Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Iron Barley - St. Louis - August 2009

Evening on the Patio Our evening at Iron Barley was wonderful.  We ate outside on the back patio.  This restaurant, also covered on an episode of DDD, gets quite busy and we were lucky to get a seat quickly.  A musician sat on a stool  and played elecrtic guitar and sang easy going rock songs, many from the seventies.  He accepted my request to play Neil Young (a taste of Canada) and introduced us as the family from Toronto and the diners welcomed us with hearty applause.  Much of the menu changes daily and is posted on a blackboard out front.  The servers brought us great mixed drinks; they used mint growing in a planter right next to our table to prepare an awesome mojito.  We enjoyed a watermelon salad and we ordered two amazing seafood dishes - yes I could live on seafood alone.  My zarzeula featured shrimp, scallops, large chunks of whitefish and mussels in a rich tomato broth with saffron.  We also  devoured a seafood pasta with lobster, shrimp, mussels and clams in a lovely cream sauce.  Now with multiple types of seafood in each dish it's very difficult to avoid overcooking some of it - not at Iron Barley.  From the tender mussels, to the just right shrimp and flaky whitefish, everything was cooked perfectly.  I was brought to tears from the magical combination of great music, friendly service and amazing food.  And all these delicious offerings are served in a very laid back setting - nothing frou frou here.  Iron Barley is the type of restaurant that inspired me to write a blog - sophisticated food, made from scratch, executed with skill, served kindly to you in a relaxed setting.  St. Louis should be proud.
Iron Barley Eating Establishment on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chicago Eating Summary - July 2009

Eating in Chicago We ate very well in Chicago every day of our seven day stay.  The best restaurants are blogged in previous entries on this page.  There are some memorable experiences that haven't been blogged, until now.
Best honourable mention: Vong's Thai Kitchen:  A Jean George venture:  creative Thai, excellent cocktails and great decor -a romantic setting. Note: VTK is now closed. (January 2010)
Best Chicago Beef Sandwich:  Portillo's, then Al's #1 Beef.  Like to try more beef sandwich places next visit.
Cool Things: You can wear whatever you want.  Everyone's very friendly.  All restaurants accommodated any special request.  Prices are very reasonable.

When not Eating: Take the L all over the city, go on a boat architecture cruise, walk along the river, go to the 103rd floor Skydeck, go to Millenium Park where you can stare at Cloud Gate and admire the Ghery outdoor concert hall, visit Oak Park to see Frank Lloyd Wright houses, catch at least one ballgame and try Goose Island vanilla cream soda.

Kuma's Corner - Chicago - July 2009

Burgers that Rock  Kuma's, another DDD locale, was a defininte highlight.  It's often packed and it's also worth the wait.  We went on a Friday night and lingered with the heavy metal crowd.  Kuma's only plays heavy metal and all the burgers are named after heavy metal bands (the Black Sabbath, the Iron Maiden, the Slayer...).  There was a large group waiting outside of early to mid 20's metal fans who had heard about Kuma's on a blog for metalheads.  Talked to a fellow Canadian from Winnipeg and looked at custom bikes and Harley's while we waited outside on a warm night - our last night in Chicago. Kuma's makes everything fresh to order and offers an excellent selection of independent brewery beers on tap or by the bottle.  Three of us ordered burgers (pictured in the order they are described - top to bottom) and my youngest got mac 'n cheese - homemade, delicious and plentiful.  I got the Led Zeppelin burger - a 10 oz. perfectly cooked to order burg with pulled pork, bacon, cheddar cheese and pickles served on a pretzel bun (as are all Kuma's burgers).  I ate the entire thing and loved every bite.  There was also the Gobllin Cock burger - bacon, cheese and a Chicago style viennese hot dog on top.  Massive and delicious.  We also loved the Contessa burger -  corn salsa, portabello mushrooms and chimichurri sauce.  Another winner.  We loved the cool atmosphere with thumping metal throughout the night.  Awesome service, amazing food and a true find.  Sad to say goodnight to Chicago, but a great way to do it.

Kuma's Corner on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Glenn's Diner - Chicago - July 2009

A Different Diner Glenn's Diner is different - they specialize in seafood. And they do it very well. They don't have a fryer and they get their fish delivered six days a week. This diner was also on DDD and it's a great place. The menu is on the chalk board and they had 18 fish/seafood choices that day! Three of us opted for seafood and one chose the pancakes. The chocolate chip buttermilk pancakes were the best I've ever had. The PEI mussels were served with white wine, cream, shallots and garlic. They were steamed to perfection - very tender. I customized my order and got poached eggs with crab cakes and hollandaise on the side. The crab had very little filler - all large pieces of fresh real crab - amazing. The apple jack tilapia (bottom left) was also delicious. That's right - the tilapia was coated with an Apple Jacks cereal crust and the gentle sweetness works very well with tilapia. I told you Glenn's is different. The atmosphere is casual and very friendly. Glenn's is unlike any diner I've eaten at - and it's the best one too.

Glenn's Diner on Urbanspoon

Lou Malnati's - Chicago, River North - July 2009

Deep Dish Dreams Many consider Malnati's to be the best deep dish pizza in Chicago. While I didn't try any others, I don't see how it could be beat. The butter crust pizza with cheese and sausage is something I still dream about. The crust has a richness and slight sweetness from the butter. The sausage is sausage meat, not slices, spread throughout the base layer. Just the right amount of mozz is put on and it's topped of with a layer of crushed tomato sauce - delicious. We got the lunch special: two deep dishes, two pastas, four salads, four pops. The bill: $28! This has to be the best deal in all of Chicago. Marc Malnati beat Bobby Flay on an episode of Throwdown and I'm not surprised. When everything is made to order and from scratch it always tastes great. There a five locations in the city of Chicago, so if you're visiting the windy city, there will be a Malnati's near you.
Video from Throwdown is available on Youtube:

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Smoque - Chicago - July 2009

Smoque is awesome. Another Diners, Drive-ins and Dives experience. Owner, Barry Sorkin, (see pic, bottom right) knows his bbq. He travelled throughout the U.S., (mainly Austin, Kansas City, Memphis, North Carolina) to discover tastes and techniques he could use to make real legit bbq in Chicago. He has succeeded. We got the baby backs, though I'd also try the St. Louis ribs next time, pulled pork, brisket, beans and slaw. His ribs had a visible smoke ring (something to photo next time) and were tender with bite that ribs should have - not that fall off the bone stuff. Everything else was also stellar. The brikset was pure heaven - see the pic with slaw and beans. He serves his ribs with sauce on the side - both were great and I drank the Carolina style sauce straight out of the cup. Even the mac n' cheese was incredible. With the DDD episode airing regularly (and it's available on Youtube), Smoque is very popular - and worth the wait. I have to thank Barry for giving us complimentary sodas while we waited outside - the kids and I found the wait much easier once our thirsts were quenched. The boys devoured their food and I finished what few leftovers we had for breakfast the next day. This is what I call "shoulder dropping" food because the delicious flavours release all the tension in your body - from your shoulders on down. If you're anywhere near Chicago - ever- you gotta go to Smoque.

Iron Barley Eating Establishment on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 14, 2009

Rosie's Diner - Rockford, Michigan - July 2009

Classic Diner I first heard about Rosie's on the TV show "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" (DDD). Rosie's was a lot of fun. It certainly was comfort food. We enjoyed the roast beef with gravy and the beef with noodles. Their beans were good and the mashed was great. Delicious shakes as well. They make a dozen or so freash pies daily. We tried chocolate peanut butter and cherry - both were delicious - the pb pie was the best we ever had. They have three diners on site. One is a bar and the other will soon become a gift shop. There's even a diner themed mini-putt out back.
Rosie's Diner on Urbanspoon

Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q - Ft. Lauderdale - March 2009

BBQ by the Beach If I don't see a stack of wood in the parking lot of a bbq joint I turn around and eat somewhere else. Here I could see the smoke before I even saw the restaurant. The big pit is quite impressive and you can see they subscribe to the 'low 'n slow' school of bbq. The ribs were great. The collard greens were the best we've ever had - better than the collards at Melba's in Harlem. Tom puts tamarind in his sauce - very original - and his sauce is sweet and a bit thin and delicious. We bought two bottles to bring back home. Lots of chain restaurants all over Ft. Lauderdale and this place sits among them - and above them.

Tom Jenkins Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Swan Oyster Depot - San Francisco - July 2008

Fresh out of the Water Best seafood experience on our West Coast trip. (Anchor and Hope in S.F. was a close second - Both a firefighter and a tow truck driver were in picking up massive orders for their crews at work. They did this every week and I can see why. They offer a vast array of fresh seafood, absolutely delicious chowder,and incredible crab. There is a long narrow counter and slim tables along the other wall. Waited for the men's next to an immense pot of chowder on a single burner outlet. Talked to the chowder cook as he stirred the pot. A short walk from a trolley stop only adds to the flavour of this great spot to eat.

Swan Oyster Depot on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What's it all about?

Restaurants that are unique
- great food
- regional specialties
- fresh and made from scratch
- worth a trip
- from dives to upscale