettes never fails.

The night begins


The night ends.  Or does it...?

Fish, not goose



RIP Sand Dabs

Off-menu Sand Dabs

Beets you must order


Random Sausages

This is the Fermin Serrano

This is the La guercia

This is the Colonel Bill Newsome


Publican is another Chicago institution that we were told not to miss. After our bad experience at another Chicago “institution,” (Blackbird….ahem!) we were a little bit hesitant. Were all Chicago “institutions” happy to rest on laurels? Yikes! If so, we’d rather stay away! Giveaway: Publican was awesome!
We had a guest with us, one JLau From the Block, another lady from NYC with a huge appetite! (What is up with Honey Thaddeus and ladies from NYC who love to eat?!) She had been before and had given it rave reviews, another nudge that pushed us away from our fear of possible bad treatment at Chicago “institutions.”
You walk in and there’s a giant room, warmly lit, perfect for iphone pix of food, makes everyone look good, decorated with giant pictures of fat pigs. YES. Giant pix of fat pigs. I. Want. One. A good prognostic factor! Aside: my med school roomie is a connessieur of tacos and says a wall-sized mural of the Virgin Mary & Child is an excellent prognostic factor. Never underestimate décor.
Tables are communal, with a series of standing-room only tables down the middle of the room. Bizarrely you don’t feel oppressed or like you’re eavesdropping on your neighbor’s discussion of something scandalous, or like you’re falling into your neighbor’s dish of meat. This is a bit like the invisible 2 inches of space every New Yorker has on a crowded subway, honestly you can be mashed up against someone’s front but still not REALLY be touching them…2 inches, it’s there! Promise!
We did the Tasting Menu x3, which is great because we were given things that we ordinarily would not order on our own and not so great because we were given things that we ordinarily would not order on our own. To start, we tacked oysters on the front end, 12 total, an assortment of East and West coast. My personal favorite were Washington state beauties with small, ruffled shells – Sea Cows! They tasted very strongly like cucumbers. And the sea. The East coast ones were very briny and a bit too salty…kind of like the more aggressive East coasters in general, right JLau? #newyawk
Next up, a raft of delicious hams. Didn’t I say the fatty pig paintings were a good indicator? They ranged from very mild and sweet (Colonel Bill Newsome’s from Kentucky), to slightly stronger and more cured (La guercia from Iowa) and finally to very salty, dark and meaty (Fermin serrano from Salamanca, Spain). This was all accompanied by delicious rye bread and soft Nordic Creamery goat butter.  Ordinarily I’d go for a gamey, dark and salty meat, more is more! Surprisingly my favorite was the mild and hamy tasting Colonel Newsome…It was delicate and meaty, toothsome and melt in the mouth. On the other hand, the Salamanca ham had fat that melted on the lips and tasted smokey. New lip balm? I’m gonna be a millionaire! #hamgloss
Charcuterie plate: fennel salami, pork pie, head cheese, manhattan pate, morteau sausage, pickles, mustard. Oh me, oh my. This is the sort of plate dreams are made of. Rather than this being a plate of ground of meats, each had a distinct taste and texture. The fennel salami was chewy and herbal. The pork pie was very traditional, down to the meat jelly around the meat, and had a strong spice flavor, almost like a product from Alsace. The pate was very citrus-like, the sausage was…a sausage, the head cheese had a lot of coriander. Love this sort of thing! Delicious man-made meats! Oh not to forget the giant caper berries and the sweet pickles.
Our next courses were veggies. Radish: red lentil falafel, yogurt, spiced honey and cucumber. Beets: flaxseed, tahini dressing and arugula. Frequently we have been surprised at the excellence of veggie dishes at meat establishments. The falafel was crispy with a beautifully tangy yogurt, see if I had a chef at home cooking this all the time we could be veggies. The beets were jacked up just thismuch beyond the reach of the home cook, but thismuch represents a pretty large technical and flavor gap. The tahini dressing was a revelation with the sweet beets, nutty and smooth. A home cook would be hard put to balance a plate as well, this was worth every penny.
Sand dabs were our next course, delightful little bony fishes that had been pan fried and service with lovely acidic tomatoes. I filleted them at the table, yes I did! #power Also they are not on the menu so my description lacks finesse, but they were delicate and expertly cooked, with a crisp crust encasing nice soft flesh.

Lamb: dry aged? On pea puree? Sadly this does not appear on the menu anymore so we lack an exact description. There were cherries in the sauce. The meat was tender and expertly cooked, not fatty, not tough.

Yellowtail: cherry tomatoes, green goddess, chimichurri and pumpkin seed. Ooo this was delicious. Quality fish with a delicate sear, creamy dressing with a snap. Interestingly Thaddeus' first bite was not as well-balanced as his second. The first one was slightly too sweet for some reason. The second was a mavel of sweet, savory and bitter!

Summer squash: ricotta, chermoula, crispy quinoa. There is a way of cooking veggies that the Chinese excel at. It gives you a tender exterior with a crisp interior as in a stir-fry. This is very difficult to achieve under normal circumstances. Squash confound this by being full of water to begin with. Again, this was one of those deceptively simple dishes that make you go "Oh I could make that" but you really could not. The underlying technique and quality of ingredients are beyond most home cooks!
Boudin noir: snap pea, strawberry, tropea onion, feta. Honey Thaddeus took a bite of the lovely plate of dark sausage. He chewed gingerly. He mildly inquired “What kind of sausage is this?” Now HT is very open to trying things, however as discussed before, there is a list of things that he finds upsetting and “not my favorite thing.” Blood sausage is one of these. This is ok as it means more for me. This sausage was delicious. Faintly sweet, a mild taste of iron, a juicy and moist interior, well-seasoned. Unfortunately my appetite was flagging and I couldn’t finish it. A laudable sausage as befits a meaty place!
Bread pudding and vacherin were our chosen desserts. Vacherin: meringue, strawberries and whipped cream, strawberry sherbet and tonka bean gelato. Bread pudding: pecans, dried fruits and maple sugar ice cream. Ok so I’m used to vacherin that’s a giant pile of ice cream interlaced with discs of meringue and drenched with chocolate sauce. This was…not that sort of vacherin, but that’s ok! This was a neat wedge of frozen sorbets, topped with cream, refreshing and fruity. Note I had NO IDEA what a “tonka bean” was and could not figure out what the pale gelato was flavored with…not vanilla. Not rosewater. Not cinnamon. Tonka bean? Apparently they have been outlawed in the US for years, a piece of legislation which is happily not enforced, they are delicious and taste complex. One bean, many flavors. I preferred this over the bread pudding, which was rich and buttery, but not my favorite. Bread and I tend not to get along so well. This was no exception, but if you gotta eat bread it should be soaked in custard and baked and topped with ice cream!
Verdict? Excellent. Chicago’s Publican definitely deserves its delicious reputation. At no point were we made to feel bad for not ordering alcohol, service was polite and unobtrusive. While we did not experience the same “holy moly what is this I’ve never tasted anything like this before” revelatory dinner that we do at Girl and the Goat, we would happily eat here again. What a fun place! Also we are now fat pigs and will soon have our portraits on the walls. #forthewin

Pretty asian ladies with oysters


The Publican

That moment when you happily bite into a link of sausage, chew, and swallow, only to discover to your horror that you just ate blood sausage.  Don't know what blood sausage is?  It's like sausage, only made with blood.  Vampires invented it in 17th century France.  And one out of every 1000 blood sausages contains the blood of a vampire; within a month the eater's incisors begin to lengthen.  I could tell you more, but I'm feeling this odd compulsion not to.  Anyway, I'm sure it will pass.

On to other topics.

Please notice that I went to Publican with not one but TWO hot asian ladies.  This made me, temporarily, The Man. 

It's a fun restaurant.  I'm not a huge fan of long wooden tables that you share with strangers.  But it manages to be communal without a feeling of being crowded.  Though I was on an end....  Anyway.  Noise level was pretty high.  Some people like this.  I like it less.  There are giant pictures of pigs on the wall.  Or pictures of giant pigs?  Right, so long wooden tables, noisy, and giant pigs on the walls.  Got the mental picture? 

Food:  We ordered the Chef's Tasting Menu.  (this is how they tricked me into eating the vampire blood sausage).  Mostly, this was delicious, and it's nice because we get to try things we usually wouldn't (except the blood sausage).  On top of that we order 12 oysters to start.  I'm not a big oyster person, but these were pretty awesome.  The waiter identified the six different kinds, which we immediately confused, and then argued about.  Anyway, about half were excellent.  Half were ok. If you like oysters, or if you are out with two asian women who like oysters and value their good-will more than your hard-earned money, order this.

Proshootoh was next.  My wife loves this.  I view it as absurdly expensive meat that is somehow aged for 2 years but doesn't kill you.  Give me honey ham from the grocery store any day.

Plate of various meats was next.  Half a sausage (why only half!?) some delicious sauces including a spicy mustard, and something called head cheese.  I clarified that this is not actually a dairy product.  And then I remembered Indiana Jones and wondered if head cheese meant "brain."  It doesn't.  It's apparently just meat from the head of a pig.  Somehow this felt wrong to eat, and the giant pigs on the walls were judging me.  I ate it anyway.  Tasty!

Then they brought falafel.  This was the best falafel I have ever had.  On the other hand, I have never liked falafel, ever since camp in the 7th grade where I was forced to eat this and refried beans for a week. So if I liked it, it must've been really good.

BEETS!  I actually like beets, and these were among the best I've had.  Order these.

Fish. "Sand dabs."  Order this.  Well, it's apparently not on the menu, but ask them if they'll make it for you and mention this review. Seriously, wow.  Tasty.  Beware of bones, but we separated the fish from bones with no difficulty; it's well prepared and perfect in every way.  Also, it's served like a work of art.  Included pic of bones to emphasize that there was nothing left.

The lamb was quite good, but it actually managed to be too sweet for me.  Which is rare, because I like meaty things with sweet things.  Not my favorite. 

Summer squash was also good but a little too crisp for my taste.  I think a more cultured foodie would say it's supposed to be that way.  But I just say what I like, not what I'm supposed to like. (blood sausage is horrible).


Desserts!  Bread Pudding is excellent.  Except for Mikes American Grill, which is my favorite childhood restaurant and serves the best bread pudding ever, this is the best I've had.  Order this.  The wife wanted something called Vacherin.  Had never heard of this.  Was refreshing, fruity, creamy, rich, and all together delicious.  If you haven't tried it either, I recommend it.


Overall, I recommend you try the Publican.  It is not in my top 10, but this may be because the Chef chose a lot of items I would not have ordered for myself (damn you blood sausage!).  We will return, and I will order the stuff I would usually order and a place like this.  And this review may well change to "highly recommend."


The Publican

June 2015

Summer Squash

This is the Blood Sausage.  If you look closely, you can see it lying in wait, hiding behind the greenery.  The red is either strawberries or a dozen evil red eyes, I forget which.

Only communists don't like bread pudding with maple sugar ice cream..

No one has ever known how to pronouce this dessert.

Chicago Chop House

This is actually the same picture as below, just without a flash.  Crazy difference, mm?

Chicago Chop House.

Yum.  Unexpectedly yum.  I am not an expert on Chicago restaurants. Though by the time this blog is a few years old, I may be.  Because between now and my future expert self is a lot of eating at new restaurants.  Expectations are always pretty moderate.  I have high standards for tastiness.  

Chicago Chop House exceeded my expectations.  No, more than that – totally surpassed them.  The downside – warning up front – is that this place is expensive.  Make no mistake, you go here with a date and both order steak, you’re going to be out $150 easy.  Go here with your wife and a friend only to discover the prices for the first time, you’re looking at $250 and a flinch when you get the check.  On the other hand, perhaps you’re filthy rich and don’t care?  Or you have a date that you really want to impress?  Either way, you were warned.

But if you DO go here, then Damn.  Seriously.  Have eaten at a dozen or more Chicago steakhouses.  This is top… three?  Top two?  Truly excellent.  Ambiance is top notch.  It looks like … well, an old steakhouse.  White linens.  Big bar.  Small establishment.  Clearly quality wait staff.  Best of all, there was a man who may or may not have been the illegitimate son of Billy Joel playing the piano and singing a song that night.  And we were out and in the mood for a melody, so he soon had us feeling pretty damn good.  *Coughs*.  Ok, done misquoting lyrics now.  Point is, he was good.  But I recommend not sitting right in front, unless you’re more focused on the music than on talking to one another.  Also, tip this man.  Or if your name is Bob, please become a friend of his, and give him a drink for free.  … Ok, now done.   

Our friend and my pretty wife started with a salad.  This was the friend’s idea.  The wife rarely eats salads.  That said – damn.  Incredible.  It had … bacon?  And I’m pretty sure there was lettuce.  Look at her description for the details.  The point is, order this.  

Our friend then suggested a filet mignon to share with my wife.  This made my wife secretly sad, because she does not like filet.  And because she likes her own, very large steak.  Because I am an awesome husband, I ordered the extra-large dry-aged bone-in ribeye.  This is what she would have ordered.

Anyway, the filet was fine.  No, that’s not giving it enough credit.  Filet was excellent.  They ordered it with this “Ahhhooo Poignant” sauce that was apparently a variation on the norm.  (I think she spells it correctly on her side.)  I did not much care for the sauce. Rich, but… I don’t know. It was too much.  The filet was already rich and smoky and wonderful in all ways.  The sauce overpowered and distracted from the meaty goodness.  

The ribeye was the best ribeye I’ve ever had.  It’s also probably the reason I was less enthusiastic about the filet.  How could the filet be good, after I had that first bite of ribeye?  Yum.  Order this.  Oh, and they have “Mishima” steak, which is apparently like normal steak but from happier, vegan, well-kept Real HouseCows of Orange County type cows.  But these are apparently wet-aged, rather than dry aged.  And the waiter recommended the dry-aged, bless his heart, even though it was cheaper.  So order the dry-aged, like all sophisticated eaters should.

We also ordered the family-size truffle mac and cheese, vegetable of the day (brussel sprouts) and a small order of onion rings.  First, these are all huge portions.  Family mac and cheese is served on a platter like a foot wide.  Delicious, with that sort of cheesy crust on top that gives it texture and rich creamy goodness underneath.  I didn’t really get the truffle taste though.  Nor did they.  Brussel sprouts were also very good.  To this day, I don’t know if my tastebuds have changed or if my mother simply didn’t know how to cook Brussel sprouts.  Mom was an excellent cook though, so I’m guessing it’s the tastebuds.  Anyway.  Order these.   

Each steak came with a single onion ring on top.  The waiter warned me about this, and said that I wouldn’t want more onion rings.  He was wise, but he was wrong.  I ate LOTS of onion rings.  The small order came with a huge plateful though, so keep this in mind.  For more rational lovers of onion rings, the one that comes with each steak is probably fine :)

Anyway, this place rates two thumbs up.  We won’t go here often, because we’re just not that rich.  But for special occasions, or when our dear parents come to town and want to treat….?  Hell yes.  

Chicago Chop House


June 2015


There are times when friendship surmounts all other things. Even your stomach! Takes a special person for that to happen and we were so fortunate to have such a guest dine with us at Chicago Chop House. She’s a tall, smart, funny, beautiful person and Dean Mancall of one small liberal arts college in Cambridge, MA gets a big thank you from me for matching us up the summer before freshman year. (NB: only later did I find out that my housing application scared the bejeesus out of the administration and she was matched with me because she seemed…easygoing!) Let’s call her My Lovely Friend (MLF)…erm….nevermind, let’s call her My Beautiful Friend (MBF). 

We wanted her to have a true, old-school Chicago steak house experience and Chicago Chop House was the perfect place. First of all it looks like a steel baron’s Gilded Age residence. You walk into a real foyer, there is a narrow staircase ahead, there is carpeting, there is lots of heavy wood. Bewhiskered old white men glare down at you from faded photographs. 

Clearly this is not a place where they serve egg whites. WIN. 

We sit down and are serenaded by live piano music and a gent singing Billy Joel and Nine Inch Nails. We kid you not. Also note MBF recognized the NIN, we are not cool enough for that. We scan the menu, our waiter helpfully lets us know how much is too much to order and then it happens: “How about the filet to share?” MBF asks. Ok. Filet. As I’ve mentioned before, I generally think of filet the way Nigel Slater does, “the footballer’s wife, not an ounce of fat and with debatable taste.” HT catches my eye across the table and comes to my rescue by ordering the biggest dry-aged ribeye the waiter will permit us, with a tomahawk bone coming out of the side. He orders this because he knows in my heart of hearts I was thinking about it. This is what marriage is – knowing your spouse’s meat order. #truelove #chivalrylives 

MBF also suggests a salad to start. Unfortunately most of the salads have too many vegetables for me or too much meat for her, but we find a happy medium in the Organic Baby Heirloom Spinach with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, topped with Candied Pecans, Feta Cheese Crumbles and Applewood Smoked Bacon. Aaaaaand we’re off to a flying start! The spinach is red-leaved, the dressing is indeed warm with a lovely smoky flavor, there is an excellent balance of creamy cheese, crunchy, nutty pecans and salty bacon. “Wow,” said we. If you must order veggies at a steakhouse, this is the way to go. 

Luckily MBF suggests a topping for our shared filet, which is au poivre. At Chicago Chop House, this does not mean “crust with peppercorns.” It means “do that crust but also smother with mushrooms in a rich demi glace and serve on a bed of creamed spinach.” Ooo my! Now there are 2 schools of thought about this, one says that if you a lovely dry-aged piece of meat (my own personal preference), why bother tainting the pure meat taste with a sauce/glaze/crust, etc. Most of the time this is my school of thought. On the other hand, for a piece of meat with less natural flavor, like a filet, sometimes dressing it up is helpful. This was definitely the latter! The filet, which was 10 oz, dry aged and cooked to perfection with a warm red center, was infinitely more tasty with this fancy-pants coating on it. If I’m compelled to eat filet, it better be this way! (Do I sound weird? Who is “compelled” to eat filet?! I sound like our friend who grew up behind the Iron Curtain and was literally “compelled” to eat Beluga caviar because there was nothing else to eat and now she can’t stand it!)

HT on the other hand, has triumphed with his enormous, tomahawk steak, ordered specially for his wife! Also dry-aged, it’s fork tender, cooked exactly to a lovely medium, enough to make the fat all crispy and runny, but still red and meaty in the center. I steal some large pieces of fat, which my devoted husband has kindly saved for me. What a steak!  Dry aging is def the way to go, it concentrates all the goodness of the animal, so you’re eating the Ultra Meat. 

For sides we indulge in the family-size truffle Mac & Cheese. Sure as HT loves a gooey chocolate dessert, I will gravitate to the Mac & Cheese. Growing up we were only allowed to eat this on birthdays, so it’s a celebration food. A vast, hot dish is placed in front of us and sure if we don’t end up eating almost the whole thing! It has a delicious sharp cheese flavor and the pasta is not a nasty mush, but where’s the truffle?! Maybe they added the truffle oil before baking and it burned off? If the oil is the fake stuff that might be the case. =\ Either way, this was delicious!

Our other sides were onion rings and roasted Brussels sprouts. The onion rings were delicious, expertly fried, greaseless, but with a heavier batter coating than I was expecting. Did I abstain from mowing through them? I think not! Our concerned waiter kindly let us know that each steak order came with one giant onion ring gratis, but clearly we needed more. The sprouts I sorely neglected – confronted with a vat of Birthday Celebration Food and something fried, why would anyone head for the vegetable?! On the other hand, they do sprouts right. In fact, they might be as good or better than the ones we make at home. They’ve been roasted to a crisp so all sulfurous tastes are gone and there’s a lovely roasted butter finish. Diet food? No. Tasty food? Yes. 

Normally after this there would be a cursory look at a dessert menu. If there was a gooey chocolate dessert HT might suggest ordering it. After our massive meat, however, we waved the white flag and happily surrendered to a cab ride home and a sound sleep. MBF enjoyed herself very much….and didn’t need to eat for the next few days afterwards methinks! 

We recommend Chicago Chop House for all your meaty needs! (We also recommend you have your parents take you out as this meal did not come cheap….thank you dear husband!) 

This space reserved for the dessert that we regret we didn't have.

My ethnically Korean wife raised by a white American hippie who married a british hippie feels homesick for Vietnam… having been there exactly once.  On the other hand, she is a crazy person, so she can feel whatever she likes.  And it’s true, Vietnam was fantastic. Delicious foods, and you could eat your fill for maybe five dollars.  
Le Colonial is not Vietnam.  Tasty, quality, but not excellent.  Décor was pretty great though; see her description because she does it better than me.  Great date spot.  Dimly lit, good atmosphere, fancy without being pretentious.  And again, don’t let my less than enthusiastic summary of the food from stopping you; I just have very high standards for tastiness, and while this place was quite good, it was not the best.  Plus, you pay about 10 times what you’d pay in Vietnam.
We ordered two appetizers that I can’t spell or pronounce.  First was, I thought, grilled shrimp in sugar cane atop rice noodles and herbs.  Nope.  Grilled shrimp “paste.”  Paste.  As a child, I’m pretty sure we’re told not to eat this.  I do not understand why you would take a perfectly good shrimp, mush it into paste, and then put it back into a semblance of shrimp before frying it around a piece of sugar cane.  Anyway, this was… fine.  You take the shrimp paste off the sugar cane piece, and then put it in some lettuce with herbs and eat it.  Eh.
Second appetizer – ribs.  I had just come back from Kansas City, where I had delicious ribs while listening to an 80 year old jazz player sing and play the blues.  So perhaps I was spoiled.  But really, these ribs are tough.  They were also “charred” which I still can’t distinguish from “burned.”  The seasoning was fine, but… well look, the Carolinas, Texas, and Kansas get into big arguments about bbq.  Do you ever hear of Vietnamese bbq entering the picture?  No.  Because it’s not that good.
Entrées!  These were the first tasty dishes.  Quite good, really.  My extremely expensive Chilean sea bass was pretty great.  Tender, full of taste, a bit of spice.  Yum.  Served over more rice noodles.  Rice noodles were just ok.  Mushrooms and a couple of tiny veggies were in there too.  Dish lacked some oomph, but again, quite good overall.  Perhaps not for the price.
She got BBQ pork served over … more rice noodles.  The pork was actually pretty tasty, but there wasn’t really all that much BBQ pork to go along with the rice noodles and various herbs.  So while I really liked it, I only got a couple of bites.  
Perhaps because it was forgettable, she forgot about the Extra rice noodles we ordered – back when we didn’t realize that every single dish consisted mostly of rice noodles.  These were “crab” rice noodles, and did appear to have a tiny bit of crab in them.  Again, they were fine but not excellent.
Dessert!  This was the one truly enjoyable part of the meal for me – aside from my three bites of bbq pork.  The chocolate cake was quite dense and packed with chocolately goodness. The creamy alcoholic stuff that they drizzled around the cake complemented it nicely.  And the two scoops of vanilla gelato made the dessert really quite perfect.  By itself, I would find it much too rich and chocolaty.  I mean, fisrt bite would be good, but then my tastebuds would be tired.  So do as we did:  order two desserts and combine them into happiness.
And to end on a similar note – “will we return for a tasty, gentle meal and a knockout chocolate dessert?” she asks.  “Absolutely!” she says.  “Meh!” say I.  If we do go back, I’m going to order all different things.  Or just four desserts. :)

This is going to sound totes ridic, but we went to Vietnam for a week…and since then I’ve been homesick. WHAT WHAT WHAT?! Weird. NYC is my hometown, and I always miss it, but There’s Just Something About Vietnam. Is it the mix of east and west? Nah, Singapore has that too. Is it the beautiful people striding around in the bright sun and white heat? Perhaps. Maybe it’s the scent of the coffee mixing with the fragrance of steaming, simmering star anise? Either way, Vietnam is intoxicating.
In fact when we got back I had a hard time eating because everything tasted bad and flavorless. It was like a bad breakup. Very emotional and involving weight loss! =\
The remedy has been me experimenting with bowls of broth and floating random herbs and noodles in it in a vain, but valiant attempt to capture the taste of my lost love…drama queen. Sigh. Kind of true though. Large bowls of soup with things floating in it are delicious, as are augmenting the taste of noodles and meat with the fresh bite of herbs.
Another remedy we haven’t really tried is eating out. Le Colonial was an attempt to eat out….like dating someone who Looks Just Like your ex? Does it work? Perhaps. Le Colonial was independently tasty but nowhere near the magnificence of Vietnam.
To start, we got Cha Tom: grilled shrimp paste wrapped around sugar cane bits, served with steamed rice noodles and fresh herbs. Cowabunga! Scrape the paste off the sugar cane, wrap it up in a bit of lettuce with sprigs of fresh herbs, relish the charred bits, dunk in sauce. Repeat!! It was just enough of the Lost Taste to make us smile. On the other hand, there were only 5 pieces and the shrimp paste was a little dry and lacking a courageous flavor. In Vietnam, such a dish would be popping with funky fish flavor, and oozing punchy spice. This was…shrimpy. And herbal. But lacking in courage.
Our second appetizer was Suon Nuong, baby back ribs flavored with lemongrass. This I liked very much! Strident flavors! Aggressive seasoning! A lovely balance of sour, herbal, fatty, charred and sweet. HT on the other hand is not a fan of meat on the bone. Also he likes tender meat. This was meaty, but not tender. (May I also point out I ordered a giant bowl of bun rieu in Saigon, HT stirred it once and a whole pigs foot came floating to the surface. This upset him considerably. I drank the soup and chewed the foot and expounded at length on the benefits of eating collagen. HT ate the appetizers.)
Next up we got 2 entrees, HT had Ca Hap, steamed filets of Chilean seabass with cellophane noodles, oyster mushrooms, tomatoes and scallions in a light soy ginger broth. I got the Bun Thit Nuong, barbecued pork over noodles with mesclun greens, lime fish sauce and peanuts. Both dishes were tasty, but not the eye-popping fresh and flavorful tastes of Vietnam.
HT’s fish was meltingly tender and flaky, swimming in a savory light sauce with large chunks of mushrooms that we locked chopsticks over. The noodles were delicious, not gummy or chewy at all, they had a nice spring to them in the mouth. However, it was a mild and gentle dish. Where was the ka-pow?
My BBQ pork actually came the closest to evoking the real Vietnam. It was charred and fatty and had an aggressive saltiness with herbal notes. Yes! This was the best! HT liked it the best too. We dunked everything in the fish sauce, nibbled noodles and greens with the meat and had a lovely time.
We also note that the setting was idyllic. Set in a townhouse, large, lazy fans and giant palm fronds take you back to pre-war Vietnam…a time when the French lived idly and the Vietnamese didn’t fare so well. =\ Ever seen Apocalypse Now? Remember when they encounter a French enclave in the jungle? This looks like the house.
Next – HT cannot resist a gooey chocolate dessert! Together we need double or triple the ice cream. To address these needs, we ordered the chocolate mousse cake and vanilla gelato. What a delicious combination! The crème anglaise accompanying the cake was just perfect, a crisp bite of alcohol to cut through the richness of the vanilla. Most commercial crème anglaise misses that part by a mile. The tangy raspberry sauce complemented the chocolate. Also that gelato is hella rich….by which we mean 3 scoops was barely enough for us to eat the 1 piece of cake with. =P Despite my dear HT’s protests about “subtlety” and “minimalism,” words I barely understand the meaning of, sometimes more IS more!
So will we return to colonial days at Le Colonial to assuage my bizarre homesickness for Vietnam? No, we won’t. But will we return for a tasty, gentle meal and a knockout chocolate dessert? Absolutely!


Le Colonial, Chicago

March 2015


Le Colonial

There was once a really smart Englishman who said something about how names didn’t matter, about how a rose, if you called it something appalling like “ashenputtel” would still smell delightful, etc, etc. This is mostly true, however please be honest with yourself and ask how seriously would you take a heart surgeon named “Dr. Love.” Uhhh… HAHAHAHA! Now ask yourself how seriously you’d take 2 big eaters going to review a place called “Planet Sushi” and loving it. Ahem! 

The name is not promising. It sounds like a Times Square horror show complete with jacked prices, poor quality and way too much neon. The food is surprisingly good. Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, please pretend the name is “ Omakase Incroyable” or “Hattori Hanzo Izakaya for the rest of the review…..

You walk in and are greeted by way too much neon. Unpromising. The menus are laminated pictures, colorful as if for pre-schoolers. Unpromising. There’s even an abomination called “Sushi Pizza” for crying out loud. Unpromising. So you order a school of fish and don’t hold your breath. 

Lo and behold, the miracle occurs and you discover the next Andrea Boccelli singing in a high school musical in Cupcake, NE (pop. 500). Coconut shrimp soup arrives first, a gentle bowl of savory, umami-tasting broth with a hint of green coconut milk in it. Not at all sweet, just nutty. Tender (real) shrimp and a touch of Japanese chili on top finish the dish. The ingredients include dashi, kombu, white miso, real unsweetened coconut milk. Wow. Our palates are primed. What else does this place have in store?

A true measure of a sushi establishment is the rice. In truth we eat a lot of bad sushi, even at “upscale” sushi places, the rice is mushy, the rice is cold, the fish is good, but the rice is neglected. A bowl of salmon tartare with avocado arrives, on an unsurpassed bowl of white short grain rice. The texture was perfect, separate grains with just enough bite and no extra moisture. Vinegar and kombu had been judiciously added to give a ghost of sourness to the barely warm grains. Just above room temperature, the warm rice brought out the fatty flavor of the fish without coming close to cooking it. Ridiculous. Now we’ve found the next LeBron James shooting hoops in Okinawa, Japan. WTH. 

Next, an assortment of rolls, specialty and otherwise. One roll features no seaweed, just fresh salmon sliced paper-thin. Salmon and rice and salmon. Divine. It melts in the mouth and we want more. Another one has no rice at all, just seaweed and fish. This one is a bit too weighty even for dedicated fish eaters. Rice please, since when did carbs become the devil? 

The “Dancing dragon” featured shrimp tempura and asparagus, both perfectly cooked. The asparagus had a delicate crunch but miraculously had the same texture as the shrimp. The Rainbow roll we actually ordered with unagi on the inside instead of crab stick. Gross crab stick. The tuna was disturbingly red (nitrogen gas?) but it was very tasty and savory.  We struck out with the “Planet red” which was filled with some sort of “baked seafood mix.” No-name squirmy, sea creatures ground up and baked? We should have known better. On the other hand, the rolls barely held their shape, the rice was still a miracle of texture and temperature and we enjoyed ourselves. 

We cave and order the Sushi Pizza. When will we be here again, where have you ever seen such a thing, etc, etc. The rationalization continues. In truth, we are curious. A disc of rice arrives, lightly battered and fried, then schmeared with a delicate layer of spicy tuna, avocado and more Japanese chili. What a curious thing! Every ingredient is Japanese, yet they’ve been put together in a way that defies every notion of purity, elegance and minimalism. What perversion! If Jiro-style sushi is Audrey Hepburn, this pizza is Lil’ Kim. 

Did we leave any behind? I think not! Crunchy rice, fatty, salty fish and a touch of spice. What’s not to like? Also, if it tastes good, eat it. Sometimes Lil’ Kim is just what you need in your life. 

Dessert? Why not. Coconut sorbet arrives in a coconut shell bowl and we fight over the last spoonfuls. It’s not too sweet and there are REAL bits of coconut in there! One last maki – banana and Nutella wrapped in a wrapper made of paper-thing tamago. By now our eyes are glazed over with neon and Lil’ Kim, but we try it and you know what, it’s not bad. A bit too much at this point, we would rather have had one of those salmon-wrapped rolls again. I lick all the Nutella off and call it a day. 

So Planet Sushi will also be on our roster of “See you soon” Miami places. For those who would scoff at our patronage of such an establishment, go for the salmon-wrapped roll, the tartare and also when was the last time you listened to Lil’ Kim? 


So look, she’s the educated food critic sort with the dozens of food blogs she follows along with watching food tv.  I’m the uneducated but willing-to-try-anything-once tag-along who manages the website and pays for her food.  And the contrast has never been more on display than in this post.

I can comment in broad terms.  This place was indeed incredible.  We’ve been to other sushi joints in Miami.  This is the best.  We also went around 4pm and had the place to ourselves.  Perhaps the food is better when the sushi chef devotes 100% of his attention to you?  Anyway, it’s also the highest rated sushi place on yelp, if by a small margin.

But when it comes to the specifics I’m simply not capable of intelligently commenting on sushi preparation.  Give me a hamburger and I’ll tell you if it’s been properly cooked medium.  I have a solid dozen ways to cook velveeta shells and cheese.  But I don’t even know half the words she’s using to describe these dishes, and she had to explain more than one of her jokes.  (For those of you like me, “Omakase Incroyable” translates to “incredible chef’s tasting menu” and “Hattori Hanzo” refers to the legendary sword maker of Kill Bill, while “Izakaya” means “drinking establishment and snack bar.”)  To be clear, these are AWESOME names for a sushi place.  But I’m not capable of multilingual puns.  I have enough trouble with English ones.  On to the food.

The shrimp and coconut milk soup was outstanding.  A hint of spice, lots of savory, a hint of sweet from the coconut milk.  The shrimp was not overcooked, which almost all restaurant soup shrimp seems to be.  Beautiful soup.  I wanted more.

I had apparently never had totally authentic sushi rice.  Or at least, I don’t remember ever having rice of this precise temperature.  I think my sushi rice is usually cold, or perhaps the same temperature as the fish.  This was distinctly warmer than the fish, but apparently (she says) not enough to accidentally cook anything.   I didn’t think I’d care, but it actually makes a difference.  It’s like hot fudge on ice cream, as opposed to hardened chocolate chunks.  It matters.

Anyway, quick rundown on the individual items.  Salmon tartare was best I’ve ever had.  I don’t usually order this, because it fails to disguise the raw fish as something other than raw fish.  And I’m a white guy from the suburbs.  I don’t eat raw fish.

Favorite roll of the evening was an inside out salmon roll.  Extremely thin cut salmon was wrapped around a rice center, with a bit more salmon inside the rice.  The thinny.. thinned..  thinness?  actually contributed to the taste.  Melted in my mouth, and then the slightly warm rice mellowed the flavor.  

Specialty rolls were Great.  Dancing Dragon roll was perfect.  Asparagus isn’t something I usually get in rolls, but this was really good.  Rainbow roll had unagi (cooked eel) instead of crab stick, because “crab stick” sounds awful and tastes worse.  It’s not even made of crab.  Planet Red had a cooked center of some mix of seafood.  The waiter literally described it as “we mix everything leftover and cook it.”  It tasted much like its description.  Do not order this.

Sushi pizza!  First, its fun.  Second, it’s tasty.  Third, the rice is fried in a way that lets you actually pick it up in slice form and convey it to your mouth.  Overall, this was not my favorite here, but add a bit of soy sauce; it helps.  




Planet Sushi, Miami

March 2015


planet sushi
Planet Sushi
planet sushi
planet sushi
planet sushi
Planet Sushi Miami

This space dedicated to Stephanie Izzard, the brilliant chef who makes peoples' taste buds happy -- but only at 4:30 pm or 11:00 pm, Monday through Sunday, because you can't get in any other time.

As experienced and jaded Big Eaters, it is common for us to find things delicious. It is less common for us to find something that makes us pause and go “Wait what was that?!” Girl and the Goat is just such a place. We have now been several times over 3 years. The first time was revelatory – it literally showed me that food could taste brand new ways. Each time we have discovered new flavors and new taste combinations. Stephanie Izzard is an artist. With her tongue….Erm, but not in THAT way gutter-brains!


We also note here that it seems silly to order food out that you could make at home, likely better than what you’re eating. NOTHING we ordered at Girl and Goat could we have made at home better than what we ate out! Nothing! This is rare for us. Each dish made it look easy, but the balance of tastes and ingredients was carefully calibrated and unlikely to be successfully duplicated in a home kitchen.

The major difficulty is getting a reservation. Booking Girl and the Goat through Open Table one finds a reservation 6 weeks out…at 11 pm. On a Tuesday. Ouch. That’s way past our bedtimes. We recently decided to try strolling in right at 4:30 pm when they opened. Surely other foodies do not eat so early? Surely we could get 2 seats (doesn’t matter where, we’ll sit on the floor in the kitchen if only we get to eat!) without much trouble? We did! We ambled with impunity up to the front, said we had no res, but was it perhaps possible…? And with every courtesy the host said of course we could sit right then, but he needed the table at 6:15 pm. Absolutely. To take someone else’s dinner away from them at Girl and the Goat is just criminal!

So every time we go we get a lecture on how it’s small plates, you’re supposed to share, etc, etc. Each time we sit there impatiently, menus flapping, just waiting to order already and start eating. This time we outdid ourselves. Ten plates. Yes, ten. Recommended is 4-6 for 2 people. We like our food.


To start, the Oven Roasted Spanish Mackerel, green papaya salad and tarragon nuoc cham. Stephanie Izzard has a rep for being a meat girl, and yes the lady does meat well, but this fish was just amazing. Mackerel is a strong oily fish. Americans tend not to like strong tasting fish. Their loss. This fish was flakey, crispy on the outside, with a tangy, fresh, green tangle of papaya. Another flavor Americans tend not to like is Sour. Or Bitter. This dish made excellent use of lime juice and its Sourness cut the oily fish beautifully. Fish without salt is poor eating, the nuoc cham balanced out the sour, fishy, oily, fresh taste to perfection.

Honey Thaddeus has a weakness for short ribs. Next up, Crispy Beef short ribs with avocado, ruby red grapefruit chermoula. The kitchen’s technique is flawless. Not just what the kitchen does but HOW they do it. Is it economical? Elegant? Yes. These ribs were perfect cubes with a perfectly even crisp exterior on ALL sides. ALL sides! Ever tried to evenly brown something on 6 sides at home? Not so easy. Ever tried to do it such that the inside is fall-apart tender? Ha. Thought so. Again, the use of sourness was well-placed. It complemented the rich meat and the fatty avocado in the mouth. One hilarious comment from my white man husband: “Where’s the fat?” HAHAHAHA! I have improved his life! Americans are also comically repulsed by meat fat and tend to cut it off and leave it on the plate. Missing out. HT is now used to eating a small bit of savory, rich meat fat with his lean meat, and missed the richness with these shortribs, which are entirely and unusually fatless.

We applaud the use of goat meat. Goats are cheap, annoying and loud. Cows are large, pricey to feed and picky eaters. #dislike Stephanie Izzard makes the world like goat with her Goat Empanadas, huacatay, grilled mushroom giardiniera, queso fresco. We usually get these when we come and each time the accompaniments are different. How nice! On the other hand, hard to beat the incredible chickpea puree they came with our First Time! #lesigh The exterior of these delightful meat pies is always crispy and greaseless. The goat interior is rich and savory, not a gristley bite to be hard. We would eat these for days. Munch, munch.

Not so bizarrely Honey Thaddeus wasn’t such a big fan of this next dish. I was. Grilled pork belly, castelfranco, sauce green, blood orange. Actually that’s not fair, Honey Thaddeus has also developed a weakness for pork belly, under my careful supervision. =P Now he makes a beeline for it on the menu should he see it and we both hope it’s meltingly tender and rich. This was not. This was slices of fatty meat tossed on a grill. YUM. WIFE LIKES. WIFE ATE IT ALL. HT had some, admired the well-balanced flavors and then left it to the wife. Make no mistake, there was care and attention paid. A fresh-verdant green sauce, a tiny hint of sweet and little sour from the blood orange. Wads of smokey-tasting fat. PERFECT FOR WIFE. This is the stuff dreams are made of. To HT this was a bit too much fat, and the stuff a bigger pant size is made of. Oh well. MORE FOR ME.

This next dish was the revelation of the night - confit goat belly, bourbon butter, lobster n’ crab, fennel. To give you an idea of how good this was, we ordered a SECOND ONE on top of everything else. It was just too good to let GO! Tender goat meat, lumps of lobster, a schmear of crab on the plate, topped by peppery fennel shavings. Also that sauce on the plate was rich fat, flavored with bourbon, which tasted like vanilla. That’s some good bourbon right there! Really, this was angels singing and strumming harps. Seafood and vanilla is a well-accepted combo, but together with flavorful goat meat it was off the hook. Dishes like this keep us coming back for more. And more.

The next dish is a favorite of mine – wood oven roasted pig face, sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro, red wine-maple, potato stix. The menu changes a lot, but like the goat empanadas, some things are permanent. This is really delicious! Now before you wrinkle your delicate nose at pig face, forget the name. Pig face is turned into a savory, tender bacon, rolled up, roasted, sliced and served with accompaniments to die for. This is so perfect, it completely fits with my “eat the whole animal” justification for rampant meat-eating! We got two thick slices of pig face bacon, crispy potato in the middle, gooey yolk over everything, with sharp sweet tamarind and fresh cilantro to cut all that fattiness. This is Wife Food if there ever was! Stop being so afraid and eat the face! You won’t regret it and might clean the plate.

The waiter told us that “Steph just got back from a trip to Asia”…hence the new item on the menu, roasted duck breast, silver needle noodles, rapini, shrimp duck jus. She’s apparently opening a new place called “Duck Duck Goat” down the block and trust us we’ll be salivating at the front door when she does. This was perfect duck, a lovely delicate layer of fatty skin, barely pink in the middle, sliced into perfectly even slabs and swimming in a  broth with depth. Shrimp give depth. Shrimp give heft. Slurping that warm, comforting, clear broth is like looking down into a very clear stream, you know it’s 25 feet deep, but it looks so simple…! We probably would have ordered seconds of this too, but our stomachs were failing us.

The last dish was a delicious roasted cauliflower, pickled peppers , pine nuts, mint. So we know Stephanie Izzard can do meat. We know she can do fish and sure as heck we know she can do poultry. Veggies? Aaaand check! This massive, warm dish was crispy, roasted, had a tang of vinegar, a bracing bite of mint and a satisfying rich crunch from the nuts. From time to time I really like cooking vegetarian, partly because it’s a huge challenge. Make a meal that’s nutritious, satisfying, attractive and delicious and do it without the cop out of putting bacon in everything. This veggie dish hits all buttons. I scraped the bottom of the bowl and left the rest of the duck for Honey Thaddeus.

Dessert? To be honest we almost missed dessert. It was past 6:15 pm, we were feeling guilty about holding the table and we were filled up to the tiptop. Plus having been here before, we knew the desserts were…less “strong.” Perhaps worth a look, but not the stomach space. HT wanted something to round out the meal (not that we ourselves weren’t well-rounded already by this point!) so we ordered the plantain cake, cream cheese-chocolate chip gelato, passion fruit, left hand milk stout. Oh my dears! What a dessert! Sweet, soft, carby cake, sharp and sweet passion fruit, cold, creamy gelato and warm, milky stout with a palate clearing tang of alcohol. Ooooeeee! We tasted a bite. Looked at each other briefly. And dove in again. And scraped out the bowl.

And BOOM. Ladies and gentlemen, 10 courses down the hatch at Girl and the Goat, worth every bit of stomach space and every cent. That’s another thing about this place. For the mind-opening flavor profiles you regularly get here they could charge double and we’d still show up. This kind of creativity and innovation is normally quite costly.
After dinner we waddled off to Alvin Ailey to see very fit people dancing around a stage for 2 hours.


Girl and the Goat is hands down the best restaurant in Chicago.  Yes, I know that’s a bold claim.  And no I have not been to every restaurant in Chicago, and yes I am willing to be proven wrong.  But seriously.  This is the only restaurant I’ve ever been to where I not only anticipate having my mind blown each and every time with the quality of food, but also anticipate some totally new taste profile.  Seriously.  Think what it would be like to taste a…  I don’t know… ripe apple for the very first time as an adult.  Or chocolate, if you prefer.   It’s just not natural to taste something delicious for the Very First Time at age 34.  Much less two or three times in a single meal.  But that’s what Girl and the Goat has to offer.

Reservations:  Basically impossible.  Call 4-6 weeks in advance and get a table at 11pm.  BUT you can just walk in between 4:30 and 5.  Do this.  But beware, you might get told by two senior citizens that only boring people with nothing at all to do with their lives eat this early.  Yes, this happened.  But I strolled out of there with a warm glow from the food and a hot Asian wife on my arm, so I survive with my ego intact.  

So we’re seated, and our waiter informs us that it’s normal to order 4-6 sharable items.  We order 10.  Because we’re awesome like that.  So while I’m sorry about the length of this post, you have to understand that a couple of the items we’re describing are literally the best you’ll ever have, and in taste profiles that you’ve never before experienced.  So if that’s not your thing, just look at the pretty pictures.

Girl and the Goat waiters bring things out in whatever order they choose, and she noticed that they attempt to go from light to heavy to light again.  Personally, I don’t care about such things.  But I’m glad some culinary expert is looking out for me.  

Item 1  Some Kind of Fish with green things and lime.  This was delicious.  Order this.

Item 2  Short ribs with avocado and something sour.  So I like me some short ribs.  These were very good, but not the best I’ve had.  (Mind you, “not the best I’ve had” is close to the worst thing I will say about any item on the menu here.)  Anyway, she talks about perfect cubes in her overly long description.  If I wanted something in a perfect geometric shape I would buy spam.  Meat should be irregular in shape.  Also, these had no fat at all.  For most people, they’ll prefer this.  I usually do also.  But not for short ribs, which ought to have at least a little of the melt-in-your-mouth sort, not the rubbery sort that I despise.  In short:  Lean.  Full of taste.  Cubes.  With avocado and lime.  Tasty!

Item 3  Goat Empanadas with stuff around them.  These are always delicious.  I don’t know why goat would be delicious, since I’m pretty sure I once saw a cartoon of a billy goat eating trash.  But the very first time I had these it was like a religious experience.   Couldn’t believe the taste on my tongue.  Chewed more than usual, and swallowed only reluctantly.  I believe they had some sort of cream and tomato something… anyway.  Have ordered every time since.  They are always good; the goat meat has some spice combo that is always delicious.  But the stuff that accompanies the goat empanadas has never been like that first mystical experience.  Still excellent though.  I also admit to finding these a bit small for the price.  But still.  Order these.

Item 4  Grilled Pork Belly can be incredible.  The best I’ve ever had was at Wise Men on the Lower East Side of NY.  It is about half fat, half meat, but the texture of the fat is genuinely like butter, only somehow even less dense, and still meaty.  Ok, now I’m hungry.  Anyway, I do NOT like pork belly that is just grilled meat with fat on it.  That’s what this was:  slightly tough meat with normal pork fat of the non-butter sort.  I know people that like this, but I am not one of them.  I even didn’t like the various spices and accompaniments, making this dish a lose-lose.  This is the only item I actually disliked.

Item 5 and 6  Goat belly with Lobster and Crab.  Holy crap, this is delicious.  Wasn’t sure what to think of the description; I am assuming Ms. Izzard accidentally dropped some crab and lobster into a goat dish and then thought, “oh what the hell” and ate it anyway.  But yeah, this was probably the best dish of the night.  Flavors we’d just never experienced.  The goat had a slight spice and deep flavor.  The crab and lobster added some mellow tones.  The bourbon and vanilla added texture and sweetness.  Seriously.  Ordered a second one.

Item 7   Roasted Pig Face.  Ok, I have trouble even writing that, much less eating it.  I know it’s illogical.  Anyone who thinks there is something wrong with eating pig “face” and not with eating “pig butt” is an insane person.  I try not to be an insane person.  And yet….   Anyhow, this was delicious.  Truly amazing, even.  One of my favorites of the evening.   

Item 8  Getting Full Now with Roasted Duck Breast.  Wow.  So for those of you who don’t eat duck, it’s a very fatty meat.  So the trick is to cook it in a way that reduces the fat to either “not there” or “crazy soft like butter” while keeping the meat moist.  It’s hard to explain the feeling it inspires unless you genuinely like food as well as new experiences.   Because this was one of those dishes where I had simply never had this particular combination of tastes.  Ever.  And when you combine that novelty with deliciousness, happiness neurons start firing in your brain.  

Item 9 Winding Down with Roasted Cauliflower.  Comes with … mint?  Pine nuts for sure.  Again, hard to describe how good this is.  I like cauliflower.  It can be cooked many different ways.  Even mashed, like potatoes only healthier!  But this is among the best I’ve ever had.  So we order it every time.  And it’s always a little different.  Another great aspect of this place – the menu is always fresh.

Item 10  Dessert!!!  Plantain cake, cream cheese-chocolate chip gelato, passion fruit, left hand milk stout.  I included the full description here because it’s ridiculous.  Left hand milk stout?  The milk tastes different when a chubby farmer uses his left hand?  Bah.  On the other hand, this was the best dessert I’d had in months.  Until this dessert, I did not recommend desserts at Girl and the Goat.  The regular menu items are so perfect, dessert just wasn’t a priority.  And when we’d ordered it, it was always good.  But “good” at the Girl and the Goat is almost an insult, and certainly not worth putting in your stomach.  This dessert changed my mind.  Fugging incredible.  It created an entirely new taste profile for me, and the memory of it sticks with me a week later.  It was sweet, and bit spicy, and sharp, and rich all at once.  And the passion fruit managed to add just a hint of tang that took the edge off and made it refreshing – as though we’d just had a lime sorbet instead of a delicious and fulsome cake and ice cream and bourbon thing.  
Bottom line.  Go here.  Go at 4:30 and get made fun of by retirees.   Go at 11 and be late to work the next morning.  Go.  Also, say a silent thank you to Stephanie Izzard.



Girl and the Goat, Chicago

March 13, 2015


Anchor 3

Blackbird, Chicago.

February 13, 2015



Ok fair warning.  This is a negative review.   If you want a serious description of the food, read Hers.  I’m just too annoyed at this place to bother.

We went here for our Valentine’s day, on February 13 because she works a lot.  Blackbird has a great reputation and good reviews on yelp.  We thought it was a safe choice.  It wasn’t.
The service was terrible.  Maybe it was because we ordered only a single glass of wine (we’re usually not big drinkers).  Maybe we were just unlucky and everyone else had it great.  But food took FOREVER, water wasn’t refilled, and staff was not even polite about the delay.  So we're tired and annoyed and want to go home.  Without first getting the check, I handed the waiter the credit card and asked them to run it.  At quality places, you expect to be able to do this and not be cheated.  Nope.  They brought the check back (already paid) and it had all of our food plus an item we didn’t order.  I spent some time thinking about this.  If they had brought us someone else’s check, I could understand that it was a simple error.  But they had brought us our correct check, they’d just padded the bill with some specialty mixed drink.  The apology seemed more annoyed than embarrassed.   Then they bring the correct bill, and it comes with some other person’s credit card.  (oops again).  And to top it all, as we leave we learn that the coat check person has lost the Valentine’s day card I had written for my wife.  And I had specifically asked them to be careful because I had a card in the pocket..  Yes, they found it – slightly crumpled and dirty on the floor of the coat check room.  

I will never go back here absent a damned sincere apology that I’m unlikely to ever get.   Wow.  Didn’t start the blog to get complaints off my chest, but it really does feel good :)  On to the food.
Bread was good.  Crusty bits for her, soft inner bits for me.  Parmesan butter excellent.  6 out of 10.

Appetizers were tasty, but not great.  Her snails (eww) were very tasty actually.  8 out of 10.  


My pierogis were supposedly the combination of some great aunts’ recipes or something, but I think they combined only the bad parts.  The outside of the pierogis were tough.  I have never had tough pierogis, and I’ve had them made for me in Poland by Polish people.  The insides were bland.  To quote a friend:  “Meh.”   2 out of 10.

I had the faroe islands salmon as my entrée.  Faroe island is a resort for upper-class salmon where they live in underwater fish mansions and are massaged daily by octopus.  Consequently, they are especially good to eat.  Blackbird did not ruin my upper-class salmon.  In fact, it was quite good.  Not as good as Maude’s upper-class salmon, which is just across the street, but still very tasty.  Only objection was that it was a small portion.  8 out of 10.

Her duck breast was quite good, but a little fatty for my taste.    6 out of 10.

The little freebie desserts were actually really tasty.  Some caramel thing, plus some creamy thing.  They came in squares.  One bite each.  Enjoyed them.  8 out of 10.

Overall experience 2 out of 10.

Once upon a time in a CRAZY FROZEN CITY BY A LAKE JEEZE IT’S FREEZING HERE (ahem…I digress)…once upon a time in a frozen mid-Western city by a lake, there was no “Restaurant Row.” There was no Stephanie Izzard, there was no farm to table eating, there was no Alinea or Grant Achatz. There was Charlie Trotter, Rick Bayless and there was Paul Kahan. That was it. Well, that and some excellent steakhouses, this is the Midwest after all. Paul Kahan’s place, called Blackbird, was a name everyone had heard of… American fine dining! In Chicago, the “Second City”! See we have something to offer too!

We were excited to dine there for Valentine’s Day this year! Finally a Chicago classic! Our meal was delicious but ended up leaving a bad taste in our mouths nonetheless. Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, observe this tangle of thorns:
Valentine’s day dining out is always fraught with messiness – couples bickering and forgetting that what matters is not money spent, but love, ladies all bitter because they forget that their lives are filled with love of all sorts, gentlemen resentful because their love is being measured in bank account-draining, etc. Restaurants are poised to make a killing in this battle of the credit cards – put together a nice romantic dinner menu, priced to profit, and people will come no matter what because if you’re truly in love you’ll show it by buying diamonds the color of poo. Or something. #haha #StValentine

We thought Blackbird would be above all this. Indeed when you walk in you’re struck by the tasteful elegance of the dining room. Minimalist. Peaceful. Loud, but that’s because people are animatedly talking! A good sign! In best form, all the ladies are seated with their backs to the wall and their male companions facing them. #applause We checked our coats (note this for later) and had delicious bread and Parmesan butter placed in front of us right away. Rich butter and savory tang of Parmesan, what’s not to like?! As usual, my beloved husband picked out all the soft bread from the middle of the loaf. He likes soft bread. Also as usual, I went after the gnarly, thick, toasted crusts. I like my food to fight me a little. Weak bread is bad. #complementary

Our very fit waiter took our orders for appetizers and entrees without incident, but then it started. “Do you want to order wine or a beverage?” “No thank you, we will not be drinking tonight.” Oh dear. We do understand that we had a nice table the day before Valentine’s Day. We also understand that restaurants tend to make up the difference in money lost on food/empty seats by selling alcohol. On the other hand, the way we were treated afterwards is out of proportion to our refusal of alcohol.

First course: I ordered the snail boudin blanc with black walnut, pickled golden raisins, wood ramps and tatsoi in keeping with the idea that one does not order food out that one could make at home. Snails at home? I think HT would rather not! =P It was delicious! A nice chance from the lakes of butter and garlic snails are usually served with in an effort to make them taste like butter and garlic instead of snails. They were tender, meaty and unabashedly snails. A fine earthy flavor (haha!). Strong meat and mild sausage meat, we are off to a flying start! Honey Thaddeus had the pierogis aka, “toasted pierogis with farmer’s cheese, brussels sprouts, trumpet mushrooms, preserved egg and kielbasa broth. I know, I know, the Polish man orders the pierogis, I can hear the giggles from here. Actually he ordered them because while we were waiting for our table at the bar we heard someone say that 2 line cooks had Polish Grandmother pierogi recipes. The kitchen combined them both to make The Ultimate Pierogi (and to avoid offending anyone’s grandmother!). While these were tasty, in truth we prefer the old-fashion kind that my mother- and sister-in-law make, with white dough and tender meat. These were cooked in butter and had surprisingly tough skins, not really “crispy” or “toasted,” just “tough.” How did this happen? Weird.

Also note that between the appetizers and the entrees a full 25 min elapsed. Also note that we were asked twice more if we wanted alcoholic beverages. In my opinion each time we politely refused the service got a little worse, a little less attentive, a little more impatient. Our server flipped his hair just a little bit more each time too. Ok we get it. You want us to order wine. Unfortunately you forget that we don’t WANT any. You also forget that each time you huff off you take away from our experience at your establishment.

Main courses here now! HT had a luscious salmon, “faroe islands salmon with apple cider-miso glaze, sunchokes, rapini and chamomile vinaigrette,” expertly cooked, delicious crispy exteriors contrasted with a delicate pink interior. Both the sauce it came with and the sauce my equally expertly prepared duck breast came with were beautiful, savory veils of flavor. You taste it, you feel serenity, you feel harmonious, you feel hungry because you want some more. Very impressive! My duck, “ aged duck breast with pretzel dumplings, turnips, mustard and black beer broth,” was truly a savory miracle. While both meats were prepared with a skill not to be found in many kitchens, the triumph in my mind was in the sauces. They say that the ancient Chinese way of cooking (lost after the Last Emperor abdicated) was based on rich broths. Loads of natural ingredients were simmered away for hours to create bouillion layered with flavors, with dimensions, that glittered in the mouth. The accompanying sauces, clear, free of cream, were just that.

On the other hand the service at this point had deteriorated to the point where we did not want dessert. The lady literally threw the mignardaises on the table, mumbled what they were and stalked off without a backward look. Somewhat amused, we ate them and they were delicious, one chocolate and one caramel, both obviously made in-house. On the other hand, to this day we have no idea what they were.

We asked for the check and found our bill had been padded with something we did not order, some sort of bar item costing $15. AHEM. Like I said, we get it, you wanted us to order wine. On the other hand, this is now completely overstepping boundaries padding our check this way. We are now a little annoyed and the lovely serenity brought on by those expertly cooked dishes has faded. When the corrected bill is brought back to our table (without so much as a blush or an apology) it is brought back with someone else’s credit card in it.

At this point we will gloss over the ridiculousness of our exit (how the coat check person who was carefully told not to lose a letter my loving husband wrote to me dropped it and lost it on the floor, how they called us the wrong names, etc) and say that we will not be returning to Blackbird again.
The food was good, but not revelatory the way Stephanie Izzard’s is and may we please compare and contrast how polite and excellent the service is at Girl and the Goat even when we say we do not want alcohol with dinner? And how they do not try to pad the check with bar items we never ordered?
Paul Kahan, you’re no Danny Meyer.

Blackbird Chicago


This was truly an excellent meal.  I didn't want to go at first, because my impression of southern cooking is Krystals and iHop. Everything fried, everything greasy, and everything (sorry) cheap. But I will try anything once.  And I'm glad I did.


The iceberg wedge was only so-so.  The pork belly was fine but not excellent.  The dressing was some sort cheese base, and seemed too heavy.  I agree with her that having a little of everything in each bite is key. Much better that way.


The Farmers salad was better IMO, but still not the best.


Now to the good stuff  The Fried Green Tomato BLT is AWESOME.  First, there's a fried green tomato.  Already it's like eating something out of a Dr. Suess book.  But yeah, the cheese, the pork belly (I ignored the bits of lettuce even when I accidentally ate them)...  delicious.  Order this.


The Ribs were some of the best I've ever had, and I like me some ribs.  Seriously, I tried these first, while she tried the chicken.  And we both looked at each other in a way we usually do in much more intimate moments, except this one we were sharing over the dinner table while chewing.  


Then we switched, each intrigued by the look in the other's eyes, and I have to admit, the chicken was even better.  Well.  Actually I'm still not sure.  But here's the thing. The ribs were among the best I've ever had.  The chicken was the best I've ever had, bar none.  So, even if they're about equal in mutual orgasmic gastronomy, the chicken wins.


So between us, we ate two entree salads, an extremely large appetizer, almost all of "half" a chicken (that inexplicably had two thighs), and a full rack of ribs (minus three).  And then there was dessert.


I have high standards for dessert.  This was quite good, but not truly excellent.  Also, I believe I was a bit feverish at this point after eating for three.  So perhaps my views of the dessert cannot be trusted.

But hey, anytime you combine red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting and some kind of berry goop, you win at life.  Until you finish, at which point you abruptly lose for the next 12 hours or so.

This space empty because she writes too much

Yardbird came highly recommended to us. One of the foodbloggers I read had gone a few years ago and I had been lusting after it ever since. Then the organizer/host of our friend’s conference put it on a list of “Miami Must-Eats” which clinched the deal. We had to go! HT initially reluctant. His mind changed when he saw ribs on the menu and I think he would agree that his decision to go was in hindsight one of the best he’s ever made! I made a res on OpenTable and we were seated right away. The décor is ….urban-hipster-farmyard-chic. Lots of wood and Mason jars and chalkboards. Let’s to it then….


Iceberg Wedge crisp iceberg lettuce, fresh corn, tomatoes, house-smoked bacon, avocado dressing

Aaaaand we were off to a flying start with an iceberg wedge. I harbor a city-girl’s snobby attitude about iceberg – who EATS that?! Gimme some tough, bitter, popping-green “Spring Mix”! On the other hand, you really do want some iceberg for this salad. It’s crispy!

Ok so you know how one way to look at the composition of a painting is to cover up one element of it? Close one eye, put a hand in front of part of “The Birth of Venus.” Not such a masterpiece now, eh? Composition is important! This salad was like that. Eliminate one ingredient and the others were somehow…off. I got a bite with only lettuce, dressing and corn. Eh. Not so hot. I took a bite with a little bit of everything – AMAZING! Such a well-balanced bite! Crisp lettuce, soft, salty, fatty pork, acidic tomatoes, sweet corn and a very lemony mayonnaise-based dressing. I could eat this for days.


Farmer’s Salad fresh pulled seasonal vegetables, organic egg, smoked vidalia onion vinaigrette

This one HT actually liked better. Fresh veggies (didn’t realize you could “pull” veggies, I thought one only “pulled” meat products), nice smoky taste from the dressing. On the other hand, HT is a veggie-maniac. Le sigh.


“Fried Green Tomato BLT” – pork belly, greens, tomato jam, house-made pimento cheese

Ooooo, this was a hit! A round of crunchy, fried tomato, a dollop of pimento cheese, a slab of pork belly and a poof of greens and we’re in business! There was a very acidic schmear of tomato jam underneath each round of fried green tomato, great for dabbling the ends in. A very well-balanced plate! Too bad there were only 3…


Lewellyn’s Fine Fried Chicken 1/2 free range bird, ‘27-hour’ recipe, spicy tabasco honey
St Louis Style Pork Ribs tender slow-cooked, house bbq sauce


And now for the kickers. This chicken gave me An Experience. Two massive skillets were placed on the table, one filled with “half” a chicken, the other with 9 ribs (3 racks). I took a bite of chicken. I had a Moment. The server came by to see how things were. I told him to give me a minute because I was having An Experience.

The chicken was fully cooked so none of the fat was slimy and there was no blood. The meat was moist, even the white meat (which is of Lucifer)! The skin was crispy all over, not thick or gummy, and the seasonings, oh my word, the seasonings! What did they bread that free-range bird with?!? Crack?!  While gnawing away I think to myself that HT and I are also Free-Range Birds (we run by the lake…freely!). I’m delighted to say that somehow Yardbird’s Management has gotten hold of mutant free-range birds because our “half” a chicken had 2 thighs and no wings and a big breast. And one drumstick. I’m a fan.


I don’t generally like sauce on my meats but the honey tabasco was actually delicious. Spicy and sweet, without being cloying or overpowering it complimented the meat perfectly, words I do not use lightly.


While I was at one end of the table Experiencing my chicken, HT was at the opposite end having An Experience of his own. Ribs were fall-apart tender, but the sauce the sauce the sauce. A dry rub plus a saucy sauce? A marinade plus a rigorous basting?! What was in there?! How to achieve a rib sauce with layers of flavor, not 2 dimensional (sweet & smoky or spicy & tangy)?! There is depth to this sauce, it’s sweet, it’s smoky, it’s tangy, it’s umami-like in that you can tell you’re tasting something out of the normal box. Not too much tang in this sauce, lighter on the vinegar and sugar that plague most bottled BBQ sauces.


We ate till HT gave himself a fever. No joke. A FEVER.  ….But of course dessert. You didn’t think we were leaving without dessert?!


Red Velvet Trifle: buttermilk custard, blackberries, merengue kisses, cream cheese frosting

I’m always hesitant to order Red Velvet Cake (RVC) in restaurants, because my own recipe is the best. I know it sounds egotistical but I haven’t found one better than mine. Others skimp on the cocoa powder. Others leave out the generous pour of real buttermilk. The Yardbird version is JUST AS GOOD AS MINE. Do you hear that?! I concede that someone somewhere has a good recipe also!! #narcisissm

Anyway, this was a delightful layered dessert of cake rounds, custard, berries and dollops of properly made cream cheese icing on top, real butter, real cheese, none of this vegetable shortening nastiness. Also important, the cream cheese frosting was teeth-judderingly sweet. A True RVC is not that sweet in itself. It tastes like chocolate/cocoa powder and it gets its richness, not from sugar, but from buttermilk. It NEEDS that sweetness from the frosting.  


Despite our meat-induced fever, we cleaned the dish and I strongly considered ordering a second one. High praise? The best.


Yardbird cleaned house when it comes to superlatives: Best Chicken, Best Ribs, Best RVC (aside from mine!). GLOTFELTYS WILL RETURN!! FREE-RANGE BIRDS COWER IN FEAR!!!


YardBird, Miami Fl.

Sept 22, 2014


Yardbird 1


Capital Grille, Chicago


Ok, ok, we know these days everything needs to be small plates, Mason jar drinks, communal tables, responsibly sourced, "sized for sharing," no linens in sight, everyone in jeans and flannels with horrific bedhead, deconstructed everything (which means your apple pie comes scattered across a plate), etc, etc.




Sometimes for a big celebration you WANT a Blood & Thunder dinner, a big, white-covered table just for you (not shared with 4 strangers), a waiter wearing something that costs $40 to dry clean, and plates of food meant to fully replete one hungry person. No, you don't want to order 4-5 smaller plates. Just one. For you. All for you!


With that in mind, Happy Anniversary to my darling husband who is so patient and clever and hungry and handsome, all things good! We booked a reservation for the Capital Grille for just the Blood & Thunder meal I speak of.  Big celebration! Indulgence that only happens once a year! I even did my hair! ::shock::


The Capital Grille is hilariously old school. The one in downtown Chicago has wine lockers where the elite store their wines for extravagant dinners, the likes of which probably run their blood cholesterol through the roof. How fun! Everything is all dark wood and white linen, very clean and polished and oh yah, no bedhead in sight.


I called in advance and let them know we were celebrating our anniversary and they kindly put a little card on the table...a table that they also scattered with real rose petals! Awww! Take that communal tables *razz*! The only quibble I have is it should have read "Mr. and Dr. Glotfelty" muahahaha!


At the Capital Grille things are delicious and enormous. It's go big or go home. They have all the classics, which we love.  HT ordered an onion soup, a real one baked in a crock weighing at least 5 lbs empty. Slathered with Gruyere, popping full of rich, dark beef broth and sweet, stringy caramelized onions, this is a 10 lb labor of love. No shortcuts here. That consome takes hours to make and degrease! Those onions don't caramelize themselves! Delicious...also you could feed several smaller people with just this crock. #whoops


I ordered a lobster bisque which was incredibly creamy and sea-tasting. Did they start with a veloute? Did they thicken it with a butter and flour paste? I'm tempted to think it was thickened the super-old school way with chunks of cold butter! *giggle* Delicious!


Now for the main courses, which is when real differences between husband and wife come out. Husband: "I'll take the fatless bone-in filet mignon please (Chef's special). " Wife: "I'll take the super-fatty ribeye, drenched in 15-yr old Balsamic vinegar please." Jack Sprat and his wife indeed! If you're going to be a steakhouse you need to deliver the goods. Just HOW nice is your steak and HOW skilled is your grillmaster? At the Capital Grille they walk like this 'cause they can back it up! Tender meats, not too much char, but with crispy edges of hot fat, rich savory juices running all over the place....YES! This is some quality steak! This is Old School! Feed me!


Of course you need sides even in the most abundant of times; we ordered the creamed corn with smoked bacon (mostly for HT) and the lobster mac & cheese because why not. One had tender corn kernels swimming in a sea of smoky cream with crunchy bits of bacon to encounter. The other had tender pasta pieces, swimming in a sea-tasting cream with succulent chunks of lobster to encounter. Again, frankly a lighter eater could have made a meal out of half a side dish, but that's not us.  


It's also "not us" to ever refuse to look at dessert, no matter how sick we've made ourselves prior. It's a matter of principle! Capital Grille surprised us with a lovely dessert plate celebrating our anniversary! How romantic! Cheesecake with a caramelized brulee topping and flourless chocolate espresso cake. Both items very smooth and rich (notice a pattern here?), no shortcuts taken in preparation. Did we leave any on the plate despite our big dinners? Don't be ridiculous.


Happy Anniversary to my wonderful Honey Thaddeus! *burp*...*waddle*waddle*

Ahhh... the Capital Grille.  The first time I took her here was in DC.  We were still dating, and still living in different cities; she had kindly agreed to spend the holidays with me for a "staycation."  We went out to dinner the first night, and I let her know we were flying to Florida the next morning for a cruise.  She didn't say anything for about three minutes, and my thoughts moved between wondering if she got sea sick, or had REALLY been looking forward to that staycation. But when she did start talking again, it was clear I had won some points.  And those points came in handy when I asked her to marry me seven days later.  *aww...*


Anyhow, point is, I like this place.  Old school steakhouse, very consistent, and in enough major cities that it's a good stand-by.


Also, go here on romantic occasions!  They will treat you nice, and you can take credit for everything.  Champagne? Rose petals?  Yes, I planned that.  By choosing a restaurant where they take care of you (at no extra charge!)


Ok, so the food.  Lobster Bisque was quite good.  Had some sherry in it, I think.  Very rich.


French onion soup was excellent.  Really can't go wrong with this.  


My filet mignon (I spelled it "minion" and then she corrected me) was superb. Even SHE liked it.  And her fattier, still-mooing ribeye was also good, though I only had a slightly more done piece.


While everything was high-quality, I think I liked the sides the best.  Lobster and crab mac-and-cheese is seriously incredible.  It's so rich you feel full after just a couple bites (though to be fair I'd had a lot more bites of other things already).  But you don't stop there, because it calls to you until you use your spoon to knock hers out of the bowl so as to have the last bite.  Not sure what to think of that?  Hey, it's part of my particular brand of romance.  And she married me, so there.


Creamed corn with bacon.  Yum.  Also rich.  Also worth fighting for.  Order this.  When you have corn at crappy places, the kernals are all mushy.  This is terrible.  Here, they're nice and... crispy?  crunchy? Anyway, not mushy.


Dessert was also on the house (I tipped well because we got all the nice free romantic stuff that made me look good).  Really tasty, but sort of typical quality for a place like this.  So nothing exceptional, but only in the sense that everything here is quite good, and therefore expectations are high.


Overall, a very good experience.  Not mind-blowingly good, but again, you expect a lot from a classic steakhouse like this.  Go here.

May 15, 2014

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