Delicious Events

Delicious Event: Joy the Baker Over Easy demo & book signing

Mini ham and bourbon-peach jam biscuits from Joy the Baker Over Easy cookbook

Mini ham and bourbon-peach jam biscuits from Joy the Baker Over Easy cookbook

Joy Wilson started Joy the Baker in 2008, one of the very first food blogs I started reading regularly, so it was surreal to finally meet Joy in person. Her blog has been a go-to resource for any manner of baked goods (especially cookies) and savory dishes (her summery peach tomato mozzarella crostini were captured in my very early Instagram days). Her pancake recipes also never disappoint, including the peanut-butter-bacon-banana pancakes that showed up on this blog a few years back.

The event was held at Read It & Eat in Lincoln Park, a culinary bookstore that also holds cooking classes and author demos like this one. Joy was in the middle of a tour to promote her third cookbook, Over Easy, which celebrates all things brunch.

Joy the Baker cooking demo

Joy assembling the biscuit sandwiches during the demo

During the demo, Joy showed us mixing methods for butter and buttermilk that would ensure maximum biscuit fluffiness. For the jam, she jazzed up canned peach preserves by adding lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, and bourbon (as you do). Two jam-slathered biscuit halves and a slice of country ham combined for a lovely two-bite sandwich.

Throughout the event, Joy was just as friendly, sharp, and playful as her writing had suggested all these years. When she signed my book, we chatted like we’d known each other a while; she just had a way of making everyone feel at ease (a shared love of good food will often do that). I can’t wait to start trying some of these brunch recipes – first stop: French toast breakfast burritos.

Over Easy cookbook signed by Joy

My cookbook, signed by Joy, plus a donut Joy the Baker patch

The details: Joy the Baker at Read It & Eat, 2142 N. Halsted St., Chicago.

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Chicago, Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week 2017: Dinner at de Quay

This is part of a series of posts about Chicago Restaurant Week 2017, held January 27–February 9. View all of this year’s meal recaps, or browse all Restaurant Week coverage from 2013-17.

Chicken sate skewer, de Quay

Chicken sate skewer with beef and vegetable nasi goreng, peanut sauce, and traditional condiments

Sauteed shrimp, de Quay

Sautéed shrimp with shittake mushroom-fennel-roasted garlic dumplings, babi pangang beurre blanc, green beans, and pickled hot peppers

Best Bite: De Quay’s combination of Dutch and Indonesian cuisines has intrigued me ever since they opened, so Restaurant Week felt like the right time to try it out. Both entrée options had a lot going on – the marinated, lightly charred chicken skewers came with spicy rice, mild pickles, and two sauces; the pan-seared shrimp were joined by mushroom dumplings, green bean-pickled pepper salad, and a rich panang beurre blanc. They both showcased a broad range of influences, but still came together well.

Brabant roll, de Quay

Brabant roll with pork farce and smoked rookworst with pistachios rolled in puff pastry, with groningen mustard veloute and dried fruit compote

Other notes: The brabant roll was the first-course winner, a decadent appetizer that brought together flaky pastry, smoky pork, dried fruit, and mustard sauce. And while I was jolted at first by the neon green buttercream atop the cocoa cake, it worked nicely with the curried pineapple. We also had the warm housemade stroopwafel with a generous helping of vanilla ice cream on the side, and while humble in appearance, we agreed it was far superior to any stroopwafel we’d ever had.

Nederlands cocoa cake, de Quay

Nederlands cocoa cake with pandan buttercream and curried pineapple compote

The details: de Quay, 2470 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

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Chicago, Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week 2015: Brunch at Knife & Tine

This is part of a series of posts about Chicago Restaurant Week 2015, held January 30–February 12. Check out recaps from 2014 and 2013, or browse all Restaurant Week coverage.

Knife & Tine Brunch

Breakfast sandwich, Knife & Tine

Breakfast sandwich with coffee-cured bacon, fried egg, cheddar, and house mayonnaise with fingerling potatoes

Best Bite: I’m happy to report that my first-ever Restaurant Week brunch was a major success. Knife & Tine’s menu price included an entree, two sides, and a drink, so our group of six ordered strategically in an effort to taste as many different things as possible. I was floored by the sheer variety of rich, creative dishes that eventually hit our table: cheesy grits, smoky pork sausage patties, buttery fingerling potatoes, nutty pumpkin bread, fluffy biscuits with cardamom-scented cara cara orange jam – and those were just the sides! My breakfast sandwich combined many of the best flavors on the table, especially the mingling of fried egg with bacon cured in brown sugar, coffee, and cinnamon.

Salted butterscotch croissant-style donut, Knife & Tine

Salted butterscotch croissant-style donut

Other notes: They weren’t technically on the Restaurant Week menu, but the salted butterscotch croissant-style donuts were fantastic (and helped me understand the cronut craze a little bit better). I also loved the cinnamon biscuit beignets, a plateful of sugary, bite-size rounds with a vanilla bean dipping sauce. As a bonus, our group was fortunate enough to sit at the chef’s table, enclosed by silver-toned wallpaper and a crystal chandelier overhead.

The details: Knife & Tine, 1417 W. Fullerton Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

2014 Best Bite #29: The Grill Club, Standard Market Grill

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

The Grill Club, Standard Market Grill

The Grill Club with brie cheese, toasted everything bagel, shaved turkey, avocado, oven-roasted tomato, bacon, and honey mustard

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: This sandwich came as sustenance after a few hours of walking around BrewLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo (holiday beer samples in conjunction with the zoo’s annual light display). It was the little lavish details that made it go above and beyond a typical club sandwich: brie cheese, roasted tomato, avocado, and of course a toasted everything bagel instead of bread. A side of top-notch sweet potato fries also didn’t hurt.

The details: Standard Market Grill, 444 W. Fullerton Pkwy., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

2014 Best Bite #28: The Gobbler burger, DMK Burger Bar

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

The Gobbler burger, DMK Burger Bar

The Gobbler burger with turkey patty, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, celery, and cranberry relish, DMK Burger Bar

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: In the sea of Chicago restaurants who specialize in burgers, DMK consistently serves some of the very best. I’m also a sucker for any Thanksgiving-themed special, so ordering The Gobbler was a no-brainer on this visit. The crunchy celery and tart cranberry squished into a mound of mashed potatoes, all atop sage-laden stuffing and turkey patties. With a side of DMK’s sweet potato fries – which are delicious in any season – this burger felt as festive and filling as the holiday meal itself, and made a fitting prelude to the real feast three days later.

The details: DMK Burger Bar, 2954 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

2014 Best Bite #20: Tagliolini nero, Balena

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Tagliolini nero, Balena

Tagliolini nero with crab, sea urchin, and chili

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: This year I found out why this pasta dish is still a fixture on the Balena menu: it’s equal parts lavish and simple, and captures the flavors of the sea in a remarkable way (Time Out Chicago evidently agreed, since tagliolini nero made its list of the 25 essential Chicago dishes and drinks). Twisting briny pasta around buttery urchin, tender crab, and spicy red chili peppers made for seafood pasta heaven.

View another Best Bite from Balena.

The details: Balena, 1633 N Halsted St., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

2014 Best Bite #11: Goat cheese and fig jam crostini, Blue Door Farm Stand

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Goat cheese and fig jam crostini, Blue Door Farm Stand

Goat cheese and fig jam crostini

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: These crispy crostini made a picturesque afternoon snack, each with a generous knob of goat cheese and slathering of fig jam. I also loved Blue Door’s airy interior, with reclaimed wood and other rustic touches that made it feel like a trendy farmhouse.

The details: Blue Door Farm Stand, 843 Armitage Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

2014 Best Bite #9: Spring vegetable orecchetti, Summer House Santa Monica

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Spring vegetable orecchietti, Summer House Santa Monica

Spring vegetable orecchietti with ramps, favas, asparagus, and pecorino

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: Within Summer House’s bright, beachy environs, this pasta dish celebrated the peak of spring’s green vegetables. Fresh orecchietti pasta mingled with favas, peas, asparagus, and ultra-seasonal ramps, plus pecorino cheese and pickled onions to bring it together. And although they aren’t pictured here, it’s a crime to leave Summer House without at least one of the gigantic, freshly baked cookies at the front counter (I’ll admit that I’ve stopped in on multiple occasions just for the cookies alone).

The details: Summer House Santa Monica, 1954 N. Halsted St., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

2014 Best Bite #15: Breadsticks and goat cheese, Homeslice

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Breadsticks and goat cheese, Homeslice

Beer-basted breadsticks with goat cheese marinara sauce for dipping

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: For some reason, I usually have ended up at Homeslice when I’m not hungry enough for an entire pizza (their specialty), and instead opt for more of a snack on the restaurant’s cheerful back patio. These beer-basted, pleasantly chewy breadsticks always fit the bill, with enough goat cheese–laden marinara sauce for frequent dunking.

The details: Homeslice, 938 W. Webster Ave., Chicago.

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Best Bites, Chicago

This week’s Best Bite: House-blend beef burger and chocolate shake, Butcher & the Burger

House-blend burger, Butcher & the Burger

House-blend beef burger with Grandma’s Onion Soup spice blend, lettuce, tomato, goat cheese, caramelized onions, avocado, and sriracha mayo, on a split-top roll

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: I don’t usually blog about burgers, but this one was memorable enough to merit an exception. A friend treated me to a belated birthday dinner at Butcher & the Burger, which she had always raved about but I’d never visited – and let’s just say that being introduced to this place was a birthday gift in itself. The menu allows you to customize your entire burger, all the way down to the spice blend in your patty, so I had several tough decisions to make. I ended up choosing the house blend of natural, local beef with Grandma’s Onion Soup spices on a classic split-top bun. The patty itself was everything I could have wanted: well-seasoned, cooked to picture-perfect medium, and terrifically juicy (though it was the liquid from the caramelized onions that sent the burger into extra-messy territory). The spongy bun did its best to soak everything up, concealing layers of creamy goat cheese and sriracha-spiked mayo. Lettuce, tomato, and avocado rounded out the contrasting textures. The burger evoked backyard grilling and gourmet gastropub fare in equal measure, which made it one of the best I’ve had in Chicago. And I couldn’t resist stealing a couple sips of the thick chocolate milkshake across the table, a tried-and-true combination of velvety frozen custard and chocolate syrup.

Chocolate milkshake, Butcher & the Burger

A very happy chocolate milkshake

The details: Butcher & the Burger, 1021 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago.

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