Tag Archives: Blue Moon

Chicago: Pizano’s & Popcorn!

When we wrapped our monster road trip last summer in Chicago, we knew we’d have to return. We’re here for the Just For Laughs festival, an extension of the iconic Montreal comedy event, and also to check out some of its iconic eateries and famous food.

Arrived in the windy city just before noon on a pleasantly cool summer day. Our flight was at a civilized 9:50 am, and oddly, there was no one behind us or in front of us at check in, security or immigration AND our bags were the first to come off the carousel on the other side. Quickest airline experience ever. After an uneventful flight, the best kind, we arrived in Chicago and checked in at The Wit Hotel. We were eager to hit the bustling streets and enjoy the city. Conan O’Brien is taping his late night talk show ight next door this week and carrying out his antics on the State Street Bridge which we have a view of from our hotel room on the 24th floor.

We walked snapping pics until we got hungry. We decided on Pizano’s simply because it was in front of us at the moment of need. It was well after 1 pm and the place was hopping inside and out. We opt for a seat inside. It is rather cool outside and street traffic is heavy. Turns out to be a good choice and we have a great view of the street from our table.

The restaurant is decorated in “amateur Italian mural” and the walls are adorned from the bottom up with framed sports figure photos and local celebs. Baseball and football have a huge presence.  The Blackhawks have disturbingly little love from what I can see on this my second visit to the city. They won a cup in very recent memory. What have the Cubs done? I digress.

Our friendly waitress starts to rhyme off what she has on tap. We stop her at Blue Moon. Two refreshing glasses of this delicious wheat beer that is unavailable north of the border. Our beers come and she answers our menu questions. I order the Italian sausage sandwich which is her personal favorite and a big seller. Rob is determined apparently to find out what all the fuss is about Italian beef, a Chicago special. We had it on our last visit and declared it to be ….well….awful. He believes we had a bad one and are missing out on something. Our waitress agrees with him and says their Italian beef is excellent. Turns out they were both right.

We have time to finish our beers before our food arrives. This is a good sign. They are making stuff fresh in the kitchen. Our plates come heaping with excellent fries, crispy, skin on, perfect. A very good vinegar coleslaw and a decent dill accompany both sandwiches. Mine comes with a small cup of very good meat sauce and Rob’s comes with au jus dip and and a sport- and cherry-pepper-laced gardinere.

My Italian sausage is juicy but a tad salty. The bun is perfectly toasty, warm and chewy but not tough. A little cheese and an excellent tomato sauce makes this a great choice. Rob gives me a bite of his Italian beef and I have to admit…he was right. We just had a bad one on our first try. This is beefy, tasty and spicy hot with piles juicy beef, sweet peppers and a generous application of hot Italian gardienere. The bun is as mine was, toasty and nicely chewy. The sandwich was not pre-dipped and therefore not a soggy mess, which some Chicago native’s find a plus. It comes down to personal taste and this was more to our taste.

On our walk back to our hotel we stopped in at Garrett Popcorn to buy some of their famous Chicago Mix popcorn. Lucky for us there were no lineups today. Sometimes they go down the street. Garrets famous blend is completely addictive and made fresh without preservatives every day.

Pizano's Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon

 

The Chicago Blend is a delicious blend of cheesy and caramel popcorn. The caramel coating the kernels tastes lightly of burnt sugar and the heavily cheesy corn of cheetos. OMG delicious. BEST. POPCORN. EVER. I cannot stop eating it and my fingers are permanently stained orange.


Garrett Popcorn Shops on Urbanspoon

RT…and we’re off!

Today began at 4:45 am. I never sleep the night before I fly and we set two alarms. It was dark of course as I struggled out of bed, but I was happy to be “getting on the road”. Our younger cat, Scout was asleep at the bottom of the bed, all puffy eyed with sleep and none too happy about the disruption. It is still a full hour and a half before she is supposed to lick me awake and failing that, knock my lamp on my head. Our older kitty Smudge is off pouting somewhere, as she has been since she saw me take the suitcases out.

We have a 7:30 flight to Charlotte and then connecting on to New Orleans. Our flying experiences have taught us not to depend on Ottawa international for sustenance so we bring along Chinese BBQ pork buns from Green Fresh, the perfect on-the-run snack, and some sweet cherries. Both flights are on time and have us in to New Orleans just after noon. Its 42 degrees, and humid. We are dressed for a cool Ottawa morning and a cold plane ride. Getting the rental car was unusually painless this time and our room at the Hotel Monteleone was ready for early check in. The travel fairies are in our corner today. Coincidentally there is an international food bloggers conference going on in the city and it is hosted at our hotel. Many of the bloggers I personally follow will be in attendance. We might possibly sign up for an event or two if there is space.

The view from our hotel room of the Mighty Mississippi.
French Quarter iron work

After unpacking, changing and settling in, we decide to grab a pint and a bite. Acme’s Oyster House is around the corner. We visited on our last trip and decided to brave the line and headed over. The line is long but if you are just two and say you will take a table or the bar, it gets you in faster. We were seated at a small table for two at the front window. Pleasant view except for the delivery truck blocking entire said view. No matter. We are hungry, thirsty and thrilled to be here.

We immediately order Blue Moon beers, a favourite of ours that is unavailable at home. We would have ordered a pitcher but it is so hot, it’s pointless. It would be warm before you could get to the bottom of it. The beer goes down easy. We order two more beers and an order of craw puppies, deep fried crawfish meat, spices, green onion and corn batter, which are much like seafood croquettes. The puppies come with a horseradish cream sauce, with a bite bigger than it’s bark for sure.

Next up, Rob ordered a shrimp po’boy, dressed, and I asked for a 1/2 shrimp po’boy with a cup of their crab and corn bisque soup of the day. Po’boys of course are classic N’awlins fare. The bread is slightly crispy with the perfect chewy factor. The shrimp on this po’boy were good but really indistinguishable from any fried fare. I am spoiled by the shrimp po’boy at Guys from my last visit to the city. At Guys the shrimp is lightly battered allowing the delicate flavour of the Gulf shrimp to shine through. The crab and corn bisque was a classic chowder, with a strong corn taste and a nice mild crab flavour.

We finished our “bite” with a shared dish of Acme’s bread pudding, highly recommended by our server. Hot, sweet with a solid pudding texture. Delicious!

Now fortified, we headed back into the heat of the French Quarter ready to explore a bit. But then, we looked at each other and realized more than anything, it was nap time.

Revitalized for the most part after a snooze, we headed out into the evening “blast furnace” that is New Orleans in late August. We strolled through the French Quarter, reminiscing about the last time. Our walk was peppered with foodie landmarks, all yet to be experienced by us., including Paul Prudhomme’s K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA, and Central Grocery where the muffaletta sandwich was born.

We found ourselves headed to Coop’s Place where we had enjoyed an inspired rabbit and ham jambalaya on our last visit. Still travel weary, we were not terribly hungry, but we were awfully thirsty.

Coop’s Place is an awesome dive bar. The bar, dim but warmly lit features a raw, rough oak top that owes its sateen finish to the oil, sweat and beers of thousands. Staff is accommodating but far from effusive. We took our “regular” seats at the bar, with our backs to the pool table, the Packers game and an altar of sorts, and ordered up a couple of beers.

We had to of course have some more of that amazing jambalaya and it can be ordered in a cup size. Perfect. Two cups of jamabalaya and a shared shrimp remoulade salad. The jambalaya was smoky and spicy with hot sauce. The andouille mild and flavorful. The salad was comprised of nice mixed very fresh greens, with large wedges of tomato and rounds of cucumber. The shrimp were plump and sweet. the dressing came on the side and was creamy and mild, a little herbaceous and slightly sweet.

Dinner by dive-bar light.