God Bless The Biscuit Belt

27 Apr

When I told people in the Midwest that I was going to visit my sister in Durham, North Carolina the first thing they would say is, “oh, you have to eat biscuits”. This I knew, as North Carolina is known for biscuits upon more biscuits. Within in city of Durham, there are 4 or 5 biscuit places I can count just off the top of my head, and I don’t even live there. So it was my mission to get as many biscuits as I could put in my face for the 5 days that I was in the triangle (Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill). And biscuits were consumed.

I arrived on a Monday, starving. I left Chicago really early in the AM and didn’t get a chance to eat breakfast. Jecca picked me up and we went straight to Rise Biscuits and Donuts. Jecca had never been there, but a friend of mine (Hi Alysia!) who used to live in Durham told us we should check it out. Located in a strip mall next to a nail salon, it is quite unassuming. We went in and the menu was overwhelming with fantastic selections. Jecca is a vegetarian, and Rise has a biscuit sandwich with fried eggplant “bacon”. She got that, and I got a biscuit with fried chicken and bacon. Flaky biscuits, brimming with flavor. Jecca fell in love with the eggplant bacon, I tried it as well: delicious and crisp. My fried chicken biscuit was perfect, juicy chicken and bacon done just right. We also got a couple of donuts to bring home: a blueberry “wonut” with blueberry glaze and a pineapple basil with pineapple glaze filled the basil creme filling and pistachios. What is a wonut you ask? Well I’ll tell you: waffle donut! So cute.

     

 

    

In Summation: The biscuits are out of this world. A must for the biscuit lovers. The donuts were good, but not our favorite in Durham. I want to try the fennel and pink grapefruit donut next time.

Tuesday brought us to Monuts. Now, I love monuts. I have been to their old location twice before, and I have been following their construction and new space on instagram for a while, and was so looking forward to checking it out.

It did not disappoint. Eli (my brother-in-law) and I got 2 donuts: apple cider cake donut and a maple glazed raised. Both were perfect. Jecca then met us for lunch and I had a biscuit and a beautiful salad of arugula, pea shoots, asparagus, a slow poached egg and fresh farmer cheese. They both had bagel sandwiches: the bagels at monuts are fantastic. I also had a crazy coffee: it was a combo of espresso and cane sugar cola. WHOA. BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ.

   

 

   

 

   

In Summation: a good biscuit, not spectacular. Probably my fault for not getting anything on it. However, everything else is fantastic here. The donuts are for sure the best in the city, as are the bagels. It’s a great place to hang out, and they now have beer and wine! Bonus!

Wednesday Jecca and her friend Ben and I went to Scratch Bakery for breakfast. I have had the bread from Scratch, they have a booth at the Durham Farmers Market and I knew I was in for some good stuff.

I went with a biscuit with an egg and cheese. Keeping it super simple. It was perfectly lovely. Jecca got a buttermilk donut muffin that was to die for. I also had a fantastic iced vanilla latte, made with one of my favorite Midwestern coffees: Intelligentsia. However, everything we had was overshadowed by the pie. Oh yes, pie for breakfast: and what a pie it was. A perfect strawberry rhubarb. The crust was just the right consistency and the filling bright, sweet and tart.

   

 

                          

In Summation: I really want to go back to Scratch for some of the savory offerings: but it’s gonna be really hard when there is that pie staring at me. I mean, their website is piefantasy.com.

Thursday Jecca and I met up with the creator of sheelanumnum.com: Alex, and his kids Viv & Nick. We met at Parker & Otis, a favorite place of mine in Durham. It’s part gift store, part wine shop, part cafe, all awesome (For Twin Cities folks reference: it’s like if Cafe Latte, Patina and Surdyk’s were all one store. With better food). A friend of Jecca’s had told me to get the pimento cheese biscuit there, and of course I had to try that. Sadly, they didn’t have it on this day, so I went with a cheese, egg and bacon biscuit. Totally good, not outstanding. I do love the pimento cheese here, so hopefully next time I am in town they will have that biscuit!

In Summation: I really like hanging out at Parker & Otis. They have great stuff for everyone and I will be hunting down that biscuit!

Friday, my last day in town. Jecca and I venture in to Chapel Hill to a place I had been hearing about forever. Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen is a tiny shack of a place on the main thoroughfare going in to Chapel Hill. It is a drive through place, and there was a line on the bridge as we approached!

The line was 100% worth the wait. Jecca had an egg, cheese and kale biscuit whereas I went for the pork chop. Yup, that’s right. Chicken fried pork chop on a biscuit. This may or may not have been everything I had hoped for and more. Biscuit was soft and pillowy, pork chop beautifully seasoned. It’s a good thing I don’t live anywhere near here as I would be here every day.

   

In Summation: Run. Stand in line. Eat all the biscuits.

Phew! And that’s just the biscuits! Next up: more Durham goodness.

 

Just you ‘N’ Me: A Night in Logan Square

21 Apr

After another long day at the shoe store in Andersonville, I was so looking forward to an evening with one of my favorite humans on earth. My dear friend Bridgid is from Chicago, lived in the Twin Cities for about 1 minutes 15 years ago, and we have been super close ever since. I love that when I am in Chicago for work I get to spend some time with her.

Bridgid is a bartender in Boystown (more about her bar next week: I will be spending the evening there and it’s gonna get pretty real) and has been for the past 12 years. So needless to say she doesn’t get out to new places very often, especially if they are only open for dinner. So we went through a list of places she has been wanting to try. We decided on a place in Logan Square: as there are also some great bars in that area we could hit up post dinner.

Analogue opened in 2013, mostly to be a cocktail bar and dance party, from the articles I have found about it. It has a New Orleans-inspired menu in an open and airy space. We were the first ones there, it was a super rainy Sunday evening and also pretty early. Bridgid and I snagged a high top and settled in.

We decided to start with a little bubbly: and a basket of biscuits. I mean, who doesn’t want a basket of biscuits? I know I have been on a tear when it come to southern food, and it is about to get even more epic since I am now sitting in Durham, North Carolina. But why not start off my second southern adventure of April with biscuits in Chicago?

                                                                                                                                  

This basket of biscuits comes with 3 lovely biscuits, creamy butter that is made with syrup, and hot pepper jelly. Bridgid took one bite and said, “I want to drink this every day”. Sweet, hot, flaky, spicy. All of the things one would want in a biscuit experience. Paired quite well with our dry cava.

We then shared a green salad and the mushroom french fries debris po’ boy. Bridgid is a vegetarian (I know, so many vegetarians in my life) and these were basically the only vegetarian items on the menu.

The salad was exactly what I wanted, fresh and bright, lots of dill with a creole mustard vinaigrette. A little feta really brought the whole salad together. The Po’ Boy was good: not nearly enough mushroom debris. The bread was tasty, and the flavors were all good but I feel like the filling was just lacking. It probably didn’t help that I was just in New Orleans eating the true stuff, but I think if they just stuff that sandwich more, it would be a world of difference.

In Summation: A cool joint! Probably I would be back for cocktails and snacks, not for a full meal. Not when there are so many other choices in Logan Square for amazing food.

Bridg and I decided to hit up another cocktail joint about a block and a half away, The Whistler.  This is a super popular bar in Logan Square, and both of us had been here before. They make really inventive and delicious cocktails, and we wanted to see what they were up to this season. The bar that Bridg is a bartender at doesn’t really allow her to flex her cocktail making skills: it’s more a RUM AND COKE! BEER! JAG BOMB! kinda place. So she loves to see what other bars are doing, since there are so many interesting cocktail lounges around Chicago.

                                                    

There were two cocktails I really wanted to try here, but I ended up with The Pastry War. I mean, how could I not get a drink called pastry war? It was tequila, cognac, apple, almond, cinnamon, beetroot and lime. WHOA. I was a little nervous, as that is a lot of crazy in one glass. It was pretty sweet, but very good. An ideal way to start our night off.

                                                                   

In summation: I will always go The Whistler. Better early when it is not wall to wall people, it does get completely insane in there.

We then moseyed down the block to a bar neither of us had been to but have always meant to: The Owl. I have always loved the sign for this place, it is super old school and the eyes have lights that blink. So great. We went in and found a HUGE bar, and we were the only people in there (again, it was early: like 8pm on a Sunday night). We bellied up to the bar and checked out the cocktail list.

                                                        

Bridgid and I chose the same cocktail, not something that normally happens. It is called The Gem: sarsaparilla whiskey, rye, ginger beer, lemon juice and bitters. Welcome to my new favorite drink. This thing is perfection, warm and dark but with bright notes. We may or may not have had 3. Each. And a shot of four roses with the bartender for good measure.

                             

In Summation: New favorite bar in Chicago, now that Bonny’s 4 a.m. is no longer. The Owl is homey like the bars in Milwaukee with cocktails and staff that are excellent. Thanks The Owl!

See you in 5 days, Chicago! Off to The Triangle to Visit Jecca and Eli!

the bars in Milwaukee with cocktails and staff that are excellent. Thanks The Owl! 

See you in 5 days, Chicago! Off to The Triangle to Visit Jecca and Eli!

 

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

18 Apr

I can hardly keep my eyes open long enough to post this: I am so crazy tired and full. It was a beautiful and long day of work, eating and friends.

I had to be at the shoe store I was doing an event at early, so I made sure I got to the bakery/cafe I wanted to check out early. I got there too early: 10 minutes before they open! Ooops. I pulled up to Baker Miller in Lincoln Park. I hung out in my car until they opened: and turns out I wasn’t even the first one there! I maybe should have stood in line with these folks:

                                                        

I have been following Baker Miller for a while, it is the original owners of Bang Bang Pie Shop. They decided that they wanted to make their own flours, so they left Bang Bang and started Baker Miller. They ground their grains and make flours and grits which you can buy in the store and online. I have been following them on facebook and instagram, and the photos are stunning. I had it in my head that I was gonna get the grits with corned beef, pickled cabbage, coriander mustard and and soft egg. I got up to the counter and asked the super helpful counter lady. I told her I was fluctuating between the grits and the ploughman’s breakfast. She said Ploughman’s, so that is what I went with.

                                                

I am so glad I did. A perfectly soft cooked egg, 4 bread soldiers, a local sausage and perfectly dressed arugula. They also make from scratch marmalade and hand churned butters. I took a bit of the satsuma marmalade and the cherry honey butter (apparently I am on a honey butter kick). All of it was bursting with flavor. Simple and well done. A perfect and hearty breakfast. Next time I am gonna get the Toast Platter: as they have toasters on each table!

                                                   

I then went to work and slung shoes all day. Busy and fun, as it always is at the store I was at. My friend Natalie came to the store to meet me and take me to a new candy store down the street from where I was. I needed to find some new fun gummies for the Vlog. Many awesome things were purchased, and then Natalie had the fantastic idea to grab dinner at one of the best vegan restaurants around.

          

The Chicago Diner has been around since 1983. It is a full on diner: burgers, fries, shakes and the like. However, it is 100% vegetarian, mostly vegan. Natalie is vegan, and I am a huge fan of this place. It is so hard for me not to get the same thing here every time, and today was no exception. Country Fried Steak: vegan style. Battered seitan, country gravy, mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. It is so so delicious: veganlicious I would say.  I sent a picture to my husband Ben and he was super jealous. Natalie and I also shared a vegan peanut butter cookie dough shake. That is some sweet lovely stuff right there. Thanks, Chicago Diner, for making vegan food so delicious. 

           

Okay, this is when I probably should have gone back to me hotel and kept it mellow. Instead I met up with the fantastic Rajani and Vijay at a new place in Logan Square. Lost Lake Tiki is a bar that is connected to a American-Chinese take out counter called Thank You. So you can order from your server at Lost Lake anything from Thank You. One of the many reasons I love Rajani and Vijay is they eat like me: they want to try anything and everything and are always up for it. My favorite thing is when Vijay said: we should just order one of everything. So we did.

                                                    

This is the cocktail I had: It’s called the Pool Rules. Bourbon, Rum, Curaçao, Cinnamon, Allspice, Vanilla, Angostura Bitters. Cutest fish glass!!

Here is the link to the : and photos of everything!

                       

                                             

 

                                       

                         

Holy Moses. Our favorites: the long beans, the fried rice and the Mongolian beef. This place is also open til 4am on the weekends, how fantastic is that! Makes me want to move back to Chicago for the good food.

Tomorrow: meeting up with my girls Bridgid and Diana, so it’s gonna get good.

Now Playing: Comedy Bang Bang Podcast 

 

(I’ve Been) Searching So Long: Chicago Fried Chicken Pt. 1

17 Apr

I am always on the prowl for perfect fried chicken. It is much harder to find than you might think: especially in the great white north. We in the Twin Cities only have a couple of great options: the most noteable the brand new Revival in Minneapolis (try the Nashville Hot: AMAZING). So when I am out and about I am bound and determined to find the chicken of my dreams.

I saw Honey Butter Fried Chicken (HBFC) starting it’s construction in 2012 when I was visiting Chicago visiting friends. The name had me right away, and so did the concept. Smear the honey butter all over the fried chicken. You don’t have to tell me twice! Somehow I had never made it until today, but it was 100% worth the wait.

                                                         

I met up with my pal Carl who is also in Chicago from the Twin Cities for work. His birthday is tomorrow, and I thought we should meet up for some birthday fried chicken. We went in to the joint: beyond adorable. The super friendly guy behind the counter offered us menus and we set out to order some goodness.

HBFC, very much to my chagrin, were out of the collard greens (super sad face). However, we made do. We ordered up the 4 piece chicken (comes with 3 biscuits), kale and cabbage slaw, pimento mac and cheese and creamed corn. They have pure cane sugar sodas on tap, and we both went with the ginger. They also have a full bar, local beer and wine. Next time I am for SURE gonna get the Smoky Derby.

                                                                 

Carl and I sat outside on their patio, and waited on our foods. It look literally no time at all: 5 minutes max. I was shocked at how fast it was, and super excited to dive in. The chicken from an antibiotic free and humanly raised farm in Indiana, and is boneless except for the leg. They explain their whole philosophy on their website, and they take it seriously. The chicken is served with corn muffins, and a whole lot of honey butter. The lovely girl who brought us our food told us yet again: slather the chicken with the butter. Yes M’am!

 

                                                    

 

The chicken is fantastic. Super flavorful, not overseasoned or breaded, and the chicken is just crazy moist (I know, worst word ever) and flavorful. That honey butter does not hurt things either. The muffins are a perfect size, full of flavor, and again a great vehicle for more butter. And they had little bees and honeycombs on them! Adorable!

                                                                  

The sides: the pimento mac and cheese had a crazy depth of flavor I haven’t experienced before. It was also the perfect portion, any more and it would be overkill. I would have liked it to be a bit warmer, but that is my weird temperature nit-picking. The creamed corn had a thai green curry in it that made the corn sing. Sweet, spicy, creamy, delicious. Kale and Cabbage slaw was light and refreshing, not overly dressed. It has a cumin-yogurt dressing that lends itself really well to the kale, and is topped with dried pomegrante. Crisp and light, a perfect balance with a lot of heavy creamy cheesy fried things.

                                                                

Now: dessert. Okay, when I looked at the menu online I, of course, went straight to the desserts. I could not believe my eyes. DUMP CAKE. On a menu. Not at my parent’s house. I was pretty sure my mind was playing tricks on me. But lo and behold, HBFC has a daily dump cake. At MARKET PRICE. What is happening. Who is the mastermind behind this and are they my new best friend (turns out, yeah kinda).

So I got the dump cake, obviously. It was a strawberry dump cake with balsamic whip cream. WHAT THE WHAT. Unbelievable. I can’t even with this. I wanted to call my mom immediately (yes I have called her since to tell her all about the dump cake). Carl had never had dump cake, and now understands all of its wonders.

                                                    

In summation: Honey Butter Fried Chicken is everything I hoped it would be and more. I will not be missing this ever again: it is on the list of must go to every time I am in town.

Now Playing:

The Dirtbombs: Ultraglide in Black

Jay Reatard: Blood Visions

Dum Dum Girls: Only In Dreams

 

You’re the Inspiration Part 1: A Pie Love Affair

12 Apr

(I was going to call this you’re the insPIEration, but thought maybe that was too punny)

My oh my do I love pie. Even though I was known for cake, I have always preferred to eat pie. Lucky for me there is a lot of great pie here in the great white north. In the past 2 days I have hit up 3 pie places: and there will be more within this great spring excursion!

I already waxed poetic about Bang Bang, so I won’t get redundant. This morning I had to be in a far flung northern suburb of Chicago, so I started my day at Dollop Coffee and Hoosier Mama Pie Shop in Evanston. This shop has a full bakery in it, the first Hoosier Mama Pie Shop is in Chicago proper, in the Ukrainian Village/West Town area. I knew they had biscuit breakfast sandwiches, so I though that would be a great place to get breakfast and a slice to go for after my event.

I ordered the biscuit with egg, mushroom and Gruyere,  a soy vanilla latte and sat down with my laptop to do a bit of paperwork before my event. It was a beautiful spring day, and sitting in the window with a delicious breakfast and coffee was a perfect way to begin. I ordered a piece of the chai pear pie to go, but ended up eating it while drinking my coffee (ooops!). It was a custard pie: I would say not overly chai or overly pear, but tasty nonetheless!

In summation: I am a fan of Hoosier Mama! I quite like sitting in their shop.

                                   

After I finished up with the shoe event in Schaumberg I drove up to Milwaukee. We all know how I feel about Milwaukee! I went straight to one of my favorites, as I wanted more pie (sweet tooth always prevails) and a little comfort food. My allergies have had me really run down, and I also knew this place would do a great warm cocktail.

Honey Pie Cafe is in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee. I have been going here for years, and it is just so lovely and delicious. They are dedicated to using local ingredients, and their food always shows the care that they put in. It is serious Midwestern comfort food, which I can never be mad at.

                                                

I sat at the bar, and ordered a hot toddy. They fabulous bartendress made it with ginger bourbon. Let me repeat that. GINGER. BOURBON. Where have you been all my life ginger bourbon? Let’s get to know each other better. I ordered my comfort food usual, a green salad and macaroni and cheese.

The salad: BEAUTIFUL. Fresh, bursting with flavor. No bag salad here! With a champagne mustard vinaigrette. Just lovely.

The Mac and Cheese: YES. Covered in bacon, just serious comfort food. I make a pretty damn fine mac and cheese, so when I can find one in the world that I love, I am extra happy.

I ordered the strawberry malt pie to go, as I wanted to eat it while watching the premier of Game of Thrones tonight. Fully strawberry, fluffy and creamy. Kinda overly sweet, though. I think what I have found is I am more akin to real fruit pies, less on the cream pie side. Good to know!

                                  

                                                          

In summation: Honey Pie is the stone cold jam. They have great vegetarian and vegan options as well: even vegan cupcakes! However if you are in to meat: PORK FRIES. Do it.

 Now Playing:

Jim Croce: Photographs and Memories

The Wipers: Is this Real? 

 

25 or 6 to 4: the beginning of a Chicago expedition

12 Apr

(Disclaimer: Yes, I plan on using song titles from the band Chicago for all of the posts from Chicago. How could I not?)

Chicago: there are so many things to say and have already been said. I really love this city; it is huge, full of dark history and amazing food. I have been visiting Chicago on the regular since about 2011, I have a very close friend who lives in the Andersonville neighborhood. It is going to be hard to break free from my regular spots in this city, but since I have literally 5 weekends in a row in the Chicagoland area, I think I can hit some of the old and some of the new.

Let’s start with the old. I rolled in to town with a hankering. It was a hell of a drive, there were tornado warnings all through Illinois and the rain was not messing around. So I knew I wanted something comforting and lovely that I could take with me to the hotel. My brain took me to just the place.

Bang Bang Pie and Biscuits is a tiny sliver of heaven in the Logan Square neighborhood (side note: when I lived in Chicago for about 3.3 seconds: this is where I lived). I have been here numerous times, but have ever had their savory items. I always just ran in for a slice of pie. Today was the day.

                                                     

I got the chicken pot pie and a slice of the rhubarb ginger crumble pie to go. I wanted to stay: but the little shop was packed and since the weather was very touch and go the pie garden (outside seating) wasn’t really open. So I had them warm up the savory pie before I left and away I went.

Oh man, it was worth the wait. Huge shreds of freshly roasted chicken, veggies, and a cream sauce that was divine. But the crust: OH the crust. Buttery, flaky goodness. Just melt in your mouth beautiful.

                                    

The rhubarb pie didn’t disappoint either: tangy, spicy and well balanced. Beautiful. The rhubarb was the most amazing color, you could tell it was super fresh. A perfect meal for a scary rainy day.

In Summation: If you haven’t been to Bang Bang, you are truly missing out. They have a seasonal menu, so watch for new and fantastic things from them!

Let us skip a couple of days of me working and having to eat with staff so buying them things like Panera, Five Guys, Jimmy Johns and the like (when you gotta feed the masses…). After my event on Saturday I was feeling a little run down (still am: damn spring allergies). What fixes that? Ramen, of course.

Urban Belly  is my go to ramen in Chicago. I know there are a ton of ramen shops, and I have the plan to hit a bunch of them during this season. However, since I was not feeling great and wanted serious comfort, off to Fulton Market I drove.

                                                               

(this is the living wall by the bathrooms at Urban Belly/BellyQ. How cool is that?)

They have a menu that is succinct, which I appreciate. So many restaurants have far too many choices, it makes it difficult to find that thing you are gonna love. I am a total one trick pony at Urban Belly, I always get the Urban Belly Ramen. Pork belly, veggies, a soft boiled egg, a spicy broth, and ramen noodles. It is perfection. I wanted to try the cheeseburger dumplings as well: which were good but they came with ketchup on them (side note: I hate ketchup. Yeah yeah I know, how can I even call myself an American). The ramen was just like I remember it, a deep broth of spicy and savory. It was exactly what I needed.

                                  

In Summation: Yes always yes to Urban Belly. One of these days I will hit up BellyQ, which is connected to Urban Belly. Maybe next weekend!

Note: If anyone has recommendations for restaurants for me to hit up: please let me know! I always like to hear new stuff!

Now Playing:

Led Zepplin: III

Tuxedo: Self Titled

T.Rex: Tanx

Comedy Film Nerds Podcast

 

Crime and Punishment at the Soap Factory

12 Apr

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There’s an old Borscht Belt joke that has two patrons at a restaurant complaining about the food. “The food here is so terrible,” the first exclaims. “Yes,” agrees the second, “and the portions are so small!”

Live Action Set’s Crime and Punishment feels very much in that vein, including the “terrible” part – as in, full of or causing terror. The narrative of Dostoyevsky disappears into installation of the set in the Soap Factory, you could be a scholar of Russian literature and come away with no idea of what happens in the book itself. But the tone – pre-Dickensian Russian poverty, the debauchery and depravity of desperation, is all-encompassing and inescapable. The design of the show is audaciously engrossing, a triumph of minutiae and disorienting surprise that has antecedents more in the work of Gregor Schneider and Ed Kienholz than traditional theater design. There are diaries to discover, phones that ring and pass on furtive, horror-filled messages, peepholes that open up new worlds, not necessarily more pleasant or enticing than the one at hand.

Into this built horror are thrown almost two dozen performers, characters seeking escape and and respite, domineering control, drink, and maybe even love. There are hookers and hawkers, landladys and repo men, cops and villains, ingenues and and the shadow of death. You can follow any of them singularly, or bounce between characters, but the strength of Crime and Punishment is in the moments of pure surprise – an achingly sweet and powerfully lithe dance between a Cossack and his lover, the moment of holding all tension before an axe is brought down, being pulled aside by a character and told of a dream where you were together.

Depending on how you move through the space you may experience any or none of this, and that is the second part of the joke. At an hour’s run time, a visit to the Soap Factory basement barely scratches the surface of what it is or what it could be. When the performers came through, banging on trash can lids and herding people together, my first hope was that here was the use of the space to bring people together for a shared moment to create something together that could then be diffused back into the playing space. But no, they were coming through to clear us out, which was as terrible and jolting as anything that had been a part of the show.

Suck The Head: New Orleans

8 Apr

DISCLAIMER: this post is not gonna be the same as others. Since I was with my friends on vacation and a little booze soaked at all times I wasn’t as diligent about taking photos and notes. But I will do my best! 

New Orleans, you are a blessing and a curse. I could get lost in this city for ever if I wasn’t careful. I know I am not the only one, it is known for delicious decadence. When my sister, Jecca, suggested that she and I meet up there to meet our (yes our, we are good at sharing) best friend in New Orleans I immediately responded with OBVIOUSLY.

The last time I was in New Orleans was for said best friends wedding 6 years ago. Siobhan and her fabulous wife JV lived there at the time, moved back to the Twin Cities, now have an amazing little boy (Hi R!) and then recently moved back to NOLA. Since Jecca, Siobhan and I all now live in different cities (yet again) this was a great opportunity to have some time to hang out and celebrate Jecca!

I got it on Jecca’s actual birthday, took a cab to Siobhan’s house and we had a plan to hit up a drive thru daiquiri place. Yes, that’s right, DRIVE THRU BOOZE. Apparently they can’t be in the city limits of NOLA anymore but right outside: there they are! Here is me in the back seat of Siobhan’s car with my cup of booze.

                                                   

For Jecca’s birthday dinner we went to a place called Mat and Naddie’s that S and JV are fans of. Jecca and Siobhan are both vegetarians, JV is both gluten and dairy intolerant, so this place could accommodate all of our needs. It is in a house with a beautiful patio, and we sat in what they call “the clubhouse”. It was a glorious night, and we had a fantastic meal. What did we eat? I can’t even start to remember. But it was all delicious. I did take a picture of the pie: lemon icebox pie! Southern goodness.

                                                                

We then hit the bars: there was champagne and whiskey and fun.

The next day we went to Magazine street: to brunch at Surrey’s. Shrimp and grits and strong iced coffee is just what I needed. Another winner!

                                                                   

Okay now things start to get a little fuzzy: so here is just a list of goodness and some photos. GET THEE TO NEW ORLEANS. You will be happy with whatever you do there.

                                                  

                                      

                                  

                                   

                         

                                                           

The Franklin : craft cocktails

Cafe Du Monde : BEGINETS

13 Monaghan : debris and frozen irish coffee

K-Jeans: all of the boiled seafood. crawfish for days.

Superior Seafood : oysters

Molly’s at the Market : dive bar goodness

Fiorella’s Cafe : fried chicken. no really. FRIED CHICKEN. do not miss this.

 

Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Orchestra Hall

31 Mar

There are many New Orleans institutions – beignets at Cafe Du Monde, Mardi Gras beads, jambalaya and po’boys – but few travel so well as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. On Friday night the seven members of the traveling band ventured to the northern shores of the Mississippi, playing two sets that linked their past and present, and filling Orchestra Hall with joyous, raucous, warm and enveloping Louisiana glow.

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For the performance, the band featured bandleader Ben Jaffe on upright bass and tuba, trumpeter Mark Braud, pianist Rickie Monie (one of three living Steinway artists from New Orleans, the other two being Dr. John and Harry Connick Jr.), ageless clarinetist Charlie Gabriel, trombone player Ronnell Johnson (a former highschool student of Jaffe’s), drummer Joe Laste Jr. (who, on the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, was pointedly introduced as being form the Lower Ninth Ward) and the sleek Clint Maedgen on saxophone. The first set of the night was taken entirely from the Sweet Emma and her Preservation Hall Jazz Band record, which was recorded in 1964 at the old Guthrie Theater on the band’s second trip out of New Orleans – the first trip had also been to the Guthrie in 1963. The Current MC Bill DeVille had been out to introduce the band, and had found out that there were a number of people in the audience who had been in attendance at the Guthrie when the Sweet Emma record was cut. That record was recently added to the Library of Congress, and Jaffe told the story that the tape machine had only been rented for one night, so his parents, Preservation Hall founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe, raced back to the apartment and spent the night rushing through and cutting the tape to make sure they had the record by morning.

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On the night, their renditions of tunes like “Yellow Dog Blues,” “Whenever You’re Lonesome,” “Basin Street” and “Closer Walk With Thee” featured a lighter, slower touch than maybe the frenetic pace of earlier recordings or the intimacy of Preservation Hall might afford, but there was nothing lacking. Languorously prolonged, trilling sax solos came out of Maegdan, and Johnson had star turns with his full-bodied, big-swinging, rasping, bellowing elephantine trombone. The whole effect was one of venerable tradition, but not simply for the sake of posterity, but because the songs still move, and still swing.

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The second set was taken from their recent record That’s It, the band’s first recording of original tunes. That a band whose mission is to preserve New Orleans jazz has recorded new material may seem out of place, but if any group of musicians is to add to the canon, it should be these musicians, with their New Orleans roots running deep. The best gardens grow with careful tending and new planting, and the songs from That’s It blossomed in Orchestra Hall, from the gospel-inflected call and response of Johnson on “Halfway Right, Halfway Wrong,” to the roaring, pulsing horn Braud brought to center stage in the title track, to Charlie Gabriel’s sweet, spare phrasing in the smooth charmer “I Think I Love You.”

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For a man about to celebrate his 83rd birthday, Gabriel closed out the night on a youthful, inviting note. After coming out for their encore with a swinging rendition of the traditional “Down By The Riverside,” Gabriel finished with the new song “Come With Me.” Jaffe noted that it was his wedding anniversary and his wife had asked for this song, and then invited couples to get up and dance, which a surprising number of people (for a Minnesota audience in Orchestral Hall) took him up on. “Come with me to New Orleans,” Gabriel smiled out to the audience as the couples shimmied, “I show you a great time. All your dreams will come true, with my by your side.” And for the night, they did, up at the northern tail of the Mississippi, coming back to that place that they had been before, to arms ready to welcome them back.

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It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Town

26 Mar

Madison, Wisconsin. I always knew of this town as a big party town, because of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. When I was in high school, it was known as a really good school, a hard one to get in to if you are from Minnesota, and full of PARTY. I have been here a good handful of times, mostly passing through to Chicago. With this gig I now stay here a couple times a year, so the time has come to start exploring the food scene.

It all starts in Minneapolis

I have a thing about doing events. I have to have my hair blown out so I can hide the tattoos behind my ears (this is a me thing, not a work thing) so I was in Minneapolis at 8am to get that done. Beforehand I stopped at  Patisserie 46 to grab a danish (yum) a soy miel (changing it up!), and some pastries for my shoe-girl in crime Chelsea. Man, that lemon blueberry danish I stuffed in my face did not make me sad. Got my hairs all did and then I was off to Wisconsin.

I had a lunch date with Chelsea, whenever I got to her. Chels lives in Janesville, WI which is about 30 minutes south of Madison, and I had one of her boots (it’s a #shoedog thing). I got to meet her crazy adorable dogs (3 pugs!)  and she lead me to a Janesville favorite.

                                                  

The Italian House is in an old Hardee’s on a busy intersection by the high school. Chels told me that it was in a smaller location, but they expanded some years ago. They have a drive through as well as sit down. It is very much an American-Italian place: sandwiches (called Gondola’s) and basic pasta dishes. We both got mostaccioli with meatballs. Cuz why not? It is a dreary day in Wisconsin, a girl needs some comfort food. This came with salad and garlic bread.

                                                   

Salad: from a bag with a big ol’ handful of cheese on it. Why cheese? Because Wisconsin. Italian dressing, totally respectable.

Mostaccioli: Now let me first say my idea of mostaccioli is probably incorrect: but it is all from Cosetta’s. I have been eating it since high school, and it has a real hold on what I think of as mostaccioli. Is it right? I have no idea. But I love it. The mostaccioli at Italian House was good! From scratch meatballs, a nice thick red gravy, and al dente penne pasta. I wouldn’t call it life changing by any means, but filling and lovely.

                                                         

In summation: Janesville is FULL of chains. Go to The Italian House for some hometown cooking.

Rollin’ up on Mad-town

So stupidly lunch was pretty late in the day (my fault, I didn’t get to Janesville until about 1:30pm). So by the time I got to Madison and all checked in to my hotel, I was still feeling really full and a little out of sorts (Side note: everyone in my life that I see on the regular is sick. Husband Ben Crew has tonsillitis, my in-town colleague had the flu as did/do both of her little ones. YIKES!). Needless to say I didn’t feel like driving around looking for something to eat. Thank Godzilla for Grub Hub. I just wanted some soup and something small. FOUND IT!

                   

                                                    

I got delivery from Flaming Wok: Chinese-American type that we all know from childhood. Hot and Sour soup, dumplings and some chicken fried rice. The fried rice had zero flavor, so that is sad. However, the soup and dumplings were EXACTLY what I wanted. Hot and sour soup, not hot hot but had nice spice and was warming and healing. Chock full of tofu and mushrooms, which I love. The dumplings had that too thick outside but the filling was nicely spiced and very familiar. YAY for eating in the hotel in my jammies. It is one of life’s great pleasures.

In summation: you don’t want to leave your hotel and want to eat something salty and that you know is bad for you while watching Law & Order SVU? Flaming Wok gets it done.

I swear I will do better, Madison. This is not the last you will see of me. Maybe tomorrow we can make something happen that isn’t pizza (my guess it’s gonna be pizza. ugh.).

PLAYLIST


Heems: Eat Pray Thug

Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life (OMG. SEEING HIM ON SUNDAY. CANNOT. WAIT.)

The King Khan & BBQ Show: Bad News Boys

The Smartest Man in the World Podcast