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All Hail Cesar!

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Que tal, amigos?  If you couldn’t get enough of my food adventures on Mastication Monologues, today I’m bringing you a review of a Mexican restaurant that is well known for their murderous margaritas:  Cesar’s Killer Margaritas.  I’ve passed by it many times while gallivanting about Chicago on the Northside, but I’ve never set foot in the establishment.  Thankfully, I got an opportunity to visit for dinner recently, and it was quite an enjoyable experience.IMG_3744

When Janice and I walked in the door, there were a bunch of people waiting for a table sitting along the wall, and that immediately elicited my response of, “Great…a wait”. IMG_3747 I’ve worked as a host at a restaurant, and I know that giving an estimated table time is a very loose interpretation of how long it’s actually going to be since there are so many variables to take into account.  The hostess quoted us at 10 to 15 for a free table which is the fallback answer since it doesn’t give the customer unreasonable expectations yet doesn’t seem like an insurmountable wait.  Surprisingly, the wait was shorter than estimated, so we were hustled up and down two staircases to get to our table.  Once seated, we immediately looked over the signature margarita menu since we wanted to see if they could live up to the hype.  While they had the usual flavors like raspberry and strawberry, they had nods to Latin flavors with tamarindo and guava.  I got a frozen guava margarita ($11) while Janice got the chilled raspberry margarita ($11).  While waiting, I was systematically destroying the chips in front of me along with the watery but cilantro filled salsa roja that come complimentary with the meal.  Eventually, they were brought out to us, and they looked like any other margaritas.  However, it was a pleasant surprise that they were not too syrupy, and we could taste the liquor as well which let us know we were getting our money’s worth.IMG_3749  I found Janice’s margarita to be more interesting than mine because it contained something I’ve never seen in a margarita:  fresh fruit. IMG_3751 I don’t know if they do this with all of their flavors, but her raspberry margarita literally had whole raspberries floating amongst the ice floes of the red sea of tequila.  It was a masterstroke of tex-mex bartending.  While we were enjoying our frozen beverages, we looked over the dinner menu.  They had plenty of entrees, lighter options, appetizers, starters, and soups.  While they didn’t stray much from the tried and true tex-mex favorites, I decided to go for the steak mini burritos ($10) while Janice got the vegetarian fajitas with steak ($14).  While waiting for our plates to come out, I thought back to another Mexican dinner that I had in London which resulted in me carrying a pair of twin food babies around for the majority of the night.  Thankfully, these burritos wouldn’t destroy me like that chimichanga in Old Blighty.  Before our entrees arrived, we were hooked up with a free cup of what seemed to be tomato soup with noodles. IMG_3753 It was flavorful but nothing noteworthy since we could only taste tomatoes.    When they came out, I immediately pounced on them since these plump little buggers looked quite scrumptious under their cheese and salsa verde blanket.  IMG_3755I sliced into them, and the juicy pieces of steak, beans, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes came tumbling out.  I poured the sour cream all over them while spackling guacamole on each forkful.  Madre de dios, estos burritos fueron de la puta madre! (“These burritos were the bees knees!” in so many words).  The tortillas were flavorful and bursting with gooey cheese and fresh vegetables.  I think the combo of the cool sour cream and the cilantro filled guacamole gave the savory steak a herbal tinge that made my tastebuds scream “Más  Más Más!”.  The Mexican rice was average, but I didn’t even touch the beans.  As for Janice’s vegetable fajitas, they were served piping hot at our table and contained plenty of veggies one typically doesn’t find in Mexican cuisine like cauliflower, broccoli, and mushrooms. IMG_3756 She offered to make me a taco out of the ingredients in her fajita, so I got a mouthful of peppers and onions along with the same succulent steak in my mini burritos.IMG_3757  I would have helped her more with the monstrously-sized meal, but I would have needed a second stomach.  I was feeling full by that point in the meal but not to the point of sickness.  It wasn’t the most mind blowing meal in the world since Chicagoland has a ton of great Mexican eateries, but I was a happy customer with the service and food.

So if you’re looking for a fun establishment with well made dishes and unique margaritas, check out Cesar’s!

Cesar's on Urbanspoon

How Voo You Doo? (Portland, Part 4)

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Well, if you’ve been following the various posts of my Portland adventures, you’ve seen that I’ve been trying to sample a wide variety of foods.  Everything from breakfast fare to haunted pizzerias have gone into Mastication Monologues, and today I’ll be talking about the food experience one must try when in Portland:  Voodoo Doughnut.

Ever since I’ve been watching the Travel Channel regularly, which has been a very recent practice, Voodoo Doughnut has always managed to pop up on some sort of wacky food program or just general tourism show.  Why would that be?  Well, Voodoo Doughnut isn’t your typical mom and pop bakery.  This franchise delves into the darkest realms of the occult religion and comes up with some culinary creations that only a the craziest houngan (voodoo priest) could imagine.  Not only that, but this establishment allows people to be wed through their shop.  Tie the knot with a couple knotted cinnamon twists?  Only at Voodoo Doughtnut!  They offer basic, non-legal weddings for $25 all the way to the “Whole Shebang” package for $6,600 that includes airfare, hotel, legal ceremony, and a tour of Portland.  I could go on and on about what makes this place so unique, but I was surprised to hear Portland natives’ reactions to my delight in going to Voodoo Doughnuts.  Most were begrudgingly accepting of this bakery like it’s the popular kid who’s really loud and obnoxious yet everyone wants to be his/her friend.  While others seemed to be happy that I tasted probably the most popular part of the Portland culinary scene.  This general joy was reflected in the omnipresent line I saw outside their original location at 22 SW 3rd Ave.IMG_3857  They’re open 24/7 aside from major holidays, but I heard from a friend of a friend who is a native of Portland that back in the day they used to hold very odd hours like 11 pm to 4 am, close for two hours, and then open from 7 am to 9:23 am or something like that.  Seems like they know how to pounce on financial opportunities while still maintaining their extremely strange vibe.  Doughnuts’ prices range from 95 cents to $3, and they only take cash! 

My Voodoo Doughnut experience started after another bizarre experience that involved me going to a 21+ mini-golf course.  I could only liken it to a mix between a hands-on arts gallery and a fun house which included CO2 powered 50 caliber golf ball guns, a low rider, and a scratch and sniff wheel to name a few holes.  Once I made my way through the course, I knew I had to take the plunge and get my Voodoo on.  It was raining, so I was in full Deatheater mode with my black jacket’s hood up as I walked up to the line that was snaking past the barriers.IMG_3860IMG_3861  Thankfully, it didn’t scare my new friends I made in line who took the form of a large bachelorette party.  It made the wait go by faster as we talked about travel, and eventually I stepped foot in this hallowed ground of creative snack cakes.IMG_2640  Their menu was as eclectic as their decor as I didn’t have any clue what to get.  I saw most people were ordering a dozen doughnuts each, but I didn’t really want to end up as round as a doughnut by the time the night was over.  After attempting to ask what the girls in the bachelorette party would recommend I should get, they all seemed deadset on the bacon maple bars…boring.  I know you can get those in other doughnut shops in the USA.  So, I first went with Voodoo Doughnut’s signature voodoo doll doughnut since I felt obligated to try it.  Then, for my second choice, it was extremely tough to choose.  The Mexican hot chocolate really was calling to me along with the Butterfinger chocolate and Marshall Mathers doughnuts.  However, one won out as I made my choice:  the O.D.B. (Old Dirty Bastard) doughnut.  I had no clue what was on it, but I picked it since it pays homage to ODB, the Staten Island rap group Wu Tang Clan’s wackiest, most drugged out, and quite possibly mentally handicapped member.  I present Exhibit A and Exhibit B.  Requiem in terra pax, dawg.  If this doughnut was as crazy as him, I expected a real treat, and a treat I did receive.  I ate one for breakfast the following Friday and Saturday, and the Voodoo Doll doughnut went first.  First, it wasn’t as neat as I was expecting the doll to be since it didn’t seem to have a face or any sort of discerning facial features.

Looks like I'm cursing a cyclops.

Looks like I’m cursing a cyclops.

There still was the pretzel driven into the torso of the doll which might have been an omen of my fiery food downfall later in my trip…tastewise, it was great.  The yellow dough was soft and spongy with a mainly neutral taste with hints of its buttery upbringing.IMG_2650  This allowed for the thick, rich milk chocolate frosting on top and gory, sweet raspberry jelly inside to sanctify this food sacrifice to Baron Samedi, lord of the Voodoo underworld a.k.a. my stomach.  As for the Old Dirty Bastard doughnut, it seriously was as over the top like one of ODB’s freestyles.

IMG_2654

I’m all about that C.R.E.A.M.

It started with a traditional yeast-raised ring doughnut with the same dough as the Voodoo doll along with a similar chocolate frosting on top.  Then it got extra dirty with the giant, crunchy chunks of Oreos heaped on top that were then tricked out with a generous drizzling of peanut butter. IMG_2653 It was like eating a giant Reeses peanut butter cup cake with Oreos on the inside.  Needless to say, it gave me the gangsta power to walk up a mountain to see the Pittock Mansion (a great non-food related sightseeing area in Portland).

So if you want to try probably the most touristy spot in Portland with some tasty desserts (although some Portlandians might say otherwise), get yourself down to Voodoo Doughnuts or else you will be cursing the day you decided not to go.
Voodoo Doughnut on Urbanspoon

Hair of the Waygookin

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Hello and welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  However, this is not any regular edition of my wonderful food blog, but rather it is my 60th post.  I never honestly thought I would stick with writing a food blog for this long, but when I realized that people from all over the world enjoy my food adventures, I kept the reviews and ideas flowing.  So if you have any suggestions for new restaurants and/or new foods to try, please send them my way.  I appreciate all of the views my blog has gotten so far, thanks! Anyway,  I decided to do something a bit different for my 60th post where I would comment on the different types of drinks I have tried while living in Korea.  First, I’ll go for the lifeblood of Korean nightlife:  soju.

King of Korea

King of Korea

Soju is an interesting character in comparison to all of the other types of  drinks I have tried.  I had briefly tasted it stateside when I went to a Korean restaurant/noraebang for karaoke, but I didn’t really remember it making much of an impact on my palate.  However, upon arriving in Korea, I was in the middle of many toasts with co-workers, new friends I made through my orientation program, and old friends who were already living in Korea.  Soju is probably consumed more than water here, and it’s definitely cheaper than water in 7-Elevens.  Plus, in orientation we were informed that it is the number one liquor in the world in terms of consumption even above Smirnoff vodka.  Then again, after watching drunk Korean businessmen stumble down the street on Tuesday nights, I’m not surprised.  As for the actual taste, it kind of is like Korea’s answer to vodka.  It’s clear, nearly scentless, and can be used with many different mixers.  However, there is a somewhat off-putting, slightly sweet aftertaste if you take it in shot form.  A Korean friend told me the taste is due to the distilling process since soju is no longer derived directly from rice but rather through using artificial sugars and potatoes or tapioca roots.

The fancy bottle hides a nasty surprise inside

The fancy bottle hides a nasty surprise inside

I even tried a different soju that was distilled with turmeric,  pears, and ginger to name a few ingredients.  It didn’t go down so well since it tasted like vodka mixed with an herbal tea.  So that’s a little blurb for you liquor-only drinkers.  Next is for wine afficionados:  bokbunja and flower wine.

Bokbunja is a traditional Korean blackberry wine that was exquisite.IMG_0023  It tasted similar to a Western sweet red variety or for those who are not well versed in wine types, it had a very high sugar content.  Ergo, it seemed closer in taste to fruit juice in comparison to a more intense and full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.  Another fun fact about this delicious Korean wine is that supposedly it promotes mens’ sexual health and drive.  Personally, I didn’t feel any sort of heightening of my sexual spidey senses or anything like that.  Perhaps it’s just another gimmick to sell more wine.  As for the flower wine, I have sampled two varieties:  Baekhwaju and another variety that I don’t know the name of.  The Baekhwaju is made with over 100 different flowers (Baek in Korean means 100), and it was very smooth.IMG_0025  It was like drinking a chamomile tea with minimal alcohol aftertaste.  The other bottle was a bit more intense in regard to flavor, and I think that it might have been Dugyeonju which is made with azalea petals.IMG_0024  It was slightly more viscous than the 100 flower wine which also added a texture factor that I didn’t particularly enjoy.  Moving on from that slightly negative note, next is a rice wine that I greatly  relish in imbibing.

Makkoli is a rice wine that I actually really enjoy compared to the other Korean beverages I’ve tried so far.IMG_1172  I knew Japan had its signature sake rice wine, but I didn’t know that Korea had their own version of it.  While sake is consumed either cold or warm, Makkoli is typically consumed while cold.  It’s a blend of rice, wheat, and water which ends up as a drink that looks almost like milk.  The first time I had Makkoli was during our orientation trip to Ganghwa island outside of Incheon, and we had lunch at a peasant village with a Korean tour group.  While we were eating our kimchi and chapchae, a bright green bottle caught my eye on the table.  I poured some of the milky liquid into my cup, and I was very satisfied with the taste.  It was almost like drinking a carbonated vanilla milkshake minus the richness of the butterfat and instead had a slight alcohol aftertaste.  Still, not too bad, and I definitely enjoy it more than drinking soju even though both have very low alcohol percentages.  Then there is Korean beer…

Buying mekju in Korea is buying in bulk

Buying mekju in Korea is buying in bulk

Asia really isn’t known for having amazing beer like traditional  brewmasters Germany, England, and the USA due to varying local resources, but Korean breweries have seemingly modeled most of their beers off of many of the large American lagers like Budweiser and Coors.  The three biggest brands are Hite, OB, and Cass.  I’ve tried all three, and they’re nothing to brag about.  They’re pretty run of the mill in terms of taste (minimal hops and quite thin in regard to body), but at least they’re affordable compared to foreign beers.  Sadly they don’t have any dark beer to speak of, but beggars can’t be choosers when in a different place.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this special post celebration 60 wonderful posts of food and drink adventures.  Raise a glass and here’s to 60 more!

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