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Come On Inn and Stay Awhile!

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Look who’s back.  Back again.  This foodie’s back.  Tell a friend.  That’s right, readers, it’s another chapter in the Mastication Monologue universe.  I’ve found a bit of spare time in the madness that is grad school leading up to graduation.  It’s less than a month, and I’m ready to start that next step in life as a bilingual clinical fellow in the Acero charter school system in Chicago!  However, future career moves aside, let’s talk about what makes this blog great:  delicious meals and delightful experiences.  Today’s restaurant reviews focuses on Lachet’s Inn at 2119 W Irving Park Road in the Irving Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Chicago has always been a center for immigrants from all corners of the globe.  In the 1800s, German and Irish waves made their way from the entry point of Ellis Island in New York west to the up and coming metropolis of Chicago.  In fact, so many German immigrants arrived in Chicago that from 1850-1900, they were the largest ethnic group in the city with a population peak in 1914.  While there are more individuals of German descent in the Chicago suburbs compared to the city now, there are still plenty of vestiges of their culture, including a plethora of bakeries, chocolate makers, and bier hauses serving traditional German meals and of course, ze beer!  Chicago has always been a big drinking town, and our love of beer was established with the arrival of German brewmasters.  Which brings us to the year 1971 when German businessman Karl Laschet bought a tavern on Lincoln Avenue in a German enclave of Chicago and named it Karl Laschet’s Inn.  It was run as a German tavern focusing only on steins rather than serving old world delicacies.  The ownership of the Inn changed in 1991 and food was brought in in 2000.  Although Lachet’s Inn’s food hasn’t been around as much as their brews, they all channel the spirit of the fatherland’s cuisine.  We were brought in by our friends Katilin and Dan who swore by the food and drinks, so we naturally had to take the plunge.

When we walked into the tavern, we were greeted with a neighborhood bar vibe with plenty of German artwork on the walls and a full bar complete with no frills beers.  Look elsewhere if you’re hankering for really off the wall beer flavors.  99% of their beers hail from either Germany or Austria, and my personal favorite is the dark but super smooth Austrian Hirter Morchl dunkel.  We were sat in the dining room in the rear of the tavern, and it might be a bit tight if it is busy around dinnertime.  As we looked over the menu that was bedecked in the classic Hofbrau blue, we decided to start our meal off with hackepeter ($11.95) and potato pancakes ($7.95).  While potato pancakes are pretty straight foward in terms of their origin, but hackepeter is more commonly known as mett in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.  The hackepeter term is more common in northern and eastern Germany, specifically Berlin.  However, mett comes from the Old Saxon word “meti” or “food” or low German for “chopped pork meat”.  The really interesting part of this dish was that it was served in the traditional manner: raw on pieces of fresh bread.   The steak tartare was accompanied with onions and capers and a bottle of Maggi sauce which is kind of like a European take on soy sauce.  From the first to the last bite, I was hooked on this rich and filling appetizer.  The meat melted in your mouth on the soft bread and had notes of garlic and fennel which blended perfectly with the crunchy white onions, pickled capers, and salty Maggi sauce.  I highly recommend this Old World favorite.  The potato pancakes also were top notch with a crispy golden brown outside and a soft but not greazy inside.  Once we were finished, we moved on to our main entrees.  I decided to order the rouladen ($20.95 for the regular size or $14 for the small).  I had the option of soup or salad, but I went with the mixed green salad.  However, I would highly recommend their pickled cucumber salad as well.  When our food came out, we were also treated to a mini loaf of warm brown rye with butter.  It was simple, but also very fresh and filling.  Thankfully I didn’t eat too much of the bread because the rouladen was transcendent.  It consisted of thin cuts of beef wrapped around a mix of bacon, onions, pickles, and mustard served in a brown gravy.  As most meals in life, the food that looks the least impressive is often the most comforting and satisfying.  While I couldn’t taste the pickle or mustard as I’d like, the bacon and onions naturally overpowered the filling in a good way.  The beef was very flavorful and not overcooked.  The spaetzel on the side was good, but I’m not a big fan of spaetzel to begin with.  My wife and her friend swear by it though, so I’d say go for it!  The red cabbage was uber-sour, so beware if you’re sensitive to very bold and powerful flavors.  From other visits, I would also recommend the thuringer and the schnitzels for main dishes.  By the time we were full (very easy to do because the portions are huge), we came to the most interesting part of the meal with the after dinner drink.  This is a German tradition of combining herbs with strong liquor to combat digestive issues after a meal similar to the French digestif.  Laschet’s offers a wide variety of schnapps flavors, and I went with the apple-peach mix.  Apparently for men, it’s the equivalent of ordering an appletini or a cosmopolitan as our waiter scoffed at my choice.  Regardless of his opinion, the shot was sweet and delicious!  Fellas, if you don’t want any judgement, go with the apple or apple/pear mix.  They’re all delicious palate cleansers, but I think the doppel korn will be last on my list for future visits.

Overall, I highly recommend a visit to Lachet’s Inn if you want a taste of old-school Germany in Chicago.  Giant portions of fresh food for reasonable prices with plenty of hospitality.  Now that’s what I call gemütlichkeit!

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Craft Beer in Korea? Once In A Brew Moon

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Annyeong hasayeo to everyone out there and welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today’s post is a bit different because it deals with a subject that Korean culture enjoys greatly.  No, I’m not talking about K-pop super groups or overly cutesy-wootsy cartoon animals that could cause diabetes with their saccharine antics (although these two elements really do permeate every part of life in Korea).  I’m actually talking about drinking alcohol in social settings.  However, instead of calling attention to Korean classics like soju and makkeoli, I’m going to shed some light on the craft brewing scene in Seoul.  No longer do you have to suffer with the anemic attempts at legitimate beer in the form of a cold Hite or Cass!  First, we shall take a jaunt down to Craftworks in Itaewon.

Craftworks is located at 651 Itaewon 2-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (http://craftworkstaphouse.com/), but it’s a little hard to find since it’s wedged behind another restaurant in an alley.  Even though it may sound a bit seedy, in reality it’s a hidden gem of a gastropub.  When I first walked in, there was a 40 minute wait, and I could see why.  First, there is their beer menu that is filled with homemade craft brews that are named after Korean landmarks and range anywhere from IPAs to Weisbeers to Dark Ales.  Then there are their menu offerings which include barbecue, wings, build your own salad, sandwiches, and some desserts that made me think of home when I was waiting for a table.  There in front of me in the entryway was a glass case which contained a lattice topped peach pie that was as big as a hubcap and right beside it, a decadent red velvet cake.  I must have died and went to the American enclave of heaven.  It was a definite contrast to the Korean dried seafood and rice cake bonanza that was being displayed in the metro station during my commute to Craftworks.  Eventually, my friend Nate showed up, and we got a table.  The interior was very classy with a dark-wood bar and large glass windows that opened up to a mini patio. craftworks-taphouse-and Definitely the perfect ambiance for enjoying a hand-crafted beer on a cool night.  I started off with the Jirisan Moon Bear I.P.A (7,500 W).

Couldn't wait to get my paws on this bear

Couldn’t wait to get my paws on this bear

The name is interesting since Jirisan is a region in southern South Korea and has one of the three most important mountains in the country.  As for the Moon Bear, it’s a reference to the the Asiatic black bear whose bile is (controversially) consumed for traditional medicine to cure a variety of ailments.  Animal cruelty aside, the beer itself was quite surprising since I’m not the biggest IPA fan, and don’t worry, there wasn’t any bear bile in it.  It had clear citrus notes throughout the body, and the aftertaste did not possess an overwhelming hoppiness.  I then moved on to my soft spot:  dark beers.  I went for the Geumgang Mountain Dark Ale (6,000 W) which checked every box which I look for in a quality beer.IMG_0252  It was darker than a black hole, and the flavor was relatively free of hops.  Plus, there was a slight smokiness to the aftertaste along with chocolate undertones.  Once we had our fill in the wonderful ambiance of Craftworks, we made our way over to Oktoberfest in Hongdae.

Oktoberfest is an all German affair located at 162-6 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu (마포구 동교동162-6); +82 (2) 323 8081.

Main beer hall

Main beer hall

 Their beer selection isn’t as wide or as creatively named as the libations at Craftworks, but they serve some German classics like Pilsner , Weissbier, and even a half beer, half Sprite Radler in sizes from small (300 ml) to large (1,000 ml).  However, I went with a small glass of Dunklesbier or dark beer (5,000 W).IMG_0257  It was not as fierce as the Geumgang Dark Ale, but it was very smooth with a malty aftertaste.  It also lacked the distinctive smokiness of the Dark Ale.  Next time I think I will try the Radler since it is rarely seen outside of Germany, and I do love my Sprite.

So there you have it, folks.  There are many other craft beer breweries in Seoul that I still have to visit, but I hope this entry has shed a little light on the beer scene in Korea and provided a glimmer of hope for those who want to move beyond weak, fizzy beer.

Not the Wurst Joint I’ve Been To

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Hello to everyone out there in the blogosphere!  Welcome to another classic restaurant review on Mastication Monologues.  Yesterday, I visited  a restaurant in Chicago that is an institution and a symbol of German-American pride in the city.  It is called The Berghoff Restaurant and is located at 17 West Adams Street  Chicago, IL 60603.

In the current landscape of restaurants in America, it seems that there is a huge demand for food that is cutting edge in terms of taste, preparation, and presentation.  Unfortunately, it has come at the expense of the classic ethnic establishments that serve old-world comfort food that may not win any beauty contests, but like Shallow Hal, diners (hopefully) realize that the beauty of these dishes lies within their heartiness, fresh ingredients, and simplicity.  The Berghoff has been in operation since 1898, and as soon as you walk through their stained glass doors you can just feel the history emanating from their rich Mahogany walls.  This connection to the past and traditions is reflected in their menu as it contains many German food staples, and there are other options for those who are not looking to get their Wienerschnitzel on (burgers, sandwiches, salads, and even Tandoori chicken).  I, however, decided to say guten tag to their slow braised drunken ox joints, and I plumped for their Oktoberfest beer to drink since it was on special.  While we were waiting, they provided us with a free bread basket that was great since it contained fresh artisan white bread, rye bread, and a baked flat-bread that had cheese baked into it.  Based off of taste, it probably was Parmesan.

Hello Liebchen

When my ox joints came out, it was tastefully displaced like a mighty meat monarch who sported a crown of sautéed julienned onions and was surrounded by his pumpkin gnocchi minions who were kowtowing to their ruler.  I didn’t waste time tucking into the ox joint, and it was an interesting experience.  First, there was a good amount of fat on one side of the meat which I didn’t mind, but it was quite hard to hold the bone in one place while trying to take the meat off.  Thankfully, the meat was tender and literally falling off the bone which made my job a lot easier.  The meat was covered in a Berghoff bourbon sauce that was like some sort of magical ambrosia that made the beef even more succulent with each bite.  However, after working like an archeologist on the joint, I found out that I was eating meat off of a vertebrae, not a joint.  I don’t know if this is a ploy to give you less meat, but it left me disappointed since a majority of my meal was bone.  Underneath the hockey puck of meat there was a delicate blanket of sautéed Swiss chard that provided a rich, spinachy bite to the savory beef.  The gnocchi were the most interesting part since they were lightly fried, firm, and had a slight pumpkin aftertaste.  Now, I know during Fall people go pumpkin-flavored product crazy, but I definitely don’t fall into that category.  Regardless of my leanings, the fact that the dumplings didn’t overwhelm me with pumpkintastic flavors left me a happy diner.  My Oktoberfest beer was definitely not for the weak stomached since it is similar to the Marzenstyle beers that they serve at the world-famous harvest festival in Germany.  Its reddish-brown hue contained a moderate bitterness that was then followed by a hop aftertaste that left me blown away at its boldness.

Ein Bier mit Attitude

So if you’re looking for eine kleine piece of Deutchland in Chicago, head down to the Berghoff Restaurant.

Berghoff on Urbanspoon

Berghoff on Foodio54

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