Monthly Archives: January 2013

Carmen, the Early Bird

There is nothing like the peaceful stillness of the wee morning hours. The feeling that just for one minute life is going in slow motion, and not sprinting at the speed of light. The idea that just for an hour or so you have time for yourself before embracing the hard realities of the world outside. I always thought of the morning as the best time of the day, when the mind is fresh, the body is rejuvenated, and the day begins anew again.

I try to explain this morning concept to my friends who are all night owls, and they look at me in disbelief that even on my days off I continue to go to sleep before 10PM and wake up before 7AM. Of course if there is a night out on the town, my sleeping schedule gets thrown off. Other than that I am pretty consistent with my early night and early morning sleeping habit. My friends don’t understand how I voluntarily wake up so early everyday, that waking up early is enjoyable. That is just the way I have been for a long time, and I love being that odd morning bird.

One of my favorite parts of being an early morning person is brunch. I love the smell of breakfast foods especially eggs and potatoes. Though the variety of brunch food options are limited, it never gets old for me. Brunch is my favorite meal of the day, and I would like to share with you the wonders of waking up early and enjoying a delicious plate of breakfast foods. I hope I can tempt you to come over to the light side of early mornings.

Wildberry  Pancakes and Cafe – The Loop

I’ve been here twice, and both times I left delightfully satisfied. Sometimes brunches leave you feeling stuffed in a bad way. You start the morning off wanting to hit the gym to burn off all of the calories you consumed in an artery clogging brunch. Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe’s brunches are light, but still delicious.

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This is the Wild Berry Belgian Waffles. I have had Belgian Waffles before. Waffallonia in Pittsburgh. The Belgian Waffles were quite disappointing. I was expecting crunchy, sugary Belgian waffles, and instead got regular waffles. They were really great waffles, but since I was expecting Belgian Waffles it did not suffice. I enjoyed the fresh berries that came with these waffles. It would have been better if there was some type of wildberry glaze or syrup with this waffle.

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These seasonal pumpkin pancakes were great! I am a big fan of all foods pumpkin – pumpkin bread, pumpkin scone, pumpkin cupcake, you name it and I would love it. This pumpkin pancake was no exception. I loved the strong pumpkin flavors and aromas with this pancake. The pumpkin gave this pancake a moist, fluffiness that a normal pancake would not have. This is a must try at this restaurant!

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Kind of looks like the spongey human brain or the spreading of a bacteria colony? How appetizing! This is actually potato pancakes. I loved the thinness and crispiness of these potato pancakes which the waitress described as more like latkes than a pancake. Delicious!

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This Garden Sizzling Skillet with two over easy eggs, hot potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, onions, spinach, tomatoes and broccoli. This dish was a little underwhelming. There was no seasoning on the vegetables leaving it tasting very bland. It would have been great if they added spices or fresh herbs to the vegetables.

The Original Pancake House – Near North Side

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I came here on New Year’s Day after a night out for New Year’s Eve. Nothing like a hearty brunch especially when one suffers from the aftermaths of New Year’s Eve. The sausage patties were flavorful and slightly crispy from being pan fried. I love the combination of potato hash and the runny yolk of an over easy egg. These potatoes were a bit on the softer side. I prefer my potatoes a bit crunchier, but that is just personal preference.

Nana’s Organic – Bridgeport

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This has to be one of my favorite brunch places in Chicago. I ordered the Nanadict, Nana’s Organic’s version of an Egg Benedict. Two poached eggs on top of a bed of chorizo and a pupusa. Most Egg Benedicts come on top of an english muffin. In the Nanadict they came on top of a pupusa which is a thick corn tortilla. It tasted denser than an English muffin which was great in helping to soak up the poblano cream. I loved the home fries that came with this dish. It was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The dish itself wasn’t extremely heavy or fatty, but having a side of farm greens helped to ease the digestion process. I would like to think that by eating farm greens it cancels out whatever other foods I ate. If only…  The Nanadict was so unique, and definitely tasted quite special. I definitely want to go back to Nana’s Organic to try more brunch dishes.

Nothing beats sharing stories and catching up with good friends over a delicious brunch. I always look forward to weekend brunches. My favorite part of the week and one of the perks of mornings!

The First Time

It’s always better the first time around – more exciting, more memorable, more fun. That first time you try out that new restaurant, and it then becomes your favorite. That first time you take a mouthful of the ramen, and the springiness of the noodles and the richness of the broth is forever ingrained in your food memories. That first time you meet someone new over a meal, and time just flies like the conversation is endless. When the second time comes around, it is less exciting. You know what to expect, you discovered most of what is new about the person, the place, the thing. It is that uncertainty, whether it will truly be as good as everyone says it is or be a complete disappointment, that makes the first time so great. Treasure the first time, savor the moment, because it will only happen once.

These are my first moments at the following restaurants in Chicago. Even though the food may be the same the second time around, it will never exactly feel or taste the same as the very first time.

Vinci – Lincoln Park

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I came here with my sister to use a Groupon deal that I bought a while ago. $20 for $40 to spend at an Italian restaurant, count me in! I got the Spinach pappardelle – hand-made spinach pappardelle with roast duck, mushrooms, ovendried tomatoes, truffle oil, parmigiano. I loved the noodles. It definitely tasted very fresh. The slight chewiness and springiness of the noodles were perfect. The meal was great, and we even got a table right next to the window. A lot of the guests at Vinci that night were there for a pre-show dinner. I wish I knew about this show that was going on, because I would have liked to go.

Wasabi – Logan Square

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My friend invited me here, because her friend from NYC was visiting Chicago for the week. I am a huge fan of ramen restaurants if you haven’t noticed already, and I was excited about trying another ramen place in Chicago. I’ve had some pretty excellent ramen in NYC, but none that have really stood out to me in Chicago. This place was excellent. As good as or even better than the places in NYC. I loved it! I got the Tonkotsu Ramen – egg noodle, rich pork broth, berkshire pork cheek, soft boiled egg, marinated bamboo shoot, scallion, sesame, kikurage mushroom. The thing that makes or breaks a bowl of ramen is the broth, and this broth was spectacular. I was tempted to drink all of the broth after I finished my noodles! I loved the richness of the broth. The ingredients in the ramen were also quite tasty. The soft boiled egg, which isn’t quite as runny as a poached egg, but not quite as solid as a hard boiled egg, was the perfect texture for the ramen. 

The Girl and the Goat – West Loop

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My friends have been raving about this place for a while, and I finally got to try it. This restaurant owned by a Top Chef contestant is known for having one of the best foods in Chicago. I had high expectations for this place, and I was not disappointed. The small plates are meant to be shared, but my friends and I weren’t too hungry. We each ordered one dish. I ordered the scallops served with squash, onions, and other ingredients. The scallops were so soft. I took the first bite, and I couldn’t believe what I was eating. These are the best scallop I ever had! I hope the next time I go, the scallops will be as good as I remembered it being.

Cafe Iberico – River North

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I came here to meet up with a Georgetown friend who just recently moved to Chicago for his job. I am so excited more fellow Georgetown Hoyas are here in the city! Cafe Iberico is a Spanish tapas restaurant. The highlight of the meal in my opinion was the Iberico Styled Paella – chicken, pork, and rice baked in a pan with saffron sauce. All of the flavors from the meat and seafood infused into the rice making a fragrant and delicious dish. I could eat this for lunch any day!

My firsts with all four of these restaurants were spectacular. I don’t know what the second time will be like, but I hope if I return again it will be good as the first time.