Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

Location: 2024 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60614
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba on UrbanspoonCafe Ba-Ba-Reeba on Foodio54
A Quick Word:
There aren't many restaurants that fill up night after night, time slot after time slot.  Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba is one of those restaurants.  Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, this tapas-style restaurant features many classic Spanish dishes, as well as their own creative takes on tapas.  My girlfriend really enjoys eating here because you can try several dishes without spending a fortune.  Some of their highly recommended dishes are listed below, and honestly, I would recommend just about every one I tried... they were all that good.  One dish not to miss is the goat cheese in tomato sauce.  The atmosphere is a little loud, but everyone is just having a good time.  They have great sangria and a pretty extensive cocktail list.  Their desserts are smaller, so it is possible to try them all.  The staff is very attentive and they don't rush you at all (despite being swamped and people waiting).  I rated it at 4.5-miles and I hope to frequent this Chicago favorite several more times in the near future!

What We Ate:

67. datiles con tocino

I think it was at least five years ago when bacon wrapped dates began being offered at more and more restaurants.  And, if a place has them, I usually order the dish.  Some are stuffed with strong cheeses, others with meat, but at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, they keep it simple.  Their dish consists of a date wrapped in bacon and served in an apple vinaigrette.  The dish comes with seven dates served in a small ramekin.  The dates are perfect size because you get both the sweetness of the date without overwhelming the savory and crunchy bacon.  I will say, that "apple vinaigrette" was more of an apple oil.  It seemed way too oily, but that would never prevent me from ordering the dish.  Simple and delicious.  Highly recommended.

32. queso de cabra al horno

I happen to love goat cheese and any dip that includes it.  Here, this dish is made up of a hot tomato sauce surrounding a huge chunk of creamy goat cheese.  It is served with several slices of a toasted baguette basted in a basil butter.  They are not stingy with the size of this dish.  There is plenty of cheese and tomato sauce to cover all of the slices, and I even used the free bread to dip into the tasty creation.  There is a heavy basil flavor throughout, but that sharp cheese breaks up the flavor.  If you listen to me on any dishes, definitely order this one.

51. costillas de buey a la riojana

My girlfriend recommended ordering the short ribs.  And I was glad she did.  The dish comes with a sizable short rib that has been braised for quite some time.  The tenderness shows that.  It is served with manchego mashed potatoes, grilled onions, brussel sprouts, and ripened red jalapeños.  The entire dish was incredible.  A rich, tender chunk of meat literally breaks apart with the lightest touch of your fork.  The mashed potatoes were cheesy enough, yet not overwhelming.  I suggest eating a bite of the short rib with a piece of onion, a dollop of mashed potatoes, and one of those jalapeños.  The depth of flavor is indescribable.  And, don't worry, the jalapeño is not spicy... being red and ripe mellows them out and more of a sweet undertone is experienced.

46. vieras saltiadas, vinagreta de jamon iberico

Rather than ordering their recommended shrimp dish, we decided to try something new.  We ordered dish 46 which was seared bay scallops cooked with an iberico ham vinaigrette.  Lightly roasted scallions divided the plate into three sections.  Once again, I was confused with the term vinaigrette.  The entire dish was oily in a similar way to the bacon wrapped dates.  I will say, the scallops were cooked well and had a slight meat flavor to them, most likely from that ham.  This dish was just OK in my books.  Probably will switch it up next time I dine here.

Caramelized Banana

One reason I enjoy eating at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba is their tapas-sized and tapas-priced desserts.  This allows us to order more than one dessert, especially at $3 a piece.  For the first dessert, I chose the caramelized banana.  It was served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, toasted pistachios, and a quince syrup.  We both enjoyed the dessert, but didn't love it.  The banana had been lightly caramelized with sugar before being covered in a rich caramel sauce.  The ice cream had a strong vanilla bean flavor to it.  Unfortunately, I didn't think the pistachio or quince syrup had any real impact on the dessert.  Also, I believe the banana should have been served warm.  It would have made the dessert significantly better.

Mango Sorbet

Once again, at $3, how could we not order another dessert.  Her choice was the mango sorbet.  It is made in house and comes with three small scoops.  We both really liked this dessert.  The only flavor you taste is mango, which is what you expect in a sorbet.  I liked how it was too watery and nothing else was served with it to mask the flavor of the fruit.  This would have been enough for dessert and if I had to choose, I would have stuck with just this one.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- This place is all about sharing.  So share!
- 2-3 tapas per person is a great number to start with.  Remember, you can always order more as the meal progresses.
- Do make reservations.  This place was packed even on a Sunday night.  I even find reservations hard to get on weekdays.  I suggest reserving at least 2 weeks in advance for those popular dinner times.

- Don't order the Patatas Bravas.  These are their signature spicy potatoes, which in my opinion, are only fillers.  They aren't anything special and aren't even spicy in my opinion.

How far would I walk for this food?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sofia's Pizza

Location: 1132 W. Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60607
Sofia's Pizza on UrbanspoonSofia's Pizza on Foodio54
A Quick Word:
After running a few errands in the UIC area, I mistakenly walked into Sofia's Pizza.  Constantly advertising about their cheap $6.00 large cheese pizza, I figured it would at least be average pizza.  But as I previously mentioned, I made a mistake with this choice.  The pizza by the slice is a little more costly than pre-ordering.  And, hopefully 10x worse... because it was not good.  The pizza tasted old with hard cheese, tough crust, and not much flavor.  I honestly hope their freshly ordered pizzas are better otherwise I wonder how these places survive.  The place was empty except for one person quickly eating a couple of slices near the window.  It was just after noon and it was obvious, the lunch crowd doesn't flock here.  I know I won't be back and I do not recommend trying it either.  1-mile rating was given generously.

What I Ate:

Sausage Pizza Slice

After checking out the pizza by the slice warmer, I decided on ordering sausage.  I mean, it was the same cost as cheese, but had meat on it.  The sausage slice was typical... thinner style crust, plenty of cheese, and a few sausage pieces to finish it off.  At $2.50, it was a pretty solid deal.  Unfortunately, that is where the positives ended.  The cheese had been hardened by sitting underneath that warmer for so long.  The crust was bland, and very tough.  And, there was literally three small sausage pieces on the entire slice.  Not even crushed red pepper helped this slice.  Some of the worst pizza I have had in a while.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- If you are going to eat here, do order a full pizza for $6.00.  Hopefully the pizza is much better when fresh.

- Keep walking.  Don't stop in for a slice.  Taylor Made Pizza is a couple blocks further west on Taylor and significantly better (even though it is just average).

How far would I walk for this food?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Riverview Tavern

Location: 1958 W. Roscoe St., Chicago, IL 60657
Riverview Tavern on UrbanspoonRiverview Tavern on Foodio54
A Quick Word:
Without some kind of incentive, I probably wouldn't have even stumbled across Riverview Tavern.  It is located in the farther neighborhood of Roscoe Village and hasn't really been on the mainstream radar.  Luckily for me, my buddy mentioned a bourbon barrel aged beer event at this bar so we decided to check it out.  The bar was like any old typical bar in Chicago, but that day, they had over two dozen different barrel aged beers.  It was essentially heaven for beer enthusiasts.  After sitting down with a glass of Bourbon County Stout, we decided to also order some brunch.  The food itself was just OK.  It was pretty bland and nothing that unique.  They are generous portions especially for the cost, so that is definitely a plus.  But, honestly, I wouldn't crave anything I ate or tasted... except for maybe those fries.  The service was pretty poor, but that may just be because of the overwhelming number of customers (for their beer event).  I doubt ill be eating food here anytime soon, but I will definitely come back for Festi Barrel 2015... if they have it.  For now, a 3-mile rating is all I could give them.

What We Ate:

Festi Barrel 2014

One of my buddies had the inside scoop on the 1st Annual Festi Barrel.  This was a special event featuring bourbon barrel aged beers with the beneficiary being the victims of the Washington, IL tornado.  It was great.  They had more than two dozen different barrel aged beer kegs from the popular Bourbon County Stout to interesting pinot noir aged beers and even one named cappuccino.  All of the beers were served in tasting options, so my friends and I were able to at least taste a dozen or so beers.  As usual, a wonderful raffle also took place and everyone was still able to order off their brunch menu for food.  Great event; can't wait till next year!

Torta Cubano

Not having a torta in a while definitely influenced my decision at Riverview Tavern.  And, not having a Cuban sandwich in even longer made my choice a no-brainer.  I had the Torta Cubano which was a sandwich served on the typical telera torta roll and filled with carnitas, ham, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard.  It came with a side of parmesan dusted fries.  The sandwich was lightly pressed to hold it all together.  All in all, it was just an OK cuban sandwich.  They added way too many pickles (and thick pickles at that) so it had an awkward crunch and vinegary flavor to it.  The mustard was too minimally and almost non-existent.  The meat itself was tasty, tender, and plentiful.  Personally, I would pass on the sandwich next time... but those fries!  They are glorified Burger King fries (and yes, this is a compliment).  I haven't had fries this good in a while.  I know what I will be ordering next time.

Chorizo Benedict

One of my buddies stuck with the breakfast side of their brunch menu.  He ordered the chorizo benedict, basically a Mexican twist on the classic eggs benedict.  The dish was composed of two english muffins topped with poached eggs, a chorizo infused hollandaise sauce, avocado slices, and a house made pico de gallo.  Of course, house potatoes were also served.  He gave me a huge bite of the chorizo benedict and I thought it was an interesting spin.  There was a pretty heavy spice to the chorizo, enough to give an after burn.  The avocado added the creamy texture and that pico enough freshness to cut the oiliness from the chorizo sauce.  It was a pretty large plate and good value also.  I feel like I really enjoyed the one bite, but wouldn't want to eat an entire dish of it.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Do order their breakfast burritos.  A couple of my other friends ordered them and they came out huge.  They both cleaned their plates, signifying a tasty burrito.
- Plenty of street parking (non-permit), so definitely drive and park on the residential areas.

- This wouldn't be my first choice for brunch.

How far would I walk for this food?

Friday, January 17, 2014

La Madia

Location: 59 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60654
La Madia on UrbanspoonLa Madia on Foodio54
A Quick Word:
After eating here just a couple weeks ago, we decided to come back with some of my family.  And, it was just as good.  I forgot to take pictures of the new pizzas, but we did have the pork belly white pizza with kale and the sweet fennel sausage and pepper red pizza.  Both were excellent with the pork belly having a strong smoke flavor and the sausage having that homemade italian sausage taste.  AND, our dessert (the crostata) was served warm!  The gelato was even melting a little.  It was perfect so I decided to up their rating to 4.5 miles.  A must try restaurant and high on my recommendation list.

It has been a while since I came to La Madia, but I always remembered it as a place with great, authentic neapolitan style pizzas.  Located in the mainstream shopping area of downtown Chicago, it is also a very accessible restaurant.  They pride themselves as being contemporary Italian, however, I find that they should focus more on just their pizzas... because they are that GOOD.  The choices are endless--some with pork belly, others with strong cheeses, and others with fruit.  All are made in their wood burning oven on a thin crispy crust.  Fresh ingredients make their pizzas shine, but you can't forget about their "wine of the week" specials for only $6.00.  The atmosphere is very up beat with tons of people waiting around the bar/lounge area for a table to open up.  The cost is friendly to all wallets... averaging about $15 a person with a glass of wine.  For all of these reasons, it was a no-brainer to rate the restaurant at 4-miles... a hot dessert would have brought it to the next level!
What We Ate:

Seasonal Wild Mushroom Bruschette

It was a little difficult to choose an appetizer with such great shareable options.  Personally, I have been addicted to ricotta cheese lately, so we decided on their mushroom bruschette.  The dish was whipped ricotta cheese topped with seasonal mushrooms softened in a marsala glaze and a few pieces of torn basil.  This was all on top a toasted crostini.  The bruschette had a very complex flavor, especially with those basil leaves on top.  The ricotta was as creamy as I pictured and the bread just toasted enough for the perfect texture.  After eating a few bites, we both realized how simple the dish is to make and hope to try and make it at home someday.

Taleggio and 3-Hour Roasted Grape Pizza

Everyone probably realizes I choose the most random or interesting dish on a menu whenever I stumble across something unique.  Luckily, this pizza also caught my girlfriend's attention.  The taleggio and 3-hour roasted grape pizza is exactly as the name explains... grapes and cheese.  It is a neapolitan style pizza so think wood burning oven and from thin crust like in Naples, Italy.  We both loved the sweetness from the grapes, yet the mild-to-medium sharpness of the cheese.  I said the gradient because as the pizza cools, the cheese gets a little stronger.  In the beginning, the cheese was just creamy.  Towards the end of the meal, you get a little odor to the cheese, but still very mild.  The crust itself is soft in the middle and just enough crisp on the outside to hold it all together.  I recommend this pizza to everyone!


For dessert, the crostata was the no-brainer.  This is their seasonal option... the inside changes quite frequently.  In our case, it was filled with roasted pears.  The crust is made from a simple pastry dough sprinkled with sugar and baked in their huge pizza oven.  It is topped with vanilla bean gelato.  I was extremely disappointed to receive a dessert that was not warm... you would picture the crostata itself to hold some heat allowing that gelato to melt.  Ours literally was served at room temperature.  The pear filling was a perfect sweetness (not overwhelming with sugars) with a subtle cinnamon after taste.  It would have been perfect if it was warm... hope they take my advice!

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Valet parking is a little steep... $12.00 for 3 hours.  Definitely look for street parking if you are feeling lucky.
- Do share pizzas.  I find one pizza per two people is just perfect.  That pizza and a small appetizer or dessert will leave you feeling satisfied beyond your needs.

- Don't forget to ask about the "wine of the week" specials.  Usually a great wine for a reasonable cost.
- Don't come if you didn't make reservations.  We saw a few couples waiting around for nearly our entire dining time before they were seated.

How far would I walk for this food?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Siena Tavern

Location: 51 W. Kinzie St., Chicago, IL 60654
Siena Tavern on UrbanspoonSiena Tavern on Foodio54
A Quick Word:
It must be hard opening an Italian restaurant in Chicago, especially with a neighborhood called Little Italy, a tourist trap called Eataly, and all of the "Mom and Pop" Italian restaurants scattered everywhere.  But this isn't stopping Siena Tavern.  Located in the busy neighborhood River North, this Italian restaurants seems to be competing quite well.  Reservations are hard to come by and reviews have been over the top.  So I knew I had to give it a try... so we came for brunch. We were lucky enough to find a Gilt City coupon before dining here; however, even without one, I would not hesitate coming back.  They are home to MY FAVORITE APPETIZER in the city--a dish called Coccoli.  The restaurant is very main stream with elegant decorations and a more hip atmosphere.  The waiters and waitresses are attentive despite the busy restaurant for brunch.  Unfortunately, the cost is the main problem I find with the restaurant... brunch priced at easily $30 per person (with one drink).  For students, this is definitely a drawback.  Also, the other dishes we tried were great, but were not perfect. For that reason, despite having my favorite appetizer, I decided on a 4-mile rating.

What We Ate:


This appetizer has just become MY FAVORITE APPETIZER in the city.  It surpassed Davanti Enoteca's ricotta and honeycomb dish.  Coccoli consisted of crispy, airy dough balls resting on top of prosciutto de parma, which is served along side scoops of stracchino cheese, basil oil, and all drizzled with a truffle honey.  You can tell they thought of every component, making the dish absolutely INCREDIBLE.  There is a contrast in temperature with warm dough, yet cold prosciutto and cheese.  There is a contrast in textures with the creamy cheese, sticky honey, and crispy dough.  And, there is even a contrast in tastes--sweet from honey, salty from prosciutto, and an overall extensive depth of flavor from both the truffle honey and basil oil.  You don't need to worry about eating a strong cheese; stracchino is a young, mild cheese that lacks a rind and a smell.  To eat, break open one of the warm crispy dough balls, fill with one of those cheese clumps, layer in a generous amount of prosciutto, don't forget to scrape every last bit of honey, and finally, ENJOY.  You will not be disappointed in this dish and I highly recommend it to everyone.  Next time, I will be ordering an entire dish just for myself.

Lobster Roll

Since it was brunch, we decided to take advantage of their lunch options.  Their brunch items didn't seem worth their money, especially for the sizes of the dishes seen either in person or online.  Now for the lobster roll, you are definitely getting a large plate.  Served on a toasted brioche bun (Lobster roll style), the chef layers on fresh frisse, bacon, sliced tomatoes, and an herbed aioli before topping the bun with a generous amount of citrus poached lobster.  The dish comes with parmesan-sage fries, a homemade ketchup, and additional aioli on the side.  In terms of the lobster roll, I will say the amount of lobster is misleading.  The entire bun is filled with veggies with the lobster just creating the top layer.  I won't complain too much because I still thought it was a fair amount of lobster; however, I still want to warn everyone.  The lobster is very tender.  Unfortunately, I thought the bun had a little too much butter.  The fries were addicting, but we only enjoyed the ones covered in parmesan.  For wanting more of a fresh meal, the lobster roll turned out to be very oily and unusually fatty in my opinion.

Short Rib Ravioli

Recently, my girlfriend and I have been on a short rib craze.  Once we saw short rib ravioli, we knew it was one of the dishes to choose.  Here, their homemade noodles are layered together with shredded short ribs before being cut into the classic ravioli square.  It is served with a roasted porcini mushroom and taleggio cheese sauce.  We just assumed the dish was going to be rich, but that is an understatement. Especially with that mushroom sauce/gravy, the dish was too rich to enjoy by yourself. I was glad we decided to share it.  The pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente, giving it just enough bite to understand the greatness of perfectly cooked pasta.  It came with five raviolis, which is more than enough.  Don't know if I would order this dish again, but I am glad I tried it.

Bloody Mary and Cocktail No. 2

It always seems like a fun idea to have a morning cocktail when enjoying brunch, especially at a place known for their drinks.  I chose to have a bloody mary, while she chose cocktail No. 2.  My bloody was garnished with a skewer of salami, cheese, ham, and a cherry pepper, as well as celery, a lemon wedge, and a lime wedge.  It wasn't spicy at all, but was a great consistency... not too thick.  The cocktail No. 2 was their twist on a bellini.  Made with grey goose vodka, rather than just peach, they make their drink with the following: lemon juice, peach puree, blueberry lavender, bitters, and prosseco.  It was strong, yet very fruity.  It reminded me of a bellini with a slight blueberry aftertaste.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Do order the Coccoli.  This dish cannot be missed.
- If you aren't huge on crowds, an early brunch is highly recommended.  The restaurant is extremely popular at night, but we came for brunch and had a very pleasant experience.

- Valet parking is about $14 here for brunch... check for street parking first.

How far would I walk for this food?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Hot Chocolate

Location: 1747 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, IL 60647
Hot Chocolate on UrbanspoonHot Chocolate on Foodio54
A Quick Word:
When it comes to dessert, wouldn't you want to come to a restaurant named Hot Chocolate?  I know I did.  But, I also wanted to try their highly regarded burger and other menu items that are sourced from local producers and farmers.  Their menu appears to change frequently (like many other restaurants in Chicago), depending on what ingredients are in season.  I will say, their desserts and hot chocolate are great and definitely worth trying.  Unfortunately, with the food, I was just really disappointed.  After having such fresh ingredients, my burger came out overcooked to nearly well-done after requesting a medium RARE preparation.  Furthermore, their appetizers are nothing unique and nothing memorable. The hot chocolate is essentially liquid milk chocolate so just think of the word rich as you take your first sip.  I am glad I gave it a try, but I would only come back to share a hot chocolate and share a dessert.  I will pass on the food for now.  For that reason a 3.5-mile rating is all I could give it.

What We Ate:

Medium Hot Chocolate

With the name Hot Chocolate, how could you skip ordering their famous drink?  My family decided to just order one and share it because of all the reviews saying how rich it is.  We chose the Medium style Hot Chocolate which was made with milk chocolate, a little dark chocolate, and caramel.  It also came with one of their house-made marshmallows.  The cup is huge so definitely worth sharing.  Rich is an understatement... imagine drinking liquid milk chocolate with a little heavy cream.  It is tasty, but may be too much for some.


This may have been the only appetizer style dish on the menu... at least one that you could consider sharing with everyone.  The pretzel came with two house-baked pretzels with coarse salt baked right in and a pepper jack cheese sauce.  The pretzels weren't as soft as I hoped, but that pepper jack cheese sauce made the dish.  It isn't as spicy as I would like, but that allowed the pretzel to also shine.

Mac & Cheese

Everybody loves Mac & Cheese, but as an appetizer?  It seems kind of weird to eating such a heavy dish for an appetizer.  However, I was surprised with their version.  The Mac & Cheese comes in a small ramekin.  I wasn't sure which cheeses are mixed in, but it wasn't strong at all.  Doesn't seem like a sharp cheddar is involved.  Unfortunately, no crunchy topping on their mac & cheese.  This dish with a salad would be a good sized meal.

Pork Belly Salad

My little brother made a last minute decision to add the pork belly salad to our list of shared appetizers.  And we were all glad he did.  The dish was made with a mixture of cured pork belly, honey crisp apples, spaghetti squash, shaved parmesan, and pecans.  It was dressed with a citrus vinaigrette. The pork belly was lightly seared to make it less fatty and more crunchy.  It had that bacon-like flavor to it but with more substance and chew than typical bacon.  The apples were sweet and their parmesan was not too strong... my dad even enjoyed it and he dislikes most cheeses.  Great salad and great size for an appetizer.


I had heard the hamburger from Hot Chocolate is the best in Chicago.  This recommendation came from another trustworthy foodie.  So I knew I had only one option on their menu...  Their hamburger (should be called cheeseburger), is made with a high quality ground beef patty, aged cheddar cheese, house made pickles, and bacon.  You have the option for a fried egg, which is a no brainer... YES.  All of this is served on a garlic toasted sesame bun.  The burger comes with homemade potato chips.  I really did enjoy the hamburger except for one thing--mine was overcooked.  I asked for medium rare, but received a medium well burger.  Somehow though, it was still extremely moist and flavorful.  The egg added the richness and the cheddar the much needed sharpness to cut some of the char flavor.  The burger presentation is clever with two mini bottles of ketchup and mustard sitting on the plate.  Chips are tasty, but way too many fill the plate.  Great burger, wish mine was cooked to temperature, will definitely order again though.

Crab Cake Sandwich

My older brother decided on the Crab Cake Sandwich.  From the picture, it looks a little plain, but inside that house buttered bun, you will find a New England crab cake with lettuce and a giardiniera tartar sauce.  Like the burger, it comes with a handfuls of potato chips.  My older brother gave me a couple bites of his sandwich and it was just enough to get a nice taste of that tartar sauce.  It had plenty of acidity from some lemon juice mixed in.  Unfortunately again, it didn't have much spice to it for being a giardiniera tartar sauce.  Not sure why their dishes lack heat, but still it was a solid sandwich.


My dad was the only person at the table to deviate from the sandwich section.  I guess I talked up the burger a little too much.  My dad ordered the poussin... honestly, I had no clue what the dish consisted of until I read the description.  It was a roasted petite chicken sitting on a bed of fingerling potatoes, raisins, and capers.  A little arugula salad sat on the edge of the plate.  I had a couple of bites of the chicken.  Not only was it tender, perfectly cooked, and juicy, it was full of flavor and had a huge depth of flavor when eaten with both the raisins and capers.  Imagine sweet, salt, acidic, and rich. Delicious dish, highly recommended.

Banana (In Three Parts)

Having read about all the awards the pastry chef received, my family knew dessert was going to be ordered.  The first dessert is perfect for sharing.  Called Banana (In Three Parts), this dish comes with banana brioche bread pudding, coconib & vanilla wafer, icebox cake, banana sherbet, chocolate sorbet, and a banana coffee cake sandwich.  All together it is a lot more than just banana in three different parts.  The ice creams were great, especially that chocolate sorbet sitting on top of the sandwich.  The vanilla wafer reminded me of school lunch banana pudding with wafers crushed on top.  It is definitely large enough to share and I highly recommend doing so.

Chocolate & Pears

When I read chocolate and pears on the menu, I was expecting a pear dipped in chocolate.  Instead, the plate reminded me of a pear milky way candy bar.  It was a chocolate frozen nougat with a chocolate buttermilk cake, port wine poached pear, pear sorbet, and an oatmeal & almond streusel.  My favorite part was the pear sorbet.  It tasted exactly like a pear and when you eat it with the frozen nougat... the perfect dessert.  I thought all the other bells and whistles hurt the dish.  The poached pear was unappetizing and the crunchy cookie thing was nothing special.

Old Fashioned

Nothing like an old fashioned before a meal.  Glad to see they used an ice sphere to cool the drink.  I had it with Maker's and couldn't complain.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- The restaurant may be hard to find, if you are going north and head underneath the bridge, you have gone too far.

- Don't try buying the take home mix.  It is $20 for 2 cups of hot chocolate... yeah, highway robbery.

How far would I walk for this food?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Magnolia Bakery

Location: 108 N. State St., Chicago, IL 60602
Magnolia Bakery on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
Well, it's time for another cupcake review.  After wandering around downtown Chicago and the German Christmas market, we found ourselves in Block 37, one of the "mall" complexes on State Street.  Inside the mall is Magnolia Bakery.  This chain-type bakery has more than just cupcakes.  They sell different types of cakes, tarts, and puddings.  When it comes to their cupcakes, Magnolia has some of the best DECORATED cupcakes I have come across.  They decorate them with seasonal themes, such as Wicked and the Nutcracker.  Unfortunately, the decorations or themed cupcakes doesn't mean they taste good, or shall I say, better.  The cupcake itself is exactly the same as their classic cupcake just about a dollar more in cost, and as I mentioned, better looking.  Because I feel like the decorations are a scam if you are eating the cupcake immediately, I decided to give a 3.5-mile rating.  If I was going to a party or giving it as a gift, then the prettier themed cupcakes are a better option.

What We Ate:

"Emerald City" Chocolate Classic

Everyone is drawn into Magnolia Bakery by the smells.  I swear they pump that freshly baked cake smell outside their bakery.  Anyway, we decided to split their Chocolate Classic Cupcake with the Emerald City twist.  Yes, that is a reference to Wicked.  The cupcake was made with a chocolate cake and topped with vanilla buttercream before being decorated with green sugar sprinkles and a decorative emerald.  This themed cupcake was a disappointment... not because the cupcake wasn't good, but because I expected a lot more.  When you pay the extra cost for a Wicked Theme, I assumed the cupcake would also be a little different... maybe filled with a green buttercream?  Nope, you get the simple classic cupcake with a sugar emerald.  And, that emerald was not even flavored.  Just a green sugar block which is next to inedible.  The cupcake was great.  It wasn't the moistest cupcake I have ever eaten, but it was above average.  The cost was appropriate for the size of the cupcake (if you don't pay the extra charge for themed version).

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Do try the banana pudding with vanilla wafers.  It reminds you of childhood.

- Don't get suckered into buying the themed versions unless you are giving them for a gift or bringing them to a party.  The decorations are AMAZING, but they cost about a buck more and have no added flavor.  In fact, the decorations taste awful.
- DON'T purchase water bottles.  They have water cups and a huge jug of ice water for their customers.

How far would I walk for this food?