Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chicago Dogs

On my second day in Chicago, my cousin John who grew up in Chi-town and knew of my love of food and my food blog, rang me up. He rang me up, not to tell me to have a great time at Lollapalooza or to ask if I needed help in navigating my way around his old ‘hood. He called to say that I needed to try the Chicago-style hotdog and that he better see some pics and a blog about it. It sounded like I was given a threat. I plan on visiting him in Texas again very soon, so I better do as he requested. I think it’s a good decision on my part.

So what is the deal with the Chicago style hotdog? Is it the ultimate Chicago dish?
After my cousin’s threat, eerrrm request, I immediately saw a hotdog stand with the sign, “Chicago-style Hotdog”. I thought, it’s some sort of a "sign" or divine intervention, but after I walked a few blocks from Grant Park to our hotel at East Monroe Street, I realized that I saw more hotdog restaurants and stands than McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger Kings combined. How much hotdog can this city eat?

I must have been talking about this hotdog business quite a lot because my friend Amanda volunteered to try this dish with me, to shut me up, I think. But she volunteered, that’s all that mattered to me. And I didn’t need to threaten her. We both agreed that the best place to try this hotdog is at Wrigley Field, while watching the Cubs. And that we did.

We purchased our hotdogs at the Wrigley concession stand, “Chicago Dogs…Wrigley Ballpark Favorite”. If its Wrigley’s favorite, then it’s a no-brainer, it’s the one that we both needed to try. The price per hotdog is $6.00. The servers were cooking some onions while I paid in cash.
The hotdog was steamed and was placed on a lightly toasted bun, then topped with the onions. All the other fixings/condiments were placed on a side table – which meant that I can go insane on adding the toppings! And that I did. I topped the hotdog with yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish that looks like its neon green (I found out that this is sometimes called piccalilli), tomatoes, pickled sport pepper, some salt, chopped white onions and ketchup. Yes, ketchup. My apologies to the people of Chicago, I know that your canonical recipe does not include ketchup and many of you Chicagoans think that this is unacceptable. But I heart ketchup! And to my defense, you left the ketchup on the toppings table!!
This was our first meal of the day (not counting the very cold beer, because that is beverage), so we inhaled this dish in minutes. If it wasn’t so thick with the toppings that I added in, Amanda and I would have devoured it in seconds. It was the perfect dish to have at the ballpark. Is it something that I’d crave for brunch or even lunch? I’m not sure… But what I’m pretty sure of was that, I was burping the rest of the afternoon or probably the rest of the day.
I know, it’s TMI.. Too much information, you’ll say? No.. More like, Too Much Indigestion!!!!!
I am dedicating this blog to Kuya John and my Lolla girls (esp Amanda who sacrificed her tummy for me for a day).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Turning Point, Oh how you turn us on.

Cab Ride (One Way): $7.00
Summertime Lobster Benedict: $13.95
Bandito Burrito: $9.25
Coffee for Two: $8.00
Knowing you have a great spot for brunch: PRICELESS

This was the third time that Christine and I had brunch at Turning Point for the past year or two. The last two, we didn’t bother to call for reservations and were told to wait, you’d think that we’ll call this time around, but we like to live on the edge, so we took a chance and just showed up. Of course we were told to wait. The hostess initially told us that it was 30-35 minute wait for inside seating, 20-25 for outside (it was cloudy and rain was in the forecast) or we can hover by the bar seating and take a newly-emptied seat from departing customers. So hover, we did. Hollleeerr, we only waited 15 minutes!

First of all, how do the hosts/hostesses determine the wait time? Usually, when asked how much longer is the wait, the host/hostess, scan through the list, looks back at you, think for a second and tells the hungry customer how much longer he/she would need to starve. I mean, do they have a built-in internal clock that auto-calculates the wait time, because I don’t see them counting the number of people on the wait-list or of the seated customers /diners, then multiplying it by the number of dishes served, etc. Maybe I should have a separate blog post on this one…..

Anyways, thanks to our hovering abilities, we greatly decreased our wait in half. While waiting, I noticed the clean, and open feel of the restaurant, with adorable, homey d├ęcor , and when you look out their massive glass windows, you get a nice view of the Manhattan skyline. Our server was a breath of fresh air, she had a pitcher of iced water with lemon served to us right away. And she started grinding out coffee while cleaning the table. She was a friendly, efficient, multi-tasking, attentive server. If we can only clone her in a male version, would be a great boyfriend material. Maybe I should have a separate blog on that one as well…..

We started our brunch with an order of coffee. Correction, not just coffee. It is the amazing, gourmet French Press Coffee of a 100% Hawaiian Kona Certified. Not only were we getting an aromatic , subtle, mild and delicious cup of coffee that is well-known, one of the most sought and always in high-demand coffee beans; it was also grounded as we ordered it, which guaranteed freshness and then it was served in one liter thermal pot with a little timer. We were given a cup that’s sitting atop this cute little doily and the matching saucer, a crystallized sugar on a stick and the milk container was this adorable white cow figurine that has a spout in its mouth, where the milk gets poured out. The coffee alone was already an awesome dining experience.

Christine ordered the Summertime Lobster Benedict. She does not need to announce or make an official admittance that her favorite breakfast dish is eggs benedicts, she is drawn to this dish. Actually, the other diner on her right was also drawn to Christine's food, he ogled and asked what Christine was having. But who can blame them, it was delectable. I had a taste of this dish that was a beautiful concoction of poached eggs with juicy pieces of cracked lobster, plus and fresh slices of ripe tomatoes, slices of avocado and thick pieces of bacon on wheat toast with a cilantro hollandaise sauce, sprinkled with bits of scallions and what looks like red pepper. This dish was made with all of Christine’s favorite ingredients. When the dish was brought to our table, I heard myself murmur, “Wow, put that thing in my mouth.” Maybe it wasn’t a murmur, as Christine happily shared a piece with me. Hmmmm, foodgasmic.
My order of Bandito Burrito was not as great as the Summertime Lobster Benedict, but it was a tasty dish. It was an abundant size of soft tortilla that’s stuffed with three scrambled eggs, fresh veggies (onions, green peppers) and chorizos. Then covered with salsa, mix of Mexican cheeses (yeah!), sour cream, scallions and more onions. It was a pretty satisfying dish, I especially liked the chorizos which provided a lil kick of a flavor.
Both dishes were served with a good portion of potatoes on the side (which needed a bit of salt and pepper) and a mini bowl of fresh fruits, consisting of grapes, cantaloupes and pineapples. We hardly touched these as both dishes that we ordered were big portions.
I’m not sure why we’ve only dined here just thrice; Turning Point, you turned us on each and every time. Ever since the first time that we had the Kona coffee, I get cravings for it, yet we haven’t gone as often. I don’t know when I’ll be back here again to try either the stuffed French Toast or that Big Daddy Omelet that’s made of six eggs. But Christine and I do know that Turning Point is our brunch spot.


Turning Point
Breakfast, Brunch and Lunch

1420 Frank Sinatra Dr.
Hoboken, NJ 07030