29 October 2014

duck walk.

i'm always down to try a new place for carryout / delivery ... so one evening, when josh & i were craving two different kinds of asian food, we searched grubhub, as we usually do in this situation.

after much scrolling, we landed on duck walk, self-described as "authentic thai cuisine & byob." here's the thing. duck walk isn't just thai food. it's basically all kinds of asian. so both of us were happy campers.

here's what i had ...

fresh spring rolls :
thai soft rolls filled with cucumber, bean sprouts & tofu & served with plum sauce. 
meh. kind of a lame starter for the star of the show ...

pho chay :
vegetarian (vegan) noodle soup w/ fresh tofu & assorted vegetables in vegetarian (vegan) broth w/ slickd onion, scallion & cilantro. served w/ fresh bean sprouts, basil & lime.
this looks ultra legit, right? and let me tell you, it is. it reminds me of the soup at pho lily ... fresh veggies, plentiful tofu, amazing flavors ... generally delicious. 

duck walk is now officially my new favorite place for pho delivery ... my life has been lacking in this area ... i am glad to say, it's now complete.

duck walk
1217 w. fullerton ave.
chicago, il 60614

26 October 2014

austin, texas : qui.

before we begin, read this article / listen to this interview ... you'll quickly see why i was so freaking excited to go to qui.

ok, we saved the best for last our final night in austin ... qui in east austin.

ladies' night, woot woot :

qui is the brainchild of chef paul qui, who i first learned about during top chef season 9 ... which he won. oh, he also won a james beard award. kind of a big deal.

i was excited to visit qui for several reasons.
   1. i love a top chef restaurant.
   2. when he was on top chef, he prepared tons of vegetarian dishes.
   3. i knew ahead of time that there is vegan stuff at qui.

so many wins. 

before our trip, qui switched over to a prix fixe menu. one meat option, one veg option. so, spoilers ahead. the #vegan prix fixe menu ... here's what i had.

first course sparkling red wine :
carly & me.

caramelized onion jus :
ciabatta, sherry gelee & thyme.
one bite amazingness.

king trumpet mushroom sashimi :
satsuma imo, black lime, ogo nori.
guys. i ate mushrooms. thank goodness for the nori ... it kind of masked the mushroom taste, so i could just swallow them whole ... or pawn them off on my mushroom-loving girlfriends.

jack's lettuce :
turk's cap blossoms, miso, yuzu caramel & pine nut puree.
kind of the best salad one might ever eat.

sunflower seeds & petals :
caramelized summer squash & corn.
my fave dish. super tasty & oh so beautiful!

filipino peanut curry :
puffed rice & green beans.
second favorite dish ... i mean, peanut curry. can't go wrong.

dorsey's eggplant :
grilled pecan butter, pickled shallots & green dates.
third favorite dish ... i mean, i don't even love eggplant & i loved this.

at this point, there was a secret dish. a vegan congee ... i'd never had congee before, so that was exciting. i didn't snap a pic to leave a little excitement for anyone who has a similar menu at qui.

halo halo (before & after) :

coconut milk & fruit. 
delicious. also my first time having halo halo. i'd like to have it again ... & again ... & again. 

even though chef qui was out of town this weekend, dining at this restaurant was truly the highlight of the trip for me. beyond delicious food, super cool atmosphere ... just awesome.

1600 e. 6th street
austin, texas 78702

22 October 2014


let me begin with a definition. you'll understand why later.
self-fulfilling prophecy : a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself.
enter nellcôte. listen, i had been wanting to go to nellcôte for a while. like ... a long while. so when it was time for my birthday dinner w/ my girlfriends, it seemed like the obvious choice. near my office in the west loop, supposed to have a great atmosphere & drinks ... so let's go! 

but first, about nellcôte : "taking its inspiration from villa nellcôte, the notorious côte d'azur mansion where the rolling stones dined & partied with a rotating cast of 1970s bohemians, socialites, style icons & creative rabble-rousers ... nellcôte specializes in kitchen-crafted cocktails & european-inspired small plates made with midwestern ingredients ... just like the stones' unforgettable summer in the south of france -- everyone is welcome to contribute to the grit & glamour of the new cultural zeitgeist." holy pop culture cow.

here's what we had ...

beet salad :
salsa verde, pickled beets & pistachio.
how many beet salads can one person eat? although i will say, the vinaigrette on this one was better than most.

braised kale :
calabrian chilies, garlic & lemon zest.
love me some kale, obvi. but this one tasted a little burnt? we were all confused.

spaghetti :
tomato, calabrian chilies & toasted breadcrumbs.
 i love pasta (& carbs, in general), so this dish was right up my alley.

margherita pizza :
san marzano tomato sauce, basil & evoo.
fine. nothing to write home about.

ok, back to the definition above. i had heard beforehand that, while nellcôte is a fun place to drink & dine at, the food isn't amazing. and after eating there, i kind of agree. so is this how nellcôte really is? or some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy at my visit?

anywho ... i will say this. plenty of vegan options. very knowledgable (& friendly!) staff. OH!! there were no vegan birthday desserts on the menu, so the brought me something from rm champagne salon next door, which we all thought was very, very nice & unexpected. so thank you, nellcôte!
maybe it was just me. simply due to proximity to ma office, i know i'll be back. see you there?

833 w. randolph street
chicago, il 60607

19 October 2014

austin, texas : kerbey lane cafe.

one of our must stops while in austin was kerbey lane cafe. there are a couple different locations, but we ventured down to the one on s. lamar blvd.

why was this a must stop? it came highly recommended & they have lots of vegan options.

kerbey lane is another one of those places with a separate vegan menu... besides the fact that there already are vegan items on the regular menu. all in all, great news!

here's what i had ...

 chips & vegan queso :
 i was really looking forward to this all trip. i mean, vegan queso?! ... i had no idea what to expect. the queso was good, but not great. it wasn't gooey enough for me ... more just like a spicy dip than a queso. but that's ok. it was also like 10:30 in the morning. but hey, don't judge.

vegan breakfast platter :
tofu scrambled with seasonal fresh veggies & nutritional yeast, paired with vegan orange spice pancakes & scratch-made soysage.
i enjoyed my breakfast platter much more. the tofu scramble & soysage were both good, but the real star was the pancakes. when i heard the special was orange spice, i was not excited. just not that into citrus in this context. but let me tell you, they were delicious. 

i'm not going to lie. i wasn't so obsessed with my food at kerbey lane. but that doesn't mean it wasn't solid vegan food. i still highly recommend visiting if you are in austin ... here's another reason why :

"we have a long & proud history of supporting local farmers & ranchers and sourcing ingredients from local suppliers ... we also recognize our role as a citizen of the global community & we try to be good stewards for our environment by maintaining an active recycling & composting program, using energy efficient light bulbs & equipment and donating excess food to charity rather than allowing it to go waste."

that in itself is awesome. check them out.

kerbey lane cafe
3003 s. lamar blvd.
austin, texas 78704

15 October 2014

pump room.

last year on my birthday, my boss was speaking at an event that the whole office went to ... afterward, our group headed to the gold coast for drinks at the bar at the public hotel. this year, josh & i (inadvertently) decided to continue that tradition of chilling at the public hotel by getting dinner at the famous pump room.

the pump room has some history in chicago ... it originally opened in 1938. since then, various actors, musicians & various other celebrities have dined there. however, both the hotel & restaurant were renovated & revamped in 2011.

and since then : "original pump room menu classics were reinvented & recreated by [world-renowned chef & 2011 james beard award winner] jean-georges vongerichten, providing his special touch & amazing style ... at night, the restaurant's bar transforms into a supper club, recapturing the glamour of the 30s &40s with a modern twist." amazinggg.

since it was my birthday, i got to pick basically everything we ate. #birthdaywin.

here's what we had ...

marinated olives :
big plate of olives = can't go wrong.

kabocha squash crostini :
wow, so so so delicious. great flavors on the squash, thick slices of bread, a perfect pop of mint on top. a+++.

spinach & herb whole wheat flatbread :
moreee breaddd. also very tasty.

roasted brussels sprouts & avocado :
ok, now roasted brussels i've had ... roasted avocado? that was a new one. and boy was it good.

strawberry lime sorbet :
so pretty & so tasty at the same time. magic.

important to note :
      1. the server marked up all the items on the menu that could be prepared vegan.
      2. some of these items may have contained honey, but i'm not sure which ones.
      3. the chef was super flexible in making some of the stuff half vegan, half non-vegan. much appreciated!

josh & i absolutely loved the pump room ... so much, that i've decided to make it a yearly birthday tradition moving forward.

pump room
1301 n. state parkway
chicago, il 60610

12 October 2014

austin, texas : la condesa.

i don't know if i've said this yet, but austin was by far the easiest place i've traveled to as a vegan ... everyone who works in the food industry seems to know what a vegan is, they know what stuff on their menus are vegan & there are plenty of options at each place.

a perfect example is my third post from the lone star state : la condesa in the austin 2nd street district.

about : "la condesa is an award-winning modern mexican restaurant, notably nominated for a james beard foundation award for 'best new restaurant'." check check & check.

mi amiga y yo :
 befri : melissa.
it was dark & the lighting was bad. sue me.

here's what we had ...

chips, salsa & guacamole :
a wide variety of salsas = nice.
your basic guac = nice.

colilflor a la plancha :
roasted cauliflower steak, chipotle raisin purée, marcona almond, chile de arbol vinaigrette, garlic-cauliflower soubise.
this was fine. good, i'll even say. it just wasn't mexican food to me.

this is where i think we slightly messed up. we thought we were taking the when in rome approach to eating mexican food in texas ... but really, it mexican-inspired fancy food. or maybe because that's what the vegan options were like. still good though.

nopalitos :
cured cactus, charred salsa, cebollitas.
i had never had cactus in this preparation. quite tasty, but gooey.

acelgas :
chard, giant white butter beans, garlic. 
taste? a+. 
photogenic-ness: solid d.
so so so so delicious though.

here's the thing ... lots of vegan options, tasty food, fun atmostphere, great area of the city ... la condesa has it all. but if you want mexican mexican food, i might go elsewhere.

la condesa
400 w. 2nd street
austin, texas 78701

08 October 2014


as you all very well know, josh & i are big top chef fans ... i mean, who isn't?? 

anyway, back on top chef season 11, there were two #chicago chefs ... aaron cuschieri, executive chef of slurping turtle (who i've seen a couple times there & hope i get to see again next week when i go again because i get starstruck by chefs yes i know i'm a weirdo but it's cool oh takashi too my favoriteeee woah sidebar) ...

and carlos gaytán, owner & executive chef of mexique, a mexican + french restaurant in noble square.

a bit of info + a bit of history : "mexique is a full service restaurant offering modern mexican cuisine with a french influence. french recipes & cooking techniques during the french occupation of mexico in the 1860s became an important element in the evolution of modern mexican gastronomy. come join us at mexique as we introduce this historical blending of french & mexican cuisine with a modern personal style by executive chef carlos gaytán in a fun & casual environment." interesting & awesome.

to begin ... carlos was at the restaurant when we went ... and we chatted for a sec & he checked on us a few times throughout our meal ... no, we weren't receiving special treatment. he did this for everyone. i could tell, that's just how cool carlos is. can you imagine how giddy i was to meet him??

anyway, my fam went to mexique to celebrate me & my brother's birthdays.

here we are! 

here's what we had ...

zanahorias :
roasted baby carrots, spicy orange carrot puree, pickled carrots & chamomile tea poached carrots.
that's a helluva lot of carrots. who knew there were so many preparations? each different & quite tasty. 

chile relleno :
stuffed chile poblano, ratatouille, spaghetti squash & tomato fondue. 
wow. the best chile relleno i've ever had. amazing flavors, super filling ... i could eat that tomato sauce on anything ... everyday. très delicioso. also, it's written right on the menu: "can be prepared vegan." me gusta.

i overheard carlos telling another table that the new seasonal menu would be starting soon ... which means i want to go back. who's in for a chef sighting & mexifrench?!?

1529 w. chicago ave.
chicago, il 60622

05 October 2014

austin, texas : elizabeth street café.

get ready people ... more amazing food from austin. we ate a surprising amount of asian & asian-inspired food while deep in the heart of bbq'ed meat country. but when travelling with a vegan, what can ya do?

anyway ... enter elizabeth street café ... maybe the best vietnamese i've ever had. 

the yada yada : "elizabeth street café is a neighborhood vietnamese cafe & french bakery in south austin ... the little restaurant boasts sunny dining rooms & a shady garden patio & serves fresh breakfast, lunch & dinner."

seeing as it was 95+ degrees outside (holy cow, texas is hot, people.) & we wanted to eat hot pho, we opted to dine inside in the a/c.

here's what i had ...

vegan rice paper & vermicelli spring roll :
ginger marinated grilled tofu, breakfast radish, thai basil & serrano.
so very pretty & so very tasty. 

to pho or to pho :
that is the question.

me & mah pho : 
thank you, instagram ... for camouflaging my sweatiness. 

 tofo pho chay :
chinese broccoli, organic tofu, hot bean paste & spicy sesame oil.
(this came with mushrooms, but i subbed them out. duh.)
so fresh & so green green.
amazing, delicious, scrumptious, level 10 yum ... not sure what else to say. besides i could eat this erry day.

guys ... i have a plan regarding elizabeth street café. i'm going to email the owners & see if they will bring their tasty vietnamese eats to chicago. it was seriously that good.  so stand by. maybe we'll be seeing an elizabeth street north post soon. (get it? because chicago is north of austin.) but probably not. fingers crossed! 

elizabeth street café
1501 s. first street
austin, texas 78704

01 October 2014


right before i went to austin, my company had two of our favorite clients in town for the week ... which meant trying a new spot for dinner one night. what whattt.

this time, we went to travelle, a beautiful restaurant in the langham hotel.

per the travelle menu : "allow chef graham to transport you to the many beautiful & wondrerous areas of the mediterranean through the cuisine of travelle ... indulge in the wealth of variety the mediterranean has to offer." lez go.

as i noted, the clients/friends in town are some of our faves ... so they were totally cool with me interrupting our dinner to take snapshots of everything. (yea, it can be annoying.) also, travelle is a great place for sharing, so i got to try lots of stuff.

here's what i had ...

pita balloon :
kind of better in concept than reality ... but the spread was tasty.

chickpea panisse :
more panisse! after never hearing of it before, i've now tried it at two different places. this was a less dense than at the dawson, but just as tasty.

falafel :
falafel, ya know.

spring vegetable slatha :
kind of a silly dish. but good. it was cold & confused me. 

cumin beet salad :
a highlight of the meal. so happy beets are still #trending.

cumin carrots :
another star. so so so good. wish i could re-create at home, but not sure i have the skill. also, i'm really into cumin lately, so maybe that's why i loved them so much.

roasted broccoli :
also delicious, but the carrots were better, imho.

the menu at travelle had plenty of vegan options ... if you can imagine, some that i didn't even eat ... but since it is on the nicer side (aka, not an everyday place to visit), who knows when i'll be back! if you go & try some of the other stuff ... let me know! adieu! 

330 n. wabash ave.
chicago, illinois 60611