Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nutty donuts, part deux

Found myself wandering over to the do-rite donuts again this week, this time to try their pistachio donut, which I had my eye on the first time I went in. Here it is, in all its glory.

It was a cake donut, a type of donut that I feel should officially be banned from the breakfast register. Cake is not good deep-fried. It's not bad, in the way that any thing deep-friend never really tastes that bad, but it's dense and a little hard, even when done particularly well (which this one was). Donuts should be light and airy. The pistacios were delicious though, so one thumb up and one thumb down. We'll call it a tie.

Score-to-date: 1,0,1.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

St. Patti's Day and Magnolia Bakery

Being not Irish at all and having only a vague idea what St. Patrick's Day is intended to celebrate (much like many other Americans), I didn't have a lot of plans for this holiday. However, I do love themed things, so a St. Patrick's Day cupcake, from Magnolia Bakery, was right up my alley.

This was my...fourth time eating at Magnolia Bakery? I don't know why I keep going, other than that it is one of the few places downtown I know to get a (adorable) cupcake (outside a Starbucks). The cakes are delicious but the frosting doesn't have enough flavor and the options available in Chicago are pretty limited (they have a lot more old-timey American type flavors on their website, but I never seem to see them). In this age of bacon donuts and miso-butterscotch milkshakes, a vanilla cupcake seems deadly dull. Which wouldn't be such a big deal except that you're paying $3.00/3.50 for a freaking cupcake and are simultaneously inundated with Magnolia merchandise (you've got to make me want the thirty dollar apron...)

Final verdict: not worth it, but not sure where else to go in the loop. A Google search reveals plenty of other options--I'll let you know how those pan out.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Return of the Queen

This Sunday found Matt and I at the Logan Square Kitchen, watching a documentary on colony collapse disorder to benefit the Chicago Honey Co-op. Yes, it was my idea, although Matt seemed happy enough to go along with it. I find him hard to read, so I'm never quite sure how much of his seeming contentedness is sprung from genuine interest or a desire to make me happy.

But enough about him--this was about the bees! Ever since I spent a summer studying nutrient paths through garden ecosystems I've been interested in bees and their kinfolk. I looked into it a couple years ago and found that it's actually legal to keep bees in a lot of major cities--including Chi-town. In fact, they keep hives on the roof of city hall. Back then I lacked either the funds or the free time to do anything about it, but now that I'm a big-time, big-city business woman, I think I would like to spend some of my leisure resources on agriculture.

The movie was shown at the Logan Square Kitchen. It was a snazzy little event space; I wish I had thought to take more pictures. I had a chance to meet the owner, Zina, and thought she was nice enough. Matthias Merges of Yusho and Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe whipped together some snacks for the weekend. I'm guessing this all took place on Friday because the time I took a bite of my bee cookie it was kind of stale (although still adorable).

Matt's tapioca "nachos" were better.

The movie itself was very interesting. It went over a lot of the history about bees, mostly focusing on the recent outbreaks of colony collapse disorder in the United States. It's been a few years since the outbreaks started and scientific research has pretty much narrowed it down to the use of systemic pesticides in farming. The bees feed on plants that have been sprayed with these pesticides, then bring them back to the hives where they infect the other bees and cause long-term compromising of bee immune systems.

A few of the "experts" the documentary interviewed were not very impressive--like some hippie Greek scholar saying that CCD is nature's way of telling us we need to re-embrace the mother-goddess. But they also had Michael Pollen, author of In Defense of Food, who always has interesting and insightful things to say, so in the end it was hit-or-miss.

I got the feeling the representative from the co-op leaned more towards the hippie-dippie side of things, so I'm going to do some outside reading before I commit to anything.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Momofuku Milk Bar II: Banana cream pie

In a previous post, I relayed the results of my first foray into Milk Bar territory with corn cookies. I got the recipe for Christina Tosi's banana cream pie from the second issue of Lucky Peach magazine. At this point, I should probably just buy the cookbook, but I think I'm going to put it off some more while I save up some money and figure out what I want to do with the next few years of my life.

Here it is, or just a slice of it because I forgot to take a picture before half of the pie got eaten. Next time I'll omit the yellow food dye. Ms. Tosi feels like the pie is an ugly beige color without it but I think the crazy yellow color is a lateral move. I'll also add more gelatin, because the pie didn't hold together that well.

Verdict: chocolate crust + bananas + cream = delicious.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Not nearly as decadent as it sounds

So, Do-Rite Donuts opened up last week about three blocks from where I work.

It's a beautiful thing, much more so than the humble, stamped bag would lead you to believe. And yes, that is bacon served on top of a doughnut right under here.

This is Do-Rite's Maple Bacon Doughnut. To be honest, the bacon didn't really do anything for me outside the usual range of oh-my-god-bacon, if that makes sense. I also could have used a little more maple, and about a thousand of the crullers because they were great. I think next time I'll go for the pistachio doughnut. Although if Do-Rite gets any more popular, things are going to get ugly, fast, owing to their four square feet of space. People don't do well crammed together like that. It's only week two and already the lady behind the counter was glaring bloody murder at a particularly slow customer. It's ok, lady. Be happy there's a limited number of folks behind the counter.

Restaurant Week II: France finally wins a war but it isn't a big deal because it's against vegetarians and also it's a food war

Restaurant week 2012: Round Two--The Bistro Voltaire. A classic french restaurant located in the scenic river north area with random and infrequent references to French philosophers in its cocktail list and decor. Go figure.

But why does France (finally) win something you ask? Well, mostly because their food was better. It was less ambitious food than Green Zebra, but at the end of the meal I was a happier camper.

Anyway, to begin I started off with that French gross-out-the-Americans classic, Escargots de Bourgogne, or snails in garlic herb butter served with puff pastry. It was presented in this wonderful little dish with six different wells for the snails, filled with the butter and topped with perfect cylinders of puff pastry. As most things drench in melted, flavored butter, it was delicious.

Matt also started the meal on an adventerous note, ordering the Terrine de foie de poulet, or chicken liver mousse terrine with cornichon (French mini pickles), cherry, apricot, pistachio chutney, and mustard with a toasted baguette. It was stomach-achingly rich but a small small of the mousse, balanced out by the lightness of the bread and sweet/tangy combination of fruit and mustard, was soul-satisfying in a way that only French food can be.

Second course for me was Parisian gnocchi with roasted whole mushrooms, winter vegetables, and buerre noisette. To make beurre noisette, or brown butter sauce, butter is melted in a pan until it the milk solids separate and fall to the bottom of the pan, where they darken and take on a nutty flavor. Then the parts are mixed back together. Together with the gnocchi and vegetables it was a comforting dish for a winter evening. Matt's choice, Coq au vin, or chicken braised in red wine, hit a similar, warming note.

Our desserts, Vanilla crème brulée and Gateau au chocolat (a molten chocolate cake with espresso ice cream and candied vanilla bean), were of a piece with the rest of the meal. French, not at all new or exciting, but for the first time in our two day showdown, I was ready and eager to steal as much of Matt's food as he would let me. And damn did it feel good having all that fat in our tummies walking back to the train.

So go France! This ones your's, guys. Savor it while you can.