Monday, August 20, 2018

Kabul Kabob

-Grubbing in Chicago(land)
Afghani Grilled Meats in Bridgeview

It's been a minute since we explored Bridgeview. The Chicago suburb and the surrounding towns in the area are thee place to go for those who want Middle Eastern cuisine. It's no Dearborn (Michigan)  but there's some good stuff going on here. Some of which is new. Kabul Kabob opened a couple months ago. Located in the large strip mall at the 7200 block of 87th street across from Al Bawadi.

Newly Opened in Bridgeview

Kabul Kabob is a joint venture by a guy who grew up in Northwest Indiana and his chef who's originally from Afghanistan. The menu features plenty of Afghani style grilled kabobs as well as popular snacks such as Mantu which are Afghani dumplings. However they're currently in a long form of a soft opening and the Mantu and Beef Tikka Kabobs aren't available until the grand opening. I was rec'd a sampler platter and didn't need much convincing after seeing a few bags of charcoal siting at the countertop. The Kabul sampler came with beef koobideh, lamb tikka, chicken tikka. Served on the side was an Afghan rice dish called Qabuli which is a type of pilaf made with raisins and carrots. Some grilled onion and tomato also accompanied the meats and rice. This was a delicious plate of food that came with very friendly and also attentive service. I spied the lamb chops and they looked fantastic. I will be back for more grilled meats next time I'm anywhere near the Bridgeview area.

Kabul Platter at Kabul Kabob

Kabul Kabob
7265 W 87th St
Bridgeview, IL 60455
(708) 529-0590

Friday, August 17, 2018

Mini Mott

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

Logan Square is showing no signs of slowing down. Apartments complexes keep going up and new restaurants keep popping up. One of the neighborhoods newest food options is Mini Mott. Brought to us by the folks at Mott Street over on Ashland. Mini Mott is their casual burger, fries, ice cream spot.

Newly Opened in Logan Square

Over at Mott Street they have a burger that received big national acclaim when it was named one of the best in Chicago by Thillist. It then made other national lists creating a big buzz. Problem was this burger is only available at the bar after a certain time and there were only so many etc. Seemed like to much to hurdle so I never did give it a try. Enter Mini Mott. Here they serve the same burger that basically made them locally famous. Along with that burger they also have wings, fries, and ice cream. The menu is pretty simple with those basically being your selections. I stopped in with my mom and niece one day recently and we got to try it all. The famous burger, garlic fries, and wings.

Burger, Fries, Wings at Mini Mott

So lets start with the burger. It's made with two fresh patties of beef, American cheese, hoisin aioli, crunchy sweet potato sticks, pickled jalapenos, pickles, miso butter, and onions. I liked it. More than I thought I would actually. I'm a simple man when it comes to my cheeseburgers. I dont like a ton of stuff on them other than the usual suspects such as mustard, pickles, onion. But this was a well put together burger where everything just worked in one. It still had that classic cheeseburger taste.

The insides

As far as the rest of the stuff the wings come in two different sauces. We got an order of the everything (soy, jaggery and dried chilis, tossed with sesame, poppy seed, fried shallots) and they were really good. I loved the fact they give you tzatziki sauce to dip them in. So did my 1.5 year old niece who was using a spoon with the plastic wrapping still on to eat it straight up. Only thing is the second time around with my wife the wings weren't nearly as good. The fries are fresh and thin cut. They go well with the burger and also that tzatziki sauce. Last item was something I'd been seeing on instagram often. You can get their soft serve in a Japanese Taiyaki cone which is a warm waffle like fish shaped cone split down the middle and in this case filled with ice cream. Red bean paste is popular in Japan. Overall I liked the vibe here and think Mini Mott is a welcome addition to the hood.

Japanese Taiyaki Ice Cream Cone 

Mini Mott
3057 W Logan Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647
Website

Monday, August 13, 2018

Illinois Summer Stops

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Summertime Establishments to Enjoy Illinois

You may have seen a little Q&A with yours truly in the Tribune recently. I forgot to mention that last week it was released both online and in print. You can check out the online link HERE. I imagine I have a few new readers this week and they're probably interested in my Midwest food adventures. So with summer winding down now is the time to share with you five summertime operations to seek out on that final roadtrip this summer. All of them from my home state here in Illinois. Safe travels!
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 Hinckley, IL

First stop up is out in DeKalb County in the village of Hinckley. The Dairy Joy Drive-In is a classic summertime establishment. They've been a part of the area since 1957. Dairy Joy has been the spot to celebrate everything from winning a baseball game to the start (and end) of summer. So basically everyone is always happy when here. The menu is much more than ice cream. It sports all the drive in classics including burgers, hot dogs, and tacos. Yep something I've noticed frequently at old school Midwest drive-in's are tacos on the menu. Many of them on there since the 60's. Dairy Joy makes a classic drive-in style taco which is pretty much identical to what you might picture when I mention the words "gringo and "taco". It's a classic flour tortilla filled with taco seasoned beef, lettuce, cheese. I'll be the first to admit I like these for what they are. I also enjoyed a cherry freeze with my taco.

Taco and Treat at Dairy Joy
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 Lexington, IL

Here's one from a few years ago. Pretty sure we stopped here just bc I wanted to snap a pic of the original Shake Shack. Haha. From the looks of the place it's a classic Midwest burger counter with vintage stuff hanging on the walls inside. I cant find much info online and we stopped here on the way to 3 or 4 burger joints so we were just passing through McClean County with no plans to stop. Well I was sucked in and decided to try the onion rings which the menu was bragging about. Well they were in the right to boast as these were a fantastic little batch of fresh lightly battered delights.

Onion Rings at Shake Shack
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 Peoria, IL

On a recent trip down to the Peoria area I made it in to Ernie's Dairy Dream. According to an article in the PJ Star Ernie's reopened last year after a three year hiatus. Ernie's was born in South Peoria in 1959 in what was a bustling area. They had as many as 20 employees. As times changed and other businesses shut down so did Ernie's. But with it's recent rebirth I got to try one of their famous Castle Burgers which is really just a loose meat sandwich. Loose meat being exactly what it sounds like. Crumbled up ground beef served on a bun. A Sloppy Joe without the slop. Ernie's makes a good one that reminded me a bit of White Castle. It had that smooth slider taste. Dear I say it was great.

Castle Burger with Cheese at Ernie's Dairy Dream
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Canton, IL

Moving over to Fulton County which is where we found Hannam's Dairy Dream. I dont have an exact born date but I know someone from the area and he's been going here his whole life. Whenever I'm at these small town dairy shops I like to browse the menu for interesting things. Hannam's has two. First up is their lemon soft serve. Something I've noticed at a few other ice cream shops in the state. Then there was the chili bun which I wasn't expecting to see. It's exactly what it sounds like in that it's a hot dog bun with chili. These are big in Eastern, KY but not really anywhere else. I got one plus a chili dog to go with my cherry dipped lemon cone. Interesting they put the toppings on bottom.

Chili Dog and Bun with Cherry Dipped Lemon Cone at Hannam's Dairy Dream
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Dixon, IL

We finish today's trip in Lee County. That's where Dixon Illinois is located. Home to Ronald Reagan and Meusel's Dairy Delite. This is a classic summertime shack offering only ice cream. It's got the walk up window with tables off to the side. Customers dont get to go inside. We tried a brownie sundae of sort and it hit the spot after some delicious fried chicken. Stay tuned for more on that soon.

Brownie Sundae at Muesel's Dairy Delite
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See ya next time @chibbqking
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Friday, August 10, 2018

Proxi

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

Proxi was at the top of my to-try list for a while. Basically since they opened in 2017. My wife went without me when they did open and I was left out in the cold bc of it. Haha. Well when my bday rolled around last month I was told to pick a place and guess what my choice was? That would be the second restaurant from Chef Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia. Proxi is the younger sibling with an international flair and penchant for street food. Elevated street food is a controversial term however.

Opened last year on Randolph

The menu announces that "Proxi takes you on a ride to the world's most culinary rich corners. We're guided by tradition, but not bound by it, and our dishes celebrate the power of bold flavors through a fresh American lens." Sounds like they paid someone to come up with something that sounded cool. That said the menu was indeed pretty damn cool. Lots to like. Without wasting your time trying to find clever adjectives to describe each dish let me just say this was one of the best meals of the year as I was expecting it to be. I was surprised by how large the space is. I thought it was more intimate.

 Tempura Elotes at Proxi

The first dish out was one combining my two favorite cuisines. Mexican and Japanese. They take the popular Mexican street food elotes and throw some tempura batter on it before a trip to the fryer. This was delicious but I was left wondering if it should've been saved for dessert. It was way sweet.

 Black Pepper Pork with Lettuce, Peanuts, Apple, Mint

Moving onto some flavors from SE Asia. This little DIY platter of pork lettuce wraps was also really good. Though after a trip to SE Asia the flavors will never quite be the same over here. I liked the dish alot but found it missing that funk the food in Vietnam is known for. There was fish sauce up in there it's just hard to replicate flavors from a place half way around the world. Produce is different etc.

 Roasted Baby Potato Carbonara at Proxi 

Next plate out was this play on carbonara substituting potatoes for the pasta. This was a decadent dish full of rich flavors. I could've probably ate just this and gone to bed content for the evening.

 Duck Dumplings with Fried Shallots, Herbs, Pho Broth at Proxi

If I see dumplings on the menu I'm getting them. There's been some good ones served out there this year. Proxi's duck dumplings might've been the best of the bunch. The skin was just soft enough while the taste of duck was there. That pho style beef broth they sat in was close to the real thing.

 Crispy Vietnamese Crepe with Shrimp, Pork Belly, Chili Jam at Proxi 

Winner for best dish of the night went to this beautiful Bánh xèo aka a Vietnamese pancake. I know I said up above it's hard to mimic the flavors of real deal street food and it is. But this was like something I would've ate at a hip restaurant somewhere in Hanoi. The crispy fried egg pancake wasn't loaded with oil like you'd find in the streets but it still had enough to taste like it. I envision a day in the near future where I really get the hankering for this dish and take myself back for another round.

 Grilled Whole Fish: Pescado Zarandeado 

The only miss of the night was actually the plate I most looked forward to. Pescado Zarandeado is a specialty dish from Sinaloa, Mexico that I got to try in Baja where lot's of Sinaloans live. It was one of the best seafood plates I've ever ate. When you walk past the open air kitchen at Proxi you see a couple flames from the stoves. This had lots of potential but when it arrived there was no chile paste (it was in between) and you couldn't tell it was cooked over live fire at all. There was no taste of char. In fact it tasted like it was baked. Too bad bc it's a legendary dish. That said the rest of the stuff incl. a fantastically unique tres leches cake was stellar. I really liked the meal and overall feel of Proxi.

Tres Leches Cake at Proxi 

Proxi
565 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 466-1950
Website

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Apolis Greek Street Food

-Grubbing in Chicago(land)
Greek Street Food in Lisle

You might have seen a recent feature in the Trib about gyros in Chicago. You also may remember when I said back in March that 2018's biggest food trend was going to be Greek street food. Well it seems as though I was right. It's really taken off. Thing is it's more so become big in the suburbs. That's where Apolis Greek Street Food is located. Lisle to be exact. I learned of them when the Hungry Hound featured them back in late 2017. I wanted to try them and did so when out there.

Newly Opened in Lisle 

What caught my eye about Apolis was their pork gyros. Made in-house. A rarity in a city where damn near everyone uses factory made cones of gyro meat. Those cones though are a mix of beef and lamb which isn't the preferred choice in Greece. There they like their gyros made with pork. Or sometimes maybe chicken. Apolis offers pork, beef/lamb, and chicken gyros. All sliced fresh from the cone. I got a meal with two sides and chose Greek potatoes and gigante's (Greek Lima beans). I liked what I got but was left wishing for a bit more meat. What you see below is mostly rice. There was about as much meat as you'd get on a sandwich which was disappointing bc it was pretty good.

Pork Gyro at Apolis Greek Street Food 

Apolis Greek Street Food
1109 Maple Ave
Lisle, IL 60532
(331) 775-2135
Website

Monday, August 6, 2018

Wok N Chop

-Grubbing in Chicago
Indo-Chinese in Albany Park

I've noticed a few new Indo-Chinese restaurant openings in the last year. All of them actually within city limits, well one of them is in Evanston which borders the city. As you may well know I love me some fusion food especially anything-Chinese. Wok N Chop sits in a strip mall on Foster in Albany Park. It shares the mall with a laundry-mat, hookah bar, and also a low key Korean restaurant. I believe the building it's in used to house a convenience store. They've been open about 5 months.

 Newly opened in Albany Park 

When I first read up on this place after they opened, the reviews were not good. I know most folks view Yelp as childs play but I think it's a better resource than most, when used right. One thing I will say about it is many of it's Asian and Indian users are downright hard on the restaurants they visit. It seems like they hold restaurants to the same level as their grandmas cooking. This doesn't mean they're wrong but I've noticed over the years that many Chinese and or Indian restaurants that score below a four are actually pretty good. It's just the locals and or the silly gringos are hard on them for things you and me might not even notice. All this is is an observation and nothing more but I think there's something to it. So recently I checked in on the reviews and instead of them all being bad they're now about half and half. It seems that the food served at Wok N Chop is either love or hate.

 Garlic Chili Chicken Noodles

The menu here includes most of the classic Indo-Chinese favorites. Stuff such as Manchow soup, Manchurian chicken, Chili chicken (and fish), and more. They have a lunch special but it didn't include the garlic noodle dish I like so I went ahead and got an order. Portions are huge. I noticed quite a few Indian families on my visits. The noodles were good not great. I liked the flavors but it became one dimensional after a few bites. Next trip in I tried some lollipop wings as those are always good when done right. They fried up nicely but again the seasoning was just ok. I noticed the same sweet chile sauce that was in the noodles was on the wings. So again I liked them but after a few I was ready for something different. I guess I'm one of the few that thinks this place is somewhere in the middle of good and average. Then again it was about on par with all other Indo-Chinese that I've ate to date.

Lollipop Wings at Wok N Chop 

Wok N Chop
3456 W Foster Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 267-7861
Website

Friday, August 3, 2018

Ridott Corners Tavern

-Got beef?
The Burgers of IL


My newest food project is burgers here in my home-state. It's something I tackled before but only in the form of the smashed crispy burgers found down in Central Illinois. Illinois is in the heart of the Midwest which is where you'll find the country's best old school burger spots. So of course there's plenty to be found in the Land of Lincoln. First up is a spot long on my list. Or at least on my list the past couple years after it was named one of 5 best burgers in the state by the Illinois Beef Council.

 Locals Favorite in Ridott Corners, IL

The trip to Ridott Corners from Chicago can be done in less than two hours. It's located 25 minutes west of Rockford. The bar itself is the only thing I'm aware of as far as businesses in the area go. They've been here since 1929. With Wisconsin being just 20 minutes North it's no surprise to find a bar like that which you'd find in Cheeseland. Except instead of Packers memorabilia it's Bears/Cubs.

 a peek inside 

The menu here is pretty simple. Burgers and beer with hard stuff too. No fries, chips. They come in the form of Mrs. Mike's which are made up the road in Freeport. Gotta love the regional potato chips. If you go while the weather is nice out they have a great little patio overlooking a bunch of cornfields.

Mrs. Mike's Potato Chips

As far as the burgers go each one is a 1/2 lb of fresh local beef. You get your choice of cheese and toppings all of which are the standards. Like the taverns in Wisconsin the burgers are cooked on a well seasoned flattop behind the bar. I tried one with American cheese and pickles, onion, mustard. Boy did it hit the spot. I'd been craving a burger for about a week but wouldn't let myself have one until my next day off which would be my shot at coming out here. Was it the best in the state? Well that's something that will always be up for debate as there's some really good ones to be found up and down. No surprise to find a fantastic tavern burger up near the IL/WI border. Our neighbors to the north know their cheeseburgers. Now it's time to see how my home state compares. Stay tuned for more.

Cheeseburger at Ridott Corners Tavern

Ridott Corners Tavern
1862 S Rock City Rd
Ridott, IL 61067
(815) 235-2451

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Ava's Italian Ice

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

For the last year or so I waited patiently as a sign at 1814 N. Western announced that Italian Ice was coming soon. For me Italian ice is the ultimate summer treat. I've preferred it to ice cream since my youth when I was a regular at Tom & Wendee's (RIP) for a good decade plus. Much like Italian Beef, Italian Ice is a food that takes skill. Many places will take shortcuts in getting to the final product. There's only so many spots out there putting out real deal Italian Ice. Add the folks at Ava's to the list. Since they opened this past Spring I've been a regular at Ava's. Run by a husband and wife team the shop is named after their young daughter. The Hungry Hound recently ran a segment over on ABC.

Newly Opened in Bucktown 

The shop itself is a walk up and order from the window operation. She takes the orders and he scoops the ice. So far I've been able to try over ten flavors which vary by the day. Everything is made from fresh natural fruits and the ice has the consistency of gelato in many of the flavors. A few of my favorites thus far have been Apricot, Peach, and Plum. Which gives you an idea on the type of flavors they're putting out. No samples so you'll just have to work your way through them but don't worry there hasn't been a bad one yet. Ava's also has one of the best rewards programs I've participated in. Better than Speedway and Hotels.com. You get a free flight after every 5th purchase. The flights are massive containers containing four flavors of your choice. I've already cashed in on two free flights and honestly it would've been three if not for the varied hours. Ava's is a two person team so there's been days where they sold out and had to restock thus were closed the next day too. Check their social media for instant updates. All in all Ava's is a great place to Summertime Chi. Go try them out.

Flight of Italian Ice at Ava's Italian ice 

Ava's Italian Ice
1814 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Facebook

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Place By Damao

-Grubbing in Chicago
Chengdu Street Food in Bridgeport

One of the more buzzed about restaurants in 2017 was a Place By Damao. It's located on Halsted in Bridgeport in a strip mall that's all Chinese businesses including a few restaurants. I'd thought about doing a post showcasing all three spots worth dining but then I went to Damao and realized it deserves it's own post. Chicago's Chinatown is the only in the country to be still growing and not with gentrification but rather with new Chinese restaurants and businesses. It's seeing more new restaurants than ever before. In fact it's kind of spreading into Bridgeport where Halsted street is seeing a steady uptick in Chinese restaurants opening. A Place By Damao is the cream of the crop.



They specialize in the regional street food of Chengdu, China. Aside from maybe Mexican there's no food that's more regional than Chinese. Of late the spicy delights from Chengdu have been gaining popularity in the States. But why? My guess is kids are now getting into the restaurant business instead of avoiding it all completely. It used to be you worked at your parents restaurant in Chinatown excited for the day you finally got to switch careers after college. But what I'm seeing now is younger people in the Chinese community opening restaurants. Damao is one of them. We were greeted with enthusiastic hello's by the young staff who was excited to have us. There's very good energy here.

Spicy Potatoes, Handmade Bell Dumplings, Handmade Spicy Noodles with Peanuts 

The menu has a section of exotic stuff such as roasted pig feet and also duck neck. But I'm not big on gelatinous foods. So I'll save those for if Mark Wiens ever calls me asking me to show him Chicago's food scene. We kind of stuck with stuff we knew and were pretty much blown away by the fantastic flavors and the heat that came with them. The spicy potatoes with secret seasoning are said to be a favorite on the streets in Chengdu and man were they addictive. They just need to learn the art of the double fry. Those will be some of the best fries anywhere when they do. Handmade dumplings were so soft and tender yet amazingly sturdy not breaking apart when picked up. The noodle dish is served cold with lots of spicy oil sitting underneath with chopped peanuts. It's one of those dishes that's perfect on a hot summer night. Crispy fried rib bits were lip smacking good. But also lip licking spicy. Still I couldn't stop eating them popping one after the other like I was enjoying popcorn at the movies. All in all it was one of my favorite meals this year. I plan on putting them in my regular rotation. Check out the Fooditor Southside Food Tour for a chance to eat here amongst other spots.

Spicy Rib Bits at A Place By Damao

A Place By Damao
2621 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 929-2088

Friday, July 27, 2018

Pacific Standard Time

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

Bill Addison from Eater just released his 2018 'Best New Restaurants in America' list and Chicago has a participant. It's Pacific Standard Time in River North. An ode to California cuisine. It's the child of two different Chicago hospitality groups and one of the city's hottest restaurants. Of course location plays a part in that. But I had the chance to choose a place I'd like to try courtesy of my uncle who wanted to take my family out for my Bday. Might as well go here and see what all the hype is about. 

Newly Opened in Logan Square 

As you all know by now I'm not a critic by any means. That takes writing skill of which I have very little. However our fine city has a few really good ones and I suggest checking out either Mike Sula or Michael Nagrant's reviews of PST to get a better overall idea. I'm just here to share my meal in pics.

a peek inside

One thing I really liked right away was the space itself. it's large and light. I hate dark ass places especially when it's light outside and bc we had an early reservation it was nice and light when we arrived. We were dining with 6 total people so I pretty much got to try a little bit of everything with the exception of he pizza. I heard they serve it with ranch, must be a Cali thing, and admit I was looking forward to trying it. But instead of pizza I started us off with their super popular pitas.

Wood Roasted Pita, Avocado Salad, Beet Salad 

The pitas which are cooked in the same wood burning oven as the pizzas were what i most wanted to try. So much so I got us two different varieties of the three they offer. First up was one with eggplant, roasted pepper, basil, whipped robiolina and then came the tuna option everyone loves. That's made with marinated ahi tuna, green chickpea hummus, urfa, mint. Let me nominate myself for hype man for this dish. I really liked he pitas themselves which were scorching hot and super airy with lots of flavor going on. I might be back one night just for that dish. I envision it ending up on some lists.

Ahi Tuna for Pitas

Moving on I got an order of dumplings with a Chinese flavor profile. These were made with shrimp and pork and I liked them not loved them. I love dumplings pretty easily but these just weren't as good as a recent set we had at Proxi a few nights before. Texturally they could've been softer.

Pork and Shrimp Dumplings with Napa cabbage, scallop broth 

The chicken wings were better but shame on them for letting the little wing on the right side of the pic get onto the plate. It was as small as the wing tips most people dispose of. That said they were sticky and delicious I was tempted to order another round of the table as we each settled for one.

Chicken Wings with fish sauce, crispy salad 

PST makes all of their pastas in-house. We tried a bowl of the rigatoni that had merquez and squid in a light vodka cream sauce. As far as portions go the was the biggest sized dish of the night. I liked this one though I'm glad there were others to share in it. It was pretty rich and filling. But delicious. 

Rigatoni with merquez, squid, sungold tomato, fennel 

For our main entrees we got two of the dishes listed under Collectives which are the shared plates for a few to a handful of people. First out was the Whole Roasted Duck. The name was a bit misleading bc no way this was a whole duck. It came with a breast that was cooked wonderfully with Middle Eastern flavors and then next to that was a hot bowl of meatballs swimming in chickpeas. The pita served on top of the meatball was to be used to make little tacos as they called them. Pretty good.

Whole Roasted Duck with glazed breast with muhammara & yogurt; served with pita, fresh herbs & pickles

Next up was the Slagel Farms Ribeye with roasted onion, marinated pepper, grilled wedge salad, miso bagna cauda. I never did get to try the wedge salad but the ribeye was pretty bomb. Yeah I just used the word bomb in 2018. That miso whatever it was was full of umami. The steak itself was a tad fatty in that the back pieces were mostly mush but it was the good mush that melts in your mouth.

 Slagel Farm Ribeye with roasted onion, marinated pepper,grilled wedge salad, miso bagna cauda

Last up is dessert. Usually not the case with me this may have been the my favorite bite of the night. I saw lots of people raving about it on social media and must admit it really looked good. They call it Burnt Olive Oil cake served with lemon curd, cara cara orange, crème fraîche ice cream. This was a perfect summer dish. I thought it was extra refreshing and loved the texture. Like butter. Thus ends our meal. My thoughts? Pretty damn good. The highlights were real high. Nothing was too low.

Burnt Olive Oil Cake with lemon curd, cara cara orange,crème fraîche ice cream


Pacific Standard Time
141 W Erie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 736-1778
Website

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