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That’s a Wrap!

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Although today’s post is about a very unique yet not very unique food, it’s going to be on the shorter end since it’s just about one food item, not an entire restaurant review like you’re used to on Mastication Monologues.

While I’ve tried my fair share of different types of Mediterranean cuisine, I encountered a new and strange entry to my encyclopedic knowledge of all things consumable.  Janice and I were at Midsommar Fest in the Swedish Andersonville neighborhood on the north side of Chicago.  While I was expecting plenty of classic Swedish foods such as meatballs, lutefisk, and ammonia chloride treated licorice, I instead was greeted with corn dogs, tacos, and gyros…kind of a negative effect of increased globalization, I think.  However, one tent at the entrance made me come back after stuffing myself silly with free bags of sour gummi worms at the button booth.  Their poster of a long word filled with lots of accent marks along with a pronunciation guide that included a famous Communist guerrilla fighter only drew me in further. IMG_3351 Upon first examining the cooks’ setup, I could smell the smoke coming off the grill on the side that quickly enveloped us with a heady mix of general grilled meats and charred wood. I could somewhat see what the guys in front of me got.  It was some sort of flatbread in tin foil where they put this mysterious red sauce on top.  So, I got to the front of the line, and ordered one ćevapčići or “little kebab”.  I asked the cook if this meal was Romanian based on the formation of the word, and he said it was Croatian.  However, the Romanians do have their own version of it called mici which is why there was a tub of mustard there next to the red tub of mystery condiment.  Apparently the Romanians like the meat without pita but with mustard and beer.   The word “ćevapčići ” in Croatian breaks down into “ćevap or “kebab” originally from Persian and the Croatian diminutive suffix ” čići” which combines with the previous element to say “little kebabs”.  So I bought one sandwich which translated into a two of these compact beef, pork, and lamb nuggets nestled into a grilled pita with the option of chopped onions put on by the cook. IMG_3353 Obviously I said yes, and then I asked them what the sauce was?  It was a red pepper and eggplant sauce called ajvar which was brought in from Serbian cooking. IMG_3352 I gave my pita a good couple squirts from the pump, and I proceeded to down the kebab.IMG_3354  It was unlike any other Mediterranean meat I’ve tried in a pita.  They were slightly charred on the outside yet had a semi spicy seasoned crumbly interior.  I think the chef got a little buck wild with the onion pieces, but I enjoyed the pepper sauce that was subtly sweet that complimented the dry meat.  All of this was wrapped up in an extremely fresh and soft yet substantial pita.  Thankfully I didn’t spill any of the red pepper sauce on me, but Janice was the unfortunate victim of a pepper attack.  For once it wasn’t me!  Poor girl though…

Anyway, long story short.  If you ever have the chance to try a ćevapčići, I highly recommend it even if you won’t know how to pronounce it.  I personally would still pick a gyro over it, but the pepper sauce brings a certain je ne sais quoi to the table that this xeno loves.

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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

Five Fingers Full of Burger Fury

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Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues.  Today’s post is not about a food that is extremely disgusting like some of my posts in Beijing or Korea, but rather a dish that has been adapted throughout the world for local tastes.  What might that be?  The hamburger.  This simple, extremely meaty riff on a classic sandwich is often considered to be the quintessential American food alongside hot dogs and apple pie, compliments of a certain clown and golden arches.  However, today I will be talking about Five Guys, the new kid on the block when it comes to expansive burger chains.IMG_3101

Although the franchise started back in 1986, it hadn’t really caught on like wildfire until 2003 when they expanded to their current status of having over 1,000 locations in 47 states and 6 Canadian provinces.  The concept behind Five Guys is simple:  fresh, made to order burgers with handcut French fries that are made each day.  The quality shone through on the most recent occasion I visited since I have already been there.  Their menu isn’t very elaborate offering mainly hamburgers or cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and some sandwiches that cater to the vegetarian crowd.  This time around, I got a cheeseburger ($6.20) and a side of Five Guys fries ($2.50).  You also have plenty of options to choose from in terms of toppings to put on the burger, so I went “all the way” with mayo, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, mustard, grilled onions, and no mushrooms but you can get them if you like grilled fungus on your burger.  The cool part about Five Guys was that I could watch them make the burger from grill to completed product along with my fries in the deep fryerIMG_3102.  They were efficiently assembled, and I received my order in a paper sack.  I opened up my mini aluminum silo of beef to find a burger that was stacked with two substantial patties and two slices of American cheese along with all of the toppings I mentioned.  I had to step back and admire this bad burger with the same reverence that Edmund Hillary probably had before scaling Everest, but I sallied forth into the wilderness that was my cheeseburger. IMG_3107 From the first bite, I was hooked.  The juicy beef patties and creamy cheese laid the foundations for the lighter condiments to shine especially the savory grilled onions.  The ingredients were superb, but construction-wise, this burger was a real leaning tower of flawed artistry. IMG_3108 Bigger doesn’t always equal better especially when trying keep the burger together.  I suffered from a mix of Newtonian physics and plate tectonics in food form where the patties would rub together with the liquid condiments and would slip in the opposite direction of where I was biting.  Thus, half my burger almost ended up flying out the back end of the bun onto the table top.  Never a good look.  Once I demolished that beefy behemoth, I turned my attention to the wonderful fries that were spilling out of the cup and filled some nooks and crannies of the bag.IMG_3104  These fries were obviously hand cut due to their irregular shape and still having the skins on them.  I noticed the slightly nutty flavor the peanut oil imparted to this classic partner to the burger.  They toed the line in terms of being too salty, but then again, I’m not a huge salt fan.  Based on previous experiences, I wouldn’t recommend their Cajun fries because they always seem to overdo the seasoning which makes the fries taste more like a spicy salt lick than potatoes.

Overall though, I’d highly recommend Five Guys burgers and regular fries that are pure Americana.  I pledge allegiance to the pure flavor of the United States of Burgerdom, and you should too!

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

 

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