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79 A.D. (Always.Delicious.)

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Hello to everyone out there and welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Throughout the history of mankind, we have been plagued with many different types of natural disasters:  earthquakes, floods, and volcano eruptions.  The first two events are more common than the last one, but volcanoes seem to hold a special place in the place of the human mind in terms of threats from nature.  They are so unpredictable and powerful like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.  The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were completely covered in ash, and their inhabitants were flash frozen in lava casts.  What does this have to do with food?  Well, yesternight I tried the best Chicken Vesuvio ever at the oldest  Italian restaurant in Chicago, Italian Village, located at 71 West Monroe Street  Chicago, IL 60603.

italian-village

There are three different sections to the restaurant, and each area has its own theme.  Even though it may sound a bit tacky/kitschy, we ended up dining in the quaint “Village” room upstairs.  It was decorated with white lights strung across the ceiling like a big famiglia party I saw in San Gimignano, Italy, and there were mini village buildings along the walls that I assumed you could eat inside for an extra fee.

Che romantico

Che romantico

Upon looking at the menu, I could see that the establishment definitely was well stocked with plenty of Italian American favorites like different types of Parmesans and stuffed pastas.  We even received the typical basket of pane italiano and crispy breadsticks without butter.  The olive oil and Parmesan cheese they provided at the table were high quality and made a great combo with the fresh, semi-crusty bread.  Between bites of the delicious carbs, I saw they served a classic Chicago Italian-American dish:  Chicken Vesuvio.  If I was going to dine at the oldest Italian restaurant in Chicago, I might as well get a meal invented in the same city. This dish also had to cook for thirty minutes, so I  ordered a glass of the Barbera red wine.  Plus, since I ordered one of the entrees, I had the choice of soup or salad.  I decided to plump for a side salad with ranch dressing.  The salad itself was nothing special.IMG_1082 It had the typical mix of lettuce, mixed greens, a tomato slice, julienned carrots, and just the right amount of semi-watery Ranch.  I was surprised for how fast they delivered the salad to me that the vegetables were so fresh and delicious.  Perhaps they don’t prefabricate their salads and are just speed demons on the cook line.

Cooking as good as nonna's

Cooking as good as nonna’s

After waiting patiently, my Chicken Vesuvio came out. I was face to face with half a chicken and roasted potato wedges.  Both the potatoes and chicken were herb encrusted, deep brown, and cavorting with each other in a delicious pool of herbs and chicken drippings.  Sounds kind of like a season of the Jersey Shore.  I decided to scale this gastronomic volcano of deliciousness, and it erupted with flavor from the first bite of a potato wedge.  The tubers were semi-crispy on the outside with hints of rosemary and oregano, and the insides were pure white like the snow of the Italian alps.  As for the chicken, the chicken broth made the meat extra succulent since it was literally falling off the bone.  The best part of the meal was combining the crispy skin with the juicy white meat and dipping it into the broth. My Barbera wine went well with this savory dish even though it wasn’t really red meat.  This Piedmontese libation was slighty acidic but bold; two attributes that really brought out the herbs of the broth and chicken skin.  A word of caution:  there might be some splatter with the broth while you’re cutting the chicken.  So if you’re wearing anything fancy on that first date, don’t get too excited while tucking into this festa italiana.    Once the smoke settled from this smoking cauldron of deliciousness, I was stuffed and satisfied with my choice.

So if you want to experience a piece of authentic Chicago, Italian American cuisine, and/or believe that abbondanza is a virtue in cooking, remember that all roads lead to Italian Village!

Italian Village on Urbanspoon

Every Dog Will Have Its Day

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Hello to everyone out there in the blogosphere!  Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues.  Today I will be telling you about a small establishment called Huey’s Hotdogs located at 1507 W Balmoral Ave (between Clark St & Ashland Ave) Chicago, IL 60640  in the Edgewater/Andersonville neighborhood.  NOTE:  Even though some websites say that they only take cash, they DO take credit cards now.

This food adventure was born out of my fellow classmate’s desire to try a classic Chicago hotdog, but there was a certain caveat that drove us to this specific place:  she’s a vegetarian.  Ergo, we decided to give Huey’s a try due to its large selection of vegan friendly dishes like hot dogs, burgers, chili, and salads.  I, however, was looking for something beyond the typical Chicago hotdog, brat, Italian beef, or cheeseburger.  Instead, I was drawn to a strange option under the Sausages header on the chalkboard menu:  Turducken.  No, it is not some sort of mystical animal that comes from the dense jungles of Grant Park, but rather a Frankenstein-esque creation of Thanksgiving proportions.  What it consists of is taking a chicken stuffed with spice rub, stuff it into a duck with more stuffing, and then put it all into a turkey with, you guessed it, more stuffing.  All of the birds are de-boned, and in the end you enjoy a three-layered meat monstrosity.  Given all of this information, you can now see why I was curious to see how they could synthesize this hybrid meat into sausage form.

All dressed up and definitely has a place to go: my stomach.

When they brought it out to me, I was somewhat underwhelmed by what I was faced with in my plastic basket.  It was served on a typical white bread, poppy-seed covered bun, and the tawny white sausage itself seemed to be grilled along with being cut in half/scored on top.  The actual taste of the meat was very rich with some fatty undertones from the duck and backed up with the heartiness of the turkey, but was somewhat difficult to taste due to the cranberry and horseradish sauce that came on it.  As strange it may seem, this thick scarlet comforter did not taste as terrible as one would may think.  Unfortunately, I thought that it sullied the sausage because the cranberry element completely smothered any horseradish flavors and also almost comprehensively drowned out the Turducken.  However, I was pretty impressed that the bun was not soggy with how much of this cranberry jam they put on the top of it, but it was thick enough to stay on the sausage for a surprisingly clean dinner.  As for the fries that came with the sausage, I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious they were.  They were a medium to dark golden brown and on the softer side with a fluffy white inside, but they had a rich aftertaste that made it seem like they were fried in a different sort of oil.  I actually enjoyed them more than the sausage which was somewhat sad.

As a whole, Huey’s really is like any other basic Chicago hot dog stand aside from their vegan menu.  So unless you’re a vegetarian, you can get basically the same food elsewhere like at Gold Coast Dogs or Wiener Circle without having to go so far north.

Huey's Hot Dogs & More on Urbanspoon

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