Ay Ay Picante – Discovering Peruvian Cuisine in Albany Park

Ay Ay Picante Sign

If I found out my ancestors are from the Andes I would not be shocked based on my lifelong love of anything with chilies, corn, avocados, tomatoes, and potatoes.  Ay Ay Picante is an exciting mix of traditional Andean, with a splash of influence from Spanish and Japanese immigrants that have made Peru their home. They specialize in seafood and steak with an extensive menu featuring at least a half-dozen vegetarian and fried rice entrees as well as a large selection of ceviches.

This review is looooong overdue as this visit was on a warm October day back in 2011. Continue reading

Coming Home to the Mission and Delfina – San Francisco, CA

Delfina Sign

I wrote about my celebration weekend in San Francisco earlier this month and wanted to follow-up with my trip to Delfina. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Delfina. I’ve been on dates there, had heart-to-hearts with friends, and celebrated many occasions. Each time it has always felt like I was coming home to a comfortable and warm place with the best meals.  I think the last time I was at Delfina was in 2006 (I believe it’s been open since 1999!) and it was much as I remembered, crowded with good energy but this time around minus the tattoo heavy staff. Continue reading

Tom Yum Goong Soup Straight from Thailand

I’ve been sick for the past 10 days so soup has been on my mind. Well, soup and tropical beaches since it’s February in Chicago. This is what I dream of:

Surin Beach Wave

It’s no surprise that my mind drifted to my honeymoon in Thailand and the wonderful cooking lesson I took with the head chef of the Oriental Spoon at the Twin Palms in Surin Beach. This soup is too good not to share! Continue reading

Cozy Winter Night @ Girl and the Goat & The Aviary

It’s been a couple of years since I have been to Girl and the Goat, Stephanie Izard‘s wildly successful restaurant.  Having great memories I was excited to go back. I usually don’t have the patience to get reservations at places like The Aviary but I was lucky my friend Dana did so off we were after dinner.

It’s not news that The Girl and the Goat is a great restaurant.  I was curious to see if the food was at the same level it was two years ago. As expected, when we arrived early it was already full. The mood is energetic, loud and crowded but comfortable at the same time. We scored some seats at the bar and waited for the walk-in table to open up. The server’s laid-back nature was coupled with extensive menu knowledge and patience to know when to cut through our chatter and questions.

Every bit was as I remembered and satisfying, definitely worth the wait. The chickpea fritters, roasted cauliflower and the chicken were the standouts in terms of flavor and being perfectly cooked. I did convince the table to get the Pig Face dish, I still liked it but it was met with mixed reviews. This was mainly due to not being able to mentally get over the name of the dish.

Chickpea Fritters – stewed chickpeas, pickles, red onion, crave brother’s mozzarella

Roasted Cauliflower –  pickled peppers, pine nuts, mint

Hen Of The Woods Mushroom Ragout – sweet potato agnolotti, shroom creme fraiche, capers.

Escargot Ravioli –  bacon, tamarind-miso sauce (not pictured)

Ham Frites – smoked tomato aioli, cheddar beer sauce

Wood Fired Walter’s Chicken – yuzu harissa, fried pickles, brussel slaw, grilled naan

Girl and the Goat Ice-Cream

Girl and the Goat Ice-Cream

We took the short walk to the Aviary in Fulton Market. It was a much-needed constitutional as you can see we over-served ourselves at dinner. The Aviary creates beautifully complex drinks that are really works of art; innovation is the name of the game. Exactly what you would expect from Grant Achatz of Alinea and Next fame.  It is not for your every day ($16 – $30 each drink) and I suppose the hard to get reservations adds to the feeling of exclusivity of the experience. It’s the perfect place for a date, entertaining out-of-town guests, any official celebration, and in our case a group of 4 looking to indulge and be impressed. In hindsight, it may have been a better idea not to eat a 10,000-calorie meal beforehand, as the drinks are meals unto themselves.

Although the drinks and in turn The Aviary are serious and complex they are also fun and interactive. I felt like Willy Wonk must have created the Rob Roy that consisted of scotch served in a bag of lavender air that you must break before drinking. I had the root beer mainly because I love to say the word sassafras but it was a delicious balance of caramel and Fernet.  The egg nog was a perfect winter night drink warm, rich and cozy. Did I mention it had fresh truffles?!

Rob Roy – lavender air, Pedro Zimenez 1985, scotch

Root Beer – sassafras, caramel, Angostura, Fernet, rum

White Truffle Egg Nog – fresh truffle, egg, Jamaican rum

Persimmon – Gewürtztraminer, Blanc de Blanc, cognac

In the Rocks (second edition) – Benedictine, vermouth, cognac, rye

scotch with lavendar air, lavendar bitters, cognac ice egg, egg nog

We all experienced full sensory, visual and taste satisfaction and enjoyed a hearty slumber that night.

I Left My ♥ in San Francisco

GG Bridge

I called San Francisco my home for almost nine years and miss it to this day. I have not been back since 2010 but I had the chance last weekend with some friends for a friend’s weekend/SF reunion/bachelorette party. It was impossible to get in everything I wanted to in less than 72 hours but I assure you, I tried my best. Experiencing so many new places in SF was great but the best part of my trip was seeing all of my SF friends again. Nothing can compare.

I will post separate reviews on the sit-down dinners but wanted to pass on some must do/see/eat places. Continue reading

What To Eat/Drink/Do/Make on Valentine’s Day/Fat Tuesday

0125-valentinesday_full_600

Whether you are a fan of Valentine’s Day or not it is a good excuse to get out and eat some good food and enjoy some good company. Or stay in and invite a date or friends over and share some food and drink. In fact, none of this requires a holiday to do but it’s always fun to take a theme and customize and celebrate how you want. And if you absolutely hate Valentine’s Day then just go with celebrating Fat Tuesday. Recipes at the bottom of the post! Continue reading