Friday, April 6, 2012

Eating in Memphis

  Our tour just recently went through Memphis.  We loved the city!  Live music everywhere you go, a beautiful theatre (we played The Orpheum) and, of course, the FOOD!  There are so many entries I could make for Memphis, that I decided to combine them all into one love letter entry to the great city of Memphis and their incredible food.  

1. Gus's Fried Chicken

    The only thing on their menu is fried chicken, cole slaw and beans.  And let me tell you, this place needs nothing more.  Hands down, the best fried chicken I have ever had.  I don't know what magical ingredients they put into their breading, but it has an amazing taste with a slight kick to it.  The chicken is so tender and juicy it could bring a tear to your eye.  Not to mention their cole slaw and beans are great too.

2. Peanut Butter Cookie Skillet from Kooky Canucks

  It's a warm, gooey peanut butter cookie in a skillet with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  Need I say more?  So peanut buttery and, while soft in the middle, slightly crispy on the outside edges so you get the best of both worlds.  So, so delicious.

3. Fried Catfish at Blues City Cafe

   Huge pieces of catfish fried perfectly served with horseradish sauce, cole slaw, green beans and texas toast.  I love fried catfish and this certainly did not disappoint. The catfish was nice and flaky and moist, not over cooked at all.  Some bites were super crunchy while others had just a hint of that great fried taste.  We ate quite a few meals at Blues City Cafe and this was hands down my favorite meal there.  Just awesome. 

4. Smoked Crab Deviled Eggs at Local

  After many days of fried goodness, our stomachs needed a little break.  So we headed over to Local on Main Street to have some salads, which are very good there by the way.  But one thing we couldn't resist on their menu were the smoked crab deviled eggs.  They were fantastic!  The smoked crab is a genius addition to this southern favorite.  It tasted wonderfully and was not over powering in the slightest.  The caviar on top was a lovely finish for the taste buds, too. 

5. Fried Strawberries on Beale Street

   Served with the entire bucket of cool whip (well... pretty close too it) and chocolate sauce drizzled on top, these bad boys are pretty freakin delicious.  The strawberries get fairly soft on the inside and the outside tastes similar to funnel cakes at county fairs.  They are served warm, and with a little cool whip and chocolate sauce, they taste like little bites of Heaven.

6. Pulled Pork and Dry Rub Ribs at Corky's BBQ

   You didn't think I would leave Memphis without trying the BBQ, did I?!  Of course not!  I asked as many Memphis locals as I could where the best BBQ was, and their overwhelming answer was Corky's BBQ.  It's a little bit of a drive from down town, but oh so worth it.  Their dry rub ribs are out of this world.  When I say they fall of the bone, I mean you pick up the end of one of the ribs and the meat just slips right off onto your plate.  It was unbelievably tender and smoky and the seasonings for their dry rub are ridiculously good.  This was my first dry rub experience and I am officially a fan.  Their pulled pork was also delicious.  I put a little of their apple BBQ sauce on it and couldn't have asked for more.  Corky's is definitely the place to go for BBQ in Memphis.  I was blown away and left very, very full and happy.

    Memphis, you have forever left your mark on my heart and stomach.  You are a great city filled with amazing music, people and food.  I can't wait to come back for more some day. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Almost Famous in Pittsburgh

    Pittsburgh is home to a crazy sandwich shop called Primanti Brothers.  It claims to be "almost famous" in it's slogan, but I have seen this place on Food Network more times than I can count and have heard about it from every person who has been through Pittsburgh.  I think they have officially crossed into famous territory and for good reason.  They have just about every type of meat you could ever ask for on a sandwich for you to choose from, ranging from fish to pastrami to kielbasa.  Their catch is that every sandwich, no matter what meat you choose, is served on their signature white bread and topped with french fries, coleslaw and tomato.  I decided to stick with simplicity and ordered mine with a fried egg, cheese and bacon.

   As you can see, these sandwiches are not for the faint of heart.  They come out on a piece of wax paper and kind of explode once placed on the table in front of you.  The challenge once there is to figure out how to tackle this giant pile of delicious food...

    Once you get the whole thing in your hands and good bite full, your hard work is greatly rewarded.  These sandwiches are awesome!  The coleslaw is crunchy, not overly creamy and peppery.  The french fries are salty, greasy and taste like real potatoes freshly cut and fried, and the bread soaks up all the grease and cream from the fries and coleslaw and really just becomes a way to hold it all together.  My fried eggs were great and the bacon was fried nice and crispy and there was plenty of it.  I loved every bite of it, despite my spot looking like a war zone afterwards.

   Primanti Brothers is an experience not to be missed if you are ever in the Pittsburgh area.  Go hungry and ready to get messy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

An Oldie and So Goodie

  Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, Florida (right outside of Tampa) is the oldest, continuously run restaurant in Florida.  It was established in 1905 and has been serving up delicious cuban and spanish food ever since.  The restaurant itself is beautiful and offers live flamenco shows nightly.  Columbia is huge (the world's largest Spanish restaurant as a matter of fact) and still has a packed house with a waiting line out the door every night. 
   They have a very extensive menu so I followed my tried and true tradition of asking our server what their favorites are.  Ours replied with the "Boliche Criollo".  It is a slowly roasted eye round of beef, stuffed with chorizo, in gravy.  It is served with black beans, rice, and platanos.  I was sold.

    It was wonderful!  The beef was super tender and soaked up the flavorful gravy beautifully.  You can never go wrong with adding chorizo and, while there wasn't a huge amount of it, it was a great added flavor and kick in the beef.  I think the gravy is the super ingredient in this meal.  It added so much flavor and juice and was unlike any gravy I've ever had.  The platanos were sweet and ripe and the rice and beans were fantastic.  All in all, this was a fantastic meal in a very memorable place.    

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Give me food in a bucket anyday

  Our next stop in the Sunshine State was Tampa, Florida.  My parents got to come down for a visit (yay!) and I knew exactly where I wanted to take them their first night there.   I had heard rave reviews of a local favorite called "Crabby Bill's".  They have a few locations in the Tampa area, so I chose one for us right on the bay at Rocky Point.
   We started with an order of "Alligator Bites".  I had never tried alligator and I figured when in Rome... These were bites of gator tail, dusted in seasoned flour and then flash fried:

   I hate to sound completely stereotypical and generic, but alligator really does taste a lot like chicken!  These were delicious.  Slightly chewy, which apparently alligator always is, but still pretty tender.  They had a nice, fresh, and light taste to them.  And call me a redneck, but just about anything is going to be tasty if you fry it.  I loved these, but am interested in trying alligator that hasn't been covered in flour and fried. 

   For dinner, I ordered "The Steamer Bucket".  It's exactly like it sounds, a bucket filled to the brim with Crab legs, shrimp, mussels, and clams with a side of drawn butter.  (Cue choir of angels singing "Ahhh!")

     If this does not look like a heavenly bucket of deliciousness, then you are a fool on a fools journey.  This was amazing.  Some of the best, freshest tasting seafood I've ever had.  Crabby Bill's is doing something very right.  The crab legs were so tender and succulent, the shrimp were big and seasoned perfectly, the mussels and clams were soft and not overcooked at all.  My Mom and I split this bucket and, while we were very full by the time we reached the bottom, wanted 5 more.  This is a meal you work for but worth every crack, peel and pull.  There is something very communal and fun about eating this food with friends and family; everyone sitting around cracking crab legs and peeling shrimp, laughing and talking, and then enjoying their delicious end result together with messy hands and butter all over your face.  We had a blast. 


Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Big Fat Greek Dinner

    While in West Palm Beach, FL, we headed to City Place (the heart of downtown) to the beautiful Taverna Opa.  It's a fun Greek restaurant with a huge outdoor seating area that overlooks all of City Place.  At night, there is live belly dancing and the waiters all dance on the bar.  Sadly, we couldn't go at night to catch the "entertainment", but I'm sure it's a blast.
      My favorite part of Taverna Opa was the pre-meal hummus and pita.  They bring it out in a mortar and pestle and you can mash it into whatever consistency you like.  You can see the olive oil, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and chickpeas completely intact, so you know it's nice and fresh.  And it's fun to make your own hummus right at your table.  It was very, very good.

    The pita and delicious hummus was consumed very quickly :), but no worries because our entrees were out in no time.  I ordered the  Artichoke Chicken: chicken breasts and artichoke hearts sauteed in a lemon, white wine caper sauce and served with roasted lemon potatoes and sauteed spinach.

    It was delicious!  The chicken was super tender and the flavor from the sauce and capers was spectacular.  Zesty and fresh with little bursts of saltiness from the capers.  The artichoke hearts were tender but tasted like they were cooked fresh and not from a can.  The potatoes tasted great in their lemon juice and the spinach was wonderful.  I would definitely order this meal again.  Just thinking about it, my mouth is watering.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Das Real Good

   Our last night in DC, a few of us wondered over to Georgetown for Ethiopian food at "Das".  We were having a small goodbye dinner for Bruce, who was sadly leaving our tour, and Bruce requested Ethiopian.  I am certainly no connoisseur on Ethiopian cuisine, but I do know that the few times I've had it, I have loved it.  So I was looking forward to dinner at Das.
    If you've never had Ethiopian food, it is similar to Indian Food.  The spices are simple and strong and the food is delicious.  It is served without silverware, but with a sponge-like bread called injera that you tear apart and use to scoop up your food.  It is made out of fermented teff flour, is very light and folds like a tortilla.  The actual dish itself is served on top of a large peace of injera, which soaks up the sauce and juice from the vegetables and meat and becomes flavorful bites of soaked flatbread that finish your meal perfectly.
   We decided to order a few vegetarian entree samplers and Chicken & Beef entree samplers for the table.  The vegetarian entrees include a Harvest Stew of cauliflower, string beans and carrots simmered in stewed tomatoes, Split Pea Kik Alicha (a puree of yellow split peas mixed with onions, garlic, and green peppers), Red Lentil Miser Wot (lentils cooked in a red pepper sauce), Collard Greens Gomen, and Cabbage with Carrots in Sauce Tikile Gome (ginger and garlic). 
The vegetable entrees are closest to you, while the meat entrees are in the middle and back of the plate.
    The meat sampler included Chicken Doro Watt (chicken in red pepper sauce and served with a hardboiled egg), Beef Kaey Watt (in a spicy red pepper sauce), Beef Alicha (prepared in an herbed butter) and Beef Segana Gomen (mixed with collard greens). 
    It all tasted amazing.  I loved every entree, but I think my favorites were the collard greens and the Chicken Doro Watt.  But truly, you can't really go wrong with any of them.  It was all absolutely delicious and incredibly filling.  The use of spices in each dish creates a unique diminsion of taste specific to each entree.  They range from mild to spicy, but the spices never overpower the taste of the food they are a part of. 
    Another reason I love Ethiopian food is because it is such a community food.  You share large platters of food, break bread together, and eat off the same dish and small pile of food together.  Ethiopians believe sharing food from a common plate signifies the bonds of loyalty and friendship.  It was the perfect meal for us to have before sending Bruce off with our well wishes.


Friday, February 17, 2012

George Washington, Step Aside

    Our great country was established by our founding fathers, but our great food in DC has been established by "Founding Farmers" in Foggy Bottom.  This place is amazing.  It is owned by a collective group of farmers, using their locally grown food as much as possible to create all the delectable choices on their menu.  Every sauce, dressing, juice or gravy is made in house and their bread is all from scratch.  Founding Farmer's is all about sustainable, good quality, "All American" food while also keeping their restaurant very "green".  Everything from their electricity to how to their concrete poured bar top is eco-friendly.  They even take is as far as becoming the first restaurant in DC to be LEED Gold Certified and they offset their annual greenhouse gas emissions through!  This was definitely the kind of place I love to support with my business. 
     We went for breakfast one morning.  They offer a lot of unique twists on breakfast classics, like hash made with beets or carrot cake pancakes.  But when I saw "Chicken and Waffles" my decision was made for me.  Crispy-Fried Chicken Tenders, Gravy, Two Eggs, Waffle, Whipped Farm Butter, and Syrup.  That's right, syrup AND gravy.  I knew I couldn't go wrong there.  (I ordered mine with eggs over medium.)

   It was great!  The waffle was soft, fluffy and sweet, the gravy was thick, white gravy (of course) and tasted fabulous.  The syrup tasted the way that only REAL syrup can taste, which is incredible.  My eggs were cooked perfectly, with the yolk still runny in the middle, which tasted heavenly with the gravy and chicken.  And last but not least, the chicken was incredible.  Not overly fried, very juicy and tender, and seasoned so well.  The chicken was some of the best chicken I've ever had.  Not like the fried chicken I am used to in Georgia, with the thick, crunchy bits all over it, but fried just enough to give it a slight crunch and enough crevices for the syrup and gravy to soak into. 

     I wish I could have gone back for every meal, but Founding Farmer's is a VERY popular place.  I would strongly recommend reservations if you planning to go.  I loved my experience here and would definitely put this on my top 10 favorite restaurants ever.  Such a cool place trying to feed us real, whole food made by real, hardworking farmers.   

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pizza in Chinatown?

  From my short time of traveling, I have learned that almost every big city has their own "Chinatown".  And in Washington DC, it is right downtown, nestled in the midst of some of DC's best museums.  While I was on an outing to the Smithsonian American Art Museum with Bruce and Cathy (which has a fabulous Annie Leibovitz exhibit right now, if you are in the area), Cathy said she had a great place for us to grab some pizza.  A friend of hers had told her about a place "we had to try the pizza at in Chinatown!"  Bruce and I both gave her a funny look.  Pizza in Chinatown?  But as skeptical as we were, we walked a few blocks over to Chinatown to a fun place called "Matchbox".

Chinatown, Washington DC
     As soon as you walk in the door at Matchbox, you can see all their awards for their pizza on the walls.  And once inside, the smell is intoxicating.  A mix of dough, tomato and wood burning in the oven hits you and, without even looking at what else is on the menu, you know you have to order pizza.  They are very proud of their authentic wood-fired masonry oven and give it all the credit for their famous pizza.  According to our waitress, that oven has not stopped burning at 800 degrees since the day Matchbox opened.
    Their pizza menu is extensive and everything looked amazing.  Since there were three of us, we decided to order 3 different small pizzas and then share, so we could try as many as possible.  Cathy ordered the Q Special with grilled marinated chicken, portabella mushrooms, roasted red peppers, zesty tomato sauce and mozzarella.  Bruce ordered the Serrano Spanish Ham & Pecorino Romano with roasted garlic, ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, and oven-dried tomatoes.  I could not come to a decision, so I asked our waitress what her favorite was and without a moment of hesitation answered the Sausage & Sundried Tomato with ricotta, mozzarella, fresh basil and balsamic reduction. 
Top Left: Q Special, Top Right: Serrano Spanish Ham, and Down Center: Sausage and Sundried Tomato
   All three were delicious.  I am a big fan of their sauce and the crust has a great, smoky and soft texture that only a wood burning stove can give.  The Buffalo Mozzarella on the Serrano Spanish Ham was especially creamy and delicious.  And while I loved all three, I think my favorite was our waitress's.  The Sausage and Sundried Tomato was simply out of this world!  The basil tasted flavorful and fresh (and as the picture shows, they do not skimp of it), the sausage was slightly spicy and tasted great, and the balsamic reduction added a perfect finishing touch. 

     All in all, this Chinatown Pizzeria exceeded all of my expectations.  Definitely worth checking out if you are in DC.  And if you aren't as big of a fan of pizza as me, the rest of their food looked incredible too.  But... you should really try out the pizza. :)

Dindon family outing!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Memphis Meets the Gateway to the West

    I love BBQ, in case you haven't figured that out yet.  I had heard amazing things about a BBQ joint in St. Louis named "Pappy's" and knew I had to check it out.  It's won all kinds of awards and titles from numerous magazines and was even named one of the 101 Best Places to Chow Down in America by The Travel Channel.  So I headed to Pappy's Smokehouse with high hopes, an empty stomach and a bunch of hungry friends. 
    Pappy's is a order at the counter then grab a seat kind of place.  We had perfect timing because we only waited in line for a minute or two, but by the time we sat down the line was suddenly through the restaurant and starting to go out the door!  This place is obviously a local favorite.  And I was soon to find out why...
     I ordered a half slab of their ribs with a side of baked beans and FRIED corn on the cob.  (I had never heard of fried corn on the cob so I thought it was necessary for me to try it.)

    After just one bite of my ribs, I knew what all the fuss was about.  Their ribs are their house specialty, dry-rubbed and slow smoked over apple and cherry wood.  They are served without sauce, which I loved, and you can choose from their three house-made options on every table.  I tried my first bite without any sauce as a test, and even naked these ribs were amazing.  The meat just fell off the bone, was juicy and tender and seasoned perfectly.  They had the perfect amount of crispy glaze on top and just melted in your mouth. 
    Their three sauces are Pappy's Original, Sweet Baby Jane, and Holly's Hot Sauce.  I think their names pretty much sum up their individual flavors.  My personal favorite was the original.  Nice and tangy, and just a little sweet.  Holly's Hot Sauce wasn't spicy enough for my own taste, but then again I love spicy food that carries a strong punch.  Sweet Baby Jane was good too, just too sweet for me.  But Pappy's Original was wonderful and tasted great on my amazing ribs.
   The beans were also great.  Again, I don't like when you can taste the brown sugar in baked beans and these were the perfect amount of sweet for me.  Don't get me wrong, I love sugar and sweets.  But I generally like to keep them reserved for dessert...  I am sad to say that I was not crazy about the fried corn on the cobb.  It made the corn taste a little soggy.  It reminded me of the corn they serve you in the cafeteria at elementary school, if that brings back any sense memories for you.  It was fine, but I would never order it again.  I did, however, try their green beans and loved them!  They are made from fresh green beans, with a little crunch still intact, and have a kick to them.  I'm not sure what they cook them in, but they were delicious.
   Overall, we had a great experience at Pappy's.  The food was killer, the staff was all very nice and the atmosphere is laid back and fun.  Being in Pappy's is like sitting at a big family BBQ in your Grandma's back yard.  Everyone is sitting at picnic tables, laughing and having a good time, and all covered in BBQ sauce.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Home on the Range in St. Louis

    I love researching and finding famous places to eat in cities.  I love even more when people give me recommendations of their personal favorites.  But my absolute favorite is when I stumble upon a suprisingly delicious and foodblog worthy restaurant when I least expect it.  It's like finding $5 in your jeans pocket.  You aren't expecting anything and then suddenly your whole day is made brighter.  That is exactly what happened with "Bailey's Range Burger and Fries" on Olive Street in downtown St. Louis. 
   A group from my cast had just gone rock climbing (which was super fun if you've never tried it) and were hungry.  And not salad hungry.  We had just climbed walls...  We needed something substantial and manly.  As we were walking home we came upon Range and were sold at the word "burger".  But when we were seated I was pleasantly suprised to see that their menu looked inventive and unique.  Plus, they use all locally raised Missouri beef in their burgers and make their own ice cream in house.  I was already impressed and I hadn't even tried anything yet.  Not to mention that the restaurant has a super cool and fun atmosphere and allows you a complete view of the kitchen.  I always take it as a good sign if a place lets you see how they cook your food. 
   I ordered a peanut butter milkshake and the PB&J Burger.  My shake came out first and was amazing.  It was chock full of bits of peanut butter and the ice cream was delicious.  Not overly sweet and nice and smooth.  You can drink the entire thing with just a straw; no spoons required.  It reminded me of my Mom's homemade ice cream, which is a huge compliment to Range.  It had just enough peanut butter to make it taste like it but not drown your taste buds in creamy, saltiness.  The only place I've had a better peanut butter milk shake is at "Bare Burger" in Astoria, Queens, but Range made a very close second. 

    My PB&J came out shortly after I had devoured my milkshake.  This PB&J is unlike anything your Mom ever packed you for school.  Range's version is a Bison burger with arugula pesto, house tomato jam, fresh goat cheese and baby arugula.

     It was great!!  I love bison and this bison burger was juicy and tender and full of flavor.  The arugula pesto and tomato jam worked beautifully together, creating a fun mix of sweet and slightly spicy.  The tomato jam on this burger worked the same way as cranberry sauce on turkey, it just added such a nice, sweet flavor to the whole thing.  The goat cheese was creamy and brought all the tastes of this burger together.  It was fantastic and unlike any burger I've ever had.


Monday, January 9, 2012

When Purple Pigs Fly

  My last night in Chicago, I finally made it "The Purple Pig".  I friend of mine had raved about this place and seeing the huge crowds inside every time I walked by it, I knew I had to make it in before leaving.  This place is known for their tremendous wine and cheese selection, and also their delicious small plates.  The atmosphere is bustling but very chill and fun.  It feels like you are at a friends place for a small party, having drinks and enjoying each others company. 
   I went by myself and sat at the bar.  I was soon greeted by the bartender/wine extraordinaire and their extensive wine menu.  I was completely overwhelmed by all the choices so the bartender was listing off his recommendations.  I had almost settled on a Malbec from Argentina when I saw "Marche Wines" with 3 listings underneath.  I studied in Italy two summers ago and lived in a little town in the Marche region (the mountain region of Italy) called Camerino.  In Camerino, if you order "vino rosso", they will bring you a delicious glass of their locally made "Rosso Piceno".  It is a delicious wine that I have missed dearly.  It's a dry and fruity wine with a beautiful, ruby red color to it.  Well sure enough, Rosso Piceno was listed in their menu and my heart jumped.  I immediately ordered myself a glass. 
     My taste bud's walk down memory lane was completed when I saw Chorizo Stuffed Olives on their menu.  This is another delicious snack that I have not enjoyed since leaving Camerino.  I, of course ordered myself some.   I'm not the biggest fans of olives, but these bite sized snacks are absolutely delicious.  The Purple Pig made then wonderfully and, unlike in Camerino, served them with a creamy sauce.  It tasted like some sort of sour cream mixture and added a nice cool texture to the whole thing.  It was like I was sitting in a little pub in Camerino again.  I loved it!

     After reliving my short time in the beautiful Camerino, I thought it was time to come back to the midwest.  For my entree, I ordered the Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes.  I wish there was a way for me to put smells on here.  I can take pictures of things but can never share the smell, which is usually the best part.  If there was ever a time I could add smells to my blog, just once, it would be for this pork shoulder. 

    It smelled divine; better than chocolate cookies in the oven, toast, pie, anything.   The smell was so intoxicating, the people sitting next to me turned and asked me what I had ordered.  And then proceeded to order one for themselves before I had even tried it!  But I promise you, the taste was just as good as the smell.  It was amazing.  They served it to me with a spoon, which I thought was for the mashed potatoes.  But when I asked the waiter for a fork, he smiled and said, "You won't need one."  It was the most tender, juicy, and flavorful piece of pork I have ever had.  It literally melted in your mouth.  And then with the sauce on top and the mashed potatoes, it was perfect.  I think this may have to be my "last meal" meal.  Even now, just writing about it, my mouth is watering. 
    I became quick friends with the people sitting next to me at the bar.  I think it is impossible in the atmosphere of this restaurant to not meet a new friend.  We sat and talked for a while and when asked if we wanted dessert, it seemed like a great excuse to stay and talk longer.  (And if the rest of the meal was so amazing, their dessert couldn't be bad, right?)  I chose the Bread Pudding with Marsala and Citrus.  I must say, I chose very well.

     I love when bread pudding is more bread-like than pudding.  As you can see from the picture, this one fit the bill.  The bread had a terrific, creamy and thick texture, with actual bits of orange peel in it, which I loved!  The orange peel added an amazing taste and texture to the creamy bread.  They spread caramel sauce and whipped cream over it, which was the perfect cherry on top.  I would have licked my plate if I had not been engaged in conversation with my neighbors.  It was heavy, but in the best way possible, and not overly sweet.  This one gives the bread pudding I've had in Kentucky a run for it's money...

   Overall, this was one of the best dining experiences I have ever had.  It is certainly one of my favorite blog posts and a meal I will forever remember.  Next time, I'll have to make sure to bring many good friends to share it with.  If you ever find yourself in The Purple Pig, order a glass Rosso Piceno for me!  Cheers, my friends.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Delicious, Deep Dish Divinity

   I was in Chicago.  For foodies, that means one thing: Deep Dish Pizza!!  I knew I had to get it somewhere, but the question was where...  Many will argue who has the best.  Just like in NYC, every pizza joint has a sign out front saying either "Home of the Original Deep Dish" or "Chicago's Best Deep Dish" so I decided to simply go off of recommendations.  Many names were thrown my way, but the majority went with "Lou Malnati's Pizzeria". 
   So, before my family left town, we took a field trip to one of the now many Lou Malnati's around Chicago.  We began to look through the menu and everything looked amazing.  I will admit that my family, like most, does not agree on most things when it comes to making decisions.  But life changing pizza must have been written in the stars for us that day because we unanimously voted on the "Malnati Chicago Classic".  It is made with Lou Malnati's exclusive blend of lean sausage, mozzarella cheese, and in-house made tomato sauce all on their famous Buttercrust. 

   This pizza was out of this world good!  The sauce was tangy and sweet and slightly chunky with tomatoes.  The mozzarella cheese oozed into every crevice of the sausage and crust, making each bite perfectly cheese filled.  (A must have on pizza.)  And that sausage... I will admit, I have a thing for sausage.  I love it!  Maybe it's my German heritage, or maybe it's just because sausage is amazing and everyone should love it, but it reaches perfection on pizza.  Obviously Lou agrees with me because they have created the perfect sausage on their pizza.  It's cut into thin, long pieces that create an entire layer on the pizza.  It's sweet but also has a bit of a kick to it.  It is awesome, to put it lightly.  And last but not least, that butter crust.  I think everything I could say about it is in the title.  It's buttery dough that is soft except around the slightly crunchy, burnt ends.  I hate to use the word again, but it's perfect.   
    I'm usually a three slice girl when I'm in New York.  But the slices at Lou's are like small houses on your plate.  After a mere one slice I was doing the lean back in the booth with the hand on the stomach move.  This pizza is incredible, but not for the faint of heart.  I loved it, but couldn't eat it all the time like the thin crust style in NYC.  But this was a pizza experience for the books (or blog...).  If you are ever in Chicago, get to a Lou Malnati's. 
My family, pre pizza coma :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Italian Christmas Eve in Chicago

    La Cage was in Chicago for the holidays.  It's such a great city, and if I had to be away from home for the holidays, I'm glad it was in a city like Chicago.  So many great museums and fun things to do and, of course, lots of great food.  My family came to Chicago for Christmas, which was great, and on Christmas Eve we ventured out to Chicago's meatpacking district to an Italian restaurant called "Macello". 

      I lived in Italy for about a month and a half and Macello's menu reminded me of things I saw and ate in Italy.  It seemed like the real deal to me, so we made reservations.  Let me tell you, Macello did not disappoint and my family had one of the best meals we've ever shared together. 
     We started off with an order of  Carciofi Ripieni (Stuffed artichokes).  Sadly, I did not get a picture of them, but they were absolutely divine.  Stuffed with Parmesan and other cheeses and breadcrumbs and then baked, they were soft and full of flavor.  I LOVE artichokes but not when they are cooked to a watery, flavorless lump.  These were perfect.  And whatever cheese they were stuffed with was gooey and wonderful.  These are a must order if you ever visit Macello.
    For my entree, I ordered a special, so sadly it's not on the menu everyday.  I ordered the Oven baked Haddock with seafood risotto and asparagus: 
     This meal made all my Christmas wishes come true.  Wow, was this amazing.  The fish was so tender and moist, tasted extremely fresh and just melted in my mouth.  The sauce it was served with was definitely tomato based, but I'm not sure what else was in it.  But it reminded me of a less creamy vodka sauce, which is one of my favorites.  The sauce was delicious and the Haddock and risotto soaked it up beautifully.  (I'm from the south, so it's all about sopping up that sauce!)  Which brings me to the risotto... This risotto was like a sampling of every piece of seafood in the sea.  It had everything from scallops to squid to shrimp to mussels and clams.  I would say it was equally seafood as risotto.  It was awesome.  Nothing was chewy or overcooked.  It all tasted fresh, not overly "fishy" and paired perfectly with that tomato sauce. 
    Being that Chicago is no where close to an ocean, I was not expecting anything special from their seafood, but I can confidently say this was one of the best seafood dishes I've ever had.  My family all ordered very different things, from pasta to beef to soup, and it was all amazing.  If you are in Chicago, I urge you to venture out to this amazing and unassuming restaurant.  It sits under the railroad tracks in the middle of nowhere, but it is so worth the drive out.  The food is ridiculous and the atmosphere is really cool.  It has high ceilings with rafters that have beautiful painted globes hanging from them.  The walls are covered with painted murals and their large wine selection is displayed beautifully in a case along one wall.  A great place to eat and be with loved ones.
My wonderful family in Macello