I hope you are having an excellent Valentine's Day. If you're like me, you are at work. Nice! High five.
Anyway, off to the Windy City. You know why it's so windy, right? Because when best friends get together, they basically do nothing but constantly gab. Gab while putting together furniture, gab waiting in line at a trendy torta spot, and gab while run/walking along Lake Michigan on a balmy winter's day (around 33 degrees).
After Home Depot, a snack, and a waddle, we enjoyed brunch at home. Made up squash hash topped with over easy eggs. T chopped all the veggies ahead of time, so this was quick, packed with nutrients, and obviously delicious. Pita bites, hummus, and sheep's milk feta on the side. Wait--you don't buy sheep's milk feta in a two-pack from Costco? Oh. T doesn't understand you, then.
I was so looking forward to XOCO for dinner--it's the casual Rick Bayless sandwich shop next to Frontera and Topolobampo.
I would love to try XOCO for breakfast. Keep in mind that it's closed Sunday and Monday - that would be disappointing to find out at the door. :(
Ever since I had goat at Komi I've been dying to have it again. It's such a tender, delicious meat (when cooked well). The goat barbacoa sandwich was the special torta for Saturday--a mild tomatillo salsa, avocado, onion, and cilantro rounded this sucker out. The bread's texture is awesome--it's crispy and chewy the way toasted bread should be, and everything about this sandwich makes you think about how you want to eat it every single day. Dang. So satisfying, so comforting, just so everything.
This sandwich--the ahogada (pork carnitas, pickled onions, spicy tomato broth, etc) is the first thing T ordered at XOCO, and the second time she naturally decided to have something different. Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, she had major ordering regrets once she realized Choice 2 wasn't as awesome as Choice 1. On her 3rd visit she went back to the favorite, and even got to taste my torta. The tomato broth here was way too spicy for me, I was on fiya.
Just so you know the drill, you wait on line to order, and you can get a beer or something while you wait. Even if you get to the front of the line, you can only order if you have a table number. We got to the front of the line before being given a table number, so we just sort of waited. A few minutes later we got a number, ordered, then were led to our table by one of the runner/hosts.
Dessert rounds out a meal. Also, sandwiches are on the smaller side and we didn't have any accompaniments. T had the churros on a previous visit, and while there was nothing wrong with them, they didn't send her senses flying. We opted for this ginger lime tres leches cake, and it was fantastic. The cake itself was cool, sweet, and wet, and the topping was marshmallow (!!) and some candied lime. T wishes she had a bag of that candied lime; she is so predictable.
Cocktail time--hello, we are ladies on the go. We headed over to Sable Bar & Kitchen for drinks after torta heaven. The huge drink list had something for everyone, and the lounge environment was comfy. They had tall bar tables and a long bar with stools, but also big, high-backed leather chairs. This would be a great spot to grab apps and drinks with a friend. It reminded me of our late dinner of appetizers in Pittsburgh.
Breakfast the next morning found us at The Bagel. T had heard from a coworker that they had great bagels, and she goes there all the time, etc etc. Now, this coworker is likely not from the east coast. I don't want to be a northeast liberal elitist snobaholic in your business, but T and I are Jersey Jews, and if anyone knows a bagel, it's us. I'll show you a bagel. Exhibit A: I present the cinnamon raisin bagel from Wonder Bagels in Jersey City, NJ.
I know. Try to get a hold of yourself.
So The Bagel turns out not to be a bagelry at all. And that's ok, it just wasn't what we were expecting. It also wasn't the tastiest place ever. I probably should have Yelped or something, but I didn't.
The bagel chips were sort of a redeeming factor; the baked goods just weren't very fresh.
I got whitefish salad; it would have been better if I didn't find a handful of little bones in it. Choking hazard says what??
T's Greek omelet was kind of sad, too. I know it's not really time for tomatoes, but these put the worst ones to shame. Omelets are tough sometimes, especially if you are a really good cook (like T), because if it's not good you are just thinking "I could have made something much better at home." Bummer.
Also, the service was odd. People kept coming by and filling our water and T's iced tea to the point where it overflowed, which was messy. But when we needed more napkins to clean that up, no one could be flagged down or found. I can't stand when you take one sip of water and someone refills it, it means people are allllways at the table. Stressful. But The Bagel will survive; there were lots of families and regular-looking people around.
So you all know how I feel about Top Chef. I'm a fan. I loved Stephanie Izard as a contestant, and I was super happy when she won. I follow her on Twitter. I knew that booking my Southwest flight to cChicago would be shortly followed by booking a rez over at Girl and the Goat.
I love the goat image that's all over the place. Cute and delicious at the same time. Real napkins were a nice touch.
T and I like almost all the same foods, so we picked 4 "small plates" to share. The dishes weren't all that small, and 4 was perfect for us. We didn't have room (or time) for dessert on this particular late afternoon.
We started with the shaved squash and kohlrabi salad with fennel, almonds, and ginger dressing. Crunchy, flavorful, and cold, this could decorate our plates any night of the week. Have I mentioned that we love ginger?
We had a list of daily specials, including breads. This was super toasty crusty bread invaded by peanuts with a miso butter and a lemony dip (sort of). It was the bomb. Get a bread for sure.
Below is the sunchoke soup with olives and red grapefruit. I'm not as olive-friendly as T, but the different flavors and textures here were delicious. Salty? Check. Sweet? Check. Creamy? Check yet again. Also you can add this to the long list of Things T and I Would Share That J Wouldn't Touch With a Ten Foot Pole.
Lamb sausage stuffed calamari with sweetbread crisps (those little guys on the bottom right). The calamari here is a casing for really flavorful, well-seasoned (but not salty) lamb meat, and there's a currant situation that sweetly contrasts.
Everything so far was so good. But lastly came this goat masala pizza with farm fresh cheeses and the house yogurt. (We made sure to ask whether goat meant goat like bleat bleat or like goat cheese--it meant bleat bleat.) It was so good. I could eat this "pizza" on a regular basis. Somehow we stopped ourselves from eating the last few pieces. I had a plane to catch, and I knew I'd be uncomfortably full if we went on. Also, I knew this meal was so good that T would enjoy eating leftovers for breakfast (and she did).
I imagine The Goat would be a great place to grab a few plates to share and some beers after work. I know I'd go back soon if I could, but maybe you Chicago people can go in my place.
I think J and I will go back to Chicago this summer to enjoy what the area has to offer in the nice weather and visit our dear T. By then she'll be well-versed in brunch options, late night drinks, and everything else going on, but we'll still explore and try new things because that's what friends are for.