Category Archives: Cafes

Ain’t Nothin but a Hound Dog…

I have always wanted to go in the Hound Dog on Grand Ave. but never have. When I decided to start a blog I said this was going to be the first place I blogged about. Maybe it was my reason for starting a blog. Well you all know this is not my first blog post, although it may sound like it! Maybe I didn’t want to go in because I wanted to keep the romance of it alive.  In my mind, it was this great “find”; amazing food hidden in a store front that advertized burgers and teriyaki, egg sandwiches and bi bim bob. I was afraid to go in and have my illusion shattered, because I knew it most likely would be shattered, smashed, and then I would have to find a new place to fantasize about. I started passing it every Monday and Wednesday on my way to work about six months ago. Ohhh, maybe I would go in at lunch time. It was so close. Maybe I would stop for one of those $2.27 egg sandwiches on my way in.  Nope, never happened.  So when do I decide to go there? On my day off! Not that it is that far from my house. I needed a blog post. It was time….The fears started creeping in again. What if it totally sucked? I would have gone there for nothing and my little story would be ruined and I wouldn’t have a blog post. Well….being the HUGE gambler risk taker that I am (ha!) I decided I would write a blog post about it no matter what! Risky, huh? Plus I decided to go twice in one day. Once for breakfast and once for the Bi bim bob. Oh boy, this could be a very good day or a very bad day. I am trying to keep you in suspense. Is it working???? Ok here we go….

I love this sign.

I actually went to Hound Dog in my pjs, which also happen to be my work out clothes. Is that bad? Just don’t tell Stacy and Clinton from TLC’s What Not to Wear! I have always wanted to be on that show! Laurent doesn’t think I could get on it. I keep begging him to turn me in. I haven’t seen any cameras following me around yet. Damn!

So I packed up my peppermint tea and got in the car to head over to Hound Dog. Yes. I brought my own tea. I am a morning beverage snob. I was not about to drink Lipton!

Don't think this is cold brew!

I had noticed picnic tables outside when I drove by, so I wouldn’t be drinking it IN the restaurant.  I walk in and it is just what I expected. Menu boards with the plastic push in letters, molded fast food restaurant booths., Asian specials pasted on the walls printed on Astrobright paper from Kinkos.

But boy was it clean. It may smell like a fryer, had to throw my pjs in the wash after my visit, but it was clean. The line has a deep fryer, a flat top, a grill and a white apartment stove.  I ordered the egg sandwich.  The owner offered me white or wheat bread, English muffin, croissant or French bread. Wow, what a selection. I got it on French bread. That wasn’t $2.27, but it was still a steal at $3.50 or so. When I asked for cheese, there wasn’t that same choice like the bread. In fact he didn’t even ask me what kind I wanted. I knew what was coming, American cheese. Yes! There is a big neon sign in the front window that says Fast Food. Boy, was it fast. They weren’t lying. It was cooked fresh, but couldn’t have taken more than 2 minutes. The verdict. Screw you McDonalds Egg McMuffin. (Yes I do eat them once in awhile.) This egg sandwich blows you away! Think I might be craving this. Think I will probably stop on my way to work some Monday or Friday. Nothing fancy, but it did the job. I actually could barely finish it. The French bread took me straight back to my days working at my Aunt’s fast food restaurant. I am betting it was Gonella bread, which is made right here in Chicago, over by Chicago and Milwaukee.  We used it for our steak sandwiches. It smelled the same in Hound Dog as it did in 5 Points, my Aunt’s restaurant, just like a fryer! If the owner would have been wearing English Leather, like my uncle, the olfactory memory would have been complete!

I know you can't really see the sandwich, but it was $3.50, that's the important part!

Phew! Breakfast passed the test. It didn’t suck. You don’t know how happy that made me. I didn’t feel so bad about coming back here for lunch, although my stomach will probably beg to differ. I am sure I will be craving veggies for days. I better bring my lunch to work tomorrow.

Ok, fast forward to my lunch trip to Hound Dog. I am sure the owner recognized me. People seem to spot my orange hair a mile away and remember it.  I really wanted to get the teriyaki, because I think that is on the sign, but I don’t like teriyaki. I lied. I actually don’t think I  know when I have ever had teriyaki. The word brings on visions of red sickly sweet sauce on chicken. Not a good start. I am sure the real deal  in a good Japanese restaurant is amazing, but I don’t think Hound Dog was the right place for my initiation into the teriyaki world. I might be scarred for life. The egg sandwich was good, but I was not expecting miracle for lunch! I ordered bi bim bob, or BBB as the owner called out to his wife (?) who was doing the cooking. She cooked this up in about two minutes flat again. I guess it wasn’t rocket science and there were no foams, emulsions, reductions or sous vide to perform, but still, two minutes is fast. It was served in a real bowl too. A plastic bowl, but real, not a Styrofoam to go container. It saves them money, but I was still surprised. In fact, it was the same Asian bowl that I have at home. Yes, my bowls at home are plastic. They are the perfect size and shape and I haven’t found any ceramic ones to replace them yet. We eat mostly Asian food at home anyways, so it is fitting.

I ate outside again. This time I purchased a beverage. I am more of a morning beverage snob than anything. The bi bim bob was ok. Not great, but not inedible either. Would I order it again? Probably not. Have I had worse food? Yes, at the casino in our hotel in Green Bay a few years ago at Thanksgiving. Inedible Caesar Salad. Since when are there olives in a Caesar Salad? And how can you ruin a Caesar salad? Don’t ask me how, but they did. At least this resembled bi bim bob. Like I said. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t memorable at all though. Which can be a good thing. I wish I could forget that Caesar salad!

Here is where I start getting philosophical on you since I have already told you about the food. This place just had a good vibe. When I was there I saw every kind of person come in; city workers, two blond girls (don’t know how else to describe them!), hipsters, a Hispanic family, an older Asian woman and some guys who looked like architects or something! And they all seemed like regulars.  Here was a couple, living the American dream. They owned their own business doing what they knew how to do , cook. It was an honest living. They don’t run in food circles, they don’t judge you, they don’t offer you their politics. They cook and serve you fast cheap food. I  get soooo tired of  the food world with all the competition, the nasty back stabbing and the  gossip. Did you hear so and so serves rice in his restaurant? And mangos? And uses vanilla extract  in his desserts? Oh my gosh! What a crime. Those items don’t grow in the Midwest.  He should be shot!  Did you hear so and so is selling their restaurant? It must not be busy enough. Did you hear so and so is no longer working at so and so and said that…….blah blah blah. So much hypocrisy and one upping and political crap. It’s exhausting.

Was the food at the Hound Dog the best food in the world? No. Did my stomach hurt a little after eating there twice in one day? Yes. (Everything in moderation.) Would I come back? Yes. It was nice to just go and order an egg sandwich. A simple, plain, cheap egg sandwich., without a side of attitude and political correctness. And I am not embarrassed to say that I enjoyed it.

Hound Dog Burger and Teriyaki    2257 W. Grand Ave.   312-666-5797

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My ‘Ode to Cold Brewed Iced Coffee…

Warning: This is going to be a loooong post, as I am crazy passionate about cold brewed iced coffee. Plus it was written while jacked up on cold brew, which will explain some but not all of the rambling! But you will be rewarded with a recipe, a source for instant cold brew, and a list of places that serve it in Chicago. As of yesterday, it ‘tis the season for iced coffee here in Chicago.  So, grab a cold brew, settle in and read on…..

Cold Brewed Iced Coffee….is there any other way? That is a rhetorical question. Or if you insist on the answer, it is “no”. Wait, “NO!” There is no other way to make or drink iced coffee, besides cold brew. I was converted a few years ago at the café. One of our cooks, Cara, said that Stubbs Coffee (no longer in business) made cold brewed iced coffee and it was a million times better than coffee that was hot brewed and cooled down. I was like “Ya, right.”  Rachel, our baker, concurred with Cara and vouched for how amazing it was. Well, Rachel has amazing taste in food and drink and drinks a TON of iced coffee, so I figured I better go check out this cold brew. Cara and Rachel were right. It was absolutely amazing. It reminded me of drinking wine.  You could taste the terroir, the “sense of place”, and all the nuances of the bean.  It tasted of chocolate, of blueberries, of caramel. There was no bitterness, only richness and depth of flavor. It was a completely different animal. I think an amazing tasting would be to cold brew two or three coffees from different origins and taste the nuances. I am confident that they would taste completely different.

It turns out that cold brewed iced coffee is less acidic than regular coffee.  It has 60% less acid than hot brewed coffee. Why, I don’t know. That might be a question for Neil or Jake at Crop to Cup. Want to weight in here guys?  Because of this fact, it is the only coffee I can drink. I had to ironically give up coffee when I owned the café, as the acid was killing my stomach and had me doubled over in pain; not conducive to a morning rush at all.

It also happens that “cold brew”, which I am now officially shortening it to, has more caffeine than regular coffee.  Tangent- I guess the grammatically correct way of describing this method of brewing coffee would be cold brewed iced coffee. But since when am I ever grammatically correct? I incorrectly and some would say obnoxiously call it “cold brew ice coffee”, dropping the “ed” on brewed and on iced. I overheard someone say how it was their pet peeve when people said “ice coffee” That is should be “iced coffee”. Whatever. Hope they don’t read this blog! They probably don’t. Ok, back on track. Cold brew has a ton more caffeine in it. Again, why, I don’t know? Jake? Neil? I can attest to this in a few ways. #1- that even Rachel, the caffeinated chef, couldn’t drink it after 3:00. Wow! Potent stuff! #2 – it gets me so jacked up, it is not even funny. I am talking head buzzing, heart pounding, talk a mile a minute, jacked up.  Maybe it is because I don’t drink it that often, I don’t know, (Neil? Jake?)  But watch out when I do. I end up writing super long blog posts that barely stay on subject! Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Jeff, if you are reading this, you should not drink three of these either!

Now, the big question is, where do you get this amazing drug?  That’s the hard part, at least in Chicago it is.  Not many places cold brew ice coffee. Why? Because it is time consuming, a batch needs to “steep” for 12-24 hours, it takes up a lot of room, we used to have six eight quart containers steeping at one time at the café, and your yield is half that of hot brewed coffee, which equals double the food cost. So, if you do find it somewhere, be ready for a higher price tag. Believe me, it is worth it. Once you taste it, you will seek it out and never go back to the regular stuff, or iced Americanos for that matter; just not the same.  It’s funny, I love Chicago, but it is so behind in so many ways. We are finally catching onto the coffee culture, but cold brew, not so much yet. Cold brew is a given in places like Austin (that place is sooo cool.) and Seattle and Portland. You can also find it many places in LA and NY. It’s funny, when I ask if places cold brew, they usually look at me funny, which either means “Yes, of course, is there any other way?” Or”What the hell does that mean? “

Ice Coffee at Chava Cafe

Ok, where to get it in Chicago.

Café Asado – This is the best ice coffee I have found in Chicago. They roast their own beans and know what a good cup of coffee should taste like. And they are not in a hurry at all. Good coffee takes time, you know.

Floriole –  Everything they make tastes amazing and they do everything the right way. It doesn’t matter how long something takes to prepare at Floriole, just so it tastes good. Rachel is now baking and consuming cold brew at Floriole  :)

Chava Café –  It is a super cool, modern café that serves amazing food, one of the partners was formerly from  Nomi. This is not your standard café fare. Whenever I head up north, I stop here for my fix.

Southport Grocery – Not only do they sell lots of great local artisan products and serve a great breakfast and lunch, they also make cold brew. Get one of their amazing chocolate toffee scones to go with it. You won’t be sorry.

Buzz Killer Espresso –  They feature a rotating roster of bean roasters from all over. Cool looking shop, They also brew Rishi tea also (my fave). But no decaf in sight! I guess hipsters don’t drink decaf anyways!

The Grind – Always packed coffee shop in Lincoln Square that also serves pastries from local businesses.  I have been stopping here on my way to work. My boss can see it is my eyes when I have sucked down one of their potent cold brews. And then I clean the entire shop while chattering away the entire time. (She has learned to block me out!)

Coffee Studio – Andersonville’s modern coffee shop that is serious about their coffee drinks. They were in Bon Appetit touted as one of the best boutique coffee shops. Their cold brew was seriously excellent. Great rich flavor. It is what cold brew is all about.

Miko’s Italian Ice– The little walk up windows in Bucktown and Logan Square cold brew their ice coffee and have been doing it that way for at least a decade. You can get an amazing Italian Ice here or a cold brew ice coffee.

Believe it or not, Caribou also cold brews! I have not had an ice coffee from there, as of yet, but my hubby told me about it. Nice to know if you are in a pinch.

The Knock Box in Humboldt Park used to cold brew. I don’t know why they stopped. It is a cute unpretentious café that makes for a great atmosphere for hanging out.

Places I wish had cold brew, Lovely Bakeshop, Star Coffee Lounge, and Ipsento. We use Ipsento’s beans. They roast them on site and I think they are one of the best roasters in town. They are not fancy or hip, but their coffee is damn good.

Please let me know if I missed anyplace. I would love to add places to my excel list!

Ok, I’m not done blogging yet! Here is where I tell you how to brew this wonder drug yourself!  It’s super easy. It is just messy and there is no instant gratification, as it takes 12-24 hours to steep. Now they sell a cold brew toddy maker for $30, but it is totally unnecessary. You need no special equipment at all to do this at home, except a strainer and some coffee filters. A French press makes it easier, but you don’t need one. I don’t have one.

Yes it is half decaf. Told you this stuff jacks me up!

Ok, here goes, dump 1 cup of coarse ground coffee into a container, pour in 4 cups of water, stir, let sit for 12-18 hours, filter through a coffee filter and strainer, pour over ice, enjoy!

Unstaged photo. I am just very messy.

Really, It is that easy.  I will say, it is very messy. The filtering process is not pretty. You get lots of silt. That is why I use a coffee filter in a strainer. You sort of have to stir it up. It is not a fast process. But you waited 18 hours for this damn coffee, you can wait a little longer! The yield for a 4 quart container is about 2 quarts, after filtering.

Alternate filtering method; double strainer

So how much does this cost to make at home. Ooohhh, I’m not so good at math, I’ll have to run the numbers by Laurent, the math whiz hubby, who counts in Chinese under his breath! It’s funny to listen to.  With Laurent’s fancy math, accounting for ice taking up 30% of your glass, etc., etc., home brewing ends up costing $1.00 per 16 oz glass. This is definitely not as cheap as hot brewed coffee, but cheaper than getting one out.

Oops, I drank half of it before I could take a picture.

Here is another alternative. Cold Brew concentrate from New Orleans.  New Orleans is king of cold brew ice coffee from way back when. Laurent was just there recently on business. I made him bring me some of this stuff home. I had read about it on the internet. It is cold brewed coffee and chicory. It comes in a container that lets you measure an ounce. It is the same type of container that is used to package gasoline additive or sanitizer, so don’t store them close to each other or you could make a fatal mistake one bleary eyed morning! This stuff is pretty good, not as good as freshly steeped cold brew, but not bad at all. And it’s not messy. And it is cheap. A 500 ml container is $5.50, plus shipping. The math whiz computed this to cost about .30 per 16 oz glass, if shipping cost $5.00.  Super cheap and not messy at all. Go for it!

Took it outside to the porch to enjoy.

So, this was my ‘ode to cold brew ice coffee. (It’s my ‘ode, I’ll grammatically slaughter the words however I like, thank you!) Really, give it a try. You won’t believe the difference. And now I’ve given you three ways to get your fix on.  You will become addicted, I promise.

Here is the info in an organized manner for you people who can’t follow my rambling! You’ll get the hang of it, as you read more of my blog. Or you’ll just nod and say “yes dear” like Laurent has learned to do!

Cold Brew Ice Coffee Recipe

(I usually triple the recipe)

1 cup coarsely ground coffee

4 cups water

Put coffee and water in container. Stir.

Let steep 18 hours, more or less.

Filter into clean container through a strainer and coffee filter or a French Press. May need to filter twice.

OR

Go to www.coolbrew.com and order your cold brew with chicory for easy breezy beautiful  instant iced coffee.

OR

Stop by one of these fine establishments in Chicago.

Café Asado  – 1432 W. Irving Park – 773-661-6530

Floriole  –1220 W. Webster – 773-883-1313

Chava Café- 4656 N. Clark – 773-942-6763

Southport Grocery – 3552 N. Southport – 773-665-0100

Buzz Killer Espresso –1644 N. Damen – 773-366-8377

The Grind – 4613 N. Lincoln – 773-271-4482

Coffee Studio – 5628 N. Clark – 773-271-7881

Miko’s Italian Ice – 1846 N. Damen and 2234 N. Sacramento – 773-645-9664

Caribou Coffee – www.cariboucoffee.com for locations

Have a great ice coffee season.

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Jimmy Jamms Sweet Potato Pies

I don’t even need to think of a snazzy title full of alliteration for this post, it’s already done for me. Thank goodness, because while this day ended up great, it did not start that way.

I started out the day on the wrong side of the bed last Tuesday. The neighbor’s dog started its incessant barking way too early and our lulu cat decided to chime in and howl/scream/just plain annoy me. It was cold and rainy, not a good start to a day off at all. I dragged myself out of bed, complaining the whole time. At that point, Laurent made a quick exit to work with a “sorry, gotta run, hon” Probably just glad to make it out alive, as my grumpiness would most likely be directed at him, poor guy.

I sucked it up and put on my bright yellow rain boots and got in the car to head to Beverly to buy bottles for the syrups I am making. (Syrup company to launch sometime in the fall! More about that some other time.) Of course there was traffic.  After this drive into unchartered territory, I was hoping for some type of fun discovery to brighten my day. I got my wish. As I was driving west on 95th, I passed Jimmy Jamms Sweet Potato Pies. Oh ya, my kind of discovery! I had heard about this café that serves everything sweet potato on the Hungry Hound or read about it in the paper, or something, but it wasn’t on my radar or my excel list at all, and then I just came upon it.  Time for a U-Turn.

I parked and walked in and was greeted with a sample of sweet potato ice cream. How could that not turn my day around? Yum. I love sweet potatoes, savory or sweet. And they had it all here. I wanted to hold off on my blog post to go back and try one more item, but I just couldn’t wait to tell you about it. I did try quite a few items, so I am not lacking material, by any means. Now you know I am not good at making decisions. This was torture! I asked the friendly woman behind the counter what I should have. I couldn’t decide between  the Jimmy Jamm Loaded Yam, a loaded sweet potato with filled with sautéed onions, green peppers, brown sugar, shredded cheese, chicken or steak and mushrooms,  or the Sweet Potato Stew or a deli sandwich on sweet potato bread.  The stew just sounded perfect for this cold rainy day. She threw me for a loop when she said that her favorite was the chicken and sweet potato waffle.  She said the chicken was so perfectly spiced that she didn’t even need hot sauce on it. Where was that on the menu?  I didn’t see it anywhere. I can’t forgo a server’s recommendation, as they have hardly ever steered me wrong. Even though I had my heart set on a loaded sweet potato, I gave in to the recommendation.  I placed my order and she reminded the kitchen staff that she had told me how perfectly it was spiced, so “do it right” she told them.

While I was waiting for my chicken and waffles to cook, I went a little crazy in the dessert department! I ordered a piece of sweet potato pound cake, ‘for Laurent “, (yes I meant to put those quotation marks there!)  a piece of sweet potato bread, these donut looking pastries filled with sweet potato and a piece of sweet potato pie.  That decision was hard enough, as there were about four or five varieties of sweet potato pie, with pecans and pralines or with honey cream cheese topping. I went for the classic. I also had to leave the cupcakes, cookies and ice cream there. Next time. Next time.

So, I took a seat on one of the big comfy chairs to wait for my chicken and waffles. It arrived and I let out an “oh my!” and immediately started taking pictures of it. I took one with my camera phone and sent it to Laurent, who immediately responded with “where’s mine?” Let me tell you, I took him leftovers. There was no way I could finish that. The dish had four huge meaty wings and sweet potato waffle the size of the 10” plate. First, the chicken. The server was right, this chicken was perfectly spiced. I have never had fried chicken this good.  It was not spicy by any means, but  spiced or seasoned with herbs, maybe a little chile, all mysteriously infusing the batter and chicken with great flavor, but not apparent to the naked eye at all. The batter was flaky but not falling off. The chicken was juicy and piping hot. This waffle was the perfect complement to the chicken. It was a little tart, ( buttermilk?) but sweet at the same time. You could definitely taste the sweet potato, but it wasn’t dense or heavy at all. It was served with butter and syrup, which I used a little of, but it really didn’t need it. It is so rare for me not to pour any kind of sauce that is given to me over my food. I’m just a saucy girl! These chicken and waffles did not need it at all. I am not a chicken and waffle expert by any means. In fact, I think I have only had it one other time, but this was good stuff and I think it may have ruined me for all other chicken and waffles in my future.

I packed up the rest of my feast for Laurent, and dug into the sweet potato pie, which comes with a warning saying “These pies are very addictive and may cause you to buy more” . Heed this warning, as it is true.  While I resisted this time, as I had a bagful of other goodies to try, I was very tempted. The sweet potato pie was very tasty, creamy, sweet, spiced, but not too much of any of these, except tasty. Great balance, texture, flavor. I have heard that you have to order whole pies for the holidays early, as they sell out fast. At $10 a pie, a full size pie, I can see why.

Jimmy Jamms Sweet Potato Pies made my day. The staff was super friendly, the food was tasty and it was super inexpensive. Lunch big enough for two and all these yummy sweets added up to only $20! $20! This place is a bargain and a half with friendly service and excellent food.  I can’t wait to go back and try that loaded yam and the stew and more of those chicken and waffles and top it all off with some sweet potato ice cream, of course. Get yourself to Beverly soon.  It is well worth the drive!

Jimmy Jamm Sweet Potato Pies, 1844 W. 95th St. , 773-779-9105, Closed Sundays

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Fabulous Floriole

I like to write about places and food that I am crazy passionate about. I usually don’t write about the latest hottest newest foodie place to go to. That is what The Hungry Hound and Time Out does; and they do it well. I can’t compete with them with my rambling not always grammatically correct tangent filled blog posts. But I am so crazy passionate about this latest hottest foodie temple of fabulousness, that I have to gush about it. Floriole. You know the whole background already, Sandra had/has a stand at the Green City Market and now she has a much anticipated beautiful two story café. That’s the short version. Here comes my long version.

My last stop before being tested for Celiac Disease recently was Floriole. If I could never again have wheat/gluten, Floriole was going to be my “Last Supper” and “Last Dessert”!  The good news is that I do not have Celiac and I can continue to gorge myself on Sandra’s pastries. I will try to control myself next time, as on my last trip I had a sandwich, an almond crème croissant, a sticky bun, and a chocolate croissant, plus an iced coffee. No joke! I thought I was going to be handed down a death sentence, so I was going to live it up while I could.

Floriole recently started offering sandwiches, a few choices a day. Perfect. Why do you need ten million sandwich choices, where the only difference between one sandwich and the next is the condiment? You don’t. Why do you need tasteless bread piled a mile high with gloppy sauces and tasteless tomatoes? You don’t. What you do need is one of Floriole’s perfect sandwiches. They are very “French”, with a shmear of condiment, a few slices of meat and a slice of cheese.Simple, yet with such fresh complex flavors. These ingredients were meant to show off the baguette, that lovely baguette, which was the star of the show. You know how sometimes you will take half the bread off to get to the good stuff inside a sandwich? You wouldn’t even dream of doing that at Floriole. In fact, you will probably buy whole loaf on your way out the door, for later. It probably won’t even make it to the car without you stealing a bite.

The other ingredients such as the Otter Creek spring raw milk cheddar, the ramp pesto made from Bare Knuckle Creek Farms ramps, the Black earth Meats ham were top notch, but the bread…..ohhhh the bread. You have not tasted a baguette until you have had Floriole’s. I never knew this is what a baguette should taste like. I didn’t know baguettes had flavor and texture. I thought they were tasteless neutral vehicles for stinky cheeses. This baguette had chew, it had crust, and it tasted clean and yeasty. It was nothing at all like its cardboard cousin, “that baguette imposter”. Hence, this ham and cheese sandwich was what sandwich dreams are made of. And bonus, it was only about $7.00, maybe less, I don’t remember. All I know is I would pay double for it and still be happy! It didn’t come with greasy chips, or tasteless slaw or anything else. It didn’t need to. It was all about the sandwich.

Onto the pastries….yum. Just like the baguette was the perfect example of what a baguette should be, a picture, or better yet, a taste of Floriole’s croissants should be in the dictionary next to the definition of croissant. I have never been a croissant freak, again, probably because I have never had a good one in Chicago.  I have had an amazing croissant at a tiny little bakery with one table in Toronto, and in Paris, but never in Chicago. I have only had “fake” croissants in Chicago. You can tell by looking at them, these crescent shaped pastries masquerading as croissants, that they were not real. That they were made by some other method other than laboriously layering paton dough with butter over and over again and letting them rest and rise and do their thing. Floriole does it the right, time consuming way, as they do everything. Thank goodness. I have had three of the croissants at Floriole. Not all on one trip! Come on, that would just be gluttonous. Oh, wait….I did have two of them on one trip! Let me defend myself here by saying that the almond crème croissant made for a better picture, but I really wanted a chocolate one, because chocolate IS my middle name (after caramel). I did take the chocolate one to go and I did share it. So there. I also had a ham and cheese croissant on a separate trip. Lesson: Good ham plus good sharp cheese plus great technique and attention to detail equals a perfect croissant. No matter which croissant, or two, that you get, you will be very happy. Number one, you can taste the butter. Number two, you can taste the butter! And this makes for a super flaky, do not eat in your car, crispy, yet tender, perfect example of that classic French pastry.

Onto that sticky bun… I will confess that this was my second sticky bun. No not on this trip! I do have some self control. Not much, but some. I had no self control on my last trip, when I got that amazing croissant. I also got a sticky bun to share with my husband, as he loves them. Well…needless to say, he still has not had even a bite of Floriole’s sticky bun. Oops. I meant to only eat half, because, do you really need a whole sticky bun, after eating a ham and cheese croissant? Don’t answer that. Well, I ate a bite, then another, then my half was gone, just another little bite, well, by that time, I told myself it wasn’t worth saving him the one little bite that was left, so I destroyed the evidence. Now he is going to read this and I am totally busted! Those sticky buns are addictive. They are gooey and chewy on the outside, but the inside stays tender somehow. You know how with most sticky buns you can’t wait to get to that one center bite, as it is the most tender and perfect? Well, Floriole’s entire sticky bun is tender and perfect. No need to wait to get to the middle, you can enjoy every single bite. (even your husband’s half)  It is not too sweet, but still covered in lovely caramelized sugar. How she does it I don’t know, but I’m glad she does.

One last bonus, they cold brew iced coffee at Floriole. It makes sense. They do everything else the right way there, of course they would make iced coffee so it is rich and complex and full of flavor.

I just want to leave you with this (mental) picture, as I didn’t capture it on film. As I sat at Floriole, eating, enjoying, observing, musing…I saw person after person literally picking the crumbs off their plates, wanting to savor that very last morsel of their Floriole pastry.. I won’t lie, I found myself doing the same thing. It was that good.

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What a Treat……..

My good friends Jenn Hen  and Lisa Bleed have been going to Treat for brunch for quite a while now.  For some reason I have never been able to make it. I have been to Treat for dinner and it was wonderful. The samosas are some of my favorite in the city. I could drink the cilantro chutney that comes with them as a smoothie it is so good. I was addicted to their tandoori chicken sandwich at the Logan Square Framers Market last summer. Tamiz really knows how to infuse flavors into his dishes without making them overpowering. So, why not brunch? I’m telling you right now, don’t make the same mistake that I did.  Wake up and get yourself over there.

First off, the restaurant is the cutest space, painted  a bright enough yellow to be cheery, yet still sophisticated. The chairs are simple yet modern and the artwork on the walls is always interesting and edgy, but still dining friendly. It truly is cozy. (I saw the space when it was a fast food chicken shack. I cannot believe the transformation.)

Photo courtesy of Treat Restaurant

The brunch menu is very interesting, which is what I look for at a restaurant. Why do I want to order the same old boring dish, Sunday after Sunday, at different restaurants? Give me something interesting to choose from. And that is exactly what Tamiz did at Treat. While you have your classic brunch items, the menu is “spiced up” with Indian twists here and there. French toast is Masala French Toast. Buttermilk pancakes come with the option of home-made chai syrup. Who needs regular old pancake syrup with that choice? You can make your own omelet with wilted spinach and paneer, which is an Indian farmers cheese. (All the savory dishes are served with spicy potatoes. We will get to those in a minute. I need a whole paragraph to gush about those.)

What we ordered……I was torn between the Pakora Pancakes and the Daal, Poori and Eggs. Jenn and Lisa always order the Daal, Poori and Eggs, without even looking at the menu by now.  I really wanted eggs and potatoes, but that Pakora Pancake was calling my name. Plus, I don’t think I have ever been at a table where all three people order the same thing. I don’t think I could let that happen with a clean conscious! I wanted to try three different things, but who was I to muscle in on this tradition of Jenn and Lisa’s? God forbid they didn’t invite me join them again. Hmmm…what to do, what to do. Jenn seemed to be contemplating the Saag Panner Scramble. She had never noticed it on the menu, because she probably didn’t even have to look anymore. Her favorite dish was ingrained in her memory. It all worked out in the end.
I ordered the Daal, Poori and Eggs. Talk about an exciting different breakfast. This was it! The daal, stewed chickpeas, was spiced just perfect for breakfast. That is Tamiz and his refined taste.  Eggs cooked perfect over easy and the potatoes….those potatoes. If they are not infamous, they should be. Let me try to describe them, even though I know I will not do them justice. It was actually a potato cake…but a mashed potato cake, sort of, meaning it wasn’t shredded. But it had some chunks of potato in it. The cake tasted like it was spiced with curry, giving it that subtle edge of intriguing flavor without being overpowering. It was then pan fried. The texture was creamy, but it had texture (like your mom’s perfect mashed potatoes)  and it was not greasy at all, as breakfast potatoes can be sometimes. It was the perfect vehicle for the egg yolk and the daal, although the poori, fried Indian flatbread,  was also. Fried, but not greasy, light and airy and crispy.

The Daal, Poori and Eggs is the closer dish. The Saag Paneer Scramble is the furthest.

I also ordered the Pakora pancake. How could I not? A single one is offered on the menu. Very smart idea. I am sure it was a common request. Tamiz’s interpretation of pakora, which is usually a fritter of onions or other vegetable dipped in chickpea flour and deep-fried, is perfect. He basically made a savory pancake with chick pea flour (so it is gluten-free), put the onions inside, just enough to add flavor and texture, topped it with wilted spinach and served it with that addictive cilantro chutney and the tamarind chutney, which is good, just not drinkable as a smoothie like the cilantro chutney.  All for $3.75. Toast, shmoast! Order one for the table to share. It’s a no brainer. I did share, didn’t I Jenn and Lisa? It is quite possible that I subconsciously stabbed them with a fork as they tried to take a bite. I may have blocked out that part. I’ll check their hands for puncture wounds next time I see them!

I have to say this somewhere, even though it is silly. Even the garnish was good at Treat! Seriously!

Lisa  ordered her standby  of Daal, Poori and Eggs. She just couldn’t make the plunge to switch it up.  Lisa must have been starving after that Spin class she took, because she finished her entire breakfast. Talk about clean plate club.  She said something about the social acceptance of plate licking and I reminded her she didn’t live in Nashville anymore!

Jenn was much more the team player in ordering something new and different for purposes of my research. After much deliberation and possible kicking under the table, by me,  she  ended up ordering  the Saag Panner Scramble, which was eggs, paneer and spinach scrambled together served with pooris and those amazing potatoes. She was very happy with her choice. Even happier that I shared my daal with her. See, I can play nice and share, sometimes!
I will quote Jenn as saying “You know the food is good when you dance in your seat, when you are eating it!” My thoughts exactly. I am glad that I am not the only one who does that. I totally do a little dance in my seat when I eat food that I really like, especially if it is for the first time. You know me, I love discovering new good food. So, throw on the Donna Summer and get ready to dance like you are at a disco when you are at Treat. I’ll probably see you there, maybe we can do the bump!

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90 Miles, not so far away…..

You know how the places closest to home, always end up taking you forever to get to? That is 90 Miles, for us. Might as well be 90 Miles away…it’s not, it’s about two miles from my house. Last week we sat outside on the all season patio, which they enclose for the winter. Can you say “transported to tropical heaven?” It was toasty warm on the patio, while it was cold and hailing outside. The Cuban music was cranking. Strands of beaded lights were strung about the top of the enclosure. There were plants, murals and a big dreamy mirror in the corner. The crowd was happy and celebratory. Lots of atmosphere. A nice escape from the Chicago winter, which unfortunately it still is, at least while I am writing this. It will probably be 80 degrees when I post this, a week later! Believe me, I won’t argue.

Walking in, we were overcome with the most amazing smell, that of garlic, garlic and more garlic. The atmosphere was festive and warm.  Warm, toasty inside, smelling like garlic, this was all a good sign of good things to come. And we were not let down. I ordered the Masas de Puerco and Laurent ordered the Churrasco. The Masas de Puerco was basically one of the sources of that garlic smell as we walked in. It was not what I thought it was going to be. I read masas and figured something to do with tamales. Nope. Wrong. Masas de Puerco translates as Chucks of Pork. So much for my rudimentary Spanish!  So, these chunks of fried pork were totally juicy and flavorful served with beans and rice and caramelized plantains, one of my favorite things on the face of this earth.  I don’t understand how just frying chunks of pork can be soooo heavenly. Ok, I take that back, I do know. This pork looked so plain Jane, but packed a huge flavor and texture punch. Bam, fork tender, but not stringy. Bam, full of garlic flavor with no dousing of sauce and anything other than fat on it for flavor. (Forgive me for the “bams”. I don’t know what came over me. I don’t even like Emeril!)  I assume it was marinated in garlic, which must have been the source of its deliciousness. Two simple condiments sat on the plate, limes and raw rings of onions. These were simple but powerful tools. The squeeze of lime cut the fattiness of the pork, good fattiness, but fattiness, none the less, let us not fool ourselves! The raw onions, added the perfect amount of bite to the pork, a burst of raw bold flavor to compliment the subtle rich smoothness of the pork. I was amazed at its simplicity and the wallop of flavor it delivered. Looks are definitely deceiving. I am so the “the more sauces, components and descriptors a dish has, the better. “ Lesson learned with the Masas de Puerco; don’t judge a pork by its lack of sauce. One more lesson learned; do NOT even eat half your dinner, as you will be sooo full. This is a reoccurring theme of mine, since childhood. When something tastes so good, I will just keep eating it, even though I am full. I used to do this with my grandma’s chicken rice soup. At age nine, I could eat three or four bowls, even though I was full after two!

Onto Laurent’s dish, which he did finish, although I do not know how that was humanly possible. Laurent had the Churrasco, basically marinated skirt steak grilled and served with a chimichurri sauce, potatoes and a plantain. No temperature was taken at the table, but, the steak came out cooked to a perfect medium rare. Impressive . It was very lightly spiced, but just enough to give a hint of flavor. That seems to be the theme here, the flavor nuances of the ingredients are coaxed out of the dishes by a damn good cook! The chimichurri sauce was more like a pico de gallo consistency with cilantro, garlic and onions instead of tomatoes.  I am used to the more pesto like chimichurri at Tango Sur, which I prefer, but this was still good. Laurent asked for extra, of course. Who’s the sauce whore now?  The potatoes were also full of flavor, mysteriously, as there was no visible sauce or spice on them.  Fine with me, just so they taste good, although I am curious to know what made them so tasty. The plantain on Laurent’s plate, as not of the yummy caramelized variety, as mine. It just looked like a steamed whole banana. That was the only not-so-good part of our meal. That’s ok. We didn’t have room for it anyways.

We did have” room” for dessert, though, as I cannot resist guava and cream cheese in fried pastry even  if I tried, which I didn’t! The waiter, who, by the way, was very pleasant and friendly, recommended the pastilitos, a layering of phyllo, guava paste and cream cheese, as he said they are hard to find in Chicago. Very hard to find, because, alas, they were out. We had the empanada instead, because I was not leaving without my tropical guava goodness.  The empanada came out hot and freshly fried, oozing with exotic guava stickiness and gooey mild cheese.  How could that be bad? It wasn’t.

I can’t wait to visit 90 Miles again and have a guarito sandwich with green plantains, grilled steak, grilled onions, romaine, tomato and Swiss cheese along with a guanabana shake. Sitting on the amazing patio with brightly colored murals, I’ll just pretend I am miles away…..90 Miles away.

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Full Disclosure Banana Bread…..

Milk and Honey has the BEST banana bread ever. No question, hands down. End of story. Actually, not end of story, or this would be a very short blog post indeed! I will start with full disclosure, as I am a very honest person, too honest at times, but if that is my biggest fault, I’m doing pretty good! Full disclosure. I used to work at Milk and Honey and sometimes still do. I used to bake at Milk and Honey, also, this very banana bread. All that said. It is still the best banana bread I have ever tasted, so I am not going to let the circumstances stop me from writing about it. When I opened my café, I tested quite a few banana bread recipes, as did my business partner, who was the chef, as did our baker who is amazing. They were all goo, just not AS good as Milk and Honey’s. When I owned my café, I used to stop at Milk and Honey and get a piece of this banana bread on my way to Restaurant Depot every Friday morning. It was my treat, as this was a horrible place that I lugged a huge flatbed cart around filled with C-fold towels, cleaning supplies, coffee cups and cans of black beans!  A million times worse than Costco on a Saturday afternoon! I need some type of reward and the banana bread was it!

I guess I should tell you about the banana bread first, before I go off on my tangents. (Oops, too late for that!)  First, it is an amazing dark brown in color. The flavor is deep and rich and complex and almost that of a praline, maybe because of the walnuts in it. This banana bread is all about sugar and spice and everything nice, lots of cinnamon and nutmeg, maybe even allspice.  The top has a great sugary crunch from the turbinado sugar sprinkled on top. Don’t worry; it is not overly sweet by any means. This is not a wimpy banana bread. Carol’s recipe has poppy seeds in it, that much I can reveal, (so don’t go for a drug test after you eat it!) Maybe the poppy seeds contribute to the depth of color and flavor.  The poppy seeds do break up the texture, giving the bread a courser grain, not the fine grained tightly textured feel of those other banana breads.  Every banana bread I have seen or made is this wimpy light brown/tan/beigy color. Not the rich brown of caramelized sugar, as Milk and Honey’s is. As I said, I used to bake this very banana bread and I still don’t know what makes it this wonderful golden brown color. I think all the other banana breads are as deficient in flavor as they are in color. While some of the other banana breads are very banana”y”, sometimes to a fault, they almost take like fake bananas or banana extract, which reminds me of circus peanuts! Ugh! They lack the depth of flavor that Milk and Honey’s has. Maybe it is the brown sugar that gives it that impressive color and flavor.  I don’t know. The loaves are baked in huge Pullman loaves and take forever to bake, maybe that also contributes to the caramelization of color and flavor. I don’t think there are any other tricks up Carol’s sleeve when it comes to this banana bread. You know how some recipes call for sour cream or yogurt or apple sauce to contribute to the moistness. Nope, none of those in Milk and Honey’s banana bread, just good ol’ bananas.

You know. I give up trying to figure out why Milk and Honey’s banana bread is so good. Does it really matter? No. I think I’ll just shut up and eat another piece of this fabulous banana bread and be happy!

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Ay Ay Picante…is ay ay delicioso….

I was very excited when my friend, Mark Gonzalez, said he wanted to take me to his favorite Peruvian Restaurant; unfortunately “life” got in the way for a good two months. I swear he though I was blowing him off as I cancelled, rescheduled, and then cancelled again. I am glad he caught me this week, as the next two weeks of my life are going to be crazy busy and he probably would have just given up on me and then I would have never gotten to enjoy Ay Ay Picante’s fabulous food.

Ay Ay Picante is in Mayfair, on a stretch of Elston just South of Montrose. I never knew the neighborhood named Mayfair existed until a few weeks ago when I finally made it to Zebda. (That will have to be a blog post soon, as I loved it.)

I basically wanted to try everything on the menu at Ay Ay Picante.  It all sounded very unfamiliar and exotic to me, but Mark warned me that portions were quite large.  We couldn’t even finish what we did order. Next time I think my plan of attack will be the appetizer menu so I can try the tamales, humitas, and rellanas. We ordered all of Mark’s favorites, ceviche mixto, aji de gallina and lomo saltado. They know him here as he orders the aji de gallina so often.

So, you are asking, what are these crazy dishes that I have never heard of? Well, you’ve probably heard of or had ceviche before. It is seafood that is “cooked” by the lime juice that it marinates in. The acid literally cooks it. The mixto ceviche we had consisted of shrimp, calamari, tilapia, octopus and thinly sliced red onions, lime juice and rocoto chiles. The juice that is created by the seafood, lime & chiles is called “leche de tigre”, tiger’s milk, and is often drunk after all the seafood is eaten or even served in shot glasses. It is said to cure hangovers. I did not have a hangover and I didn’t drink the leche de tigre, but I sure did eat all the seafood. The ceviche was tart and tangy without being sour. It was refreshing and light and reminded me of the summer to come. It is on it’s way, no? I loved the texture of the octopus, nice and meaty, pure, perfect texture, not rubbery at all, which happens way too often. Actually all the different textures of the seafood helped make this dish so successful. The delicateness of the tilapia, contrasted the meatiness of the octopus, the sturdiness of the calamari that had a slight chew, a good chew, was contrasted by the tenderness of the shrimp. All the textures were complimented by the slivers of thinly sliced red onion that added great flavor, but did not intrude or overwhelm.  When I see that many red onions, I would usually pick around most of them, as they do have a tendency to overwhelm a dish. In the ceviche, though, I was seeking red onions out, to add a crunch and a burst of flavor that totally complimented the seafood, lime and chiles.

One thing Mark said was that the ceviche wasn’t as spicy as it usually was and it was probably because I was white! I can see that. He was blunt about it. He can be. We’re friends! That is what happens when I dine out with my husband, who is Chinese; he has to explain that we want it spicy, that I can handle it. (Sadly, I no longer can, so I was happy with the “white” version of ceviche!)

Aji de gallina, chile pepper chicken, was the next dish we conquered, or conquered us, I should say. I think this dish may have been toned down a bit, too, as it was not spicy at all, but it was quite flavorful. As you can see, the dish is nothing pretty. It looks pretty bland, chicken in a yellow sauce that consists of peanuts, milk and cheese, served with white rice, hard boiled eggs and a few olives. But boy did the aji de gallina pack in the flavor. It was not peanuty like a Thai dish, but there was a backbone of peanut flavor. The cheese and milk added body and richness…and boy was it rich! At first I didn’t think much of the few black olives on the plate, thinking that “wow, good thing these are here, otherwise this dish would be a study in beige”, but those powerful little black olives added a saltiness & acidity that the dish needed to break up the richness. They knew what they were doing, although I would have liked a few more of those powerful richness breaker uppers!

Lomo saltado was what we were digging into next, not like we had room in our stomach, but I am a trooper! Mark said it was basically a stir fry of beef marinated in soy sauce, stir-fried with garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, onions and French fries, yes, French fries, served with rice. I didn’t know that there were so many Chinese influences in Peruvian food. Soy sauce is known as sillau, a Cantonese word, in Peru, not salsa de soya, which would be Spanish.  In fact, Peru has the largest Chinese population in all of Latin America. A million people of Chinese origin live in Peru and there are over 2000 “chifas”, Chinese restaurants in Peru. Cool. Back to the subject at hand, though, lomo saltado. What could be wrong with beef stir-fried with French fries and served with rice? Nothing. Exactly. Ok, end of that story, I guess. Next time I want to try the chaufa, which is Chinese style fried rice. I have a feeling every time I come here, I am going to eat too much. Oh well, such is life.

I would say bring lots of people when you visit Ay Ay Picante as the dishes are quite large. While I think it is a bargain at dinner, as it is also BYOB, lunch can be a stretch on the pocket book. I say this because the menu is the same for lunch or dinner. $14 for a dinner entrée is a steal to me, but spending $30 on lunch, each, as Mark and I did, was a bit of a surprise. That said, I did not need to eat anything else that day. Seriously. I kept looking at my watch, waiting to get hungry. It was 7:00, then 8:00, then 10:00 and nope, I still wasn’t hungry. So I quit worrying about it and went to bed!

Ay Ay Picante     4569 N. Elston   773-427-4239

Actually I did go to bed, but did not fall asleep because I drank this "bubble gum" flavored neon yellow soda!

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Hello…You are not welcome at Café Spiaggia…

When you say hostess, what comes to mind? Someone who gladly receives you into their restaurant, someone who is gracious, who offers hospitality, and someone who makes you feel welcome. Well, that should have been our first clue, when we walked in the door at Café Spiaggia. There was none of that going on. In fact, we weren’t even greeted until after the people leaving had their coats retrieved; not even acknowledged. Then we were asked in an accusatory tone, if we had a reservation. We should have turned around then and there, like I felt like doing.

Ok, onto the bar to wait for friends. The bartender was friendly enough. That could not make up for the glass of $15 wine I ordered, that was barely drinkable. Thin, flat, tinny, mouth puckering. My husband said he would drink that, he’s good like that, and I ordered a second glass. Just as bad, at least it was only $12. I would have ordered a beer, but I couldn’t find a twelve ounce bottle under $24! Ok. Strike two.

I was very excited for Restaurant Week. I mulled and mulled over where to go. Money is tight right now, so we limited ourselves to one restaurant. I chose Café Spiaggia because I have heard amazing things about Tony Mantuano’s food, Spiaggia is the only 4 star restaurant in Chicago, and I figured I would never go there any other time. Even the café is a bit pricey. I didn’t want to go to the hippest trendiest restaurant; I wanted to go have a great meal. Unfortunately it never happened. The goal of my blog is to be upbeat and to write about experiences that I love, that I am passionate about. Well, this is how passionate I am about having an awful experience at Café Spiaggia. So passionate that I am writing a second post this week!

So, onto the dinner table. Maybe the waiter wasn’t happy that he got “restaurant week” people, who knows. The service was awful. He was snooty, impatient and condescending. Water glasses sat empty, coffee was never refilled.

You know, I always say that the sign of a truly classy establishment is one where everyone is treated equal. You never know who that unassuming customer may be. I have been to plenty of those swanky places, Blackbird, North Pond, Arnauds in New Orleans, the Setai in Miami. The staff at these upscale establishments don’t feel like they have to snub their guests to make themselves feel important. I have never been made to feel more out of place than at Café Spiaggia, amidst the faux finishing, glass sconces and electric blue banquettes. I am so sad that I chose Café Spiaggia to spend my hard earned money at. And that I invited my friends to meet us there. I was embarrassed to have chosen it.

On the bright side, the porchetta was to die for. Pork loin that was butterflied and rubbed with herbs and spices and rolled back up to be, braised for eleven hours and then finished in a wood burning oven; fall off the bone, even though there was no bone. This beautiful roll was served on top of creamy polenta, rapini and a touch of Calabrian pepper spiciness to complement the smoky, fatty, porkiness. Amazingly rich and well worth it every bite. Everything else, meh. The butternut squash ravioli was thick & undercooked with none of the warm brown butter flavor, just oily slickness served as a sauce. Dessert, house made gelato; we would be back on track, right? Three yummy flavors, chocolate chip, espresso and pistachio. Alas, they all tasted the same…of nothing but iciness. And they looked so sad, haphazardly slopped into metal ketchup ramekins and thrown on a plate, not a garnish to be seen. Tiramisu, thank goodness you really can’t make an awful one.

So sad. I was so sad.

I thought once dessert was served the pain would end, but no, one last stab, the check was dropped before we could even finish the mediocre tiramisu, just like at a diner, albeit a very expensive one.

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Z and H….short for outstanding….

We love nicknames…And thank goodness Zaleski and Horvath MarketCafé  has one…it’s Z and H…much easier, thank you!

I have been wanting to blog about Z and H MarketCafe on 47th Street in Kenwood for quite awhile now. I just had to find the time to head out to Kenwood from Logan Square. Wish I would have found the time earlier. It is worth the trip.

I love everything about Z and H; the market part, the café part, the friendly people part.

At the heart of the operation is a great deli with a wide variety of meats, cheeses and salads, a nice mix of good ‘ol fashioned turkey and artisan cheeses like Dunbarton Blue from Wisconsin. On the café side of things is a substantial size menu of sammies, panini and salads. If you want to get creative and make your own, they have a listing of deli meats, cheeses and yummy condiments and fun additions like curried mayo, quince paste, tomato chutney and guacamole. Tables are scattered around the store for a very comfortable feel.

Pastries are made in house, along with their bagels. Yes, they make their bagels in house. Is that crazy or what? And they are GOOD. You know how hard it is to make a good bagel, especially if that is not your main business? Hard. Do you know any good bagel shops in the city? I thought not. Now you do. Go get one.

I swear I only ate two of the sandwiches. The third was my friend, Caryn's. Really.

Breakfast is cheap, another good reason to go. I got a great sandwich with Nueske’s bacon, ham, cheese, organic eggs on a house made croissant. A breakfast sandwich made with organic eggs for $4.75? Unheard of in this city, or anywhere else for that matter! Breakfast sandwiches are served by themselves, but who needs/wants messy potatoes or whatever filler is being served that just hike up the cost of your breakfast, add calories & are hard to eat if you are on the run. I would have been perfectly full eating just the sandwich. I did have a bagel, also, but that was “all in the name of research’ and I was actually uncomfortably full after breakfast, until 3:30, seriously!

Z and H serves Metropolis coffee three ways, by brewing it, in espresso drinks or using a clover machine. What excited me, though, was the chai mate latte which was perfectly spiced, but still highlighted that signature earthy grassy mate flavor. I don’t know any other café in the city that serves a mate latte. If you do, please let me know.

Onto the market part….Z and H supports small local producers, but also has a great mix of other artisan and international products, as well as everyday necessities, including fresh produce. I was so excited to see that they carried Ayala’s  Herbal Waters. I sampled this product at the Fancy Food Show and unfortunately have never seen it carried elsewhere it the city. It is a great product, consisting solely of purified water and organic herbs and extracts. At $1.50, I think it is a steal. That’s about the same price as a bottle of Evian. Some of Ayala’s flavors are lemongrass mint vanilla, clove cardamom cinnamon, lemon verbena geranium, lavender mint. So refreshing. They’re great when you want a little bit more than a bottle of water, but don’t want sweet juices or ice teas or fizzy water. Sorry for the tangent, but here I go again.

I also bought a disk of Taza Chocolate, Salted Almond, to make hot chocolate with They are a small producer of eating and drinking chocolate in Somerville, Ma. These small types of operations are called “bean to bar”. I’ll actually get into that more, as I’ll most likely do a whole post on chocolate in the future. (Sounds like tasty research to me!) . I have always wanted to try Taza Chocolate, but haven’t seen it anywhere else in the city. I’m starting to see a pattern here. Z and H is carrying items that not many stores carry, making them very unique. They are making amazing products in house, like bagels and serving cool drinks, like chai mate lattes.

To top it all off, everyone is super friendly. That is important to me, because no matter how good a place is, if they are not friendly, I am not supporting them. Customer Service is the name of the game, especially in these economic times. Z and H measures up in this category…and all others.  Z and H is totally worth the trip. Make a day out of it. Think of it as an adventure. After all, Z and H is nothing short of ….outstanding.

Z & H MarketCafe   1126 E. 47th St.   773-538-7372

Coming Soon: Second location at 1323 E. 57th St.

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