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Monthly Archives: December 2007

Tweeting ‘Bout Good Eating

Eggs FlorentineLucky old Empanada Boy didn’t have to work at all between Christmas and New Year’s. In contrast, I had to work on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas and will be working tomorrow (New Year’s Eve day) as well. Empanada Boy spent most of the past week in Wisconsin visiting his family. Determined not to mope, I decided to spend some time catching up with friends. My friend Jamaican Jerk Sauce and I went out for breakfast Sunday morning before she took off for New York. She had been telling me for weeks that she wanted to try a brunch place in Uptown called Tweet…Let’s Eat, right down the street from where she used to live.

Veggie Country BenedictTweet is a cute little sidewalk cafe tucked away on an otherwise restaurant-less stretch of Sheridan Avenue. In many ways, Tweet reminds me of Portland restaurants I’ve frequented. It has funky decor, including a glass display case filled with pretty vintage tea sets and cakes and cookies to go. There are a few tables on a raised platform that looks out onto the street. Outside seating is available in the summertime. The menu is organized around fresh, largely organic vegetables, meats and dairy products. Vegetarian options abound. This was ideal for Jamaican Jerk Sauce— a non-meat eater. She ordered the Vegetarian Country Benedict. This consisted of an English muffin topped with a vegetable or bean-based patty, topped with eggs and a thick, peppery white gravy. This dish was flavorful, but incredibly filling. And although the patty was surprisingly good, I probably would have opted for one of the other egg dishes.

In fact, my dish— the Eggs Florentine pictured above— was also vegetarian. It was classic in style with a split English muffin covered with spinach, sunny-side-up eggs and hollandaise. The sea of rich hollandaise got to be a bit too much for me after a while, but I thoroughly enjoyed everything, including the pile of hash browns.

Bird logoIt was the little things that really won me over at Tweet. The meal started with an amuse bouche of tasty carrot cake sqaures, a pre-breakfast treat that reminded me of the temporarily-closed O’Rourke’s Diner in Middletown, CT. I also noted the large line-up of hot sauces on the table and sampled many of them during breakfast. I also enjoyed the great graphic design (shown here) used to decorate the menus, the exterior and even the shirts worn by the waitstaff. In addition to all of these smaller elements, Jamaican Jerk Sauce and I got great pleasure from scoping out the laden plates being delivered to neighboring tables. From breakfast burritos to pretty piles of pancakes, there is evidently much more left to sample at Tweet.

Tweet…Let’s Eat
5020 N. Sheridan Rd.
Chicago, IL 60640

Tweet in Chicago

A One-Plate Feast

Platter of foodEmpanada Boy and I are always on the lookout for new restaurants opening in and around our neighborhood. A few weeks ago, as we were driving past the Lawrence Red Line stop, we noticed that a previously abandoned restaurant space was about to reopen as an Ethiopian restaurant. Neither of us had very positive memories about our earlier experiences with Ethiopian food. We both remembered it being too bland, and we recalled stomach-churning moments resulting frominjera, the traditional, spongy, fermented bread, used instead of utensils. But in the spirit of supporting local business efforts, we decided to give this new place a try. That’s what brought us to Demera Ethiopian late last Tuesday evening.

Wicker table with topFrom the moment we walked in and saw tables filled with Ethiopian people and smelled the scent of ginger, garlic and caramelizing onions, I knew this restaurant would be different. The walls are hung with traditional Ethiopian artwork, and the windows are draped with soft curtains, giving the room a mellow glow. We sat at one of the traditional wicker tables, designed to fit the platter on which the food is served. Our hostess lifted the cover, and we sat down to ponder the menu. We were starving, and everything we read sounded good. This left us only one option: the combination plates, which allowed each of us to order two meat dishes and two vegetarian dishes. These were delivered to our table atop a large round of injera, lining the single metal platter. The dishes are too numerous to describe each in detail, but I will point out the highlights. I loved the spicy doro wot, a chicken drumstick marinated in lemon and Berbere sauce (a flavorful African spice mix) with onions, garlic, ginger, a hard-boiled egg and a homemade cottage cheese. Being a huge jerky fan, Empanada Boy went crazy for the ye-kwanta firfir, made with a special Ethiopian-style dried beef, the Berbere sauce and torn pieces of sauce-soaked injera. On the whole, our favorite dishes contained meat, but I also enjoyed the collared greens and a sauté of cabbage and carrots, seasoned with onions, garlic, ginger and green pepper.

TeaDemera doesn’t have alcohol on the menu, but it’s not clear whether BYOB is allowed. I decided to opt for what the Ethiopian patrons were drinking: an aromatic, cardamom and cinnamon-infused tea. The meal was far more flavorful and used better, fresher ingredients than either of us had remembered from our previous experiences. We still didn’t love the sour flavor of the injera, but we are both willing to go back and try more of the dishes on Demera’s lengthy menu. One thing is for sure, though: we will never have room to sample Demera’s desserts.

Demera Ethiopian
4801 N. Broadway St.
Chicago, IL 60640

Demera Ethiopian in Chicago

Better Irish in the Burbs

Irish BreakfastAfter my lackluster experience at The Grafton Pub, I wasn’t too keen on trying the food at another Irish pub. But my soon-to-be-brother-in-law Slim McDinner assured me that the food at the Celtic Knot Pub in Evanston was worth sampling. Empanada Boy, Slim and I went there with Popcorn Princess, Drumstix and their baby Milkman who were visiting from Madison. We went late on a snowy evening, but the restaurant and bar were so filled with people that we still had at least a 20 minute wait to sit down. We sat at the bar (smoke free in Evanston) and enjoyed a Boddington’s or two while we waited.

Lamb StewThe food was definitely better than the Grafton, and the festively decorated, wood-paneled space, filled with happy, beer-drinking patrons made the meal seem even more authentic. I steered away from shepherd’s pie, this time deciding to revel in the glories of Irish meat products with the Full Monty Irish Breakfast (shown above). This dish comes with bangers (sausages), bacon, black and white pudding (sausage made by cooking blood and sausage made from pork meat, suet and oatmeal, respectively), eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans and fried bread. This was a feast of delicious animal parts like only the Irish could do it. Slim also ordered well, selecting the rich, hearty lamb stew with rustic Irish brown bread.

DessertEmpanada Boy did a more scientific comparison between the Celtic Knot and the Grafton by ordering the fish and chips. The flaky fish came in an equally flaky shell with excellent fries and a mild curry for dipping. EB’s assessment: the fish and chips at the Celtic Knot trounced the Grafton’s, the latter of which both of us had thought were pretty good. Popcorn Princess enjoyed the fish of the day, a tilapia filet, simply cooked in butter with lemon juice and vegetables on the side. Drumstix had a delicious looking steak sandwich with Provolone cheese and roasted red peppers. Despite the general gorging that took place, we decided to finish things off with some dessert. We ordered the convenient dessert sampler, which came with smaller portions of three different items. Our universal favorite was the sticky toffee pudding, which had only a slight toffee flavor, but was warm, well-spiced and deeply flavorful.

It’s great to know that an Irish pub in the Chicagoland area can really produce food that’s authentic and delicious. At first glance, the Celtic Knot may seem like just another bar, but a mere bite of banger elevates it to gastropub status.

The Celtic Knot Pub
626 Church St.
Evanston, IL 60201

Celtic Knot Public House in Evanston

Fishing for Compliments

Po'boyAs you may or may not know, Empanada Boy is in the process of converting to Judaism. We’re taking a class together where we study the basic principles and practices of the religion. While we were gone for Thanksgiving we missed a class where a panel of converts spoke about the actual stages of conversion. Feeling this was important, EB and I decided to try to meet with one of the panelists to discuss the issues one-on-one. How does this relate to food, you ask? Here’s how: we met with Ice Creamista (who, incidentally, used to manage the Sweet Occasions near our house) at the fabulous Glenn’s Diner to talk about the process of becoming Jewish.

ChalkboardLocated just East of the Montrose Brown Line station, Glenn’s Diner claims to serve “the best food in the world.” While it’s tough for me to go out on a limb at age 25 and assert the truth of that claim, I can definitely get behind it’s spirit. Glenn’s serves fantastic, simple food, made with excellent ingredients. And the casual cafe atmosphere makes it all the more enjoyable. The place was packed on the snowy Tuesday night we visited. Glenn’s is open for breakfast (served all day), lunch and dinner. But it is most notably a fish and seafood house. A chalkboard menu adorns both side walls listing the numerous fish specials of the day. Glenn’s also offers all-you-can-eat Alaskan King Crab legs and baby back ribs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, respectively. That’s in addition to a lenthy menu of burgers, sandwiches, meats and chowders. Glenn’s First Catch Special— 1/b fresh fish, roasted red potatoes, salad and soup is a steal at $11.95.

WhitefishEB and Ice Creamista wanted to try more pricey items, but I kept things inexpensive by ordering the Lake Perch Po’ Boy. Made with small, battered and fried lake perch filets and house made tartar sauce, this sandwich on a crusty bun really hit the spot. Fittingly, as it was the first night of Hannukah, the sandwich came with the option of a side of potato pancake. EB continued the theme when he ordered the potato pancake encrusted whitefish pictured here. The crispy potato shell gave way to succulent, tender fish. Apple sauce and sour cream came on the side. (Is Glenn a Jew too, we wondered?) Ice Creamista tried the grilled barramundi, which came with a roasted red potatoes and a pretty little clump of green beans.

All in all, we had a fantastic time at Glenn’s. It was a little loud for discussion, but EB and I loved meeting Ice Creamista. She set our minds at ease about the conversion process and didn’t even mind me taking pictures of her food. We spent more per person than the usual Mango Lassie price range, but EB and I could easily go back and spend less than $10 a person on an equally delicious meal. I think we’ll also try going back for breakfast sometime. As we left the restaurant, I noticed that the entire wall behind the bar is decorated with cereal boxes. And a look at the menu reveals cereal is indeed one of the breakfast options. I like the cereal for decoration, but I think the corned beef hash and eggs would make the trip worthwhile.

Glenn’s Diner

1820 W. Montrose Ave.
Chicago, IL 60613

Glenn's Diner in Chicago

The Cadillac of Cafes

CatfishEmpanada Boy and I were in Cannon Beach for most of our Thanksgiving trip, but we spent our last full day with my immediate family in and around Portland. My good friend Mint Chip was in town from Sacramento for the holiday, so we all went out to breakfast with her. Even though we were planning an afternoon trip westward toward the wine country, I couldn’t resist the thought of breakfast at the East side staple the Cadillac Cafe.

Bunkhouse SpecialThe Cadillac Cafe is a wonderful breakfast and lunch spot, serving up distinctive, but homey, fare for reasonable prices. There is a friendly bustle to the large dining space and a pleasant indoor greenhouse provides another nice seating area. One of the signature breakfast items is the catfish (pictured above), which is fried in a rosemary-infused batter. The dish comes with two eggs any style, home fries and toast. It’s not every day you think of having catfish for breakfast, but it really hits the spot. Mango Mama orders it pretty much every time she goes. Being his adventurous self Empanada Boy followed suit. I ordered the Bunkhouse Vittles, which include flavorful home fries, a plump, juicy, chicken sausage, two eggs and custard French toast. I swapped out the decadent-sounding French toast for a piece of peach cornbread. The cornbread tasted as sweet as if it had the honey built right in.

North AmericanMint Chip ordered the Henry’s North American, a scramble of Italian sausage, spinach and fontina cheese. Daddy Salmon had the hearty stack of oatmeal pancakes. The only disappointment was Flava Flav’s Veracruz omelet from the specials list, which she said was lacking the necessary Southwestern spice. In the end, the Cadillac Cafe was more worth driving the extra distance out of our way— at least if, like us, you show up in a Prius instead of the big boat of a car that gives the cafe its name.

Cadillac Cafe
1801 NE Broadway
Portland, OR 97232

Cadillac Cafe in Portland