Monday, December 11, 2017

The Best of 2017

- Memorable Bites from the past Calendar Year

The year is ending a bit early at S'C'&C. 2017 was the best eating year of my life and yes I pretty much do say that every year. Though I cant imagine topping this past calendar year which isn't even over as I'm headed to Asia later in the week. That said as always my year end best of list consists only of spots that have been featured on here during the duration of 2017. Also important to note that I try to only choose one item (and maybe a meal) from each trip taken. So while I always eat a ton of good stuff on the road I try to pick the one thing I've thought about most since taking that trip. As always burgers, sandwiches, and tacos (my three major food groups) get their own sections. Those are followed by the best meals of the year which are pretty self explanatory. Ready? Lets roll.
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Best of Chicagoland

Dry Chili Fish Filet at New China Station - Plain and simple this is probably my most ordered dish of the year. Partly bc of convenience but I never get food that I dont really want.

Texas Chili Mac at The Texican - Once a dish I had to make when craving can now be easily picked up for lunch. And this chili mac living fiend approves of their recipe.

Thai Egg Creme Soda at Spinning J - This must be the first time a drink has been featured on the best of list and it's fitting bc I cant get enough of this place and always get an egg creme with my order.

Yukon Fries at Roister - Leave it to Super Chef Grant Achatz and team to create the most umami-fied fries that I can ever remember.

Huevos Motuleños at Con Huevos - My favorite breakfast plate in Chicagoland at my favorite Chicagoland breakfast stop.

Stracci at Daisies - I still think about the creamy flavors of both the lamb and the pasta in what was probably my favorite pasta dish of the year. Been thinking about it since the winter came.

Hot Tamales at The Delta - One of my favorite regional eats now available regularly in Chicago. A f-ing joy if you ask me.

Beef Empanadas at ArePA George - Meet my new favorite empanada in the city. The fact this place fry's to order is a big bonus.

Beef Shawarma at Roxy Kabab - One of my low key great discoveries of the past calendar year. I'm picky as hell with my spit roasted meat and this was super legit on the night we visited.

Pizza al Taglio at Bonci - I was skeptical due to the fact it was a chain type place making the move to America but after trying it out (too many times to count) it's the best restaurant import in the city.

Cevapi at Balkan Grill Company - I never knew how much I loved Eastern European until driving out to Gary, Indiana to try this Serbian food trailer. Well worth the ride.

Korean Wings at Sol's on Sheridan - Usually Korean wings are breaded which is fine but the battered version from here was some of the best fried chicken of the year.

The Best of 2017
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Best of Beyond Chicagoland 

Pastrami Platter at Pieous (Austin, TX)

Tete Roulee Pistachee at Reynon (Lyon, France)

Japanese Beef Curry Donburi at Red Light Ramen (Milwaukee, WI)

Unagi Donburi at Donburi (Washington DC)

Soba Noodles at Abri Soba (Paris, France)

Hot Salami Sandwich at Gioia's Deli (St. Louis, MO)

Huevos Rancheros at Con Huevos (Louisville, KY)

Wiener Schnitzel at Buja Disznók (Budapest, Hungary)

Frites at Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx (Amsterdam)
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Best Tacos

Carne Guisada Taco at Taco-Mex (Austin, TX)
Ricos Taco de Mixiote at the Tianguis Condesa Market (Mexico City)
Tacos de Canasta at Los Especialas (Mexico City)
Taco de Surtido at Los Cocuyos (Mexico City)
Taco Arabe at El Taco Azteca (Chicago, IL)
Potato Taco at The Laughing Taco (Milwaukee, WI)
Taco Campechano at Mi Tocaya (Chicago, IL)
Lamb Tacos at Nixta (St. Louis, MO)

Best Burgers

Original Cheeseburger at P. Terry's (Austin, TX)
Bad Wolf Burger at Little Bad Wolf (Chicago, IL)
Double Cheeseburger at Basil's II (Denmark, WI)
Cheeseburger at Joe Rouer's Bar (Luxemburg, WI)
Double Cheeseburger at Mac's Local Eats (St. Louis, MO)

Best Sandwiches 

Carne Asada Torta at Torta Haus (Chicago, IL)
Hot Salami Sandwich at Gioia's Deli (St. Louis, MO)
Lamb Skewer Sandwich at Urfa Durum (Paris, France)
Steak Sandwich (w/ cheese) at Bia's Cafe Marianao (Chicago, IL)
Meatloaf Sandwich at The Grand Sandwich Stand (Chicago, IL)
Meatball Sandwich at MozzaPi (Louisville, KY)
Torpedo Sandwiches at Bors Gasztrobar (Budapest, Hungary)
Broodje at Broodjeszaak 't Kuyltje (Amsterdam)
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Best Meals of 2017 

Barbacoa Spread at El Hidalguense (Mexico City)

Lunch at Takao Takano (Lyon, France)

Lunch at Hanbun (Westmont, IL)

Dinner at HaiSous (Chicago, IL)

Dinner at Rose's Luxury (Washington DC)

Lunch at Clamato (Paris, France)

Dinner at Borkonyha Winekitchen (Budapest, Hungary)
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See ya next year! Follow me along in Asia on Instagram @chibbqking

Monday, December 4, 2017

Eating BIG in Amsterdam

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Smokin' Chokin' & Chowing on The Dam

As you may have read we spent a week in Europe just recently with the first stop being Budapest. From there we would fly over to Amsterdam. A spot long on my must visit list. We would only have three days but as we consistently learn you can get a ton done in three days. My first trip to the Netherlands was wonderful and I can't wait to get back. While it's true that the food isn't the best to be found in Europe I still found there to be plenty of options with lots of international flavors available.

Sights from Amsterdam

As far as the other stuff goes I loved Amsterdam. It's a great place to visit in that the way of life is much different from over here. Everyone has a bike and it doesn't matter what the weather conditions are there's always people riding by as you walk up and down the streets and canals by their side. Its a gorgeous city that seemed really clean despite it's vices and the people were friendly so I'm ready to go back when the chance comes. Aside from the fact we had time and tickets were reasonable the reason to visit The Dam was perfect as Kimpton just opened their first hotel in Europehere and we had vouchers making the trip more than reasonable as far as price. Amsterdam hotels, and AirBNB's for that matter, aren't cheap so we had to take advantage of the fact lodging would be free. Right?

More Sights from Amsterdam
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 Friterie par Hasard

First things first, some frites. Amsterdam has basically adopted Belgium's signature snack as their own. There's lots of spots where people say you can get the best frites in town and I tried to stop at a few of them. Par Hasard was Eater's rec and it was near where we stayed our first night in town. Frites are fresh cut fries usually of a certain variety that come served with a ton of different sauce options. More times than not these are found at stalls alongside the street but par Hasard is a full fledged bar/restaurant that also has a walk-up counter inside specifically for the fries. I liked the fact they put the sauce on the side and overall the fries were really good. They would end up taking silver.

Frites at Par Hasard
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Scandinavian Embassy

While walking to a market (or was it a coffeeshop?) we came upon one of the spots on my hit list. Seeing as how we were there and hungry we said why not even if I had planned to get breakfast there. It was early enough to be brunch. Scandinavian Embassy is all in on the current Nordic food trend that's reach stretches globally. This was peak Amsterdam as far as design and what not. The menu is small but it's basically a coffeehouse and a real one at that. By which I mean not a smoke den. I got the housemade lox with poached eggs which they split up for us after we told them we'd be splitting it. Very nice but it messes with my pics! I keed. This was a lovely plate of fresh tasting food.

Lox and Poached Eggs at Scandinavian Embassy
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 Albert Cuyp Market

Our next stop was the famous Albert Cuyp Market which sets up shop daily down in the area we stayed at on day one. There's all sorts of stuff for sale at this market and it reminded me a bit of Paris. There's two known stalls serving two of Amsterdam's favorite street food snacks both of which are sweets. The first one we tried was Poffertjes which are little Dutch pancakes made on the spot that are doused in powered sugar and served hot. I loved these but found myslef yearning for them later at night when they weren't available. I was surprised by the lack of food available after Midnight.

 Poffertjes Stand at Albert Cuyp Market

The other stand we were seeking out while here was the Original Stroopwafel stand. This is another one of Amsterdam's signature snacks you see everywhere from on the airplane to in your hotel room. The stands at the market such as this one make them to order and they're so much better that way although I found myself enjoying all the Stroopwafel that I ate. We also came upon a stand serving Vietnamese fried spring rolls and it was popular enough to try one. I'd describe it as slightly elevated state fair food and I mean that as a compliment. I'd eat one every time I shopped the market.


The Original Stroopwafel Stand at Albert Cuyp Market (Note there's a few different ones)
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Warung Mini Ceintuurbaan

First thing I look out for when traveling is the local food. Lots of options for that in Amsterdam including tons of Surinamese cuisine. Over 70,000 'Javanese' people live in Suriname, a former Dutch colony and vibrant multicultural country located north of Brazil on the Caribbean coast. These Javanese people people came from the Indonesian island of Java and helped build Suriname in many ways. When Suriname went independent the people were given the choice to stay or take up residency in the Netherlands which many of them did while bringing their food and culture with them. Amsterdam is flooded with Surinamese spots and I read about this one being good so I seeked it out. Packed house on our visit. We really enjoyed this Soto soup made with chicken, hard boiled egg, beansprouts, and more. Same goes for the chicken sate. It was money on a rainy day.

Chicken Sate (L) Soto Soup (R)
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Bar Fisk

I came upon this pretty new place while searching out good seafood. I read that a group from Tel Aviv was doing small plates with Mediterranean flavors and it looked really good. Luckily it was in the area we were roaming on Day 1 and we rolled in around opening time and were told they had room as long as we were done within an hour and a half. Not a problem for two Americans! So consider reservations beforehand if trying to check this place out. Plates average around $11 euro.

 Calamari (beetroot salad, creme fraiche, pecans)

Just a couple plates with a few glasses of wine before some cocktails at a spot she wanted to check out. Both were good but the pan fried sea bream pictured below was outstanding. Our waitress said it was their most popular item and on the menu since day one when I asked about it. A taste for myself I can agree with those who think it should stay on the menu. I'd go back for it if given the chance.

Pan Fried Sea Bream (spinach, almond, hanged yogurt)
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Hotel V Fizeaustraat

Normally I wouldn't profile a hotel but on the first night of the trip we stayed at a place called Hotel V Fizeaustraat and breakfast was included. More on that in a second. We actually thought we were staying at a different Hotel and didn't realize we were a little out of the way of our stops until we landed at the airport. No big deal as it was less than $10e for an uber into the locals neighborhood where all the spots you've seen up until here are located.I would rec venturing this way as it was a totally different atmosphere which felt much more local and not so touristy. This hotel was fantastic in both room and food. My English breakfast on day two of our trip was the perfect way to start out.

English Breakfast at Hotel V Fizeaustraat
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Tiger and The Fish

This cute little spot was where we wanted to start our dining on day two after checking into the Kimpton. It was only a 15 minute or so walk besides when walking through Amsterdam it hardly feels like a chore. This place is small luckily we got there right before they started getting busy.

 a peek inside 

Aside from a regular menu they also offer a bunch of high quality canned fish at a deli in front. You can get sandwiches with lox, house smoked smoked fish and more. They also have a fried seafood like fish and chips Dutch style which is called Kibbeling Lekkerbek and comes served in nuggets.

 Marinated Octopus

A starter of some marinated octopus was perfect. This was some high quality stuff that I could've sat there and ate all day. I must say this place was very reasonable for Amsterdam standards. Moving onto an order of Mussels we were not let down by there either. While they were smaller than many I've tried they were as well cooked as any others I've tried. Plus they came with a terrific side of fries. I thought this place was A++ in food and also service and style. I rec it to all those headed to the dam.

Mussels with Frites 
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 Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx

I just couldn't get enough of Amsterdam's frites and made sure to try this place which is commonly mentioned as the best. There is no indoor dining here this is real deal street food. They may have been the best batch of fries I've ever ate. These folks have made a name for themselves and the tourists like myself who flock here are the smart ones. The potatoes used are a beautiful golden color and they are indeed cut fresh and then fried twice. Vlaams was so good I came back the next day. On the first trip the mayo was ok but I didn't like the fact it was thrown on. Plain are the way to go.

Frites at Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx
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 Manneken Pis

Here's another place located on what's basically the equivalent of Michigan avenue in Amsterdam. I feel like I was in line with a ton of English tourists with some Americans and Chinese scattered in here and there. The sauce selection from here is mammoth. I decided to try the house special combo which was half curry ketchup and half mayo with onions on top. I guess onions are standard when you go all the way. These were good, they all are, but not the level of good the previous stop was on.

Fries at Manneken Pis
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Kantjil & De Tiger 

One of Amsterdam's most exciting things when it comes to food is it's abundance of Indonesian. With the Dutch connections to Indonesia this makes lots of sense. One of the favorite ways for both locals and visitors to enjoy Indonesian food is a meal called Rijsttafel. It's an absolute feast of many different dishes served in smaller portions and it's said to be one of the great ways to explore Amsterdam and it's culinary scene. Bc we had two dinners scheduled we chose to skip rijsttafel and order a few entrees from the menu at Kantjil & De Tiger. We settled on this place bc some English friends of ours had recommended it as well as a nice Indonesian lady at the hotel.

Prawn and Chicken Fried Dumplings 

We started with an order of dumplings that ended up being fried which isn't my favorite way to eat them. But there isnt such thing as bad dumplings so I did end up enjoying these. We also tried the pork satay with peanut sauce piled on. I prefer the sauce be on the side but it is really flavorful so not the biggest of deals. The Ajam Smoor was diced chicken cooked in soy sauce which ended up being alot like the bourbon chicken at your former town mall. An order of Nasi gorneg (spicy fried rice) was really nice but the best thing here was the Ikan Boembo Bali which was baked mackerel in Balinese tomato sauce. It was one of the best bites of this trip. Props to our waitress for the rec.

Indonesian Food at Kantjil & De Tiger 
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Vesper 

We hot up the four or five top rated cocktail spots in town and this place was the best of the bunch. The menu switches monthly and always has a theme which was smokey on our visit. Lots of cocktails with scotch and I liked the fact they had little tapas size plates of food that they rec'd you pair with the drink. Great service, better drinks and the little smoreebrod was the perfect bar snack. Also of note is the fact there's a really coffeeshop kitty corner if looking for a fun 1-2 punch.

Drink and Apps at Vesper
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Cafe De Klepel

We really wanted to get dinner reservations to this small wine bar but they were fully booked. please note it's a good idea to have reservations for most all dinner spots in Amsterdam. We were able to wander in later in the night for some wine and got a fantastic Dutch cheese plate. I discovered I really like Dutch soft blends. Great little place but service was shit. I think the lady who owned it, or was running it that night, had friends in and she was really only interested in talking to them. Oh well.

Dutch Cheese Platter at Cafe De Klepel
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FEBO

Considering Amsterdam is a lively place at night, in some areas anyway, it was surprising to find the city's late-nite dining scene to be lacking to say the least. Aside from garbage pizza and doner spots specifically for tourists your only other option is FEBO. This place has locations all over the city and it's known for their vending machine food. So should you be so extremely stoned that you must eat something this is your spot. Grab a burger or chicken sandwich as well as other stuff like traditional Amsterdam snacks like kroket and bitterballen both of which are fried treats similar to croquettes. One thing they do make by person here is frites and also the shakes. I tried a chicken sandwich for the f-ck of it and it was classic gas station grub. The last time I got a meal out of a machine was in grade school and to this day those are the grossest burgers I've ever ate. This was slightly better.

Chicken Sandwich at FEBO
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Broodje Bert 

Amsterdam has a really good sandwich scene. In the Netherlands a sandwich is called a broodje. This place will pop up right away if searching out the city's favorite sandwich stops. The little Turkish family behind this place makes toasted sandwiches and it kind of reminded me of Potbelly before it turned to complete corporate crap. This place is popular with everyone from tourists to locals.

Bert Burger at Broodje Bert

I had to try the Bert Burger which was calling my name through the pictures I saw before visiting. This was basically a Kofte Kebab Sub Sandwich and I loved it. Served deconstructed with a toasted roll and more Turkish beef/lamb patties that could fit inside the sandwich. A salad on the side made for a great collection of toppings for my sandwich. This is the type of place I wish I had near me.

The Bert Burger - Fully Dressed 
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Restaurant Daalder

We wanted to make sure to get at least one Michelin starred type meal in while here. But the truth of the matter is Amsterdam's fine dining scene is not cheap and I'm not really for dropping that kind of dough unless it's an experience like omakase in Tokyo or maybe some French fine dining in Paris. Still I found a site of a guy who's obviously a big gourmand and really seemed to know his stuff as far dining in Amsterdam goes. His review of Daalder was what put this place on my map.

a peek inside 

Since we were slightly earlier in the reservation process than some other spots we were able to get a spot here not far off from the open air kitchen. The menu comes in 5,6,7 courses but they dont tell you what they are. All they ask is if theres anything you dont like in which they wont serve you a dish with whatever that is. Thus I really dont have a firm recollection of each dish but I did enjoy this meal. I thought 4 of the six courses of my meal were wonderful dishes that any restaurant would be happy to serve. Only thing is I'm just not big on duck which just so happened to be the main plate. Still i wasn't going to handcuff the kitchen. i hate when I see people making adjustments to dishes that each ingredient plays an important element in. Considering it was on the cheaper side of bistros in Amsterdam I would say it's worth giving Daalder one of your dinners in the city. Good stuff.

Dinner at Daalder - From Mini Pastrami Sandwiches to Stroopwafel in Ice Cream form.
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Broodjeszaak 't Kuyltje

I read many good things about this local butcher selling an assortment of awesome broodje and made sure I ended up stopping into Broodjet Kuyltje. Here's the best tip you'll get from this roundup. Go here before you head to the airport to go back home. Get 2/3 sandwiches per person (they're on the smaller side) and enjoy them on the flight back. They open early enough (weekdays) to get there as long as you dont have to be at the airport before 7a. The meat is locally sourced and sliced to order.

 The Meat Display Case at Broodje Kuyltje

I stopped in around 7a and it was the owner and one local talking it up. The selections here are almost too much to handle. The beef tartare looked great but she wasn't going to want that so I made sure to get us some sandwiches we could both enjoy. I ended up with the pastrami that many online reviews had talked about paired with some local cheese which is melted in a toaster with the meat and bread. It was wonderful. We also got a perfectly rare roast beef sandwich,a sliced pork broodje, and one with bacon and cheese. All of them terrific. So much so I was upset with myself for not getting a few more. They ended up holding really well and were pretty much 5/6 bite sandwiches.

Trio of Sandwiches from Broodje Kuyltje (Roast Beef. Bacon. Pastrami.)
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That's it for this trip...See ya next time!
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Notes: For the addresses to all these spots plus many others we didn't make it to please see my google maps guide by clicking HERE.

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