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Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

No Buttermilk Biscuits Here   Leave a comment

crisp interior

One of my middle son’s favorite foods is fried chicken; I’ve jumped on that band wagon with him. It started with my introduction to Bouchon’s buttermilk rendition. It soon evolved to include waffles. But, for now, I’ll stick to the hens.

When Food and Wine magazine listed the best places in the country to find the crispy comfort food it was like finding a treasure map. The timing was perfect as I was making a trip to Chicago, which boasts three of the 33 on the list. We only had time to try one: Crisp.

crisp chicken

When we wandered into the small, unimpressive order-at-the-counter eatery I was surprised. The preparation here is not what’s served with mashed potatoes and peas. This was Korean fried chicken, which sent my taste buds in a completely different direction than they’d traveled before.

First, diners choose between wings or boneless strips. Then there’s a choice of sauces. These range from plain, slightly sweet, a smoky spicy and a Buffalo spicy. I went with the sweet. Honey, ginger, garlic and soy were the obvious flavors coating crispy pieces of chicken that had been flash-fried twice. They were sticky, thanks to the honey, but not at all greasy.

crisp chickens

Crisp also serve sandwiches, Buddha bowls and Korean burritos. Sides include brown rice, onion rings, greens, kimchee (sic) and shoestring potatoes.

I have my go-to places for traditional fried chicken. Nonetheless, I don’t mind continuing the quest for perfect poultry, especially when I find such different spins like Crisp’s.

crisp inside

Crisp
Four Plates
2910 N. Broadway
Chicago, Ill.

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Museum Kitchen Artistry   Leave a comment

 

museum moose

It’s not unusual for museums to have exceptional gift shops and restaurants. The National Museum of Wildlife Art earns kudos for both. The aptly named Palate offers a creative menu and expansive views of the National Elk Refuge just north of Jackson, Wyo.

Several bronze sculptures are visible from U.S. Highway 191, but the collection is more impressive in the museum’s parking lot and lobby. Still, it’s the food that recently garnered our attention.

Salads, pasta, soup and sandwiches comprise the menu. An extensive wine list also available.

We opted to share three plates: the Pork Belly BLT, Bison Gyro and Roasted Green Beans.

palate blt

The BLT had several spins, besides the fact that it featured pork belly. With arrugula and tomato jam, the sandwich was further elevated thanks to lemon caper aioli and sunflower pesto. The works were served on ciabatta making this no ordinary diner mainstay. House-made chips completed the plating.

The gyro was, perhaps, my least favorite. This may have been only because the BLT was so exceptional. Shredded meat with creamy, whipped feta, pickled onion and cucumbers were served on Indian frybread. It was also accompanied by chips.

palate green beans
Almond vinaigrette and thin crispy slices of onion covering the roasted green beans. These were hard to share.

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Harder to share was the Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar not only because it was delicious, but it was difficult to cut. The rich peanut butter mouse on a pretzel crust topped with chocolate was like an upscale Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Palate
Four Plates
National Museum of Wildlife Art
2820 Rungius Rd.
Jackson, Wyo

Stop When Passing Through   Leave a comment

chillgrill1

For most, Rock Springs, Wyo., isn’t exactly a destination spot, but if traveling in either direction on Interstate-80 or heading north to Jackson Hole, it’s good to know there’s at least one spot to grab a quick, and tasty, meal. Besides, it’s hard to pass up a place called Chill Grill.

This is mostly a burger and fountain joint, without a counter. The space is small and decorated with 45s, and 33s on the wall. There’s a tribute to Elvis on one side and Marilyn Monroe on the other. Chill Grill evoke memories of the Fonz and Happy Days even without carhop service.

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The menu offers sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and salads, along with multiple pages of ice cream treats.

The juicy cheeseburger came with fresh-cut French fries. A “burger bar” lets diners add their own basic extras like pickles and onions.

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Crispy chicken caught my eye; it’s available as an entrée or on top of salads. I had the latter. Sliced chicken breast served on a bed of greens with tomatoes and honey mustard dressing. I wasn’t a fan of the dressing, but the chicken was indeed crispy and I let myself believe I was having a healthy meal.

I was tempted to have a strawberry shake, but resisted only to succumb to a chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cone so large I couldn’t finish it. The hot fudge sundae featured the real stuff, although the topping wasn’t hot enough to even threaten melting the vanilla ice cream.

Chill Grill
Four Plates
1758 Elk St.
Rock Springs, Wyo

A Non-Taxing Experience   3 comments


Full disclosure: I have known the executive chef at Income Tax since he was in first grade; his line cook all his life: he’s my youngest son. Although I had nothing to do with Ryan Henderson’s rise to his role, I will take a little credit for Andrew’s interest in food and cooking.
It might be better if I had no knowledge or familiarity with the kitchen staff since it could be perceived that my judgement is clouded. It is. Nonetheless, the meal ranks high among my most deliciously memorable.


Income Tax, located in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago, and Ryan have garnered numerous accolades since its opening December. All are well deserved and the result of careful planning by the owners and Ryan. The concept is a wine bar with food designed to pair with wines representing Spain, Germany, France and Italy. Rest assured wines of other countries are also available. The contemporary vibe and wonderful service complete the dining experience.


I was especially impressed with the elements of creativity. Among the appetizers is a house-made pretzel served with a savory and sweet cherry mustard. That’s  right, cherry mustard. Scallops are paired with chorizo for a lively blend of flavors. A house made bratwurst features strawberry relish. A soup made with ringlets of caraway crepe adds lamb bacon (made in-house). The list goes on.


Of course, no meal is complete without dessert: rich chocolate caneles, port ice cream and chocolate mousse are the ideal way to end a perfect meal.

Excellent work, kitchen crew — even if our ties are long standing!

Income Tax
Five Plates
5959 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL

Above it All   Leave a comment

As names go, 71 Above is not exceptionally creative. It’s an obvious, albeit appropriate, appellation for a restaurant on the 71st floor of the tallest building in downtown Los Angeles.

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The views include the ocean far off to the west, the hills, other skyscapers, the Staples Center, Dodger Stadium and freeways – lots of traffic-clogged freeways. Each window table has a compass to help establish direction. Fortunately, the menu is mush easier to navigate.

71bread

Eight first courses and eight second courses are offered. The firsts range from soup to Brussels sprouts, from steak tartare to grilled salad. Ricotta gnocchi was on the menu, but unavailable. Two of us opted for the charred Brussels sprouts served over a small amount of plain yogurt. This combination resulted in a creamy and smoky sauce. This dish could have easily been shared, but I’m glad I had it all to myself. The grilled salad featured two heads of bibb lettuce topped with green olives, golden raisins and shredded grana – a parmesan-like hard cheese.

71steak

For the entrees, we each ordered something different: chicken, pork loin and flat iron steak. The latter, my choice, was the best of the three. Grilled to a perfect medium rare pink center and topped with chimichurri sauce, it was also a colorful plate. The pork, served with pears and mashed parsnip, was a little on the dry side. I didn’t sample the chicken, but it looked juicy and I coveted the grilled cherry tomatoes on the dish.

71chicken

71 Above
Four+ Plates
633 W. 5th St.
Los Angeles

Elementary, My Dear Holmes   Leave a comment

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We planned to arrive in time for “cruffins” the cross between a muffin and croissant, because why settle for one when a combo will work? The decision to get to Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles early was based on my brother’s experience in San Francisco. There, it’s not unusual for lines to wrap around the block.

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According to the lovely person behind the counter, the LA cruffins don’t even come out of the oven until 9 a.m. — unlike their northern California counterparts where they’re history before 8 a.m. “I think people like to sleep-in here,” she said by way of explanation.

Although the cruffin remains a mystery to me, I wasn’t disappointed by the pastries we sampled.

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The California Croissant and the blue cheese bacon danish were our savory choices. The California featured smoked salmon, nori and wasabi all encased in a buttery, flakey croissant. It was a baker’s version of a sushi roll – it even came with a small packet of soy sauce.

I’m a fan of bacon and bleu cheese, the addition of diced dates made me even happier.

The Matcha croissant, featuring Matcha green tea, was a new-to-me flavor. The churro croissant featured another spin on familiar goodies: cinnamon with dulce de leche filling. It’s a surprise that the cookie dough croissant, filled with cookie dough mousse, was not overwhelmingly sweet.

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The pastries we had were impressive, and now I know I can sleep longer the next time I go to Mr. Holmes.

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse
111 S. Ave. 59
Los Angeles, CA

Tapas and More   2 comments

Tapas

Carrying an umbrella in case of rain is almost a sure sign that it won’t be needed. Upon arriving in Barcelona we worried that the final weekend of our European vacation would be wet and dreary. For the first hour, it was. So, I unpacked the umbrella and the rain in Spain stayed mainly away.

Although, I’m sure we would have enjoyed the sites and food no matter what, the blue skies were an exclamation mark. We marveled at Barcelona’s beauty while also taking the opportunity to sample Catalan cuisine such as tapas, paella and other dishes that expanded our waistlines.

Tapas aren’t only only found in Spain, but that is certainly where they’re an art form. Following a walking tour of the Gothic quarter we wandered into a small tapas bar. Our server spoke wonderful English, which she said she was happy to practice.

We ordered jamon (paper thin slice of cured ham big on salty flavor), tomato bread, a cheese plate and potato balls. There is nothing like Spanish ham (jamon) and as much as I loved it, the potato balls were my favorite. Golf ball-size rounds of mashed potatoes were quickly fried creating a crusty, non-greasy exterior encasing creamy potatoes. Each had dollops of aioli. I could have eaten several platefuls.

chicken tapas

My tapas-sized order of paella at another restaurant was uninspiring. The flavors were fine, but the abundance of shellfish made it difficult to eat. I suppose, in retrospect, that wasn’t a bad thing.

My favorite meal was grilled chicken and French fries topped with roasted pepitos. These mild, savory peppers were smoky. The crispy chicken skin, which I ordinarily would have discarded, provided contrast to the juicy meat.

We enjoyed pastries at breakfast and gelato for afternoon/evening snacks.

We did a lot of walking in Barcelona; we had to!