Batter & Berries and Breakfast Bliss

Berries & Batter

Weekends are for rest. Well, that has been the lie I had been convincing myself was real for the past few years. After long hours at work and then having to get on the computer to do extra stuff, I would look forward to weekends when I would stay in bed late, get up and grab a quick snack, and then lounge around my condo with a plate of something nearby. Alas, there are errands to run, clothes to wash, cleaning around the condo to be done, and a frenzied email that needs to be addressed. Nevertheless, work doesn’t end. So, I have to fortify myself for the onslaught. For example, today I met a great friend at Batter & Berries in Chicago’s Lincoln Park at 2748 N. Lincoln Avenue. Getting there involved work, as driving down roads riddled with cavernous pothole requires dexterity, quick reflexes, and a large vocabulary to avoid a potty vernacular when slamming into any of the many potholes.

Eggs Scrambled with Gouda Cheese

Eggs Scrambled with Gouda Cheese

My friend had gone to Batter & Berries already, so she had warned me of the crowd that the restaurant experiences. Chicago boasts some fantastic breakfast spots where people will gladly wait in long lines — inside or outside, even in cold temperatures — for a seat so that they can slice away at some pancakes, omelette, waffles, or sausages. Knowing the location of where Batter & Berries is, we agreed that we would get there shortly after the doors opened for business. Wouldn’t you believe that at 8:00 AM, the restaurant was full?

Eggs Benedict Over Crab Cakes With Hashbrowns

Eggs Benedict Over Crab Cakes with Hashbrowns

My friend ordered a plate of eggs Benedict over crab cakes. This came with hashbrowns. Not being a fan of poached eggs, my friend ordered the eggs Benedict scrambled. Yes, it was a slight modification to the original recipe for assurance that the eggs were not runny. The crab cakes were of the Maryland style, that being lump crab with light breading. This was fantastic because not only were they delicious, but you don’t have to go all the way to Maryland to have crab cakes done properly. And also with the dish came a side of vanilla rum French toast with a dollop of maple butter. Per my friend’s facial expression, she would have gone outside and had a cigarette to show approval of how tasty the French toast was.

Flight of French Toast

Flight of French Toast

I ordered a flight of French toast. Yes, I am exhausting all avenues of flights, having started with a flight of mojitos, and recently indulging flights of whiskey cocktails. Far be it from me to ring the bell tower when it comes to food. Wait. I will ring the bell tower to announce how much I loved the slices of the vanilla, strawberry, lemon, caramel, and blueberry French toast. I rolled my eyes, hummed, went into radio silence mode, smiled my stupid smile, and mumbled nonsense. And to make matters worse, I had a plate of scrambled eggs with gouda cheese in it. For my next confession, I shall let it be known that I have fallen in love with eggs scrambled well with gouda cheese in them.

Berries & Berries was well worth me getting out of bed early. While I can’t flag the restaurant as being couched in any specific ethnicity, I have an allowance for American fare on Chicago Alphabet Soup, especially when it involves the most important meal of the day. The service is outstanding and you really get won over when they show you photos of different dishes on iPads while using the same device to place your order. The prices are incredibly reasonable. But what matter most is the loving from the kitchen, whipped up in some batter with berries and a sprig of bliss.

Batter & Berries on Urbanspoon

Ending Song to Carol Burnette Show

It was a Friday night. I am soon to depart Chicago for Washington, DC, where for the next three months I will be on weekend scavenger hunts for restaurants to rival those in Chicago. I must say that Chicago has made it impossible for any other city in the world to best it in the cuisine department — that is unless you go to Melbourne, Australia, where you are guaranteed to shout from the rafters that you have been to food Mecca. But some critics with mild palates have stamped San Francisco as the top food haven in America. Far be it from me to debate someone who has never exhausted himself or herself to great satisfaction at a dining establishment in Second City.

Bruschetta

Red, Red, Wine

My circle of friends had a proper send-off for me. We met at Tasting Room at 1415 W. Randolph Street in Chicago’s Near West Loop. Right at the edge of one of Chicago’s premier locations that houses swanky boutiques, fantastic restaurants, coffee houses, fancy shops, and a demographic consisting of artists, bankers, lawyers, engineers, and the like, Tasting Room was a most inviting choice. There are two floors that you may choose for meeting to sip an aperitif or two and sample tasty delights. The bottom floor has a full bar and a generous seating area of tables and lounge chairs. Sweet. And there is the second floor that has a wide-open loft feel with plenty more tables and lounge seating. Windows, tall and wide, face downtown and you see the splendour of the skyscrapers with lights painting the windows while you enjoy company. This is exactly what happened for my friends and me this particular Friday evening.

I have lost track of the number of times I have been to Tasting Room, spanning as far back as 2009. The quality of the food has always been a magnet that draws me back. The knowledge of the wait staff, and I do believe the server we had this time is a sommelier, exceeds that of what you will find at most casual dining establishments. Tasting Room is not for the frugal, but at the same time, it is not one to cause fear of going broke. With such splendid service and great space, it is an excellent location for a gathering of small friends or a send-off with a large party. And because you are certain to find at least one bottle of wine worthy of taking home, may I recommend the adjoining wine shop? Yes, I may.

Vino Rojo

We all ordered flights of wine, the names relating to the Rat Pack that was so famous during the 1980’s. The white wines were attributed to the female cast of the Rat Pack: Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Demi Moore, and others. The red wines had names linked to Judd Nelson, John Cusack, Michael Anthony Hall, Emilio Estevez, and other male characters of the bunch. It was a rather touching theme, one that made me aware of how old I am because I remember all of those Rat Pack movies — “Breakfast Club,” “Pretty in Pink,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Better Off Dead,” and several other worthy movies from that group that makes me wince when I see picture shows by the present ilk of silver screen Thespians. The table before us held flatbread pizzas — one with ricotta cheese and spinach, another with olives and pine nuts, and a margherita pizza topped with fresh tomatoes. We grinned as we delighted ourselves on Bruschetta with sweet, dried cranberries. A crab cake sandwich with spicy, authentic onion rings appeared from the kitchen and were dealt a swift end. And the piave cheese fondue that was ideal for the small group was well-received, as was evident from the fact that we had all but wiped the fondue bowl to completion. White bread, rye bread, potatoes, apples, and chicken swirled around in piave cheese and then popped into our mouths without hesitation. We all smiled.

Delicious

When the night ended, I remembered the start of the lyrics to the song that Carol Burnette used to sing at the end of her variety show: It’s so nice we had this time together. The thing that left me with a smile is that I also remembered that the show came on again the next week. The laughter, commiseration, and fellowship that I have with my circle will resume when I return. But now that I have been so informed of how warm winters are in Washington, DC, I may want to work out some arrangement where I spend the summer in Chicago and winters in DC. I can suffer through not going to a Chicago restaurant for a few months. Well, I can try to convince myself of that. I guess.

Tasting Room at Randolph Wine Cellars on Urbanspoon