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All About My Cheddar

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Top o’ the morning to ye and welcome to Mastication Monologues!  Today’s post involves an Irish pub with plenty of class and delicious food.  I’m talking about Lady Gregory’s located on the north side of Chicago.  The name references a female Victorian Irish playwright who penned “Playboy of the Western World”, a play made infamous due to its scandalous reference to underpants.  Ohhhhh my! She faced plenty of resistance and even death threats from audiences until Teddy Roosevelt saw the play and praised it.  Looks like the king of “Bully!” stopped the bullies, and Lady Gregory’s menu contains the same sassyness the original Lady Gregory possessed.  It ranges from flatbreads, salads, soups, burgers, and big plates.  Plus, they have plenty of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to wet your whistle.IMG_3254

As for the layout of the restaurant, it has both indoor and outdoor seating.  Janice and I chose to sit inside, so we were ushered past the impressive wrap-around bar to the area known as “the library”.IMG_3253  Why?  Simple.  It’s an actual library that has walls stocked with reading material to go along with your eats and a few board games as well if you’re not entertained with simple conversation.IMG_3252  After looking over the menu, I went for the ultimate grilled cheese ($10) and a side of champ ($3.50).  My meal eventually came out, and it looked great.  When they say the grilled cheese is “ultimate”, they mean that every element of the sandwich is coated, stuffed, and/or infused with cheese.  *Cue Homer moment*.  It was unlike any other grilled cheese moment I’ve had in other parts of Chicago or in my life.  First, the bread was a Parmesan encrusted sourdough that had plenty of crunch, cheesy flavor, and consistency to support the flavor bomb that was ticking between the slices. IMG_3247 When I bit through the beautiful bread, I was greeted by an avalanche of lava hot cheeses:  Gruyere, Irish white cheddar, mozzarella, and brie to be exact.  While these smooth and flavorful cheeses were cascading down my palate, I also managed to catch some of the mashed tomatoes in the waves of dairy along with some delightfully smoky yet sweet, candied bacon pieces. IMG_3251  I’d highly recommend this delightfully rich in flavor but not in price plate.  The free pickle on the side only “sweetened” the deal with its sour, dill crunch.  As for the champ, it’s an Irish take on mashed potatoes.  Called brúitín in Gaelic or “poundies”, this side takes basic mashed potatoes and combines them with butter, green onions, and milk.IMG_3250  A simple food that packs plenty of complex sensations into a humble bowl.  While the potatoes were extremely creamy, the rich butter contrasted with the semi-strong green onions that introduced a bit of attitude like a champion side dish should have.

So if you want to have some great versions of simple meals that won’t cost you a pot o’ gold, check out Lady Gregory’s!

Lady Gregory's on Urbanspoon

Live and Let Fry

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‘ello everyone!  I’m writing about British food today, so forgive the terrible accent I’m trying to convey through my lovely prose.  Anyway, national stereotypes aside (Warning:  I will use a lot of random British slang, so keep calm and carry on), welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  As I just mentioned, today I will be talking about Battered Sole, an import all the way from Old Blighty that somehow landed in Seoul.  It’s located at Changcheon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea.  It’s pretty easy to get there.  Go to Sinchon station on the metro and come out exit 2.  Walk straight up the main street you see to your left until you see a McDonalds on your left hand side.  Make a left down that street and then walk straight until you see the restaurant on your left on the second floor.  You also can’t miss it with the Union Jacks fluttering over their walkway. Here’s their website.IMG_1299IMG_1288

So I’ve been wanting to try this place for the longest time after hearing rave reviews from my British (both Scottish and English) friends over here.  If there’s one thing the Scots know, it’s the quality of deep fried goods.  Plus, I have spent my fair share of time on the tea-drinking side of the Atlantic to sample some really good fish and chips or trying it stateside in New York City.  So it seemed only natural that I would enjoy a belated birthday celebration there.  Before we even walked into the place, we were greeted outside by one of the employees who introduced himself and asked us for memorable quotes for his welcome board.

Where the witty banter went down.

Where the witty banter went down.

I liked this place already just for the very English welcome of being very polite yet awkward yet fixated on witty wordplay.  Wonderful.  We walked in around 7 pm, and we had the place to ourselves more or less.  The decor was very kitchy in some senses with the Rolling Stones and Union Jacks everywhere, but it wasn’t overkill. IMG_1289IMG_1292 Looking at the prices, it was average prices for foreign fare in Korea.  Meredith and I got the battered cod and chips (or French fries for Amurkans) for 11,000 W.  I also threw caution to the wind and got a London Pride for 11,000 W which naturally jacked up for being an import.  They also have chicken wings, sausage and chips, and various sides if fish isn’t your bag.  The beer came out first, and as I expected it was a slightly hearty brown ale like many English beers.IMG_1290  It had slight caramel notes along with some bitter tastes throughout with a crisp aftertaste.  On a scale from pure rubbish to a ledge, it would probably be jolly good.  Finally the  star of the show made its appearance in front of me. IMG_1291 It was a substantial piece of fish that looked exquisite along with some freshly made chips nestled right next to it.  The fish portion of the duet was in harmony with my palate.  From its flaky white flesh to the thick and buttery breading, I was brought back to the East End in London the first time I had fish and chips in the homeland.  I also appreciated the lemon wedge, tartar sauce, and malt vinegar.  The tartar sauce was quite creamy but not as tangy as I’d like.  As for the chips, they were not super crispy but more savory and filled with the fry oil that I really enjoyed.  It wasn’t the most filling meal in the world since I have a big appetite, but it was extremely satisfying and worth it.

So if you’re looking to catch a great meal, Battered Sole is the place for you.

Sir Winston looks a little fishy...

Sir Winston looks a little fishy…

Candy is Dandy but Liquor is Quicker

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To those who actually got the Willy Wonka reference in my title, bravi, for I was figuratively transported to a restaurant that was a veritable horn o’ plenty of delicious food and exquisite beers.  I received my golden ticket to this factory of culinary wonders, Owen and Engine which is located at 2700 N Western Ave Chicago, IL, from my friends Eileen and Justine.  They were playing it up for a long time about how wonderful the dishes are, so we decided to take a journey there in order for me to see if this truly was the Shangri-La of sustenance they were making it out to be.

At first, Owen and Engine did not grab my attention immediately as the façade of the building was a simple one, but upon entering it seemed like any pub I’ve been to in London or in the UK in general, classy and understated.  However, I was generally worried due to the Hipster-ish attire of the hostess/waiters/bartenders (i.e. vintage flannels, Ray-Ban wayfarers, and ironic facial hair), but once I was seated my fears were allayed due to the genuine passion our waiter had for their beers.  Once he was done rattling off 25 different beers of the day, he thankfully explained the menu due to the fact that there were certain items that I never even heard of but of course was going to try.

For starters, I went with the Old Rasputin Imperial Stout which definitely did not taste as nefarious as its namesake nor gave me free reign over the Russian Empire while wooing the czarina (unfortunately).  However, it definitely gained a special place in my heart due to its deep black coloring that belied its heavy dark chocolate and bitter aftertaste.

Привет Rasputin!

As for my meal, I plumped for the pork rillette (for those who don’t  of what this is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rillettes)

Bonjour ma rillette!

that was served with whole wheat flatbreads seasoned with sea salt and the beef carpaccio which was garnished with rocket and olive oil.  As for the other lovely ladies at my table, Eileen went with the gnocchi (a gutsy move for ordering Italian food at an English pub), and Justine decided on a safer but equally tasty steak sandwich.  Plus, they ordered a tub of squeak (or mashed potatoes for those on the westside of the Atlantic) for everyone to share.

The thumbs up for gnocchi with the squeak on the side

When my food came out, I initially thought that I had received the short end of the stick since my orders seemed to be lacking the body and presentation of the ladies’ dishes.  I started my meal with the beef carpaccio.  It was absolutely delectable as the lightly seasoned, juicy beef was sliced paper-thin, almost to the point of falling apart on my fork.  The rocket and olive oil provided a fresh herbal aftertaste to the savory meat.  On the whole, it was a lot more filling than I expected.

Up Close and Carpaccio

As for my pork rillette, I was definitely surprised to see the overall presentation since I was expecting more pork than flatbread.  I can only liken the actual rillette to a thick, coarse butter that tasted like pork chops, and the sweet pickles provided a sugary contrast to the salty flatbread/pork.  This dish, however, was not my favorite as the flatbreads quickly became a thorn in my side due to the fact that they were VERY liberally coated with raw sea salt.  Before long, my tongue felt like it was turning into beef jerky, so I would advise those who don’t enjoy really salty food to avoid the rillette flatbreads.  After tasting these two debutants, I managed to get a sample of the gnocchi that really blew me away at how molto bene it really was.  The dumplings were lightly buttered with oregano garnishes, and it was ramped up to the next echelon with the use of smoked bacon chunks to give them a meaty body to round out the flavor (definitely not the soggy tater tots I was expecting them to pass off as authentic gnocchi).  As for Justine’s steak sandwich, it was quite hearty with a refined flavor due to the balance of beef with the zesty horseradish mayo.

Justine's AZN pose with STEAK!

The high quality meat possessed a smidgen of fat to make the sandwich sizzle with flavor.  As always, I saved the best for last:  the squeak.  It seemed like just a simple bowl of mashed potatoes with chives on the top, but as soon as I took a bite…I was in ecstasy.  Need I say more? (just for posterity’s sake, the potatoes were churned to perfection with bacon, cheese, and a certain je ne sais quoi.  Definitely the dark horse of the dinner that outshone the other dishes).

The end of the meal was quite enjoyable since we somehow managed to get a free dessert just because Justine is such a baller and knows everyone there.  It ended up being this chocolate beer based mousse souffle which had a triangle of chocolate rice crispies driven into its center like some sort of beautiful sail on a catamaran of sugary paradise.  Plus, the souffle was flanked by two espresso syrup flourishes on the plate which gave the cake underneath the mousse more of a tiramisu consistency/flavor.  I don’t know if they offer this dessert on the usual menu, but the chocolate beer combined exquisitely with the moist, coffee laden cake underneath to leave my palate in some sort of Frapuccino-esque heaven (don’t sue me, Starbucks, por favor).

Deliciousness Incarnate

Once we paid our bill, we bellied up to the bar to delve further into this veritable beer treasure trove.  Our bartender was named Charlie (who bore an eerie resemblance to a grown up Charlie Bucket from Willy Wonka which made me believe he somehow inherited this amazing restaurant from an eccentric Gene Wilder-type beer wizard after going on a tour which included feeling the furry wallpaper-walk upstairs and you’ll see what I mean), but I digress and then some.  However, he was very knowledgeable being a certified cicerone (the beer version of a sommelier).  I was taken aback when he asked me what I liked in a beer, and like a trained Spider monkey, scurried about and brought out two bottles that I would proceed to drink that night solely chosen off my criteria of a full-bodied, bitter, dark ale.  My first brew was Ola Dubh which hails from mighty Scotland.

Where Ya Hail From Laddy?

The name, funny as it may look, actually means “Black Oil”, and it certainly lived up to its moniker as it looked like I was literally drinking crude oil.  Even though it seemed to be terrible based on looks alone, the taste was quite robust and bitter which was further enhanced by placing a candle underneath it to warm it in order to further open up the hops which normally leads to a better aftertaste.  My second choice was a Nut Brown ale which was not as strong as the first since it didn’t look like something I’d drill from the ground in Venezuela, but it was a very warm beer that had chestnut undertones and a slight bitter aftertaste.

I'm Just a Squirrel Looking for a Nut

As for the nightcap, I tried the Hoss beer which was a pale ale that was the complete opposite of how I started since it was a light translucent yellow with a taste of grass and a hint of lemon that gave the beverage a light and clean finish.

In the long and stout of it all (beer pun intended), Owen and Engine definitely got me revved up to return as soon as possible due to its intimate atmosphere, great food choices made with only the finest ingredients, friendly/knowledgable staff, and the astronomically long list of artisanal beers from all over the world.

Owen and Engine on Urbanspoon

Owen and Engine on Foodio54

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