A Sad Day

Today a coworker and I made the trek over to City Food as we have previously done about once a week for the past few months.  We were in search of the elusive Roast Chicken Club (RCC), which is, by far, one of the most delectable sandwiches ever to be found.  It started out as an ordinary visit…

But what was this?  The regular cashier, the jovial lady who made every visit enjoyable, was no where to be found.  Instead, there was a new, fairly unhappy and very confused new lady.  And the interior.  Where was the TV, the couch, the atmosphere?  It had all been replaced by cold, dark, two person tables.  And the soda machine wasn’t even functioning (unknown reason).

Thankfully the infamous RCC remained on the menu, and so we were steadfast in our quest.  Once arriving at checkout we ventured to ask, “Has this place changed management?”  “Indeed it has, but nothing has changed.”  We both stared at him blankly, since it was quite obvious things had changed.  Then we questioned, “But will there still be free Big Ass Fridays?”  We were, of course, inquiring about the free large drink Fridays.  The cashier and the man behind the counter looked at each other puzzled, and then sheepishly responded, “Of course.”  I wasn’t sure if they were offended by the language, or that we even bothered to ask.

The doubts surrounding the fate of City Food and the RCC raced through my mind.  Thankfully, for the time being, the sandwich had remained the same, and we were still only charged the $0.50 for our water (Wednesday specials). 

Hopefully on future weekly visits I find the same great sandwich at the same price, otherwise City Food will be dead to me.  Dead.


And my Dad thought that I wasn’t living in the real world because I was in IT; welcome to the world of pharmaceuticals. 

Last night, Erin and I went to a dinner about Spiriva.  This was both of our first adventures into this sort of setting. 

Erin made it downtown a little bit early for the drinks & appetizers part of the evening (6:30 PM), so we started out at Petterino’s.  I love that place.  Ed is by far the best bartender, ever, but I could be biased, because he knows who I am.  Anyways, after a Goose Island there, we headed over to Nick’s Fish Market.  Yup, that is where the Spiriva Dinner was hosted.

Anyways, we walk in to Nick’s and they have the whole main dining room downstairs booked for the drug dinner.  They have us sign in and specify if we’re physicians or just in the healthcare profession.  I was tempted to check physician, but then they’d probably try to hunt me down to push their drug on me later.  The representative at the table made some small talk with us and then we headed into the dining room.  The main dining room encompased around 12 tables with 14-16 people per table.  We sat down and immediately a waiter was over asking if we wanted wine or anything else to drink.  We both had a glass of wine and waited for Erin’s friend from PT school. 

Appetizers were served, the assorted platter, three to a table.  However, there were only 5 people at our table, so we gourged on the yummy bites.  Overall, the tables were about 75% full.  Not a bad turn out, but quite a few short of what the apparently expected.  We were asked what we would like for our main course at this time, Chilean Sea Bass or Filet Mignon.

By this time, I think I was on my second glass of wine, and one of the representatives grabbed the mic and introduced the presenter Dr. Nicholas J Gross from Loyola.  He started into his speach and informed us that he was being paid by the pharmaceutical companies behind Spiriva to give the talk.  During this time the second course was served: Manhattan Clam Chowder. 

Dr. Gross (man, that’s an awesome name) gave his speech about COPD and how, basically, Spiriva is a miracle drug.  All in all, his presentation lasted about 15-20 minutes.  Needless to say, I didn’t know what he was talking about a fair amount of the time, but I had Erin there to translate for me.  Not like it mattered though, it was purely marketing propaganda.  Nowhere were we told what the drug physically does in the body, or how it increases the FEV1 of patients, just that it does.  I was tempted to ask questions along those lines, but the food was too good.  Anyways, nearing the end of his presentation course three was delivered: Ceasar Salad.

I think I was on my third or fourth glass of wine by now.  It’s hard to tell because the waiters didn’t actually let you finish a glass before refilling.  Talk about service.  Our fourth course came out, and I had picked the Chilean Sea Bass, while Erin had the Filet Mignon.  Talk about delicious. 

Things started to wind down and Erin’s friend left, but we stuck it out for course #5: banana chocolate cheescake and coffee.  By this time we were both more than stuffed, but it was so good we couldn’t say no. 

It was around 9:00 PM so we headed home after we had both finished our entire piece of cheesecake.  We stopped back by my office to grab my bag and then proceeded to walk home to try and burn off some of the food.  Man was it good though.

Afterwards I told Erin, that whenever she gets an invite to one of these dinners again, we definitely need to go.  Granted, I was just along for the food, but she actually wanted to go for the information.  However, she was a little disappointed with the information in the end.  It was quite funny to see the different types of people there though.  The people that they were actually pitching the drug to were easy to spot.  They were the nicely dressed doctors.  Then there was everyone else, which mainly consisted of nurses, some of which were still wearing their scrubs.

It was definitely a learning experience, and you figure that if only one doctor prescribes this drug to his patients, the whole evening is probably paid for.  I’m just hoping there’s some sort of mailing list that I can get on for other upcoming events.

Amelia’s Mexican Grill

It seems like I haven’t been eating out all that much, or at least not talking about it here. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, it just seems as though nothing has been noteworthy enough to put here, or I’ve been going to the same place over and over (ala lunch).  I mean, I could talk about Chipotle or Potbellys, but those are prevalent enough that I’m sure someone can just go.

Anyways, I’ve got a couple of reviews that I want to throw up here. Hopefully I’ll get two up today. Can you tell I don’t want to study? 🙂

Much like La Scorola, Amelia’s is a place that I go by quite a bit. Being that it’s just down the street from my apartment may have something to do with that, though. Anyways, what really got our attention was that we were at a movie a month or so ago, and there was actually an advertisement for Amelia’s while we were waiting. What further added to the story was that we weren’t at a theater in the city, but instead out in the suburbs. It seems like an odd crowd to be advertising to, but it seemed to work in our case.

Anyways, Erin and I headed there two nights ago.  Everytime we’ve walked by the place has looked quite large, probably because it’s on the corner. However, upon going in and being seated, it wasn’t very big at all. In fact, there were probably only 10 tables in the dining room area. Granted, there was a bar, but that was quite secluded from everything.  The inside was cozy though. The walls were painted a warm yellowish color, and the interior seemed inviting. In the warmer months, they have an outdoor eating area, which would be nice to visit and just sip margaritas .  However, the location doesn’t really aid to the outdoor eating: on the corner of Grand and Ogden. 

We were asked which seat we would like, which I’m not that comfortable with.  Both Erin and I have a hard enough time trying to decide on where we’re going to eat, more decisions just aren’t a good thing. Chips, salsa, and water were brought out promptly. The chips were good, but for those of you that know ElTorro in Champaign, these weren’t as good.  They reminde d me of whole grain chips, but they had a good crunch to them. We were brought out two types of salsa, a hot, red salsa, and a mild, green one. When I say mild, that’s not a stretch. I don’t think there was any heat to it at all. The red one on the other hand was probably a little more hot than a store bought medium salsa, which is what I like.

Meals on the menu ranged from typical Ameri-Mexican fare (tacos, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, etc), to more seafood entrees.  Erin decided to play it safe with the chicken tacos, while I went with the steak fajitas with corn tortillas. Our meals didn’t take very long to arrive, but it gave us enough time to talk and enjoy the chips. Unfortunately, we finished our chips, and weren’t asked if we wanted a refill of them or not.

The meals looked quite well done when they came out, but I was disappointed in the amount of steak I saw on my fajita platter. I was hoping that the vegetables were just heaped on top of a bounty of steak below. Unfortunately, that was not the case as everything was mixed together. The grilled vegetables consisted of green and red peppers, onions, and cucumber, the latter of which I had never had in this combination before, but it added great flavor.  The pico de gallo (sp) was fresh, and the guacamole was quite tasty also. I do wish they would’ve given me a 3rd plate, though, to assembly my fajitas on, instead of relying on the condiment plate.

Erin’s tacos were hidden under a bed of lettuce topping, but were also tasty. In my opinion, the chicken had been marinated or cooked in too much cilantro, but I’m not much of a fan of cilantro to begin with. Good thing that Erin wasn’t feeling top notch and couldn’t taste it, because she’s not that much a fan either.

Again, as with most Mexican restaurants, the proportions were huge, especially after having the chips. Erin really wanted to get fried ice cream, but just couldn’t stomach anything else.

The margaritas were excellent, though, and I would definitely go back just to sit outside and sip one.  You could just taste the bite of the tequilla, which is how I like it.  The only downside was the size for the price.

Price:…………$10-25 per plate excluding beverages

Amelia’s Mexican Grill
1235 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 606622
Phone:  (312) 421-2000

More Football and Food

Man, I feel like I’m always so far behind adding content to this thing.  Anyways…

Last weekend Erin and I went to visit my parents.  It was sort of an impromptu thing, which got us out of having to go to Halloween parties we really didn’t want to go to.  Anyways, it was the same weekend that the Bears and the Lions played in Detroit.  I tried to find tickets on ticketmaster back on Thursday, and was only able to find 2 together.  Thinking it would be nice if my parents could come to, I asked my Dad to see if he could get some through work.  He said he’d look into it, and then I didn’t hear from him.

Well, I finally hear back from him on Friday and he was only able to get two.  Crap.  So, I go back on to ticketmaster, and wasn’t able to find two tickets together.  Great.  Well, we head to Detroit anyways.  I looked on eBay and there were some on there that didn’t look like they were going for that much. 

Saturday comes around, Erin and I visit the Moosejaw up there, since the one in Chicago by me is incredibly small and didn’t have a jacket that I wanted to try on.  They don’t have the jacket there either, so we head to the mall because we’re board.  Amazingly we both snag some good deals at Banana Republic, of all places.  Something like 50%.  Can’t go wrong with that.

Run my car through the car wash (man has it been a LONG time), and head home.  We then had an excellent dinner (!), and finish of the evening with hot chocolate, half-n-half, Bailey’s, and a fire outside.

The next day we enjoy breakfast and head to the game.  Now, in case we weren’t able to get two additional tickets my parents were just going to go to the DIA, and then we’d meet back up and go out to dinner.  We’ll my Dad was able to scalp some tickets for only an additional $20 over list, so we all got in.  However, as soon as we started looking for seats, he realized that the two tickets he got weren’t even close to each other.  In fact, they were on complete opposite sides of the Ford Field.  Erin and I took the two seats that were together behind the end zone, and my parents went off to try and sit together.  It turns out that the seats right behind us remained empty for the first half, so when we met back up at half time, I told them to just come sit by us.

I won’t go in to the game, it was good, until the last play in overtime.  However, I will talk about Dinner. 

The place we went to was called Cuisine (I think, I wish I could find a website about it).  Anyways, it’s this incredible French restaurant down by some Theatre in Detroit.  Wow, I can tell you guys are just hanging on all the details, right?  My parents apparently found this place because they were going to see a play at the Theatre, and asked where a good place to eat was.  Turns out this place is right across the street.

Erin was somewhat skeptical of it because she wasn’t sure what she was in for, but my Dad insisted that it’s the best food he’s ever eaten, and that he needs an excuse to get to this place.  Hey, I’m fine with being an excuse to eat exquisite food.

The place isn’t very big, but it’s very cozy and the staff is very friendly.  They offer both Progressions or regular courses.  My Dad and I both went for one of the Progressions, while Erin and my Mom went for the Beef Tenderloin.

My first course consisted of a French Onion soup with goat cheese.  All I can say is excellent.  The creamy goat cheese added an extra layer, especially since the soup was more runnier than I’m used to.  However, the flavors melded together perfectly in what seemed a nice white wine-ish broth. 

Second course was caramelized scallops, with caramelized cauliflower, and a raisin, walnut (in addition to other things I can’t remember now) puree.  The scallops were done very well, not chewy at all.  In fact, you could easily cut them with the fork, no knife needed.  The sauce/puree gave it a sweeter taste that I wasn’t all about.  To me, scallops on their own are great, no need to hide there flavor in an overpowering sauce.  The cauliflower also had a sweetness to it, but not as powerful as the sauce.  It went well with the scallops.

Third course was the beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes, and beans.  This is actually the same meal that Erin and my Mom had, however, they had three cuts of beef, while I only had two (it was also the only course they had).  I honestly don’t think I can describe the beef.  This is no tenderloin you’ll ever be able to find in the store.  Again, no knife required, and it was cooked just how I wanted it, medium rare.  The beans seemed a little over cooked, not as crisp as I like, but when combined with a cut of beef and potatoes, was a hard combination to beat.  Because of the lighting at our seat, I was slightly worried when the plate first arrived, because the sauce used was blood red, and it looked as though the beef was a little more rare than I would’ve liked.  However, the sauce turned out to be an excellent accompaniment, adding (again) a slight sweetness that rounded out the other flavors.

Finally, there was souffle for dessert.  After the second course, we were asked what indulgence we desired: Chocolate, Grand Marnier (spelled right on the first try!), or Butterscotch.  My Dad opted for Grand Marnier, while I went for the Chocolate, since my Mom raved about how good it was last time they went.  The moment arrived, and we were brought our deserts.  Proudly they stood double the height of the souffle dish.  And then the waitress struck them with a spoon, and drizzled them with the decadent liquid.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a dessert so good and satisfying.  The chocolate was sweet, but not overpowering, the souffle was light and delicate.  The combination of the two was almost too much to take.

Overall, it was a most delightful treat, and most definitely the best dining experiences I’ve ever had.  Hopefully my parents will leave additional info about Cuisine in the comments, that I can then add to this post, because with all the bad things going for downtown Detroit, it’s good to see there are still exceptional places, you just have to look for them.

La Scarola

This weekend, I wanted to bring Erin out someplace nice, mostly because we have so many seemingly great restaurants around us.  This was supposed to happen on Friday, but we had too many snacks and neither of us were all that hungry.  So, instead we headed out Saturday night. 

La Scarola is a place that I walk by quite often because it lies on the route that I take home from work.  From the outside, the place appears insanely small.  All you see is, essentially, a box room stuffed with tables.  However, it’s always packed and it looked like a fun spot from the outside, a neighborhood Italian restaurant.

We got there between 7:30 and 8 on Saturday.  The place was packed.  We were greeted by the host, who we found out later was the owner.  He asked if we had reservations, which we did not.  Our plan was to come here, and if it was packed, we’d just walk to any of the other restaurants in the area.  Even though we didn’t have a reservation, there happened to be a seat for two that he sat us at.

As we walked in, we saw that there was actually a whole other area that you don’t notice from the street.  We were actually seated in this area, right near the bar in the smoking section.  The area, thankfully, didn’t smell of smoke at all.  In fact, the only way I knew it was a smoking section was because of the ashtray on the table. 

We were quickly greeted by our waiter who took our incredibly difficult drink order of two waters.  Bread was brought to the table as we scoured the menu (which can actually be viewed online from the link at the end of the review).  The menu consisted of many classic Italian pasta dishes, but there were also some excellent sounding seafood dishes too.  I decided upon the Chicken special consisting of chicken breasts covered with prosciutto and mozzarella cheese.  This was then set on a bed of spinach with olive oil and pine nuts.  I had this with a house salad, and Erin decided to play it safe with Ravioli and their Pasta & Fagiole soup. 

The salad consisted of a mix romaine and spinach greens, with tomatoes, red peppers, and olives.  The salad dressing was a vinaigrette, and there was incredibly way too much of it.  I was tempted to throw a life jacket in there for some of the greens at the bottom.  Also, the red pepper was slightly intimidating.  It looked like it was an attempt at roasting it, but there was no caramelization.  Instead it was just limp on the greens.  I was also disappointed to see a core from one of the heads of lettuce, but otherwise it was tasty.  Erin’s soup, on the other hand, was simply amazing.  The pasta and beans were tender, but not mushy, and the broth was light and flavorful.  According to the article on the wall next to me, and more professional-than-I reviewer said it was by far the best Past & Fagiole soup in the town (along with their own menu).  Maybe it was the white wine they add to the sauce?

As we awaited our main course, the place became more and more full.  People started waiting at the bar, which significantly reduced the isle between them and us.  We weren’t getting hit by waiters or anything, but it felt a little cramped.

Being a typical Italian restaurant the proportions are huge.  My plate consisted of 3 medium to small size chicken breasts.  The chicken was done quite well.  Obviously pan seared and then baked to melt the mozzarella over the prosciutto and chicken.  The chicken breasts were nicely browned and the mozzarella was nice and bubbly.  I could’ve done with less olive oil in the bottom of the plate, since that’s essentially what everything was sitting in, but it went well with the spinach and pine nuts.

Erin’s ravioli was also delicious.  The pasta was actually a bit thicker than most ravioli, so you could actually taste the pasta and not just the filling.  The filling also very tasty.  The ricotta cheese was very smooth and the tomato sauce had a hint of sweetness to it. 

Overall the experience was quite good and I’d definitely go back to La Scarola, especially to try and figure out their Pasta & Fagiole soup!

Price:…………$15-30 per plate excluding beverages

La Scarola
721 West Grand
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: (312) 243 – 1740
Fax: (312) 243 – 1742