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Monday, December 14, 2015

FOODIE REVIEW: SLURPING TURTLE


Nadirah’s Perspective:

     Upon the recommendation of a friend, hubby and I ventured to the restaurant, “Slurping Turtle.” Located on 116 W. Hubbard in Chicago, the restaurant has made its reputation by serving Japanese comfort food. First off, don’t be fooled by the almost sunken in black door. Once you enter, head to the far back of the corridor and turn left and you would have arrived.  We got there by 6:30 pm and it was a bit crowded.  It’s not a huge space but they make the most of it by having booths on the outer perimeter with two large communal tables in the middle and a small bar on the side.  Hubby and I decided to sit at the bar versus the communal tables for more privacy.  Our bartender/server, Victor was so awesome by being attentive to our needs and helping us with descriptions or suggestions about every aspect of our drinks and meal.

Troy and I are at it again

The entrance so don't walk past it
   
     We first started with the Sake Flight #2 because it had included sake that was champagne-like in taste.  For appetizers, we ordered Chilled Edamame with Yuzu Sea Salt, Beef Short Ribs that were grilled, marinated short ribs over Harusame  (Cellophane/Vermicelli) noodles, but we were also given Miso Soup. I enjoyed both dishes but the Beef Short Ribs were my favorite.  Tender and tasty, my only complaint is that the serving potion needs to be bigger. Between Troy and I, we only ate two pieces each, which was a major tease.



Miso Soup

Chilled Edamame 

Beef Short Ribs (View 1)


Beef Short Ribs (View 2)


      For my entrée, I ordered Tan Tan Men Ramen, which is a Spicy Ramen noodles dish consisting of Pork Meatballs, Pork Miso, Pork Chashu (braised pork belly), Bok Choy, and Bean Sprouts.  This soupy dish is reminiscent of under the weather comfort food.  Hot and spicy, this meat-filled flavorful soup was delicious. I usually don’t go for spicy meals, but this dish was on point. I had been fighting a sinus problem and this dish opened everything in my head and nose.  The ramen was firm, meatballs were tasty, and the entrée portions were plentiful.  I enjoyed every bite and even had a little left over to take home for later. 

Tan Tan Men Ramen (View 1)


Tan Tan Men Ramen (View 2)

     The finale was the Hot Shochu Apple Cider, which was a mixture of Sugar Cane Shochu (distilled spirit similar to vodka) and mulled Michigan Apple Cider. Sweet and spiced with a hint of citrus, due to the orange rind floating in this hot concoction, I immediately fell in love with this drink. 

Hot Shochu Apple Cider


I really enjoyed myself here and would definitely recommend this place. Great prices, delicious comfort food options and an awesome bartender made this visit worth it. My only advice would be if you decide to go on the weekday, you get there before heavy dining hours to have an option to sit in a booth. Otherwise, you will be sharing elbowroom with complete strangers at the communal tables.

Communal Table Dining


Troy’s Perspective:

     The experience of Slurping Turtle Restaurant was definitely an adventure. Chartering new territory, trying innovative things and meeting different people sums up our exploration. We started the night at Slurping Turtle with communal dining. This is a great way to meet others that you may not have any interest to know, but for the sake of this review and taking advantage of the time with my wife, we quickly moved to the bar for more privacy. Victor, the bartender, was fantastic. Along with explaining the entire wine menu, he gave us fantastic suggestions to start off the night. We began our nights adventure with the sake trio starting with a bold, sour to sweet flavors. The sake with the boldest flavor was for me the most favorable, only because Tequila is usually my preferred drink.

Victor (Our Awesome Bartender)


Sake Flight #2

     We started of our meal with Beef Short Ribs that were savory, pleasing to the pallet and leaves you wanting more. The ribs were marinated in a teriyaki/barbecue sauce that is sweet and tangy and really plays well with the tender meat of the ribs. The Chahan Stir-Fry that was recommended for me was comprised of Japanese fried rice with egg, vegetables medley, and choice of protein. I chose the shrimp and chicken. It was well seasoned, aromatic, and embellishes a true essence of the Asian culture. I simply loved it. 

Chahan Stir -Fry with Shrimp & Chicken (View 1)

Chahan Stir Fry with Shrimp & Chicken (View 2)

I encourage everyone to be adventurous and explore the fresh taste that Slurping Turtle has to offer.  It is absolutely “Lugg Approved.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

THE CHICAGO'S CULINARY MUSEUM CHEF'S HALL OF FAME EVENT

Nadirah’s Perspective:

On Thursday, October 15, hubby and I were excited to attend the 2015 Chicago Culinary Museum and Chef’s Hall of Fame Event.  The objective of the annual event is to “promote and celebrate Chicago as a Culinary Mecca” by honoring and presenting innovative chefs and restaurateurs with culinary awards. Food for thought, the first recipient of this award was the late Chef Charlie Trotter.

This was our first time attending this event that was hosted within Navy Pier’s Crystal Gardens Room.  The décor is reminiscence of an indoor floral/jungle conservatory encased by humongous panes of glass windows. I’ve been in this room before for previous events but the plethora of individual restaurant tables of food took it to another level.  Think of it as a milder Taste of Chicago with more high-end varieties.  With over 10 participating restaurants, this event had tastings ranging from simplistic charcuterie boards of prosciutto to French dessert pastries.  Now let’s get to my favorite topic of all my reviews, the descriptions of all the glorious food.

I will list all the participating restaurants below but I am limited to time and space, so I will bring emphasis to our top picks. Our ultimate favorites were: Miller’s Pub (Sea Scallop BLT), Hugo’s Frog Bar (Steak with Truffled Fingerling Potatoes and King Crab Béarnaise), Chicago’s Dog House (Apple Brandy Duck Sausage & Smoked Alligator Sausage), Spiaggia (Roasted Pumpkin Seed Gelato), and Bittersweet (Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel Sauce and Ginger Tuile).

The Sea Scallop BLT that was showcased by Miller’s Pub was a Seared Japanese Sea Scallop cut in half with the filling consisting of Bacon Aioli, Heirloom Tomatoes, Brioche Crostini Disk, and Micro Bull’s Blood (Baby Beet). This creation was original and very delicious.  Sea Scallops have never been my favorite seafood craves but Executive Chef Paul Morrison managed to bring an innovative idea to the everyday version of a BLT.  Troy and I went to this table about 4 times throughout the night, so that should tell you something.

SEA SCALLOP BLT


Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House provided USDA Strip Steak with Truffled Fingerling Potatoes and King Crab Béarnaise. I have always been a meat and potatoes type of gal with a serious vice for seafood, so I was overly excited when I saw this opulent concoction. The steak was tender and flavorful and the crab bearnaise topping was decadently divine over the entrée. The only con was that the tasting portion had turned a bit cool but the dish was so good, that I didn’t mind the temperature.

USDA STRIP STEAK WITH TRUFFLED FINGERLING POTATOES AND KING CRAB BEARNAISE 


Bittersweet’s Pastry Chef Mindy showcased a Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel Sauce and a Ginger Tuile.  Before you asked, a Tuile (pronounced Twill) is a thinly baked cookie with similar look and texture of a wafer.  Besides the newfound knowledge, this dessert was deliciously sweet, creamy and I dipped my ginger tuile in the caramel for the extra sugary bite.

PUMPKIN PANNA COTTA WITH SALTED CARAMEL AND GINGER TUILE


The Participating Restaurants: Bittersweet, Chicago’s Dog House, Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House, Heaven on Seven, Kiki’s Bistro, La Scarola Restaurant, Lettuce Entertain You, Miller’s Pub, Pita Inn, 437 Rush/Riva Crab House, Spiaggia, and I’m apologizing ahead of time if I missed any other restaurants.

Troy’s Perspective:

The Chicago Culinary Museum at Chicago Navy Pier was a night filled with fun, food & laughter. The free flowing drinks from the open bar definitely added to the celebratory time. The moment was captured in the great atmosphere of the Navy Pier Crystal Gardens that added to the ceremony and ambiance of the great chefs and their creations. It was a night distinguished with an award ceremony into the Chef’s Hall of Fame, complemented by succulent dishes, and a photo booth equipped with various props. After a few drinks, the photo booth really added to the thrill of the night.


THE LUGGS ARE ALWAYS READY TO PARTY

TROY FINALLY HAS A MUSTACHE 


Miller’s Pub with Chef Paul stealing the show with his original and most creative Sea Scallop BLT, that really excited and overwhelmed our tastebuds. This authentic BLT was truly unexpected and far exceeded expectations. The BLT was an explosion of flavor that  left me yearning for more. We felt obligated to not only take a picture with Chef Paul, but inform him of what great amazement his creation made on us. We look forward to savoring others creations by Chef Paul and we will complete a food review at Miller's Pub in the near future.

Spiaggia offerd a Roasted Pumpkin Seed Gelato that remarkably had the illustrious taste of chocolate. It was quite enchanting to taste a Gelato that was so light, flavorful and pleasing to the pallet. The Pastry Chef Melanie Diamond-Manlusoc and her assistant Lisa were such a pleasure to meet.  Melanie gave us the full tour of the restaurant without us being there. With her warm personality and charming gelato, my wife and I can’t wait to experience what Spiaggia has to offer.

PASTRY CHEF MELANIE DIAMOND-MANLUSOC & ASSISTANT LISA (ROASTED PUMPKIN SEED GELATO)


Chicago’s Dog House owner Aaron Wolfson served Smoked Alligator Sausage and Apple Brandy Duck Sausage that was succulent, well seasoned and full of flavor. Being our first time, we were excited and ambitious to try the Alligator Sausage. It was a pleasing experience. The chef/owner and his mom, Gloria truly created a lively atmosphere and offered great conversation. If their personality goes into their food, we are guaranteed to enjoy. We look forward to giving an exclusive to the restaurant and other tasty delicacies that The Chicago Dog House has to offer.

CHICAGO'S DOG HOUSE OWNER AARON WOLFSON
(SMOKED ALLIGATOR AND APPLE BRANDY DUCK SAUSAGE "Please Excuse Not Using Flash")


With the Chicago Culinary Museum’s Chef’s Hall of Fame being an annual event, we encourage all to attend and enjoy. You are sure to enjoy fantastic dishes, up-close conversation with Chicago’s best chefs and have an overall great time. Even if you can't make it, we encourage all to go and patronize our Chicago restaurants. Besides what the event has to offer, you never know who you may meet. We were able to capture a moment with Chef and Restauranteur Graham Elliot and fellow blogger Erika Kubick of CheeseSexDeath.  For more photos, check out TheLuggs.com and we hope to see you there next year!!!



CHEF/RESTAURANTEUR GRAHAM ELLIOT 

BLOGGER/PHOTOGRAPHER ERIKA KUBICK




Saturday, October 24, 2015

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Nadirah’s Perspective: 

In August, hubby and I took a trip to California to visit Los Angeles and San Diego. I will be a Chi-Town gal till I die but I must admit that I can see why more people head to the sunny weather of the West Coast.  This blog entry will be focusing on the best way to travel, what eateries we tried and was recommended, and our choice of hotels.  Hopefully, our travels adventures will help you with all your future travel ideas.

If you are visiting Cali for a length of time, I would suggest having your own mode of transportation by renting a car.  California is number 1 for traffic for a reason. You will be sitting in traffic, so have a car you can feel comfortable in and can drive with ease.  Avoid making your search for a great deal a chore by using search engines like Hotwire or Priceline to help search different rental car places to bid on what you want.  We used Atwest Rental and I will NOT be using them again… long story and I won’t give them my energy by reliving the problems.

To find a hotel, try using Trip Advisor or Booking.com for the same reason.  We were lucky to find a hidden gem but I will admit that it was in an area that locals considered the “hood.” Coming from the Chi, it was like staying in the Pilsen neighborhood, so we wasn’t scared.  The hotel’s name is the El Rancho Hotel.  The layout is like a studio apartment with a microwave and refrigerator. The pros were: cleanliness, the huge bathroom shower, the digital cable, the location from the main expressway, and the distance from downtown. The only cons were: it didn’t a closet or closet space, no ironing board or iron, and limited parking spaces if you come in late after partying.  Overall, this place was pretty nice, budget friendly, and close to late night eateries.

The hotel we stayed in San Diego was the Ramada Inn San Diego Airport. I fell in love with this hotel. The pros were: it was spacious, clean, had closet space, surrounded by various restaurants, and it was walking distance to a health food grocery store. The cons were: a foul odor from the bathroom sink faucet and very minimal continental breakfast choices, but again, various restaurants are in close proximity.  We would definitely go back.

No trip would be complete without the topic of eating. Starting with L.A., the best places to eat would be Candela Taco Bar & Lounge (Shrimp & Fish Tacos), Grub (Crack Bacon), Coles (Lamb Sandwiches), Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffle (only if you never had the experience) and Waba Grill.  In San Diego, Rockin Baja Lobster Grill, Mitch Seafood (Monchong Fish Tacos), Las Hadas (Steak & Shrimp Quesadilla), Night & Day Café on Coronado Island (fish & beef tacos).  If you can stop by San Clemente, you HAVE TO VISIT Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar (Ceviche, Crab Cakes & Killer Margaritas).

Coles (Lamb Sandwich - Protein Style)


Candela (Garlic Shrimp & Fish Tacos)


Grub (Crack Bacon)

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles (Obama Special & Sunrise Drink)



Fisherman's Restaurant and Bar
(Ceviche, Crab Cakes & Margarita)

Night and Day Cafe
(Beer Battered Cod, Beef, and Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos)

Las Hadas (Steak and Shrimp Quesadilla) 
& Gas Lamp District

Mitch's Seafood (Monchong Fish Tacos & Grilled Monchong)


Overall, I will admit that I fell in love with San Diego relaxed environment and cooler temperatures but I had to hurry up and get out of L.A. The traffic alone would drive a sane person crazy.  A place that is 2.5 miles would literally take 25-30 minutes before arrival. FYI, make sure you have Waze or any other GPS app downloaded to your smartphone. It will help you find alternate routes and shorter travel times.  Also, have a phone charger with you at all times. I had to learn the hard way on that importance.

Troy's Perspective:

Our trip along the West Coast was exciting and fun filled. Although, averaging 3 hours a day in traffic was depressing and the 100-degree temps only intensified the irritation; I still thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the fullest.

The trip began at The Grove. Catering to Californians, this outdoor market proved to be a mecca for a health fanatic like myself.  This open-air marketplace has various restaurants ranging from seafood to BBQ.  Make sure to check on which stalls have Happy Hours.  They provide quality drinks for a discounted deal. F.Y.I., there is a Whole Foods right across the main street if you are looking for something specific.

For an inexpensive place to lay your head, The El Rancho Hotel served its purpose. The El rancho had easy, efficient check-in, a clean room and wasn’t far away from the nightlife of LA. The main thing I did not like was the limited amenities provided, i.e. no soap, ironing board, and shelf space. I would not recommend this place for extended stays.

For great drinks and a place to meet with friends, Coles located in downtown LA proved to be the perfect place. The Italian dip sandwich (Lamb) held up to its name and over exceeded its expectations. It is a must try when visiting the area.

Venice Beach was a sight for sore eyes. I’ve been there plenty of times and it is always exciting to see the famous Californian landmark. Beautiful beach, great eateries, bars, and novelty shops.  You will find great artistry along the walk. Some of the artists were creating various art pieces on the spot.

Venice Beach


Waba Grill was my go to in LA. This franchise restaurant was the healthiest thing that I could find at short notice.  Located 5 minutes away within a strip mall from the Rancho Hotel, this meal had great flavor, very fresh veggies, and is a good bang for your buck.


Waba Grill
(Steak/Chicken and Salmon Grills with Avocado)
San Diego was phenomenal. The weather was perfect because it brought a cool, but comfortable ocean breeze across the atmosphere.  We settled at the Ramada across from the shore. It was a great location, close to a supermarket, the room was clean with all the necessary amenities that you would need in a great stay. It was a pleasantly quaint stay that I definitely would recommend to anyone. The Pearl Hotel is right across the street and The Pearl’s Bar/Lounge area kept a party going.

When in San Diego visit The Gas Lamp District for a great place to party, eat, and have a good time.  Drink specials are everywhere, so pick your poison. Coronado Island was a great place to experience. It was great to see the “golf cart lifestyle” (people driving golf carts on the street.)

Overall, LA was great but I would like to spend more time in San Diego for a more relaxing environment.






Thursday, April 17, 2014

FOODIE REVIEW: FLAVOR RESTAURANT

Nadirah’s Perspective:

Two weeks ago, hubby and I ventured to a restaurant named Flavor for a birthday brunch. This restaurant is located in the South Suburban area of Flossmoor at 3315 Vollmer Rd., IL 60422, within a mini mall.   Although the menu reads with Southern/Cajun style flair, this place also offers great breakfast options.  This was hubby’s first visit but this was my third time here and I will share some photos from my current and past visits. 

During this recent visit, I indulged in an entrée of Turkey Meatloaf ladled with Cajun style gravy of tomato, peppers, and spices that was served with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies, consisting of carrots and broccoli.  The portions served at this place are always plentiful and flavor was definitely present.  I was a little leery about the Cajun style sauce atop of my meatloaf but I will admit that it complemented the dish very well.  The vegetables weren’t spectacular due to the lack of seasoning but I did enjoy the fact that they were steamed to perfection (not mushy).  The mashed potatoes were ok but again, with the Cajun sauce, everything melded well together in this dish. 

TURKEY MEATLOAF WITH MASHED POTATOES AND STEAMED VEGGIES 


Honestly, the stars at this restaurant are the variety of dessert-like breakfast pancakes/waffles: Red-Velvet, Georgia Peach Cobbler, Sweet Potato and Banana Foster.  All I can say is, “Ummmm, Ummmm, Oh my goodness, this is SOOOOO GOOD!!!” I am not exaggerating when I say it is like eating dessert as your main meal. Syrup or san syrup, you can eat these decadent pancakes/waffles with pure enjoyment over the sweetness and whopping size of your plate. 


SO SORRY BUT I WAS EXCITED AND  FORGOT TO TAKE THE PIC FIRST ... RED VELVET PANCAKE!!!


Overall, throughout my three visits, I have experienced some hit and misses over particular dishes and it was probably due to our time of going … Father’s Day Rush.  However, I can confidently suggest to you all my main staples when I get there: Fried Green Tomatoes with Grit Cakes, Mini Salmon Croquettes, any of the breakfast skillets (Eggs, Smothered Potatoes, your choice of meat and veggies), and without a doubt, the Red Velvet Pancake or Waffle.

Enjoy your meal and pleasant wait staff at Flavor!


Troy’s Perspective:

Veggie Omelet with Spinach and Bacon

The omelet that I ordered at Flavor had just that … flavor. The light, fluffy omelet really excited my pallet and was thoroughly enjoyable. I ordered the veggie omelet due to the mix of vegetables that were offered and I added the complement of spinach and bacon for additional taste factors. The small cut potatoes that accompanied the meal were well seasoned, cooked to perfection and gratifying.  The meal was pleasing and I would recommend it to anyone. The restaurant seems to be a family-owned restaurant that was very accommodating to the large group that I was a part of that afternoon. Our waiter Matthew was very hospitable and systematically helped out our party to enjoy our experience.

VEGGIE OMELET WITH SPINACH AND BACON AND SEASONED POTATOES 


Being the greedy person I am (on the weekends), I left the restaurant with a Jerk Chicken Skillet with Scrambled Eggs. This was something that I really took a chance on because I never order jerk chicken from a place that does not specialize in Caribbean cuisine. As I mentioned earlier, being a bit greedy on the weekends, I was very intrigued with the ingredients of the skillet and the element of jerk chicken as an option. I cannot say anything negative about the meal at all!  The jerk chicken was perfectly seasoned, the eggs were fluffy and not overcooked, the veggies in the skillet were prepared to perfection and the potatoes were just as good with the skillet as they were with my omelet. This was a meal that I ate at home and did not heat up. I enjoyed the meal so much that I ate the entire meal without taking a picture or asking my wife to try. If you like something with spice and ingredients that are nice, the Jerk Chicken Skillet is awesome and a must try.


BREAKFAST SKILLET WITH TURKEY SAUSAGE  
(FIRST VIEW)

SECOND VIEW

CHICKEN AND WAFFLE


MAC AND CHEESE  (STOVE TOP TASTE)
SHRIMP AND GRITS LOADED WITH GREEN ONION, BACON, AND CHEDDAR CHEESE