Birchwood Bitchin

When I moved to the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood a few months ago, I was obviously excited for the new array of restaurants within walking distance of my apartment. One name that was repeatedly recommended to me was Birchwood Kitchen. I had viewed the menu online but it always seemed limited and admittedly, nothing on it caught my eye. Yesterday, I went with a friend for brunch and I instantly regretted not going sooner. 

We split the croque vert and the oven baked french toast with strawberries. Out.Of.Control. It is no secret that I am a carb-a-holic. Given that both dishes we ordered were bread based, I was pleased to have my socks knocked off in every way. The challah french toast resembled a soft pound cake, acting perfectly as a vehicle to sop up the juice of the strawberries. The fresh sourdough on the croque vert was equally delectable, lightly toasted and filled with fresh summer vegetables and topped with a sunny side egg. You’ll notice from previous posts, I’m eating up (literally) the fried egg on top of everything trend. I felt like the chef was cooking from his burlap bag of farmer’s market ingredients. Per usual, I channeled my inner Tom Colicchio as I ate and felt his observations would have been the same as mine. 

With farm-to-table, organic restaurants popping up everywhere, I appreciate a place like Birchwood because you can tell that they are not trying to be something they’re not. Their philosophy is: “To balance the finest, freshest food and genuine service with affordable, casual dining.” They do just that. The staff is friendly and unpretentious, just like the food.  I’m hoping to be on a first name basis with all of them by the end of the summer.547157

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L’eggo my Wafflich

Last summer, my boyfriend and I surprised my brother in Denver for the opening of his new restaurant, Wafflich. Like me, my brother is extremely weird and like me, he has a passion for food. Obviously my opinion is biased, but I’m telling you, the moment the Shazz hits your lips, you can’t help but shed a tear at the unexpected combination of crunchy bread textured like a waffle with a hamburger patty, pickle and cheese. If a Big Mac and a hippie had a baby at Whole Foods, they would have a Shazz.
Over the course of the weekend, we proceeded to try every sandwich on the menu and each one was equally delectable. Not that I’m ever worried about large portions, but the sandwiches are perfectly portioned and priced. Just enough that you’re satiated and not stuffed.  The next time you’re in Denver, stop in at Wafflich. Mention my name and maybe you’ll get a free wink from the cashier.
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Being a Foodie

Ethiopian is one of those food genres that nobody really wants to try. People that call themselves foodies (such as myself), make a point to go to an Ethiopian restaurant solely to up their validity as a foodie and brag to other people that they’ve tried it and that it is a true experience (nah nah nuh nah nah). Recently, I decided to be that guy, go north of Lakeview for the first time in 6 years, and try Demera. I saw it on Check Please! (the show that foodies watch) and the segment gave me the overview I needed. A restaurant that lets you use bread as your utensils was all I needed to hike on over to whatever that neighborhood is by the North side Target. 

A 4:30 after-work Ethiopian dinner was exactly what I was looking for on a chilly spring Tuesday, I ceased it. I entered the restaurant with two friends and occupied one of two full tables. Frankly, I was a little disappointed that we were that close to getting the restaurant to ourselves and missed out. As my friends and I discussed which kids pick and eat their boogers, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen approached our table. Our waitress, a real Ethiopian, was going to be guiding us through this experience. When I say this woman was beautiful, what I mean is she looked like she walked right out of a Disney movie. If you are a single male or a single lesbian, or a straight woman or a gay man, I highly recommend going to Demera just to get a glance at this waitress. I didn’t catch her name but you’ll know which one I mean. Anyway, we quickly learned that Princess Jasmine was also extremely helpful and obviously knowledgeable about the menu. She had us pick the Vegetarian Meat Messob, a big communal plate of meat and vegetarian dishes that has more fancy Ethiopian names for all 12 things on the plate. The plate that I am referring to is really more like the lid of a garbage can lined with a spongy bread and a multitude of brown slop. I felt a bit like the grandparents from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The food was tasty, interesting spices that I could not identify and all the spongy bread you could possibly want. One surprise was that the unlimited spongy bread was ice cold, so it was kind of like eating a wet hand towel. I didn’t mind it.

Below are some highlights of the meal:

Best Section on the Garbage Can: Ye-Doro Tibs. (chicken breast cubes marinated in lemon juice and garlic, then cooked with onions, tomato, green pepper and rosemary. Perfection. juicy and flavorful, i would take this chicken home with me if i could.

Worst Section of the Garbage Can: Derek Tibs- savory lamb chunks dry fried with onions, green pepper and especial seasoning. Loaded with unforeseen bones, my friend almost cracked her tooth on this tasteless and overly dry mystery multiple times.

Ambience: Authentic and sparse. Supposedly there is a live band on the weekends which could be fun after a few spiked Bunas.

Price Point: More than I thought. We had one glass of wine and ended up paying $40 each. I guess eating like an Ethiopian King has its toll on your wallet.

Bottom Line: If you want to be portrayed as a real foodie, go to Demera.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5

Sandwich Crawl 2013: 50 before I’m 50

And so it goes. Another reason for me to put off dieting and continue eating. Some people like tennis, some people like bacon. You say tomato, I say foie gras. I don’t pass judgement on your inability to stay in the bike lane. Actually, I do. Joey Tribiani and I have something in common besides our bank accounts, or lack thereof. We both love sandwiches. After reading “The 50 Best Sandwiches in Chicago” in Chicago Magazine, it seemed fitting that I buck up and try all 50. Surprisingly, I had only sampled 10 of the 50. I thought it would only be fair to re-try all candidates and reorder them myself. I don’t know much but I know a good sandwich.
By the way, Chicago magazine, If your sandwich taster/article writer goes on maternity leave, I’ll cover for them as an unpaid intern. Here it goes.
First two down and the order stays the same. First Place-Old Oak Tap BLT
Second Place-Au Cheval fried bologna.                                         Image

OHHH CHEVAL

 Let me be frank. I don’t like burgers. Don’t get me wrong. I will eat one with great pleasure and enjoy every second of it. I am not, however, enjoying it for the quality of the meat, the way that meat was cooked, or the thickness or juiciness of the grass fed sirloin. None of the above. I am enjoying it for everything that comes with it. A burger with a side of truffle fries and a salted caramel shake could be a dog biscuit for all I care, which, speaking of dog biscuits, have you seen the variety of flavors and textures lately? It’s like they need their own supermarket. I greet you with all of this worthless banter because I intentionally chose not to preface my aforementioned statement with: until now.  Au Cheval. Go there. For the burger. Dress like a hipster or be prepared to stand out. Enough said.

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