RSS Feed

Tag Archives: corn

Jonesing for Some Great Eats (Big Jones)

Posted on

Welcome one and all to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  It has been too long since my last post where I celebrated this blog’s five year anniversary in the most food-filled way possible.  Unfortunately, the little issue of being in a very intense graduate program for speech pathology has kept me from being the best blogger I can be, but that doesn’t mean that it has prevented me from sampling great meals across the currently chilly and snow-covered Chicago.  Today’s entry comes from another Andersonville staple establishment in the form of Big Jones.

In regard to Andersonville, I am well versed in both their traditional Swedish fare as well as the more colorful installations that reflect the more modern side of the neighborhood.  Janice had always played up the delicious plates the Southern American cuisine eatery offered, but I was skeptical they could truly recreate the funky, soulful, and simple nature of some of the original comfort food from our nation’s early history.  Southern American cuisine has an extremely diverse history based on the various ethnicities that came for a better life  or perhaps had been forced into slavery, contrary to Dr. Carson’s interpretation of that chapter in American history.  African slaves brought their cooking styles from Africa and made the most they could with the ingredients we were given.  This gave rise to such staples of Southern cuisine like collard greens, fried chicken, and barbecue in conjunction with the Native American’s lending some of their smokehouse know-how.  It also helped that the English and Scotch-Irish colonists brought their deep frying skills literally to the fledgling American dinner table.  As time went on and Southern Americans made their way north during the first half of the 20th Century looking for jobs or freedom from segregation, these Southern staples made themselves at home in the culinary fabric of cities north of the Mason-Dixon line, including my town Chicago.  Coming back to our dining experience, Big Jones can be reached either by public transportation or parking on the street.  The restaurant overall had a warm interior with a certain flair that reminded us of our trip to Charleston.  Looking over the menu for a drink, I saw that they stayed true to their Southern roots by having a wide variety of cocktails in addition to the Big Jones Bourbon Society.  Given that I’m not one for drinking early in the morning, I found another southern beverage that caught my fancy:  sweet tea.  Tea has always been a part of America’s history.  Boston Tea Party, anyone?  However, I never knew the history behind this drink.  According to Wikipedia, it was originally an expensive drink due to the then costly ingredients of sugar, ice, and obviously, tea.  What’s even more interesting is that pre-WWII, it was actually made with green tea, but due to anti-Japanese sentiments, the government forbade green tea imports.  Thus, Americans came back to the motherland by drinking English black tea after the war.  Either way, I was loving this refreshing glass to start my brunch off right. It was especially satisfying after having sweet teas at other establishments (read:  McDonalds) that boast a sweet tea which is actually unsweetened iced tea.  Big Jones does it right with plenty of sugar that indulged my sweet tooth.   Drink in hand, we were ready to sample the best Big Jones had to offer us Yankees.  First, they brought out some complimentary boiled peanuts as well as beignets.  This was definitely a nod to Southern cooking as well as a New Orleans staple.  The beignets were just as fluffy and powdered-covered as the treasures my parents and I destroyed at Cafe du Monde in NOLA.  The word “beignet” literally means “bump” in French, and I’m sure if we had enough of these rich pastries, we’d have a few more bumps than when we walked in.  While we were savoring the fried bread, we decided to split the andouille platter ($6).  Then I ordered the corn griddle cakes ($12), and Janice ordered the caramel apple French toast.  The andouille (pronounced “an-doo-ee”) sausage is a carry over from French immigrants who decided to make it part of Cajun culture.  Big Jones’ sausage is all hand-made on site, and this particular type consisted of pecan-smoked pork in beef casings.  These cold cuts were accompanied by warm rye bread, garlic aioli, and another southern staple, chow-chow.  This amusingly named condiment/side has a mysterious origin ranging from Acadian immigrants in Louisiana to Chinese rail workers in the 19th Century to even Indian immigrants.  The name is just as obscure with some contesting it comes from the French word for cabbage “chou” while others advocate for the Indian origin story since one of the ingredients, chayote, is known as chow-chow in India.  Wherever it is from, it wasn’t the highlight of the plate since it seemed to just consist of pickled cabbage and peppers.  Other varieties are more diverse including onions, cabbage, red beans, carrots, asparagus, and cauliflower.  The bread, on the other hand, was hearty, flavorful, and the perfect foundation for an open-face andouille sandwich.  The aioli spread had a good amount but not overpowering level of garlic, and then there was the actual sausage.  It was ok but not great.  I think that if it was smoked over a sweeter wood, it would bring a different dimension to the sausage beyond just the spiced pork flavor.  Before we knew it, our plates were being placed before us.  Janice’s place looked picture perfect complete with golden brown bread slices, cinnamon whipped cream, almond slivers, and a heavenly caramel sauce.  The exquisitely carved apple was the jewel on this crown of a dish.  Unfortunately, it isn’t there all the time due to their rotating seasonal menu, but if it is available, definitely give it a chance.  As for my choice, the corn griddle cakes, it was everything Janice made it out to be.  Their origins reach back to the Algonquin tribes on the East Coast and Cherokee and Choctaw tribes in the Southern USA, and they taught European settlers how to prepare cornbread.  As compared to its more plain Civil War counterpart, the Big Jones version also added Spanish and Mexican flair to it with black beans, salsa, avocado, and sour cream.  These savory pancakes were filling but not too much.  It was the best of both worlds since I love pancakes more than omelets, but the two individual elements combined to make one mouth-watering and appetite-pleasing plate.  I highly recommend them if you’re looking for something beyond shrimp and grits.

Overall, I would highly recommend Big Jones’ for great Cajun food.  It might not be as well known as Heaven on Seven or Pappadeaux, but the line out the door every Sunday would tell you otherwise.  This hidden gem provides generous portions of delectable Cajun fare for reasonable prices, especially if you’re Jonesin’ for just a great glass of sweet tea.  See you next time, y’all!

Big Jones Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Advertisements

San Diego (Day 3): A Sweet Sendoff (Il Fornaio and Phil’s BBQ)

Posted on

It has finally come to the end of the line for the San Diego travelogue, and perhaps my last blog post in a long time to come as I begin my journey through graduate school tomorrow.  I’ll try my best to post on her, but life has a funny way of hijacking my best material.  As always on Mastication Monologues, I plan on highlighting the culinary stops we made along the way during our travels as well as any fun or exciting events of note.  Day three was much more laid back than day one or day two aside from a little shoe scare toward the end of our trip.

As we woke up from our deep slumber from the crazy night before, we were definitely feeling the results of dancing and indulging ourselves all night long with great company.  Thankfully, the newlyweds were hosting a farewell brunch for guests at another eatery on Coronado Island called Il Fornaio or “The Baker” in Italian. img_9746 It was one of seemingly a million Italian eateries strewn about San Diego, but it was clearly inspired by the signature villas one could find in the Tuscan countryside with the sand colored walls and arbor vitaes lining the entrance.  On the inside, it was light and airy with exposed woodwork and a kitchen that was open to the public eye. img_9744img_9743 While we didn’t eat from the official menu since it was picked out to be more wide ranging for the multitude of guests’ palates, img_9742the waffles, eggs, and sausage that were provided were all excellent, especially the fluffy waffles topped with a spritz of whipped cream and some freshly sliced strawberries.  We didn’t touch any of their alcoholic offerings like their signature mimosas or bellinis (a nod to the classic Venetian drink at Harry’s Bar), but they didn’t mess around when my fiancee asked for her personal elixir of life:  Diet Coke.

Now that's service!

Now that’s service!

Once finished with chowing down on the delectable morsels, we strolled out onto the outdoor patio that overlooked the entire San Diego skyline. img_9745 A breathtaking view for a trip that has felt the same way at certain points due to the immense amount of activities that were planned.  We were under the canopy, soaking up the last few rays of humidity free weather, when suddenly Janice remembered she didn’t have her high heels from last night.  I quickly traced our Uber driver down online and called him.  Luckily, he had them in the back of his car, and offered to drive to the restaurant to drop them off.  After we wished the Cua and Ng family goodbye and thanked them for their hospitality, our Uber driver arrived right on time with the goods.  It seemed like nothing could stand in our way on this perfect vacation.  Not even when we looking for a place to satisfy our rumbling stomachs as we waited for our plane.  As mentioned in my day one post, the wedding party hosted a rehearsal dinner with barbecue catering.  Lo and behold, Janice and I ended up eating at the same company’s franchise location in San Diego’s airport:  Phil’s BBQ.img_9747  After looking over their full menu of chicken, ribs, salads, sandwiches, and fixin’s, I decided to share a quarter rib dinner with Janice ($10).  It included four of their ribs and with two small sides or one large side.  We opted for the former choice in the form of potato salad and macaroni salad.  It also came with a side of cornbread which might not be offered at their main restaurant locations.  The ribs were smaller than the gargantuan ones offered at Sabrina and Thompson’s rehearsal dinner, but that didn’t mean that they were lacking in flavor.img_9749  The tomato-based sauce was on the sweeter end with not much of a smoky profile to it.  They weren’t as mouth-wateringly transcendent than the Twin Anchor ribs back in Chicago, but they were better than some fancy Italian dining at Sbarro.  The sides were competently made but nothing of note.  I did enjoy the cornbread that was warm and soft without the waterfall of crumbs that typically accompany each bite of cornbread.  I’d recommend trying Phil’s BBQ if you have a layover and want to try some Ohio style bbq, but it isn’t a must for any traveler.  At least the food was more satisfying than the Euro 2016 final between Portugal and France we watched.  By the time we were boarding, Ronaldo was lifting the trophy, elated beyond words, while we were less than enthused to come back to reality after such a wonderful time.  Perhaps the West coast really is the best coast after all that we saw, experienced, and tasted.   Until next time, readers!  Keep on traveling and eating!13606960_4451837091114_8145190808412734475_n

Il Fornaio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Phil’s BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Cellar: It’s Goin’ Down!

Posted on

Happy Fall to all with this newest edition of the funkiest and freshest food blog in Chicago, Mastication Monologues.  Today’s entry takes us north of the City to the university town of Evanston, home of the Northwestern Wildcats and the American fusion diner known as The Cellar.

IMG_4175It seems that it is located next to a wine and tapas bar that is called the Stained Glass, but we went to the restaurant for a dinner date earlier this summer.  IMG_4178Even though it wasn’t the actual tapas bar, I was informed that most of the dishes were designed like tapas, i.e. smaller portions that are meant to be shared (as oxymoronic as that sounds).  I started with a cold brew in the form of a Headless Man Amber Ale from Tyranena Brewing in Wisconsin. IMG_4164 It definitely was an aromatic choice that had a slightly hoppy aftertaste with hints of caramel throughout the beer.  It was light though to compliment the first dish of the night:  the butter and salt flight with a warm loaf of sliced French bread ($6.50). IMG_4167 If you blinked, you would have missed it being set on the table since we devoured every morsel.  This dairy-palooza sported three different types of butter:  Parmigiano Reggiano butter with fleur de sel, goat’s milk butter with pink Himalayan salt, and truffle butter with truffle sea salt.  The Parmigiano butter with the fancy French sea salt obviously tasted nice and cheesy but not obnoxiously so.  It was personally my favorite since the goat’s milk butter wasn’t as pungent and strong as I would expect from a butter that should have had the soul of a good Feta.  With the truffle butter, I was somewhat surprised that it didn’t possess the aromatic potency I’d expect from the world famous and ludicrously expensive fungi that I sampled firsthand at London’s Borough Market.   I still would recommend this appetizer though.  Our second round consisted of the elotes callejeros ($4.75) and the smoked salmon flatbread ($12.50).  The former was a nod to the Mexican street food scene (calle meaning “street” in Spanish), and it shown through with the fusion of smoked paprika and grilled corn. IMG_4166 The mayonnaise was a more savory choice over the typical butter one can find at any picnic in ‘Murika.  It was a more decadent partner to the more understated smoked salmon flatbread.  IMG_4168This bite of more Northern Europe cuisine with the cold salmon and greens reminded me of the Swedish flatbreads common to smorgasboards.  Instead of a white cream, they utilized a more Mediterranean flavor with the pesto sauce and goat cheese. IMG_4169 It all kind of overpowered the salmon itself, but I enjoyed the herbal pesto along the creamy, potent goat cheese.  It was delicious, but if you’re looking for a great salmon meal, look elsewhere.  Our main dishes finally came.  I got the shrimp tacos ($13), and Janice got the empanadas ($9.50).  The latter consisted of the ubiquitous, fried Latin turnovers filled with roasted poblano peppers, sweet corn, Oaxaca cheese, and avocado-tomatillo salsa on the side.IMG_4170  The flaky yet crunchy crust was bursting with the spicy peppers and were countered with the creamy cheese and sweet corn.  Plenty of textural and flavor contrasts that worked together in harmony. IMG_4174 As for my tacos, I felt that the tortillas were a bit too small for the fried pieces of seafood that were resting on a kale citrus slaw and topped with grilled sweet red onions. IMG_4172 IMG_4171Once I piled all of these ingredients into the flatbread with a dollop of the semi-spicy aioli for good measure on top, I got a mouthful of quality food from beginning to end.  IMG_4173The breading was buttery and golden brown, but the shrimp was just ok.  However, the citrus slaw and semi-sweet onions provided the zest to the seafood that gave the taco a punch of ceviche flavor.  Even though we were chowing down for a good while, we managed to find room for dessert which took the form of the creme brulee sampler ($7.75).  IMG_4176It was three small cups of high quality burnt sugar and egg custard with different kinds of flavor infusions.  The Mexican chocolate one had a bit of a spicy kick in the form of cinnamon and a little hint of chili pepper.  I’ll just say up front that this was my favorite, but the french vanilla was a close second.  The chai one was my least favorite since it was a bit too subtle for my liking, but maybe you’ll enjoy it more than I did.  It was a sweet flourish to a light but filling dinner.

So if you are in the Evanston area and looking for a fusion restaurant that I could liken to a more affordable Girl and the Goat, check out The Cellar!
The Cellar Beer and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Death Metal Delight

Posted on

Art can be manifested in various mediums.  While paintings and sculptures can be found all over the world from the beginning of humanity, music has a special place in the collective soul of mankind.  It can reflect a gamut of emotions, cultures, and innovations in technology (or hatred of said technology).  An eatery in Chicago called Kuma’s Corner  (Kuma means “bear” in Japanese) manages to fuse metal music culture with a menu focused exclusively on creatively named and constructed burgers.  What could be better than that?

Now, I’m not a huge fan of death metal or really heavy rock music outside of listening to it on my workout mix, so I was curious to see why so many people kept on raving about their burgers even though they seemed like the last people to be headbanging or howling along with the gutteral lead singers.  The exterior looked pleasant enough, but as soon as I walked in, I was greeted with a wall of people and fierce chords being pumped out of the speakers overhead.IMG_3730  I was surprised though since I heard from friends that the music was turned up to 11, but I didn’t find that to be the case.IMG_3718IMG_3719  Since I was dining alone, I was immediately seated at the bar, but I’d recommend bracing yourself for a wait if you’re going there around lunchtime.  The bartender along with every other employee there was friendly and covered in tattoos.  Not only did the artwork decorate my server’s arms, but I even found her probable inspiration all over the bathroom walls as every square inch was covered with tattoo samples.IMG_3728IMG_3729  After sitting down and pouring over the burger options, I noticed that they had very creative names paying tribute to different rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Megadeath, Slayer, and Plague Bringer to name a few.  Not only were the names intimidating, so were the options since they all looked so delicious.  After bringing it down to two choices in my head, the Plague Bringer and the Goatsnake, I asked my bartender which she’d recommend out of all of them.  Surprisingly, she said those two were her favorite.  She then gave me time to think about it, and even said she’d surprise me if I couldn’t make up my mind.  After some deliberation, I told her I’d take the Goatsnake ($10) along with a complimentary side of handcut fries, but I could have also picked chips or a salad instead of the fries.  If you’re not feeling like a burger, they do have appetizers, salads, and sandwiches.  After waiting for some time and slobbering on myself while checking out other peoples’ burgers, my burger was placed in front of me.  I didn’t know where to start. IMG_3721 It was overflowing my plate, and the guy next to me even asked me what I got since it looked so much more intense compared to his burger.  Jackpot!  This creation named after the doom metal group from California caught my eye because of its creative ingredients.IMG_3722  While there was a pile of fried red onion strings on top, I’ve had that on other burgers I’ve destroyed at other restaurants.  The holy trinity of ingredients that piqued my interest was the herbed goat cheese, poblano and corn relish, and Cholula lemon vinaigrette.  I could see the first two elements, and the third one could only be experienced.  I put my top bun on and was ready to rock my socks off. IMG_3724 Wow!  From the first bite, I knew I was dealing with a unique burger.    The patty was hearty and juicy but was borderline greasy.  It didn’t take away from the bold flavors that were more radical than a face-melting guitar solo.  The goat cheese was plentiful and provided a strong flavor background for the rest of the star ingredients like Lars Ulrich’s drumming for Metallica.  As for the corn and poblano pepper relish, it supplied a counterbalance of texture and a hint of spice that I enjoyed.  Finally, there was the most outrageous yet memorable part of the burger which was the Cholula lemon vinaigrette.  With every bite, my palate was awash with a spicy citrus punch that went especially well with the goat cheese that almost made it seem like they did an homage to Chicago’s saganaki legacy unintentionally.  Once I demolished my main dish, I turned my attention to the fries.  They were on the less crispy side which I perfer and weren’t too salty.  I wasn’t sure, but I believe the ketchup had a bit of spice in it.  Either way, these fries couldn’t measure up to the burger magnum opus I experienced moments before.  The bartender finally saw the feeding frenzy was over, and offered me a round of applause with how thoroughly I cleaned my plate.  I applaud you too, Kuma’s Corner, for your passion for creating insanely delicious burgers.

So if you’re tired of the same old burger joints that use the same old ingredients in the same old bar and grill environment, bear crawl on over to Kuma’s Corner and party on!

Kuma's Corner on Urbanspoon

I Like the Cut of Your Rib

Posted on

Man, what a summer.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better with the weather improving and the World Cup around the corner, I finally made it out to Chicago’s famous Ribfest.  While there is another similar festival out in Naperville, the Chicago one apparently is the best in the entire city for the summer.   That really means something since there are ten billion street fests in Chicago for every type of cuisine, ethnicity, and music genre.  Why so many?  Oh, let’s just say when the winter hits Chicago, you don’t want to be anywhere outside, especially this past winter.

Ribfest is typically a three day event complete with music, games, and oh yeah, the food, including an amateur rib eating contest!  Perhaps this video could give you a good idea of what it’s like to be there minus the crushing claustrophobia Janice and I experienced on the wonderful Sunday afternoon we spent there.  We could see rib vendors from all over the Chicagoland area and the USA.  After dodging millions of the food zombies slowly grazing and ripping apart various foodstuffs while shuffling slowly down Lincoln Ave., we ended up at the Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro tent.  We had to try it since it has now won best ribs at the fest for the fifth year running.  We got a sampler, and it was absolutely finger-lickin’ good.IMG_3359  The whiskey laden sauce coated every inch of these fall-off-the-bone tender ribs.  The sauce was smoky yet quite sweet, but the only downside was that I felt that there could have been more meat on the bones for the price.

She doesn't mind.

She doesn’t mind.

After those tiny but tasty buggers, we moseyed on back to the Texas Thunder BBQ tent because you can’t mess with Texas!IMG_3363  Not only did we splurge for a rib sampler but also a side of the sweet cowboy cornbread.  I was much more satisfied with these bad boys since everything definitely was bigger in Texas.IMG_3362  These Flintstone-sized ribs were more my speed since they had plenty of meat along with a spicier sauce that had hints of cayenne pepper.  Not only that, but the cornbread was the best cornbread I’ve ever had.  Not only was it sweet, but it was moist and spongy which allowed them to soak up some of the bbq sauce to create a spicy and sweet treat.  It was a great day.IMG_3367

Bring Money to Get This Honey

Posted on

Hey, everyone!  Sorry for the wait, but I’ve been busy as of late with tutoring.  However, I hope you’re ready for a finger-lickin’ good blog post today on Mastication Monologues!  While I have my affinity for certain fried chicken chains over others, Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Chicago has quickly become one of the best places I’ve ever had the artery-clogging, guilty pleasure.IMG_3048

After a fun day out on the town with my friend Janice, we decided to try Honey Butter Fried Chicken for lunch dinner or as we called it, “linner”, or perhaps “dunch” would work just as well.  That portmanteau was born out of the fact we went to eat around 5 pm since we’re old people deep down inside.  I didn’t expect the restaurant to be as busy as it was at that time of day.IMG_3047  We went in line, and there was a sense of pressure as the line continued to form behind us.  As my pulse quickened and my eyes scanned over the fried chicken, sandwhich, and sides options, I eventually went for a four piece chicken platter ($15; too expensive) and a side of schmaltz smashed potatoes ($2.75).  We quickly jumped off to the side as the tide of customers ebbed forth, and we decided to sit out on the patio that is in the back of the restaurant.  However, Chicago that day decided to live up to its nickname the Windy City by greeting us with chilly blasts of wind that made us retreat into the main dining room (though the Windy City name doesn’t come from the weather phenomenon).  Once settled in a more comfortable eating environment, bar the proximity of the tables to each other which invades a bit of your privacy, our food was brought out to us.  It was smaller than I was anticipating for the price, but I was judging a crusty brown book by its cover.

So. much. fat.

So. much. fat.

I started with the corn muffins.  These little nuggets of sweet, fluffy goodness were appropriately stamped with honey bees and honeycombs.  My taste buds were abuzz after slathering the muffins with hefty helpings of the free honey butter on the side that were both creamy and not too sweet.  You only get one complimentary tub with your chicken platter, but they just decided to give me another one because they’re cool like that.  As for the chicken, while it doesn’t have the potent punch of Popeye’s spicy chicken strips, the breading was superb by being both bursting with flavor and not that greasy.  The meat was succulent, and the best part was that the breast pieces were completely boneless which gave me a lot more chicken than I was anticipating.  My duck fat mashed potatoes were excellent, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t like gravy on their mashed potatoes.  I think it was because the light, salty flavor of the duck fat in the gravy wasn’t as overpowering as a beef based sauce.  The actual taters were light and whipped.  I even had some room in my bulging tummy for a bit of Janice’s creamed corn that was wild.

Not your granddaddy's creamed corn

Not your granddaddy’s creamed corn

While the corn was run of the mill, it was kicked up a notch with Thai green curry.  What that meant for each forkful was that the buttery corn flavor brought a subtle citrus zest that really surprised me in a good way.  By the end of the meal, I was happier than a rooster in a hen house.

So if you’re looking for a new take on fried chicken that goes beyond the standard establishments and normal price range, check out Honey Butter Fried Chicken.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

Qué Guay de Paraguay!

Posted on

Hola a todos y bienvenidos a un capítulo nuevo de Mastication Monologues!  For those who don’t habla the espanol, I basically said, “what’s up and welcome!”.  Anyway, the reason why I busted out the Spanish is because I tried Paraguayan food for the first time today.  Now, if you don’t really know South America, there are basically two countries that dominate the world’s imagination when anyone mentions the continent:  Brazil and Argentina.  These two nations have become so famous thanks to their futbol teams/players, food, women, and not to mention the fact that they’re gargantuan and take up most of the continent.  Therefore, little landlocked Paraguay doesn’t stand a chance to have its voice heard on the global stage when it’s being drowned out by samba, tango, and pan pipes from Bolivia.

Poor Paraguay in yellow

Poor Paraguay in yellow

Somehow a slice of this South American minnow landed in Itaewon in Seoul in the form of the restaurant Comedor or “dining room” in Spanish.  It’s located at 130-3 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울시 용산구 이태원동 130-3).  You can get there by walking out of exit 4 of Itaewon Station and turn around. Take a right at the intersection and then take another right at the small alley. Comedor will be on your left across from Wolfhound Pub.

IMG_0996

The inside is very cozy and could probably hold only 10 people max at a time, but I personally preferred it to a large, noisy place.  There was only one waitress in the place which added to the homey atmosphere.  The menu consisted of individual empanadas (small pockets of meat, cheese, and vegetables) ranging from (4,000-6,000 W), menu of the day, and sides like chipa which is a native Paraguayan bread.  I ended up getting the combo platter (14,000 W) which consisted of three different types of empanadas, regular chipa bread, cheesy chipa bread, and a beverage.  For my beverage, I wanted to get mate tea (cocido 4,000 W, caliente and terrere varieties 6,000 W) which is the national drink of Paraguay and consists of brewing the leaves of the yerba mate plant.  Even though it wasn’t part of the combo deal, my waitress didn’t charge me for it probably because I spoke Spanish with her (hint hint for all you hispanohablantes out there).

When it came out, I didn’t know where to start first, but who was I kidding?  I was going straight for the empanadas.

Starting at right and going clockwise:  cheesy chipa, corn and cheese empanada, chicken empanada, beef empanada, and regular chipa in the middle

Starting at right and going clockwise: cheesy chipa, corn and cheese empanada, chicken empanada, beef empanada, and regular chipa in the middle

First, there was the cheese and corn one.  It was a great combination since the corn was very sweet, and the cheese was slightly salty and gooey.  The flaky pastry crust was a golden blanket that kept these two ingredients piping hot which really brought out the flavors even more. IMG_1002 I splashed some of the spicy Tabasco-esque sauce from the side bowl on top of a piece, and it was a spicy, salty, sweet fiesta in my mouth.  Next came the chicken empanada.IMG_1003  I wasn’t really blown away by this empanada since the chicken was on the dry side, but the pastry was still executed to excellence.  As for the final beef empanada, I was a bit surprised because not only did it have seasoned ground beef in it but also hard boiled egg crumbles. IMG_1005 This added an extra flavor/texture dimension to another possibly pedestrian empanada.  So out of the three I tried, the cheese and corn one stood head and shoulders above its less flavorful companions.  Then there were the two types of chipa bread whose name comes from the indigenous Guaraní language of Paraguay that still is widely spoken.  I tried the cheesy chipa first, and it was like corn bread mixed with Cheetos in a good way, i.e.  it wasn’t as radioactively orange, and I didn’t get the cheese dust all over my fingers.  Once I forked every last crumb down, I attacked the yuca chipa bread.  IMG_1006It was a great last piece of the platter because it was very similar to the Brazilian pão de queijo or “cheese bread”.  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  The actual bread was ever so crispy on the outside but quite soft/pliable which gave way to a moderate, interior coating of fresh white cheese.  To drink, it was a bit of folly on my part.  As I said before, I ordered mate tea, but there are three different types on the menu:  cocido (cooked), caliente (hot), and terere (cold in Guaraní).  I got the cocido thinking it was the traditional mate served out of a gourd with a metal straw, but instead I got the gentrified version of it in a fine china teacup.  Qué lastima!   Turns out the other two were the traditional versions.  Nevertheless, it was a potent brew that reflected its indigenous roots in every sip through a mostly herbal flavor profile while being consumed in a European manner.  One could say it was a microcosm of Paraguayan society within one cup of tea.

So if you’re tired of eating the same old tacos and nachos at Vatos in Itaewon, try out Comedor for some rare South American fare.

%d bloggers like this: