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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Archive for the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 @ 12:02 PM

** I apologize for this post being so late, it would seem my windows live writer is having some difficulties, so since I had to use WordPress this time, that would explain for the less than stellar photo arranging … hoping the have the problems fixed soon!

Happy Valentine’s Day…belated!  Adam informed me that I should have written   this post on Monday, so it would have been ready on the actual day where it would have been poignant, but such is life and stubborn me didn’t listen to him…, as usual. 😉  Why is this post poignant for Cupid’s Day you ask?  Well, this week’s spot has quite a history, most notoriously as sitting right across the street from the location of one of the most notorious spots in Mobster history.  I referring to the famed 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago and what is now The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.

Luckily the future home of this popular local spot wasn’t affected by the acts of Al Capone’s henchmen on that fateful day per se and has even outlasted the garage where the mayhem occurred; and in 1972, The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. was born at 2121 N. Clark Street where it has been serving up their signature “pizza pot pies” ever since.

We paid our first visit when we still lived in the city and at the time I am not sure we were all that impressed.  It’s not that it wasn’t good, I just think we weren’t really prepared for what we were about to try and therefore we compared it too much to other Chicago pizzas.  That is really the key…, you can’t compare these pot pies to any other pizza in Chicago, and if you know Chicago-Style Pizza, you will understand.  We unfortunately made the mistake of wanting and expecting what we were used to in traditional Chicago-style….like Gino’s or Giordano’s.  However, the Pizza Pot Pie is really unlike anything else you have ever tried, and not understanding that was our first mistake, because it’s like comparing chili to tomato soup.

So even though we weren’t very excited about our first trip, we decided to give them another shot last year on to commemorate Valentine’s Day.  Plus, between visits, it just so happened that they were featured on an episode of “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” making it even more of a pop culture icon.

As I said a minute ago, these pot pies are unlike anything you have ever tried.  They are an individual pie with a shell made out of pizza dough to form a bowl with a center or meat and sauce, all covered in a wonderful ooey gooey mess of cheese!  Let’s just say this time around, knowing what to expect….big hit!  Adam was such a fan I thought he was going to lick the plate clean. 😀

Still, while the pot pies are good, the main reason we went back and my favorite thing on their menu is their Mediterranean bread.  This bread is a HUGE…and I mean HUGE portion of flat bread covered in oil and seasonings that you simply just rip apart with your hands and enjoy.  Adam always helps me out with this dish and we typically are even able to take some home it is that big.  So our typical order is a pot pie, which I take a bite or two of, the flatbread, and a huge salad with their homemade house dressings that I usually buy a bottle of to take home they are that yummy!

Although it was fitting that we visited around Valentine’s Day, that is by no means the only time to go.  The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. is perfect for a date or an easy evening out.  It’s got a dark cozy basement setting and totally relaxed atmosphere which makes for quite the romantic setting; and while we have never had to wait terribly long, this place isn’t very large, so on a weekend evening I would suggest trying to get their pretty early so you can be sure you get to enjoy.

SIGNATURE DISH: Having never heard of a Pizza Pot Pie in my lifetime before, I’m pretty sure you would call that quite a signature dish; and Adam and I have traveled a fair amount and have never come across anything close to this dish in the pizza world.  It’s truly a wonderful unique element in the culinary world.

TASTE: As I said above, I wasn’t wowed by the taste on our first visit (except for the Mediterranean bread), but I think that was due to my wanting to compare it to what I was used to with Chicago-style pizza.  But Chicago-style it is not, so you can’t think of it that way.  Standing alone, however, it is a wonderful warm dish with great flavor.  Plus, aside from the pot pie, I would go back for the Mediterranean bread any day.  It’s fantastic!

AMBIANCE: The restaurant isn’t very large and the booths are very packed in, but I think that create a great atmosphere.  To some it is very romantic, while it is also just a cozy neighborhood tavern.  Regardless, it’s got a unique feel and a great place to spend an hour or more.

PRICE: The pot pies are $10.75 for a ½ pounder and $21.50 for the full pounder, which is massive!  2 people could easily share the ½ pounder with some bread and a salad (neither of which are exorbitant) especially given their size.  Overall, for Chicago especially, I found their prices to be very reasonable.

SERVICE: It’s pretty tight quarters like I said, and to be delivering food and quickly in them can be quite difficult.  But on both occasions, our servers seemed very confident, pleasant, and able to get our food to us fast, which when I am super hungry I always appreciate!

I am very happy that we re-discovered Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co., and as I write this post, we are even talking about going back this weekend.  We have definitely been turned into fans, and in our opinions, it truly is a gem in a city full of restaurants.  I give it 4 ½ ‘Little Piggies’

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 @ 12:12 PM

104Can you believe Christmas is just around the corner?  Amidst all the feedings, diapers, and helping Adam with work parties, the weeks of December have just flown by.  I barely got to enjoy the fall and now I am preparing myself for the cold months ahead where we will be mostly home bound.  During these winter months I like to daydream about fun trips and destinations that evoke the term paradise in my head; and while Louisville isn’t often what springs to mind as far as a paradise locale, they do have a restaurant that truly brings that thought to mind.

Lynn’s Paradise Café opened in 1991 as the venture of Lynn Winter, who as a former woodworker had great passion for art and creating things, but decided with a twist of fate to take on a new culinary fueled adventure.  With her love of the creative, she sought to create a restaurant that not only was aesthetically interesting, AND I MEAN INTERESTING, but she began introducing new takes on food that are truly artistic in both their ingredients and appearance.  Also, attached to the restaurant is a shop that boasts some of the most unique nifty-gifty stuff you will ever see, as well as a large assortment of hats and glasses that we all had a blast trying on..

Over the years the restaurant has continued to grow and thousands of people from around the country come to visit and try some of her winning creations every year.  Lynn’s has been featured on Food Network’s “Best of,” Diner’s Drive-Ins & Dives, and Bobby Flay even paid Lynn a visit to offer a “Throwdown.”

So with my parents now living in Louisville, we knew on our first visit down there we would have to make sure Lynn’s received a visit. We had heard ahead of time that the wait can be a bit insane and that although it’s a large place, many MANY people go there on the weekends.  We were also there with the whole family on a holiday weekend, so we were prepared for a possibly lengthy wait. Luckily, there is no shortage of fun things to look at and picture opportunities…

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In total we waited about an hour to get seated, but looking at all the merchandise and trying on funny hats helped the time fly. Still, we were definitely hungry. We got to sit right next to a large tree smack-dab in the center of the restaurant, which truly displays how Lynn’s is an eclectic “paradise” if I ever saw one…bright colors, crazy décor, and odd shaped chair and tables throughout. You wonder if there is even one ounce of free wall or ceiling space? But I guess that’s what adds to whole atmosphere.

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With a variety of interesting menu options, we all ordered and waited in anticipation.  I will say it now… I once again ordered poorly.  It wasn’t that my meal wasn’t good…, it was just that I really should have chosen something more exciting than the homemade granola, and after a couple of bites I was sort of sick of it and looking for other flavors.  Luckily, Adam shared some bites of his meal with me, which was outstanding!  His breakfast came with fried green tomatoes, which we both have now discovered are AWESOME…, something I would have never thought considering. I mean…I don’t like tomatoes, so I thought there would be no way I’d like fried green ones. Let just say…I WAS WRONG!  These were so good I am now afraid I will measure any other fried green tomato against these and they just might never measure up.  Lynn’s tomatoes also came with this dipping sauce that I can’t describe other than it added the perfect amount of creamy zing. His egg scramble was also pretty good; and their cheese grits….WOW! Also not a big grit fan…but Lynn’s is doing it in the yummiest way! In all, we all really seemed to enjoy our meals and I think almost everyone cleaned their plates.

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SIGNATURE DISH: While they aren’t known for any one dish in particular, there are definitely a few that stand out as fun variations on classic dishes.  Lynn’s French toast recipes and scrambles are definitely signature to her and more than worth the visit.

TASTE: I think we were all pretty blown away by the depth in flavor in each of our dishes; and while I said I was disappointed with my order, it wasn’t because it wasn’t good…far from it. Actually, it was some of the best granola I’ve had, I just needed more flavors to accompany it. Lucky for me, the meals are all large and I was able to get bites from other people’s…which were all good!

AMBIANCE: This is really what makes Lynn’s. The décor is SOOO fun. Our table literally was curved around a giant tree in the middle of the restaurant!  Also, there is plenty of unique artwork and other fun kitschy features hanging throughout the whole place that you are never bored with your surroundings; and while it makes it a tad difficult to maneuver through it all, it is truly what makes the overall appeal.

PRICE: Definitely more than your good ol’ IHOP or Denny’s type place.  For our family of 7, it was over $100; which I guess isn’t terrible considering you’re in the city. Plus, the food was well worth it. It was homemade, hearty and wholesome. In my world, you pay a little extra for the special touches and non-preserved ingredients.

SERVICE: Our waitress was super friendly and very helpful.  Like her surroundings, she also had some eclectic body décor, which I got the sense that many of their wait staff had as this restaurant is pretty funky.  Our meals came out quick and given the crazy amount of people scattered throughout the restaurant, the wait staff was well equipped to deal.

Lynn’s boasts quite the unique environment and possibly the type of dining atmosphere you don’t run into on a day to day basis.  Although it is pretty “out there” as far as style is concerned, this does not seem to deter any patron from enjoying the whole experience.  So whether it is the décor, the store, or the food that is drawing the people in (or all 3), you will witness a variety of visitors that truly LOVE Lynn’s!  We were no different.

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Lynn’s was the perfect ending to a great trip to Louisville and I hope I am able to return again soon, if for nothing else than to get my fried green tomato fix! I’m proud to give this local favorite, Lynn’s Paradise Café 4 ‘Little Piggies’

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Friday, December 2, 2011 @ 04:12 PM

008Well I haven’t gotten totally back in the groove, and with the Thanksgiving holiday last week I realized I completely forgot to post, I do apologize.  Unfortunately I don’t think this post is really going to make up for it though, because I will be the first to say this recipe was sort of a dud. 

Like many people this time of year, I am in love with fall flavors and more specifically pumpkin flavored just about anything, so I was intrigued by the idea of Rachael Ray’s Pumpkin Cheddar Mac and Cheese.  I mean what could be bad about it, pumpkin is very versatile, it can be sweet or savory.  I mean, I like noodles, I love cheese, I like pumpkin… it had all the makings of a perfect fall comfort food dish.  So one evening I was able to quickly whip up this dish for us to enjoy, one perk of any Rachael Ray dish is that they really do come together very quickly.  And this one, although seemed a bit more time consuming due to the sauce you make, it really was not difficult, very similar to making a béchamel sauce and adding pumpkin to it.  I also thought the addition of some amber beer was an interesting and potentially flavorful addition to the dish.

Pumpkin Cheddar Mac & Cheese

Ingredients
  • 1 pound whole wheat or whole grain short-cut pasta, such as rigatoni or penne
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 slightly rounded tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup amber beer
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • A couple of pinches ground cloves or 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • About 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin purée or 2 cups puréed fresh roasted pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese, divided
  • Sweet paprika, for sprinkling
  • Chopped parsley or chives to garnish

Yields: 4-6

Preparation

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and reserve. Preheat broiler.

Melt butter in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, cook for 1 minute, then raise heat a bit and add beer. Reduce until almost evaporated then whisk in honey or syrup and milk. Season with cloves or allspice, mustard, cayenne, a little freshly grated nutmeg, some salt and pepper. Thicken to coat spoon, a couple of minutes, then taste to adjust seasonings.

Whisk in pumpkin purée then stir in about 2 cups grated cheese with a wooden spoon until melted. Combine pasta with sauce and arrange in a casserole or individual ramekins. Sprinkle remaining cheese and a light dusting of paprika. Broil to brown and bubble. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives.

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It emerged from browning in the oven looking positively creamy, cheesy, and delicious, but unfortunately this dish looked better than it tasted, it just really fell short in the flavor department.  Adam and I both took a big ol’ bite and were both more than disappointed.  For someone who loves mac and cheese as much as Adam this really missed the bar and as for me, I just was disappointed that it really had no flavor.  I mean you could taste the pumpkin, but it really added more in texture than any distinguishable flavor.  And because of the pumpkin addition adding creaminess, I assume this is why Rachael uses less cheese in the recipe, you know to make it healthy.  But I’m sorry, if I’m going to eat Mac and Cheese, I’m not really concerned about the health factor.  I’m also now convinced that I really don’t like whole wheat pasta, I have tried it many times and I like many many healthy and whole wheat items, just not pasta.  So again, if I’m going to enjoy it, I would prefer the real deal.  Whole wheat pasta just ends up tasting chalky to me and that coupled with the texture of the pumpkin did not help me in the taste department.  I will say that with the addition of more cheese and letting this dish sit another day or so, did allow us to somewhat enjoy the leftovers, but we both agreed this dish needs some major tweaking it we were ever going to truly enjoy it.

TASTE: Well if you hadn’t gathered from my description the taste of this dish was rather nondescript and bland.  While the pumpkin flavor came through slightly, it didn’t add enough to the dish and needed some other major flavors to complement it, instead it just fell flat.

EASE OF PREPARATION: For a dish that comes out looking very pretty and gourmet, it was very easy to put together and really only took about 30 minutes or so, so while the taste wasn’t outstanding with a few tweaks it could be a very easy flavorful fall dish to whip together.

COST: Along with not being very complicated, it also wasn’t extremely expensive since it doesn’t require any obscure ingredients.  Unfortunately for us we couldn’t find anything smaller than a case of amber beer, so it cost us considerably more to make, but if you are just figuring what you need for the dish alone, it would be fairly cheap to put together.

COMPLEXITY: Like I said, not overly complex, really just boiling the pasta and while you are doing that making the pumpkin cheese sauce that will go over it.  The most complex part is just making sure you are stirring the sauce consistently so it doesn’t burn and thickens without getting clumpy.

PORTION SIZE: I felt that the recipe was correct in saying that it would feed 4 to 6, we each had a fairly large portion the first night and then were able to split the leftovers, so it could easily feed 4-6.

I was pretty disappointed that this dish didn’t turn out to be as exciting as I had hoped, another case of the result not meeting the expectations.  While we agreed that some additions could possibly make it better, I’m not sure I would even say it was worth trying again.  While I had high hopes, this dish fell short and therefore only gets 2 little piggies.

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