May 14, 2011

Smoque BBQ

Among a handful of Chicago BBQ restaurants, Smoque stands its ground as one of the city's favorites.
The hubby and I finally tried it for lunch last weekend and were excited to see what the hype was about. I wasn't sure what to expect, but Smoque is a very down-to-earth BBQ joint reminiscent of those you'd find in North Carolina.

You wait in line to order, give your number to the guys manning the tables, wait for your order, and those guys find a table for you. We got there with the lunch rush on a Saturday afternoon so I was afraid that we'd be standing with our food, waiting for them to find a table for us, but tables turn quite quickly and we were seated before our food was called.

The hubby ordered the sliced brisket platter with mac n cheese and cornbread. I got the pulled pork with bbq beans and mac n cheese. Both
orders also came with coleslaw.
My pulled pork was so good! Moist pork with crispy edges and skin, with a side of bbq dipping sauce (sweet and tangy). The hubby's sliced brisket was delicious and clearly a favorite as most tables had at least one order of it.
The mac n cheese were served in little foil cups and had a breadcrumb topping that added some contrasting texture to the creamy, cheesy mac underneath. The cornbread was good, nothing spectacular. The bbq beans though - those were spectacular. Served hot, with chunks of beef, a good amount of spice and tang. I loved it.
The slaw was simple, vinegary, and nicely cut through the rich, sweet, spicy bbq sauce and beans.

Pulled pork -- Beans -- Bite of Mac n Cheese -- slaw -- sip of Sweet Tea -- Repeat.

We left with full tummies and happy hearts. We'll definitely be back to try other menu items, namely, the St. Louis ribs!

cPe 2011

5411 Empanadas

Getting hot empanadas for lunch, from a truck, could be the best thing that ever happened to workers in the Loop.

I finally got to try 5411 Empanadas a week or so ago, and walked to their stop at Sears Tower in the cold and rain. The line was longggg, and we waited about 15-20mins. I already knew what I wanted - my fave empanadas are the jamon con queso, and I ordered 6 of them (2 for lunch, 4 for pregaming snacks later that day). I also got 1 caramelized onion and 1 spinach/cheese. As my order was almost complete, I saw out of the corner of my eye, that they also have chimichurri. If you've never had chimichurri, please google it now, then make it at home with ingredients you are likely to have in your fridge as I type this. It is one of THE best marinades/dipping sauces ever known.

The pastry shell of the empanada is good. Hot, flaky, buttery. The ham was slightly on the salty side for me, but mellowed out with the cheese. Dip it into the chimichurri and it is one of the best bites.
The veggie options were equally as delicious and I'd gladly have them over the ham/cheese ... Ok, just kidding. But I will have them WITH the ham/cheese again.

The guys on the truck were friendly. You can use cash or card, which is awesome.
It's a lovely addition to the Chicago lunch food truck scene!

Follow them for their locations: @5411Empanadas

cPe 2011

Caffe RoM

Caffe RoM, located inside the Hyatt Center in Chicago, could be the best coffee shop in the city. I definitely prefer and love European cafes, with my other favorite being Julius Meinl. In the downtown Loop, however, there is no better spot for an afternoon pick-me-up than Caffe RoM.
When that 2:30pm afternoon lull kicks in, my sister and I usually make a quick stop at Caffe RoM for the best caramel lattes we've had, and share a Pear Tart as a sweet treat.
The service is lovely, and everyone is friendly. The place itself is very European in style, which I love, and very inviting. If you work downtown, or are just in the area, I would definitely recommend Caffe RoM.

Caffe RoM Hyatt Center
W Monroe St & S Franklin St
Chicago, IL 60606

cPe 2011

Fettucine with Sausage & Spinach Cream Sauce

I frequently crave creamy pasta dishes and my usual go-to is Carbonara. This time, however, I wanted to add meat (not just bacon), and had a pack of Hot Italian Sausage in the fridge that needed to be used.
I checked what other ingredients I had on hand, and after a quick google check to confirm that my recipe idea wasn't completely weird, I found what I wanted to cook.

Fettucine with Sausage & Spinach Cream Sauce
1 box of fettucine (or whatever pasta you have in your pantry)
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
1/2 onion, finely minced
1 pack of Italian Sausage (Hot or Mild)
1/2 cup of heavy cream
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
Salt/Pepper to taste

1. Get the fettucine cooking in salty, boiling water
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions; saute until softened and browned
3. Add the sausage to the pan and cook through
4. Add the cream and spinach and allow to combine
5. Season the sauce with salt/pepper
6. Once the fettucine is al dente, add it straight into the pan with the sauce, along with about 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water, and toss to coat the pasta with sauce

That's it! This recipe is so easy and the result looks, tastes and feels quite gourmet.

cPe 2011

Taro Rice Pudding

One of the best desserts ever: Taro Rice Pudding (special) from Sunda

cPe 2011

Sinigang na Hipon

With a Filipino husband, I've had to learn to cook a few of his favorite dishes. Filipino cuisine intimidates me in a bit, mainly because I'm not too familiar with the flavor combinations and basic techniques used. That being said, I have succeeded at making a very good Adobo (if I do say so myself), and Afritada.

Sinigang is definitely in the Top 3 for the hubby, and while it seemed so simple, I was convinced that it must be more difficult once you get started.

Well, thanks to a little packet of soup base (don't judge...), making Sinigang became one of the easiest and satisfying dishes ever. In doing our grocery shopping a few days earlier, we got a few veggies that I had never used before. Gabi, sitaw... in English, that's Taro root and long beans. What makes Sinigang so tart and uniquely flavored is the tamarind base along with the flavor of the veggies as it cooks.

I chose to make Sinigang na Hipon, or Shrimp Sinigang.
Note: Unless you're seriously afraid of eating head-on shrimp, you should really use it because it adds so much flavor to the soup stock.

This is probably a short-cut version of the recipe, but it's as delicious as any Sinigang I've had.

Sinigang na Hipon
Pack of Shrimp, head-on
Packet of Knorr Tamarind soup base
3 Tomatoes, cut into cubes
2 Taro Root, cut into 1" cubes
2 cups of Long Beans, cut in half
Handful of fresh Spinach, cut into strips
6 cups of water
Scallions, finely chopped (for garnish, optional)

1. Wash and prep all the veggies so they're ready to go
2. Add the water into a large pot and boil
3. Add the soup base and tomatoes and allow to combine; simmer
4. Add the taro and cook for about 5mins
5. Add the Shrimp and remaining veggies
6. Simmer the soup until the shrimp are cooked
7. Serve hot and add some scallions as garnished

The soup tastes better the longer it simmers, so don't be afraid to leave the pot on very low as you come back for another ladle every so often.

cPe 2011

Sweet like honey

I have a huge sweet tooth that encompasses most things I eat and drink. I'll choose dessert over salty snacks any day, and I'll choose sweet, fruity cocktails over simple, tart drinks. My shots of choice are Patron XO and B52 - both sweet and delicious.

When our friends in WI told us about a new liqueur they'd recently found, we were excited to give it a try during our next visit. It's a honey liqueur named Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur.
The bottle even looks like a bottle of honey would, and the liqueur itself... oh, the liqueur. It is 35% alcohol and you can tell!

While it's quite strong, it warms your body as it goes down, and what's left, is a seriously delicious honey taste. It's like honey on your lips!

It can be enjoyed on its own, or added to cocktails. The website has a 14 cocktail recipes and you could find a lot more with a general google search.

cPe 2011