Even after 6 days on a serious taco binge in Mexico over Memorial Day weekend, I was dying to get to Antique Taco in Wicker Park. I had heard good things, but was honestly expecting a Big Star off-shoot, but discovered a gem of a taco cafe that was more quaint, rustic and seasonal than taqueria roadhouse. Don’t get me wrong, I loooove me some Big Star when I’m in the mood for some cerveza with my pork belly and summer crowds. But Antique Taco offered a different, and equally as delicious experience. Let start with the tacos. One look at the menu and my eyes darted to “garlicky kale,” “pickled escabeche” and “cilantro cream” in the market mushroom, so I knew I had to have it. These ingredients along with local mushrooms were stuffed inside a fresh, soft tortilla, each bite delivering all of my favorite flavors and bursts of lush green and pink. A fresh lemon wedge for the squeezing just added to the beauty of these generously sized dish.
Garlic-soaked or not, I could eat kale everyday, but I need something crispy to balance it out. Our other taco was the crispy fish with smoked cabbage, scallions and sriracha tarter sauce. Light tempura battered whitefish was the perfect canvas for the smoky cabbage and spicy tartar sauce, again all wrapped up in a fresh flour tortilla.
Coming off my Mexico trip, I had to do the tacos, but you won’t miss the tortillas if you get the taco salad served in a cardboard blueberry carton. With a crunchy and colorful array of kale, spicy peanuts, queso fresco, cranberries, corn chips, sesame, pomegranate vinaigrette, it’s almost too pretty to eat.
Pork carnitas, a toasted tortilla soup, chili cheese curds and habanero popcorn on the menu mean multiple visits are in order to basically try, well everything, and I didn’t even get to the horchata milkshake or are you kidding me Mexican chocolate and marshmallow pop tart, but the perfect summer quencher (and something we sipped all over Mexico) are the agua frescas made with seasonal pureed fruit, simple syrup and lemon juice…available with or without vodka. OK, I’ll stop, just go.
Antique Taco, 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.
I have always majorly hearted Vosges chocolate, and love when I happen upon the purple and white haven of confectionary genius in various airports and cities around the country. As if the chocolate wasn’t good enough, they go ahead and add things like bacon, chipotle chilies and organic pumpkin seeds to their bars, truffles and hot chocolate mixes that are almost too pretty to eat. But my favorite combo thus far was recently spotted at Goddess and Grocer; Rogue Ale and Chocolate Stout Beer with alderwood smoked salt, burnt sugar caramel and dark chocolate. Holy Ch-rist, it might be all of my favorite flavors wrapped up in dark chocolate bar..a campfire s’mores on steroids. The neighboring blood orange caramel didn’t look too shabby either..but nothing is more intoxicating that smokey-chocolately-salty dark chocolate. I was rushing out when I spotted it and didn’t have a chance to pick one up, but like a perfectly fitting dress or pair of shoes that haunts me after one look, I keep thinking about it and know I must have it. Watch for a full review…
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
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
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 tea..it was a true maplepalooza.
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