The eaters are going to be spending our Summer in Portugal, with a few side trips to the South of Spain and Barcelona. This means we will be taking a brief hiatus from blogging until we get settled and return from Andalusia – probably until Mid June. After that we hope to start chronicling our Iberian adventures. We have been to Portugal for an extended period of time (and have sampled dozens of pasteis de nata), but are relatively new to Spain and are especially looking forward to delving into the rich food scene. We see a lot of tapas and jamon in our future. Do you have any favorite recommendations in either country?
In years past we wrote about the enigmatic Nutellerias of Europe (and the short-lived Nutella cafes in North America): store/cafes dedicated to nothing but Nutella, the world’s favorite chocolate and hazelnut spread. Though the international Nutella cafes have come and gone, it now it appears that we will finally have a Nutella-only cafe of our own stateside. The Nutella Cafe will open in Millennium Park Chicago on May 31, and is officially run by Nutella’s parent company Ferrero. The Cafe will offer sweet, Nutella-based treats as well as savory non-Nutella fare. Previously, Nutella lovers in Chicago and NYC could enjoy the Nutella kiosk in Eataly, but this new cafe represents a whole new level of Nutella love (the door is even shaped like a jar of Nutella).
Nutella by Brian Cantoni
Today, May 22, is Victoria Day, a holiday to celebrate historical British monarch Queen Victoria’s birthday. Of all places, this is not a holiday in the UK, but in Canada! One classic treat to have on this date is Victoria Sandwich, named for the queen. Despite the name, this is not what North Americans would think of when they hear the word sandwich – it is actually a cake! Another name for this treat is Victoria sponge (as in sponge cake), and it consists of two sponge cakes filled with raspberry jam and cream in the middle. I first heard of this cake when it was referenced many times on the Great British Bake-Off! You can find a recipe for a classic Victoria Sandwich on BBC GoodFood, Jamie Oliver and Urban Hounds.
Victoria Sponge by Gordon Plant
When we first saw a picture of Bebinca cake from Goa, we thought it looked a little bit like Hungarian Dobos Torte. Look at all of those layers! Bebinca is a cake popular in the Western Indian region of Goa, and it is known by its 7+ distinctive layers. Bebinca is probably the most famous dessert in the region, and is even known by some as the “Queen” of Goan Desserts. Some of its fame also probably comes from its difficulty – it is as time-consuming as it is beautiful – each of the 7 layers is cooked individually and then stacked up. Despite this advanced structure, the ingredients for Bebinca are super simple: eggs, flour, coconut milk, ghee (clarified butter) and nutmeg. This dish is a product of Portuguese influence to Goa, which is definitely evident in the copious use of egg yolks – a Portuguese favorite. Here are a few recipes for Bebinca from Flavors of Mumbai and BBC Good Food.
When we left Chicago, one of the places we were saddest to say goodbye to was our favorite butcher shop: Homestead Meats in Evanston. When we got to Cleveland, we were super happy to find lots of great fresh meat purveyors at the West Side Market – however nothing quite fit the bill of a single location where we could get fresh meat, house-made sausage, charcuterie, prepared meals, and more. With a new addition to Slavic Village – Saucisson (5324 Fleet Ave, Cleveland, OH 44105) – we feel like we have found a Cleveland butcher replacement for our beloved Homestead Meats.
Saucisson is a fell-fledged butcher and you can see back into the kitchen where everything is made – we were also excited to learn that they are offering sausage-making classes – the next one is on Saturday, May 20 (call for details). Saucisson is a labor of love for founders and owners Penny Barend and Melissa Khoury, which started out as a pop-up at Farmer’s Markets, before opening their own bricks and mortar location. The new Saucisson space is clean and bright, with a fully-stocked cooler and freezer full of along with stock, soups, and lard. Saucisson had a variety of beef and pork cuts for sale, alongside a variety of pates, bacon, jerky, rilettes and esoteric sausages, all made/butchered in house. We sampled the German-style currywurst, the Oaxacan black mole sausage and the Filipino longganisa (a sweet breakfast sausage). Quite the spread – though we think the Mole sausage was our favorite! Every week the selection rotates, so be sure to call ahead if you want something specific.
One of the other great features of Saucisson is that they have rotating food menu every day, which you can take out or eat in store (check out Facebook for the day’s menu). On the night we visited there was Italian chicken meatball soup ($5) and pulled pork tacos ($8). Though not a traditional taco, the super tender and flavorful pulled pork stole the show, smothered in green salsa, cotija cheese, slaw and pickled onions. Yum! Saucisson is only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m to 7 p.m so be sure to time your visit properly. When we visited on a Friday night at 6, we got the last of the food.
Even more promising – the Saucisson team was super excited to potentially help us out with some custom butchery – we of course wanted to see if they could make the Brazilian classic cut of beef, picanha. They assured us that with a little advance notification, they could pretty much make anything. This stretch of Slavic Village is just starting recover from the housing bubble and economic downtown, and Saucisson is a welcome addition to the neighborhood’s commercial center. But Saucisson would be a great addition to any Cleveland neighborhood. We look forward to becoming regulars!
It’s always a delicate balance finding somewhere to go out to eat on a weekend for lunch – note that I say lunch – not brunch! Fortunately La Sirena Clandestina (954 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL) strikes a nice balance between lunch and brunch dishes, and is sure to please people with all kinds of palates. La Sirena Clandestina has an eclectic menu with lots of Brazilian flourishes, based on Chef John Manion’s childhood in Brazil – they even have our favorite cheesy bread on the menu – Pão de Queijo – though it sadly wasn’t available when we visited. We are always looking for new Brazilian tastes, so we were definitely looking forward to sampling La Sirena’s mix of Brazilian flavors and local ingredients.
The weekend daytime menu at La Sirena is a mix of sweet and savory, brunch and lunch. On the brunch side of things you can get their take on Eggs Benedict, with soft shell crab and Brazilian malagueta peppers ($18) or chilaquiles with plantains and salsa verde ($15). For those going more savory, you can get a grilled hanger steak with a fried yucca “tot” ($18) or the “El Che” (a take on the Cuban sandwich – $13) – achiote roasted pork loin with ham, Swiss cheese and pickles. There are also some nice, healthier vegetarian options including the Kale Salad ($9) and the white bean hash with avocado and chimichurri ($15) Among our group we ordered some options from each “type.”
One of our favorites, the hanger steak was perfectly tender and well-accented by the garlicky sauce – we also appreciated the whimsy of the yucca “tater tot.” Another hit was the Tapioca Nordestina ($12) – which was similar to a beachside dish that is popular in Brazil. This consisted of manioc flour crepes stuffed with cream cheese and topped with strawberry and rhubarb compote. This was a combination of flavors we didn’t expect – but worked really well together, and was not too sweet at all.
As an added twist on brunch, instead of the typical mimosa, you can get a variety of mixed drinks with Brazilian cachaça, along with aguas frescas (the juice of the day was chamomile lemon) and teas from Rare Tea Cellar. The vibe inside the restaurant is relaxed and casual, with vintage Brazilian tunes playing in the background (think Os Mutantes and Elis Regina). The space is not very big – so reservations are recommended. We highly enjoyed our eclectic brunch at La Sirena Clandestina, and it was a great spot for the pro and anti brunch crowds alike.
When we were in Morocco, one of the daily highlights of our trip was enjoying some mint tea with a side of pastries. The range of Moroccan pastries, cookies and desserts was mind-bending, and every tea time brought new treats. In Marrakesh we first tried one of the most popular desserts in Morocco, M’Hannacha (or M’Hencha). M’Hanncha is made out of a giant spiral of almond and orange water paste wrapped in phyllo dough, and is also known as snake or serpent cake due to its coiled appearance. You can try to make your own version with recipes for M’Hanncha from Epicurious, Spice Traveller and Food52.
M’Hanncha by She Paused 4 Thought
We are so happy to hear about stories of immigrants using food to make connections and find success in their new homes. We previously featured Honeydoe catering in Chicago, and we just learned of another successful venture by Syrian refugees in Hamilton, Ontario, Karam Kitchen. Karam Kitchen is run by Syrian female chefs Rawa’a Aloliwi, Dalal Al Zoubi, and Manahel Al Shareef, and two American/Canadian women, Brittani Farrington and Kim Kralt, who run the logistics of the business. Karam Kitchen was kicked off by a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, and is now up and running and taking catering orders (and recently ran a second Kickstarter to get a delivery van). Saveur has a great feature about the start of Karam Kitchen and People of Hamilton focuses on the women involved in the project. Karam means generosity, and you can definitely see the generosity in the amazing spreads of Syrian foods that Karam Kitchen prepares.
We are happy that authentic Japanese ramen has exploded as a trend in the US, and now you can find great ramen in most US cities. If you’re looking for the starting point of this wave of ramen in Chicago, you have to go out to the northwest suburbs, where Ramen Misoya (1584 S Busse Rd., Mount Prospect, IL 60056) was the first authentic Ramen-Ya (ramen restaurant) in the Chicago area, starting in 2013. Little did we know, but Ramen Misoya is actually a chain, with a few locations throughout the US and Japan, and now a downtown Chicago outpost (213 E. Ohio St.). Despite the influx of ramen restaurants in Chicago, one of our favorites is still Ramen Misoya.
Ramen Misoya is a tiny place with maybe only 8 tables, and a small amount of counter seating, so get there early. The menu may seem overwhelming at first, but there are 3 main varieties of broth to choose from, and you can get 5 versions of meat and vegetable toppings for each broth. The three miso-based broth options are Kome, Mame and Shiro: the Hokkaido-style kome ramen is made with a rice-and-soybean miso, and is the darkest and most full-bodied; the Nagoya-style mame is slightly bitter; and the Kyoto-style shiro is the lightest miso variety of the trio, and was described as having a fruity flavor. All ramen comes topped with ground pork, green onions, sprouts, and menma (fermented bamboo shoots), but with each broth you can can choose from assorted vegetables, Cha-Shu pork, spicy and kimchi varieties ($9-$13 depending on the toppings).
There are also a few special varieties of ramen including the creamier, richer Tokyo miso pork tonkatsu ($9.50) and the Kyoto miso tan-tan sesame ramen (above – $9.90). One of the best part of the ramen is that you get to customize your bowl with extra toppings including tonkotsu fried pork, extra noodles, nori sheets a, miso egg, or even a pat of butter (all for small extra charges). We like to start out with a small assortment of appetizers including a tasty gyoza dumplings ($4.5) and chicken kaarage (fried chicken, $3.50 small, $7 large).
We have tried all of the different broths, and each one has been delicious, though we think our favorite may be the special sesame broth, which you can not get at many other ramen places. Ramen Misoya excels at everything from start to finish: the noodles are also delicious – toothsome and springy – a perfect complement to the broth. The portion size is pretty big, too, and one bowl of ramen usually lasts us two meals. As an added plus, you can also get one of our favorite Japanese desserts there – taiyaki – a fish shaped waffle-like treat filled with sweet red bean paste. If you are looking for great ramen at the place that kicked off the ramen craze in Chicago, definitely visit Ramen Misoya.
It’s almost May – which means Spring is finally here (hopefully)! May Day marks a traditional Spring Festival in Germany celebrated with merriment, food, and of course – the iconic maypole / maibaum. One of the most traditional offerings at any German May Day Festivity is Maibowle – or May Wine – made with white wine infused with Sweet Woodruff syrup. Personally, I had never heard of Sweet Woodruff – it is a sweet, pleasantly-scented wild flower native to Europe – and it is called Waldmeister in German. Food.com has a recipe to make your own Maibowle, if you can get your hands on some Sweet Woodruff. Sweet Woodruff can also be used in a variety of desserts as a flavoring, and you can even buy Waldmeister syrup online. The Oma Way has a tasty-sounding recipe for Sweet Woodruff cheesecake, and Spoonfuls of Germany has a recipe for Waldmeister ice cream, for those of us with a sweet tooth.
A German Maibaum by Awaya
Sometimes, we go to a place so often, we just start to assume we have written about it on ETW. This tends to happen with our most favorite restaurants, many of which do not end up getting a review until years after we first go there (thinking of you Greenbush Bar). In that vein, we are finally getting around to reviewing our favorite taqueria in Pilsen. We have eaten our way around Pilsen, and our favorite go-to place is still Taqueria El Mezquite (1756 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608).
El Mezquite is a classic mom and pop place, with simple red booths and an expansive menu of Mexican favorites. Our classic order at El Mezquite is tacos. The tacos are a reasonable $2.25 and come on delicious corn tortillas with the classic onion and cilantro. The taco menu is huge and you can get chorizo, carne asada, chicken and all the typical varieties. But what also sets Mezquite apart is that you can get harder-to-find fillings like nopal (cactus), tripe, and specific types and cuts of beef like lomo encebolloado (ribeye with onions), suadero (flank steak) and cecina (dried beef). They also excel at our favorite taco variety: pork al pastor. Even though they don’t have a trompo for Al Pastor, these are some of Matt’s favorites – the flavor is good, with a nice char.
Though the tacos are our starting point, we have also eaten through a bit more of El Mezquite’s menu, and have liked everything we’ve tried so far. Other favorites include the huaraches $7.95 (thick corn tortillas with a variety of toppings – we like the squash blossoms), and the chicken mole enchiladas ($7.25). On the weekends they also have the traditional stews like menudo (beef stomach stew) and pozole (pork and hominy stew) – which you can get by the plate or even by the gallon. We also recently tried their hearty migas soup, a pork bone soup with bread and epazote native to the Tepito neighborhood of Mexico City, something we have not seen on any other Chicago menus.
However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg – you can also get freshly squeezed juices (like the vampiro, with oranges, beet and carrot), milkshakes, great horchata and tepache. If you have your own favorites we haven’t mentioned, it is definitely worth checking out Mezquite’s full menu of burritos, tortas, and dinner specials. Everything we have ever tried at El Mezquite has been good, and the prices are so reasonable. If you are in the hood and looking for a good place for tacos (and some Mexico City specialties) definitely make your way to El Mezquite.
April 25th is Anzac Day, one of the biggest holidays in Australia and New Zealand – and are best celebrated with Anzac biscuits. Anzac biscuits (what we would call a cookie in the US) are oatmeal cookies with dried coconut, with the special secret ingredient of golden syrup – popular in British commonwealth countries. So what is Anzac Day? Anzac Day is basically the equivalent of US Memorial Day, and honors Australian and New Zealander service people. It is held on the anniversary of Australia and New Zealand’s Entry into World War 1 at the Battle of Gallipoli. Popular mythology is that these biscuits got their name because they were sent overseas to the soldiers (since they contained no perishable ingredients), however the name itself is only recorded as going back to the 1920s. BBC Good food has a classic recipe, though Anzac cookies vary in texture from crispy to chewy (recipe seen below) to soft. Anzac biscuits are now such a beloved classic, that they have inspired other desserts with a similar flavor profiles, like cookie bars and ice cream sandwiches.
One of our favorite things in Cleveland is the surprising proliferation of quality Southeast Asian food. We have tried over a dozen Thai places in the area, but we keep coming back to Cleveland stalwart Banana Blossom (2800 Clinton Ave, Cleveland, OH) – it is our favorite, consistently solid spot for Thai classics in the city. Banana Blossom has been holding down an unassuming corner in the Ohio City neighborhood for a while, before it was the artsy, bustling neighborhood it is today. Banana Blossom is bigger on the inside than you might think, with a peaceful ambiance.
You can get all of your favorite Thai dishes at Banana Blossom, but we feel they are all executed better than you would normally find. The menu has a wide selection of salads, soups, noodle dishes and curries. There are some more unusual dishes like Prik Khing Salmon (Deep-Fried Salmon with String Beans and Our Homemade Prik Khing Sauce – $15.95) and roasted tamarind duck ($18.95). Despite the broad offerings, when we go to Banana Blossom we usually stick with our classics: Pad See Eiw (stir-fried wide rice noodles with chicken and shrimp, eggs, carrots and broccoli – $11.50), and Penang Curry (a medium-spicy curry with chiles, coriander, kaffir lime peel, galangal, bell pepper, string beans, baby corn, eggplant and basil leaves – $12.95). Sometimes we will also start out with a refreshing papaya Salad (with string beans, tomato and peanuts – $8.95), which is also pretty spicy!
The service is quick and efficient, and you are never left waiting too long, even when it is busy. M also likes that he can get a legitimately spicy Penang curry (you can specify a heat level of 1-5). The portions at Banana Blossom are generous, and there are a wide variety of proteins: Chicken, Duck, Beef, Pork, Shrimp, Salmon, Tofu or Vegetable. Banana Blossom even has a full bar, though we usually just stick to the Thai iced teas ($3)! We have never been disappointed at Banana Blossom, and if you are looking for some comforting, classic Thai food in Cleveland, definitely visit!
Today is Easter Monday, celebrated in Cleveland as Dyngus Day! We haven’t had much time to post recently, so even though we are a little late to the party, we figure there’s still a little time to share some Easter bread, this time with a local influence. In Cleveland there has historically been a large Czech population, especially in the appropriately-named Slavic Village neighborhood, which also hosted a large Polish population. One of the most traditional Czech Easter foods is Mazanec – an leavened sweet bread with dried fruit and raisins, served primarily at Easter. Mazanec is considered a cousin of the English hot cross bun, and sometimes also has a cross shape on top. You can try making Mazanec for your spring celebrations with a recipe from Honest Cooking.
We are always looking for unique dishes for holidays – and for Passover we decided to go beyond the typical charoset and matzoh concoctions (not that there’s anything wrong with those, and this recipe does also include matzoh). This sunny citrus, almond and walnut cake comes to Istanbul via the Sephardic Jewish communities of Spain. Sounds pretty good, right? You may also notice that “Gato” seems similar to the French word for cake, and is indeed the Ladino spelling for the French “gateau.”
I found a few scattered references to this online, but they all seemed to trace back to a recipe from The Book of Jewish Food (1996) by Claudia Roden, featuring recipes from around the world that put a focus on diverse Jewish populations and history. Hannah’s Nook has a recipe, and the following excerpt from Claudia Roden herself:
“One of the gastronomic successes of Sephardi culture is the very wide range of Passover cakes made with almonds or nuts instead of flour, which are characteristic of the communities. Some, like the orange cakes, have a dististinctly Iberian character. This is the Passover cake of Istanbul. Moist and aromatic, with a delicate orange flavour, it can well be served for dessert.”
It seems like every day, a new restaurant is opening in Cleveland, news we are always glad to hear. Recently, Cleveland added a second Ethiopian restaurant to its burgeoning dining scene, Zoma (2240 Lee Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118), a place we have been dying to try for months. Zoma was opened in late 2016 by Ethiopian expats Zeleke Belete and his wife, Betty Kassa. Zoma is small, and fills up pretty quickly, so it is best to call ahead and get a reservation. We were lucky enough to barely squeeze in on Friday evening, sitting around a small traditional table, or mesob. The menu at Zoma is compact, but hits all of the Ethiopian classics, with nine meat dishes ($13.99-17.99) and six vegetarian dishes ($ 11.99-12.99). We were happy to see some of our favorite dishes were there, including spicy chicken stew (Doro Wot – $15.99), with berbere spices and onions; mild beef stew (Alicha Wot – $14.75) with garlic, ginger and turmeric.
The best way to try a little bit of everything at Zoma is to get a sampler. You can get a veggie sampler with either 4 or 5 items ($14.99 or 15.99) or a combination platter ($18.75) with spicy beef stew, mild beef stew and two vegetarian menu items. Since we were 3 people, we upped the ante and got the Zoma Special combo ($32.99), a combination of beef tibs, spicy beef stew, mild beef stew, spicy chicken stew, homemade cottage cheese and 5 vegetarian menu items. Our vegetarian selections were the split red lentils with berbere, split yellow peas with onions, chickpeas, green peas and carrots with tomatoes, and cabbage and potatoes with garlic and ginger curry. We started off our dinner with vegetarian sambusas ($3.5), the East African version of samosas, filled with chickpeas and accompanied by a super-spicy plum hot sauce.
In France, April 1st is known as “Poisson D’Avril” which translates to “April Fish.” Much like April Fool’s Day, pranks are rampant, and on Poisson D’Avril the goal is to tape a paper fish to the back of an unsuspecting person. It also means that there is a proliferation of all things fish. Chocolate fish are one particularly popular option, and can be found in stores throughout France. Making your own chocolate fish at home is super easy – AllRecipes has a detailed guide. Aside from the chocolate, all you need is a fish-shaped candy mold (there are tons of options). The Spruce has a recipe for molded chocolates filled with chocolate ganache for even more fun.
Chocolate Fish by Caliparisien
Previously, we highlighted a burgeoning Syrian restaurant in Tennessee, and today we are pleased to share another Syrian food success story. Today, Fooditor [via 90 Days, 90 Voices project] did a feature about Honeydoe catering, a business started by Syrian immigrants to Chicago in 2015. Honeydoe is run by a mother-daughter team, Rana and Siham Jebran, and focuses on recipes from Damascus and Aleppo. Honeydoe makes both sweet and savory dishes, and we think everything – including their Maamoul cookies – looks phenomenal!
The iconic, long-running Veselka (144 Second Avenue, NYC) has been on our list of “to visit” places in NYC since we started going there regularly in 2006, but somehow we never made it there until our last trip over the Winter. It is kind of hard to pin Veselka (which means “rainbow” in Ukrainian) down. On the face of it, Veselka is a 24-hour Ukrainian diner – but with slightly higher prices and a huge line of club kids waiting to get in every night after hours (or at pretty much any time). Still, on the menu you can get Americanized brunches and the waiters rush you through with an efficiency that will make your head spin – bringing it back to a diner feel. In any case, Veselka has been serving up comfort food in the East Village since 1954, so we figured they must be doing something right to still attract crowds after all these years.
There are no reservations – so we had to wait about a half an hour for our table of five. Fortunately it was an unseasonably warm day so we didn’t mind just people watching outside (a prime area for that activity). The menu at Veselka is extensive, and there are two basic genres of food available: American diner food and Ukrainian specialties. At our table we went with a little of each. On the Ukrainian side, the favorites were clearly the pierogies – or varenyky in Ukrainian – you can get them boiled or fried, with a myriad of fillings like cheese, sweet potato, mushroom, meat, and even the more esoteric goat cheese and spinach – all served with applesauce, onions and sour cream on the side. They also make a hearty borscht beet soup (either vegetarian or meat-filled- Pint $4.95 and Quart $8.95), and a classic Ukrainian “Hunter’s Stew” dish called Bigos with Kielbasa, roast pork and onions ($17.25). For even more Ukrainian flavor, you can also get kasha (buckwheat groats) and potato pancakes as side ($4 each). On the American side of the menu, you can get breakfast all day including waffles, omelettes, and pancakes with all of the trimmings. Burgers and other sandwiches like the Reuben and egg salad round out the offerings.
M got a Veselka signature sandwich: the Baczynski ($15)which was piled high with Polish ham, Ukrainian salami, Polish podlaski cheese, pickled vegetable relish on pumpernickel. M really enjoyed the sandwich – but it was too big to eat in one sitting – even for him. I ordered a platter of 7 varenyky ($11), which was also a popular order at our table – and with good reason. The varenyky were the stars of the show, and the mushroom and goat cheese and arugula varieties were deemed to be the favorites. Opinion was split on if fried or boiled varenyky are superior, though I think my personal preference is for fried. To finish off the meal, Veselka has a range of diner favorites – you can order one of their ‘individual’ pies – which are really quite big! We got a New York staple – the black and white cookie – and a miniature banana cream pie ($7.50). Veselka serves up good, hearty comfort food with an Eastern-European flair – and we can’t think of a better place to get dumplings at 2 AM.
For today’s Pastry Post-Doc we are going Irish for St. Patrick’s Day. Even though St. Patrick’s Day is more popular in the US than in Ireland, Irish recipes are a must. We try to feature a different Irish recipe here every year – nothing artificially green allowed! For a sweet treat a little more authentically Irish than a Shamrock Shake – try making a Donegal oatmeal cream. This simple Irish dessert is similar to a trifle, and is composed of fresh fruit, jam, cream and whole Irish oat grains, aka steel-cut oats in the US. European Recipes has the full scoop on how to make Donegal oatmeal cream (seen below).