This week’s Best Bite: Southern pizza and rosé, Reno

Southern pizza with
Southern pizza with Edward’s ham, kimchi, spinach, mozzarella, and fried garlic

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: It’s high time I blogged about Reno, where I’ve been a frequent customer since they opened in the neighborhood last November. I could wax poetic about the glory (and daily temptation) of grabbing a wood-fired bagel and a large cup of Stumptown coffee on my way to the train in the morning, but this week marked my first time dining in for dinner. My friend opted for pasta, but I had to skip over that section because there were just too many appealing pizzas. I had to go with the Southern, a Korean-Italian collision with southern ham thrown in. The sour kimchi, salty ham, gooey mozzarella, crispy spinach, and some serious garlic: it all worked, but still didn’t weigh down the blistered thin crust.

Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of experience with rosé, but since it’s ubiquitous in articles about springtime beverages, I’d been on the lookout for an opportunity to try a glass. This particular wine was ultra-refreshing, a blend of merlot and cabernets sauvignon and franc with juicy berry flavors. Rosé is also typically known as a food-friendly wine, and it proved to pair well with the punchy pizza toppings.

2012 rosé
Haut-Sarthes 2012 Rosé (Bordeaux)

The details: Reno, 2607 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago.

Travel Eats: Portland coffee, donuts, and other indulgences

This is part of a series of posts about my vacation to Portland, Oregon, in late February 2013.

Latte at Sterling Coffee Roasters
Latte at Sterling Coffee Roasters

As is probably evident, my roommate/travel partner and I did a lot of research on the Portland food and drinks scene in preparation for our trip. Among the themes that quickly emerged: coffee and donuts, plus other artisanal sweets and breakfast items. With a little planning, we managed to hit most of the major places on our list. I knew we’d cover the classics – I’d heard about Voodoo Doughnut for years, and Stumptown is a well-known roaster whose brews I love when I can get them here in Chicago. But I didn’t expect another donut shop (Blue Star) to win me over with its brioche-like dough and bold-flavored glazes, or to taste such an outstanding bagel-and-cream-cheese combination at Bowery Bagels that I thought it could only exist in Sriracha-spiked dreams, or to have the best French macarons either of us had ever tasted at Ken’s. And as someone who loves spending time in coffee shops, I was thrilled by Stumptown’s wall of magazines to go with its impeccable cups (I paged through Barista and Imbibe) and the vastly different but equally enjoyable atmospheres at Extracto and Sterling. I could go on, but just see for yourself in the photos below.

Oreo-peanut butter doughnut and apple fritter, Voodoo Doughnut
Oreo-peanut butter “ODB” doughnut and apple fritter, Voodoo Doughnut
Blueberry-bourbon-basil donut (and dulce de leche-hazelnut donut, not pictured), Blue Star Donuts
Blueberry-bourbon-basil donut (and dulce de leche-hazelnut donut, not pictured), Blue Star Donuts
Thai chili peanut bagel with lemongrass cream cheese, Bowery Bagels
Thai chili peanut bagel with lemongrass cream cheese, Bowery Bagels
Biscuit with pimento cheese, Pine State Biscuts
Biscuit with pimento cheese, Pine State Biscuts
Almond brittle with salted ganache and Happy Birthday Elvis with malted banana, peanut butter, and marionberry jam, Salt & Straw
Almond brittle with salted ganache and Happy Birthday Elvis with malted banana, peanut butter, and marionberry jam, Salt & Straw
Macarons in chocolate-mint, orange-ginger-chevre, and salted caramel-coffee, Ken's Artisan Bakery
Macarons in chocolate-mint, orange-ginger-chevre, and salted caramel-coffee, Ken’s Artisan Bakery
Chai latte, Extracto Coffeehouse & Roastery
Chai latte, Extracto Coffeehouse & Roastery
Cappuccino, Stumptown Coffee
Cappuccino, Stumptown Coffee

The details: Voodoo Doughnut, 22 SW 3rd Ave.; Blue Star Donuts, 1237 SW Washington St.; Bowery Bagels, 310 NW Broadway; Pine State Biscuits, 2204 NE Alberta St.; Salt & Straw, 2035 NE Alberta St.; Ken’s Artisan Bakery, 338 NW 21st Ave.; Stumptown Coffee, 128 SW 3rd Ave. and 1026 SW Stark St.; Extracto Coffeehouse & Roastery, 2921 NE Killingsworth St.; Sterling Coffee Roasters, 417 NW 21st Ave.

This week’s Best Bite: Fat Elvis waffles, Little Goat Diner

Fat Elvis waffles, Little Goat Diner
Fat Elvis waffles, Little Goat Diner

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: I’ll just say it: these waffles were crazy in the best way possible. It was the kind of New Year’s Eve brunch dish that said “2012, let’s send you out with a sweet, bacon-y bang.” The texture of the waffles was just dense enough, the bacon syrup and bananas were indulgent-yet-balanced toppings, and the peanut butter butter simply defied logic with its creaminess. Of course, the waffles were even better washed down with a couple cups of Stumptown Coffee, one of the best roasters around. I could only eat half in one sitting, but it also made for killer leftovers.

Needless to say, I’m already planning my next visit, as my dining partner and I found it very difficult to decide on just one dish from perhaps the most comprehensive, enticing, otherwise mind-boggling diner menu I’ve ever seen. From the food to the décor, mastermind Stephanie Izard nails every detail – just look at the wallpaper! We also stopped into Little Goat Bread, adjacent to the diner, and swooned over the gorgeous bar (espresso by day, liquor by night) and the ingenious idea of mixing Girl & the Goat’s “life-changing” green beans into cream cheese for bagels.

Stumptown coffee, Little Goat Diner
Stumptown coffee, Little Goat Diner

The details: Little Goat Diner, 820 W. Randolph St., Chicago.