Passover is almost here, which means it is time for all manner of unleavened treats – most importantly among them – Matzo. Matzo (also spelled Matzah or Matzoh) is a thin unleavened cracker, that can be used as a vehicle for almost any topping, savory of sweet. One of the more homey and filling dishes involving matzo is matzo brei, which is a fry-up of matzo with eggs, in some ways similar to a Spanish frittata. Tasting Table has two recipes for matzo brei: one savory, with peas and arugula and one sweet with cinnamon.
To finish up tea week, we are going back to the source: London! When reading up on tea history for our trip, we finally learned the difference between a high tea and an afternoon tea. High tea is a heartier meal and is actually considered less sophisticated than the lighter afternoon tea, which has small finger sandwiches and pastries. After much deliberation, we selected the setting for our official London teatime: the Park Terrace Restaurant at the Royal Garden Hotel (2 – 24 Kensington High St, London W8 4PT). This modern but elegant restaurant featured a view of Kensington Palace grounds, which sealed the deal.
Front and center at this tea time was the tea, which we really appreciated. To help us make up our mind, the tea butler (who knew there were such roles?) presented us with a tea tray with little glass jars of each of the dozen or so teas from Emeyu. We selected the Pu-erh Chai Tea, and the enigmatically-named Leaping Tiger tea – white tea with mango and cornflowers. Other selections included a blooming jasmine and amaranth tea, red fruit infusion, and Lapsang Souchong as well as Japanese and Chinese ceremonial teas. Moreover, we were impressed that the selections even came with brewing temperature instructions. After we ordered our tea, our little tea sandwiches came out in quick order: tuna, chicken, tomato salsa, cheese, and egg salad. These were classic tea sandwiches, simply prepared on crustless bread. Not terribly innovative, but perfect for an authentic London tea experience.
Then came the high multi-tiered dessert tray, the perfect emblem of a classic tea time. Naturally, there were scones – two cinnamon and two raisin – which were delectable, as was the Devonshire cream we slathered on them. Why can’t we make scones like this at home? In addition to the scones, there were a staggering amount of desserts. First, unexpectedly were four slices of pound cake: chocolate, lemon, banana and cranberry nut. Basically, we used these as additional vehicles for the Devonshire cream, though they were tasty in their own right. Crowning the dessert tray were elegantly-presented petit fours: raspberry layer cake, a tiny dark chocolate tart with a white chocolate straw, lemon cream cake, and a coconut canele. Everything was delectable and perfectly formed, especially the photogenic multi-layered raspberry cake and the chocolate tart.
We relaxed in the elegant setting, taking in a view of Kensington Gardens. And were we ever full – we were totally floored by the amount of food. The restaurant actually even gained a piano player at the end of the tea, which added to the ambiance. We were very pleased by our tea at the Park Terrace, it was a classic experience without being overly formal or stuffy. At £26.00 per person, you can have the classic tea experience without succumbing to exorbitant London prices.
The Langham hotel in Chicago has quite a few things going for it, not only is it located in an iconic Mies van der Rohe skyscraper, it has also been named the top hotel in the US by TripAdvisor. When we were researching the top afternoon teas in Chicago, one name that came up repeatedly was the Langham. We figured the British pedigree of the Langham name wouldn’t hurt either for an excellent afternoon tea experience. The setting for tea in the Langham’s Pavilion (330 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL) was absolutely gorgeous, and was a stunning mix of classic and contemporary design in black and white. And if you looked up, there is even a constellation of shiny metallic sculptures floating overhead, giving an ethereal effect.
A pianist on a white grand piano added to the ambiance, and kudos to him for playing instrumental covers of Sam Smith and Adele. We were seated at a table for four, with comfy white leather chairs and sofas, and a little vase of violets. The view over the Chicago river, wasn’t bad either. Our enthusiastic server introduced us to the tea selection, and we were pleased to learn that we each got two teapots, to be brought out subsequently. There were a wide variety of teas for all palates: vanilla rooibos, “English Flower” rose and chamomile infusion, Moroccan mint, Black tea with Peach and Marigold flowers, Sencha and Darjeeling. There was also a special reserve tea on the menu (which changes every few months) – the Wedgwood blend – which was a blend of Indian and Kenyan black teas. It was described by our server as being closer to coffee in flavor, with a malty taste (intrigued, at least one of us had to get it).
After our tea orders had been taken, our four little savory items were brought out on a separate plate. The selections of the day were: “Coronation” chicken salad on a mini brioche roll, Cucumber, watercress and piquillo pepper sandwich, Smoked salmon rillette, and truffled egg salad. All of these dishes were a cut above, and we liked that each had a unique spin on the typical crustless tea sandwich. A standout was the egg salad, which was served in an eggshell! Everything was delicious and well presented, and had us ready for “dessert.” Each person received an individual pot of tea, with an adorable accompaniment of mini pots of honey. In keeping with the attention to detail, the tea serving was made custom for the Langham itself.
Next, came the tiered serving tray – also in signature Langham china – with four tiny, elegant pastries and two scones apiece. The two scones, raisin Earl Grey and plain, which were hot out of the oven, and each came with little pots of Devonshire cream and homemade blueberry jam. The scones were light and flaky, and were an absolute dream, especially with the clotted cream, which we devoured. The four little pastries were also adorable: “Queen’s Perfection” chocolate cinnamon cake, raspberry Charlotte Russe, a shortbread citrus cookie, and almond and coconut “Manchester” tart with cherry. The multi-layered chocolate cake and Charlotte Russe were particularly stunning and delicious. The thing with teatime, it always looks like there are measly little portions of delicate food, but by the time you get to the end, you are completely stuffed. The scones put us over the edge hunger-wise, so we were unable to finish all of the petit fours, but the few we had left were just as good that evening. Fortunately, you can get your extra treats boxed up to go.
And lest we forget, the tea itself was delicious, the Wedgwood blend was a favorite, as was the sweeter vanilla rooibos. We also appreciated that the server brought out the unflavored black teas with our savory dishes, and more flowery or flavored teas with the dessert. The bright-pink, rose tea (pictured above) was a perfect accompaniment to the sweets. Throughout the entire teatime, the attention to detail at the Langham was impeccable. We were celebrating a birthday, and because we mentioned the special event, we got an extra chocolate cupcake with a candle, and some chocolate bars for the birthday girl to take home. Though expensive ($50 apiece) we really felt that the afternoon tea at the Langham was a worthwhile, special experience. The service, food and atmosphere were all superb. If you are looking for a refined tea with all the trimmings, definitely visit the Langham.
We first encountered Tibetan butter tea at the now-closed Taste of Tibet in downtown Madison, WI. We consider ourselves adventurous eaters, so along with the stews and dumplings, we decided to try the national drink of Tibet – po cha or Tibetan butter tea. True to the name, this tea is strongly buttery – but what you may not expect is that it is also a bit salty and sour. We have had salty, creamy drinks before, like ayran in Turkey, but never one like this! It is simple enough to make, with strong black tea and a pat or two of butter (often Yak butter in Tibet), which is then mixed to give a frothy texture. This rich drink is a staple of the Tibetan breakfast, and seems pretty similar to the trend for “Bulletproof coffee” or coffee with butter. Maybe Tibetan butter tea is the original bulletproof drink?
It’s tea week at Eating the World! We have been to two afternoon teas in Chicago recently and have tea on the brain. With tea in mind – how does one brew a perfect cup? Seems like it may be a pretty subjective thing…. but turns out there are actually legal standards to a perfect cup. The British Standards Institution has recently released their new guidelines of how to make a proper cup of tea. As might be expected, these rules are not without controversy (milk goes in first or last?). What do you think? We think we will take our tea how we usually do (with honey!)
Today, Italian-Americans are partaking in a celebratory feast of St. Joseph. This weekend, elaborate, food-filled St. Joseph’s day tables went up all over Chicagoland (and Italian communities scattered around the world), and people are partaking in special holiday treats like zeppole, pasta di San Giuseppe and pasta con sarde. Some of Chicago’s more traditional Italian bakeries, like Alegretti’s in Norridge, turn out special treats for the influx of visitors on this holiday. Eater Chicago even has a map of 10 bakeries where you can get your St. Joseph’s Day treats (a handy list for any baked good need, really).
Tre Kroner (“Three Crowns” in Swedish), a local Scandinavian bistro, has been on our to-do list for quite a while, but it was just far away enough to keep eluding us. We finally found the perfect time to go, when we were looking for a place to catch up with a friend for brunch. Now we are usually pretty skeptical of brunch, but Tre Kroner seemed laid back enough to give a try. Tre Kroner (3258 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60625) is located in the quiet North Park neighborhood, and is adjacent to one of the cutest stores around – the Sweden Shop (3304 W Foster Ave) which sells all manner of Scandinavian design items, cards and food. We could spend hours just browsing around – you won’t be disappointed.
The first thing you will notice when you walk in to Tre Kroner is the cheerful gnome mural, and the strings of flags displayed on the walls, giving it a very homey atmosphere. Though they do breakfast, lunch and dinner, they seemed to be pretty popular for brunch, and we just barely squeezed in (no reservations accepted, so prepare for a wait). The menu at Tre Kroner is pretty varied, but there is a marked Scandinavian flavor throughout, and especially on the dinner portion which includes seafood staples like Gravlax and pickled herring. However, for brunch, we knew we absolutely had to order the Swedish pancakes – pannekaker – with lingonberry jam. Other options included omelettes with Scandinavian cheeses, pickled herring, and the more Americanized brunch items: French Toast and waffles. M, of course, went with his brunch staple, the French Toast. If you are feeling more like lunch, you can also pick among a variety of Swedish-tinged sandwiches and can even get a burger.
We heard they were known for their known for their coffee and their cinnamon rolls as well, so I ordered a cappuccino, which was delicious, with an impressive amount of foam (see below). The food came out promptly, and everything was delicious. The Swedish pancakes were light and fluffy, and the french toast was crisp and golden brown. Also of note, Tre Kroner has an assortment of esoteric sausages, rotating on a daily basis. The day we were there, there was a potato sausage, which was delightful and mild, and a bacon sausage, which M thought was a revelation. What guy wouldn’t want a sausage made out of bacon? Our young server was very nice and helpful, and we appreciated his enthusiasm (as well as his Swedish idiom T-shirt). We thoroughly enjoyed brunch at Tre Kroner: the food was tasty, and the atmosphere was comfortable and relaxed. We are not big on brunch, but Tre Kroner may have just charmed us into changing our ways.
It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so it’s time for another Irish treat – the 99. But what in the world is a 99? A typical 99 is vanilla softserve served in a cone, and topped with a piece of Cadbury Flake chocolate. Each of these elements has to be present for it to be a true 99. 99s have been around since at least the 1930s, when a special, shorter version of the Flake bar was introduced as a “99 Flake.” But where does the name come from? No one is quite sure, but this short documentary on the 99 provides some theories.
Irish soda bread is one of the most iconic St. Patrick’s Day recipes, and it is super simple to make. In fact, this historic recipe requires little more that buttermilk, baking soda, and flour. However, for a little twist you can also make Spotted Dog – a richer, sweeter riff on Irish soda bread that has raisins or other dried fruits in the batter. Here is a Spotted Dog recipe on Serious Eats, from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking. Seems like a perfect accompaniment for some Irish breakfast tea, don’t you think?
We are always excited to visit Miami, because of all of the awesome Latin food there, and because we get to see our friend K & M, who are both awesome people and food pros! One of M’s friends recommended Patio D La Morocha (2175 SW 1st St. Miami, FL 33135) for dinner – it is owned by a friend – and it was truly an awesome local spot. The restaurant is Uruguayan – a new restaurant country for us – our only experience with Uruguayan food was previously on a beach in Rio de Janeiro. Like many of its neighbors, the food of Uruguay is meat heavy, and a lot of the food culture revolves around the almighty grill.
This is a little out of the way place, but the main feature is in fact the roaring, wood-burning grill. It may be better to call it a “fire,” since it is basically just an open blaze stacked with cherry wood and meat. We are talking, smoke, fire the works! The meat is just seasoned with salt, and you pick and choose what types of meat you want, all of which are served to you in a giant chafing dish, and you eat on wooden planks. Kind of a primal experience.
As a group of 5, we chose the mixed parrillada of tripe, skirt steak, Short ribs, stuffed chicken, roast chicken, morcilla blood sausage. Seem like enough for the group? There was definitely something for every taste and appetite, and it was great to get the meat hot off the grill. M’s favorite part was probably watching the grill itself and the artful grillmaster. Even with just the simplest of seasonings, all of the meat was delicious, charred and super flavorful. Along with the meat, we got a number of side dishes, some of which were cooked on the grill, too, including roasted cheese with chimmichurri. In terms of cold sides, we got the “Russian” salad (basically potato salad with carrots and peas) and a green salad.
The atmosphere inside was festive, and there was even a Nicaraguan singer who arrived halfway through to belt out boleros. Judging by the amount of balloons and families, we could tell that this was a very popular for parties. The nondescript interior definitely does not give a hint into what lies inside La Morocha’s! It was a fun experience, with an absolutely insane amount of food for a low price.
Mexico Cooks! has an extremely interesting post about special Lenten foods in Mexico. For those observing Lent (La Cuaresma in Spanish), the 40 days leading up to Easter, meat is typically not eaten on Fridays. It is cool to see these more unique veggie and fish-based dishes popular for Lent in Mexico – certainly an alternative to the Friday fish fry. I think we would especially like to try the Capirotada – bread pudding – and Mexico Cooks provides a pretty enticing recipe.
One bit of Chicago lore is that on the intersection of Ashland and Division nearly every storefront in sight is a La Pasadita taqueria. It’s true, there used to be 3 Pasaditas within a 1 block radius, but a little while ago, one of them closed, and reopened later as Authentaco (1141 N Ashland Ave). Upon entering you can rest assured that it is not just a reincarnation of La Pasadita. The whole restaurant is about the size of a postage stamp (“restaurant” is a very loose term), it is a basically just a stand up counter, a massive flat top, and a cash register. There are no seats, and no credit cards. However, this is a taqueria with a difference, the motto of the restaurant is “farm-to-taco” so the emphasis is on fresh ingredients and flavors.
So how it works, is you choose the meat, and then how you would like it served – as a taco, torta, quesadilla or plate. As for meat, there are basic options like carne asada, chorizo and pork al pastor, but also more unique options sweet potato al pastor. Aside from sweet potatoes, there are ample veggie options, including squash blossoms and nopal (cactus), which is nice for the veggie crowd. We also appreciated the appearance of the huitlacoche, our favorite corn fungus, which we got in quesadilla form. For tacos, we picked the pork al pastor (our go-to to test out a new taqueria). While we waited for our tacos, we sipped on a tasty horchata.The huitlacoche quesadilla was excellent, with delicious melty cheese, and was stuffed to the brim with huitlacoche. The al pastor was good, but there was too much soupy sauce, and the meat wasn’t really charred like al pastor is supposed to be. The tacos were over $3 each, but the size is a little bigger than at the typical taco joint, and we probably only needed 2 apiece, rather than 3. However, the real stars were the tortillas. The tortillas are made to order and pressed and griddled right before your eyes. They are exemplary, and completely made the meal. Definitely go to Authentaco for the huitlacoche and stay for the tortillas – and bring your vegetarian friends.
The bolo de bolacha, which means “cookie cake,” is a Portuguese version of the classic icebox cake. This iconic cake uses “Maria” cookies, versions of which are available in pretty much any Latin grocery store, and typically is made with condensed milk and coffee. We tried this mini bolo de bolacha at the Ribeira Market in Lisbon, and we were instantly sold on the comforting dessert with a coffee kick. Unlike many Portuguese desserts, this one is simple enough to make at home. Here is a super-simple butter-free recipe from Dreaming Drawing, and a version with eggs from Portuguese Diner.
Where can you find a hipster coffee house alongside a shop selling African waxprint cloth and stalls selling Caribbean produce and Jamaican flag cellphone covers? Brixton Market! Brixton Market in South London is one of the more unique market conglomerations we have ever come across, and we loved every minute of it. Upon exiting the Brixton tube stop you are almost immediately plunged into a bustling market atmosphere, seven days a week. There are actually two parts to the market, the open air stalls lining the streets and the covered market arcade areas. One of these covered areas, “Brixton Village,” has more permanent little shops and restaurants with seating that overflows outside. There is a heavy Caribbean influence in Brixton, but you will find global gems from all over the world alongside Jamaican and Trinidadian food and produce, including Portuguese and Indian grocery stores. Though the market is open daily, there are special theme days, and even a flea market. Here’s a little photo tour of what it is like to walk through Brixton Market on a sunny but brisk Friday afternoon.
When we first read Fabrico Proprio, we were particularly intrigued by the saboia cake. It almost looked cartoonish, what with the striking brown polka dots on white background. The saboia is made of the trimmings of other chocolate cakes cut into a thin outer layer and jaunty polka dots, and filled in with whipped cream. Apparently, the saboia used to be popular in the 1940s, but is now sold in very few stores in Lisbon, in fact it may only be one, Central da Baixa (Rua Áurea 94, Lisbon). Like the saboia, this cafe is a holdover from an earlier time, somewhere between the present day and the elegant Manueline architecture. The saboia was super rich, and the chocolate cake parts had a fudgy consistency. This is definitely a special occasion cake. Even more intriguingly, I haven’t found a single recipe for this complicated cake online.
So we have something of a difficult relationship with Korean BBQ. In fact, we have had only had one good experience, all the way in Los Angeles. So, for a long time we never went out of our way to try Korean BBQ. However, when one of our friends suggested that we give Korean BBQ another try at Gogi (6240 N. California Ave, Chicago, IL) we relented, especially when we saw the stellar reviews.
Gogi itself is a bit of a modern update of the Korean BBQ. However, the basic premise is the same – you order some meat, and it is grilled on burners on the table for you while you eat. One problem many Korean BBQs struggle with is ventilation, Gogi had a large fume hood over the table, but it still got a little smoky in there. The menu has other single person dishes, as well as alcoholic beverages and the Korean BBQ to share. We started off with the seafood pancake, which was huge – and everyone clambered for a bite.
For meat we ordered the short ribs, spicy pork and short steak. Each was billed as about 1 lb of meat, so we figured that one meat dish per couple was sufficient, and we were just about right. At our table there was both a tiny charcoal grill and a circular flat electric grill. Our waitress disappeared halfway through the dinner, so we are actually not sure if we followed the correct protocol at all by taking the meat from the flat grill and putting it on the charcoal grill…. Well no one got food poisoning or burnt, so I think we did alright. We really liked the spicy pork, and the short ribs were also a big hit.
The other star of the BBQ show are the banchan, or the huge assortment of tiny dishes that come out. There were so many here that they almost entirely filled up the 6-person table. We recognized some of the dishes like mushrooms, potato salad, seaweed, kimchi and ddokbokki, but the most perplexing of which was a water chestnut gelee! The other fun part of the experience is that you can order rice (for an extra charge), and at the ends of the meal, they will dump it onto the grill with the meat remnants and some other veggies, making for an impromptu fried rice. Tasty!
For desert we reverted back to childhood and got the fried ice cream. All having grown up in the Chicago suburbs, our first thought was that it reminded us of Chi-Chi’s where the only thing worth noting on the menu was the fried ice cream. Does ANYONE remember Chi-Chi’s? The fried ice cream was green tea, and put a little spin on it. After our meal, we were all completely stuffed, and for not too bad of a price, either. We had a great time at Gogi and it was the perfect place to try with friends – a little something for everyone to share. It turned around our attitude towards Korean BBQ and now we are looking forward to trying our next spot.
We are huge fans of Brazilian pão de queijo, and we were excited to try its Colombian cousin the “pan de bono” or pandebono on a recent trip to Miami. No, not BUENO, bono. Hmmm. Like pão de queijo, the dough is made from tapioca flour, however, the addition of corn flour also gives it a more bready texture, and it is a bit sweeter than pão de queijo. Our first stop to try pan de bono was a Colombian bakery, Ricky (several location, we went to 252 Buena Vista Boulevard #108, Miami). We were hooked instantly on the slightly-sweet cheesy bread. There is nothing better than a cafe con leche and a pan de bono for breakfast in Miami, at least for me. I have not tried any pandebono offerings in Chicago yet, though I am intrigued by this recipe from Lucky Peach. Do you know of a good place for pandebono?
Sabor a Cafe (2435 W Peterson Ave. Chicago, IL, 60659) is deceptively small, but inside it is actually both a music venue and a restaurant with a great atmosphere. Our particular draw for the night was a show by the Brazilian singer and pandeiro player Clarice Maghalães, one of our favorite young Brazilian artists. The inside of the restaurant is divided into two parts, and at the back of one half is a small stage, as well as other creative flourishes like an indoor portico and Colombian murals. Sabor a Cafe also has a big meat-heavy menu to keep show-goers happy, but there are also vegetarian starters like arepas and empanadas ($2 or less apiece).
While perusing the menu we ordered a somewhat unusual drink – hot chocolate – but the interesting part was that it was served with a mild white cheese, which our server instructed us to crumble into the drink. We did and it was pretty good, not too “cheesy” at all, though we are not sure this would be a regular addition to our mugs of hot chocolate. For appetizers we ordered a requisite for M – the Ceviche de Camaron / shrimp ceviche ($11.99). This rendition came in a cup, like a shrimp cocktail but with a spicy citrus and tomato broth. Though not too similar to his favorite Peruvian ceviche, M was happy with his choice. In terms of mains, there were many traditional Colombian dishes, like Bandeja Paisa ($15.99) which is a mix of steak, sausage, beans and an egg. This is certainly a meat-heavy menu and if you are looking for steak (in many varieties) you won’t be disappointed.
We opted to share the Parrillada ($18.99) a large plate (board?) of grilled steak, grilled chicken breast and grilled shrimp with chorizo, baked potato, grilled onions, yuca and more plantains. However, if you are not in the mood for such a huge combo, there were a variety of smaller a la carte meat dishes and combos, including carne asada ($12.99) or chicken skewers ($6). We were impressed with our parrillada, all of the meat was grilled to perfection, and we also liked all of the starchy side dishes. Along with the ceviche, the parrillada was more than enough for the two of us.
Another good thing about the dinner and a show model as that you pace yourself a little more. After a short break in gluttony, we settled on a decent chocolate cake for dessert (which also had some sort of cherry flavor in it), but we were also tempted by the Brevas con Arequipe / figs with cheese ($3.99) and the Platano Maduro con Queso y Dulce de Guayaba / Plantain with cheese and guava ($3.99). Maybe next time! Sabor a Cafe pleasantly surprised us with a good show, and good food to match. We will definitely be back.