Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Chicago Eats

Well, after our little intermission of homey goodness, it's time to get back to this backlog of travel food. 
Imagine yourself transported to the Midwest, to a historic, blue-collar city that loves teams sports and neon green relish. Imagine yourself in Chicago. 
You get up one morning while you are there, and because you have done some research before leaving home, you know there is good breakfast to be had at a place called the Southport Grocery & Cafe. You hightail it there and find friendly folks, good coffee, and a happy little store. 
You then glance at the menu, and are blown away by choices. Cupcake pancakes, made from their award-winning cupcake batter. Stuffed French toast, great-looking hash, delectable sounding omelets, breakfast bruschetta, Mexican-influenced steak & eggs, baked oatmeal, and something called a Grown-Up Pop-Tart. 
You decide to go big, and between yourself and your spouse, order Cupcake Pancakes, a Rosemary Ham, Gruyere, Mushroom, & Leek Omelet, a piece of griddled Coffee Cake, and the mysterious Pop-Tart.
The Pop-Tart is a warm piece of folded bread-like pastry, filled with mascarpone cheese, berry preserves, and vanilla walnuts. Mmm. You are shocked that no one has thought of this before. You then consider the fact that maybe someone has, and somehow neglected to give some to you. This thought is equally shocking. 
You then move on to some griddled sour cream and walnut coffee cake, which has been sliced in half, slathered with cream cheese, put back together, and slapped on the griddle until a warm layer of caramelized crustiness forms on the bottom. Spicy with cinnamon, and with cream cheese that is wisely left unsweetened, this is absolute comfort food. The rosemary ham omelet is good, but not quite as bold as the baked goods, although it provides a much-needed savory counterpoint. The cupcake pancakes are exactly that: cupcake batter slapped on a griddle. They are sweet and cakey and fun, and don't need any syrup, although it is provided. 
At some point you manage to roll yourself out of Southport, thinking that if you lived nearby, you'd hang out there all the time. You go check out an aquarium and a museum, and highly enjoy your nerdy self. 
Eventually, some hours or days later, or perhaps it was the day before, (the lingering effects of sugar coma make it all blend together) you decide you cannot leave the Windy City without having consumed a hot dog. Because you love television, and have wasted many hours of your life watching it, you remember an interesting place called Hot Doug's: The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium, located in this same city. You decide to make your way there, and on arriving only 40 minutes before closing time, find a line that winds out the door and halfway down the block. You feel secure in the knowledge that it's got to be good, and you wait. Service is fast, and you are ordering only 15 minutes later. You order a Dog, char-grilled, with everything, which translates to a Chicago-style hot dog, poppy-seed bun, neon relish, and all.
Your spouse nearly has a fit trying to decide, (in their defense, the menu is huge, and there are always at least 5 specials) and eventually goes big again, ordering a Jamaican Jerk pork sausage with passionfruit mustard and fried plantains, a Kobe dog with Cinci-style chili, mustard, and cheddar, and a Wild Boar sausage with spicy mustard and cheese-stuffed peppers. You decide to pass on the duck-fat fries, although they are tempting. 
The dogs are all excellent. The Chicago-style is classic, with the wedge of pickle and a touch of celery salt. The Cinci-style chili on the Kobe dog has the requisite hint of cinnamon, and the spice of the wild boar sausage toppings is good; hot, but with great flavor. Your spouse also vouches for the deliciousness of the Jerk dog, which you pass on trying. 
You again manage to roll yourself outside and return to your hotel, where you nap before heading to a late dinner reservation...
To be continued!

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