Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Dinner

Christmas dinner was held at my house this year, so I spent three days cooking a German-themed dinner for 15 adults and two children. It may be obvious then that I have not had the opportunity to dine out. I will resume the arduous task of eating out to provide weekly (if not more) reviews of restaurants from our village and surrounding towns. Till then, Happy Eating, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Mr. Foodie.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

One-Bite Wonder Dessert - Miniature Whoopie Pies

Have you ever tried a whoppie pie when you were a kid? Some of you might be saying "What's a whoppie pie?" They are said to have originated on the East Coast years and years ago. The most common whoppie pie is two chocolate cakes (about 3 to 5 inches in diameter and two to three inches high) with a cream filling, usually made with Fluff (almost like a Suzi-Q...remember them?).

Anyway, I've heard around town a new version of the whoopie pie is making its way into Glen Ellyn. But these are not the kind of pies we ate when we were kids. These are gourmet whoopie pies, minature ones at that.

I've actually tasted several of them, and let me tell you...they are good. They are one-bite servings...very cute, about the size of a 50 cent piece and only about 1-inch high at most..and they come in a variety of flavors, such as chocoate with raspberry filling, banana with peanut butter filling, stawberry with fresh whipped cream filling and several more tantalizing flavors and fillings.

The gentleman who's making these desserts is a resident of Glen Ellyn and is trying to have some of the local merchants carry the little treats in their stores - as well as some of the restaurants. I've been telling my favorite stores to stock their shelves with these treats and to chefs to add them to their menu, because let me tell you that these treats are going to be very popular among adults and children. There great for a lite desserts with a mug of your favorite tea, coffee or cordial. The creator is thinking about calling them "Wonder Wops...the one-bite wonder dessert!"

Ask your local merchants on when they are going to stock their shelves or chef when they are going to start serving these wonderful desserts. They are definitely worth it! On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 is not good), I give these one-bite wonder whoopie pie desserts a 5! If you want a sample, send me an e-mail ( and I'll this innovative pastry chef get some delivered to you. Happy Eating! Mr. Foodie

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cabernet & Company on Main St., Glen Ellyn

While Cabernet & Company doesn't serve food, they are best known for their wines. However, they also sell high-end beers, and I have tell you about a line of suds I discovered this past weekend--St. Peter's Brewery from the United Kingdom. This brewer offers beers and ales, fruit and spiced beers, organic ales, porters and stouts and seasonal beers (all $3.95, and well worth the price). I purchased the Old Style Porter (5.1% ABV), and wasn't disappointed. This fine beer is a blend of a mature old ale and a younger light beer--just as a true Porter should be. The marriage produces an extremely characterful brew, which is dark in color and complex in taste. it's recommended to serve the beer at room temperature, which I did, and the flavors really developed after the chill melted away. The bottles are eye-catching as well--they make me imagine something that I'd be served visiting a pub in the 18th century.

Here's how St. Peter's describes the beer on their site: "Our Beers are all 'real ales' and are brewed using the finest ingredients - local East Anglian malts and British hops. Our water is drawn from our own deep source within the chalk layer way below St. Peter’s Hall and is ideal for brewing. We brew 'traditional' beers - bitters, mild etc. - as well as some more unusual beers such as honey porter and fruit beer. Even these, however, are not really 'exotic' at all as it was common practice up to the Nineteenth Century to add fruits and honey to beers to create special seasonal brews. Thus blackcurrant and gooseberry beers would be brewed when soft fruits were readily available while at Christmas-time dried fruits, spices and orange peel would be added to create a special Christmas Ale. At St. Peter’s we aim to carry on traditional brewing practices but hope always to have something new and exciting for you to try."

Visit the brewer's Web site at to read more about these fine offerings. For more information about Cabernet & Company, which also has locations in Naperville and Oak Park, visit (434 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn, 630/469-2644).

On a scale of 1 fork to 5 forks (1 fork is not good), I'd give these beers 5 forks. Happy, Drinking this time! Mr. Foodie

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Panera Bread on Roosevelt (Danada), Glen Ellyn

You may think of Panera Bread as an upscale sandwich shop, which it is. But, for the past year, the eatery has been offering its Crispani (aka, pizza). But this is not the kind of pizza you'd find at Barone's (one of my all-time favorites) or Pizza Hut.

Panera's delicious version has a perfect flatbread crust with a variety of topping choices: Roasted Wild Mushroom--roasted crimini mushrooms, fresh Shiitake mushrooms, fresh basil, roasted garlic, olive oil and fontina & mozzarella cheeses; Three Cheese--fontina, fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, roasted garlic, salt and pepper; Pepperoni--all-natural Wellshire Farms pepperoni, organic Muir Glen tomatoes, fresh basil and fontina & asiago-Parmesan cheeses; Sweet Sausage & Apple--all-natural Niman Ranch sausage, fresh apple slices, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes, olive oil, roasted garlic and fontina, Parmesan and romano cheeses; Tomato & Fresh Basil--organic Muir Glen tomatoes, fresh basil, roasted garlic, asiago-Parmesan and fresh mozzarella; and, just added, BBQ Chicken--smoked and pulled white meat chicken, mild BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, fresh cilantro, roasted garlic and fontina and mozzarella cheeses. The bread is crispy, but not at all dry or flaky. All of the ingredients, no matter which one you order, taste fresh. I particularly like the Sweet Sausage & Apple version--the combination of the apples, sausage and caramelized onions is such a perfect pairing, coupled with the aromatics and cheeses you may find yourself ordering two! While a hungery adult would have no problem finishing off an entire Crispani, two adults would be content by complementing their order with a hand-tossed salad or a hot soup. Kids would absolutely love ordering the flatbread, and enjoy it even more devouring it. Crispanis range in price from $6.95-$8.95, and are offered hot from the oven after 4 p.m.--allow 15 minutes for preparation, which is brought to your table by a server (the "dining room" is another aspect of this particular Panera I like...there's a fireplace, a few comfy chairs, and tables that are nicely spaced out for privacy and comfort). You can't go wrong with the Crispani--I highly recommend it, and will make me way through the entire flatbread menu.

For more information, visit (541-543 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn, 630/942-8955.

On a scale of 1 to 5 forks (1 fork is not good), I'd give Panera Bread's Crispani 4 forks. Happy Eating! Mr. Foodie

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Trucchi Italian Bistro on Main St., Downers Grove

A straightforward menu oftentimes yields a rewarding dining experience. This happened to be the case when I ended up in Downers Grove Friday night at Trucchi Italian Bistro.

The restaurant's menu is not complicated, but it offers a variety of ingredients and homecooked foods to satisfy all hunger diners. I started my meal with a bowl of creamy parsnip soup with smoked chicken and chives ($5)--the soup was rather good, mild and soothing, perfect for a cold, windy Midwestern Winter night. For my entree, I decided on one of the specials for the evening, risotto made with carnaroli rice mixed with quartered artichokes hearts, white truffle oil and topped with Parmigiano ($15). It seemed to me the risotto was freshly prepared, which is not often the case when it comes to risotto in some operations. The rice was cooked al dente, which is the way I like my risotto, but there could have been a bit more liquid, a bit more moisture to the dish. Also, I had the sense that perhaps the wine used in preparing the risotto was a bit too sweet because I had an overwhelming lemony taste, which could have come from the artichokes (I'm not sure if they were fresh or out of a jar...I'm guessing jar). My wife decided not to order an entree and instead have a salad of mixed greens, Amaretti-coated goat cheese, baked grapes, walnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette ($5). The combination of the smooth, room temperature goat cheese, (warm) baked grapes and toasted walnuts made for a classic winter dish. She also order an antipasti for her main course...a crispy grilled flatbread with grilled chicken, roasted tomatoes, wild mushrooms, frisee salad, (drizzled with) red wine vinaigrette and topped with melted fontina cheese ($10). It may seem there is too much on the flatbread, but in actuality the antipasto was excellent. The crispy flatbread held up well and did not go limp and get soggy, and the combination of flavorful grilled chicken, roasted tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms, with wilted frisee salad was exceedingly nice...the melted fontina, probably from being placed under a salamander (a small broiler oven), was nicely browned and bubbly. Other items on the antipasto menu range from carpaccio with white truffle oil, argula, lemon vinaigrette, capers, dice tomatoes and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano ($12) to fresh salmon on crostinis with onion, dill, cucumber and mascarpone ($9) to the traditional fried calamari ($9) and much more; there are also a number of traditional Italian salads all for $5. Pastas are bountiful in all shapes and sizes, such as angel hair with a red grape basil sauce and Tuscan pecorino cheese ($10) to linguini with sauteed scallops and shrimp ($17) to cockscrew pasta with chicken breast, artichokes, peas, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and rosemary-scented Parmigiano sauce ($15) to four cheese ravioli bologenese ($15). If those dishes don't grab your attention, Trucchi also menus a grilled Gulf of Mexico red grouper ($24), an oven-poached whitefish ($15) and an oven-roasted Normegian salmon ($19). For Italian meat lovers, you can choose from grilled Berkshire double pork chops served with sauteed Brussels sprouts, chestnut polenta with an apple-brandy sauce ($19) to a 10 oz. beef tenderloin topped with Gorgonzola ($29) to sauteed veal scallopine ($23) and more. The traditional Italian desserts are menued, but don't pass on the tiramisu ($6), which is made with ladyfingers, mascarpone, espresso and chocolate...truly decedant and worth the calories. A full bar is available, including a moderate wine list or reds and white ranging in price from $28-$115; by the glass is an option too, $5.5-$11. Trucchi can host private parties up to 75 people, and they can cater your private dinner parties. Service was attentive and friendly, but the restaurant tries to make the most of its space, so the tables are a bit too close to each other.

For more information, visit (5141 Main St., Downers Grove, 630/434-7770).

On a scale of 1 fork to 5 forks (1 fork is not good), I'd give Trucchi Italian Bistro 3 forks. Happy eating! Mr. Foodie

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Pacific Blue on Crescent Blvd., Glen Ellyn

The space that Pacific Blue occupies, next to the Glen Theater in downtown Glen Ellyn, is tranquil, and the food ranks as some of the best served in the village. A scratch kitchen (a kitchen that cooks with fresh ingredients instead of premade, prepackaged foods), chef/co-owner Jonji Gaffud primarily prepares mouthwatering seafood items with pan-Asian influences, but the menu also offers beef, pork, poulty and pasta.

The night I visited the dining room (with my wife and 1-year-old daughter), we started with a trio of pan-seared spicy shrimp, pan-seared mini crab cakes and butter poached scallops, served with a chunky blue cheese dipping sauce ($8). It was a nice combination to start off a seafood dinner that was flavorful and not overly done with heavy sauces or overcooked. While my wife and I split the starter, it's really meant for one person (warmed bread was also brought to the table). Other tempting starters included Peeky Toe Crab with a Port-braised red onion marmalade and an ancho chile tartar sauce ($8); beef empanadas filled with potatoes, onion and carrots, served with an avocado relish ($7)--there are more as well as soup. Next I order a mixed greens salad with fresh figs, crumbled Salemville blue cheese with a balasmic dressing ($5)--the combination of ingredients was excellent, but I'd like to suggest to the chef that I while I enjoyed the dish (I'll give it a 6.5 on a scale of 1-10), I would have loved it more if the figs were warmed or roasted and if the salad was topped with toasted walnuts...a classic fall/winter salad combination. My wife had the house Pacific Blue salad, which included baby greens, herb-roasted pecans, California-artisan goat cheese, with a whole grain mustard and roasted fennel vinaigrette ($5). It was an explosion of flavor that married well. My entree was grade A grilled Hawaiian ahi tuna cooked medium, which came to the table perfectly done--slightly cooked on the outer edges, with the rest of the fish warm and still red in the middle (the way tuna should be served) was delicious. The tuna was accompanied with sweet Maui onions with lemon thyme and a sweet soy butter sauce ($22). My wife had baked crab stuffed with shrimp ($18), horseradish mashed potatoes, sauteed summer vegetables, with a Tarragon shrimp sauce. The shrimp stuffing came out moist and light, but Summer vegetables could have been replaced with Fall (root) vegetables considering it was November. Other entrees ranges from olive crusted Lake Superior whitefish ($16) to parchment-wrapped Costa Rican tilapia ($18) to American-style seafood stew ($19) and more.

For dessert, I had one of my favorites...creme brulee, prepared by pastry chef/co-owner Rita Schubert. I have lost track of how many creme brulees I have eaten, and I consider myself an expert on this particular dessert. The sugar topping was perfect--nicely browned, slightly warm and crunchy (the kind of creme brulee topping that you need to break with your spoon). You can tell it was just made...I detest when a kitchen premakes creme brulee by premelting the sugar and storing in the refrigerator until ordered. The custard was good, and real vanilla was can tell when you see black specks on the bottom of the ramekin. If liquid vanilla is used, you'd have an alcohol taste...and that's a sign of a poor kitchen. The custard was a bit firm for my liking, but it was still very rich and filled my need for something sweet.

In addition to the seafood, Gaffud also prepares pan-seared marinated pork tenderloin ($16), grilled capon breast ($15), a grilled 12 oz. ribeye ($26) and penne pasta with seafood (($18). For sides, you can order aromatic and flavorful horseradish mashed potatoes, french fries, grilled asparagus or shrimp polenta (all $3 a piece). The waitstaff is friendly, pays attention to you and is knowledgeable about wine pairings. For those diners who enjoy wine, but not a full bottle, Pacific Blue offers individual 1/2 bottles--not carafes, but actual half bottles, also referred to as a split.

For those who want to find a hide away spot, the restaurant has a "back room" where cocktails can be order and live jazz music is played Friday and Saturday's a great place to get away and not be seen. It's also kid friendly, as my daugther didn't mind our 1 1/2 hour dinner, and the restaurant didn't mind her once in while "yippie."

For more information, vist (536 Crescent Blvd., Glen Ellyn, 630/469-1080.

On a scale of 1 fork to 5 forks (1 fork is not good), I'd give Pacific Blue 3.5 forks. Happy eating! Mr. Foodie