Shout Out: Irazu

Since moving from Seattle, Miss Fats has seriously missed her “joints:” or those delicious, cheap and shady go-to eating spots that never disappoint.  In Chicago, she has hardly frequented enough seedy eats to stake her claim, but she’s seriously thinking Irazu will be the first of many.

IMG_2188This, essentially “hut,” just north of the heart of Wicker Park, delivers a wide array of tasty Costa Rican dishes for small change.  Right now, the place boasts a plastic outdoor canopy and heat lamps, but Miss Fats is sure it will be a delightful outdoor patio come spring and summer.  Not to mention it’s BYOB.  For her meal, Miss Fats ordered the Pepito sandwich: grilled chicken, onions, spicy peppers, black beans, cheese and a delicious tomatillo salsa.  Yeah and it was only $5.  Next to that giant ‘wich is the tastiest pile of rice and beans you’ll find.  DON’T BE DECEIVED.  You may THINK that black beans are a throw away side dish, but you haven’t tried these.  Holy shit so much flavor in a harmless little legume. Seriously, people: those beans literally had more flavor than the chicken and cheese combined.This rice and bean combo you can see above is the Costa Rican staple gallo pinto: eat it immediately.

IMG_2185Hah, you thought Miss Fats could stop herself there. Ok, so look: Miss Fats is well aware that Irazu’s Wicker location and presence of a website hardly qualifies it as a real “joint.” And unfortunately this insane dish above only reinforces this: fresh mahi mahi ceviche.  But she doesn’t care because this SHIT WAS CRAZY CHEAP.  For a giant bowl of fresh tasty, tangy fish, she and her dining partners shelled out a meer $12.  Between the three of them, they were unable to get through the whole bowl.  Miss Fats cannot wait for some serious summer time at Irazu, chowing down on some cold, citrusy ceviche with side of black beans.  She will be back, Irazu.

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Feast Chat with Miss Fats

Wednesday night, team Miss Fats kicked off Chicago restaurant week at Baume & Brix. Because both Miss Fats were able to enjoy this epic evening together, they’ve opted to take you through the meal in the form of a conversation, which will hopefully give you the most satisfying and indulgent (maybe even funny) glimpse of the experience.

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M: So Miss Fats has already misled you all. This photo cannot be attributed to their meal at Baume & Brix. Anticipating tiny food and empty stomachs (fine dining=fancy snacks), Miss Fats met up for a little pre-dinner churro happy hour at Xoco. This was not Miss Fats’ first Bayless churro. hell no. And there is a reason why she keeps coming back. These delicious fried pieces of dough have the perfect crispy outside and soft chewy inside. Now don’t even get Miss Fats started on the chocolate dipping sauce. There are no words.

J: There really are no words. And even if there were, we couldn’t say them, because our mouths were totally full and that would have been rude.

M: This rich, smooth, creamy sauce has the PERFECT balance of salt, sweet and bitter dark chocolate to pair with the sugary fried churro dough. (For anyone who’s chatted with Miss Fats about baking, they know she is OBSESSED with finding the perfect salt balance. i.e. life balance.) There was definitely a bit of pure sauce sipping once those dough delights were gone; but that’s why the tiny cup has a handle. duh.

J: Miss Fats will never lay off the sauce. Not this sauce, at least.

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M: Just a little more food porn for y’all. Yep, this is turing Miss Fats on.

J: To quote our colloquialism-challenged friend Sean, “Drippin.”

M: or “crispy.” Wait that doesn’t even need scare quotes. It was in fact crispy (at least when you’re using the word correctly).

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M: Peanuts and chocolate are literally one of Miss Fats favorite flavor combinations. How was this the first time she’d indulged in a glazed churro? Miss Fats will say she’d have liked a little more peanut action. The insanely flavorful chocolate took over all that peanutty flavor. But she also has an unhealthy addiction to peanut butter and chocolate, so this may be an unfair critique. What does the other half of Miss Fats say?

J:

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Here’s a tiny cat! Not as amped on PB&C over here… Obvy it was ridiculously tasty. It’s hard for to care about this churro because of the one Miss Fats ate right after… THIS ONE!

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M: There it is, people. Miss Fats is not kidding with this one. It may look weird, but don’t you dare doubt the pistachio glazed churro. Don’t you dare. This was literally like the greatest glazed doughnut on crack. The super nutty pistachio glaze just settled into those churro grooves and was perfectly contrasted with the crunchy chopped nuts sprinkled on top. This is the stuff of dreams. No more words.

J: There are many delicious green foods on planet Earth… Obachan’s spinach, brusseIs sprouts, those brownies that have that fluffy minty filling stuff… but this green churro wins the green award. I pretty much licked the plate. I did it the classy way though, by using my finger as a sauce collecting tool and then licking it off my finger. Miss Fats = all class. Holy crap looking at this photo is kind of painful because I DON’T HAVE IT IN FRONT OF ME READY TO BE EATEN ANYMORE.

Moving on…The meal: Baume & Brix
Thanks to their advantageous partnership, Miss Fats was able to order every item off of the restaurant week menu. Here comes a long string of food porn. Also, it was really dark in there.

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M: Baume & Brix’s shwank bar where we waited for our table. Miss Fats wasn’t super happy with the start of the evening. Bitchy hostess gave her some serious attitude and they ended up having to wait an additional twenty minutes to get their table. Granted it was busy and she wouldn’t have minded the wait if it weren’t for the ‘tude.

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J: One of the choices on the cocktail menu was “Bartender’s Choice.” The description read, “Do you trust me?” The bartender totally had an old-timey handlebar mustache and OBVIOUSLY was wearing a vest. So yes, trust. Miss Fats forgets what he called this but it was one of the ones where ya gotta treat the orange peel like it’s a heroin spoon. Fancy. Oh yeah and it tasted pretty good.

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First First Course: Naked Lobster, parsnip, celery root, vanilla-potato foam

M: Full disclosure: Miss Fats is over foam. She has very little patience for too-much-fuss-in-the-form-of-foam, but the temptation of lobster was just too much. Unfortunately this fell pretty short. The flavors of the goopy cream business over-powered (and frankly, over-salted) the delicate raw lobster. She’s not sure if it was the vanilla or the potato that pushed that foam over the edge, but it ended up tasting like a weird sauce of salty aromatic celery that completely ruined the indulgent lobster action.

J: Miss Fats read about 47 Yelp reviews of B&B before she went, and every single one of them said “The foam ruins everything, don’t go near the foam.” Although she did see some foaming hand sanitizer the other day which looked pretty cool. Turns out the Yelpers didn’t lie. The lobster seemed like it would have been tasty, but Miss Fats will never know because the chef drowned it in a snobby blob of vanilla-potato hand sanitizer.

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Second First Course: Pigs Tails, greek salad, minted yogurt, elderflower

M: This was the first time Miss Fats has had pigs tails. She wasn’t super impressed. The fatty, soft tail meat was decent, but the skin seemed a bit greasy and there was all-together too little meat in proportion to the thick breading. Despite the presence of the yogurt and “greek salad” (if you can even call little marinated strings of bell pepper a greek salad), she wanted more acid. The heavy fried pork needed something to cut the fat: perhaps even just a squeeze of lemon, or a drizzle of vinegar. However overall, Miss Fats still preferred this to the Naked Lobster. Fuck foam.

J: Miss Fats has a friend who takes care of his brother’s pigs, and frequently tells her about the cute weird and sad pig things they do, like run around being piglets…

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…or huddle together in a pig-hole for warmth…IMG_2898…and he also tells her when they have to go to the Pig Disneyland in the sky, and Miss Fats is a little bit sad, even though she understands why they have to go be bacon. Point of this story is, if the end justifies the means, and the cute sad pigs have to die, they need a better fucking end than was met in this dish. Pigs tails are apparently the hot wings of haute cuisine: there’s barely any meat, and you feel weird having to gnaw on a tiny butt-bone.

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Octobonus course: Octopus in the style of Fun Dip

M: This bad boy was ordered a la carte off Baume & Brix‘s full menu. Octopus fun dip, people. That’s right. Sounds weird. Was kind of weird. But Miss Fats was really into it. Not sure the rest of the party was as delighted by octopus fun dip as she was, but this is right near the top of best dishes of the night. Her enthusiasm for this dish is due to the perfectly grilled octopus, which had just the right amount of char while still keeping a tender inside. The “dips” included a cheese powder, weird coconut business and smoked paprika. Miss Fats was super into the octopus/paprika pairing: not at all into the cheese. Boo seafood and dairy.

J: Miss Fats would like to be under the sea, in an Octopus’ Fun Dip in the shade… Turns out it is pretty fun to dip octopus. But not into cheese. The other dip was kind of citrusy and the consistency of confectioners sugar. Octopus sugar is gross. If you’re going to dip your tentacles, do so with caution, and not into the mysterious white powders.

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First Second Course: Shrimp & Grits Bisque, rock shrimp, corn, scallion

M: Miss Fats was pleased with this little indulgent bowl of shrimp and grits. The grits were super creamy, cheesy and delicious. (However perhaps a bit too heavy (and large) for the second course. Hey, Midwest.) Despite it being the dead of winter, the bright corn (out of season?) flavor was really the star of the dish. The sweetness of the corny grits was super satisfying with a bite of crispy juicy shrimp.

J: This tasted like you got confused and made yourself a smoothie, but instead of fruit and yogurt, you put in a big ol’ slab of really dope cornbread and some shrimpers. It was super corny and not in a bad Nicholas Sparks away. Miss Fats had to work to finish this portion, it was a bit much for a second course. Would definitely eat a bowl of that for lunch.

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Second Second Course: Carpaccio, shaved beef, green peppercorn, mustard

M: WINNER of the night. Miss Fats picks carpaccio as the best dish of the night. The tender, thinly sliced beef was delicately balanced with the perfect amount of spice, oil and crazy melt in your mouth meringue weirdness. (Miss Fats isn’t even sure how to describe this one, nor can she really remember details beyond the sheer mouth pleasure she experienced while eating this.) Usually she’s not into meringue-anything, but these savory little crisps immediately dissolved in your mouth to give the beef the perfect hit of spice. Miss Fats officially adds beef to her list of foods that are way better raw.

J: Omigod, omigod. O M G. Dude, seriously, raw animals shouldn’t taste this awesome. This was an EXPERIENCE. This was a TASTE SENSATION. This was a TOUR DE FORCE. This was “subtle and provocative, like a coy Dutch woman guarding a dark secret, and it told a story, a story from a book Miss Fats wouldn’t read, but would watch the movie of.” (If that reference resonated with you, then please KNOW Miss Fats actually eats her food after she ‘grams it. Espesh if it’s a bowl of really really really bomb beef carpaccio.)

M: Gurl, this dish “told a story.” Pure mouth narrative.

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M: BREAD INTERRUPTION. Right before the third course Miss Fats was treated to a little fresh-baked brioche and herbed butter. The bread was out of control: warm, slightly sweet and had that perfect egg bread texture. The butter needed salt. Real bad.

J: Miss Fats was so underwhelmed by this butter that she didn’t even finish the roll (also she was saving room for the grilled cheese dessert). What up, #quenellefail.

M: Miss Fats has been noticing a trend with her other-half: she seems to be guilty of some serious bread left overs lately…shame.

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First Third Course: Potato Chip Gnocchi, sour cream, allium

M: WTF is allium? Miss Fats ate this but has no idea what that is. Also this was a joke. Here’s the thing: don’t go advertising yourself as gnocchi if you’re a glorified tater tot. If they had just said tater tot, Miss Fats would still have ordered it and promptly shoved all the tiny bits into her mouth. Instead, she anticipated fluffy gnocchi clouds and got deep-fried mashed potato things. The “gnocchi” were well seasoned, perfectly creamy and tender, but ultimately pretty underwhelming, BECAUSE THEY WEREN’T GNOCCHI.

J: Allium is the science word for onion-chivey-type things. This half of Miss Fats knows, because they grew wild in her backyard when she was just a little tiny cat-lover. Speaking of cats/potato chip gnocchi/sour cream/onion,

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Miss Fats recently ate a similar version of this dish at Little Goat, except at Little Goat they called it like they fucking saw it: TEMPURA MASHED POTATO. Twas delicious, but nary a gnocchi was seen. Moving on.

M: Shout out to deep fried mash at Little Goat (far superior):

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Second Third Course: Red Curry Beef, coconut, lemon, flowering kale

M: RUNNER UP best dish of the night. Miss Fats was very pleasantly surprised by this one. Honestly, when she’d read “red curry beef” on the menu, she was all, “eh.” Way to throw Miss Fats for a loop, Baume & Brix. This tender braised short rib was out. of. control. What looks like some big hunk of chewy beef is actually sotenderitjustfallsapart piece of meat that she literally could not stop eating. This already-magnificent piece of meat was expertly paired with a tangy, vinegary curry sauce and a perfectly bitter kale to balance the sumptuous, (THAT’S RIGHT, she just used the word sumptuous) meatacular flavor. Not to mention the deep-fried meyer lemon that hit you with an unexpected burst of acid and salt just when you needed it (Miss Fats didn’t even know she needed it until it happened. And boy was it good.)

J: Miss Fats made up a song about this, feel free to sing along! It goes to the tune of that old Chili’s commercial:
“I want my Baume & Brix Baume & Brix Baume & Brix Baume & Brix…
Baume and Brix braised short rib, Baume and Brix braised short rib
(red curry sauce)”
Miss Fats doesn’t eat a lot of red meat, but if it was always this decadent, she would probably start. So good. So good. So good. Turned out Miss Fats didn’t need the churro hors d’oeuvre (or as Miss Fats’s Grandma used to call em, “horse doovers”) because this was an insane portion. Like, hardcore steakhouse sized amount of meat. Dangalang, that cow did NOT die in vain. Basically, if you ever eat at Baume & Brix, just order all the beef dishes and then thank us for being so awesome and saving you from a series of foam and other unfortunate events.

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First Fourth Course: “Grilled Cheese,” brun-uusto cheese, quince, rooibos ice cream

M: Miss Fats is sad to have to radically shift the tone of this post. Usually dessert is Miss Fats favorite course. Almost always. However the fourth course was a HUGE disappointment. She’ll start with the “grilled cheese:” this was Miss Fats’ first experience with brun-uusto cheese, but she has to say, she wasn’t all that impressed with Baume & Brix’s preparation. She’s sure that this cheese actually has excellent creamy texture when grilled and served properly, however this version felt more like a sad over-processed mozzarella that had been heated up in the microwave and left on the counter to congeal. Given the light flavor of this cheese, Miss Fats was particularly confused by the overly sweet pairings: the “bread” was some sort of super sweet cake/pudding like syrupy mess, which in combination with the flavorless pears and ice cream just became too much. The ice cream on its own was delightful. Spicy, creamy and delicious. If only almost everything else on the plate had not happened. Maybe the other half of Miss Fats wants to redeem this one?

J: Glorp. Saw this on the menu while Miss Fats was selecting tributes for her own personal Hunger Games, and freaked the eff out. Last summer, Miss Fats got brave and used the grill alone for the first time ever in order to make grilled brun-uusto and pears, and it really might have been the best thing she’s ever prepared. So expecations were running PRETTY. FREAKING. HIGH. If the cheese had not been lukewarm when served, Miss Fats might be telling you a different tale. But this story ends sadly. This sucked. It was blah on top of gnar on top of huh with a side of meh. The ice cream WAS good, but it was also sitting in a pile of molecular tea flake chunks. Why? Dunno. It just was. Miss Fats is sad because she’s had a bit of an infatuation with chef Ben Roche’s sciencefood for the last couple years, and she really really wanted the weird parts of this meal to be fun and new and inventive but also still TASTE GOOD. Whoops.

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Second Fourth Course: “Frostee & Fries,” potato ice cream, milk chocolate mousse, banana, cherry compote “ketchup”

M: And here it comes: the FAIL of the evening. Where to begin with this disaster? Miss Fats can handle some play with her desserts, however this attempt at whimsy was disgusting. That’s right: disgusting. She doesn’t mind a reinvention of a “low” classic, but this was one nasty train wreck. The salty, malty flavor of that potato ice cream was too much. SO strange, but Miss Fats and company couldn’t help but continue to take confused nasty bites. She’s not sure why you would even do this to a frostee and fries. The origin dessert is perfect and the reinvented one is a puzzling mixture of odd flavors that never actually combine to recreate the original. Instead you’re left with a strange puddle of melting chip ice cream that cost you four times as much as the tried and true fast food classic. Nope. Never again.

J: It’s now been a couple days since this dinner, and Miss Fats has continued to refer to this dish exclusively as “Fish Cream.” Because until the info that the ice cream contained MALT was wrangled out of her waitress, Miss Fats couldn’t get past it tasting like FISH SAUCE. FISH CREAM FISH CREAM FISH CREAM. Tom Colicchio as her witness, Miss Fats will never eat fish cream again! Really couldn’t stop tasting it though, it was just too flipping gross and weird. Fish cream. Fish fish fish cream. Remember what Miss Fats said about seafood and dairy? BOO.

That carpaccio, though. HOLLER.