Thursday, July 31, 2014

canela chocolate y crema con tequila _ Casa Noble

Es muy delicioso! canela chocolate y crema con tequila - Casa Noble

On July 24th in honor of National Tequila Day, I interviewed Jose Hermosillo, 7th generation, tequila maker and owner of Casa Noble Tequila. Since that time, I have had the pleasure of experiencing Anejo, Reposado and Crystal Casa Noble Tequila.

Tonight I dabbled in a little mixology. Although I have taken Jose's recommendation to indulge in a clean sampling of Casa Noble and enjoyed it immensely, I am finding myself desiring a movement away from the typical margarita. Regardless how you indulge, Casa Noble is smooth, clean, fresh, alive. Casa Noble Tequila is some of the finest tequila I have had the pleasure of indulging in. Well, tonight I ventured away from clean and created a remarkable mix...Simple:

1/3 cup of half and half

1 ounce of dark chocolate

1 tbsp of vanilla

2 tbsp of simple sugar

1/4 tsp of cinnamon

4 to 5 ice cubes

2 shots of tequila, (I chose anejo) The deep caramel hue, bold rich taste and rich body holds up well to the ice

Place the chocolate, vanilla and half and half in a mug and heat for 1 minute/25 seconds. Stir vigorously... then blend all of the aforementioned ingredients into a shaker. Rapidly shake until almost all of the ice is melted. Pour into glass and let sit for about 5 minutes. The tequila when blended with the cinnamon really melds all the flavors together. Serve!

I can imagine that Sambuca and Grand Marniere would add fruit-filled essence, but, not entirely necessary.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bartlett's; A Buckin' Good Time, Indeed!

I first meandered onto Rt. 12, in the spring of 08’ while looking for a new place to call home. I stopped in at Chesterton Indiana and was immediately enamored with the small town charm and thought, “yeah, this would work.” But then I remembered just a little bit further north was a campground I had stayed at in 05’ and a nature retreat I had taken part in down the road on Rt. 12. Curiosity of the past got the best of me and I found my way to 12 heading east. In many ways I never turned back to the south or to the west. Now, right off of 12 is where I call home! So, then where does Bartlett’s come into play?

There have been far too many times Saturday Night Stever and I have traveled along 12. The scenic route is breathtaking no matter what season you are in. Nature unfolds before your eyes. Travelers from near and far use this simple 2 lane highway as their thoroughfare and just like us, their senses are awakened. No hustle, no bustle, just you and Ahhh!

There is one place on the south side as you enter into the Beverly Shore section of 12 that has piqued our interest for a couple of years now. A small establishment with a big buck downing a beer. Aside from the interesting logo, is that the parking lot was always full! To me that it is an indication that either they have really good beer, or really good food, or maybe both! Well, this past Friday, the Buck Beckoned and we took the bait.

Upon walking in to Bartlett’s we discovered an establishment that was a mix of Northwood’s traditional and Lincoln Park, artesque. Our server was Melanie. She was very kind, helpful and knew the lay of the land. Steve became elated as he discovered that they carry Hacker Pschorr Weiss. A glorious wheat beer that is rarely found in these parts! After delivering our libations, our server started us off with a “charcuterie plate” which was spectacular. The selection of cheeses, sliced beef tenderloin, french bread, assorted pickled treats and roasted peach and jalapeno’s was a perfect addition to the selection already mentioned. In addition to these delicacies was elk sausage. While Steve shared that the elk was good, I did not indulge as that is not my thing, but to the more adventurous it is very good to know.

For our main courses we chose recommendations by our server. Her suggestions were based upon the more traditional and long standing items on the menu. Before I go too deep into our eats, let me make mention of the very well-laid out menu. Very nice for someone who is dining at the place for the first time. Okay, on to the eats…Steve ordered a chicken schnitzel, which he found to be delightful. As for me, I had a hankering for steak. The beef tenderloin on the charcuterie plate,(which was outstanding) left me wanting a little more of the red. So, I went with the bistro steak frites. Needless to say, I wasn’t as satisfied as Steve was with his, or I was with the charcuterie board. It isn’t that it was not cooked correctly, or anything like that, it is just that there were way too many shoestring potatoes and it overtook the entire tasting. I had to dig too deep to get to the vegetables and the meat to potato ratio was way off kilter. Equally the vegetables served did not blend well with the frites or the steak. Aside from that the experience was outstanding.

One of the things that stand out above all the aforementioned was that Hugh Kirk, the dining room manager took the time to stop by and chat with us. His welcoming presence matched that of our server. Good customer relations goes a long way. I am certain that the hospitality, fine food, ambiance and libation selection is why the parking lot is always full!

Its claim to be “gourmet” is indeed true! Where else can you get an outstanding charcuterie? Along with fine food, great libations, and warm atmosphere are the many additional happenings at Bartlett’s. Steve and I were especially intrigued with the live music offerings. Considering that we are live musicians, that aspect captured our attention. Check out Bartlett’s current event schedule here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Where the Culinary Rubber Meets the Comedic Road

Remember how I was raving about Italian Night each Thursday at "It's Vegas, Baby!" at Blue Chip Casino and Spa in Michigan City, Indiana?

Well, just when we thought it couldn't get any better, it got way better - orders of magnitude better as a matter of fact (assuming you're engineer enough to appreciate that phrase).

First of all, Sunday evening was their regular menu, which we'd accidentally seen once, but never ordered from. It contains a large array of selections, from appetizers, to hand made pizzas, to sandwiches, to home style cooking, to significant seafood and steak offerings. There were also specials. We started with the best jalapeño poppers we've ever had.

I have cat-like curiosity about meatloaf, so I just had to know. It came with mashed potatoes, those curly, fried onion thingies that are a bit like loose Christmas tree garland, and sliced, cooked carrots. Just the right amount of a fine mushroom gravy coated the top of the meat. And I'm sorry, mom, but this was far and away the best meatloaf I've ever had. It was a solid inch and a half thick, and more on the meaty side than the bready side, which is how I prefer my meatloaf.

My partner ordered the seven ounce filet special, which included green beans and garlic mashed potatoes. She said it was to die for and, indeed, my taste buds crossed through this veil of saliva to awaken in a more heavenly place after sampling it.

Courtesy of the casino's generosity in the form of food comps, we were there to sample. To that end, we also ordered the margherita pizza, which wound up being best of class as well. We had just enough funds to order the chocolate silk pie, which was essentially a fireworks climax to our gluttonous foreplay. We should have eaten only half of it (isn't it great when you have to look either over or around your dessert to see the rest of the room?), but (sing the rest of this to Don McLean's "American Pie") Satan was laughing with delight, the day, the waistline, died.

But that wasn't all. The $23 bottle of wine we selected was fantastic *and* we stayed on for the free comedy show (a Sunday night feature, I believe), ordering a couple more bottles of the same along the way. I suppose three bottles of wine for two people sounds excessive but, hey, we're talking about a five hour period on an extremely solid base of memorable food, and a couple comedians whose material would have leveled us even without Bacchus' ecstatic blood coursing through our own veins. As a matter of fact, the final comedian Vince Carone was so spot on regarding what's wrong with America that George Carlin had to have been hovering somewhere in the room, flashing two thumbs up while grinning from ear to ear.

Our server Heather was a real delight. She was warm and attentive, her timing impeccable. If the kitchen was the orchestra, she was the conductor shaping the phrasing, the balance, the overall experience. Bravo, maestro Heather! Bravo!

Make haste to this incredibly versatile eatery. The menu has you covered across a broad spectrum of prices. Did I mention that they even have a "make your own mac and cheese" offering? I mean, need I say any more?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

It's Redemption, Baby!

Oh, for the love of the difference a couple weeks makes!

We rode into "It's Vegas, Baby!" at Blue Chip Casino and Spa in Michigan City, Indiana a couple winners. Okay, the ride was a little bumpy on the video poker machines before that, despite lucking into a four-of-a-kind. But I had an hour of fun for not too much. And it hardly mattered, because food comps and some luck in the Thursday night "Cash Grab" had us eating and drinking free anyway, which is the way it ought to be in such environs, no?

Not sure what happened to the usual staff, but it was as though they'd cleaned house - only one familiar face. But the new hostess was prompt and courteous. Our waiter Rudy was great the entire meal, checking on our satisfaction frequently, remembering that people might like ground parmesan *and* ground pepper on their soup and salad. He even poured our wine bottle on repeat visits, something we'd never experienced there before. Thanks, Rudy!

The food was better than ever. We dipped bread in fine olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I had the pasta fagioli, easily the best I've ever had anywhere. The house salad had wonderfully fresh greens, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes - fantastic and radiating a sense of eating right under blue cheese dressing and the aforementioned ground garnishments.

Here's the thing. By the time you've had the bread, soup, and salad, you'd have to be Rocky Balboa to honestly have room for more. But, believe me, you make room, because you've only just begun.

My linguini and pomodoro was spectacular. I'd never had it before, actually, and although it's a huge helping, you're looking at it and all you're seeing is the pasta and some diced tomatoes with a nearly invisible sauce. But the moment you put a forkful in your mouth, you realize you were the victim of a wonderful optical illusion, because that transparent sauce packs an shockingly immense amount of flavor. And since you can hardly see it, it feels as though you're going rather low cal while "getting away with something" due to the intensity of flavor running roughshod over your tastebuds. I ate about half of mine, despite knowing the kind of abdominal tightrope I was walking, because there was still dessert to contend with.

And for me, it's always the spumoni. Such a perfect finish, served in a pleasantly lush state between solid and melted.

The bottle of Italian red we enjoyed throughout the meal was just $14.95, a steal for its quality, and in a fine restaurant. The five course (including the bread) meals were a paltry $12.95 a piece. Feeling as though you've taken the house is a good thing, and we're looking forward to feeling that again next Thursday. You should too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Untitled" and Unparalleled!

The feeling begins to swell and build like a well composed chill song knowing that you are about to indulge in something “special.” The excitement builds as you drive north on 90/94 and capture the luminous buildings coming into view. Senses are heightened. Lake Shore drive beckons you to come closer, closer, closer. Rhythmically you turn on to Monroe, catch a glimpse of Millennium Park, slide past the River, and join the electric vibe of the Near North hub of Chicago. The sultry stillness of “Untitled” can easily be missed as the entrance embraces a minimalist approach holding fast to the “speakeasy” dynamic. Let the mystery take you back to a place in time when no lady would dare enter into a supper club without being dressed to the nine’s. No man would risk being in the company of a well-dressed lady unless he was ready to suggest by adornment that he was indeed the escort of the night.

As you walk toward the unmarked doors, expect to be greeted by doormen who mean business, and their business is to beguile you to enter and leave all your prohibitions behind. Imagine yourself slowly, gracefully careening down an open staircase with adornments everywhere that suggest seduction. Let the reds, dark wood, gold hues, and gun metal grey encircle you like smoldering embers of passion and prose. As you descend into the foyer, the cabaret-esque stage dances before you with the same pageantry of carousels of times gone by. Surely you will see the likes of Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, or Clarke Gable sitting at stage side. Live music swirls throughout like incense rising to the heavens. Attention to detail is evident, and the theme of the supper club even extends into the “Ladies Room.” The bar to the left of the Hostess is filled with large comfortable couches, a large bar area and the perfect place for the start to a romantic night or catching up with friends. The main dining room holds the stage, and to the right is a smaller, quaint dining room with a wide variety of seating, including more private, secluded alcove rooms.

I caution you, that although you can dine alone, it is inadvisable, as the servings are meant for sharing. Untitled is meant for sharing! I can attest to this, as I dined alone. My gastronomic exploration was one of the most incredible culinary experiences I have had in a long time. The attention to detail again comes to mind as I was impressed with the simple embellishments that turned a simple deviled egg into “wow!” My head waiter was Colin. After sharing with me his recommendation for a nice “red,” he took the time to share with me the goal of the chef and the desired outcome of “Untitled.” Considering that he was with Untitled Supper Club from its grand opening, he was very capable of fulfilling the philosophy of the establishment. We discussed the simplicity of deviled eggs being on the menu which are a representation of what might have been served during the prohibition period. (somehow the name deviled goes well with the sinful nature of the cuisine, do not go expecting to remain on a low fat, under 1,000 calorie day!)

There are two categories on the Tasting Menu. One is priced at $69 and the other $44. I was able to enjoy a wonderful crossover of the two categories, with Colin paying close attention to my allergies and likes. The Chef tossed in a few surprises which as I understand is his prerogative. All of the wait staff went out of their way to ensure that I was being well taken care of. Now, one might say, “well, they knew who you were!” It didn't matter as I observed how others were treated, and I saw no difference in the level of care, service and attention given to all the patrons. (I will share below what items I had and expound on them at the close of this article)

A very friendly voice turned my attention away from the delights before me, it was manager Daniel Barat. He offered me more red wine and kindly engaged in a little banter about the place and was stopping by to make sure that I was comfortable. He generously offered to show me around later on if I was able to stay around past 10. I knew in an instance that both Daniel and Colin, truly believed in the supper club and all that it had to offer those who sought refuge in the warm escape. The food, lighting, colors, sound all lured me into a sense of well-being. I assured Daniel that I would love nothing more than to explore more of what Untitled had to offer. I expressed that the sheer decadence of Untitled guarantees that no one leaves without feeling their seductive side swell to a wonderful crescendo.

I look forward to visiting Untitled Supper Club again and again. I will be certain to come with friends the next time. I highly recommend this venue as it is perfect for a night of romance, escape, and a passionate exploration into the way dining should be.

“mes assiettes du plaisir” (my plates of pleasure)
  • Chef’s Charcuterie & Cheese
  • Deviled Farm Eggs, w/ bacon-n-chives, peperonata
  • Genesis Farms Greens, w/ capriole farmstead goat cheese with a light touch of citrus
  • Bacon Wrapped Dates, w/ yogurt and pine nut garnish
  • Crispy Squash Blossoms, (house made ricotta, truffle honey)
  • Pork Belly Hash, bacon, peas, over easy egg,
  • Grilled Asparagus, with salt pork, fried farm egg
  • Whiskey Ginger Carrots
  • Pan Roasted Tenderloin Fillet, with fried grits

I thought about rating each dish, but, I simply cannot, each was spectacular. The use of eggs as a combination was a wonderful surprise and added a delightful richness. I truly regretted that I could not eat more of each item, but, the quantity of tastes and the sumptuousness contributed nicely to a feeling of contentment. I regret not experiencing dessert as the descriptions put a nice modern spin on old time favorites: Chocolate Mousse, Strawberry Shortcake, Creme Brulee, and Apple Pie.

On a personal note: I think it is important for us to remember the way it was, the way it should be and just revel in the way our parents and grandparents celebrated a night out before we became locked in to heavily chained dining establishments. Go ahead will be glad you did!

Untitled is located at 111 West Kinzie Chicago, IL 606054. 312.880.1511

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Industrialist's New Clothing

I'm just back from one of the most disappointing dining experiences in my life.

Having heard that The Industrial Revolution in Valparaiso, Indiana was rated the top restaurant in northwest Indiana, specializing in burgers, my mild hangover rejoiced at the decadent possibilities, and last night's craps win stood poised to fund it to the hilt.

But it was essentially one disappointment after another.

For starters, the hostess nearly sat us down next to a booth with a young child wailing at the top of his lungs over the noisy, suspended train whose own sonic disturbances cut right through to the spine. We requested to be seated somewhere more conducive to happy digestion. But it was tough, because it's simply a cacophonous place regardless where you sit, despite being only about half full at the time. We were also too cold.

The waitress was cheerful and prompt. But while she took plenty of time explaining all the specials of the day - complete with burger details - to people at an adjacent booth, with us was simply, "Care for an appetizer?" and, later, "Are you ready to order?"

We selected some sort of pot of melted cheese that was good. But while we were expecting some major salsa with it, I'd say there was all of a teaspoon's worth, and certainly not a rounded teaspoon.

The burger sampler claimed to be four miniature versions of some of their famed burgers, and a choice of garlic fries or sweet potato fries. We each ordered our own sampler with the garlic fries. And that's where things really went south.

The food was just barely warm. The burgers were dry, legitimately difficult to swallow. There was far too small a meat to bun ratio. And the toppings were scarcely present. The buns themselves were borderline stale.

The fries were okay, but nothing to blog home about.

Were it not for the aforementioned hangover, it's unlikely I would have finished my meal. But the fact that I *could* finish my meal *and* half an appetizer speaks to the paltry portions. And they were $12.95 a piece.

With tip, the bill came to $44, which was offensive for what we got.

All in all, I'd recommend doing yourselves a favor and driving to the Wendy's about a mile east on US 30, where $44 would easily feed two hungry adults consistent quality food three times over. How The Industrial Revolution came to be so highly rated is astonishing.

Brother Doug's Blues Hour is BACK!

Brother Doug's Blues Hour, Featuring DCRapier 07/05 by ArtSees Diner Radio | Music Podcasts
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