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jenl

  • Location: Illinois

Staff Picks: What's the Most Underrated Restaurant in Chicago?

Now I admit we haven't been to this place in about 2 years since we moved out of the neighborhood, but I always thought Pizza Art Cafe in Lincoln Square/Ravenswood Manor was severely underrated. They serve very solid neopolitan style pizza and other awesome stuff like housemade sausages, smoked beef. BYOB, right by the brown line. Ugh, now I really want to make a trip there for dinner.

What's Your Favorite Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago?

Well if you're going to expand the definition I'd also add in Gulliver's.

A Sandwich a Day: Tuna Melt at the Palace Grill Sandwich Shop

I love tuna sandwiches and love tuna melts even more! But I can't really think of a great one at a restaurant any more. I'm clearly not eating at the right places! Anyone have any recommendations?

Seriously Delicious Holiday Giveaway: Zingerman's Phantom of the Fridge Secret Stash

I'm not a night owl so I'm rarely up really late at night, but when I am I love leftovers, cold from the fridge, like a piece of meat, a roll with obscene amounts of butter, etc.

5 Great Places for Booze-Free Drinks in Chicago

I am pregnant right now too and LOVE this list. Thanks so much for sharing! Of course we already have another one at home so no baby bucket list for us, but I'm sure we can squeeze in a visit to one or two of these places. And congrats on the new little one! :)

Ask The Food Lab Anything, Thanksgiving Edition 2013

Any suggestions for Thanksgiving desserts that can be made way ahead of time (2+ days)?

Cook the Book: 'Home Made Winter'

I love chicken pot pie.

Serious Holiday Giveaway: The Baking Steel

I like to keep it simple with just some red peppers and sausage.

College Tours: Where to Eat Near Northwestern University

I've been waiting for you to add Northwestern! I don't go there but I do live in Evanston and the recommendations are solid. To the person above who mentioned BopnGrill, I drove past there last weekend and there was paper over the windows, so I think the evanston location must be gone. I agree with everyone who mentioned Hecky's. I personally like Chicken Shack for chicken, but Hecky's has solid, Chicago-style saucy BBQ. (If you want to travel just a couple minutes further, Rub in Rogers Park has the best BBQ in the area, I think.) I'd also add Celtic Knot, an Irish pub in downtown Evanston (with actual Irish owners...this aint no Curragh-like chain). They have what I think is the best fish and chips around (thick, hand cut fries, homemade tartar sauce, perfect), plus all kinds of other food, great beer, and live music. For when the parents are in town, two perfectly lovely choices are Bistro Bordeaux and Quince. I've actually never been to Quince but know lots of people adore it. I've been to Bistro Bordeaux several times and it does a very nice job with french bistro fare. For coffee, there's Brother's K which is my favorite coffee shop anywhere. Excellent coffee, yummy pastries (mostly from Bennisons), and super friendly service.

New Starbucks Chicken Sausage Breakfast Wrap

I have to say I like Starbucks ham and cheddar sandwich. The ham is sweet and salty, the cheddar has at least a little flavor, and the egg is better than your average reheated egg disk. I could do without the coffee, but with a hot tea or some juice it hits the spot when I'm out and need a quick breakfast.

Soda: The Dubious History (And Great Flavor) of Vernors Ginger Ale

I hadn't had Vernor's until I went to college in Michigan. I can't say I love it, though it's grown on me over the years. It is good for mixed drinks and for cooking (adds a great sweet/tangy note) so I often keep a few cans in the house.

Taste Test: We Find the Best Bread for Stuffing

I too like ciabatta! My family typically makes the mushier white bread stuffing, and that's ok, but if given my choice I like a buttery, moist ciabatta where all the pieces stay distinct. I never add an egg either--I like fluffy moist "croutons" as you put it. I think the choice of bread all depends on whether you're going for that super traditional classic stuffing flavor and texture or if you want to go non-traditional.

Giveaway: Win a Free All-Natural Bell & Evans Turkey from Pat LaFrieda

I made the basic cranberry sauce and stuck it in the freezer already, so I know for sure that's a good one! :)

Sauced: Cilantro Pesto

I often make an even simpler version without the pepper or cheese. Can't get much simpler than that! And it is spectacularly good on rice. I keep little containers in the freezer and then just need to whip up a pot of rice and grill up a steak or piece of chicken--super fast dinner.

Food-Inspired Lip Balms from General Mills, Betty Crocker, and Pillsbury

Haha, funny review. Somehow I don't think adult foodies are the target market for these balms though. :)

Goodbye, Dumpling

Wow, I'm sitting here sobbing. I'm not a dog person but I know for those who have them they're a real member of the family. I am so very sorry for your loss.

Served: The Restaurant Coupon Invasion

My husband recently got out of the restaurant industry after almost 10 years, and he and I still routinely dine out with Groupons. I am absolutely sympathetic to the restaurant perspective (and I know how thin their profit margins can be), but if they put out a deal I don't feel guilty for taking advantage of it. In fact, I generally take advantage of non-coupon deals too--I go to my local pizza place for 2-for-1 pizza and $5 burger nights, I take advantage of free or dirt-cheap happy hour specials, I frequent a local breakfast place that has a BOGO deal certain days of the week, etc. And often I spend money beyond those items, but sometimes I don't. Often I return to the restaurant, and sometimes I don't ever go there again. Of course I always tip at least 20% on the original price and I never ask for exceptions to any rules, but beyond that I don't feel any obligation to the restaurant's bottom line. Why should I? If the restaurant wanted to make sure customers ordered more food, they could certainly add that as a rule to the coupon. I don't routinely worry about other costs when dining, like whether the steak I'm ordering is "fair" to the restaurant since they're probably not making much money on the item. Why are coupons different?

Now, if a deal site is misleading businesses or not being upfront about the risks and opportunities, that's another issue. But I don't hear that from the post's author--sounds like it was simply an experiment that the owner decided was not worth repeating. I don't think there's any reason for customers that used the coupon to feel guilty. (Unless of course they're Ms Uttemeyer in which case they should feel ashamed of their behavior!)

Is $5 Too Much To Pay For a Coke?

Wow, lots of hate towards Kenji! Sorry you are drawing so much wrath for what was just a simple topic of conversation.

But yes of course $5 is too much. Why did they set their price there? Who knows why they picked that exact number--like any business they're trying to charge as much as they can for their product. Seems like they went a little too far with this one, but market forces (with a push from this post, haha) will drive the price down.

I for one think this was a great conversation starter and people should just loosen up a little. ;)

In-N-Out vs. Five Guys vs. Shake Shack: The First Bi-Coastal Side-By-Side Taste Test

I don't think 5 Guys is anything special. They opened a location down the street from a spectacular local burger place in my area and it is telling that there is a line out the door at the local place every weekend and 5 Guys is usually mostly empty. Unfortunately I live in the Midwest so no Shake Shack OR In-N-Out for me until I hop on a plane.

Is Müesli Finally Becoming More Popular in the U.S.?

@seriousb, yes muesli is uncooked oatmeal with items added, and it's served cold with dairy like milk or yogurt (more than one would typically put in hot oatmeal). Similar ingredients to oatmeal but very different preparation, so it does not taste or look the same. Sort of like a stir fry of veggies is similar to a salad--some overlapping ingredients but the preparation and extra add-ins make it taste and look quite different.

Cook the Book: 'River Cottage Every Day'

Eggs--scrambled with some green onion or sunny side up, served with thickly buttered toast. Comfort!

Cook the Book: 'Not Your Mother's Casseroles'

I make a great chicken tetrazzini casserole!

Gripe of the Day: Reservations Are a Two-Way Street

I agree that scheduling 2 hours for a 12 person dinner is probably a little on the tight side, but certainly not unreasonably so. But then the snowball of events happened that screwed it all up. I don't understand though why people are saying they didn't need to hold the table for you because you were late--if you were 15 minutes late and they say that deposit holds your table for 15 minutes, you should have had a table, right? (And while I wouldn't expect it, good customer service would be to even give a couple minutes grace period.) My husband worked in restaurants for a long time, and he says "no shows" or late parties are just some of the risks you assume if you decide to take reservations. The deposit isn't to make money if you don't show; it's to try to convince you it's worthwhile for you to show, that's all. I know lots of restaurants that won't even charge the deposit in the end, even if you blew them off.

So let's assume the restaurant did *want* to seat you promptly and really were ok with you being 15 minutes late, because they didn't have an incentive not to be. I am guessing they just plain screwed up. They mismanaged the table assignments, possibly the night's reservations too. Then--because of other factors such as your lateness, the configuration of the room, general busyness, whatever--they couldn't fix the mistake properly. And maybe because they were busy or even unprepared/incompetent, no one realized or took ownership of the fact that all these mistakes were made, especially on a group that was told they'd have to pay a deposit. (I think the deposit is the biggest sticking point--if they wanted you to guarantee you'd be there, they should guarantee a table that seats your whole party properly, plain and simple.) So while on a good night in a good restaurant, a manager or even the server would have understood the problem and worked to smooth it out or at least manage expectations, on this night in this restaurant no one did.

As for the service, I wouldn't necessarily call it "bad", but I would say "not proficient". A skilled server would have been honest about the time needed for various dishes and would have followed up more consistently when things weren't coming out on time. A skilled server and manager would have spotted the problem coming or even after it happened and done what they could to mitigate it. But again, the blame falls in various places--probably the kitchen staff who couldn't get dishes out on time, the poorly managed reservations for the night, your party for being a tiny bit late and not leaving much time to eat, etc. It was a perfect combo of factors that led to the unfortunate result of you all having to rush your dinner. I think you're right not calling the restaurant out, though, because it's not clear that it really was all their fault. (Though perhaps one could argue not attempting to smooth out the problem is their fault.)

Chocolate Chickpea Cake

I actually liked this cake quite a bit. I made the cake a day in advance and it stayed nice and moist (still is even 3 days later). It isn't quite as chocolatey as I might prefer--the chocolate flavor is a little more subtle. Next time I make it maybe I'll play around with upping the chocolate a bit, or maybe adding some chocolate chips, cocoa, or even a chocolate glaze. I like that it's not too sweet, though, and I think the texture is very interesting. It actually reminds me of the ricotta cheesecake my grandma used to make--sort of a cross between a mousse and a cake. It has no graininess, and there's no strange aftertaste as there is with other bean-based cakes I've tasted. I suppose if you make it expecting a traditional cake, you're going to be disappointed though.

I made this because I had a friend with Celiac's coming over, but I liked it so much I plan to make it for myself in the future! I was planning to try it in muffin cups for individual portions, but then I went ahead and sprayed the cups with baking spray with the flour added. Luckily I realized at the last moment that it would defeat the purpose of making a gluten free cake! Instead I followed the recipe directions and used a loaf pan, which worked beautifully.

Win a Free Organic D'Artagnan Turkey

Oh, the grilled Cider-Glazed Sweet Potatoes sound great. I might actually have to try those for dinner tonight!

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