European Eats

After not setting foot in Budapest for about 5 years, my family and I were lucky enough to travel there for Christmas last year.*  We spent some time in Budapest, Vienna, Slovenia, Venice and the fiance and I stopped in Dublin for New Years Eve on the way back to Chi-town. IMG_0494 Kakaos Csiga (chocolate snail) is definitely my most missed Hungarian food. We’d buy them while waiting for the school bus. They’d be warm and flaky, getting oozing chocolate all over our fingers and powdered sugar on our lips. IMG_0482 Our favorite “Gyro guy” remembered us all these years later! As a family we’d go there almost every Friday night during the summer. I’d get the falafel sandwich but steal the caramelized onions from my Dad’s shish kebab and add tons of tahini and tzatziki. It was every bit as delicious as I remembered it. IMG_0418 Just gaze upon that monster meringue! I found it in little Venice bakery and carried it around carefully all day until we finally sat down for coffee. This pretty espresso was in an Italian gas station. If you have never had the distinct pleasure of being in an Italian gas station, let me tell you it is a magical place. Part grocery store, part cafe, part mini mall and part wifi hotspot. Their espresso drinks are pulled perfectly with many variations. Just don’t attempt to purchase a bottle of limoncello after 10:00 pm. They will refuse and laugh as you try to persuade them to please sell it to you so you can bring it home to America. IMG_0515 Excuse the horrible Iphone photo. We visited Greystones, Ireland to let my fiance show me around where he spent a semester of college. Very quaint and pretty. Before embarking on a 3 hour hike that about bruised my feet black and blue, we stopped for fish and chips and the above fried goat cheese salad at a local pub. IMG_0496 Absolutely outstanding coffee at 3rd Floor Espresso.  We tasted the same coffee in 3 variations,  an espresso shot, espresso with steamed milk and filtered. IMG_0498 After suffering a bit of upset stomach after a gross airport sandwich, we were in desperate need of something hearty but also light. The barista at 3fE sent us to a french cafe/bakery where we lunched on french onion soup which warmed our cold, tired bones. Soup is so soul enriching isn’t it? IMG_0499 Oh gosh this meal. This meal made me literally shed tears of gratefulness. It was a hippie, vegetarian place and after eating out for over a week my body was in desperate need of nutrients. At Cornucopia in Dublin, we ordered a mixed plate where we picked from an array of funky salads and sides. I also had a marvelous parsnip ginger soup into which I dipped a savory cheesy biscuit.

I still think about that soup sometimes…

Before we flew out, we had coffee at 3fE one last time. IMG_0538

*This post is quite overdue since my European trip was last Christmas, but whatever. It allows me to reminisce over a magical trip.

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Gilmore Girls

The only time I ever remembering my Dad swearing was when he watched about 2 minutes of a Gilmore Girls episode, which apparently caused such mental stress and anguish, he exclaimed “How can you watch this shit!?” as we stared at him, wide-eyed and shocked.

My sisters and I protested strongly and defended our beloved show until he threw his hands up in disgust and stalked out.

I think the sheer volume of words and the almost violent shifts in conversation topics stressed his manly brain to a breaking point.

There are many elements in the show that the viewers need to suspend belief for, like any TV show,  but one in particular stands out.

The ladies Gilmore and their highly atrocious eating habits.

As any casual viewer knows, Lorelai and Rory eat constantly. And I don’t remember many vegetables crossing their plates either, which is sad since Sookie always seemed to have such gorgeous produce.

Check out this infographic the Huff Post created of a Gilmore Girl’s average caloric intake, almost 4,000 calories!

 

French toast two times

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There is something so perfect in the combination of rhubarb and strawberries.

I’ve been wanted to try roasting strawberries for a while and since it was also rhubarb season, this fusion was inevitable.  Also, it is so damn easy to turn grungy rhubarb stalks into  tangy, sweet, gooeyness.

This breakfast experiment was another farmer’s market inspiration. How could it not when the Green City Market is a Saturday morning stroll away?

The spouse was in charge of the french toast part, while I took over the toppings. I wanted a little bite to complement the fruit , so I bought some herbs, mint to pair with the rhubarb and basil with the strawberries.

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Clean and chop up the rhubarb and place in small saucepan with about a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of sugar. I also splashed some vanilla extract on there to help it along.

Cover for a bit as it simmers. Be sure to stir it up occasionally to make sure it isn’t sticking and it is all melding together.

After about 20 minutes it will be done, though I let it simmer on the lowest heat until the bread element of the meal was ready to be topped.

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While the rhubarb goes through its metamorphosis, chop up those strawberries and put them in a ceramic baking pan. Pour 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract and a sprinkle a light layer of sugar on top.

I added a touch of balsamic vinegar in there too. This goes in the oven for a while, about 40-60 minutes and make sure to randomly stir it up.

If you are like me , it takes that long because you keep opening the oven to be tantalized with the aroma.

Once they are done, the berries will be swimming in their juices and almost be like jam. And they’ll smell incredible.

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By now your husband has finished the french toast.

Now simply top two slices of french toast with the roasted strawberries and be sure to pour some of the juice on there. Lather up the rhubarb and spread that on another two slices.

Top the strawberry french toast with chopped fresh basil and the rhubarb with chopped fresh mint.

Pair with a cup of coffee or a mimosa.

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Let’s eat and drink Portland

“The dream of the 90’s is alive in Portland”

Now I’m going to be singing that all day…

But really, it’s the dream of eating and drinking that is alive in Portland. This past April we visited family in Lincoln City, OR and spent just a few short, scrumptious hours in Portland.

I think we were there for about 4 hours and ordered food and/or drinks at 4 different places… Priorities people!

We are moving to Seattle, WA at the end of September and I’m super excited to revisit some of these places on our roadtrip! We will definitely be taking weekend food excursions to Portland.  Like, all of the time.

Voodoo Doughnuts

Some crazy ass doughnuts are created here. There is always a line around the block and it’s cash only so be prepared. I had such a hard time deciding, so I ordered the Voodoo Dozen, where they choose for you.

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Clyde Common

Did you know Happy Hours are illegal in Illinois? Absurd right? Check it out here.

Yeah, it’s dumb.

In Portland, however Happy Hours are legal and plenty. (Cue Happy Food Dance). We went to Clyde Common to try some happy hour specials. Monday through Friday from 3 – 6 pm they have a small cocktail and snack menu on the cheap.

The place was pretty, light , chill and the cocktails were boozy. You must order the ancho chili popcorn.

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Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Grab a coffee or a bottle of cold brew here to go with those Voodoo Donuts. Then keep the bottle cause it is pretty.

Tasty n Sons.

We have a ritual when visiting a new city. Visit the best coffee place in town ( prior research is required for this) and get chatty with the baristas. They know what is up in their town.

The barista at Stumptown led us to Tasty n Sons, for which I will be eternally indebted. The menu is just item after item of almost stressfully delicious sounding plates of mouthwatering combinations.  Order many of them and you try not to cry when there is some leftover and your stomach is literally too full for any more. ( I still get made fun of for this)

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I sincerely apologize for the complete lack of food pictures. We devoured all the dishes before I could even remember to take out my phone. True story. Guess I’ll just have to revisit.

Mixologie

Whether they are called bartenders, mixologists or victuallers, Chicago drink professionals know how to concoct  a killer cocktail.

Here are a few of my favorite cocktail spots in the city:

Billy Sunday

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A new Logan Square spot with funky combos and they actually have some cocktails on tap. Get some artisanal bread and be sure to try The Cocktail and Grapes, Rice and Wrath.

Barrelhouse Flat

Their cocktail menu is extensive and arranged according to spirit so its easy to navigate, assuming you know what you are craving. Though they have a few rotating originals, be sure to get familiar with some of the old classics. Oh! Be brave and try the Malort and tonic. It is surprisingly delicious I promise!

Violet Hour

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Slightly pretentious with their various ( not quite tongue in cheek) rules, The Violet Hour is gorgeous and still a fun experience. It isn’t really the place to chill for more than a drink, maybe two. But their highbacked chairs, luxe decor and almost costumed bartenders  make it an impressive place to takes guests. I loved the Juliet and Romeo.

The Whistler

This “bar, gallery, record label and venue” was listed as one of GQ’s top 25 cocktail bars in America. Funky cocktails that aren’t over priced ( rare in Chicago let me tell you) they have events happening constantly so be sure to check out their website to plan the best time to go.

Scofflaw

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Specializing in gin cocktails, this place has super well priced drinks. The bar is impressive and the second room is full of Versailles-esque mismatched furniture which makes me want to sit in all the chairs. They’ve got some yummy  fancy snacks to pair with your refreshment.

Longman and Eagle

Eat.Drink.Sleep. This whiskey focused restaurant/bar has a classy hipster vibe. Another Logan Square spot, it’s got “farm to table”,  gourmet “regional American fare”. Outside while you are waiting for a table, grab a drink at their “Offsite bar”. The Hills like White Elephants is super strong and memorable. If you can’t make it home, then I suggest staying in one of their uber-hipster hotel rooms upstairs. Cassette tapes and whiskey tokens included.

Tiny Lounge

This is a restaurant a couple blocks from my old apartment. It got progressively better with each visit. We’d get their risotto special which was always absolutely delectable. Their cocktails are $10 and change seasonally. My very favorite is the Dear Prudence which has pink peppercorns and gin.

The Aviary

Ok so if the Mad Hatter had a cocktail lounge, this would be it. It’s started by Grant Achatz ( of Alinea and Next ) so you know that absurdity is inevitable. These cocktail creations are incredible. If you can score a reservation, and are willingly to  splurge on $20+ drinks, it is most definitely worth at least one visit. We tried 3 cocktails the other night.

In the Rocks was an iced sphere with an amazing old fashioned inside, which you cracked open with a small slingshot.

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Ford’s Model Tea was served in a dainty teacup while a teapot filled with dry ice fumes enhanced the bergamot essence while you sip.

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The third was a Pap Finn, which came out in a siphon and full of small beads that melted theatrically.

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This was then put into a pot which contained an iced cube of lemon juice, one of huckleberry and one of tea. They were absolutely fantastic. Over the top? Of course. But look at it as a cocktail event!

For more imbibing info check out : Chicago Eater’s Where to Drink Now Heatmap

Farmer’s Market Caprese

Returning to Chicago after our feta filled Grecian honeymoon, we were excited to finally create a meal for ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, Greek tavernas are fun and absolutely delish but it is a great feeling to come home, wander the food aisles and brainstorm the perfect lunch.

A mile from our new apartment is the Green City Market. As far as I know it is the largest farmer’s market in the city. It’s got kid’s entertainment, ready to eat food, many options of local artisan foodstuffs and of course farmer’s veggies, meats and breads.

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Inspired by some gorgeously fragrant purple basil, I decided what I needed was a caprese sandwich. It’s your basic caprese, with an added bonus of avocado.  If you are inspired to make your own, be sure to use buffalo mozzarella so it is creamy and soft.

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Toast the ciabatta lightly. Spread out the avocado and sprinkle some sea salt and crack some black pepper on it to make that avocado sweat a little.

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Slice up a few wedges of mozzarella and a hearty tomato slice or two, and add a healthy dose of purple basil (or regular I suppose).

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Drizzle with olive oil, maybe a splash of balsamic vinegar, black pepper and crunch away!