Niles and I tried out brunch at Owen & Engine this past Saturday, and were very pleasantly surprised. I (obviously) had their benedict, which was made with fried eggs, not poached; peppered and laid over house-made rashers, on top of crumpets. The texture of the crumpets was so ideal that I found myself thinking, every other benedict I have ever had seems really dry in comparison. Niles had some bangers and mash (the bangers are also made on-site) and he was really happy too.
We spent some time talking about how great this trend is – places like Revolution, Longman & Eagle, Owen & Engine – places that take great care in where they get their ingredients, and in how they prepare their food, but places that are also completely, utterly unpretentious. Places that you can comfortably go in jeans, and talk about tasty food and craft beers with strangers.
(Speaking of, our waiter turned out to be a pretty amazingly cool and friendly guy, and WHAAAAT, he LIVES IN OUR BUILDING. Hooray new friends!)
Other things to hooray about : Niles’s mom sent me a Donburi cookbook and an Oishinbo book for my birthday! My head is already full of the foods they talk about in the Oishinbo book, and I can’t wait to try out some of the donburi recipes. If I have any extra time this weekend, I’ll be working on a few of those!
Well. Can you tell I missed eating greens while we were in the south? Such a nicely colored weekend. I treated myself to a fun early dinner at Longman & Eagle on Friday with Lucy and Corinne, although following up an old fashioned with a Pranqster is not recommended, you guys. Such a headache for two little drinks! Niles and I also tried Owen & Engine for brunch on Saturday and it was fantastic, more on that later.
Okay, I hope this doesn’t offend anyone in the south. We ate a lot, and I mean A LOT of excellent food in San Antonio and in New Orleans… but criminy, you guys, it is difficult to find a decent salad down there. Or fresh fruits and vegetables. Or things that aren’t fried. It can be done, but it’s not easy. After Niles and I got home we went to Stanley’s and bought up armloads of greens and veggies and fruits to compensate. And of course I had my beloved Small Bar taco salad, and was so happy to be eating greens I wanted to hug it.
All in all, a great trip. Tasty food, good friends, nice weather – there wasn’t much of a beer selection most of the places we went, but it sort of makes sense. If it’s hot and sticky most of the year, there’s not going to be much of a market for a heavy cappuccino stout. The only souvenirs we brought back from New Orleans were spices for red beans and rice and crab and shrimp boils, I can’t wait to try that out!
We ate a lot of great things in New Orleans, but by far the best meal we had – and probably the best time, too – was at Coop’s on Decatur. They do a rabbit jambalaya, shrimp etouffée, fried oyster po’ boys… it was very hard to pick something. In the end, I went with the Shrimp Creole and was not disappointed, although Niles’s seafood pasta with a cajun spiced alfredo sauce really won the night, I think. We sat at the bar and our saucy bartendress was funny and talkative, and gave us a little history of the place. It’s been around for almost thirty years, but it’s only recently been discovered by the tourists, so at least the place still has plenty of pull with the locals. And we were there early enough in the afternoon to be able to have a quiet meal before the crowds started pouring in.
Coop’s smokes their own tasso – tasso is a spicy and garlicky smoked pork, made from fattier cuts than normal ham. It was amazing enough that I asked if they sold any of their tasso to go. Of course they don’t, but it was worth a shot.
Our next night in New Orleans we ventured out to Mid-City to get some po’ boys at Liuzza’s by the Track. There is actually another Liuzza’s in Mid-City, but as near as we could tell, they’re not related. Two people named Liuzza, both opening restaurants? Only in New Orleans.
Niles and I both got their signature dish, the BBQ Shrimp po’ boy. It was amazingly good, but it sure wasn’t what I would have called barbecue. It was copious amounts of shrimp, stuffed into a giant french roll, drenched in a savory sauce that was… garlicky? Peppery? But by no means barbecue, at least no style of barbecue sauce I’ve ever had. Still, very tasty!
So in New Orleans, we stayed with Niles’s friend Michael in the Marigny. He’s right around the corner from this place called Buffa’s, which is open 24 hours, and has a kitchen which is also open 24 hours. It’s a great little neighborhood treasure, and the food isn’t half bad. I got an enormous plate of tasty red beans and rice, with a few pieces of toast and some smoked sausages, just spicy enough to have a decent kick. Buffa’s actually reminded me of my own beloved Small Bar, a happy neighborhood watering hole in its own right. If the Small Bar was open 24 hours, though, I might never go home.
Red beans and rice, a cold beer and a happy neighborhood bar, it was a perfect welcome to New Orleans.
So, for very “Sixteen Candles”-y kinds of reasons, my birthday kinda sucked this year. Dinner at Clear Springs was the high point, though. I ate about a pound of shrimp and some fried pickles and crawfish and it was all extremely tasty. Grilled shrimp, fried shrimp, and jalapeño-stuffed bacon wrapped shrimp! It was EXCELLENT.
Really, considering the shrimp that I ate over our trip in south Texas and New Orleans, I should probably be getting some kind of kickbacks from the Gulf area’s tourist board. Or BP, am I right? :D
The day after the wedding, I overheard my mom talking to a relative about the bridesmaid dresses. Beckie, our youngest sister, was 7 months pregnant for the wedding, and she wore a modified maternity version of the bridesmaid dress. Apparently, a few days before she had told my mom that she knew MC was worried that she had gained some weight before the wedding, and that maybe she (Beckie) was able to make MC feel better about herself, since Beckie thought she was so enormous in her maternity dress.
LADIES. IT IS TIME TO STOP THIS.
MC and Beckie, I don’t know if you read this comic regularly or at all, but seriously, cut it out. You are both such lovely, amazing ladies, and you were both GORGEOUS at the wedding. MC’s dress was honestly a work of art, long and brocade and classy, and she looked like a million dollars in it. Beckie’s dress, of course, had to make room for Cecilia (who is due in May), but she was lovely and radiant and the chocolate brown of the dress made her skin glow.
And of course I have been worried about the pictures, will I hate the pictures? I felt like I looked good in the dress, but will the pictures make me hate it? But our older brother already posted a few to facebook. And I don’t hate them. Check out this one of me and Beckie. Isn’t she gorgeous?
And look at MC with our parents. She looks like an angel.
So I’m just saying, it’s time to cut this crap out. YOU ARE LOVELY. YOU ARE GORGEOUS. The evidence is right here in front of you.
So eating well while traveling is always a challenge, there’s just not that much available to you. We were in Midway, going to catch our plane to Texas, when this little place called Sprigs caught my eye. Several different kinds of salads, and lots of customizable options, with happy, healthy, fresh looking greens and other vegetables – and no one, absolutely no one in line. The lady behind the register looked SO BORED. I swear I saw people actually make a wide arc as they passed the place. And of course right next to it, a McDonald’s, with a line 20 people deep.
I guess the Simpsons were right all along!
So I went to get a salad, and it was wicked tasty. Of course it wasn’t actually THAT healthy; word to the wise, if you end up there, stop her before she puts the dressing on. The Southwest chicken salad said it came with tomatoes, sweet corn salsa, grilled chicken, monterrey jack cheese, and “chipotle”. Apparently “chipotle” was shorthand for “a giant ladle-ful of chipotle-flavored mayonnaise”, and she swiped it in there so fast I didn’t have time to object. So even getting a healthy salad at the airport isn’t as easy as all that. Still, I bet it was healthier than anything I could have gotten at McDonald’s, and even though it didn’t have many customers, I’m encouraged that it’s there at all.
So, in Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 – have I mentioned this game before, my favoritest video game of all video games ever? In Persona 4, your best friend is a guy named Yosuke Hanamura. Some of the other game characters refer to him affectionately as “Hana-chan”, which is all I could think of when Tonya suggested we try this place Hana.
Hana is just a little hole in the wall sushi restaurant in Rogers Park, but it was delightful and delicious. I think we were their first customers of the day, because when we walked in, the place was empty but for three middle aged Japanese ladies chatting at a table. They immediately got up, bowed, and two of them vanished into the kitchen (which was behind the most adorable little fake-tea-house facade), and the third one brought us menus. I realized, sitting there, that I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a sushi restaurant that didn’t have male chefs. From what I could tell, these three ladies ran everything, and boy did they run it well.
Granted, I was really hungry, but the miso soup was divine, just the perfect combo of warm and salty and comforting. Their tamago was expertly done, and the california rolls were very well made. The spicy tuna roll was AMAZING, though. I don’t really know how to describe it. The tuna was prepared in such a way that the texture was kind of like a hamachi roll, soft and chopped but lightly textured. The spicy mayo was infused into the fish itself rather than drizzled over the sushi separately, and there were tiny chunks of jalapeno in the roll that gave it a noticeably distinctive crunch. And the whole thing was rolled in a generous coating of masago. I am so happy to have found a good, casual little sushi joint so close to the office.
So guys. We leave tomorrow for my sister’s wedding! I’ll be gone for a while, and I’ll be drawing the whole time, but I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to post anything until I get back. While I’m gone, keep an eye on my flickr stream, and my Twitter, I’ll definitely be posting what I can to both of those. I’ll see you when I get back!