Furious Spoon

I was late to the ramen game. I never did the microwave noodle thing in college. But now that ramen is like the coolest, steamiest Chicago winter pick-me-up, I am glad my last roommate helped me see the light. My old apartment’s proximity to Ramen San made this food a staple in my diet. Bad day? Night before an exam? Sick? This food can do it all. It is the hipster foodie’s chicken noodle soup. Even though living close to Ramen San made it my default, I have tried lots of ramen in Chicago and this one is one of my favorites.

The Place: Furious Spoon The Neighborhood: Wicker Park, but they also have a Logan Square Location and Pilson is coming soon

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Furious Ramen

I went for the first time on a cold rainy night a couple weeks ago. The kind of night that is just barely too warm for snow and you really should get delivery and stay home. But the journey (AKA 20 minutes on the the 56) to Furious Spoon was totally worth it. It is a casual spot where you order at the front and get a number so they can bring it to your table. The whole restaurant is 3 communal tables, which adds to the casual, friendly feel, but might make it challenging to eat with more than 3 other people. I went on a weekday around 8:30pm and it was not too busy, but I walked past it last Friday night around 7:30pm and it was packed!

They have quite a few ramen options, some more traditional than others. I was feeling a little sick and wanted something spicy to soothe my stuffy nose (ew gross I know) so I went with the Furious Ramen. This is a hearty one with homemade noodles, tonkotsu broth and flavored with a miso tare. I had the standard toppings which are:  chashu (pork belly), white pepper chicken, marinated mushrooms, scallions, fury sauce, garlic relish, sesame seeds and a poached egg. That’s basically enough protein for a body builder. The fury sauce made it spicy enough to soothe, but not so spicy I couldn’t taste anything else. Which was good, because you want to be able to taste how well all the flavors work…and they work. Also shout out to one of the best poached eggs in all of my ramen experiences. The yolk had the perfect cheese sauce consistency.

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Chicken Citrus Shio Ramen

The person I went with had the Chicken Citrus Shio Ramen which was on the lighter side. I have never had citrus ramen before. It was a little more reminiscent of chicken noodle soup if you need starter ramen for your ramen newbie friends. Most of the other ramens on the menu start pretty basic, which is nice because you can add what you want to them. They have a whole host of options from corn to cabbage to pork belly.

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Takoyaki (octopus)

The Wicker Park location has a good selection of hipster canned beers and sake to help wash down your ramen.

Happy Slurping!

 

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DIY: Steak Dinner

Since I have a blog that is all about how much I like to eat, people sometimes ask me if I also like to cook. The answer is YES, ABSOLUTELY. I tend not to blog about it because I try to cook healthier (within limits), which is much less sexy to photograph than burgers topped with bacon and dripping in melted cheese a la the Au Cheval burger or brunch with a side of chocolate soup as in Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. But trying new things is important…blah blah personal growth…something about a new year, new me. So I decided to try out a DIY post with something everyone can get behind.

The meal: New York Strip Steak with Roasted Brussels Spouts and Rosemary Garlic Baby Potatoes and Brownie Sundaes for dessert

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I made this meal with 2 of my oldest friends from grade school! We usually get together for dinner once a month and it seems that whenever we get together for an early dinner, we end up doing happy hour, then drinks, then dinner, then sometimes more drinks and dessert. There really is something extra special about those friends you have had forever. However, since I have been traveling a lot lately, I have become a temporary homebody and wanted to make dinner at my apartment. That’s the other thing about good friends, they are down for a change when you just need to chill.

We got New York strip steak because the plan was to cook it on a stove grill top and it was on sale at Whole Foods. Two of us are going to be students forever so we were trying to be economically fancy. We got two 10-12oz steaks to share. Before we did any cooking we opened a bottle of wine (it may or may not have been the first of four). Priorities were in order.

To cook the steak:

  1. Generously season each side of the steak with salt and pepper
  2. Use a grill pan on a hot stove
  3. 4 minutes each side for medium rare, my friend had the genius tip of doing a quick sear on all the edges of the steak too -she’s a smarty pants, but totally worth the extra step
  4. let rest 10ish mins (if you have that kind of self control)
  5. enjoy and feel so fancy

Next the sides. They are both so easy! You can make them at the same time in the oven. You can also assign this task to the friend that is maybe really messy and wants to help, but you are nervous about them helping. I’m not saying this was one of my friends, but if you happen to have one helping you, this might be the contribution for him or her. The brussels sprouts:

  1. preheat oven to 350 F
  2. wash and halve a bag of brussels sprouts
  3. line a baking sheet with foil (less cleanup is always better)
  4. coat brussels sprouts in EVOO and toss in some salt and pepper in the baking sheet
  5. stick them in the oven for 30 mins, you may want to check them halfway through and stir them around

Don’t forget the potatoes. We bought purple, red, and yellow fingerling potatoes, mostly because they look prettier. And I’m not sure if I mentioned, but we were trying to make a fancy dinner. To make the potatoes:

  1. preheat oven to 350 F
  2. wash and halve potatoes (the long way AKA hotdog not hamburger)
  3. throw them in a foil lined baking dish
  4. slice half of a yellow onion, toss that into the dish too
  5. smash and chop 2-3 cloves of garlic, throw that in
  6. add 3 sprigs of rosemary
  7. drizzle olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste and toss (we used our hands, it’s easier)
  8. stick it in the oven with the brussels sprouts, if they aren’t done when you take out the sprouts, turn the oven up to 375 F for another 10-15 mins (at least that is what we did and it was fine)

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We also had some crusty french bread that was supposed to be for the meal and one of my friends even made a suggestion for what I should do with the leftover bread. Obviously there was no leftover bread! That sucker barely made it to the actual meal. We devoured it with our wine as we cooked. But still a great addition.

We made brownies from a box and splurged on Jenni’s Burnt Caramel ice cream to top it. Jenni’s ice cream is such a game changer! All in all it was basically the usual. We met at Whole Foods at 6pm on Thursday and they were calling ubers from my apartment around midnight. Maybe this means I am getting old, but there is something so nice about cooking with old friends and being able to lay around on the couch after chatting, facebook stalking old flings and polishing off some wine.

Also to note, if you have leftover sides, store them together and use it as a base for a hash. And by hash I just mean microwave them at breakfast and throw a sunny side egg on top!

Briciola

I’ve been doing a lot of solo dining on the interview trail lately. And I have adopted the mentality that if I am traveling alone, I will have to eat alone anyway. So, why shouldn’t I have good food in a restaurant instead of grubhub in my Airbnb? I’ve gotten really good at saying, ‘table for one please’ with enough confidence that they forget to think it’s weird that I didn’t ask if there is a bar with open seating. And stay tuned, I think I will do a post with restaurant highlights across America from the interview trail. However, this post is from a recent break in Chicago where I didn’t have to use my new table-for-one skills.

The Place: Briciola The Neighborhood: West Town/Ukrainian Village

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I generally feel like I can make pasta, why do I need to eat it at a restaurant? But Briciola taught me why. The name literally means bread crumbs, probably to warn you that you will want to lick all the crumbs off of your plate. The menu is full of Italian classics with a nod to the historical integrity of the dishes, but enough imagination that you have not had these dishes done this way before. The Calamari in Guazzetto is in a spicy tomato sauce that my taste buds wanted to swim in. They had to settle for me using the calamari and garlic crustini as sauce receptacles. Next, the pasta. I had the Tagliatelle Alla Veneziana, which was not tagliatelle at all. It was black linguini in a creamy saffron brandy sauce with shrimp and bay scallops. It was delicious. The kind of delicious that comes from fresh pasta.  My dinner companion had lamb shank with polenta cakes, which was also awesome (but not as good as mine)! oI was too full for dessert, but looked at the menu anyway -mostly as a formality because I LOVE tiramisu. Also as some encouragement for my brain to send my stomach good vibes to make room. I gotta put that mind body connection to good use. The tiramisu was perfection -fluffy, creamy and not soggy.

The last thing to know about Briciola is that it is BYOB! What is better than that? Make sure you make a rezzy! It is super cute (kinda date-y), but does not seat too many tables. I also hear they have an awesome patio. Looks like someone will have to go back with me when the weather warms up!

TWO

The Midwest gets its fancy on at this new West Side spot without adding any snooty or stuffy to the mix. Local food from midwestern farmers is dressed in urban sophistication and served with genuine care. Everything from the food to the aesthetics to the service is spot on.

The Place: TWO; 1132 W Grand Chicago, IL

Not only does TWO buy locally, the interior is completely recycled. There is a wall made entirely from old Chicago porches, which adds to the homey comfortable feel. This is a classy and impressive place. It is one of those Chicago gems that will impress a date and make you look like you are totally in the know. It is off the beaten Rush Street path and doesn’t have those Rush street prices. The inside is beautiful, cool, rustic and romantic all in one, but the service and experience is what sets it over the edge. It felt like everyone was taking care of us.

Bacon and Arugula Risotto
Bacon and Arugula Risotto

Okay the food. WOW. Their menu changes often based on what is in season, but I am confident that there is always something amazing. The duck fat potato croquets were really good and served with chili herb aioli and Wisconsin parmesan. Don’t let the duck fat part scare you! Everything is cooked in some kind of fat, (butter=milk fat, olive oil=olive fat) they just need to come up with a sexier name for duck fat. My favorite thing had to be the risotto. It had homemade bacon, arugula and was topped with a fried egg. The egg really set the whole thing over the edge of amazing. It was so good! The grilled arctic char was probably the best piece of fish I have ever had. It was served over spinach, fingerling potatoes and smoked paprika buerre blanc (whatever that is). Save room for dessert. The homemade pretzel doughnuts with warm chocolate are like amazing fancy churros.

The drinks are creative and the bartender was super helpful. They have a lot of whiskey if that is your thing. They also have rotating selections from local breweries and microbreweries -only from the Midwest.

Some things to consider: They are only open for dinner, but I can’t really imagine having lunch here. There is potential free parking on side streets near by. That’s HUGE. It might be the only place left in Chicago. It isn’t that public transportation accessible and it is a little out of the way which is good and bad -bad because getting a cab might be a challenge. But really that is the only drawback. This place is amazing and I can’t wait to go back!

Two thumbs up for TWO! (Too cheesy?)

For more information: http://tworestaurantchicago.com/

Roots Pizza Chicago

In Chicago, pizza means deep dish. I spent a large amount of time in college getting my non-Chicagoan friends to try (and like) deep dish. Fortunately, Chicago food aims to please and we have another pizza gem tucked away in the West Town area.

The place: Roots Pizza, 1924 W Chicago Ave Chicago, IL

The brown leather booths make it cozy in the winter, but their retractable doors and windows can open up the whole space. In warm weather months, you can dine sudo-al fresco and protected from the elements. It’s the best of both worlds. The space is designed around the owners’ upscale sports bar concept, which is executed well. The bar is made entirely from recycled floorboards -very green, which is always cool. It is a classy place to watch a game where you won’t have to worry about the drunk guy next to you chest bumping you every time his team scores. However, I could see a family with kids having Friday pizza night here or a group of friends hanging out and completely ignoring the game.

The food is all done well. I could go and just get appetizers. The mozzarella sticks are a MUST try. They are the best I have ever had, hands downs, with not even a close second. They are huge, gooey, fresh and so satisfying. The half sausages on a stick are amazing too. They will corn dog them or put them in a blanket for you too and you get your choice of beef or italian sausage. Roots has amazing salads. You can make your own with stuff like pepperoni and yellow baby beets, or choose one of theirs like caprese with bacon. The pizza is unique quad cities pizza with a malt crust. It makes the pizza kind of tangy, really chewy and so, so good! The sauce is smooth, slightly spicy and a total secret. Their pizzas are topped with fresh local ingredients and cheese to match.

The beer list consists of an extensive and exclusively local selection. They will help you find something on the menu that you will enjoy and probably wish your regular sports bar had. They also have their own exclusive house brew from Two Brothers Brewing Company.

Some things to consider: Roots is a little out of the way if you are taking public transportation, so driving here is probably your best bet unless you live in the area. Parking isn’t too hard to come by and totally worth the drive. It is also next to the Bleeding Heart Bakery which has the most amazing cake balls and is supposedly closing soon. Get in while you can have both! The neighborhood is transitioning and has a few cool thrift stores. There is also a different rooftop restaurant with the same owners on top of Roots. I haven’t tried it, because I don’t have the strength to pass up the mozzarella sticks, but would be willing to bet it is also great!

For more information: http://www.rootspizza.com/

Drink locally and stay classy!

Blue Frog’s Local 22 Chicago

Every culture has its version of bread wrapped meat: tacos, sandwiches, kebobs, deep dish pizza. My personal favorite is the burger. Thank you Germany? The best part about burgers is their customizability. Every burger is a blank slate waiting for delicious creativity. This place uses Chicago neighborhoods to inspire the burgers.

The Place: Blue Frog’s Local 22, 22 East Hubbard Street, Chicago, IL (multiple locations)

Blue Frog’s Local 22 is more of a large bar with awesome burgers than a restaurant. They serve local food and beer, so the best that the Midwest has to offer is on your plate and in your glass. Not to mention they work with hormone-free, organic, self-sustained farms satisfying any inner (or outer) yuppie-hippie in you.  Local 22 is a casual place where you can enjoy a Green Line in the open air window and unwind after work.

They have burgers for everyone including your vegetarian friends (Lincoln Park Veggie) and turkey-burger-eating, low-sodium dieters (The Mag Mile Turkey). The best part is that each burger has a Chicago personality including Pilson Pride topped with sofrito, pepper jack cheese and jalepeno aioli, Greektown -a lamb burger topped with feta, pomodoro sauce and cucumber tzatziki- and Uptown with crimini mushrooms, red onion, gruyere and dijonase. There are a lot more so check out the menu! Another twist is that all burgers come with pasta salad not fries. You can always ask for fries(or sweet potato fries, or tater tots), but I wouldn’t recommend it. The pasta salad is actually really really good and goes surprisingly well with the burgers.

Besides the Chicago burgers and local brews on tap, Local 22 is a fun time. They have karaoke Tuesday-Saturday after 10pm (after 9 on Fridays). Grab friends after work for a burger and stay for some karaoke. Or switch up your Friday work happy hour and try this place.

For more information: http://local22chicago.com/

Some things to consider: There are no rules about who can karaoke. It is for anyone brave enough (or inebriated enough) to try. So let go and belt one out to the bar! This also means if you go during karaoke you might be listening to someone who only sounds like Mariah in her dreams.

Happy singing with a mouth full of Chicago style burgers!