03/23/09

Old and New Favorites

Old Favorite: One of our favorite local eateries is Brothers’ BBQ, shoehorned into a nearby strip mall in Palatine. We love the slightly spicy sauce and often purchase a jar to use at home. My favorite meal is the Pulled Pork Sandwich with a baked potato (instead of the less-healthy potato wedges my husband prefers). The people are no-nonsense and friendly and the atmosphere expectedly hole-in-the-wall complete with a bone bucket at the center of the few tables available. They offer a variety of party packs and meals and appear to do a brisk carryout/delivery business.

New Favorite: Tonight, we were excited to spot Jason’s Deli, also in Palatine since we had enjoyed a visit to the Omaha location a few months ago. Always mindful of customer service thanks to my day job, I was impressed that we were quickly greeted with a menu and instructions on the ordering process. This type of service is always important to welcoming first time guests and goes a long way to building repeat business.
Jason’s Deli is like a healthy, more appetizing version of my college cafeteria. Options include ordering sandwiches, pastas and more at the counter that are then delivered to your table and/or choosing the fully-stocked salad bar. As a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, I am very appreciative that Jason’s Deli provides nutritional information for a few items, as well as designating vegetarian meals and organic items. They also offer to make 1/2 sandwiches and smaller portions. Finally!
As soon as I saw a Muffaletta on the menu – I was sold! We’ve made our own version at home with Muffaletta mix from the local farmers’ market – but never have we ordered one in a restaurant! It was wonderful – so wonderful that my husband was disappointed that he did not get one, too!
A quick visit to the website reveals cool social networking features such as video messages about high fructose corn syrup, an interesting blog and a Twitter feed as well as the option to order online.
Long story short – for a wide variety of food and some healthly options, check out Jason’s Deli. The decor is bright and cheerful and invites you to enjoy yourself with friends and family.
The complimentary ice cream doesn’t hurt either.
03/2/09

Feast or Famine

This weekend I had the pleasure of trying several new restaurants (or new to me). Here’s the rundown:The Pita Inn – Wheeling, IL: On a field trip for work I tried this busy Mediterranean fast food restaurant. I had no idea what to order, so I got the Business Lunch Special which was enough food for me and three friends, quite honestly, with a combination of shish kabob, kifta kabob, shawarma, and falafel. All of the food was delicious, especially the pita bread! Unfortunately, a few hours later a friend and I both realized that the Business Lunch Special probably wasn’t the best way to kick off the first Friday in Lent. Alas, the food was wonderful and I can’t wait to take Stacy back there some day!Agio Italian Bistro – Palatine, IL: Stacy and I joined two wonderful friends to try the newly opened Italian restaurant. We were warmly welcomed at this elegant, upscale restaurant that is the newest incarnation of the previous “Slice of Chicago” restaurant. The service was great, friendly and accommodating without hovering. We had a lovely dinner, each of us trying a different salad (beautifully presented) and pasta dish. I had a (huge) angel hair vegetable primavera dish with a white wine and garlic sauce. The noodles and sauce were delicious, although I could have used a few more vegetables. The dish made me think of what I could make at home once the Palatine Farmer’s Market returns this spring!We were all very impressed with the service, decor, and food and all plan to return in the future. At $12-22ish for entrees, we’ll probably also consider getting carryout from the Slice of Chicago storefront next door (same owners).Finally, while it wasn’t a new place – we had a another fun visit to the Donkey Inn after our bowling night! Here’s an article that can do it better justice than my pedestrian attempts.

02/26/09

Mint Julep

Tonight I had dinner with a friend at a wonderful local restaurant – Mint Julep in Palatine. With rain pouring down outside and lightning flashing overhead, it was easy for us to feel like we were, indeed, settling in at the cozy restaurant in the South. After a long day at work, the wonderful cocktails on the menu were tempting, but I knew I had to try their sweet iced tea (my favorite drink). I also strong-armed my friend to let me order Fried Green Tomatoes for an appetizer since I have always wanted to try them. I was not disappointed! Of course, what isn’t good fried, right?Next, we both tried the soup of the day, a curry-ginger carrot soup that was smooth, creamy, carroty with a hint of spice. Even though I had the soup, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try the Brunswick Stew for my main entree. This hearty Southern stew made with barbecue beef, chicken, peas, and corn in a rich tomato sauce was the perfect meal for a stormy night. I brought some home with me and forced Stacy to try some before I even took off my coat.At $10-$20 an entree, large portion sizes and a delightfully cozy ambiance, this would be a great place to recommend to Check, Please!Next time, I am definitely going to have a Mint Julep.

02/22/09

Quesadillas, Rum, and Restaurants

Don’t try to fool me – you’re still reading because the rum caught your attention! This weekend we tried two new recipes and one new restaurant. Since our Saturday afternoon was cold and snowy – I decided to make cookies! However, looking through recently collected recipes revealed only doughs that needed time to chill. No time for that, I thought, and I decided to make the much anticipated Butter-Rum Pound Cake from Betty Crocker! But, alas, we were both disappointed. It had a nice texture and decent taste, but we both were looking for a moister cake with more rum flavor – something similar to the tasty goodness of Stacy’s mom’s recipe for almond-poppy seed cake that turns out rich and moist due to drizzle added during the last step of the recipe. We might try something similar with a Tastefully Simple pound cake to experiment.While the cake was cooling, I tried another new recipe for our dinner – Roasted Corn and Goat-Cheese Quesadillas. Stacy loves quesadillas, but I cringe everytime he eats them in a restaurant since they are always served dripping in cheese and grease (no offense, quesadilla chefs of America). I also thought this would be a good dish to try to make using our new panini press. In the end, we were both satisfied with the meal that also included Rice-a-Roni Mexican rice (yum!) and black beans. The quesadillas were tasty, although a bit heavy on the goat-cheese side…probably because my container of goat-cheese contained slightly more than the recipe called for (but not enough for me to go to the effort of removing – .3 oz). Using the panini maker resulted in melted quesadillas, but they weren’t as crispy as they probably would have been using the skillet as the recipe indicated. I do think I would make a variation of this again, however. The recipe was fast and easy to make, as well.On Sunday, I needed to go to work unexpectedly so, for a special treat, we visited a new local restaurant and had a very nice time. Toscana Restaurant and Lounge in Rolling Meadows is a nice, intimate sit-down Italian restaurant. We had delicous bread, more bread in the form of bruschetta (my ultimate favorite) and I had Pollo Limone and Stacy had the Tortellini Paesano for our main entrees. It’s special occasion spot, with entrees running from $13 and up, although maybe we will try their lunch and/or take-out menu sometime as well. The service was outstanding; the staff were friendly and attentive. I look forward to trying their version of garlic pizza. It is very nice to find a nicer place in our area – we’re still looking for our “Cheers.”