Sunday, July 15, 2012

Coast: White Dragon

Well, it's time.  I'm not sure how it took so long for it to be time - but regardless: let's talk about COAST.  Coast (on Damen in Bucktown - BYOB) is my favorite sushi place in Chicago, and the yummiest of all their rolls is the White Dragon.  As with most Dragon-type rolls, it's not the healthiest of sushi rolls, but just. so. good.  I'd never turn down a Dragon-anything in the sushi world, but if I had my pick - I'd pick this one every time.

Order more than you think you'll need - your table will eat this up quicker than you can say wasabi.  Trust me.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sparkling Water with Lime

I used to hate water.  Fine - hate is a strong word.  But I didn't like it.  It was just... so... BORING.  

But about 6 years ago (- yes, my palette had a significant change for the better about 6 years ago), water started appealing to me more.  Before I knew it, I had begun a love affair with water.  Couldn't get enough of it - always had to have it around - I won't even get INTO the spin-off love affair between myself and Sigg water bottles that started about 3 years ago.  I'm mildly obsessed with being hydrated - via water.  

So a few years ago, I started traveling to Europe, and that changed things even more.  Tap water is not readily available in Europe!  You have to ASK for it at restaurants... and usually when you do, you're brought bottled water you have to pay for.  What. on. earth.  This over-hydrator wasn't sure how to react to all that.  But somewhere in between dealing with it, making many trips to local grocery stores to buy jugs of water, and the overall distraction by the beauty that is Europe - sparkling water made its way into my universe.  Started small... was just a fun thing I knew about and could drink if needed... but then last summer happened.  Last summer is when a friend taught me about the ways of vodka sodas with lime.  Best. summer drink. EVER.  Refreshing, low calories, fun with the lime, classy, and - I discovered vodka rarely makes me feel hungover.  Win!  (Don't worry, I drink beer and wine, too).

So then finally it all came together that sparkling water / soda water with lime is pretty darn great too.  Refreshing, more fun than water, still hydrates, satisfies the soda-pop fix I always used to have due to the carbonation, inexpensive, LOOKS like you're drinking when you're out even if you're not but want to look like a fun person... I could keep going.  

I prefer real limes as the flavoring, but naturally flavored ones bought in the store do just fine.  During this EXTRA hot summer, you better believe my fridge is stocked with the stuff.

Dear sparkling water with lime - I love you.  Passionately.

Grapefruit Juice

This summer is a sizzling one, so all I've got on my mind are cool beverages.  

About 6 years ago, I discovered that those shady plastic bottles of "ruby red grapefruit juice" are NOT all there is in the realm of grapefruit juice.  Because that stuff?  That stuff SUCKS.   But real grapefruit juice?  Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice?  That is the nectar of the gods.  So when I realized there are small chances for grapefruit juice perfection in this world, I quickly became a grapefruit juice snob.  (You better believe you're going to find out about all my foodie categories of snobbery at some point or another.)

Quality grapefruit juice can make or break a brunch for me.  (Yes, grapefruit juice more so than orange juice.  Though of course I'm not a fan of bad/fake orange juice.  In fact, a lot of the writings to follow could apply to O.J. easily, so if that's your schtick, just sub out in your head.)  

There are rules to playing the juice-snobbery game:
  • Find the beverage section of the menu.
  • Look for grapefruit juice. 
  • If it says "freshly squeezed" next to it, you're good to go.  If it even just says "fresh," you're probably good to go.
  • If it doesn't define itself, assess the quality of the place you are brunching.  If classy, you have a chance.  If dive-y, things aren't looking good.
  • Final step, be "that guy" and ask the necessary snobby questions of your server.  "Tell me about your grapefruit juice... is it REAL?"  Will you look like a pretentious a-hole?  Possibly.  But it's either that or suffer from avoidable disappointment - and there are ways to charm yourself through such situations.  (Holly's Charm School: third potential blog?)

So just before I dismount from my grapefruit juice soapbox, I'll give you a head start in your grapefruit juice journeys.  The following eateries are those that I can VOUCH have quality grapefruit juice.  Amongst many other great things.

Spiaggia Private Dining Rooms ( <- I know, who am I?)

I'm sure I'm forgetting some - but that will get you started.
Oh, and please - avoid convenience store grapefruit juice at all costs.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Botanist: Longshore Martini (London)

While in London for a business trip, I got the chance to catch up with a lovely gal I haven't seen in awhile, who moved to London from the US about 8 months ago and is living out there happily now.  

She insisted we start our night at The Botanist in Sloane Square, ordering a drink called the Longshore Martini she'd stumbled upon with a mutual friend of ours who'd been out visiting at the New Year... She said to me, "Looking at it on a menu, this is not the kind of drink I would ever order - but it is delicious!"  With that descriptor, how could I not drink it?  

Vodka, limoncello, pineapple juice, passion fruit, lime, coconut syrup, and fresh basil.  It was, indeed, super yummy.

About $15 in American money?  And definitely worth it :)
Thanks Mary!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ebisu: Sushi Chef creation

This is a bit of an unhelpful post because the item I'm writing about is not on the menu - however, I have to tell you anyway.

I was recently in San Francisco, and a friend took me to eat at Ebisu.  Sushi?  Yes please.  [as you know]

We sat at the sushi bar, looked through the menu - and when it came time to order from the Sushi Chef, I requested my typical tuna and avocado roll - but asked him to add jalapeno.  He smiled and asked I was open to fish eggs and spicy mayo.  I said yes, though not much mayo.  I was curious what was going on - I guess this is my own fault for not sitting at sushi bars more often.  Little did I know, he was about work some serious sushi magic on my boring little request.

My dining companion and I fell into conversation, aware that he was rolling up sushi for both ourselves and other diners... All of the sudden, our Sushi Chef was torching - yes, using some sort of flame tool - our roll of sushi - and it was mine!  He'd put the jalapenos on top of all the other deliciousness, and was torching them to get more flavor out of them.

This is what was then handed to us:

It was AMAZING.  Literally some of the best sushi I've ever had.  No idea what it cost, but really don't care.  (I don't think it was too crazy, though.)  THANK YOU SUSHI CHEF.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

Via Carducci: Rigatoni Siciliana [eggplant!]

Oh Via Carducci... You are one of those combo fortunate/unfortunate situations where, on my very first visit, I found a dish so amazing that I can't try any other dishes.

The yummiest eggplant dish my taste-buds have ever experienced: Rigatoni Siciliana.  
In my experience, Italian restaurants usually only have eggplant in a breaded format - not so with this fine dish.  It has pasta, red sauce, delicious eggplant chunks, and SERIOUS mozzarella chunks... it is just so good.  I recently brought two dear friends there, made them try my dish, and they adored it.

So.  Get on over there and get happy :)

Assaggio: Gemelli all' Amatriciana

Now before you get too excited, this item lives in Boston, Massachusetts - and I realize most of my readers are Chicagoans.  The good news is that my next entry will be a similar category of food that IS in Chicago.  (Cannot always promise to do this, though - as I'm travelin' gal, and will undoubtedly have to share faraway dishes with you).

Really only stumbled in Assaggio because it was one of the few places open for dinner on the North End at 11pm on a Saturday... Had a pretty funny conversation with the waitress when ordering.  I asked her what she recommended (typical Holly/server interaction) - and she listed a few, and said something like, "It won't change your life but... then again, I don't know what food would change your life."  I laughed and immediately replied, "Actually, I have a whole blog dedicated to foods that have changed my life."  She laughed too and then said, "Well, if you're going that route, this dish is probably what you ought to do" - and she pointed to Gemelli all'Amatriciana, which was a pasta with red sauce, smoked mozzarella and pancetta.  I then had a pretty big struggle because in general I don't like ham, and pancetta is technically of the same family.  I explained my hesitance to her, but mentioned that I do like proscuitto.  She got another female employee involved who claims she does not like ham, but very much likes this dish.  Okay, sold.

And it WAS delicious!  Well done, server-gal.  (Plus, any server who puts up the with five million questions I usually ask is a rockstar).

I shared my dish with my dining companions, and all enjoyed.  SO.  If you find yourself in Boston... hit it up.