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Everything posted by ronnie_suburban

  1. Harold's does a pretty solid rendition and they have locations all over the city -- from Roseland to Rogers Park. When I was a kid, I used to love Brown's Chicken's version but it's been years and I don't know if they're still any good. =R=
  2. Definitely no consensus on Boka, as I've read accounts from both side of the fence. I'd still really like to try it, though. Thanks, for the report. BTW, there is another Boka thread already running. You can find it here. =R=
  3. Sadly, I have to completely and officially withdraw my support of Mazos. I'm not sure of all the details, but back in February of 2006, the place underwent some sort of 'grand reopening' and made some substantial changes that have just sucked the charm and the quality completely out of the place. Without knowing this, I went to Mazos today and was so shocked and disappointed to see how the place had been ruined. Above all else, this sad text now appears in print on a large vinyl sign, which hangs on the wall as the "menu": All burgers are cooked to medium-well The burger I was served today looked and tasted nothing like the one shown in the pictures I posted above. Today's burger was cooked through to a near-gray color. It was dry and crumbly. The outside was slightly burnt. It was nothing like the burgers I'd had in the past. It was shameful. A few other substantial changes: The interior of the restaurant has been remodeled in such a way that seating has actually been reduced. A counter was installed but it takes up so much room and seats so few people, I don't understand it. No longer do you sit down, read a menu and give your order to a waitress. First, you line up at the register where, after you place your order with the cashier and pay for it, you are given a number card that stands on your table -- once you have located one for yourself -- which identifies you to the runner who delivers your food. As a party of 3, it was very frustrating for us that a bunch of parties of 2 were taking up 4-tops while at least 3 2-tops remained empty. Who needs a hostess, right? Many side dishes are now served in disposable plastic containers and all the flatware is now plastic. Beverages are served in paper cups. Sprecher Root beer (in bottles) is no longer available. It's been replaced with Mug, on tap. I could go on but I think I've made my point. I don't care if you go to Mazos or not. I just don't want to be on record as having recommended it. What it once was, it is no more. And what it is now, is nothing special. This is a harsh blow for real food. A great one is dead. I'm stunned and severely disappointed that some business "genius" got his or her hands on this place and completely destroyed it. Clueless. =R=
  4. Speak of the devil. Michael Ruhlman just posted a nice piece about The Velvet Tango Room on his blog . . . "The Best Bar In the World" =R=
  5. No. History suggests that it will likely be sometime between mid July and mid August. =R=
  6. I think anything's possible as far as prospective crawls go, with one condition: they must be well-planned. And that means, among other things, that someone will have to organize and lead (each one of) them. I posted an idea above about one that I thought would be fun and I'm happy to lead and organize it (or an alternate one if the consensus goes in that direction). But I can only be in one place at a time. So, while other ideas are most certainly welcome, each proposal should come with its own host who's willing to do the organizational work behind it. Otherwise, we're probably going to end up with a big mess that's going to do nothing more than disappoint our visitors. Does that make sense? =R=
  7. The clear highlight of the weekend for me was the group meal, which we prepared together on Saturday afternoon and evening. It was so great hanging out with everyone, working together to produce the meal and getting to know each other better in the process. The venue, which was secured by Nancy H, was a great commercial kitchen in a large church near her home. As was posted above, Nancy's friend Angie, who is a member of the church, played no small part in making this happen for all of us and for that we are truly appreciative. While I've become somewhat proficient at eating and shooting, I'm not nearly as good as cooking and shooting. As such, I don't have a ton of images to share. But I did manage to snap a few shots before putting on my apron . . . Torakris helps prepare fruit while chatting with Mr. Luckygirl A few chefs share a good laugh during Tammy's chocolate demo. The scene in the kitchen while the amuses were being plated. White Lotus and Luckygirl chat while some crazy freak scrambles around in the background. No need for the mohle, Sweintraub preps the sausage for his delicious cassoulet. The meal was, again, outstanding. I'm hesitant to single out any one dish because everything was delicious. The great thing about food is that since we all eat, everyone has something great to share. Whether it was some hard-to-find foodstuff that was brought from home, a tried and true recipe, a great technique or just a seasoned pair of hands to help with the prep, everyone present contributed to the effort, which made it all the more special. I personally have to give a special shout out to tino27, who went out of his way to bake breads specifically to pair with some of the items I brought. His super buttery Brioche was the best part of the BLT amuse and the Black Russian Rye he baked was a perfect foundation for the cold-smoked salmon amuse. All his breads were phenomenal, including the light rye (which paired great with the pastrami) and the walnut-cranberry which was "born for Brie." Also, as I did last year, I tip my cap to Fat Guy and Tammylc, who kept us running like clockwork and made sure that everyone had all the help they needed getting their dishes to the pass. Once the meal started, it rolled along without a hiccup and that is no easy feat considering that plating, serving, clearing were going on continually and simultaneously. This was largely because of the work that FG and Tammy did. But it was also very much the group effort that made this meal what it was. What was served at the table reflected so well who we were as individuals -- and as a group. It was great getting to see old friends and getting to meet so many new ones. And what a treat to shop, cook and eat with such a great group of people. I can only hope that next year's event in Chicago is half the success that this year's event was. Thanks again to everyone for making this year's edition so memorable and so special! =R=
  8. After we shopped for the group meal at Cleveland's West Side Market on Saturday morning, a bunch of us decided to have an impromptu lunch together. Sweintraub came up with a great idea to have lunch at Phnom Penh, a Cambodian restaurant just around the corner from the market. As was posted above, the restaurant handled a surprise visit by over 2 dozen of us like clockwork and the lunch they served us was extremely tasty. I'm not really sure about everything we specifically ordered but I'll post the images below -- with descriptions where I can -- and let others who are more familiar with the menu fill in some of the details . . . Spicy hue beef soup Lettuce wraps Sauce for lettuce wraps Not sure about this one . . . Pretty sure this was shrimp of some sort . . . Vermicelli-type noodles Cambodian-style -- and very red -- Pad Thai Pineapple and Chicken, iirc Pretty sure this was tofu . . . Tofu again, iirc As a fan of Thai food, I really appreciated my first ever Cambodian meal. The food is similar to Thai in many ways but distinctive in its own right. I wish I could hit Phnom Penh a few more times, try out some of their other dishes and become a bit more familiar with this cuisine. I loved the bold flavors and contrasting textures that many of these dishes delivered. Lunch at Phnom Penh was one of my favorite meals of the entire weekend. I was sad that I got full so fast (it must have been all that stuff I ate at the market while we shopped ) Great call, Scott! =R= Phnom Penh Restaurant 1929 W 25th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 216 357-2951
  9. Maybe we can make a deal with a hotel that would include guest rooms and the use of a hotel kitchen, too. =R=
  10. LOL! Well, I was drafted but it's my pleasure. Beyond posting here, any locals who'd like to help with the planning should contact me via pm or e-mail. As for Vie, it would also be very high on my list (obviously). I think that pub trans getting out there is one option -- and a good suggestion -- but an 8 pm dinner there on a Friday night would probably make a non-issue of traffic. =R=
  11. Yes, it's a long way away but I'm thrilled that the "show" is coming to Chicago next year and I'm more than happy to head up the planning effort on behalf of all my eGS friends, who've made these Gatherings wonderfully enjoyable since their initial inception. It'll be a pleasure to reciprocate. As for the specific venues, etc., I think the best thing is to start listing and aggregating ideas here and let the concensus play a major role in what ultimately gets scheduled. Of course, those of us who live in Chicago will -- I hope -- be happy to make suggestions, offer ideas and help answer questions, but since many of Chicago's best places are so well-known, I think it's important to let the visitors weigh in heavily on this. After all, those of us who live here can visit any of these places anytime we want. It's very unlikely that 100% of the places we discuss today will still be around by next summer. And conversely, new places of great interest are sure to pop up between now and then, too. One thing I hope to organize will be a "crawl" of sorts that will take interested folks on a journey through some of Chicago's neighborhoods where they can enjoy several highly-regarded renditions of our most well-known culinary delicacies (hot dogs, deep-dish pizza, Italian Beef sandwiches) as well as some of our less well-known, distinctively delicious fare, too. Based on what I've already discussed with several people who are likely to attend, there seems to be a lot of interest in this type of event. If that turns out to not be the case, we can drop it. One piece of good news is that I already have several promising leads on commercial kitchens that will be available for our use. I'll continue to investigate that part of the puzzle while we assemble our wish list here over the next several months. =R=
  12. Friday night's dinner at Lola scratched an itch for me that I'd had since first reading about it -- and Michael Symon -- in Michael Ruhlman's Soul of a Chef, several years ago. Now, this wasn't the original Lola -- it occupies a beautiful new space and Symon's Lolita now operates in the original Lola space -- but the experience was very satisfying, nonetheless. Our group had 3 tables sectioned off in one of the front corners of the restaurant. Some of us had a great view of the street (which is closed off to everything but pedestrians) and others had a view of the open kitchen. In either case, these were prime tables, set aside for us, on a busy Friday evening. eGS Power table at Lola View of Lola's kitchen from our vantage point Ham and cheese amuse Heirloom tomato salad with feta, dill, onions and olives Yellowtail crudo with cucumber, honeydew and horseradish Scallops with butter beans, lamb sausage and escarole Beef cheek pierogie with wild mushrooms and horseradish creme fraiche Duck (roasted breast and confit leg-quarter) with pickled cherries and endive Walleye with bacon, creamed corn and chile oil 6 a.m. Special (maple-soaked brioche french toast, bacon ice cream, maple tuille) Mascarpone 'Strawberry Shortcake' with almond, balsamic gelee and strawberry sorbet All in all I thought the meal, the atmosphere and the company were great. And I have to give a shout out to our exceptional server, Robert, who was professional, friendly, knowledgeable and thorough. I wish we could bring him back to Chicago. Food-wise, I thought all the dishes were tasty but I especially enjoyed the pierogie and the duck, which was -- across the board -- cooked perfectly. I'm glad I finally got the chance to enjoy Lola. Next time I'm in Cleveland, I'll be hitting Lolita for sure. =R=
  13. Friday afternoon a bunch of us (eGS members and locals) met for cocktails and chat at one of the coolest places I've been in a long time. The Velvet Tango Room provided a truly unique experience for me. It was a beautiful and elegant space -- inside a converted house -- that made me feel like I'd stepped into a time portal to the film noir era. It's a rare pleasure to partake in a cocktail lounge where just about every ingredient is made by hand . . . ginger beer, root beer, bitters, tonic water, etc. I know the cocktail scene is said to be emerging in Chicago but it has arrived in Cleveland. Really, this is exactly what a lounge should be -- a perfect blend of astonishing ingredients, immaculate service and richly-detailed atmosphere. For anyone who cares about the details of mixology and cocktail culture, I believe the Velvet Tango Room should be a destination. It provides complete satisfaction. It is, in many ways, the quintessential cocktail bar. The main bar at the Velvet Tango Room. One of several amazingly-decorated lounges at the Velvet Tango Room. Fat Guy takes a call while strolling in the patio/yard area of the VTR, which even offers a putting green. =R=
  14. Going back to the beginning of the weekend, Thursday evening's dinner at Light Bistro was terrific. The food was delicious, inventive and fun. In a sense, the place reminded me of Schwa in Chicago, in part because of the food but also because of the vibe. Matt and Jeff were extraordinarily hospitable and there was such a tangible sense of pride and love in what they did. Their enthusiam came through loud and clear -- not only on the plate -- but also in listening to them talk about their craft. Unlike Schwa, Light Bistro is a larger and more polished space with dedicated FOH, but it was not a stretch to imagine these talented chefs happily delivering plates out to the dining room. What a great way to start off the weekend. Gazspacho Granita Cool and refreshing with a spicy hit. Bread I loved this service mode for the bread. Eggplant Flan with paddlefish caviar, and olive oil-cracker A delicious appetizer. One of my favorite tastes of the entire meal. Kobe beef carpaccio with figs, beets and chiles Tender and flavorful beef accented nicely by the other elements. Pan-roasted quail (not part of our menu but ordered by a quail fan at the table. I'm told it was delicious.) Sturgeon with licorice port purée, Santa Claus melon and pickled cous cous Cooked en sous vide then seared, this sable was tremendous. Ohio Lamb (loin and ribs) with swiss chard, sweet pepper gastrique and candied banana peppers I loved this combination and the ribs were so addictive. We raved about the delicious banana peppers so much, chef sent us out a bunch of jars of them to take with us. Manchego with raspberries Manchego's one of my favorites. It paired very well with the fresh berries which, iirc, were marinated in champagne. Strawberry sorbet with sweet balsamic tomatoes, sliced strawberries and blue cheese I enjoyed the balance here very much. Sweet and tart played together so nicely. Gateau au chocolate with candied fennel and orange I didn't get to try this dessert, primarily because this one disappeared very fast! =R=
  15. I'll start at the end of this phenomenal weekend by saying I am truly grateful that Dominic Cerino forgot to serve the risotto . . . or maybe he was joking. In any case, if he had served it, I'm not sure I could have fit behind the steering wheel of my car and made it back to Chicago. As much as there was simply an obscene quantity of food served at Carrie Cerino's yesterday, the quality of that food surpassed the quantity in droves. I think FG hit the nail on the head when describing CC's. In many ways, it's a throwback to an era long gone. And yet, there is a major focus on current trends, ingredients, etc. Typical 'old skool' Italian places do not serve heirloom tomatoes, Copper River salmon or Berkshire pork. And because the execution of each dish was nearly flawless, it was the absolute best of all worlds. And I cannot say enough about these lentils and sausage, which were simply spectacular. We too, came home with a bunch of leftovers -- enough for dinner last night and breakfast this morning. The only hard part was having to endure the aroma of that food for 6+ hours in the car, while we drove home, without being able to break into it. Here are some images I captured at our brunch . . . Assortment of salume and cheese, including house-made coppa Olives Artichokes with garlic butter and cheese Blue-egg ravioli with sage and baby arugula A closer look at the blue-egg ravioli Heirloom tomato salad Spaghetti Carbonara with yolk from a blue egg Lentils and sausage Berkshire pork Marsala Veal Tosca Berkshire pork cannelloni Copper River salmon Hazelnut gelato One of many stacks of leftovers Thanks to Nancy and Bob for taking this on and doing such a fantastic job for all of us. The work they did made the Gathering so enjoyable for the rest of us -- and for that, I'm truly grateful. Not only did they plan a fantastic and delicious slate of events, but they secured a great location for the group meal, assisted with directions, rides and equipment -- and even let us pre-ship items to their house in advance of the event. Also, a big shout-out to Scott Weintraub and Deb for arranging the kick-off dinner at Light Bistro and to Fat Guy for arranging the lunch at Sun Luck, even though we were unable to attend that one. As great as the food all was, the company was even better. It was great seeing old friends and meeting new ones. There's so much more to report about that detail and many others but I'm a bit pressed for time at the moment. I'll be back later to fill in some details about Light Bistro, Velvet Tango Room, Lola, Phenom Penh and our group meal, asap. =R= edit: coppa is not bresaola.
  16. Wow! Jason, that looks amazingly delicious. Nice job! Great video, too! =R=
  17. I've been back to Vie a few times since my last post; most recently for a special, birthday-party meal for which chef Virant put together a custom, multi-course tasting menu -- with wine pairings. Of all my meals at Vie, this was, perhaps, my favorite. Below are some images and descriptions of the dishes we enjoyed . . . Wisconsin gorgonzola and thyme gourgere Light in texture, intense in flavor, these little bites welcomed the guests and activated their palates while cocktails were served. House-marinated herring with American sturgeon caviar, organic creme fraiche, pickled Chiogga beets and baby dill This fish had been 'curing' for 4 1/2 months and it was delightfully intense. The sweet, pickled beets and salty caviar actually highlighted some of the more subtle attributes of the fish. The creme fraiche was a great foil for those intense flavors and the aromatic dill added a perfect top note. This was served with an eye-opening sparkling wine; Gruet Brut (NV) out of New Mexico, of all places. Brochet Pyramide, aka Walleye Pike dumpling with fines herbes and crab butter I loved this 'fancy' version of one of my family favorites: gefilte fish. Of course, this rendition was exponentially better than anything Bubbe Suburban ever put out. Here, the dumpling was of a very fine grain and the dish was served hot. If not for the exquisite and herbacious crab butter, I might have missed the horseradish. This was served with a nicely-balanced 2004 Calera Chardonnay, produced -- without the distraction of much oak -- in Mt. Harlan, CA. Wood-grilled, house-made rabbit sausage with sweet onions, currant mostarda, local mustard greens and roasted-mustard seed vinaigrette This sausage was absolutely delicious, with a coarse grind, tight definition and a wonderful snap. I tried to ask the chef who made them what specifically was in them but my questions were deftly avoided. It was paired masterfully with a 2000 Franz Hirtzberger Gruner Veltliner from Wachau, Austria. Crispy duck breast with spiced cherry gastrique, roasted 'Nichols Farm' cauliflower, Klug Farm sweet cherries and thyme This tasty dish was a riff on an item served at Vie's stall at the Recipe for Relief event in October 2005, my first taste of chef Virant's food. Here, the dish was expanded upon quite successfully. This was a great combination and the complex spices with which the cherries had been infused picked up the duck perfectly. Roasted cauliflower is one of my favorites and it was a great element of this plate. The pairing for this dish was a phenomenal 2003, Burrell School, Veranda Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz mountains. Not only was it a great match for the dish, it was -- and I do not say this lightly -- the best Pinot Noir I've ever tasted. My friends at Vie tell me that the production on this wine is limited to about 200 cases per year. It's nice to have such friends. Pork Combination: Wettstein's pork epigram and pork shank confit with preserved porcinis, spanish olives and local arugula I'd previously discussed the concept of the epigram with chef Virant and was delighted to see it make an appearance on this special menu. It's essentially pork cooked in its own juices, much like head cheese. After it's cooked a long time it's then chilled in a mold, where it takes on a gelatinous texture. From there, it's removed from the mold and sliced into planks which are then breaded 3 times before being fried. When you cut into this tender cake, pork meat and concentrated juices spill out onto the plate and -- in this case -- onto the awaiting pork shank confit, preserved porcinis, spanish olives and arugula. This dish was, in a word, spectacular. The pairing here was a bold and well-suited 2002 Scherrer Winery Zinfandel from Alexander Valley, CA. I understand this dish might be making an appearance as an appetizer on Vie's menu. After the pork we were served a refreshing white wine sorbet in tiny little martini glasses, but I forgot to take a picture. After the sorbet, it was time for cake . . . Vie birthday cake This cake was beautiful and delicious. Pastry Chef Todd Feitl was worried that he might not be able to pull off a great-looking cake but he delivered in droves. It also happened to be delicious and the strawberries between layers and in the ganache were stellar. We were a group of 27 and service, provided mostly by Nathan (who was also the chef who created the rabbit sausage) and Susan, was truly phenomenal. Never once during the meal did a course arrive before its designated wine had been poured. Not once did a guest have to wait for silverware. Not once did anyone need to ask for their glass (of anything) to be refilled. It was textbook. My hat's off too, to GM Jenny Chai, who coordinated both the party and the Vie team, assisted chef Virant with the pairings and made sure that every guest was having great time. But most of all, it was chef Virant who was the star of this party. The menu was terrific, the execution flawless and the meal played like a great concert, the likes of which may only be heard once. I felt lucky to be a part of this party and knew as I savored every bite, that I was experiencing something truly special. =R=
  18. Yeah, Chicago's a big market but that only makes it harder to stand out. In the Phoenix area, the market is smaller but it's still emerging. In fact, some would describe it as "wide open." There are a lot of higher-income families, retirees, etc. that make for a very receptive audience -- especially because of the relative lack of choices in the area. For a stand-out chef like RP, there's a chance to gain huge success in Scottsdale and also develop a loyal following much larger than could ever be possible in Chicago. And, from what I have heard, chef Poli will enjoy an equity share of the restaurant, which also sweetens the deal immensely for him. =R=
  19. I've always been a fan of one sixtyblue but my last meal there was riddled with poorly prepared food . . . very fishy-tasting scallops, sinewy, undercooked lamb, undercooked potato wedges, cold potato puree. Not one person in our party of 5 finished their entree. Perhaps it was just a bad night but for now, sadly, I'd suggest going elsewhere. =R=
  20. Next time I am in... ← I'm there too. =R=
  21. Very cool, Geoff! I wondered, when I ate at Sea Saw, where some of those tools came from. Now I know. How long does it take to fabricate one of those cleavers? They look amazing. That bonito shaver is also a sweet looking tool. Is that designed by your father, or patterned after other, similar units? =R=
  22. I was eating dinner at El Celler Can Roca in early May with my wife. After the meal, one of the best in my life incidentally, I was visiting the kitchen on invitation from our waiter. He mentioned that they had an American chef from Chicago now working there who could show us around. The chef came out and I told him I love Chicago and in fact had wonderful meal at Butter. His face brightened and said "I opened Butter." I looked at him again more carefully and asked "what is your name". He said "Ryan Poli." I was so shocked it didn't even occur to pry into HOW he ended up there. I live in Seattle but have been to Butter twice and met Ryan once on my first visit. I am embarrassed to say I did not recognize him right off the bat. I guess I was just not expecting him there of all places. Anyway, that is where he is: working at Celler Can Roca. -K ← I would assume he is doing a stage. ← Yes, my sources tell me that he will be opening his restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ -- as was initially planned when he left Butter -- in the not too distant future. =R=
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