I am willing to stipulate that McDonalds barely qualifies as food anymore. And the abuse meted out there is less amusing than the sass at Weiner Circle. However, McDonalds will always have my number because they make the Shamrock Shake. They're only available for a few weeks in March here in the States, so the novelty alone keeps me coming back. If I lived in Ireland, where they're rumored to be available year round, I'd probably never want one of these vaguely mouthwash flavored shakes. Instead, they mean Spring to me, a birthday tradition that costs less than $3. I don't approve of the new parfait style presentation, but I'm not really a fan of whipped cream. And I haven't a prayer of getting that maraschino cherry out with my straw (which they forgot to give me, sigh). Fancy and McDonalds don't go together, but I'd rather suck down one of these than a Green River or green beer.
Here's a controversial admission: I go to Starbucks sometimes, like today, when I wanted a breakfast sandwich. (Usually I go to the Ing Direct Cafe where I can get Peets for $1, but their sandwiches blow and it's about the same price to get a sandwich and coffee at Sbux).
Here's what I don't get- the stupid ways people order their drinks when there's twenty people waiting in line at 8:55 am, and probably running late for work.
Extra hot hot chocolate!
130 degree soy latte!
And best of all, NO FOAM SKINNY LATTE WITH ONE PUMP OF GINGERBREAD SYRUP AND ONE PUMP OF VANILLA, but I should expect that from a woman wearing stiletto boots at 8:55 AM, which is an unfortunately common sort of fashion choice in the hateful yuppy neighborhood I work in.
But seriously, what kind of unique and special snowflake does she think she is that she needs the barista to scrape the foam off her latte when 20 other people are waiting for drinks? Why does Starbucks enable these baby people to make these ridiculous requests? What ever happened to ordering off the menu?
Also, what the fuck is up with people ordering "wet" cappucino? Isn't a "wet" cappucino basically a latte?
And why do you need your drink to be a specific temperature, anyway? Since when is "hot" not good enough?
Milwaukee is pretty much an awesome day trip if you live in Chicago, because it's only 1.5 hrs away from Chicago, and it's a lot like Chicago while not being Chicago. That is to say, a fun Midwestern town with lots of hipster stuff and yummy food.
I somehow never managed to make it to Milwaukee in my 4 years of living in Chicago because on two separate occasions I've made plans to go with a boyfriend and wound up breaking up with the boyfriend right before the trip. Fortunately my friends Chris and Suzy (a couple) managed to not break up with each other or friend dump me prior to this trip, so perhaps Milwaukee is not cursed after all.
We decided to skip the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha since we'd all already been there before. (To the uninitiated: it's a store that sells a lot of cheese that looks sort of like a 70's rec room concept of a Castle on the outside). We arrived in MWKE around 10:30am to discover that Google had given us seriously WRONG directions to the Art Museum. Fortunately, Suzy has an Iphone. I had been warned by several people of the ridonculousness of the MWKE Art Museum, and they weren't kidding. It looks like it might either fly/sail away, exacerbated by it's placement on Lake Michigan: We saw the Warhol exhibit, some German pimp goblets, still life with octopi, and a clock that featured a figurine of Jesus being flogged. Awesome.
By noon we were super hungry to we headed towards Cafe Lulu, a place that notorious Milwaukeean Mike Brenner had reccomended. I had an amazing burger called "The Half Pound Heart Attack." It was smothered in bacon and gorgonzola and was probably the best damn burger I've eaten in recent memory that was not from Kuma's. The sides of homemade potato chips and asian slaw didn't hurt either. The three of us split a piece of cherry pie and then it was onward.
The Bay View district is clearly hipster central, so we stopped at a couple vintage and antique stores over the course of our day.
The Fox River Antiques Mall was pretty goddam insane: three floors of...stuff. I liked the "french telephone" that was basically a baroque end table that doubled as a really big telephone. I would totally buy it if I were a hooker. And also these accordians, "Marv" and "Judith":
We attempted to tour the Lakefront Brewery and/or the Pabst Mansion but by 3pm it was too late/the tours were sold out. I did get a shot of the brewery tanks though (and the whimsically colored mash tuns):
We considered having beers in the tasting room but it was a virtual mobscene and smelled unpleasantly of arm pit. So we opted to go to the grocery store at stock up on beer instead!
Allow me to take a moment to comment on how FRIGGIN CHEAP Milwaukee is. Both of our meals cost us under $30 (not counting tip) for 3 people. Sales tax is 5%, half of Chicago's brutal 11% (plus additional taxes on booze), so we decided to stock up on yummy local beers that are not readily available in Chicago. I went for a 6 pack of the Lakefront Pumpkin Lager (haven't tried it yet), a 12 pack of the New Glarus Spotted Cow, which tastes a lot like Blanche De Bruxelles, which is to say a Weiss beer without the funky clove and citrus notes, a bottle of New Glarus Belgian Red Cherry Ale, and 16 oz bottles of Sprecher Hefeweizen, Octoberfest and Winter Ale. Since I am aggressively drinking less these days, these are staying OUT of my fridge and being saved for special occasions like thanksgiving and parties. I think all this friggin' beer ran me about $35 total. Yowza.
The liquor store also had this super unappetizing concoction for sale:
I choose celibacy.
We stopped for Mexican Lattes and Cider at Stone Creek Coffee (which Chris re-dubbed "Stone Cock Coffee") to formulate dinner plans. We asked the barista for dinner suggestions and he offered up the Palomino and it's tofu buffalo wings, but since the three of us are meatatarians, we opted for Honey Pie, which had received an angry review from a vegan on yelp, which we figured was a good sign. Their logo is a pig wearing a napkin around its neck if that's any indication.
I ordered the celery root slaw (yum) and Chris and I shared an entree of beer cheese soup, beer braised brussel sprouts, apricot glazed pork chop and horseradish mashed potatoes and Suzy had a sausage sandwich. I give it a B= the food was tasty, but not as superlative as the burgers at Cafe Lulu.
After dinner, I tried to talk Chris and Suzy into posing over a church railing titanic-style as some sort of post modern statement on religion, but my inner Tyra was denied. Also, we walked past a really amazing Chinese Restaurant/Polka Lounge called the "Eternal Well" en route to our final destination- a bar called "At Random."
I have an otherwise thankless ex to thank for tipping me off to this place, because it's frigging awesome. It's the kind of place that Don Draper might go to meet a mistress if Mad Men was set in Wisconsin. Dim, smoky, lots of twinkly lights, intimate green vinyl booths, Sinatra on the stereo, an entire menu of ice cream drinks, and it looks like the bartenders have been working there since the fifties. A truly amazing and authentic slice of classic Midwest culture.
(I yanked this photo from Yelp).
I had a chambord/vodka/chocolate ice cream sort of concoction, Suzy had a Singapore Sling, and Chris had a Grasshopper. It was too dark to get any great shots (that's the point, I guess), but here's the top of my drink with a little cookie that says "yes" on it. Chris's cookie said "maybe." I am still trying to figure out what that cookie was implying by "yes."
I think the YES is to Milwaukee being awesome! Let's go back anytime!
It's been a while since I've done a proper update because shit has been crazy, but I think it's time to SHARE!
1. I have drastically cut back my alcohol consumption for personal reasons lately, but I am still willing to make an exception for certain things, such as Ben Schiller's cocktails (And he just won Wednesday's "Sweet Sixteen of Mixology" battle so kudos!). I was a huge fan of Ben's work at In Fine Spirits in Andersonville, and now he's migrated to Boka. I went there for a Plymouth Gin pairing dinner back in April and had some ridiculously chocolately/savory dessert that I still can't stop thinking about. Anyway, I requested something gin with a low alcohol content, and Ben whisked up this lovely little confection with Gin, grapefruit juice, an egg white and a bunch of other stuff, but the little hearts are too friggin cute for words. Next time I will order dessert too!
2. I am semi indifferent to the cult of Rick Bayless because of the time he served me some tough and pedestrian beef chili thing at Chicago Gourmet two years ago. And the wack, fishy tasting swordfish I had at a Tequila Pairing Dinner at Frontera a while back. I was willing to try Xoco though since it's supposed to be more casual, hence less of a $$ risk, and less wait time. It's reasonably close to work and I was having a craptastic day and decided it was necessary to placate myself with carbohydrates. I got it to go, and my wait time was about 15 mins, which not that bad considering how hot the hype is, and the fact that I spent 2 hours waiting at Hot Doug's last weekend (more on that later). And while Xoco is supposedly cheaper and more casual, a "Cubana" sandwich and an order of churros set me back almost $17. Ouch, considering that the sandwiches at Cafecito are also friggin amazing (try the Guava-Q sometime) and cost half as much. My verdict? The sandwich was indeed super tasty, with it's melted together press of "Smoked Maple Creek pork loin and bacon, black beans, avocado, artisan Jack cheese, chipotle mustard," and the accompanying salsa was also fantastic. It was big enough for 2 meals if I wasn't pmsing. The churros, on the other hand.....GREASY. Yes, I realize they're fried food, but I feel like I was eating a sugar coated grease-dipped sponge. Ah well, I satisfied my curiosity. Definitely would come back for another sandwich or to try the AM coffees and hot chocolates.
3. You already know why Hot Doug's makes me angry, but I haven't been in a few years (because they're always closed or there's a line around the block) but I recently had business in that part of town and decided to suck it up and wait. Fortunately I had a 4" thick smutty novel to keep me entertained (besides eavesdropping on the yuppies behind me) because I stood in line for TWO HOURS. TWO HOURS. No hot dog is 2 hours worth of delicious. I mean, at Kumas you might wait 2 hours for a burger, but at least you're usually seated after the first hour and you can get drunk while you wait.
That said, Hot Doug's is awesome, the food is awesome, they were playing Gary Numan when I finally made it through the door, but the wait is just fucking bogus. I actually debated ordering two sausages to justify the wait but in reality was not that hungry. I decided to try the controversial fois gras sausage that got Doug Sohn slapped with a city fine during the short lived Chicago fois gras ban. I also decided to give duck fat fries a second try since the first time I concluded that they didn't taste that different from the regular fries my vegetarian friend had ordered. And um, they still don't. Sorry. The fois gras sausage was delicious, but a bit of overkill- it really didn't need BOTH aioli and honking slabs of fois gras on top- it would have benefited from some acidic element to cut through all that fat. My gall bladder hated me all day. So, I enjoyed it, but I won't be waiting in line for 2 hours again any time soon.
Last week, Bianca and I went to Tre Kronor, a place I had driven past many times, but never visited. Swedish cuisine is the food of my childhood Christmases, so I have fairly high standards. Hell, I don't even like Italian meatballs because they taste wrong to me. Meatballs are my litmus test for Scandinavian dining. Tre Kronor is a small restaurant on the northwest side, full of charm and murals. Perhaps there is a law that all Scandinavian restaurants must have twee folk art painted on the wall. It didn't bother me at Tre Kronor, because the adorable actor/waiter who served us made a joke about seating us with the elves. He also recited a truly impressive list of artisan sodas, including several made with wine grapes that we suspected were expensive, but didn't ask. Bianca ordered a salmon dish that looked fantastic, even though I do not eat fish. I ordered the meatballs, which were on par with the ones my Grandmother used to make. Perfect, walnut sized meatballs, allowed to stand on their own instead of drowning in gravy, were served with airy mashed potatoes. The well-edited menu features food that actual Swedes would recognize, with a decent showing of seafood and other favorites. Unlike a certain Swedish chain here in town, Tre Kronor's excellent meatballs did not give me the screaming shits. I definitely recommend Tre Kronor. If you are looking for a little Scandinavian nostalgia, you could do a bit of Christmas shopping at the Swedish Store (clogs for everyone!), have some meatballs and sublime chocolate mousse, take a short cab ride to Andersonville, and end up drunk on glogg, making out with an actor at Simon's while Sufjan Stevens plays on the jukebox.