Sunday, July 27, 2014


I have said several times that I like living in Logan Square because of the many good places to eat nearby.  There are several good restaurants, but there are also several bars that serve really good food.  Some of those places though, might be a little hard to find if you don't know where to look.  I went to one of these places, Analogue, recently for dinner and it is very low key.  There is no sign of any kind (not even a beer sign by the door), but there is an address and the building is black, so it isn't completely anonymous.  There is a host station at the entrance, but I came at a time when there wasn't much of a crowd, so there was a sign that said "Please seat yourself".  I sat at the bar because i thought that would be the easiest for everyone.  The space is small, seating about 40 people at tables and a few leather-covered booths.  There is also a larger, round table at the back of the bar that might seat eight.  The interior of the bar is also black but it also includes several mirrors to give the illusion of a larger space.  The lighting is dim, although not nearly as dim as other places where I have been.  The lighting was provided by track lighting.  The soundtrack was indie rock.  We were listening, mostly, to the War on Drugs, when I was there.  As this place is a bar and the head bartender has a pretty good pedigree, I decided to try out one of their cocktails.  I went with a Double Vision which had Beefeater Gin, Lemon, Ramazzotti (a medium Italian Amaro), and Strawberry Black Pepper Syrup.  This was a very good drink and it was fun to watch the bartender make it.  It was tart and sweet with a spicy finish from the black pepper with the herbal and juniper flavors from the gin there but deemphasized somewhat.
The food menu at Analogue is not divided into the standard appetizer, entree, dessert format, in fact, it isn't divided at all.  It does, however, go, more or less, from top to bottom from smallest to largest and finishes with bread pudding at the bottom.  I started near the top of the menu with something that I had never heard of and had no idea what I would be getting.  It was called a Stuffed Mirliton filled with Smoked Mushroom Stuffing and served with Black Garlic Vinaigrette.  After I got the dish, I still wasn't sure what I had.  I could see that the stuffing was pressed into a pear shaped fruit or vegetable and the vinaigrette was spread on the plate.  It was pretty good so I didn't regret what I ordered.  The mirliton itself had a mild taste and kind of reminded me texturally of a potato.  The stuffing had smoky and mushroom flavors and added a lot as far as flavor to the mirliton as did the black garlic vinaigrette.  I looked it up later and discovered that mirliton is also called chayote which I have heard of but had never had.  It is a member of the gourd family native to Mexico and is treated like summer squash.
For my next course, I went with a Po' Boy.  There were a few Po' Boys offered but I had to go with the Cochon de Lait Po' Boy, a Milk Roasted Pork Shoulder with Creole Mustard, Lettuce, Tomato, Pickles, and Mayo served on a Baguette.  The sandwich was pretty big, but it was also pretty good.  The pork was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, the mustard added some spice, the bread was crusty with a soft interior, and the lettuce tomato, and pickles added what you would expect for a submarine sandwich (which is essentially what a po' boy is).
As I implied, the only thing on the menu that could be classified as a dessert was the Bread Pudding so that's what I ordered. It came with Chocolate Chips, Pralines, Rum Sauce, and Whipped Cream.  Despite the fact that the food that I had had had been pretty good, because they only offered Bread Pudding for dessert and the fact that the place is essentially a bar, I really didn't expect much.  I was gladly mistaken.  It was very good and actually kind of decadent.  It was sweet with a lot of flavors, and a very good finish to a very good meal.  While it isn't a place I would go expecting high end cuisine, it is a good cocktail bar that serves good food and I would be happy to return. 


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Trellis - Brunch

I have a tendency to lean toward the savory side when I go out for bunch.  I will say though, that for the most part, I do tend to stay on the breakfast side of brunch.  While I will occasionally have pizza for breakfast, I will say that calling pizza a breakfast food is a stretch, most of the time.  My adventure to hit some good and interesting brunch places took me to Trellis this month.  I had been to this location in it's previous incarnation as Gaslight Bar and Grille (although not for brunch) and at the time, it was pretty good in the world of bars and grille.  As Trellis, it has updated the look of the place, giving it a more modern look (while still maintaining a vintage vibe) although it is still a narrow bar with an elevated section at the back of the bar where we sat.  The menu (both brunch and regular) features a selection of charcuterie and cheese as well as oysters, sandwiches and pizzas.  The brunch menu has pancakes, French toast, and eggs, while the regular menu swaps those out for things small plates such as steak tartare, venison meat balls, and fondue.  As we were coming for brunch, it was going to be the eggs, pancakes, and French toast.  I had recently read an article raving about Trellis' Fig Jam and Bacon Pizza so I knew what I was going to get before I even looked at the menu (although looking at the menu did make things a bit more difficult).  Before getting to the pizza though, I did start out with an order of Fruits and Berries.  I was a little worried about ordering this because in many incarnations of the fruit salad, I have seen a lot of canteloupe, a fruit that I am not overly fond of.  Talking to the waitress beforehand, I found out that while there was canteloupe in the dish, there was also a lot of other fruit so it hopefully wasn't going to be a huge issue.  I really liked the presentation as it came in a mason jar and at first glance I saw no canteloupe which made me happy.  The jar was topped with Strawberries, but also contained raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Pineapple, Honeydew, Watermelon, and after some digging, 3 balled pieces of canteloupe.  The fruit was fresh and sweet with a mild tartness as good fresh fruit should have.  Three pieces of canteloupe was fine because I was easily able to eat around them and there was still plenty to eat.
Then came the pizza.  It was a large single serving size that looked like it was hand tossed and cooked in a fired oven.  The dough was both crisp on the outside and chewy and had some nice browning  to it.  In addition to the fig jam, which was spread over the top like a well frosted streusel, and the bacon, which was finely cubed and scattered over the top, the pizza also had Caramelized Onions, Mindoro Blue Cheese, a rich Danish-style blue cheese made in Mindoro, Wisconsin, and was topped with an egg, which you have to have on a breakfast pizza.  I had my egg over hard because I didn't want to deal with the yolk.  The fig jam provided a sweetness which emphasized the sweetness of the bacon, the onions, and the blue cheese.  The blue cheese added a depth of flavor with a nicely bitter finish which played well with the onions.  The egg added a savory finish.

While pizza might not generally be thought of as a breakfast (brunch) dish, in this case it really worked and I liked the way that it was made.  There were a few other things on the menu that really intrigued me so I will definitely have to return, for brunch and for dinner.    

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Toft's Dairy

I went to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio over the 4th of July weekend.  While we went for the roller coasters, we did not stay in the park and no matter how much time you spend there, sometimes you need to eat.  A friend, who grew up in Sandusky, recommended a couple of things to eat while we were there.  The first were the Cedar Point Fries
which I already knew about and loved,  but the other thing was Toft's Dairy.  She had mentioned Toft's Dairy in the past in reference to the fact that their serving sizes were enormous so I was interested and tried to figure out how to plan a trip there.  We noticed that it was west of town so we decided to stop when we were leaving.  While we were at Cedar Point, we also noticed that there was a Toft's Ice Cream and Toft's Custard Shop there.  We had made the decision to stop at the dairy for the full experience, so we weren't going to have the ice cream at Cedar Point, but since the custard was only listed as a mix on Toft's website and we were going to be going for the ice cream anyway, we figured that having the custard at Cedar Point was not skimping.  The custard at Cedar Point (like all food) was pretty expensive.  They offered Chocolate, Vanilla, and Swirl, which is fairly standard as custards go.  I ordered the swirl so I could try both flavors.  While it wasn't anything out of the ordinary, it was light and creamy, as custard should be, and very good.  Those of us that tried it, enjoyed it and while it wasn't the ice cream itself, it gave us a lot of anticipation for the trip to the dairy.
When we traveled to Toft's, there was a little bit of surprise for the fact that it wasn't really in the city.  This makes sense though, because it allows them to be closer to the dairy farms from which they receive their raw materials.  It was on a main road and it was pretty big, so it would have been difficult to miss.    The ice cream parlor looks like a classic ice cream parlor with a list of flavors behind the counter and the ice creams, there were about 70 flavors, behind glass and labeled individually.  The ice cream parlor was white and there were chairs (like old school chairs) against the wall opposite the counter and round tables with parasols under a tent outside.  I was warned ahead of time, that a small may be sufficient so that is what I planned on ordering.  I was having to deal with the loss of my glasses so I didn't notice that you could get two flavors with a small.  It was fine though because it was hard enough trying to choose one flavor because many looked good.  If I had had to choose two, I would have also had to consider what flavors complemented each other while barely being able to see what I had to choose from.  I ordered a waffle cone (although a cup was cheaper and probably easier to eat).  I ordered Muddy's Sea Salt Slam, a flavor honoring Muddy, the mascot of the Toledo Mudhens, the AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.  The ice cream consisted of salty caramel streaks in Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Covered Peanuts.  I really liked this ice cream.  The ice cream itself was sweet and salty as were the peanuts, which were plentiful and were also sweet and salty.  I am glad that my friend warned us just to go with the small, because while I finished my ice cream, there were others that couldn't do it.  Being that this is in Ohio, this isn't a place I will be visiting often, but when I return to Cedar Point, I will definitely push for making this a tradition.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Trenchermen - Dinner

There are several restaurants that I have gone to for brunch and enjoyed that also apparently serve a very good dinner.  Some of the places, in fact, are better known for dinner than their brunch.  Trenchermen, where I went for brunch last year was actually open for dinner for about 6 months before they started serving their brunch.  Having said that, I went their for brunch first and just recently went for dinner.  I mentioned then, that they seemed to really have a handle on savory and have a nice selection of cocktails.  This is true for dinner as it was for brunch.  On the day that I went, they offer a beer and burger special and the place was full with people having that.  While it does sound interesting in theory and the value is very good, the burger that they were offering really didn't do it for me.  I may have to return sometime for the beer and burger special but I was interested in the main menu.  Trenchermen offers a prix fixe where you can order two appetizers, an entree, and dessert which are your choices from the main menu so that's what I did.  While I was deciding on my meal, I started with a cocktail called Alliance Tale.  It was a poor pun and I couldn't figure out any connection to the cocktail, but it was good.  It had Gin, Amaro, Allspice, and Lemon.  It was bittersweet and spicy with a tart finish and actually kind of reminded me of dessert.  It did not, however, make it to my dessert, so I couldn't pair it, but I was not disappointed by that fact.
My dinner started with Octopus which was served with Posole Broth, Masa Balls, Marrow Beans, and Crushed Corn.  This was interesting and quite a surprise.  Posole typically uses hominy and pork.  The corn was there, not exactly as hominy, but similar to corn nuts.  THe pork was replaced with octopus which was pretty different as well.  The octopus was served as small tentacles and seemed to be dried because they were actually pretty crunchy.  They were flavorful and texturally, they reminded me of chow mein noodles.  The masa balls were big, thick, and dense, and actually reminded me texturally of thick tentacles.  The marrow beans were well cooked and added a savory flavor to the broth which was nice and spicy.  This was a small dish (as it was an appetizer), but I would have been happy to eat much more of this.
For my second appetizer, I went with a dish that to me, felt much more like an appetizer.  It was called Tortellini en Brodo and contained Chorizo 'Nduja (a spreadable Italian sausage using pork shoulder, belly, jowls, tripe, and Calabrian peppers), Apricot Chutney, Fennel, Saffron, and Mint.  It was sweet, spicy, and savory, with a minty finish and I really liked it. 
My entree was more meat and was very savory and earthy.  It consisted of a "Sheboygan" Porchetta (a boneless pork roast wrapped in pork skin and stuffed with bratwurst), Mustard Gnocchi, Beer Onions, and Hakuri Turnips.  The gnocchi was very tender as gnocchi is supposed to be.  It was actually about the same size and shape as the turnips although very different in taste and texture.  The turnips being more dense and crunchy with an earthy sweet taste and the gnocchi tender with a slightly sour mustard flavor which paired with the mustard seeds on the porchetta.  The onions were well cooked and tender with a sweet and malty flavor and a slight onion finish.  The porchetta was tender and meaty with a sweet flavor that matched with everything and topped with mustard seeds to pair with the gnocchi.  While it had a lot of sweet, it also presented many other flavors and a wealth of textures and it was a bit of an adventure (in a good way) to eat.
The savory side of the menu was full of some nicely complex dishes full of different textures and flavors, the dessert continued that theme with a Matcha Semifreddo (literally, half cold, a frozen dessert combining two parts ice cream or gelato and one part whipped cream) with Bee Pollen Brittle, Sesame Sauce, Strawberry Sorbet and Fresh Strawberries.  It was sweet, a little tart from the strawberries, a little bitter from the sesame sauce and the Matcha (tea) and very enjoyable to eat. 

I really enjoyed dinner here.  The food was hearty, complex, and full of surprises.  The service was very good even as busy as the restaurant was and they were happy to answer questions.  I will definitely return because there is more on the menu to try.