Want to add a bit of intrigue and surprise to your dinner plans? Try a secret supper club. They offer a level of mystery with secret locations, surprise menus, and close & personal interactions with their breakout chefs. It is believed that the idea for the underground dining scene first started in Europe, where chefs & amateurs created private, unlicensed speakeasy-operated dinners in obscure locations. This concept has since evolved in the States, and can be still found in various forms. Whether held at the home of a chef, an “underground” venue, or a space transformed such as a museum or church, all secret suppers share the shroud of exclusivity and discretion. Further variations on this theme rest purely with the chef. Formal training and culinary accolades do not make a perfect chef. Often, Secret Suppers feature self proclaimed chefs with an affinity for culinary fusion, creativity, or other specific talent.
Chefs are joining the secret supper movement in increasing numbers – either leaving restaurants to strike out on their own, or starting secret supper clubs on the side. The Secret Supper format is a winning experience for both the chefs and the diners. Chefs get a chance to showcase new recipes & concepts with an intimate group of serious diners, and foodies get a first-row seat on a culinary journey.
In the food-centric city of Chicago, the Secret Supper trend is rebounding in popularity right alongside speakeasies, farmers markets and Malort. There are a number of active Secret Supper clubs in the city, which by their very design, might not be on your radar.
Membership in The Sunday Dinner Club earned diners the privileged first taste of Honey Butter Fried Chicken, a recipe that gained instant popularity following the recent opening of the comfort food restaurant.
Clandestino, and the Stew Supper Club also operate beneath the mainstream radar, hosting such themed dinners as the Feast of the Seven Fishes and a Whole Hog menu. Newest on the list is Dishcrawl’s Chicago contingent, holding a Secret Supper at a classified venue in River North on April 1st. See http://www.dishcrawl.com/chicagoss for more information.
If everyone knew about them, Secret Suppers and Underground Dining wouldn’t be any fun. If you’re a foodie, though, in need of a unique and intriguing culinary experience, a little investigation might lead to a whole new and exiting way of dining.
What’s Good, everyone?
I know it’s been awhile since I’ve done “What’s Good?”, but I’m back!
This week’s episode of “What’s Good?” features The Punch House in Pilsen, and Trader Joe’s brown rice.
The Punch House offers a unique bar/lounge concept in the increasingly popular Pilsen neighborhood. The Punch House is located in the basement of a restaurant called Dusek’s (which is also very good and just started brunch service), and it’s set up to be like your grandfather’s old basement back in the 60’s, with the wood paneling and everything. The retro vibe is different and refreshing. They have a large and beautiful aquarium right behind the bar, and at midnight, they stop everything to feed the fishies. It’s an entire event, and it’s quite entertaining. If you are sitting at the bar during this festive occasion, then you get a free shot.
There are several varieties of punch to choose from, and many of them are on-tap. Whether you like dark liquor or light, there is something for everyone. You can also order a punch bowl if you are seated at one of the tables. They have a punch that tastes like lemonade, and I tasted the punch of a friend of mine, which had more of a dark-liquor profile. Definitely ask the bartender about which would be the best according to your taste. They usually have a DJ with great music, and I enjoyed the crowd – down to earth, casual, unpretentious, cool people. They also have a secret room, which they use for private events. It is literally a regular-looking wall that turns around into another room, like you see on the movies. Just one more thing that makes me like this place.
I would highly recommend the Punch House for something to do, especially on a cold, wintery Chicago evening.
Also on “What’s Good?” is the Trader Joe’s Brown Rice. If you like brown rice, you know that it takes FOREVER to cook. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” This microwaveable brown rice is a very convenient shortcut, if you are trying to get a healthy meal on the table in a short amount of time, like after work during the week. The packets inside only take 3 minutes to microwave for perfectly cooked brown rice. You can’t beat that with a baseball bat!
As a special treat to Taste Bud Diaries blog followers, Turkey Chop is offering a coupon for 25% off your ENTIRE ORDER!
That’s right, folks. 25% Off! The food is great, and a coupon is EVEN BETTER!
Below is the image of the coupon. Print it out & present it when you get to the restaurant. (Or present on your phone).
Be sure to visit the website at http://www.turkeychop.com for the menu of all of the delicious options. Will you have a juicy and succulent turkey burger? The comforting and delicious turkey spaghetti? Or my personal favorite, the smoky and flavorful turkey tips?
Don’t forget to try the sides – the sautéed spinach (gotta get your veggies) macaroni and cheese, and sweet potatoes are all great choices. Don’t forget to get your peach cobbler for dessert!
Bring a friend, and tell them Taste Bud Diariessent you!
**If you didn’t see my write-up and video review on Turkey Chop, check it out here:
Today’s “What’s Good” is about a new-ish restaurant called Turkey Chop. Turkey Chop is located in West Humboldt Park (3506 W. Chicago Ave.) and they cater to those looking for beef and pork alternatives. I was invited as a food blogger, and I had a chance to try a number of dishes, including the Turkey Chops, the Turkey Tips, Sautéed Spinach (which was prepared like greens), Sweet Potatoes, Dirty Rice, and Peach Cobbler for Dessert. (I’m surprised that I didn’t instantly fall asleep after eating all of this food!)
They really go all out with the Turkey Chops (like smothered pork chops) and the Turkey Tips, which were my absolute favorite. If you like rib tips, then you will love the turkey tips – they are grilled and they have an amazing smoky flavor, they are very well seasoned and are served with a tangy and delicious bbq sauce.
Turkey Chop also caters, so I can definitely see the turkey tips showing up on one of my party menus in the future. The prices are also very good – the turkey burgers were only $5 and they looked like they would definitely fill you up. The other thing that I loved is that they had cornbread, but it was prepared like a pancake. I’ve never had cornbread this way, and I really enjoyed it – vey innovative!
This week’s “What’s Good Wednesday” is featuring Honey Butter Fried Chicken. (No video today). I visited this new restaurant in Avondale just because of the name. “Honey Butter” and “Fried Chicken” are two phrases that you don’t hear together very often. They have also been getting a lot of press, so I figured that I would try it out. I must say that I haven’t tasted chicken quite like this. The skin is nice and crispy, but the secret ingredient is the smoked paprika salt – it really does give it a very unique flavor. Very good. They also serve a honey butter, which you are supposed to put onto the chicken & it’s good, especially on the corn bread which is shaped like little honey combs. The cornbread is good but it is entirely too small – just order extra cornbread if you like cornbread.
The only thing is that they need to work on their side items. The macaroni and cheese was dry – it was like eating cheesy-flavored noodles – very little sauce. Stay away from the Chinese Broccoli – I was trying to be healthy and eat my vegetables, but I couldn’t even eat half of this dish. They put tomato sauce in there, and I didn’t enjoy the flavor at all. Too bitter and acidic for my taste buds. The creamed corn, however was very tasty. I do plan to go back and visit, and the next time, I plan to get the fried chicken sandwich.
The decor was cute – very simple restaurant, and kind of small with a nice patio in the back. It had a nice, neighborhood feel, and there were a couple of people there with their kids. (Although I thought that it was probably past their bedtime). Definitely worth a visit!
I went to a fabulous foodie event Sunday night called Fashion Rocks, held at BellyQ. Over 20 of the best Chicago restaurants were under one roof with “fashion installations” by Haberdash, which is a local men’s clothing store in Chicago. What is a fashion installation you ask? Well, it’s a bunch of beautiful men who stand and pose in different scenes and outfits during the night. When I first arrived, they were holding guitars, and I asked “Are you going to play those, or are you models” and they said “We are models” – so of course I had to take a picture. They always looked away from the camera. Fierce!
The proceeds of this event went to Common Threads (my favorite charity), and the West Loop Community Organization. Some of the Common Threads kids were helping the chefs out and they were SO CUTE with their full-sized Haberdash ties. The event was very well attended, and included some of Chicago’s best chefs and food bloggers.
Now on to the food. My top 4 favorites are below:
Pleasant House Bakery with their meat pies – definitely a place that I need to visit in the future. I tried the Steak and Ale pie, the Chicken Balti (which was like a curry chicken, and my favorite), and the Mushroom and Kale pie. These items are also on their menu at the restaurant. The pie dough was so flaky and delicious, and the owners were incredibly nice and down to earth – like the people next door.
Pecking Order served up a Caramelized Chicken and Garlic Rice dish. Very flavorful and comforting. It was like a hug in a bowl. I talked to chef Subido, who said that this item is on their brunch menu, but without the egg. I’ve been there for Sunday brunch and it is a nice alternative to a traditional brunch – very flavorful with different kinds of dishes that you won’t find anywhere else. Turns out that Pecking Order is now offering brunch on Saturdays, and they have updated their brunch menu, so I’m due for another visit. See for yourself: http://www.peckingorderchicago.com/
Antique Taco – This is my second time trying Antique Taco at an event (Also tried them at the Common Threads World Festival), and it’s official. I need to go there. ASAP. They served a Crispy Duck Flauta that was very well seasoned and had some flavorful surprises. Plus, I like their logo.
Frontier – Frontier is known for serving different kinds of gamey meat like Rabbit, Alligator, Antelope, and Kangaroo (yes, Kangaroo). I chatted with Executive Chef Brian Jupiter who is from New Orleans, where he first started cooking different kinds of meats. Most of the meats served at Frontier are local (i.e. the rabbit was from IL) and they cook all of these different kinds of meats in an approachable way, so that they don’t scare people away. If these items are a bit much for you, the menu also includes a nice mix of foods that you are used to eating.
I tried the Rabbit Etouffee at the event, which was really delicious – the flavors were well-balanced and I would have never known that I was eating rabbit. I could have easily been fooled into thinking that it was chicken.
Frontier also has brunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so they are definitely on my “must visit” list. since brunch is my favorite meal of the day. One item on the brunch menu that has caught my eye is the fried rabbit and cornmeal waffle dish with spiced pear butter and habanero maple syrup. I also have my eye on the bananas foster French toast and the Praline Pancakes – I know that they will be good since chef Jupiter is from New Orleans.
*I also learned that Frontier has a large enclosed patio, which will be great spot for the spring and summer.
I really enjoy going to these events because I can have a little taste of different restaurants and then visit the restaurant later if I like what I taste. Great event for an amazing cause. Bon Appetit!
Check Please! is a local Chicago show where people talk about their favorite restaurants. This show has always been a source of great information about restaurants that I otherwise would not have known about.
The current host of the show is stepping down, creating the opportunity to apply for the host position. My love for food and the Chicago restaurant scene has compelled me to submit an audition video reel, and below is the video – Enjoy!
Chicago Chef Week starts today – it’s Open Table’s version of restaurant week where selected restaurants offer a 3-course Prix-Fixe menu. Lunches are $22 and dinners are $39/person.
I like these kinds of promotions, but I have to say that I have gotten a little bit jaded after my last dining experience during Chicago Restaurant Week. After going to a 3-course lunch at a restaurant that will remain nameless, I was disappointed because my portions were so tiny that I ended up having to go to Corner Bakery to satisfy my appetite.
Restaurants have to balance offering the right menu selections and keeping their costs down so that they can still make a profit. The best restaurants are the ones that let you choose your courses from the entire menu, instead of offering a scaled-down menu for you to choose from. Also be sure to check the hours that these offers are valid, because sometimes the restaurants restrict these kinds of offers to a set time during the day.
As long as you keep these things in mind, you can manage your expectations. Prix-fixe offers are a great way to try a new place and experience the ambiance for a fantastic price.
Today, I was feeling like I wanted a burger and fries, but I didn’t want to eat a huge order. You know, most of these restaurants give you huge portion sizes, and I didn’t want to end up eating more than I needed to. (Especially since I had a burger, fries and chocolate shake at Portillo’s over the weekend – I’m surprised I’m not 500 lbs.).
Anyway, I called a local burger restaurant (Poag Mahone’s) to place a carry-out order, and asked if I could get 2 sliders instead of 4… and she said yes. Nice! Normally they don’t do this, she said, but they weren’t busy, so they went ahead and made it. The best part was that my bill was cut in half too! $6 instead of $12. That’s what I’m talking about! So glad I asked.
I normally ask to reduce the size of my order at brunch – i.e. getting 2 pancakes instead of 4, but I usually don’t do this for lunch and dinner. The moral of the story is to just ask at any place you eat – you never know…they might accommodate, which can benefit your waistline and your pocket book.