Tuesday, April 29, 2008


This post is also from my Chicago trip last week. I was in town just for a couple of days and invited my friends from twitter to lunch. Luckily, the locals picked Bandera, which turned out to be great.

I was told I had to have the corn bread there because it was the best in town. I must admit that corn bread is not my favorite thing and prior to coming to the US I had never had it, but French Fries makes it often enough that I've gotten used to it. Still, not my favorite dish. Then I tried this:

Cornbread at Bandera

I dont' know if it really is the best in Chicago, but it's definitely the best I've ever had. And I know that if I went back there I'd definitely have it again.

Since I couldn't just have corn bread for lunch (though I may bend that rule next time I'm there), I ordered their Bandera-style Roasted Chicken with Spanish rice:

Roasted Chicken with Rice at Bandera

The bird was tender and soft and though we talked way too much over lunch, I managed to eat most of the plate, which was quite large (half breast and drumstick-thigh combo). I didn't care much for the rice -- seemed a little overcooked -- somewhere between Spanish rice and risotto. The chicken was very moist so a more lose rice or even some farofa would have been better (but I'm biased, of course).

The restaurant itself was very pleasant. Reminded me a lot of churrascarias I used to go in Sao Paulo -- large display of rotating roasting chickens right as you come in and a oak decorated ambient with low lights and lots of waiting staff zooming around.

Farofa: *** out of 5

Forks Down Verdict: Excellent American Cuisine, perfect for lunch-time get together.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Grand Lux Cafe

This is a cranky post. I was in Chicago last week and found myself alone one of the evenings so I decided to try the restaurant around the corner from my hotel, Grand Lux Cafe. This restaurant is part of the same organization as the Cheesecake Factory (which is only reflected in the generous portion sizes).

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of the place or the meal I ordered (a tasty combo plate, half fillet mignon half braised lamb served with mashes potatoes, which despite it's deliciousness, was served somewhat cold).

What I'm venting about is the dessert. I am not really a dessert person, I rarely order dessert. When I do, it's because I'm really in the mood and expect to have something very satisfying. The moment I sat down at Grand Lux Cafe, the waiter told me that their dessert selection was amazing and I should be aware that many options should be ordered early as it took up to 20 minutes to prepare as they were baked to order.

That sounded like a dream since I was just in the right mood. When I ordered their famous Warm Rustic Apple Pie, he told me it would take 35 minutes, which is very different from 20 minutes. I asked for Molten Chocolate Cake, same result. Likewise with New Orleans Beignets. I asked if he recommended something else that took less time. He said most other items were around the same time. I copped out and ordered a Banana Cream Pie to go.

Upon arriving at my hotel, I was greeted with this:

Banana Cream Pie at Grand Lux Cafe

It tasted like what I would expect it to taste if it had traveled in a car for 12 hours with someone sitting on it. The banana was completely raw, which is ok, except it was over-ripe. The cream tasted like egg and the crust was mushy. I'm not going to dwell in the presentation issues, I'll just let this image speak for itself.

Farofa: * out of 5

Forks Down Verdict: Over-promise and under-delivery are particuarlly bad for restaurants as you have to eat the outcome.

Grand Lux Cafe
600 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611

Get Directions
(773) 276-2500

Pink Rose Pastry

After Mustard Green, our Date Night continued on to Pink Rose Pastry before we hit the theatre to see Smart People. We had been to Pink Rose before under similar circumstances -- as I frequently tell French Fries, doesn't matter how much you have for dinner as we have separate stomachs for desert.

Pink Rose Pastry

This time I ventured with a Chocolate Midnite, which disappointed me. I love chocolate and generally go for dark chocolate items. This was milk chocolate based and the buttermilk icing was too buttery and sweet. Still tasty, but almost made French Fries shriek when she tried it. It also looked like something bought at a supermarket pastry shop, not a gourmet place. We later learned that one of their pastry chefs had called in sick that day (to whom I attribute the chocolate cake strength now).

Chocolate Midnite at Pink Rose Pastry

French Fries, the lemon bar fiend, went for, obviously, a lemon bar. It looked delicious and it must have been because it was no longer there when I decided I wanted to try it.

Lemon Bar at Pink Rose Pastry

She also had a Cafe-au-lait which she said was "blah" and I had a cappuccino which was actually quite good. All in all, not the most riveting dessert experience, but a nice place to hang out and wind down.

Farofa: ** out of 5
French Fries: ? out of 5

Forks Down Verdict: Nice end-of-evening hang out for your sweet tooth

Pink Rose Pastry
630 S 4th St
Philadelphia, PA

Mustard Green

Last night French Fries and I had a date night. We've been wanting to do that for a while but kept putting it off -- likewise with the restaurant we picked: Mustard Greens. We love going there but the last time had probably been a year ago.

The menu is very simple and sophisticated. It's the a very healthy kind of Chinese menu (wouldn't know where from exactly), with a constant theme of garlic throughout, which is an easy win in Farofa and French Fries territory.

Tea pots at Mustard Greens

We started out with a nice and cold Tsingtao, which we love, and a pot of their standard oolong tea, which is delicious. I wish they sold it -- they probably do at their sister shop across the street, which sells teapots (haven't been there yet as we usually arrive around 7pm when they are already closed).

TsingTao at Mustard Greens

We generally wait for the specials to order and I always order the special; yesterday was no exception -- not only that, but my favorite dish in the menu was it: Scallops. Made in a clear garlic broth with black beans, it's served with toasted green onions, sweet peas and baby corn.

Scalops at Mustard Greens

French Fries ordered the Chinese Brocolli special, which is a beautiful green that's hard to describe (and unfortunately doesn't come out as nicely on my cellphone camera).

Chinese Brocolli at Mustard Greens

We also ordered the house staple, Mustard Greens, which were really crunchy and delicious. The whole meal was a perfect combination of dishes that blended well together and yet had a distinctive taste about them. It made French Fries happy - which is the ultimate goal of Date Night:

Amelia at Mustard Greens

Farofa: ***** out of 5
French Fries: **** out of 5

Forks Down Verdict: Flavorful, affordable, comfortable, enjoyable -- adjectives are quickly too numerous for such a delicious minimalistic eatery: just go and enjoy.

Mustard Green
622 S 2nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

(215) 627-0833

Friday, June 8, 2007

Eggs Benedict

Farofa likes Eggs Benedict. That is probably the understatement of the year, actually. It might be more accurate to say that Farofa tracks Eggs Benedict across the city with the intensity of a heat-seeking missile. Below is a sampling of Eggs Benedict dishes that she has consumed in Philly and a couple of ringers from DC & Maui respectively. For any of you who are similarly consumed with dreams of Eggs Benedict heaven try your hand at matching the following Eggs Benedict with the restaurants from which they came (no cheating by looking at flickr!):

1. the continental
2. creperie beau monde
3. jones
4. marathon on the square
5. more than just ice cream
6. morning glory
7. spices cafe
8. silver diner

a. Avocado Eggs Benedict b. Eggs Benedict Original Recipe

c. Crabcake Eggs Benedict d. Eggs Benedict with Ham

e. Poached Eggs with Bearnaise f. Spanish Eggs Benedict

g. Plain Eggs Benedict h.IMG_1064

Give up? The answers are
1d, 2e, 3h, 4b, 5a, 6f, 7g (maui), 8c (DC)

And yet - none of the pictured Eggs Benedict have achieved what Farofa considers to be the Platonic ideal of the dish, and some have even been bad! Quel horror! Can anyone out there help us find the best Eggs Benedict in Philadelphia?

P.S. We may be doing the same with guacamole in a soon-to-come episode if this is successful.