Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jim Oliver's Hickory Smoked Bacon - Jan 2008

The Fung/Yeh household has been without any bacon for about 2 weeks now, so I've been impatiently waiting the latest bacon installment for a while. A few times, we've made something for dinner that was good, but could have been great with some added bacon. Considering I get bacon in the mail once a month, I've resisted buying any other bacon on my own, but that policy may just have to change.

In any case, the January installment arrived just in time for us to make BLTs for dinner last night. Jim Oliver (whose father's name was apparently Cheatum) definitely likes to cut long thick slices of bacon. The slices were longer than the width of our grill pan, and there were only about 12 slices to a pound. This resulted in large chewy slices of bacon. Although the texture was great, we both found it to be a bit too salty when eaten alone (and even a bit on the BLTs), so this variety should definitely be mixed with other ingredients. Also, I couldn't really taste any smoke (let alone hickory).

Bacon ranking:
1. North Country Cob Smoked Bacon (Oct 2007)
2. Vande Rose Farms Applewood Smoked Bacon (Dec 2007)
3. Jim Oliver's Hickory Smoked Bacon (Jan 2008)
4. Tripp Country Bacon (Nov 2007)

Frontera Grill

Our friend Jen from LA visited us (and Rush University) last weekend and expressed an interest in trying one of Rick Bayless' restaurants, so we made a reservation at Frontera Grill (which is more casual than the adjacent Topolobampo). They only take a handful of reservations (the rest of the tables are walk-ins), so our reservation was at 9 PM.

Not surprisingly, the appetizers looked a bit more interesting than the entrees, but we didn't know how many to order. We asked the waiter for advice, and he described the appetizers as "tiny." For example, he said that one order of sopes had 4 sopes, and each one was "this big" (picture him making a circle about the size of a penny with his thumb and index finger). This indeed seemed a bit tiny, so we ended up ordering 5 appetizers and 3 entrees. Yes, this was only for 3 people, and ended up being too much food. (Thankfully, the waiter actually forgot one of the 3 entrees.) In our defense, the appetizers were larger and and more filling than we expected. I later saw an order of sopes leave the kitchen, and they were actually about "this big" (picture me making a silver-dollar sized circle with my thumb and index finger).


  • Jalapenos rellenos with pork picadillo, mole, and crema - My favorite dish of the whole meal

  • Queso fundido: melted cheese with roasted peppers and chorizo - mmm, vat of melted cheese

  • Duck casserole with sweet potatoes and tomatillos - the tomatillos were still a bit crunchy, which was new to me, but the flavors were interesting

  • Fried plantains - can't go wrong

  • Trio with a fish ceviche, seafood cocktail, and a shrimp and calamari ceviche - I thought the flavors were really good, but they served them in 3 small martini glasses, which made it very difficult to eat, and made the second half a bit too saucy

The two entrees we actually received were a braised beef brisket (the Friday night special) and a duck breast in a mole. We were all pleased with the brisket, but the duck had a crust that ended up being a bit too bitter, a bit disappointing.

In truth, we probably could have (should have?) stopped before the entrees even arrived, and we took about a third of the entrees home (with some extra tortillas). That left us with only enough room to share a couple scoops of their homemade ice cream: mexican chocolate and blueberry-tequila. The chocolate was straightforward, but good. Surprisingly, I actually really enjoyed the blueberry-tequila combination (and you could definitely taste the tequila).

Definitely an enjoyable meal, and nothing like the standard mexican restaurant. Of course, we'll be happy to take any future visitors that swing through Chicago!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Live Christmas Uni

Depending on your perspective, uni (sea urchin) is either delicious or disgusting. While Donald, Michelle, and I were preparing a "traditional" Christmas dinner for the family (turkey, stuffing, etc), my dad prepared a decidedly non-traditional Christmas appetizer: live uni, which he bought from a large chinese supermarket in Calgary called T&T for only about $6/lb.

Many people complain that uni can have a bit of a funky taste (my friend Peter once told me it tasted like "foot"). In my experience, it really just depends on the uni you get. In this case, some pieces tasted pretty clean, but others definitely had a little funkiness.

Here are some pictures for the non-squeamish.

Poor unsuspecting urchins:

The inside of the sea urchin is really not very attractive or appetizing:

Each sea urchin produced about 5 strips of the sea urchin "roe" (which apparently is actually the gonads of the sea urchin) that we eat, so it's a great deal relative to regular sushi bar prices.

My dad's preparation consisted of endive, chopped red onion, and boiled egg: