Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Starbucks breeds coffee narcissists

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?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Milwaukee is hella great!

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.

Here is Chris and Suzy admiring Vintageous:

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!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stuff I have eaten and drunk lately

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!

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.

4. I never made it to Schwa because my life went to shit that week and I wasn't feeling up to it, but the ladies at Chicago Bites did, and blogged about it.

5. The potato pancakes at Eleven City Diner are beyond awful, and I still don't know where to go for good Jewish Deli food in this city. (Manny's I guess?)

6. The Koldunai meat dumpling at Healthy Food Lithuania were pretty amazing, and that place is like stepping into a bizarro time warp.

7. I'm going to Milwaukee on Saturday and New Orleans in January and have every intention of stuffing my face with praline bacon and muffalettas and crawfish etoufee and whatnot.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I have reservations at Schwa tonight with some mysterious Chicago Food bloggers. I am excited. That is all!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Iron Cupcake Challenge!

I'm going to participate, should be fun. I just hope the challenges don't get too esoteric.

This is Chicago, not Communist Russia

In the 3+ years I've lived in Chicago, I've eaten at Hot Doug's ONCE. That's because it's always either CLOSED at the owner's whim, or the line looks like the photo above.

To the unacquainted, Hot Doug's is sort of a Chicago Legend- they serve traditional Chicago style hot dogs, but also fancy stuff like $8 elk sausage topped with port derby cheese or fois gras or whatever, and duck fat fries (which didn't impress me to be honest- they tasted like regular fries to me). The one time I ate there it was pretty good, but the bottom line, for me, is that it's a hot dog, not the second coming of Christ.

I am personally of the opinion that the Chicago food scene is not as great as it thinks it is (certainly not compared to the coasts or New Orleans), comfort food and ethnic hole in the walls tends to be the strong suit here. And so, Hot Doug's has perfected the hot dog, which is fantastic- and I realize that having weird hours and a line around the block keeps the hype hot and helps people feel like they're having an exclusive experience- it's good for business. And Kuma's (the best burgers in town) operates on a similar principal- you wait an hour for your table and another hour for your burger.

The thing than annoys me about this, though, is it's treating hamburgers and hot dogs like this elite privilege- and seriously...no. Just, no. Thank you, Hot Doug's and Kuma's for raising hot dogs and hamburgers to an art form, but would it kill you to have a slightly bigger dining room or a second location? There's a dearth of really good quality, cheap food in this city, so there's no need to contribute to the issue of accessibility.

Confession: I decided not to wait in this line, and got a chicken sandwich at Wendy's instead, which is maybe a once a year indulgence. I'm not proud of this, but on the other hand I didn't have to wait an hour for a hot dog, either.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Having a foodie moment

Todays lupper:

arugula tossed w/ lemon juice and olive oil, pepper, petit basque and parmesan cheeses

goat cheese, fig, pistachio and red onion in phyllo dough

roasted wild caught salmon

chocolate souffle w/ whipped cream (trying the trader joe's kind which comes in an actual ceramic ramekin

Tomorrows breakfast (if I can get up early!)

Italian sausage

Purple potatoes sauteed in duck fat (I have to use it up!) with red onions

more arugula (I got a big bag of it)


Seriously, living in Chicago most of the time I'd rather cook for myself if I have the time and money.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Can't buy me love

Now that I'm no longer writing doing promotional writing about boozing (to my credit, most of the places and things I wrote about I genuinely liked), I feel like I have a greater license to openly mock stuff in the booze industry that I find abhorrent. Wait, I used to do that anyway.

Back when I was working as a journalist I got on a bunch of PR lists, including the mostly annoying but occasionally useful Thrillist and Urban Daddy. (Technically I'm still a freelancer, I'm just busy working a day job and going to the gym and having sex and stuff instead of spending most of my time whoring out my writing for paltry sums that come monthsor even years late). As if the name Urban Daddy wasn't creepy enough on it's own (I've spent too much time in the kink scene, I guess), they brag about how the service is strictly editorial and how you can't buy Daddy's Love (tm), then they go on and send email blasts entitled "Sponsored Love" anyway. Sponsored Love means an advertiser is paying them to shill for their product, but it could easily be a euphemism for the Girlfriend Experience, IMHO.

I digress. UD sent me some Stolichnaya "Sponsored Love" today. I will pre-empt this with saying that I am a rare creature in the world of booze snobbery because I LOVE vodka. Not the way that Patsy from AbFab loves vodka, but my go-to "safe" drink is vodka with seltzer and lime (or a cherry if it's vanilla vodka), because it never makes me sick, and it's impossible to fuck up.

I am exceedingly fond of Stoli in particular because I drank it as a teenager (sweet memories!) and also because their blackberry vodka is quite possibly the best goddam thing on earth (though the vanilla ain't bad either). I like some of their pseudo soviet midcentury design:

However, there are some major flaws to their ad campaign....

1. The "Everybody is somebody's secret" catch phrase. You're trying to use infidelity as a selling point for your vodka? Really? It's like the Ashley Madison of liquor campaigns, and it leaves me feeling equally icky.

2. The impressively WACK cocktail recipes they sent out with the email blast. The recipes on the website are not quite as embarassingly bad, but the ones that UD sent were pure fail:

Stoli Double-O Seven
Ingredients: 1 part Stoli Ohranj, 1 part lemon-lime soda and a splash of orange juice
Directions: Shake and serve over ice.
Best enjoyed at: the after-hours speakeasy

Now, I am not hating on simple recipes. Bridget Albert's jalapeno simple syrup with Absolut Mango and fresh squeezed OJ? Fuck yes. But vodka and sprite is NOT a cocktail, not even if you add a splash of orange juice. If you need a recipe to make this, you are an idiot.

And, um...SPEAKEASY? Bitch please. More like Best enjoyed at: a high school party where someone had a fake ID, and nobody can't stand the taste of alcohol.

Wait, I think it was pepsi and vodka that we drank in highschool. (shudders)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mo' summer eats (and drinks)

I have not been blogging much lately because I have a 9-5 job and a gym membership now. Technically I could take advantage of downtime at work to blog, but I usually don't. But today I am!

I am trying to cut back on my booze consumption since 2008 was sort of a year long fiesta de drunko... Beer in particular. But I couldn't resist an invite to the Louis Glunz summer beer preview. I don't have the list of beers on hand, so I will work from memory.

If you buy one beer this summer, get the Samuel Smith's Organic Strawberry Ale. Holy shit, this is the most amazing beer I've had in ages. I know a lot of fruit beers suck, this one does not. It tastes like fresh, wild strawberries. Only boozier. So good.

Also good: Magic Hat Wacko, O'Fallon Wheach (peach beer), Blanche Du Bruxelles (seriously the best belgium beer ever and I am picky about belgians), and well, I will have to check my list to remember the rest I tried and liked.

I also had some amazing Jim Beam cocktails at a pig roast hosted by Lush Wine and Spirits- can't say much for the pig though, the serving was tiny and the fat was tough and undercooked. Bleah. Dying for Puerto Rican lechon now. Though I was deeply disappointed by the thing Sabor Latino called a jibarito at Taste of Chicago this year. Not to mention the thing Blue Bayou (which has awesome creole/cajun food) called a Muffaletta. There's got to be some tactic to having Taste not suck, but apparently hitting up the booths of your favorite restaurants is not it. On the upside, they had the creepy delicious fruit-punch-meets-cream soda blue Mountain Dew. Not that I'm a pop drinker, but it's good. JJ and I made up for the crappy food by getting ice cream at Margies. Drool. (shush, I'm going to the gym everyday!)

I've also ventured into Farmer's Market land again, since I have cash again. I was actually un-wowed and overwhelmed by a recent trip to the sprawling Green City Market but have developed an affinity to the tuesday market in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is close to where I work, and conveniently free on Tuesdays. Every cheese I've gotten from the cheese booth there has been to die for- I have some kind of apricot jam infused brie thing that I am very excited about right now. And it's big enough to have variety but not so big as to overwhelm. And I got a bouquet of flowers for $3! Win, win, win.

More recent food win: Japanese curry topped with fried green tomatoes. Panko fried green tomatoes are the greatest thing on earth. I'm also going to attempt paejon (korean green onion pancakes) with garlic chives. yummm....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Summer in Chicago

I have discovered I might have an intolerance for chicken, of all things. I barely ate chicken for about 2 months because Chef Ex-Boyfriend hates it, and I'm largely indifferent to it unless it's fried. Anyway I had a buffalo chicken sandwich at the Cobra lounge last weekend and proceeded to fart and burp all night. Sexy, right? I figured it was the buffalo-ness of it. But then I had a grilled chicken salad (that I made at home) last night and same deal. This would be lame if it's true because chicken is such a cheap source of protein and I no longer have a boyfriend who takes me out for steak all the time. *sigh*

I've been (mostly) white flour/white sugar free this past week and feeling good about it. I discovered the joy that is agave sweetened coconut milk ice cream (I ate a serving and left the rest with a friend whose birthday it was). I also enjoyed the hell out of a Chicago summer favorite following Satan's own Bikram Yoga: Corn in a cup (elotes) with mayo, fakebutter, cheese and hot sauce, as well as a big cup of sliced pineapple, papaya and watermelon from the lady with a cart by the Kimball brown line station. MMmmmm, Elotes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sad times for a foodie

My culinary adventuring has been somewhat on hiatus lately for two reasons:

1. Chef Boyfriend is now Chef Ex Boyfriend.

2. I'm giving up (most) white sugar and (all) white flour for the month of June to attempt to drop some of the 60 odd pounds I have gained since moving to Chicago. (The Midwest will make you a fat fuck if you're not careful, and I'm not careful). I've done this feat on various occasions and I will tell you that eliminating cookies from your diet will make you a bitch and give you headaches. (The 77% dark chocolate stays, dammit. But it's not enough).

On the other hand, it makes a plain yogurt and fruit parfait taste like a mutherfucking hot fudge sundae. And if I can fit into the pants I wore last year, it will be worth it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fuck, I want some!

Nutella, whiskey and candied bacon ice cream.

I want to hate the whole bacon trend, but bacon is really that good. Although I prefer it straight up, no chaser.

HT to Rachel KB.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Meat wrapped in dough!

Last weekend Christo made me what I dubbed a "greek burrito"- lamb, peas and carrots seasoned with cinnamon and wrapped in phyllo. He also breaded the leftovers and fried them the next day served with a port reduction, which I thought was overkill but one does not question Chef Boyfriend's culinary vision quest.

Oh yeah, he decided we needed a "starch" (since phyllo is not starch?) with our meal and made delicious sweet potato latkes which I drunkenly devoured leftovers of at 2am. Relatively healthy salad not pictured.

Today, my Polish friend Justyna and I went to Bosnian-owned Pizzeria Bravo at Lawrence and Spaulding on a quest for burek, a signature Bosnian dish (with muslim origins) that is essentially seasoned ground beef or cheese stuffed into a tube of flaky dough and coiled into a spiral. The owner Asim had already turned off the ovens for the day (his restaurant is mad old world like that), but was cool enough to give us a couple of frozen burek for free! We had a cocktail with the Asim and the patrons and talked about Balkan culture for the better part of the hour (Justyna traveled all over Bosnia, and I am a total nerd for Balkan music and history).

mmmm, burek.

Choice quotes from the evening:

"Kosovo is not part of Bosnia...It's a different space, like Star Trek."

"How do you explain what it's like to find pieces of children in a trash can?" (In reference to the war in the early '90s....yikes)

Anyway, we made out way back to my apartment eventually and baked our cheese and meat bureks...they were delicious!

Now enjoy some surreal Bosnian pop with your Burek:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My favorite new DIY cocktails

Reed's ginger beer+rum (with fresh lime and grated ginger).

Mango jarritos+rum

Rice milk+ rum (Yvonne dubbed this a "White Asian," but it tastes like Brandy Milk Punch)

hmmm, I think I like rum. I blame Val, Cat, and James.

I feel trashy for admitting this, but...

raspberry jam on a peanutbutter cookie is the bomb!


I've decided sub-par food photography is the hallmark of this blog.

That's rice pasta topped with shrimp, sliced marinated yellow peppers, a sauce made of tomato/pepper soup reduced with cream and plymouth gin, and topped with shredded greek cheese.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Drinky fun at IWSB '09

Booze trade show= board meeting with drunk people

I decided to check out day two of the annual International Wine Spirits and Beer Event at McCormick Place monday. This is a big boozy trade show that's part of the National Restaurant Association show, which in itself is kind of overwhelming and ridiculous.

I covered IWSB for the Reader Food Blog last year when I was a young and green booze journalist, so I was able to score a press pass this year as well. The event seemed somewhat less impressive and scaled back this year, I don't know if that's because I'm jaded and pickier, or because of the economy. I think there was only one beer company in attendance, which makes me sad. I was also sick-ish which meant I was lazy and went for the last hour of IWSB and skipped the somewhat overwhelming NRA show. There was a candy conference in the same building, and these creepy billboards were one of the highlights of my visit:

Is it just me, or is this billboard inexplicably gay?

Since when is getting "jacked up" a good thing?

Tradeshows are weird- the atmosphere is kind of tense because everyone is there to hustle- and I'm less about the business end of things and more interested in being a connoisseur (hence, I am a writer and not a sales person). It was great to see some of my favorite industry folks were there though- Sonya Kassebaum of North Shore Distillery (who make awesome vodka, gin, absinthe and aquavit) was kind enough to share her secret stash of mole with me- a clear spirit infused with chocolate, cinnamon and peppers- their infusions are to die for. I also saw a couple of my favorite bartenders- award winning ex drunk punk mixologist Charles Joly of the Drawing Room and Daniel De Oliveira, (who is a super awesome dude and dead ringer for Jonathan Rhys Meyers), the bartender who mixed drinks for the fantastic Plymouth Gin pairing dinner at Boka, who was helping out at the Domaine De Canton liqueur booth.

Other highlights- chocolate infused cognac served by a French dude who addressed me in French but ignored my feeble responses in same, apple pie liqueur, and Polish raspberry mead. I also tried Veev, which the salesman pitched as being made from "acai, the most nutritious fruit on the planet." when I asked if any of that nutrition made it to the bottle of vodka, he sheepishly admitted it didn't. Why must I be a hater? I just don't see the point of taking something like healthy like acai or quinoa and making it into vodka if it doesn't actually retain any nutritional properties in the bottle. I like that Veev totally sounds like something Oprah would call her vagina, though.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Stuff I've cooked recently

1. making peanut butter cookies using the "from a machine" peanut butter at whole foods and raw sugar results in a very different texture than expected, though it grew on me. I told Christo they turned out weird, then offered to bring him some and he said "you make a lousy salesperson...you should have said they have a unique and innovative texture." LOL.

2. Beer chicken! Pictured above w/ rice and collard greens. The recipe comes from a person I hate, via a person I love. It's easy to make- brown onions, green peppers and garlic with chicken seasoned with salt, pepper and cumin (or cumin adobo from Goya). Then pour on a can of diced tomatoes and a 2 cans of beer and let that fucker simmer for 30 minutes. It's great, and cheap! Yum.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Awesome stuff I've eaten in the past month or so...PART ONE

This is to kind of make up for the last post. I've had a lot of incredible meals in previous weeks and I wanted to catch up and discuss STUFF I'VE BEEN EATING. But this has to be a two-parter because I have a lot to catch up on.


Brasserie Jo
Chef boyfriend (CB) likes French food so we went here for dinner a while back.

Drinks: Both of the wines I had with my food were excellent, though I don't remember what they were called.

Food: Seriously the best bread and butter I've had in ages. Weird but true. The goat cheese and beets salad was good, had my first ever escargot, and CB's skate dish was excellent. My steak frites was terrible however- the steak was pounded thin and I had to request aioli w/ the frites which was disappointingly bland (I guess the whole garlic aioli thing is more of a Belgian thing). We shared a HUGE creme brulee that was a bit heavy headed for my tastes- I like a pale, creamy custard flecked with vanilla beans.

Service: Good, but also a little heavy handed- the waiter came to the table to fold CB's napkin while he was having a cigarette.

Hot Chocolate
We went here for my Birthday dinner. I've been here twice before for brunch, and once for a beer pairing dinner that was phenomenal.

Drinks: Amazing. The chocolate martini was the chocolatey-est creamiest chocolate martini I've ever had, and very indicative of Mindy Segal's signature style with chocolate. And CB loved his old fashioned.

Food: The grilled octopus was fantastic, but the beans that accompanied it were a touch undercooked. The asparagus salad was a touch spare, would have liked more veggies with it, though I loved the crispy pork belly- it reminded me a lot of the stuff I used to eat at cafes in Kyoto, actually. We had some sort of steak thing as entree that was ok, but I don't actually remember it well enough to comment. Dessert was disappointingly meh, I had some citrus cheesecake/key lime combo and CB's chocolate banana profiterole was like a dessert with ADD- too many elements between the chocolate, bananas, ice cream, pate choux, etc. I would have stuck with just the chocolate martini for dessert.

Service: Good. They actually moved the table so we could sit side by side and canoodle.


Japanese Dinner- I did most of the cooking for this. Perfect miso soup, kimchee sesame natto (fermented soy beans), which I love but CB hated, Rappini goma ae (rappini with sweet sesame sauce), hiya yakko tofu (soft tofu topped with ginger, green onions and soy sauce), gyoza, and plain and red caviar inarizushi (the later was CB's creation). I think we drank IPA with it.

Pork loin dinner- App of thin pork loin wrapped around greek cheese, topped with prune and basalmic vinegar reduction, salad with roasted pears, main course of roasted pork loin served with with heavenly whipped parsnips/celery root with fennel seed (which I have been unable to recreate successfully) and carrots roasted and served with tomato/red bell pepper reduction. Consumed with copious quantities of prosecco (champagne). So good.

Shrimp/flank steak dinner- french bread with hand shaken butter with cumin, heirloom tomato salad with yellow pepper based homemade 1,000 island dressing, shrimp roasted in red pepper/tomato soup and broiled with greek cheese, flank steak, am I missing anything? Dessert: crepes I made w/ vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and toasted coconut. Served with a delicious sparkling pinot grigio.

CB is a helluva cook and I am a lucky 'ho!

Also, I swear I'm gonna start taking more (and better) food photos.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The great culinary disappointment that is Chicago

It seems the more I eat out in Chicago, the less impressed I am by the food. ESPECIALLY the mid/high end stuff. It's so easy to drop a huge wad of money on dinner and come out with maybe one of two things that were excellent and the rest that's an overpriced, resounding MEH. I'm a good cook and my dude is a good cook, I don't want to spend money unless I know it's going to be better or more labor intensive than what I can do at home.

Maybe I'm overly critical (I've spent the past year working as a food writer, and my boyfriend's a chef, so we're a couple of hard to please motherfuckers), but I can't recall being so consistently disappointed by restaurants in the Bay Area or Japan (where I lived for years) or in other great food cities like New Orleans and New York. I don't have a lot of spare cash, so if I spend a lot eating out, I expect something fantastic, and I don't think that's unrealistic. My visits to Chicago prior to moving here, were memorable, but not for the food.

That said, I do think Chicago has strengths as a food city, but it's not fine dining. Chicago rules when it comes to comfort food and basics- ethnic hole in the wall joints (particularly puerto rican and cuban), slavic buffets, street food like the elotes carts, pizza (but even then, there's a ton of shit pizza in this city- I have no idea how Gino's East stays in business), hot dogs (notably Hot Doug's), hamburgers (Kuma's), coffee (Metropolitan and Intelligensia), ironically granola (Milk and Honey) and booze- there are good local breweries and distilleries and great cocktailers. But a few exceptions, yuppy food, brunch, baked goods (so many overpriced bakeries selling bland, dry cupcakes and you can't even get a good donut due to Dunkin Donut's dominance) all suck compared to other cities. I guess it's still the Midwest and there just isn't the same access to good ingredients and sufficient demand to create truly great food. (And I'm sure there are many who would be happy to tell me I'm full of shit, but I am admittedly biased). There's just too much fucking pretense and not enough craftsmanship.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Birthday goodies!

My friend Julia and I had our joint birthday party Saturday night, with a mustache/unibrow theme (the majority of guests sported either a mustache and or a unibrow, mine were made from red glitter)

We sort of like like creepy female reincarnations of John Waters and Divine here.

Anyhow, Julia's girlfriend Syreeta is a pro baker and cake decorator, and my dear friend Vally Val (a frequent AITBS contributor) is also an accomplished home baker, so we had good peeps in our corner.

This is a fruit mosaic cake depicting an owl that Syreeta made Julia, who has a fondness for owls. She also made a "parfait bucket" (not shown) full of stuff leftover from making the cake.

This was the delicious, from scratch sponge cake Vally Val made and I decorated with whipped cream and strawberries and blackberries. (No less than three people exclaimed "you made you own birthday cake?" as if I were some kind of Dickensian orphan. First of all, I didn't bake it, and secondly, I wanted to decorate it myself. So there). It was hella delicious. In the background you can see the plate full of delicious "savory cheesecake" that Syreeta whipped up as well. I don't know what all the went into it other than it had a roasted red pepper and facon topping, and a cheez-it crust but it exceedingly good.

Syreeta was also genius enough to make mustache cookies. Some of you may remember her Liberace cookies from an earlier post. I love the coconut "hair."

These pics were taken by Leda because a certain party guest who will remain nameless totally deleted all the pics from my camera by "accident." A tragic accident indeed!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Awesome chef tip

Dating a chef is a double-edged knife, if you will- one one hand he's always telling me I chop things wrong, on the other hand, he can show me how to chop things right.

The one tip that he's given me that's been invaluable is peeling fresh ginger with the tip of a spoon. It works way better than any other technique I've tried and means I'm way more likely to use fresh ginger in my food and beverages. Add a microplaner and I'm in heaven.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Photos of stuff I ate

My resolution, as a food blogger, is to take more pictures of food, instead of just writing about it since I am now the owner of two cameras (when it rains, it pours!) Well, plus the one built into my laptop. But here's the thing- does photographing your meal detract from the experience of eating, or add to it? I'm not sure.

Here's a picture of the brunch I ate on my last day in Cleveland:

"Creme brulee" french toast that had a sort of candied orange flavored sweet cream cheese, sprinkled with candied nuts, home fries, bacon and two of Andrew's "fried scrambled eggs" fritters that made me feel ill all day long (bad frying oil wrecks me). Still the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland is a great spot for brunch, but get there after 1, when they can legally sell the hard booze (they had to modify my coffee drink since they can't legally sell vanilla vodka before 1pm).

This is my friend Andrew's British crocodile leather flask that he is exceedingly proud of. I asked him if using crocodile leather was illegal and he said that they farm them for this purpose. Barbaric yet fascinating.

Chocolates from Cleveland's Lilly. My favorite was the "After Midnight," the round cocoa coated one- bitter chocolate with stout. I am a sucker for a traditional bitter truffle.

Back in Chicago, here's today's lunch:

Rye toast w/ cream cheese and cucumbers, soft boiled eggs with salt and pepper. Eating this alternately makes me feel british, or elderly, but it's a nice simple lunch regardless.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Stuff I ate in Cleveland

A Ramos Gin Fizz at the Velvet Tango Room, Andrew had an Old Fashioned

At the West Side Market:

A Belgian Liege waffle, which is made from a dough containing pearl sugar that melts and caramelizes on the surface
Dark chocolate dipped marshmallows on a skewer
Lemon peel, mango ginger and blueberry stilton cheeses
An Italian Sausage sandwich with grilled peppers and onions, dijon mustard and barbecue sauce

Most of this stuff was shared w/ Andrew.

In Amish Country:

Cheese curds. Mmmmmm.
Pennsylvania Dutch birch beer.
Coffee spiked with rum from Andrew's flask.
Stale maple candy.

At the Hickory Inn, AKA "The Hick":

A fried fish sandwich with curly fries (also shared with Andrew)
Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold Beer. Only $1.75 for a mug!

At Andrew's house:

Baguette with sweet butter
A salad of blanched kale, cucumbers tomatoes and greek yogurt (that I made)
Soyaki marinated chicken strips with basmati rice and peanut satay sauce

At La Cave:

Dogfish Head Aprihop (apricot IPA, possibly my favorite new beer)

Brunch at the Beachwood Ballroom:

Boozy coffee
"Creme Brulee" french toast w/ orange flavored creamcheese and candied nut sprinkles
home fries
Deep fried scrambled eggs with curry mayo (hm)

At Lucky's:

Turkey sandwich
Vivienne Provence tea that has lavender and rose petals
A Lilly truffle containing bacon and maple butter

I also bought a pink silk tie, victorian schoolmarm shoes, a coffee service (creamer and sugar bowl on a tray), a Martin Denny exotica album, stockings, body butter, an Amish romance novel, an Amish shotglass and probably some other crap.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

bacon blanket!

My boyfriend Christo made this for a libertarian tax protest and gave it to me as a present afterwards. It's pretty fucking amazing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

caviar inari

So it's been way too long since I've updated (despite the fact that I was functionally unemployed through February). In recent news, I've started boning dating a corporate chef, which is great because he doesn't work restaurant hours but he has access to great ingredients and cares about food as much as I do.

We had a living room Japanese food picnic last night- I made miso soup, hiya yakko (chilled tofu w. ginger, green onions and lemon soy sauce), rappini w. sesame sauce, natto (fermented soybeans) with kimchee which my bf tried and hated (most people find it unpalatable but I like it cos I'm weird), pickles, gyoza and two kinds of inari:

(I have a new digital camera that makes everything blue. I'll figure it out eventually).

He seasoned the rice on the red inari with a sauce he crafted from red lumpfish caviar (he brought me a full jar and it was too salty for me to enjoy straight), lemon juice, egg yolk, olive oil and garlic, and although I was initially dubious, it was really fucking good.

Of course he got all hardcore and garnished it too. I heart food industry people.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Accidentally got a box full of these included in an order of cookies from Alliance. I can only wonder about the group of people who were disappointed to get a box full of normal ones.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wash your mouth with Chocolate

I'm addicted to chocolate. And I'm very picky about the chocolate I eat. I rarely eat anything below 70% cacao, and I'm frustrated by how hard it is to find dark chocolate with nuts or other flavors mixed in. I got excited when I discovered that Jade Chocolates has a cinnamon ylang ylang coconut flavored bar. So I bought it, and I tasted it. Oddly sweet and mild, and then suddenly I feel like I've eaten a bar of soap. I never really registered what the ylang ylang smell was in fancy soaps, but now I know. It's exactly like how this chocolate tastes. Uuughh! Some weird flavor combinations should be avoided.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nutritional stupidity

Shit that people have tried to convince me is "healthy" that is total bullshit...

-Splenda, and other artifically sweeteners- Sugar and HFCS are not good for you, but this crap, while less caloric, is far worse. Anything that is derived synthetically in a laboratory is NOT good for you, because it makes your body go WTF.

-Fat free dairy products. Seriously guys- if you want to reduce calories in your diet, just eat more vegetables in proportion to other stuff. But ferchrissakes don't get the "fat free" version that your body can't digest. Worst culprits are shit like fat free 1/2 and 1/2 which is loaded with creepy corn syrup solids. (fat free froyo is actually kind of a guilty pleasure for me because I would prefer that it were NOT fat free).

-Vegan cupcakes. It's still a fucking cupcake. Using margarine instead of butter does not magically make this health food.

-Seitan. Celiac's and gluten intolerances are so friggin' common that eating concentrated wheat gluten seems hardly an improvement on real meat if you're omnivorously inclined.

-Soy. Hard to digest (unless it's fermented like miso and natto) and chock full of phytoestrogens- that block of tofu is the same as a dose of premarin. Yum!

That said, I love bacon, cupcakes, coffee and cheese. But at least I'm educated about the actual nutritional pros and cons of the stuff I eat.

Weirdly delicious things I cook on a whim

I love making pancakes with stuff in them. I usually make them with rice flour since I dont keep wheat flour around (I would be tempted to make cookies all the time if I did).

Today I made pancakes with chopped 72% chocolate, cloves cinnamon and nutmeg, and I put raw sugar on the wet part to caramelize because I was craving belgian waffles with pearl sugar.

It was so fucking good. Like gingerbread, except no ginger.

Friday, February 27, 2009

6 of 10

Stopped in McDonald's last night before class because I wanted McNuggets (hush) and lo and behold....the 6 piece McNugget is no longer featured on the regular menu, you have to look to the kid's menu and order a 6 piece (a "Mighty Kids" meal option in lieu of the 4 piece) and hope the cashier will just let you get the nuggets and not the whole Happy Meal. The regular menu now features a 10 piece McNugget option. That's right-TEN of them. When I worked at McD's 6 piece was the standard, 9 piece was if one was raging hungry and 20 piece was family size. Now 10 is the norm. Yet, my McNugget box featured the nutritional information, calories, fat, sodium, etc.

So in a nutshell, the portions of unhealthy food are now larger but come with proof of how unhealthy they are. Discuss.

Friday, February 20, 2009

oh for fuck's sake


Here's an idea....eat something plant based.

Friday, February 13, 2009

demos part 2

So I'm doing demos for my green drink today. I forgot my big jar of powder, so I'm using my free sample packages to mix the drink, and feeling stingy with the samples. I get this whiny woman who is going over all the ingredients in the product with me and why this wouldn't be a good product for her. A store employee walks by, and is excited about the product. She's heard about it and wants to try it. I feel grateful and generous after the whiny lady, so I give her one of my coveted free sample packages. The whiny lady begins to walk away but sees me give the free sample to the employee, suddenly comes back wanting a free sample. I ask about everything she said earlier, and she lamely tries to back track. I explain that I'm almost out of product and that I'm reserving the samples to people whom I believe are potential customers. I can tell she was really mad at me, but she couldn't really cover her tracks, and I made up my mind that no way in hell would she get a sample from me. Maybe it was mean, but I can't believe how full of shit people can be.

I'll keep this quick.

You know what I hate?

The Skinny Bitch books.

There's good bitches (assertive women) and there's bad bitches (women who are perpetually in a bad mood because they're on some crazy diet espoused by a former modeling agent and model-turned nutritionist that makes them low blood sugar and cranky.)

I'd be a bitch too, if all I ate for breakfast was a piece of melon.

The diet they espouse is a vegan one- and while that diet may work for some people (it does not work for ME, and I have snarky to back me up with the why), it bothers me that they are espousing it for PREGNANT WOMEN as well, (they have a whole book about how to be a pregnant "skinny bitch") who have unique nutritional needs that are a LOT harder to meet with a vegan diet. I'm also really sick of people who think soy is healthier than organic dairy or goat milk- it's difficult for the human body to digest and it contains phyto-estrogens that can really fuck with your hormone levels. I realize that nutrition is controversial and everybody's body is different, but it annoys that people drink the koolaid without doing the research.

If people cared half as much about actual nutrition as they did about about being skinny, they'd have a lot more success. Want a good book about how to eat? Try Dr. Mark Hyman's Ultrametabolism instead. He's an actual DOCTOR and not a former modeling agent.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I've got to stop feeling sorry for vegetables.

I bought these creepy, albino looking yellow carrot sticks at Stanley's today (they're supposed to be yellow), because I felt sorry for them, knowing that most people probably pick the orange ones instead. But only after checking that they had the same nutritional content.

Who grows yellow carrots anyway? They remind me of that kid's book "bunnicula" about the vampire rabbit!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Watching old people act like little kids

I have been making extra cash giving demos for a green nutrition powder called Green Vibrance. I mix it with water and apple juice, serve free samples and talk about it to people in health food stores. I'm promoting a product I feel good about, show off my nutrition skills, hand out the occasional business card and I'm giving people little hits of something really nutritious, something I really get a kick out of.

What is most interesting is the variety of reactions when people try it. It's purpose is to be jam packed with nutrients, and fairly bland tasting. It doesn't try to imitate any particular flavor, and it does taste planty. Most people under 40 think it's palatable. A toddler of a friend of mine was bogarting her momma's cup. Most people over 50 stand there and look afraid for a few seconds, take a sip and make dramatic eeewww faces. (Why do these people stop at my booth if they are so phobic?) And then there are those who take a sip, make an indecisive confused face and then make the yucky face once I mention sea vegetables. I figure I'm introducing the concept of eating things primarily because they make us feel good to a larger population. Everything you eat doesn't have to be chocolate flavored or disguised as a candy bar. We have to try it the first time and maybe go eewww before it can become familiar and part of what is "normal."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

from buns to bagels

Nevermind the whole "why are there 8 buns to a pack and 10 hot dogs to a pack?" question; what I want to know is why-despite blueberry bagels being avaiable just about anyplace offering more than plain bagels-strawberry cream cheese is the dominant other flavor instead of oh, I dunno.....BLUEBERRY?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I do not like lambics. I want to get that out of the way up front. I do like a flavored beer from time to time. Since we're having an unofficial beer week here at Hangry Central, I'd like to share. Bianca and I went to Lush Wines recently. Well, not that recently, because I'm a bit of a beer horder. She helped me pick out a couple of curious brews: Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale 2009 and Founders Rubeus. We gravitated towards the beer case in a wine shop, because we're a couple of classy dames.
One of my pals, a well known lambic lover, saw me carrying the bottles away and told me she found the Rubeus disappointing. That only strengthened my resolve to like it. I don't know that I'd buy a suitcase of it, but it makes a nice after dinner beer. It looks like a rose in the glass, but tastes like a good beer with a handful raspberries thrown in. None of that syrupy sweetness found in a lambic.
The Hitachino Nest was a revelation. It's spicy and complex and has an owl on the bottle. How could a girl not love that? The label reveals that Commemorative Ale is brewed with vanilla, coriander, orange peel, nutmeg, and cinnamon. In other words, everything involved in making a kick ass batch of Christmas cookies.
The third flavored beer on my tasting list was a bit of an accident. It followed me home from a tasting at the liquor warehouse around Christmas 2007. Beers, like beaujolais, are best drunk young. I'd forgotten most of a six pack of Sam Adams Cherry Ale at the back of the fridge. Feeling thirsty and broke, I decided to pop one open. Wow. A year in the fridge definitely improved this cherry and wheat ale, bringing the cherry to the front with no skunky aftertaste. It's not bad fresh, but definitely improves with age.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Beer Jello: Experiment One

For a week now, I've been ranting about beer jello. Last night I finally got off my ass and made some.

I decided to go with Goose Island 312 "Urban Wheat Ale" and apricot jello, since apricot wheat beer tends to be good.

I began by boiling the beer (I used all beer, no water for maximum flavor and alcohol content), though I'm not sure if the boiling cooked off any of the alcohol content. I dissolved the jello into the hot beer:

Then I stirred in cold beer, and poured the mix into mini pilsner glasses (I have a lot from attending beer fests):

and chilled until firm. There was no problem getting the beer to gel properly.

Verdict on the final product? Tasty!

My guinea pigs were Amanda (who said she'd eaten the legendary Japanese beer jello) and Bob, my bartender at the Cardinal Tap Room who would probably eat anything I gave him. The apricot flavor overshadowed the beer taste for the most part, but there was distinct hoppiness that made the whole dessert suprisingly pleasant.

I have many more experiments in mind, especially using unflavored gelatin so I can control the sweetness and flavors...But this was pretty darn successful for a first try!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

not kosher, not vegan, not healthy but damn does it look good


Ideally I would have a slice of this accompanied by sliced raw tomatoes, my bacon bread and a nice scotch.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Vegan Mystery

Can someone please explain to me why everyone in the Chicago BD/SM scene is vegan?

They sure like those disgusting vegan cupcakes, though. Syreeta makes hers using a depression era recipe from the bad old days when people couldn't get actual animal products.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

a toast!

Thanks to all the holiday breads I made I have branched out into white bread (the homemade kind has so much more "ooomph" and flavor to it), bacon bread, herb bread and french bread. I am thinking of only having homemade bread in my home from now on-time will tell.
I found a recipe for making butter. Yes, butter. I am going to make my own butter and spread it on my own homemade bread and have the best frickin' toast the world has ever seen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Beer jello shots!

So, I misunderstood a text from my friend Jamal today and thought he said Piece, the bar where he works is now serving beer jello shots. Apparently he meant to say that tonight they're serving beer AND jello shots. But now I have a bee in my bonnet to make beer jello shots!

I think the key would be to use a cheap pilsner with raspberry jello, ala framboise lambic, or the polish tradition of lacing beer with raspberry syrup. But everyone who I've proposed this idea to has thought this is a really bad idea. But there are recipes online!

People have no sense of adventure! Except for the Japanese, who apparently sell a beer gelatin dessert pictured above (that I somehow missed when I was living there, but they also make beer soft serve, so this doesn't shock me one bit).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My friend is Syreeta is a genius

Ok, Kirstin was afraid she killed the blog with the ham dick (she didn't, it's fierce), so I decided it's time for the first post of '09....with cake dick!

I have gained a bazillion pounds since moving to Chicago (and am attempting for the umpteenth time to get back down to my California weight), and I blame this on the fact that two of my best friends (Vally Val being one of them) are bakers. The other is Syreeta, who is a pro decorator who runs a cake biz called sugar and vice. I heart Syreeta a whole lot. Check out the cake she made for Samantha's birthday above.

Anyway, she hosted a Liberace party last saturday and made LIBERACE COOKIES!!!! They were far more perfect before I brought them home in a baggie, so use your imagination:

She works at a bakery all day then comes home and bakes these for us! There were also piano cookies (which I ate, oops!) Mmmm, black frosting.

Syreeta gets props for having MAD SUGAR SKILLZ.