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South Carolina (Day 2): Hoppin’ John and a Carolina Fried Chicken Ring

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Welcome back to Mastication Monologues, and if you haven’t been back here lately, I am currently recounting the tale of when Janice and I went to Charleston, South Carolina.  Here’s the first installment for your reading pleasure.  The second day is also full of history, good eats, and one of the greatest moments of my life:  proposing to Janice.  So, buckle up because you’re about to read one of the greatest love stories since Jon Snow and Ygritte minus the whole being shot through with a bunch of arrows and tragic death part.

After that first day of gallivanting about the Chuck, as the locals call Charleston, we decided to get out of the hubbub of the city and visit the Middleton Plantation.  However, before we even left the house, I realized that this was the day I would propose to Janice.  I was planning on doing it at the Angel Oak tree after visiting the Middleton Plantation, but now I needed to figure out how to carry the ring.  I could have worn my coat, but it was a warm day outside.  Luckily, before we left Chicago, I had stowed a piece of gauze in one of my jean pockets.  So, when Janice was showering, I went to my backpack where the ring was hidden in my backpack back at the security line in Chicago.  I took out the box, which was too big for my jean pockets, and removed the beautiful ring.  I wrapped it in the gauze, removed some business cards from an interior pocket in my wallet, and placed the ring in that very same pocket.  Mission partially complete.  I played it cool when Janice asked if I was ready to go,ee6cff1497840b03205d99e31d1c1cf3 and we made our way to the Middleton Plantation.

At the current moment in America, race relations are continuing to grow tenser as the country becomes more diverse, and the race interactions established at the outset of our country through slavery and immigration can be seen today at this opulent 7,000 acre estate.  We decided to do the entire tour package, with included a house tour and carriage ride, but we had free time before we got to meet the horsies.  So, we decided to stroll about the grounds and marvel at the natural wonders that were planted and landscaped to perfection.  Some of the highlights were seeing the oak trees that dotted the walkways that ranged anywhere from 200 to 900 years old. IMG_8307 IMG_8308 IMG_8310 IMG_8311 IMG_8312 Mind you, the plantation was first established in 1730, and it actually is home to the oldest landscaped gardens in the United States.  Eventually, it was time to hitch a ride with a born and bred Charlestonian and two old ladies, horses that is.  Janice could hardly contain her excitement as they clip clopped their way to the pickup point and into Janice’s heart.

Cue emotional music

Cue emotional music

IMG_8314

We climbed aboard the old carriage and took off as our driver explained the history of the plantation to us.  IMG_9177The Middleton plantation was not mainly a working plantation but rather a country estate.  That is not to say that there weren’t slaves who worked there, but they were either employed as house servants, lumberjacks to harvest the timber, rice planters in the large rice paddies off the Ashley River, or grow and collect indigo to a lesser extent.IMG_9169  This was not your stereotypical cotton plantation.  The real money was in the signature gold grain Carolina rice which was well suited for the humid Carolina weather and the planters’ profit margins.  We went about the ground looking at the farm house complete with one of the male horses who wanted to bust out of his pen and the famous layabout known as Rocky the guinea hog. IMG_8315 There was also one of the former slave houses next to the animal pens.  We learned that the slave quarters were raised off the ground because it was a way to offer a bit of cool air in an otherwise brutal environment.IMG_9233  By the time we reached the end of our journey, the horses were ready to get some hay and a nap, but we still managed to get some pics with these local celebrities.

Bffls!

Bffls!

All of that excitement going 2 miles per hour with a slight breeze in our hair worked up our appetites, so Janice and I decided to try the plantation restaurant which was housed in a former guest house.  IMG_8323We were led to the main dining room that was overlooking the lily pond. IMG_8322 We looked over the menu which was filled with plenty of Low Country classics. We quickly made our choices since we had to finish our meal before our house tour.  Janice got an order of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and cornbread, and I got the pecan smoked pork shoulder with Carolina gold mustard sauce.  Before they brought out our food, they also asked if we wanted sweet tea, regular tea, or water.  Naturally, I went for the sweet tea, and Janice got the unsweetened tea.  I was so happy with my sweet tea for one main reason:  it was actually sweet.  McDonalds back home always would promote their sweet tea during the summertime, and I love my sweet iced tea.  When I got it, it tasted like plain black tea poured over some ice.  Naturally, I had to go to the South where they know how to make it correctly.  Then the food came out, and we had to hold ourselves back from going full Cookie Monster on these enticing plates.  My pecan smoked pork shoulder took me to hog heaven. IMG_8320 It was melt-in-your mouth tender, and the smoky flavor mixed perfectly with the slightly sweet mustard sauce.   The creamed green beans were good but not great.  However, I enjoyed the Hoppin’ John on the side.  This southern staple has been around as long as African slaves have been in the USA, and the name is thought to have come from the possible corruption of the Haitian creole for pigeon peas or “pois pigeons” ([pwa pi jahns]).  It was a scaled back version of the richer version that southerners serve on new year’s day with green elements like kale or peppers to symbolize luck and money.  The rice was perfectly cooked with a bit of salt and pepper with plenty of black beans, and I would highly recommend mixing it with the pork.  Janice was equally satisfied with her fried chicken. IMG_8321 The breading was light and gave way to the juicy all white meat chicken below the surface.  I was more of a fan the plantation cornbread since it didn’t skimp on the butter and sugar compared to the more crumbly and savory cornbread at Husk.  While I am averse to eating any type of pasta (yes, I’m a monster), Janice gave the macaroni and cheese two thumbs up.  The collard greens were ok, but not as satisfying as the ones at Hominy Grill.  By the time we were finished, we had to get up and get moving because it was almost time to start our house tour.  Janice was going to pay the bill, but she couldn’t find her credit card.  I paid the bill instead, and we assumed it must have been left in the car.  As we walked past the house for the house tour to see one of the oldest trees on the estate, we heard someone call out, “Excuse me!”.  We turned around to see two older women walking toward us, and they asked Janice if her name was “Janice Kim”.  She replied in the affirmative, and it turned out that two different people had found her drivers license and her credit card in two different areas and turned both in to the visitors’ center.  This was a prime example of Southern hospitality and manners.  We decided to pick the cards up when we would leave, so we went to snap some pictures with the 900 year old oak tree, the same river where they blew up the British ships in the movie the Patriot, and the burned down houses.IMG_9181 IMG_9183IMG_8324IMG_9173  After successfully being insignificant next to this natural giant, we went to our house tour.  It was originally built in 1755, but is only one of the original three houses left standing.  The main house and the north flanker house were burned down by Union troops during the Civil War.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any pictures, but we were up to our necks in historical facts including the lodging being home to Henry Middleton’s son, Arthur, who signed the Declaration of Independence.  We highly recommend checking out the rich mahogany interiors if you love architecture, history, shiny things, and/or how high class society lived.  By the time we emerged from that time capsule, we had to make a decision about what we wanted to see before they closed up the Angel Oak park.  We decided to pick up the all important credit card and drivers license and check out the gift shops.  Janice was on the hunt for souvenirs while I was secretly having time anxiety and subsequent sweats. Visit http://kratomcrazy.com for help on how to fight anxiety in a natural way. She would ask me for opinions on magnets and rice while I was starting to run in place (in my head).  Janice eventually picked up my vibe, and we got to the car quickly.  We had to make the ride from northern Charleston down to John’s Island quick because we had about a hour before the park closed.  Thankfully, we made it with enough time, and on the way, Janice was seriously doubting whether or not I was ever going to propose to her.  She wasn’t joking, and neither was I.  Perfect timing to put a ring on it.  I realized I had to get the rock out of the interior pocket of my wallet, and I managed to do so as Janice rushed toward the tree with her selfie stick.IMG_9186  The Angel Oak is estimated to be over 1500 years old and what a more romantic place to pop the question?  It is one of the biggest and most sprawling trees I’ve ever seen.  We took some pictures on one side of the tree, and I was analyzing the best place to do the deed. IMG_9187 Cue the palm sweat and shifty eyes.  Janice was none the wiser as we walked under the massive branches.IMG_9188  We moved to the back side of the tree, and there wasn’t anybody around.  This was it.  My heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest as I fumbled for the ring in the gauze and placed it in my hand.  She turned around and everything I had planned to say went out the window.  I said that it was a fitting place since she was my angel.  I could see she was shaking her head due to the high levels of cheesiness in the atmosphere, but then she knew something was afoot when I dropped to my knee.  I choked out my request to spend the rest of my life with her, and her response was like something out of Shakespeare:  *cue crying, some laughing* “I’m holding my selfie-stick”.  Just like in the movies!  I was still waiting on my knee with the ring in my hand as she was more worried about her contraption.  Eventually she took the ring and put it on her finger while still profusely crying with me on bended knee.  Janice finally said “yes” through the tears, and I could get out of the power lunge of the century.  It felt like we were floating on air beneath this relic of antiquity, and we even had an audience eventually who clapped for us. IMG_9191 Once we finally got a picture in front of the tree with her new ring, we proceeded to let the world know of our engagement.IMG_8337  We were then at a loss at what to do next, so I suggested that we could go for a romantic stroll along the river walk in downtown Charleston.  It was the perfect setting as new fiance and fiancee as we watched the sunset, poochies running in the park, and the Citadel cadets getting some fresh air.IMG_8333IMG_8431 All of the aforementioned events had made us quite hungry, so luckily I managed to find a romantic restaurant to celebrate known as High Cotton.

High Cotton oozed class.  IMG_8345It seemed like we stepped into a time machine to an old mansion complete with an antique bar, dark wood accents, and tropical ceiling fans.IMG_9099 IMG_9098 IMG_9097  It is a moderately dressy place, so don’t expect to fit in with your tank tops and jorts.  We were seated at a table in the main dining room, and our waiter informed us of Charleston’s restaurant week which meant there was a special menu where we were able to choose an appetizer, entree, and dessert for the low low price of $40.  Overall though, High Cotton is a restaurant that focuses on local ingredients and classic Low Country recipes.  We also told him of our very recent engagement, so he treated us to a pair of complimentary champagne flutes.  For our appetizer round, I got the fried green tomatoes napoleon which were the bread to a pimento cheese sandwich and surrounded by pickled shrimp. IMG_8340 I found it to be satisfying and surprisingly light even though it was deep fried, and the pimento cheese was like a thick, spicy cheddar with the consistency of peanut butter.  The shrimp were also pleasing even though they were pickled.  Janice’s blue crab soup was ok. IMG_9100 It was savory with a hint of sweetness that came along with the blue crab.  We moved on to our entrees with gusto.  My 8 oz. beef tenderloin with Bearnaise sauce, horseradish mashed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts were fit for a king.  IMG_8341Everything was phenomenal.  The mashed potatoes were creamy with just the right amount of sinus-clearing horseradish.  The Brussels sprouts were roasted and slightly burnt and crunchy but not terribly charred.  As for the meat and sauce, it was grilled to optimum juiciness which wasn’t overshadowed by the rich Bearnaise sauce.  Can’t say enough good things about this dish.  Janice’s shellfish and ravioli had a lot of fresh seafood from the nearby harbor including clams, shrimp, and crab along with peas and ravioli in a Parmesan sauce.  IMG_9101I didn’t try the ravioli, but the clams were extraordinarily good.  Our waiter said that the clams in the Low Country are actually better than oysters, but they don’t get the hype they deserve because they aren’t as sexy as their supposed aphrodisiac cousins.  Couldn’t agree more with him.  Janice thought the plate overall was ok though.  Thankfully, dessert didn’t disappoint.  I ordered the chocolate bread pudding complete with candied pecans, bourbon caramel, and vanilla ice cream.  Need I say more? IMG_8342 It was slightly warm which melted the ice cream which went along with the smoky caramel and crunchy pecans.  It infused the semi-sweet, spongy dough of the bread pudding with a heavenly taste.  Janice went with one of her favorite desserts:  the vanilla bean creme brulee with a Carolina twist with tea infused citrus segments. IMG_9102 The burnt sugar on top was a golden brown with a luscious and moderately rich cream below.   By the time we reached the final spoonful, we were not only in love with each other but with High Cotton’s fare, atmosphere, and service.  We made our way out and enjoyed a bit of the jazz quartet in the bar that was not performing when we first walked in.  However, it was a classy end to a day filled with viewing history past, making history of our own, and plans for the future.  If you’ve successfully made it to the end of this post, congrats and there are plenty more adventures to come!

Middleton Place Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
High Cotton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Place Drinkers Hold Beer

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Markets have been around since the beginning of establish civilizations.  They are meeting places where people from all corners of the earth can come to exchange goods, news, and ideas.  These markets can take many forms.  There are traditional ones that still exist today like supermarkets or farmer’s markets, or the advent of the internet has led to the rise of the all powerful online marketplace.  Along with markets, alcohol has been the cornerstone of most nation states throughout history.  Whether that be airag, the milky spirt sipped on by one Ghengis Khan, or the wine that filled the goblets of the Caesars throughout the history of the Roman Empire, alcohol has been a double edged sword that has existed for man’s pleasure or survival in the case of areas where watersheds were too polluted to drink from.  Given all of this information, it would only seem natural to place both of these concepts together into a market that sells beer or today’s restaurant:  Beer Market.

They have many different locations throughout the Chicagoland area, but my parents and I visited the franchise branch in Bolingbrook’s Promenade shopping center.IMG_5617  It wasn’t too busy when we walked in since we eat dinner earlier than the average bear or bird in this context. IMG_5613 It was like any other modern American gastropub with exposed brick, dark accents, wooden chairs, and random neon beer signs.  We sat down and were greeted with a monstrous beer menu.  As I leafed through the 25 pages of beers, I was overwhelmed with making a selection.  However, once I was finished reading the tome, I settled for a kolsch to go along with my bratwurst entree.  What better than a German beer to accompany a German meal?  My mom got the cole slaw burger which I had a natural aversion to since it was carrying the stepchild of potato salad in my eyes when it comes to picnic side dishes.  When all of it came out, it didn’t look like the most appetizing meal in the world, but I’d let the flavors do the talking.  Kolsch or Kölsch beer is a German beer that was invented in Cologne in English or Köln, hence Kölsch.  It is a light yellow, pale ale which is quite rare in the land of lagers, but thankfully the hops are not over the top.  Instead, it has a bit more body than your average lager and a more floral/fruity quality to it.  Definitely more of a summer beer if you’re looking for something light and crisp.  It paired very well with my bratwurst.  The word bratwurst comes from the German words “brät” or “finely chopped meat” and “wurst” or “sausage”.   They were actually made popular throughout the USA compliments of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball franchise where even today brats still outsell hot dogs.  Beer Market’s take on the bratwurst had slight riffs on the original sausage.  IMG_5614First, it was soaked in beer to give it even more flavor and seal in the juiciness.  Then, it was buried in a heap of grilled onions that were great, and the brown mustard had a kick to it that was an homage to another ballpark staple.  The sausage and onions were not served on your typical white bread bun or roll but a pretzel bun.  So, the pretzel-mustard-brat combo in short was a home run.  My mom’s cole slaw burger seemed ok presentation-wise, but she wasn’t too satisfied overall.IMG_5616IMG_5615  She said it was average at best, so I think you should check out their other menu items.  So if you’re a beer lover or are looking for a more upscale, solid but not spectacular bar and eatery than the dive on the corner, then check out Beer Market.
Beer Market on Urbanspoon

At the Market With My Dawgs

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Welcome one and all to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Winter has finally hit Chitown harder than a raging Ditka and has been making life miserable for most aside from snow plow drivers and snowblower vendors.  However, if you’re looking for a warm and inviting restaurant in Chicago that serves up Mexican food with a twist, check out Mercadito Counter.

Now, this post is super late since I went back in the late summer/fall, but I hope that not much has changed in this funky fresh eatery.  From the instant you walk in under the papel picado, you’re transported to a modern taqueria whose menu boasts everything from tacos to Mexican hot dogs (more to follow).IMG_4519IMG_4521  Speaking of the former Mexican staple, Mercadito Counter boasts a taco eating challenge where a diner has to eat 35 tacos in an hour.  If you gobble all of them up, you get free tacos for life but only on Tuesdays.  Naturally, there’s a catch!  After agonizing over the menu for a good ten minutes, I decided to get a steak taco, a pork taco, and The Mexican hot dog, and a Nutty Mexican milkshake.  Janice got an order of onion rings, a fundido hot dog, and a lobster dog.  While waiting for our grub to arrive, we got some of the locally made salsas that were in squeeze bottles behind where we ordered our food. IMG_4518 Eventually, it all came out and looked fantastic.  I started with my tacos.  While they were immaculately presented, their size left much to be desired based on their price (roughly 3 bucks a taco).  Ay Chihuahua! IMG_4522 Surprisingly, the steak taco was a lot more flavorful than the pork taco even though the latter had roasted pineapple chunks as a sweet caress to the ancho and guajillo slathered spicy pork.  I think I enjoyed it more because the meat itself wasn’t drowned out with lots of strong flavors, and the key lime marinade was a stroke of genius.  As for my Mexican hot dog, it was my best friend.IMG_4523  It consisted of a grilled, bacon-wrapped dog covered with pico de gallo, mayo, jalapeño relish, mustard, and ketchup.  It was an excellent example of literal Mexican American cooking where the zesty pico de gallo and jalapeño relish provided a Latino slant to the more classic flavors, and the bacon strip gave the char dog a satisfying, porky crunch with each bite.  Between bites of my food, I sampled Janice’s onion rings which were delicious since they were crunchy, large, and didn’t succumb to severe onion loss that I hate when eating the greasy bar food staples.IMG_4525  What is severe onion loss?  It’s the annoying phenomenon when biting into an onion ring only to have the entire veggie slip out leaving you behind with a crunchy shell.  First world problems, I know.  I did enjoy the chipotle dip that came on the side that gave this appetizer the south-of-the-border kick it needed.   We also used the homemade salsas on the complimentary tortilla chips that came with our hot dogs. IMG_4528 There were three different types:  the chipotle tomatillo, the habanero, and the arriera.  The chipotle tomatillo was more like a common green salsa that could be found in most Mexican restaurants where there was a lot of tomato flavor with sparks of garlic and cilantro.IMG_4527  My favorite was the arriera since it was surprisingly spicier than the habanero salsa.

Habanero salsa

Habanero salsa

 

Arriera salsa

Arriera salsa

Plus, it had epazote or wormseed in it which is a herb that can poisonous in large quantities, but in small portions it alleviates gas and discomfort during digestion.  So it was a win-win especially since we were eating Mexican food.  I also took a bite of Janice’s fundido dawg that was good but not great. IMG_4526 It was basically a Mexican twist on a chili dog with chorizo instead of ground beef on top.  I didn’t take a taste of her lobster dog, but she said it was delicious and decadence embodied. IMG_4533 Speaking of super scrumptious items on the menu, the Nutty Mexican milkshake I had was mind-blowing.IMG_4531  From the powdered cocoa powder on top along with a mix of nutmeg and cinnamon blended throughout the milk chocolate ice cream.  All of which left me filled up but not ready to explode like una bomba.IMG_4532

So if you want to check out Mercadito Counter, I’d recommend a visit, but I would get the hot dogs over the tacos since they aren’t as big of a rip off in terms of the price vs. size ratio.  Inflated prices aside, the fresh ingredients, service, and flavors made this taqueria tops for the area!

Mercadito Counter on Urbanspoon

Baby Got Burger

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Chicago is a tapestry of many different people from various walks of life and nationalities.  However, this doesn’t mean that everyone lives in perfect harmony.  The city is broken down into small neighborhoods that could be defined through race and/or socio-economic class.  All of this manifests itself in the form of being the most racially segregated city in the USA.  Thus, if someone tells you if they’re from one of the “sides” of the city, you can almost always determine what race and/or tax bracket they fall into.  Disclaimer:  the following are stereotypes associated with residents of different parts of the city, but some aspects are rooted in truth.  Northside residents are normally more educated, affluent, and white (of Central or Northern European descent).  Westsiders and Southsiders are a bit more variable in their education and economic class, but one can find more black, Latino, Southern and Eastern European enclaves in these parts of the city.  Along with that, there is a certain feel that the Southside is more blue collar and Ditka-obsessed in comparison to the genteel and hipster Northside.  It’s especially evident in the crosstown baseball rivalry with the Northside Cubs and Southside White Sox.  Therefore, I’d like to bring a bit of my old neighborhood on the Southside that is an institution.  I’m talking about Nicky’s Hot Dogs in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood located at 6142 S Archer AveChicago IL 60638.

Ever since I could remember, my family and I would visit this family-run hot dog stand to get a ton of delicious food for reasonable great prices.  I was recently in the ‘hood and decided to pay the old boy a visit.IMG_3383  I got there around lunchtime, and as I expected, the minuscule parking lot was packed to the hilt.  I parked on the adjacent block since I was getting my food to go.  As soon as I stepped in, the place hadn’t changed in ages. IMG_3384 They still have the same swivel seats along the lunch counter and plastic signs for menus.  Nicky’s is a symbol of the no-frills, hardworking, homely spirit of the Southside in both decor and menu.  It ranges from burgers to Polish sausages to hot dogs as you can see in the following picture.  IMG_3386I wanted to get two of the best items on the menu:  the Big Baby double cheeseburger ($2.90) and a hot dog ($2.25 with free fries).  However, I’d definitely recommend their gyros as well.  The cashier joked about Brazil winning the opening game of the World Cup against Croatia (he was Croatian) and possible riots after a Brazil loss.  I assured him they didn’t have to worry; people were rioting before the first ball was kicked.  After placing my order and waiting with a diverse clientele of Polish and Mexican construction workers, bankers, and families, my food finally came out.  It was encased in a simple brown paper bag, and I could already see the grease stains coming through from the mountain of fries they give you.IMG_3387  If you are worried about portion sizes, put them to the side when hitting up this Chicago eatery.  Their fries are a bit on the salty side, but that doesn’t take away from their overall quality.IMG_3389  Then there is the Big Baby.IMG_3391  It’s a double cheeseburger that grabs you at the first bite with it’s grilled, juicy patties, melted slices of American cheese, pickles, ketchup, and caramelized onions. IMG_3392IMG_3393 While it wouldn’t be considered “big” according to ‘Murikan standards where a big burger could feed a family of three for four days, it’s a titan in terms of flavor.  As for the hot dog, they are of a boiled variety and then topped with almost all of the standard Chicago toppings:  onions, mustard, relish, and pickled sport peppers. IMG_3395 No ketchup here, and you will be chewed out (pun intended) if you ask for it.  While it lacks the tomato slices I enjoy, I love the beef mixing with the sweet relish, tart mustard, and pungent diced white onion atop the bun like confetti.  By the end of the meal, I finished strutting down memory lane with a full stomach and a “see you soon” in my mind.

So if you want to venture beyond the cutting-edge eateries and more expensive restaurants on the Northside and want to sample a tried and true establishment that serves basic yet delicious and cost-effective food options, come on down to Nicky’s Hot Dogs.

Nicky's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

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.

Another Grand Canyon

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Hello everyone and welcome to the 45th edition of Mastication Monologues!  Hooray for me and my wandering tastebuds!  Today I will be reviewing a relatively new restaurant that I didn’t even know existed until I was given a free burger coupon for them from my dad.  It’s called Canyons Burger Company and is located at 243 W 63rd St Westmont, IL.

Since I never really heard of this restaurant, I was walking into it without any sort of preconceived notions about their menu.  However, I was surprised at the variety of burgers and other items they served like salads and chicken tenders.  I decided to get the Blue Bayou burger since I seem to be in a Cajun state of mind as of late (see my previous post for Heaven on Seven) and a side of regular fries.  They also offered onion rings and sweet potato fries, but I didn’t feel like being that big of a fatty after coming from the gym.  Another great option that I liked was that they provided me a wide range of sauces and topping to choose from for free.  Therefore, in addition to the blue cheese and Cajun seasonings, I got ketchup, mustard, chipotle mayo, lettuce,  tomato, red onion, pickles, and sliced jalapenos piled on the burger.  Once my order was entered, they gave me a number, and eventually they brought it to my table.  It did take an unusually long time to cook my food since I was the only person in the place, but I’ll wait for food if it’s high quality.IMG_1097

Eventually my food was delivered, and upon first glance it looked quite delicious.  Once I finished taking my pictures like a weirdo, I realized that there were no blue cheese crumbles as advertised on the menu.  Instead there was a some sort of blue cheese spread coating the burger. Plus, the Cajun spices were not on the meat but rather on the cheese.  Even though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I got to work on the burger.  The first bite was delicious and flavorful with each element having its own voice amid a very busy flavor profile.  The vegetables were fresh and crispy, and the beef was expertly grilled to a nice brown hue while still maintaining a good amount of juice for flavor.  I really enjoyed the jalapenos because they were fresh and not pickled.  All of which provided a crispy texture change and a spicy bite that hooked up well with the chipotle mayonnaise.  The mystery blue cheese spread worked well with its powerful flavor made spicier with the Cajun seasoning.  Even though it seemed like a real cheeseburger in paradise sans the terrible Jimmy Buffett singing, I didn’t enjoy the fact that the bottom bun seemed to disappear quicker than the top one.  This became a serious problem towards the end of the burger when the chipotle mayo threatened the integrity of my burger through its own slippery yet savory self.  Thankfully I possessed the dexterity to keep the burger intact, but I wish the bread they used was a bit more substantial.  Taste-wise, it was ideal with a slightly buttery taste to bring out the richness of the beef but not overwhelming the other ingredients.   As for the fries, it was a substantial amount for the price I paid, but it was not a case of quantity over quality.  In my case, I prefer my fries to be on the softer side, so these golden-brown sticks were modicums of delectability.  Plus, they were not overly salted/seasoned which drives me crazy sometimes like with the oft-praised Five Guys Cajun Fries that are seasoned into oblivion.  By the time I finished the fries, I was thoroughly satisfied with the meal.

So if you’re looking for a burger place beyond the clown, the king, and that red-headed girl, try Canyons Burger Company!

Canyons Burger Company on Urbanspoon

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