Beijing Duck at Sun Wah BBQ

After a short hiatus, I’m back at the blog and bringing you juicy, glistening perfectly roasted duck from Sun Wah. You’re welcome. Sure this delicacy has been written about a million times, but I FINALLY got to the famous Uptown Chinese restaurant just a few weeks ago with two of my favorite fellow diners. Each of our excursions get bloatier than the next, and this one was Bloat 5.0. I usually head to Chinatown for Chinese food or make the occasional run to Friendship in Logan Square, but I knew this experience would top them all. I have a serious weakness for duck on any menu, and especially the glistening Peking ducks hanging in the window of Chinatown restaurants, so I knew we had to get our pre-order on and make sure a full duck with accompanying pickled daikon radish, hoisin sauce and steamed bao were ready for us when we arrived. It didn’t take long for our master carver to begin cutting up the carcass tableside and set up the appropriate accoutrements. The result was juicy, flavorful duck with a perfectly crisped skin I could’ve noshed on all night, sweet hoisin and crunchy, cool radish and pickled daikon all stuffed into steamed bao that were quite reminiscent of the Momofuku Noodle Bar buns I know and love. Sun Wah, 5039 N. Broadway

The duck arrives

The carving begins

Before the bao

Just add hoisin, pickled daikon and garnishes


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On the table: Nacional 27

Menu, cigar box tops. Nacional 27, 325 W. Huron.

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Schiller’s Liquor Bar menu, NYC

Some chilly temps and torrential downpours didn’t stop me from savoring every minute in NYC this weekend. It was a rare moment when I was there for pure bachelorette party fun rather than work. I finally got to see Apotheke (and sipped an edamame-purée concoction), was captivated by War Horse on Broadway and the Cindy Sherman exhibit at the MOMA. We ate, of course, and I’ll be posting about our bites all week. One brunch in particular stood out, but not so much because of the food. Perhaps my Norwegian Hollandaise at Schiller’s Liquor Bar was just a miss, but I loved everything else about this place, from the room to the Stumptown coffee, and especially the menu. The font reminded me of my grandfather’s handwriting I’d see on old, yellowed ledgers, and the style of the restaurant name was straight up Milwaukee circa 1950 beer bar/bowling alley…and they have an escarole and artichoke salad on the damn brunch menu! I mean….

I was happy with my Stumptown, and didn’t indulge in wine, but I loved the layout of the wine list…Cheap…Decent…or Good, by the glass, carafe or half carafe…simple and to the point. Schiller’s Liquor Bar, 131 Rivington, East Village, NYC

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A guest blogger gets all sappy…

Actually, my friend, fellow foodie, Restaurant Intelligence Agency creative mastermind, dedicated dining partner and all around nifty young fellow Matt Kirouac didn’t actually get sappy for his guest blog post at all, but he did report on a sticky situation— his very fun and very important job as judge at the National Maple Syrup festival in Indiana a couple weeks ago. From the twisting paths of tapped maple trees to maple Italian cream cake and maple was a true maplepalooza.

Tapping into the sugar trails

Memorable Moments From My Weekend at the National Maple Syrup Festival

I recently attended the National Maple Syrup Festival in Medora, Indiana, where I was asked to be a judge at the King Arthur Sweet Victory Challenge. Criticizing maple dishes is what I do best, after all.

Chatting with Tim Burton, head honcho at Burton’s Maplewood Farm, was the highlight of the weekend. He exudes energy and generosity, not to mention his killer maple tea, made with maple sap. The tea bar has been raised.

The Sweet Victory Challenge (aka the American Idol of maple syrup, per me) was fun, if a bit disappointing that two entrants’ recipes failed before we could taste. My favorite was the five-spice pudding with maple glaze. It didn’t win.

The winner was a maple Italian cream cake. Not so good was the maple “upside-down” cake, which was not upside-down in any way. And it was inexplicably flavored with Greek yogurt. No.

Exploring the “sugar trails” in the woods on the farm was incredible. Sounds like real-life Candyland, but actually they were just paths winding around tapped maple trees. Along the way, folks clad in colonial garb demonstrated antiquated maple-ing. We tasted maple sugar made the old-fashioned way and it was sublime.
— Matt Kirouac

An example of said antiquated maple-ing

Maple Italian cream cake...holy yum

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On the table: Balena

4 plates, 4 napkins, 4 forks, 4 knives,4 water glasses, one votive. Balena, 1633 N. Halsted.

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On the table: Sixteen restaurant

2 dinner plates, 2 napkins, 2 bread plates, 2 butter knives, 2 water glasses, 2 forks, 2 knives, votive, flower, vase. Sixteen restaurant in Trump Tower, 401 N. Wabash.

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Ada Street

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the name Ada. It was my grandmother’s name and I have never met anyone else who shared it. It’s also the name of a short street in my ‘hood, just off of Grand Avenue, which I recently discovered stops and then picks up again due north, past the expressway, for a couple short blocks just off Elston. It’s a stone’s-throw from the Hideout, and even more hidden than the intimate music venue. And now, it’s the name of a less-than-a-week-old restaurant/lounge that’ll give those post-Hideouters somewhere to eat after a show. Even if you aren’t Hiding-out for the night, it’s worth a visit for the stunningly cool room, and bites by chef Zoë Schor.

Ada Street menu

Ada Street eats

The sign-less entrance may infuriate some, but I was fascinated by the mysterious façade and narrow doors. I also love that it blends in with the block, save two glowing red lights (which didn’t show up in the ol’ camera)
Ada undercover

Ada undercover

This was one of the first bites we tried, lightly fried black-eyed peas with a crispy outer coating and hint of spicy aïoli. I easily could’ve snacked on them all night.
Fried black eyed peas

Fried black-eyed peas

The French-inspired small plates include steak tartare with fried capers and a quail egg, Southern fried quail with greens and bacon gravy, polenta fries with chipotle purée and a duck confit served with pasta, a poached egg and Parmigiano. They pretty much had me at poached egg.
Duck confit

Duck confit with pasta and poached egg

A stack of brioche doughnuts didn’t stay around the table for long, rumor has it they’ve added a port wine caramel sauce as an accompaniment since our visit..holy yum.

Brioche doughnuts

Before you hit up the sexy back dining room with army blanket upholstered banquettes, an open kitchen, long bar with cocktails served up by Tim Lacey and a garage door that’ll open to the back patio in the summer, there’s an even sexier from room waiting room with wine and stacks of records hiding in the walls. The dining area isn’t huge, so I anticipate guests without reservations having to in here for a while before they sit, but you and your date most likely won’t mind. Ada Street, 1664 N. Ada Street.
Do front waiting rooms get sexier than this?

Do front waiting areas get sexier than this?

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Mystery mantra

This may be my favorite mystery post yet. Guess which Chicago restaurant has these backlit words of wisdom hanging on the wall for a chance to guest blog.

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