Thanks to the fine folks at Vosges, and nearly every County Fair in the Midwest, chocolate-covered bacon is no longer seen as a bizarre love child of bittersweet and smoky. The combo is seen almost as frequently as brandade or arancini, and bridges the gap between sweet and savory, especially at the breakfast table. At Kanela Breakfast Club, in a space that used to house the first Orange in Lake View (where Top Chef competitor Dale Levitski cut his teeth), a couple of Greek guys have reinvigorated the morning meal, by offering their own version of chocolate-covered bacon waffles, accented with a bit of bacon “dust.”
Note: in the video, I refer to them as Kanela’s, but in truth, there is no apostrophe “s.” Apologies on the premature pluralization.
Visiting the Hopleaf in Andersonville is an education (and appreciation) in the nuance and complexity of Belgian beer. With more than 100 by the glass, Michael Roper has assembled a list that can humbly be described as mind-bogglingly impressive. But don’t rule out the food.
A few years ago, Roper installed a kitchen, with a menu that matches up extremely well with all kinds of beer. His go-to dish, though, is the moules frites – steamed mussels with crispy, Belgian-style french fries (and a requisite side of garlicky aioli). They come steamed either in a Belgian white ale, or a “style of the day.” An order for one will cost $12; orders for two, $21.
A few weeks ago, I listed my Top 5 roasted chickens in Chicago. I think at the time, I was limiting my options to chickens that were actually roasted in ovens – sealed in their warm cocoons, juices dripping, skin crisping – and left off any rotisserie birds since they don’t really spend much time in an oven, per se. But one look at the operation at Brasa Roja on the Northwest Side, and you quickly realize the Colombians also know a thing or two about transforming chicken into utter deliciousness, even if they don’t seal it into an airtight box.
With a handful of locations in the city (also known as El Llano), the owners have mastered the art of deep marination, slow, circular roasting and then quick-finishing directly over the charcoals, just to crisp up the skin. It’s almost hypnotizing watching the birds rotate ever-so-gently on the custom-made rotisserie, but when you bite into the smoky, juicy bird, you quickly realize this isn’t a dream.
I discovered the tiny Pastel! Cakes and More bakery along South Pulaski completely by accident. I was heading down there to have lunch at the wonderful Birria Zaragoza, and couldn’t help but poke my head inside. What a great little find – a woman from the neighborhood had recently graduated from the French Pastry School and moved back to the area, bringing her wonderful cookies, flans and tarts to an area of the city that had never seen anything like them before. When I was sampling some of the items, I noticed a large plastic cup, filled with some kind of creamy-white treat and topped with a swirl of red. Turns out it’s a mango mousse, dressed with a swizzle of strawberry, and it’s among the lightest, fruit-filled mousses I’ve ever had.