Archive for September, 2009

No Fatties, No Hamsters

There’s no new Top Chef this week, so I present to you this little piece of internet deliciosity.

You’re welcome.


Salami, Salami, Baloney

Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry falls asleep watching TV, then wakes up in the middle of the night and writes down something from the show he was watching, thinking it was hilarious? ATHFThen he can’t figure out what the hell it says so he asks everyone, and then when he finally deciphers it,  it’s really not that funny?

Well, consider this the 2009 version of that. What you see to the left there is a screenshot from the notepad of my iPhone. I used this to take notes on FDL’s Hopleaf outing. As you can see, I made note of the wait for our drinks, the appetizers, my entree…then, at the bottom, things take a decidedly weird turn.

What had happened was, I apparently fell asleep watching Adult Swim, awoke sometime in the middle of  Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and decided whatever was happening was hilarious enough for me to write down. And while this episode is hysterical, I’m not really sure what I thought I was going to do with this information.

Ambien. It’s a hell of a drug.

These guys are huge in Germany

Am I nuts, or does the lead singer dude–and Wikipedia assures me that he is, in fact, a dude named Bill–look like a dead ringer for Bjork?


Update: Embedding seems to have been disabled by the German government, intent on keeping the reality of interspecies robot-love from reaching America. Just watch the video here.

Ahh the innocence of youth…

I attended a preseason Blackhawks game on Friday night, courtesy of J. and her nasty sinus infection that rendered her unable to use the tickets. Sitting behind us were these delightful young people:Hawkskids










I kid you not, I think I managed to capture the one milisecond from the entire night that this child’s mouth was not wide open. She and her brother spent the entire game screaming their faces off and generally going into hysterics every time Tommy Hawk made an appearance in the seats below us. Adorable, no?

On top of that, the guy across the aisle from me saw me snap this picture, and made some comment about how it was creepy. Which it is.

A cancer patient walks into a reality tv show…

RonTopChefDudes, I need a hobby. I have six pages of notes from this episode of Top Chef. Six. Pages. And attempting to decipher them is next to impossible because I have the handwriting of a six year old boy.

Remember in one of my first posts when I said that deconstructing is so hot right now? Turns out, I didn’t invent that in my brain. It’s actually true. And it was proven tonight on Top Chef, brought to you by the Glad family of products. Did you know this show was brought to you by the Glad family of products? Because it is. The Glad family of products and GE, I think. I’m not sure, it’s hard to tell.

This episode kicked off with a quickfire challenge involving some sort of angel/devil juxtaposition, which I didn’t really pay attention to but I know Robin won, and therefore was awarded immunity for the next elimination challenge. Golf claps for Robin, the Chef Everyone Hates. Seriously, everyone bitches about how annoying Robin is, and even little potbellied Eli gets in a few shots, stating that Robin only won because she played the cancer card. “Tell everyone you had fuckin’ cancer, that’s how you win,” he said. Rotflcopter. I can see where the judges might feel like assholes if they didn’t award her dish adequately, and her dish was pretty solid, but I found it manipulative and kind of a cop-out.

The elimination challenge was presented by guest judges Penn & Teller, those magicians who do magic and one who doesn’t talk. I wonder if he is an actual mute person or if this is all an elaborate act; either way, he brought nothing to the table. Penn was tolerable in his loud, overbearing way, I guess. Also, British sack of meat with mittens Toby Young is back, he of the awkward and often sexual analogies and snarky little soundbites. He was actually tolerable this time around, minus the whole “paella” pronunciation smackdown with Tom, who schooled Toby rather nicely.

The idea was to deconstruct a classic dish, a challenge both Ash and Jen whined and moaned about throughout the entire episode, repeating over and over that they “don’t do deconstruction.” Well guess what buttwads, THIS IS THE CHALLENGE. So stfu and getcher asses in the kitchen.

The knife pulls resulted in the following:

Mike 1 (not the twin): Eggs Florentine

Mike 2 (the twin): Caesar salad

Kevin: Chicken mole negro

Jen: Meat lasagna

Ron: Paella

Eli: Sweet & sour pork

Ashley: Pot roast

Robin: Clam CHOWDAH

Laurine: Fish & chips

Ash: Shepherd’s pie

Bryan (other twin): Reuben

Mike 1 almost won me over when he kept referring to his dish as “eggs foreign-to-me” rather than eggs Florentine, but in the end I wound up irritated. Who doesn’t know what eggs Florentine are? Has Mike 1 never been to brunch? That shit is standard.

What I kept hearing over and over from these cheftestants was a concern that their own personal styles were too traditional to present a winning deconstructed dish, and their frustration during prep was palpable. Especially Jen. She kept running away from Tom. Oh, and Eli’s pressure cooker exploded, but he blamed it on the baggage handlers. Which….makes…sense? He then “fixed” it by wrapping it in blue masking tape.

People were worried about Ron’s ability to pull off a good paella, with good reason, seeing as he didn’t seem to even know what the hell paella is. Laurine was pissed off the whole time because Robin kept asking her for shit and Laurine was all look bitch, you have immunity, stop asking me to pull your crap out of the oven, and Robin was all oh oops, I forgot! You have your own dishes to worry about don’t you, and Laurine said something underminery and resumed poking at her soggy chips.

The chefs served their dishes in pairs, starting with Bryan and Laurine. Bryan made a questionable choice by substituting tuna for pastrami in his deconstructed Reuben, but the gamble paid off in the end as all the judges, minus Penn, enjoyed his dish. Laurine, who seemed to have forgotten that “chips” are Brit-speak for “fries”, gave the judges over-cooked fish and weird, semi-burned potato chips. No good.

Ash and Jen went next, and the judges widely panned Ash’s last-minute swap-out of his potato and parsnip puree for a pea puree, which he claimed was due to the gummy texture of the potato and parsnip combo. A shepherd’s pie has mashed potatoes in it, yes, but I have to give Ash credit for refusing to serve food that wasn’t up to his standards (ahem ROBIN). Jen didn’t like the presentation of her meat lasagna but served it anyway, and wound up securing a spot in the top four.

Next up, Ron “put de lime in de coconut” Duprat and Eli. Tom deemed Ron’s paella a “sad bowl of food,” and the whole table marveled at his inability to crisp the rice while simultaneously drying the crap out of the seafood. Eli’s dish was sorta meh, with Toby likening the pork rillettes to bull testicles.

Sooo basically, everyone loved Ashley’s pot roast, and Kevin’s chicken mole negro thing, but they all decided Robin’s clam chowder was “repulsive” and reminded everyone of old soup that had been sitting out. It’s a damn good thing she had immunity. Kevin won, Ron lost, everyone cried, someone farted, they all dropped acid and had sex, then spent the next day scrubbing the shame off their skins.

Just kidding, none of that happened. The boring chefs hugged each other and Ron said he wasn’t upset that he was going home because he had fulfilled the American dream. Which was….kinda cute, but if being eliminated halfway through a cooking competition on cable tv is your definition of fulfilling the American dream, then you have some serious life choices to reevaluate, my friend.


Fact: Next to Boystown, Andersonville is the gayest neighborhood in Chicago. Also fact: The Hopleaf Bar, located smack dab in the middle of Andersonville, is totally awesome. (I apologize for the clumsy segue. I’m tired.)

A whirlwind summer behind us, FDL is finally swinging back into action this fall thanks to a rejuvenating visit to The Hopleaf Bar in Andersonville. Unassumingly smushed between antique stores, 24-hour gyms and designer chocolate shops, this cozy space boasts a rustic, Germanically-inspired menu, replete with rabbit stew and “squash blossoms” (heh). We were seated in a corner table, tucked between the kitchen and the door that led out to the patio which allowed for great people watching as the comfortable clatter of the kitchen played over our conversation. The interior’s exposed brick walls are covered in kitschy rusted beer signs, but it doesn’t make it feel like a TGIFriday’s or Chili’s. Instead, the rugged throwback interior lit with little more than flickering candles at each table makes for an intimate and altogether cozy experience.


Beers are what Hopleaf does best. Their draft menMa-til-dau alone features over twenty different varieties, and range from your typical Goose Island IPAs to more obscure, Belgian-style brews that sound like Ikea furniture.  Hopleaf’s bottle menu is mind-boggling and only the most expert of beer drinkers could ever decipher the difference between Schlossbrauerei al Hallertau and Corsendonk. Personally, I went with Goose Island’s Matilda, not only because it’s super easy to pronounce but it’s got that young 7% alcohol. That’s high for a beer, fyi. The rest of the crew went with Duvel bottles, on my suggestion.

It took us awhile to get the menu sorted out; divvying up apps and entrees. M. insisted we order  a basket of frites for the table (yes that’s frites not fries, you amateur) and we all agreed, unaware that basically everyone else’s entree came with frites. So a lot of frites were consumed that evening, along with around four rammekins of creamy garlic aoili that I’m fairly certain I could have eaten alone, with a spoon.

M. had been talking up the CB&J sandwich to us, and placed her order without even looking at the menu. Hopleaf5I was briefly jealous that her order came with a cup of Stilton mac & cheese and a collection of hand-cut, house-made potato chips. Pan-fried sourdough bread sandwiched cashew butter, fig jam and morbier cheese, making for a hot, gooey, sweet and savory mess of a sandwich. It was like a grown-up version of all your childhood favorites, refined but not overly fussy and entirely approachable.

Of all the delicious dishes Hopleaf is known for, their all-time, extreme, numero uno speciality is their mussels. Served either Belgian-style with white ale, sliced shallots, celery, thyme, and bay leaves or Coconut-Curry with ginger, sweet potatoes, jalapenos, and Kafir lime leaves, the fresh mussels are served in an individually-sized pot with a handle. I’d say each serving is between 20 and 30 mussles, which sounds like a lot, but wound up being just the perfect amount. The mussels are steamed in their respective concoctions and are positively infused with flavorHopleaf4, and leave a deliciously mussel-tinged broth at the bottom of the pot to be soaked up with the accompanying sourdough rolls. Mussels are one of those foods that inspire a great divide; the lovers and the haters. Some are beyond grossed out to be fishing what essentially amount to tiny, vagina-lookin creatures out of shiny black shells, and others revel in the opportunity to work towards a good cause: filling the belly. I just love food that requires me to work for it.

Anyway, I digress. The Belgian-style mussels sounded far too delicious to pass up, so that’s what I went with. J., never one to miss out on a good curry, chose the curry-soaked version. Both were like parties in my mouth, and every mussel in town was invited. I dove basically headfirst into the pot, somehow managing to soak my arms up to the elbow and spill the broth all over my lap. Pretty typical.

So distracted was I by my pot o’ mussels that I totally failed on capturing the beauty that was A’s “Tasmanian ocean trout” with a cucumber/banana/golden raisin/walnut salad, topped with yogurt and curry oil. She tells me it was delicious.

And now: the bad part(s). They were few and far between, but it seemed our poor waitress was in charge of the entire back dining room, which led to several forgotten drinks and two desserts in to-go boxes, when in fact we wanted one for the table and one to go. She seemed inexperienced and extremely flustered–understandable when dealing with a full dining room–but most of the tables were two-tops with a few four seaters scattered in, so I can’t say that it was unmanageable. I felt slightly rushed as well, with the bussers eagerly pouncing on half-empty glasses and not entirely eaten plates of food.

Hopleaf would be an absolutely perfect place to hunker down for hours in the dead of winter and enjoy hearty, well-cooked food and glass after glass of beer. I plan on doing exactly that when interminable February strikes, actually. The food is simple, well-crafted, and obviously created out of a love for that kind of cooking that is familiar yet never, ever boring.

Mad props, yo.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Check me out over at my girl Erin’s website, Style Section LA, where I pretend like I know what I’m talking about.

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