Walking the Cultural Trail on Brick Lane – East End, London

Let’s Adore and Endure Each Other Great Eastern Street London

Named for the brick kilns brought by the Flemish in the 1500s, Brick Lane has a wealth of history brought by the many Russian, French, Muslim, Jewish and Bengali immigrants throughout the years.

Maps of 20 historic sites are provided on Brick Lane and online for you to plan your time. With only two hours to spend I concentrated on the street art and whatever popped up along the way.

Brick Lane London | AliciaTastesLife.com

Brick Lane London | AliciaTastesLife.com

Graffiti

‘Drinking problems’ on the Truman Brewery Gates. Brick Lane, London

‘Drinking problems’ on the Truman Brewery Gates. Brick Lane, London

There are many street art tours available but setting out on your own and discovering the art on and off Brick Lane is Continue reading

Farm to Tavern – Farmhouse | River North

There really isn’t anything not to like at Farmhouse Tavern.  You feel like you are in a shabby chic farmhouse with details like the rustic stain glass windows, exposed brick, mix and match chairs, and copper wire lights. Most of the decor is salvaged from around Chicago. The service is very welcoming and very good at helping you make the tough decision of which dish and beverage you should pick. Last but not least, the food is fresh, fresh, fresh.

Everything is either house made or sourced from local farms in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. “Farm-to-table” is definitely a trend but the food here actually tastes like it just came off the farm. They have a huge craft beer selection and get this, Michigan wine on tap. I had a house made cucumber and basil soda and it was  refreshing with the perfect balance of savory and sweet.

Click here to see what we ate and a peek inside the restaurant!

Summer Patio Drinking & Eating – Parson’s Chicken & Fish

Parson's Chicken & Fish Radler

The patio is the best thing to happen to Parson’s Chicken and Fish. The actual restaurant is small making for long wait times and shuffling between the bar and eating in the restaurant so the patio is a welcome addition. I was here on Wednesday about 6pm and three of us got in right away. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes perpetually crowded, Big Star style, as the summer wears on.

Parson's Chicken & Fish Patio

The check-in process started with the man by the El Camino. There three people with clipboards sent us to the bar and had our original party member come back to tell them we were ready to eat. It all worked but hoping their check-in process doesn’t cross the line from efficient to obnoxious.

Cheerful red and white umbrellas sit atop white communal picnic tables in this dog and family friendly patio. It’s been compared to a backyard BBQ and I agree. Laid-back and casual, almost too casual as it took a good 10 minutes before we got a drink order.

Parson's Chicken & Fish Patio Umbrella

The Negroni Slushy (leather lee gin, luxando bitter, sweet vermouth, citron) has everyone in a tizzy. It is good but I’m not the best judge as the bitters is well, too bitter for me. But I get it the hype and would recommend it.

I opted for the Pompelmo Americano: letherbee gin, cocchi americano, grapefruit, san pellegrino pompelmo, fee bros, grapefruit bitters, and salt. It was a steal at $6 and couldn’t be more refreshing. Continuing my grapefruit theme I also had a Stiegl Radler with grapefruit, basically beer with fruit soda. Delicious.

Image via galleries.apps.chicagotribune.com

Image via galleries.apps.chicagotribune.com

Okay here’s what you need to know about the food:

Fried Half Chicken – Enough for 3 people to share. Nice and crunchy and satisfies but shouldn’t be the main reason you come here.

Hush Puppiesham hock, cream cheese, scallion, harissa aioli. Wow, these puppies are good. Crunchy outside and filled with creamy goodness; I was sad there are only 5 in an order.

Texas Toast – This is by far the best Texas Toast I have in a restaurant, at least in the Midwest.

Chickpea Salad – Grilled octopus, chermoula vinaigrette, pea shoots, pepitas, picholine. This was the highlight for me, the seasoning was a pleasant surprise and the octopus was grilled just right, some give but not chewy.

Funnel Cake – Honey, brown butter, green peppercorn brittle. I am not a funnel cake fan but my friends loved it and I would seriously eat a whole plate of the green peppercorn brittle. A hint of spice with the sweetness of the brittle was heaven.

This is the place for getting together with friends and family this summer. The draw here is you feel at home and comfortable and the drinks are great. It has been compared to Big Star and I would agree, but don’t compare the chicken to the tacos.

Bonus: Ping pong table on the patio.

Want Tasty Empanadas? Get On Over to Cafe Tola in Lakeview

Cafe Tola, the to-go espresso and empanada bar, is a great addition to Lakeview.  What it lacks in size it makes up in color and flavor.

Cafe Tola Front

This tiny spot is brightly decorated and uses every square inch for either food or Latin American tchotchkes like luchador masks. The staff is very friendly and expedites the ever-present line efficiently making it the perfect grab and go spot. The empanadas are made in-house with the menu changing daily. I would suggest getting there early because they do sell out. Cafe Tola has it all, it’s quick, quality food and the price is great for the amount of food you get.

Here’s a taste of what they offer:

Sizzling steak, mushroom and peppers, Roasted Poblano Pepper & Chihuahua Cheese, Beef Sirloin, Grilled Veggie, Mole Chicken, Chicken Salsa Verde, Chipotle Chicken

Cafe Tola Window

Sounds good, right? The empanadas are nice and flaky and filled to the max. I have experienced the half-filled empanadas, muy triste. These guys fill ‘em up so two can easily fill you up. Look at that deliciousness:

Image via Cafe Tola Facebook

Image via Cafe Tola Facebook

Mole con Pollo‏ Empanada

Mole con Pollo‏ Empanada

If empandas aren’t your thing they also offer homemade chips and guacamole, tamales, quesadillas and more depending on the day. If you aren’t feeling anything savory you can get mango & farmers cheese empanada, Red Velvet donuts, and cinnamon rolls.

Need a beverage to wash that down? Plenty of coffee and tea latte drinks for you to choose from. I am hoping they have Mexican hot chocolate next time I go in. The only thing that would make Cafe Tola better is a patio space in time for summer.

Hold That Mini-Burger: Restaurants Forecast Food For 2013 : The Salt : NPR

sliders

Food trends are like fashion trends to me, some are good, some are bad and some are just ridiculous. Out this year:

  • Bacon-flavored chocolate
  • Gazpacho
  • Sliders

Got that? According to the National Restaurant Association, sourcing and sustainability will be what consumers are going to look for and value in 2013. This of course would fall into the good trend. Some others:

  • House-cured meats (swear this has been happening in Chicago for a while now…)
  • Artisanal cheeses (ditto above)
  • Gourmet lemonade (hmm…)
  • Food trucks (yay!)
  • Peruvian food (I’m intrigued…)

To read more on the upcoming trends check out The Salt:

Hold That Mini-Burger: Restaurants Forecast Food For 2013 : The Salt : NPR.

Image via: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt

Colombian Dinner in Germany – Willkommen to Corazón Latino

Last year I posted about zum AckerbürgerL’Osteria and Cavos Taverna during my trip to Germany. My birthday was also during this trip and I wanted to try something a bit different. Enter Corazón Latino, a Colombian restaurant in Stuttgart. Upon entering you feel like you stepped into some kind of vortex and landed in another world/country.

The restaurant itself is more like entering a home. There is a waiting area in the front with a small bar behind it.  The dining room is basically a big living room with communal tables and Botero paintings fighting for wall space with maps and various posters.

Image via Corazon Latino Facebook Page

It is really warm, cozy and bursting with activity and Latin American music playing. Is it kind of loud? Yes, but you are at a party not a restaurant so you expect nothing less. The owner, a Colombian woman by the name of Erika Marina, is larger than life. She seems to be able take food orders, deliver drinks and chat with everyone at the same time. Make no mistake, you will get your drink almost right away but you will have to wait for your food. This doesn’t matter because you might as well be in Colombia where people take their time to eat and are only in a hurry to have a good time.  This is probably part of the appeal to the German clientele where order and softer voices are more the norm in most restaurants.

The mojitos were nice and fresh and they did not skimp on the alcohol. We did have two rounds before the main courses came out but hey; it was my birthday so seemed natural.

The empanadas were light, flaky and full of flavor.

The menu is pretty extensive with dishes from various Latin American countries and even beers from several different countries. Unfortunately since it has been over a year and I have lost my notes I do not have the name and descriptions of the entrees so I am sure I am leaving some things out.  My dish was fried chicken, rice and beans, plantains and a fried egg. The meal was worth the wait and a very generous portion.

The other entrée was BBQ chicken, red beans with pork, rice and black beans. The sauce on the chicken was a bit spicy and very tasty. I also enjoyed the extra flavor the pork added to the red beans.

Full of mojitos and food we didn’t even dare order dessert. Joining in on the party that is Corazon Latino was such a rich experience you don’t even miss dessert. I am sorry to report that since eating there, Corazon Latino has closed. They hope it is only a temporary closing so if you are ever in Stuttgart you should look them up to see if they are back in business! ¡Buena suerte, Corazon Latino!

Image via Corazon Latino Facebook Page

5th Annual Chicago Restaurant Week – February 17-26, 2012

The 5th annual Chicago Restaurant Week participants have been announced. This is your chance to take advantage of the special prix fixe menus starting at $22 for lunch and $33/$44 for dinner from some of the best Chicago restaurants.

Make your reservations sooner than later to snag a spot! You can find participating restaurants and more information in the link below.

Some on my wish list: Blackbird, Bistro Campagne, The Bedford, The Bristol, Deca Restaurant and Bar, Gemini Bistro, GT Fish & Oyster, Hearty Restaurant, Mercat A La Planxa, Mirai Sushi, Nightwood, NoMI Saigon Sisters, Sepia, Spiaggia and Café Spiaggia, Terzo Piano, and Wildfire.

What to do in Chicago, Chicago hotel rooms and sites – Choose Chicago.

Top 50 Fit for Foodies Restaurants – 2011 Diners’ Choice Winners

Open Table asked their readers to rate what they consider the best restaurants in the country. Based on over 10 million restaurant reviews they compiled the following list of the top 50 restaurants for “foodies.” Link to the list is below:

Top 50 Fit for Foodies Restaurants – 2011 Diners’ Choice Winners.

Image via Metromix


Six restaurants in Chicago made the list: Blackbird, Bonsoirée, Girl & the Goat, Graham Elliot, The Publican, and Sprout Restaurant. I would definitely agree with West Loop picks of Blackbird and The Girl & the Goat, both are great spaces aesthetically and consistently serve high-quality dishes. I felt comfortable trying pig face at G&G because the preceding dishes I had were so good I thought there was no way the pig face (the name alone give me the willies) wasn’t going to be good. Blackbird is a bit more traditional but the flavor combinations are right on and they have an amazing wine list and craft cocktails. The best whitefish sandwich I’ve ever had is on the lunch menu at Blackbird.

I have not been to Bonsoirée or Sprout but hope to go soon. I’d also argue that Avec, the sister restaurant to Blackbird, should be on the list as well.

Image via Concierge.com