Sunday, October 28, 2012


While Evanston really isn't that far from Chicago, in fact it is an immediate suburb, because of the layout of roads and highways, it does take some planning to get there if you aren't going to be driving there.  There are several nice restaurants at a variety of price points.  I was going to be coming to Evanston for reasons other than eating but as I was going to be there during dinner time, it made sense to eat there.  I had had a large meal earlier in the day so I was looking for something lighter.  A friend had mentioned Soulwich earlier and it sounded interesting so I decided to check it out.  Located on a street in downtown Evanston that presently doesn't have a lot of active business, it is easy to forget about. It's a small restaurant that's relatively easy to find.  The storefront is a window wall, the walls are white, and there is some Asian art hanging on the walls. There is a long bar along one side with tables on the other.  The tables are typical sandwich shop tables but in a variety of pastel colors.  The staff was very friendly and helpful.  Soulwich specializes in sandwiches and salads using Asian ingredients.  Sandwiches are generally not the first thing that come to mind when I think of Asian food but then I think of a Vietnamese Banh Mi and can see it.  Soulwich has eight sandwiches and three salads using a variety of Asian styles including Burmese, Thai, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, and Indonesian.  All of the sandwiches can be vegetarian, although depending on the sandwich, you can add beef, chicken, or pork.  Everything looked very good so it was a little tough to decide what I wanted.  I finally decided though, to go with the Burmese Coconut Curry Sandwich with Pork.  Aside from the pork, the sandwich came with Pickled Carrots, Cucumber, Chili Aioli, Cilantro, Burmese Coconut Curry, Onion, Raisin, and Coconut which is served on toasted, locally made artisanal bread.  The bread was like the best baguettes, crispy and crunchy crust, and a soft and fluffy interior with lots of air holes.  The carrots and cucumber were crispy and fresh.  The meat was very tender and the coconut curry mixed with the chili aioli was very sweet and spicy.  The sandwiches also came with a side.  You could either get housemade chips in original, wasabi, or Burmese flavor, or Asian slaw, which has no mayo.  As I had a Burmese flavored sandwich, I decided to go with the Burmese flavored chips which were very crunchy, salty, and a little spicy.  As far drinks were concerned, they have water, tea, lemonade, and ginger ale.  While I do like ginger ale, I grew up with Vernors so I think that most ginger ales is pretty bland.  The ginger ale served here is very strong and very good.

Suffice it to say that I liked everything about this.  The food was good, the people were friendly, and the space looked nice.  The variety of sandwiches was really interesting and appetizing and I will definitely have to return when I go to Evanston again.        

Friday, October 26, 2012

Big Jones - Brunch

I make a point of going to brunch every month and invite a bunch of people to come with me.  I don't expect everyone to join me and in fact, have had a different group of friends join me every month.  This month, we went to Big Jones, a restaurant that specializes in Southern food.  Located in Andersonville around a wide variety of other restaurants, it is in an area that draws a lot of foot traffic and deservedly so.  The restaurant is small, seating about 50.  The host station is on the left as you enter the restaurant.  There is a bar on the right side of the restaurant (looking into the restaurant from the front) and seating on the left.  There are a few tables on the right in the back beyond the bar.  This is where we sat.  We ordered, and while we were waiting were brought some beignets.  These were great.  They were very light and airy and covered with powdered sugar.  I imagine that if it wasn't covered with powdered sugar it would also be very flaky.

For starters, I started with Tête De Cochon Cajun-Style otherwise known as Hog's Head Pâté with Brandy and Peppercorns.  It was served with Pickled Red Onions, Bourbon and Brown Sugar Mustard, and Rye Bread.  I do like pâté but this was a little different than the pâté that I have had previously.  Most have a uniform texture and are pretty smooth.  This was pretty chunky with pieces of meat actually visible in the patty.  It was spicy and had a sharp taste but it was really good and went great with the mustard and red onions on the rye bread as an open faced sandwich.

There were many things on the menu that really looked interesting and it did take me some time to decide on what I might be interested in eating but I finally decided on something.  I ended up getting the Shrimp and Grits.  This was kind of a risky move for me because I have had Shrimp and Grits at Hot Chocolate Restaurant which set a very high bar.  I like Shrimp and Grits so I decided to try it out.  With this, the shrimp were gulf jumbo shrimp served in a Tasso Ham Gravy seasoned with Worcestershire Sauce and the grits were cheese grits.  It wasn't quite as good as the shrimp and grits at Hot Chocolate but they did taste very good and I didn't regret ordering it. 

After everything, I was very satisfied with my brunch.  It was very good, and I would really like to come back to try more of the menu.  I would also be happy to come back for dinner some time.   

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Skinnie Piggy

While I do like cupcakes, I did question getting a dozen since I live by myself and had no plans of visiting anyone anytime soon.  I did however have a gift certificate for a dozen cupcakes from Skinnie Piggy that was going to expire so I decided to take the dive.  I was asked, when I mentioned that I had a dozen cupcakes, how I was going to eat them all and I simply replied, "One at a time" which is how I have attacked them.  I actually had to order the cupcakes several days in advance in order to ensure that I was able to get the full variety of cupcakes that they offered for a given day.  While they offer a few standard cupcakes every day, they offer a changing variety three times a week.  When I got there, I was given a couple of boxes with six cupcakes each.  The box contained mostly the regulars (4 regulars and 2 specials) and the second box contained mostly specials (4 regulars and 2 specials).  I thought I would start with the first box whic contained Vanilla, Lemon Drop, Everything Nice, Birthday Cake, Salted Caramel, and Chocolate.  Vanilla and Chocolate were as you might expect:  Vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting.  While all cupcakes are good, I found the Vanilla to be the least interesting.  Birthday Cake was simply a vanilla cupcake with rainbow sprinkles and was also pretty boring (for a cupcake).  Salted Caramel was used a vanilla cupcake but with salted caramel frosting it was very definitely elevated.  The Lemon Drop was a lemon cupcake with lemon buttercream and topped with a candied lemon zest.  It was nice and tart and very good.  The most interesting cupcake in this box though was Everything Nice (as in Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice, that's what little girls are made of.  I will guess that it started as a vanilla cupcake but when it was done, it was removed from it's wrapper and rolled in sugar and cinnamon.  It seemed to have a bit of a crust under the sugar and cinnamon.  I am going to guess that it was formed by the sugar melting on the warm cupcake.

While the first box was good, the more adventurous stuff was in the second box.  In it we had Macon, Evil Twin, Red Velvet, Strawberry, Nanners, and Chocolate Express.  Some of the names of the cupcakes in the second box are obvious but there are some that require explanation.  With Macon, I might have also called it an Elvis.  It is a peanut butter cupcake filled with chocolate ganache, topped with brown sugar buttercream frosting and topped with a piece of candied bacon.  Add some marshmallow cream and banana and it would definitely have to be called an Elvis.  In any case, it was good.  The bacon, being sweet, didn't offer a huge contrast to the cupcake but it did contribute positively.  The Evil Twin was probably my favorite cupcake.  It was a chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate chip cheesecake and with cream cheese frosting.  It was sweet and chocolatey but also had a nice tang from the cheesecake and cream cheese frosting.  Red Velvet and Strawberry were what they sounded like although the Strawberry cupcake does have strawberries embedded in the buttercream.  The Nanners, while it did sound good, I wasn't terribly impressed.  It was a banana cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting.  The frosting was nice but the cake itself was a bit dense.  The Chocolate Express was also a very good cupcake.  It was a chocolate cupcake filled topped with espresso cream with Nutella cream cheese frosting and topped with  hazelnuts.

While Skinnie Piggy does not make the absolute best cupcakes that I have ever had, but they are cupcakes and are good.  I would buy these cupcakes again without thought.  Even if they do have a few cupcakes that I may not choose again, they definitely have many that are very good.