Tag Archives: reviews

The Many Faces of BREAKFAST

Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t love breakfast?

Dishonourably, not long ago, my answer to this question would be “I. I do not love breakfast.”

Yes, yes, I admit it. And I am prepared to receive all necessary shuns and ostracism. But really, I’m not a morning person, and cereal, though oftentimes delicious, is not what I’m about to blog about.

No, I shall blog about something much, much more interesting, beautiful, and unexpected. Well, unless you’re an avid breakfastarian. But the diverse possibilities and variations on breakfast remained unknown to me before my eating adventures of summer 2012.

This past summer I had the opportunity to live and work in Lake Geneva with my wife Kaitlyn. While we were there, we decided to pursue our food blogging and photography passion and try a new Lake Geneva restaurant each weekend. We ate at Tuscan Tavern and Grill, Next Door Pub, Tempura House, Simple, Yogeeze, Lake Geneva Creperie, Popeyes, Egg Harbour, Sopra, Boatyard Bagel, and Baker House, to name a few. For my review of Baker House, click here.

At two of these restaurants, Simple and Egg Harbour Cafe, I truly learned how to breakfast. I have always been a fan of Eggs Benedict and would consider it my favourite breakfast dish. Simple, refined, and loaded with hearty flavours. I had the Farmer’s Benedict during my first Egg Harbour visit, and it was a very fresh and tasty vegetarian take on my old favourite. However, my mind was truly blown during my second Egg Harbour visit.

I looked at the menu and decided to order some pumpkin pancakes (which were indeed delicious). But I didn’t order them. I happened to see, out of the corner of my eye, a small seasonal menu at the corner of the table. But I did a double take; I thought for sure I saw the words RED VELVET on top. Yes, I did! I looked closer. I grabbed the menu and stared in awe at the words that followed: FRENCH TOAST. RED VELVET FRENCH TOAST!

I typically shy away from bread soaked in a fatty (albeit delicious) batter and fried, particularly for breakfast. I have a sensitive stomach that hates me forever, at least for a few hours, if I eat anything dramatic in the morning. Or almost anything at all. But I do love fried battered bread after 10:00, and I had been up for a good six hours or so before I went to Egg Harbour for lunch. So I took a risk and ordered it.

In a few words, it changed my life. It changed my perspective on breakfast, and really emphasised that comedy routine about how its acceptable to eat cake for breakfast but unacceptable at any other time. Nevermind the cream cheese frosting inside.

My next formational breakfast experience took place at Simple. Simple is ranked very highly for Lake Geneva, and though I’ve eaten there three times, the restaurant lived up to this high ranking only on my third visit. I ordered the Korean BBQ Breakfast Bowl: brown rice in Korean BBQ sauce with a plethora of fresh garden veggies and BBQ Korean pork, served with a fried egg on top.

This dish also changed my breakfastology, though a stark contrast from the mind-numbing extravagance of the Red Velvet French Toast. But that was what was so amazing about it. After eating these two dishes within a week of each other, I was truly enlightened about the possibilities of breakfast. It can literally take the form of anything you want. Do you awake with the desire for ice cream? No problem. Deep fry some dough, drop some fresh berries and ice cream on there, and BOOM BELGIAN WAFFLE. Oh, wait. I’d rather just eat left over Chinese food from last night. Or, better, yet, I got a pound of sushi grade hamachi in the walk-in, lets just make some makimono. Throw a fried egg on top and BOOM ASIAN BREAKFAST.

I hope you get my point. The possibilities are endless. If you don’t, well, go back to cereal.

So, in a fit of inspiration, I went home and made this:

Inspired by a meal my wife had at Simple at the beginning of the summer, what you behold with your opticals is a breakfast ‘taco’ comprised of eggs scrambled with sweet vidalia onions topped with apples sauteed in butter and brown sugar, zucchini, parsley, and a little parmesan cheese. The combination of sweet, fresh, crispy, sour, and acidic was profound. I did it! I made a cool breakfast! And I had it for lunch! And a year ago I would have opted for a sandwich made by my Jewish friends over at Carnegie Deli. Nothing wrong with that.

The point I’m trying to make here is this: No matter how much you hate waking up in the morning, breakfast definitely can be worth the pain.

Photo Credits: Red Velvet French Toast photo credited to TripAdvisor, Asian Bowl Breakfast photo by my wife Kaitlyn Newberry, and I dabbled in the food photography world and took the last photo. My food, my photo.

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Lollapalooza

Once a year in downtown Chicago, thousands of businessmen and women get incredibly frustrated. That’s right, a generous portion of roads and streets used by commuters in cabs, busses, and Mercedes are blocked off so a bunch of scene kids and hipsters can tear up the grass in Grant Park – but tearing up the grass to some of today’s best independent artists. If you have not already guessed from the title of this post, I am speaking (or rather clicking away at my keyboard in a Caribou in Lake Geneva) about the sensory overload known as Lollapalooza.

Thankfully, other than the senses of hearing (usually really delicious audibles, unless you’re near the stage known as Perry’s) and smell (typically unpleasant unless you’re near Chow Town or Green Street, where the scent of freshly-juiced wheat grass is particularly potent), the sense of taste is gloriously highlighted in a beateous realm know as Chow Town. Divided into two parts, Chow Town North and Chow Town South, Chow Town features a diverse taste of some of Chicago’s best restaurants disguised in skins of metal and tarp in a typical county-fair-esque row of food stalls. Chow Town is organised and arranged by famed Chicago chef Graham Elliot, owner of Graham Elliot Restaurant, Grahamwich, and g.e.b., a new and particularly intriguing restaurant (everything on the menu is composed of only three ingredients). For a full list of restaurants featured at this year’s Lolla, check out this link. Please take a moment to click on it, take notes if you like, but really, please, if you’re ever in Chicago, try some of these restaurants (Particularly Grahamwich and Chizakaya).

Great. Now that you’ve an idea about the diverse cuisines available at Lolla, I shall relay in detail our scrumptious experience. Ah, I might as well start out with Grahamwich. My wife and I wandered slowly through Chow Town, gazing in awe at each booth’s menu. The restaurants had managed to convert gourmet dishes and ingredients into delicious street faire food. Incredible. We stopped at Grahamwich and noticed two menu items: the lobster corndog, 10$, and the white truffle and pamesan popcorn, 5$. We approached timidly and asked if Graham was around. We were told he was somewhere in the park and if we came back later, there was a good chance we’d see him. We wandered a bit more, attended some shows, then returned to the booth for a snack. Since Kaitlyn and I are inherently cheap (and presently poor), we decided to go with the less economically detrimental option and purchase a sack of truffle butter popcorn. But not before I began to freak out; as I stared through the heads of attendees, I saw a white pair of glasses on a very large, meaty head: it was GRAHAM ELLIOT, in the flesh.

He was there.

We hurried in and got our popcorn, then stood and watched as two girls snapped a photo with him. I was freaking out. My heart started pounding, I continuously repeated the phrase “there he is!”, and Kaitlyn grabbed my arm and told me to chill out. We cautiously approached the booth, and Kaitlyn asked if she could ask him a question. He eagerly and graciously obliged. Kaitlyn asked him about food photography, and Graham replied with a line I will never forget: “You want the food to look like you stumbled upon it walking through the forest. It should look natural.” I then realised that I finally had a great view of his tattoos. Whenever I watch Masterchef, I try to figure out what the heck is tattooed all over his massive, burly arms. I stared at them as he talked about how to break into the food photography industry, and the only thing I could fully identify was a penguin attached to a propellor jetpack.

Kaitlyn thanked him, and we both shook Graham’s massive, rugged chef hand. He smiled at us, and it was over. We had met Graham Elliot.

We enjoyed the popcorn immensely. It was flavourful, salty, peppery, cheesy, and, best of all, crossover gourmet-to-street cuisine. It was beautiful, and it was popcorn.

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We also purchased an Asian Pork Belly Slider from the booth owned by Chizakaya. It was four dollars for a few bites, but those bites were transcendent. My body stayed in Chicago, and my soul went to a realm somewhat like Tokyo, but with less overpopulation and more Masaharu Morimoto’s on LSD. The pork belly was tender and flavourful, accompanied by sliced scallions, an Asian barbecue sauce, fried garlic, and served on one of those white, soft, Asian buns. Those few bites changed the way I understand contemporary cuisine, particularly in the realm of gourmet-to-street cuisine, and in many ways defined it for me.

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This little bun cost four dollars. When I finished eating it, I told Kaitlyn that I have a particularly pejorative reaction when I discover the food has a size:price ratio such as this. However, when we finished, I decided that it was one of the best four dollars I’ve ever spent.
We also ventured in to Green Street where we purchased a vegan hummus and sprout wrap and some vegan tamales in honour of the true roots of the avant-garde music and food scene. Gaze upon them for a moment.Image

You have just observed a digital image of a large amount of home-made vegan hummus and very developed bean sprouts wrapped in an all natural, whole grain tortilla-type-thing. I felt fifty years younger after snacking on this recrementitiously healthy roll of life.

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This is Kaitlyn with the tamales. The tamales don’t look like much here, but they were very fresh, very healthy, and very pleasurable to consume. There’s not much more I can say, and honestly if you’ve read this far, I’m just as tired of writing this as you are of reading it (which means, of course, if you are not tired at all, neither am I. Shall we continue?).

That’s about it – the essentials of our Lollapalooza adventures in the sensory realm of taste. I would rather not brag about the wonderful bands we were able to enjoy (including, but not limited to, Sigur Ros and of Monsters and Men, visible below), so I shall refrain from doing so.

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Of Monsters and Men.

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Jonsi of Sigur Ros.

Alright, let’s wrap this up with a hasty closing statement. When Lollapalooza rolls around next year, I definitely suggest that you drop a month’s worth of rent and attend. Honestly, those business people need a nice good annoyance once and a while.

For more images and food photography, visit Kaitlyn’s blog here.

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