Category Archives: random spottings

Portland street carts

Blackened burgers with bleu cheese, turmeric oil marinated catfish, broccoli rabe, copa, and fried egg salads, Stumptown coffee…these are just a few excuses for my blogging lag-time. Just back from a whirlwind street-cart-coffee-voodoo-doughnut-eating-and-yes-I-went-hiking-too adventure in my new second favorite city outside of Chicago, Portland. I’ll be posting photos and stories from my adventure over the next week or so, so please enjoy, comment, drool and then get yourself there as soon as possible. To start, I bring you Portland street carts, set up all over the city with independent vendors dolling out everything from tacos to baked potatoes and breakfast sandwiches. Asian food is big (I saw Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese carts on the same downtown block), as is Mexican and random concepts like pulled pork sandwiches, grilled cheese and Czech cuisine. I love street cart dining, and hope Chicago can one day, somehow adopt this exciting street cart culture. I will say that the carts have funky hours (closed Sundays?), perhaps too many dishes that seem the same, and I didn’t love everything I tried (a $5 Korean taco had hardly any Korean beef stuffed inside, and an overabundance of kimchee-soaked slaw), but I pretty much ate the $4 blackened chicken sandwich with bleu cheese from Brunch Box cart in three bites, and loved the $6 curry chicken from a Thai cart. Either way—agonizing decisions aside—the carts are fun to peruse, and seem to pop up all over the city.

The People's Pig fine pork sandwiches


Swamp Shack


Brunch Box Cart..burgers and breakfast sandwiches!


Yeah, so I loved this..sign at Brunch Box burger cart


Yes you can! The black and bleu burger from Brunch Box Cart


Bro-dogs

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Filed under eliz-a-trip, quick lunch, random spottings

Herb garden at Quince

As what seems like the 10th snowstorm of the year blankets the city, I’d thought I add a bit of green to the blog today with this shot of the basement herb garden at Quince at the Homestead. Chef Andy Motto grows his own microherbs like baby mizuna, micro purple rutabega and komatsuna to place atop and around his seasonal, elegant dishes like skatewing roll and lobster with quinoa (I’ve gushed about this combo before), roasted duck with cannelloni, spinach and celery root purée and octopus with heirloom tomato compote. Come summer, he hopes to transfer the mini garden to the rooftop of the Homestead. And speaking of green, I’ll be traveling to Temecula, Calif. for work this week to learn about all things citrus. Be back blogging in a few! 1625 Hinman Ave., Evanston, 847.570.8400

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Ginger cider at Cooking Fools

I believe there’s a science behind good sandwich board design. When these foldable chalk boards are propped outside bars and restaurants, it’s prime real estate, but too many of them fail to entice. Walk up and down Milwaukee, North and Damen and you’ll see them lined up, some touting $7 Bloody Marys in handwriting that looks like they scribbler has downed one too many. Or even less appealing, at least to me, are the games being shown that day. But when a sandwich board advertises fresh hot ginger apple cider on a bitter cold day, the handwriting doesn’t matter much, I make a beeline inside. The hot drink was being promoted outside of Cooking Fools a few weekends ago, and I stepped right in to try some of the steaming concoction. While I wished there was more ginger to cancel out the sweet of the apples, I loved the texture and it did warm us up as promised. Interested in other ways of warming your soul with libations this week? The store is also hosting a Cocktail Mixology class on Feb. 19 from 6:30-9. With vodka, gin and genever as your weapons, learn to whip up the Aviation, Moscow Mule, and my personal favorite, the Tom Collins. 1916 W. North Ave., 773.276.9377

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Mystery bamboo

Bamboo trees surround the chef’s table of what Chicago restaurant?

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Sea salt brownies at Trader Joe’s

Sea salt brownies at Trader Joe's

I’m not sure if was “sea salt” or the word “brownie” that caught my eye first when I spotted this plastic container of salty-sweet goodness at Trader Joe’s, but when put together these words justified my hypnotically tossing one in the cart. Seriously, French sea salt brownies? It’s brilliance only thought up by one of my favorite grocery stores. And the best part is that they are brownie “petites,” which, in theory, increases your chances of a whole box lasting more than a week. Sure, pastry chefs have combined sweet and salty combinations for a while, but there’s usually something cold involved (salted peanut gelato, etc.), but it’s rare to find a classic, straight-up fudge brownie sprinkled with the perfect amount of sea salt, that you can take on the go, and eat, um petitely…yeah or like five at once. For my past Trader Joe-nsing, click here, here and here.

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Filed under ..and more, I like to eats, random spottings

Random photo Friday

I’ve long been intrigued by Duk’s Dogs on Ashland Avenue, and bet they offer up one sleeper hit of a hot dog. But this sign just doesn’t have me convinced of the alleged greatness of these highly promoted milkshakes. Perhaps it’s the grammatical errors I would take a mega-Sharpie to if I had one, or the fact that they offer pineapple flavor. “Gross.”

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Mercadito mirrors and more

Mirrored walls at Mercadito

When it comes to restaurant banquette seating, I personally always want the seat against the wall. The padded, cushy side that faces out, a perspective for people-watching. But as a polite dinner guest, I usually offer the inside seat to my dining companion first, rather than just sit on down without a second thought. And for those times when I do end up sitting the equivalent of restaurant “bitch,” I love when restaurants, like Mercadito, install a subtle horizontal mirrored strip which allows the inside-facing diner to get in just a bit more on the action, while simultaneously adding a bit more energy and life all around. I love the way Mercadito infuses a long mirror with the colorful murals, and adds the kind of warm lighting that makes the spacious restaurant seem even bigger without appearing too cold. I noticed a mirrored panel on the wall at RL last week as well—yet another restaurant with a scene that’s not to be missed (as well as the awesome tomato bisque, lobster club and Key lime pie). And as for Mercadito, when you’re not gazing into the mirrored walls, reflect on and then scarf down their truly great selection of moles, ceviches and tacos (like the tilapia with tomatillo-garlic mojo) served until 2AM. Mercadito, 108 W. Kinzie, 312.329.9555

Tacos at Mercadito

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Filed under great for date, I like to eats, new restaurants, random spottings

Non-mystery post

The view from the Signature Lounge on the 96th at the Hancock

I was really tempted to run this as a mystery post, but figured I’d go ahead and just admit that I was hanging at the Signature Lounge for a post-Andrew Bird show cocktail this week. We were in the neighborhood (Fourth Presbyterian Church) and decided to take the ear-popping elevator up to the 96th Floor of the Hancock for a drink. It was also freeze-ass cold outside, and didn’t want to go too far. Anyway, after living in Chicago for more than 10 years, I’m sorry, I still love this place. It was absolutely hopping on a Tuesday night, and we got the last two seats pulled up to the window. Of course it’s all about the view here (even an unexpectedly awesome one from the ladies’ restroom), and the over-priced cocktails. I did appreciate the idea of hot cocoa/coffee/tea drinks spiked with booze, and went for the Clementine Tea (description: Svedka Clementine vodka, cranberry juice, fresh brewed tea)…(reality: weak bag of Lipton black with a hardly a hint of vodka and maybe half a splash of cran, a random straw and overwhelming orange slices). I will pretty much only pay more than $10 for a cocktail if I’m the Violet Hour, but we made an exception only for the view I don’t think I could get tired of (see said awesome non-mystery post pic above). The Signature Lounge at the 96th, 875 N. Michigan Ave., 312.787.9796.

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Filed under boozeworthy, great for date, mystery spot, random foto, random spottings