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Pane and Pleasure

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There’s nothing I love more than a perfectly made sandwich.  From the crunchy bread to the random assortment of ingredients that reside between the foundation layers, it is a meal that can be customized for anyone from any walk of life.  Ergo, there are a plethora of different sandwich shops throughout the Chicagoland area, and I’d like to tell you today about Panes Bread Cafe.IMG_3895

I had never heard of this establishment prior to a random visit there with my girlfriend.  I didn’t really know what to expect from a place called a “bread cafe”.  I’m sure there would be coffee involved, but then what?  Random slices of bread to go with your espresso?  Anyway, we walked in and were greeted by a brightly painted interior decorated with an eclectic mix of Latin American artifacts, Italian movie posters, and colorful murals.   IMG_3894We walked up to the order counter and looked over the menu. IMG_3890 Panes offers everything from soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and pastas, but I was eventually swayed to the bread side as I looked over the sandwiches.  While they had more tame options like a ham and cheese or a B.L.T., I went for the devilish pollo diablo ($5.95).  My girlfriend got the pompazo sandwich ($5.95).

They both came out about 10 minutes later as they constructed and pressed each fresh panini sandwich to perfection.  They both looked great with the golden potato chips on the side. IMG_3891 I wouldn’t consider my sandwich anything that would render Satan a hot mess due to the spicyness, but it had a slight kick due to the spicy mayo and peppery spice rub on the juicy, all white chicken breast. IMG_3892IMG_3893 I personally thought that the bread really brought the sandwich to the next level.  The pompazo was ok, but I felt that the rich and verdant pesto overshadowed the chicken, tomatoes, and cheese.  Pesto-avalanche aside, I was impressed by their fresh ingredients on perfect bread that was hefty enough to deal with me tearing through it like Pac Man in the labyrinth of white dots.  As for the potato chips, I really liked them because they were crisp but not too salty.

I highly recommend Panes Bread Cafe if you’re looking for a cozy cafe that offers plenty of fresh sandwiches that won’t cost you that much bread.

Panes Bread Cafe on Urbanspoon

Everytime a Cowbell Rings a Devil Gets His Wings

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WARNING:  If you think jalapenos are spicy or if this (see 0:40 and on)happens to you when eating dry chili flakes or do not have a stomach for spicy food in general, do not try this eating challenge!!

Hello to everyone out there in the blogosphere!  I am writing this post after a very eventful and historic day in my eating adventures.  Now for those who know me/read my (amazing) blog, they can tell you that I am not one to shy away from eating spicy foods.  In fact, I seem to revel in the challenge to see how much fire I can eat in one sitting.  One day a certain Man vs. Food host in conjunction with the Travel Channel highlighted a Chicago hot-spot for getting some of the fieriest chicken wings in the nation which I will be reviewing today.  The place in question is Jake Melnick’s located on 41 East Superior Street  Chicago, IL 60611.

I checked out their website to see what exactly these XXX wings were made of, and I found out that they used both the Ghost Chili and the Red Divina which is an extremely spicy strain of Habanero.  Now, the actual heat level of the peppers can vary depending on where they’re grown due to various factors such as rainfall, elevation, and sun exposure.  However, I did the Scoville unit math according to Wikipedia’s page, and their combined spiciness is equivalent to standard issue law enforcement pepper spray.  Somehow this didn’t stop me, so I went there to test my mettle.

The waitress was wary at my request of the XXX wings, and they even make you sign a legal waver containing fun phrases like, “you’re an adventurous spirit who eats chilis for fun” alongside the more litigious “you won’t sue us in case of bodily harm”.  However, since I ordered the wings, I got a free fireman hat that stated I tried the XXX wing challenge along with a cowbell that I could ring if the heat became unbearable.

My bell and my brew (IPA, fyi)

This action would lead to the staff bringing out a “cool off” tray which consisted of a glass of milk, a cup of sour cream, and some white bread.  Little did they know I had the eye of the tiger to finish off the wings.

Hell in a hand basket

When they were presented to me, I was intrigued by how they looked since they weren’t glowing or smouldering or looking like pure evil.  However, I did notice a particular pungent aroma when I moved my face closer to them lying upon each other like eight little red smouldering coals nestled in a little hibachi.  I also got a side of blue cheese just in case I couldn’t handle the heat, and the celery was complimentary.  So I started off with the first wing, and I was expecting to get punched in the face with a fireball of spice.  Surprisingly, I was greeted instead with a savory and slightly garlicky heatwave that just spread the proverbial gasoline on the inside of my mouth.

The first wing goes down for the count

The next four to six wings decided to have a firework party while playing in the aforementioned gasoline a la Zoolander.  At this point, the back of my throat was quite scratchy and almost numb.  My lips and the surrounding area on my face just felt like it was touched up by a flamethrower, and I had a good sweat going on the whole time.  Plus, I kept in mind a key element to eating any sort of spicy food with your hands:  don’t rub your eyes even if you have an itch anywhere around them. I did try a wing or two in the superbly made blue cheese sauce that had whole blue cheese crumbles in it which was so much better than the blue cheese sauces I’ve sampled at Hooters and Buffalo Wild Wings.  While all of this was going on, my waitress kept coming by expecting the cowbell to be ringing out for mercy, but I just kept on truckin’ (like I’d ever stop truckin’ in the first place).  By the last wing, I downed it with gusto as my nose began to run slightly.  Perspiration aside, I knew that I had done something impressive especially judging by the shocked reaction from our waitress.  So I ended up getting my picture up on the digital Wall of Flame and the knowledge knowing that I had survived one hell of a challenge.  Unfortunately, they did not let me celebrate in true Will Ferrell fashion with adding more cowbell to the victory.

So for all of those thrill seekers/chili-heads out there, definitely try the XXX wing challenge at Jake Melnicks.  If spicy food isn’t for you, they also have a great variety of  delicious burgers (including an eight pound burger challenge), barbecue dishes with in-house smoked meats, hearty soups, savory sandwiches, and satisfying salads you can chow down on.

All done and it feels like I’ve smeared lava on my face

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap on Urbanspoon

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap on Foodio54

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