Category Archives: eliz-a-trip

tales of my travels

Tortas Frontera at O’Hare

Flight delays at O’Hare tasted like bland salads, Hudson News nut mix and Aunt Annie’s pretzels until Rick Bayless provided his latest installment of delicious tortas and aqua frescas smack dab in the middle of Terminal 1. My two-hour delay to Vegas last week allowed just enough time to take a seat at the small (but fully stocked) bar of Tortas Frontera to indulge in a griddle-baked Xoco-style torta stuffed with juicy chipotle chicken, spicy poblano rajas, black beans, chihuahua cheese, cilantro, cool crema avocado and arugula. Other tortas on tap include smoked pork loin and Nueske’s bacon, beer-braised beef short ribs, smoky garlic shrimp and roasted garlic mushrooms, all stuffed in griddle-baked crispy bread hearty enough to hold you over for the travel day ahead. You’ll see travelers stopping to marvel at the selection of open-faced molletes, soups, salads and egg and chorizo tortas for breakfast (so long 5AM Egg McMuffin!), but with so much love going into each item, prepare to wait (around 10 min.) and carry a beeper that’ll tell you when your tortas are ready. Just grab a seat, a prickly pear-raspberry aqua fresca, or something stronger to hold you over until you hear your group number.

Chipotle chicken tortas and prickly pear juice at O'Hare

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Sweet Burger at Burger Bar, Las Vegas

Ah Vegas…I partly blame a recent vacation there for my lack of blogging, but you know I’d come back from Sin City with some serious eats (and $60 from slots! Holla!). That is why, dear readers, I will kick off my next few posts with something I went out of my way to try because I had to see it to f’ing believe it. I had heard about the Sweet Burger at Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay (where we stayed), and remember it being referred to as “a chocolate patty wrapped in a doughnut” or some such nonsense. No, no to the no. Quite the contrary. Think hazelnut-laden Nutella fudge pounded into a patty, then topped with slices of kiwi, strawberry and a slice of mango gelee that oozes over the sides like sweet faux Cheddar. An airy, sugary, glazed doughnut flanks the fake-out burger contents looking almost eerily too similar to a McDonald’s bun (well, a sugar-coated one). You don’t know whether to cut the thing with a knife and fork, grab its sugary, juicy self with two hands, or dip it in the accompanying swirl of raspberry “ketchup” on the plate. How ever you scarf it, it’s a very, very Happy Meal, indeed. Burger Bar, The Shops at Mandalay Bay, Vegas, baby..

The Sweet Burger at Burger Bar

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Café du Monde

As touristy as it may be considered, no trip to NOLA is complete with out a late-night stop at the 24-hour Café du Monde. I remember this place well from my last visit to New Orleans in 1999, and it truly hasn’t changed. I opted for hot chocolate instead of chicory coffee (not sure why, but it was delicious!) and of course, a plate of piping hot beignets loaded with powdered sugar that mostly ended up on our jeans. The table next to us had an all-out sugar fight which was fun to watch, from afar. It was close to 2AM, our server was a little Lurch-like, and the scene was getting riddled with powder sugar face-washes, but we still stayed later for another round of doughnuts.

Beignets and hot chocolate


Cafe du Manifesto

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Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, New Orleans

The menu at Arnaud's


Well it’s no surprise that N’awlins is all about boozin,’ and a great place to do that was at the allegedly haunted Arnaud’s, located across the street from our hotel in the French Quarter. We didn’t get to check out the actual restaurant, but mostly hung out in the quaint yet cool French 75 Bar to try the stiff (but strangely addictive) Sazeracs, and the Shrub Swizzle, rum, strawberry shrub, ginger ale and lime juice, and ponder the boozy quotes on the cocktail napkins. Arnaud’s, 815 Bienville

Boozy quotes to live by


Sazerac

Shrub Swizzle

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Parkway Bakery & Tavern, New Orleans

I recently discovered that an excruciatingly slow Internet connection combined with unlimited Sazerac-availability throughout a five-block radius does not a voracious blogger make. In other words, sorry about the lack of posting as of late. I have plenty of posts from NYC, recent visits to Chicago restaurants Ruxpin, Davanti Enoteca (ultra yum), and Saigon Sisters, and, of course, last week’s NOLA eats. I will mix and match them, starting with some of the finest dishes I had, including the fried alligator from Cochon, truffle gnocchi from August, beignets from Cafe du Monde, and of course, said Sazeracs and other fine cocktails. But I’ll begin with the po’boys, the fried catfish/fried shrimp combo from Parkway Tavern was totally worth the taxi ride from Bourbon (and hour wait to get them to come back when we were done).

Parkway Tavern


Praise the combo…soft, crusty French bread, lettuce, tomato, pickle and mayo are the standards with fillings like grilled alligator sausage links, gravy (with fries), fried potatoes, and in our case, mile-long fried shrimp and catfish. Golden, non-greasy breading encrusted the mound of seafood on each sandwich..

Fried catfish and fried shrimp po'boy combo


Besides the po’boys and fries, we also got gumbo, teaming with turkey and juicy, spicy alligator sausage. It was a little warm out for hot gumbo, but we downed the bowl nonetheless…oh, and juicy thick fries, why not? Parkway Tavern, 538 Hagan.

Alligator sausage and turkey gumbo

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Momofuku Milk Bar soft serve

Momofuku Milk Bar may have launched their new (yum) shipping site this week, but you’re just going to have to schlep to NYC to enjoy the heavenly soft serve. A visit there last weekend had me doing just that, and the object of my confection was cereal milk and black sesame flavors smothered with chocolate graham crumbs. Cereal milk tastes just how it should, creamy milk with the slightly sweet remnants of the Fruity Pebbles of my past, while black sesame tastes like toned down peanut butter. I have yet to try soft serve flavors like cream cheese frosting, sugar cookie or Orange Julius, but hot damn, sign me up. And if you have, vote here your favorite. Momofuku Milk Bar, 207 2nd Avenue, East Village, NYC

Momofuku black sesame and cereal milk soft serve

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Demasié

Just a few more Spain (more than a week) posts to go and then its back to the Chi, followed by impending trips to NYC, New Orleans and Vegas! We noticed two sleek, modern yet totally comfortable locations of Demasié chocolate cafés in Barcelona, one retail space with a never ending table of chocolate bars spiked with everything from macha green tea to ancho chili powder, ginger and wasabi. The spread looked like a work of art in itself, but I managed to snatch up about 6 different bars for gifts (and a 90% dark for myself).

Setting the bar for killer chocolate


But besides the bars they also had an array of chocolate enrobed candies, nuts, wafers, cookies and more..

Sweet deal

The second location of Demasié had a larger cafe, delicious crepes and baked goods and a native who worked there with an awesome suggestion for paella…

Breakfast crepe with tomatoes, walnuts, basil and fontina


Moist vanilla cake with raspberry and fresh whipped cream

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Cal Pep

A recommendation of some foodie friends and a few locals we met early in the week, Cal Pep was by far, the best meal of the week. Known for its ultra-fresh seafood specials and Catalan-Mediterranean cuisine, it’s considered one of the pricier restaurants in town, but SO worth it for the experience of bellying up to the long pink granite bar (after waiting for an hour, which was on the short side), to be served a slew of fresh tapas whipped up in front of our eyes. We made friends, watched the chefs in action, and didn’t want to leave our coveted seats…

Chefs behind the counter at Cal Pep


The chefs bustle about pairing heaping plates of clams, fried seafood, and well, this perfection on a plate…

Jamon


From there we had a slew of lightly fried fish, sardines, calamari, and here’s where the serious fish head eating occurred..

Mixed fried seafood


Clams and mussels..

Fresh and delicious mussels and clams


Tuna tartare on brioche

Tuna tartare


And a whole monkfish, which managed to melt in our mouths with each buttery bite..by far, best thing we ate that week…

Whole monkfish


Stuffed full of meat and seafood, we had room for dessert, a trio of lightly whipped mousse in passionfruit, vanilla and caramel

Whipped mousse


The placemat..

On the bar..


New friends from behind the bar, and the masters of our made-to-order meal..

Chefs get fishy with it..


The place has funky hours, is closed Sundays and for the month of August, and other obscure times, but currently stands in my top 10 best meals, ever. If anything you read this week prompts you to book your ticket, this restaurant should be it.

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