Friday, April 08, 2005

The Phil Vettel Game

Every Friday, we play the Phil Vettel Game. Today was a day we thought there was no winner, as Phil did a review, and appeared to hit a place rather under reported by the Chicago press, Grotto on State. It was not until I got to this line that I realized there was a come from behind win:

"The Grotto also has a well-earned reputation for great lamb chops--meaty, richly flavored rib chops grilled to a perfect medium-rare (if you order them as I do)."

Well, maybe they do, but if today was the first day Phil Vettel reviewed Grotto on State, how could they have a well deserved reputation for great lamb? Is he, perhaps quoting from another reviewer? Inquiring minds wanna know.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Difference Between Oak Park and Berwyn

Adjoining villages, Oak Park and Berywn both dealt substantial defeats to their ruling cliques. I s'pose the Oak Park pols went off and had a deep conversation on the meaning of the defeat. In Berwyn, they went off and beat someone up, a politican from another village. (Note, there is nothing funny about the attack which ended the victim in intensive care.)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

More Value

One of the top five or top ten eating experiences in Chicago, depending how much you count, say ChefG and his ilk, is the Sunday "Maxwell" Street Market, which as all foodies know, is not on Maxwell Street, but Canal, running in each direction from Roosevelt. It is here that Mexican street food gets to be most accurately presented, and it is especially interesting and delicious because the vendors come from many states of Mexico. You can have the corn masa empanadas of Guanajunto, the birria of Jalisco, the grilled steak of el norte, and the pambaso of Mexico City. It is quite hard to draw this whole enterprise into a few words. Luckily, David Hammond produced the only guide out there. It can be found here. (Tip to Ann on Chowhound who reminded me where it was on the Internet.)

If you really like it, buy the Gorilla Gourmet DVD to your right.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Miro's Charcoal House Little Europe

As Milwaukee begins to wan in my taste memory, I need to get an even older experience to blog. Otherwise, Miro's Charcoal House Little Europe in Wisconsin will be one blur of schnitzel, sausage and garlic flavored toast. Actually, do I need to say more about Miro's that schnitzel, sausage and garlic flavored toast?

The VI family visited Miro's three times already. Each visit included, if not schnitzel, certainly lots of sausage. Miro's menu goes three pages deep, but like a pizza parlor with an extended list, a lot of the choices are combination plates. It is possible to avoid schnitzel or sausage, but be somewhat forewarned. Twice, the Condiment Queen strayed. Once to fish and once to a beef tenderloin/shrimp combo plate; neither time did she walk away as happy and stuffed as the rest of the table.Avoiding stuffedness at Miro's is quite hard. It is hard first of all, to resist one of the five or so German and Czech beers on tap including a schwarzbier or black beer. And if you come on a Saturday night, as we have, you may have to wait a while for a table. Peckish, you will need to order the small potato pancakes, latkes, served with a sauce somewhere between ranch dressing and garlic butter. With the edge off, you can enjoy your soup. With the soup eat a slice or two of thick Wisconsin rye, either toasted and soaked with salty garlic butter or plain (plain?). Liver dumpling soup stays daily, a fine introduction to this soup, dumplings more fluffy than livery, while your alternative soup rotates. Needless to say, this being Wisconsin, the alternative probably includes cream and butter. One time, we had cream of chicken. It arrived thick yet unusually yellow in color. Guess what made it so yellow (hint, Wisconsin). The soup and garlic toast could sate. Luckily, Miro's serves enormous platters of food. Order a sausage plate, and you get four sausages about sixteen inches long. A schnitzel plate includes three giant swatches of breaded meat. Of course there are sides including long fingers of potatoes, roasted and then fried, showered with lemon pepper and combo plates of spatzle and bread dumplings. Finally, everyone gets dessert. Dessert of the day, but I doubt it ever changes from the dessert we got on each of three occasions, a fresh crepe filled with sweetened thin farmer's cheese.

As I noted above, if you stick with the basics, it seems hard to go wrong at Miro's. They make four kinda sausage in house, a plump Polish, a taut and spicy Bohemian, a meaty knockwurst and a brat heavy on the nutmeg, and then they grill them perfectly. We went to Miro's twice during recent debate on Hot Doug's, and it is hard to really appreciate Hot Doug's sourced sausages after having Miro's terrific handmade stuff. Aside from the CQ's misadventure in slightly frou-frou food, the only other thing less than delicious I tried was, amazingly, the gravy for the bread dumplings and spatzle. Stagnant and underspiced, it did no help. And the spatzle needed help especially, a little too plain. Since the potato wedges are so good, it is not really a problem in the long run.

Miro and his family, who escaped communist Czechoslovakia in 1981 dominate the dining room. It is easy to do. Miro's Charcoal House is highly visible from the expressway, I-94. There are two buildings, plain in nature, but decorated with effort to look as mitteleuropean as possible. So much so, that it looks almost too cutesy, like Apple Holler, which is an exit or two north. When you get there, you find that one building, housing a classic Wisconsin tavern, remains reserved for parties. Everyone gets crammed into the other room. It reminds me a bit of the famous Marx Brothers scene on the steamship. There is a u-shaped bar with Mrs. Miro, chatting, smoking and pouring large glasses of beer. There is a small showcase cooking area, where Miro with his floppy chef hat, makes his daily specials, and there are typically, at dinner, people waiting for tables. The spectacle though, is all part of the appeal.

Miro's Charcoal House Little Europe
6613 120th
Kenosha, WI
(You will see Miro's going north on I-94 from Chicago. It is on the east side of the highway, your right. You then exit the expressway and double back on the frontage road to get to Miro's.)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sites that add value

Note, I have been out of town, eating away at Milwaukee. I will catch up on posting soon. One thing that I needed to post on sooner, was on three foodie sites that add value. I saw these sites, and I started wondering what do I do. I eat out a lot. A lot. Then, write about it. Hopefully, my sharing of this eating helps people eat a bit better as well (or at least sparks mild ammusement). But these sites really add value.

Erik M's adds value by bringing the Thai menu to the masses, both by translating the menus and photographing the dishes. I am perhaps, the last person to get on to this site and surely the last to offer my words of appreciation for what he has done to help the eater in Chicago (as well as to applaud the overall design and artfullness of the site). (As far as I know) Calvin Trillin first put words to paper on the secret menu, about a chowhound's saddness of not getting the good stuff, not being able to read the wall menus, forever being locked out of the most delicious. Since then, others have talked about secret menus, but Erik did something. If you like Thai food go to his site. Even if you do not live in Chicago, the site will be useful.

I do not know the Pro Bono Baker the way I know Erik M, but I appreciate her blog. My all to present girth reveals too much, my love of bakeries. Give me a prime aged porthouse or a good donut or piece of bread, and yes, I will probably enjoy more the latter. I have never contemplated the Atkins diet. So, I go a lot to bakeries. And I have written a fair amount of commentary on them. PBB blows me away with her details and photographs of various bakeries.

I kinda know Steve P. We have spared more than a couple of times on his foodie site, OA. Steve's more of an absolutist, and he is entirely confident in what he thinks. All the logic in the world is not gonna shake him from his conviction that French food is not THE best, period. I'm a little more flexible and a little more agnostic in my tastes than Steve. That's getting off the point. What Steve really does, is eat the best and drink the best. Yes, one can be jealous and hateful of his good fortune, but on the other hand, someone has to do it. With his exacting tones and eye for details, Steve P expands your food view.