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Cinfully Delicious

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A common phrase in English is “the breakfast of champions” which is often used to describe a specific foodstuff or collection of drink and food that will transform someone into a winner.  However, a tougher title to achieve is “champion of breakfasts”, especially in a big and competitive market like Chicago.  Now, I’ve had my fair share of flapjacks, scramblers, and skillets, and it’s really just the tip of the bacon-wrapped iceburg.  Not all diners are created equal though.  Kanela is one of those special franchises that has slowly, but surely, taken over the Chicago breakfast scene.

κανέλα” or Kanela means “cinnamon” in Greek, and this Greek American establishment of the same name is a temple to this once rare ingredient.  I love my spices and seasoning, but I think that cinnamon is my favorite.  Whether it’s in rolls, doughnuts, or French toast, I can’t get enough of the powdery and savory spice.  So, when I heard that we would be paying a visit to it for a morning meal, I was over the moon.  It had a modest exterior that belied its popularity as people were milling outside waiting for a table. IMG_4818 Thankfully, there is free parking nearby and on the street if you’re looking to take a large group to enjoy all of the great breakfast options we soon thereafter started sampling.  The place was absolutely poppin’ on a Sunday morning, go figure, but we got a table for two in no time. IMG_4817 We started the meal off with drinks.  Janice got a Bloody Mary that was extra spicy and made with Absolut Peppar vodka to give it that peppy kick to wake you up and/or chase the mad dog of a hangover from last night away.  IMG_4802As for me, I went the healthier route with the PB & J smoothie ($6) which consisted of peanut butter, blueberry, strawberry, and organic agave nectar which is a slightly healthier alternative to regular sugar but much better than artificial sweeteners.IMG_4805  Fun fact:  the agave is the same plant that tequila is derived from as well, but don’t expect any sort of alcoholic punch with this natural sugar substitute. Surprisingly, this large glass of cooling ambrosia isn’t as sweet as you would imagine. IMG_4803 It managed to capture the soul of the elementary lunch school staple with a splash of peanut butter mixing with the sweet fruits and syrup but in a much more understated manner.   Once we had our beverages in hand, we started the food fest by sharing an order of monkey bread ($4).  It came out and looked simply sinfully delicious.IMG_4808  I often wondered why people call it “monkey bread” since it doesn’t look like something a monkey would eat or shaped like some sort of simian.  After a bit of research, the origin of the sweet treat’s name is shrouded in mystery, but one theory postulates that its cracked and bumpy surface bears a certain resemblance to the bark of the monkey puzzle tree that grows in South America.  With one bite of this appetizer, we went ape.  Each piece we pulled apart from the bread was more flavorful than the one that preceded it.  The cinnamon dusted on top combined with the honey drizzled on top made it taste like a mixture between a dulce de leche roll I had in Costa Rica and a classic cinnamon roll.IMG_4807  Plus, it was slightly warm that pushed this dessert to the next level.  For our entrees, Janice got the duck confit hash ($12) while I ordered the spicy feta omelet ($11).  First, I have to mention that if you are any type of Greek restaurant or even just a restaurant owned by a Greek, you will get giant portions for your money.  Kanela holds to this axiom.  The duck confit hash looked mouth-wateringly good especially with the orange truffle vinaigrette that really piqued my interest and taste buds. IMG_4809IMG_4813 Thankfully the duck wasn’t too greasy either which can often be a pitfall when ordering the fowl for a meal.  As for my spicy feta omelet, I really loved the fresno pepper garnish that served as a flashpoint of the meal. IMG_4814 Its bright red skin immediately drew my attention at the newborn baby-sized omelet that was lying in front of me.  IMG_4815The ends weren’t that packed with any sort of filling, just fluffy eggs.  However, I soon got to the business end of things as I was greeted with a thick pocket of tyrokafteri cheese, red onion, and tomatoes. IMG_4816 My advice for anyone wanting to get this is that it’s not terribly spicy, and make sure that you love feta cheese because there’s half of Greece’s supply in just this one omelet.  So if you aren’t as big of a cheesehead as me, then consider yourself warned.  It’s not for the faint hearted.  The onions made a minimal impression on my palate, and the tomatoes were negligible.  The potatoes on the side were not too greasy or too dry, and they worked well when mixed with the omelets or just on their own.

By the end of meal, we were stuffed and satisfied with our trip to Kanela.  For the price, portion sizes, and overall quality of ingredients, Kanela can’t be touched.
Kanela Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon

Pie in the Sky Prices = Not So Apeeling

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Well, life just keeps on getting weirder and weirder in Korea, but I’m really looking forward to tomorrow since I’ll be gracing Everland for the first time.  For those who don’t know, Everland is basically South Korea’s response to Disney World, so I’m excited to see their take on the enchanted kingdom.  Anyway, I’m here to talk about the supposedly “Best pizza place in Seoul” a.k.a. the Pizza Peel.  Here’s all the location/hours info courtesy of their business card:

IMG_1036So there you go.  The directions are pretty straight forward:  leave Itaewon station exit 4 and walk straight for about 10 minutes.  Once you pass the McDonalds, look on your left hand side, and you’ll see an arch saying, “Alley Market”.  Walk under it, and you’ll see the Pizza Peel. IMG_1029 As I mentioned before, the reason that brought me here was that I heard it was the best pizza in Seoul, but then again, it seems that there are many contenders for that coveted crown.  So I had to check it out for myself.  The interior was modest but very busy with people enjoying their Hangul day off from work/school.  I greatly admired the establishment’s brick oven that seemed to be cut and pasted straight from a pizzeria back home, NYC, or Italy.

Mother of all pizzas

The hot momma of all pizzas

As my friend, Aaron, and I sat down, we perused the menu.  We could see that it wasn’t the cheapest pizza in the world as exemplified by their menu below (range from 14,000 W to 18,500 W):IMG_1037IMG_1038

To drink they also have soda and beer options that goes beyond the typical Korean trinity of Cafri, Cass, and Hite which was pretty great, but the non-Korean choices are in the same league as the pizza prices.  However, I figured the pizza was so expensive because of the ingredients you’d never find on Korea pizzas like Feta cheese, pesto, Ricotta, and artichokes to name a few.  I kind of wanted to eat them all, and I even considered one of their dessert pizzas.  Sadly, I’m not making Psy money teaching English. Eventually, I went for the Buffalo Ranch pizza  (18,500 W), and Aaron went for the Canadian (15,500 W).

It apologized for not smiling for my photo

It apologized for not smiling for my photo

Aaron’s pizza looked marvelous, and I learned that apparently in Canada they actually have their own “Canadian style” pizza which must have mushrooms, pepperoni, mozzarella, and bacon on it (not Canadian bacon though for the Hosers or peameal bacon for the Canucks).  As for my pizza, it looked delectable as well.  Size-wise, if you’re a big boy/eater like me or just really hungry, you can easily eat one of these pizzas by yourself which further underscores the somewhat inflated prices.  In comparison to the North American fatty alliance at our table, the Koreans  around us were splitting the small pies between two people.  Go figure. We quickly tore into our meals, and mine was interesting to say the least.IMG_1030  First, the crust.  It was definitely on the thin side, and I dare say thinner than NYC slices which are like delicious pieces of paper with cheese on it.  What this all meant was that each slice’s integrity was close to nothing, so you had to fold it in half and hope the piping hot toppings didn’t fall on your clothes/hand like some delectable napalm.  I’ll take my thicker Chicago thin crust, thank you.  On the other hand, the crust was expertly baked in just the right places with a golden hue and warm, white center to every crust.  As for the toppings, there was plenty of natural mozzarella cheese instead of the typical, artificial, rubbery cheese-flavored product the Koreans use on their pizzas.  The chicken chunks were well roasted and went well with the ranch dressing which was the substitute for the traditional marinara tomato sauce.    It was like gobbling down pizza and chicken fingers at the same time.  Ranch just goes so perfectly with both!  I didn’t really taste much of the Feta or the hot sauce, but I was satisfied with my choice nevertheless.

So after finally going to the supposed “Best pizza place” in Seoul, I’d have to disagree.  True, they have some rarer pizza ingredients along with a brick oven for that rustic touch, but I’d still take Monster Pizza over Pizza Peel.  You get one giant slice of quality pizza for only 3,000 W roughly, and a whole pizza from Monster Pizza could feed a small army for just a fraction of Pizza Peel’s prices.  Now that’s something a gourmand like me can sink his teeth into.

Apart of Something Delicious

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Hello to everyone out there in the blogosphere!  Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues where I review various restaurants, and let everyone know whether or not it’s worth it to spend your money at said establishments.  Today, I will be talking about a pizzeria in Chicago that I never even heard of until my friend said she had a Groupon, and my stomach was telling me, “Hey ya mook, fill me up with something!”  So, we decided to go to Apart Pizza located at  5624 North Broadway, Chicago, IL.

Humble digs, delicious pies

Humble digs, delicious pies

Now in Chicago, how pizza is made is a point of personal preference and pride when talking to outsiders.  Obviously, we have our arguments with New Yorkers about who has better pizza, and the best thing that Los Angeles has to offer in the pizza world is California Pizza Kitchen…no comment.  However, for the uninitiated to the NY vs. Chicago pizza polemic, it basically boils down to this:  crust.  Classic New York pizza is cut in slices and is paper-thin while Chicago has thicker, crunchier crust and can be cut in slices or squares (a.k.a. “Party Cut” if you really want to sound like a local).  However, Chicago also has its signature deep dish pizza which is like a thick pie of sauce and cheese, and it will fill you up after two slices.  Anyway, I’m a firm believer in the overall superiority of Chicago pizza to New York pizza simply based off of the variety we have, but I guess it’s like comparing apples and oranges.  I’ll let you be the judge.

Moving on from culinary debates, we walked into their very unassuming storefront to find a tiny dining room with only three tables in it.  If you are planning on coming there with a large group, I would recommend taking advantage of their free delivery services.  I ordered the Pollo Tuscano pizza, and my friend ordered the Queen Margherita.  I was surprised when it came out because it turns out that it was New York style with very thin, floppy slices, but I still greatly enjoyed my pizza. It was festooned with chicken, mushrooms, onions, roasted red peppers, and small cubes of Feta cheese.  Once I let the blazing pie cool off, I proceeded to chow down on its golden crust that was lightly dusted with flour.  The cheese to sauce ratio was pretty evenly proportion and taste-wise and allowed for the sweet peppers to do a lively tarantella with the bold tasting onions and  fresh Feta cheese.  As for the chicken, it was a bit on the dry side, so I think it could have been better if they perhaps used shredded chicken instead of the cubes.  Plus, the mushrooms were pretty much a non-factor, so I don’t know why they even put them on the pizza.   My friend’s Queen Margherita was a classic pie with fresh tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and basil leaves.  It was very thin, light, and fresh like the queen this type of pizza was named after, and it’s always a solid choice for those vegetarians out there.

Che Bella!

Che Bella!

So if you’re looking for a slice of Big Apple pizza while visiting the Windy City or are tired of the gut busting proportions of a Giordanos deep dish pizza, try out Apart Pizza!  It truly is a star on Broadway.

Apart Pizza on Urbanspoon

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