Female. Lives in United States/Illinois/Chicago, speaks English. My interests are Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking/Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.
This is my blogchalk:
United States, Illinois, Chicago, English, Female, Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking, Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Box Top Rice Pudding

Whenever my mother-in-law has leftover white rice from a dinner she’s cooked, she quickly turns it into delicious rice pudding using an old recipe she found on the Uncle Ben’s rice box years ago. I love her rice pudding; it’s simple but satisfying. Last time we visited Win’s family, his 92-year-old grandmother even said this is the recipe she relied on when she used to cook more. With all the varieties of rice pudding out there, this old standard is worth mentioning. It’s a handy staple to have up your sleeve.

Box Top Rice Pudding
Serves 5-6 (or pretty much just me, hunched over the bowl, going to town on its tasty goodness)

1 and 3/4 cups water
½ cup rice
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
nutmeg or cinnamon

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring water to a boil. Stir in rice and salt. Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
3. Add milk and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
4. Combine eggs, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Gradually stir into rice mixture; mix well.
5. Pour into a greased 1.5 quart casserole in a pan containing about 1-inch hot water. Bake, uncovered, in 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. It’s important to note that mine took about 100 minutes to get to the “clean knife” stage. I don’t know why it took so long; my suspicion is that I filled the water bath too high and maybe slowed down the cooking, but I don’t know for sure. Anyway, don’t worry if yours takes longer. After literally an hour and a half of cooking, mine came out great.
6. Serve warm or chilled. Sprinkle nutmeg and/or cinnamon on top, if desired.

This rice pudding is very easy and basic, and I like how versatile it is. With the delicious custard layer on top, it’s exciting enough to be a light dessert. But it’s not so rich and creamy that it can’t also be served for breakfast or as a mid-afternoon snack.

I’m a huge rice pudding fan and love to try new variations on it. When you’re looking for a decadent, rich, creamy sweet rice pudding, go for my Mom’s Old Fashioned Creamy Rice Pudding. When you want something lighter but still satisfying thanks to the layer of custard, use this old classic.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Shamrock Shakes for St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! If you’re looking for an easy and delicious green treat today, try a Shamrock Shake.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of the Top Secret Recipes web site and I subscribe to their free weekly newsletter. Each week, a new recipe cloning a restaurant recipe comes into my inbox. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, this week’s featured recipe is for McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes. I’ve never had a Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s so I can’t say whether or not this clone recipe gets it right on the mark, but I can attest to how delicious these minty shakes are.

To make a Shamrock Shake, you just need to mix vanilla ice cream, low fat milk, a bit of mint extract and a few drops of green food coloring in a blender. Top Secret Recipes is very clear about not allowing their recipes to be shared so I’ll just direct you to their site for the specifics of this very easy recipe. Click here to check it out, but hurry because it will only be available on the site for the next few days.

We thought these were really good and a fun St. Patrick’s Day treat. Hope you enjoy them too!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Drinks at The Copa; Dinner at Vinci

Last weekend on an evening out, we tried a couple places we hadn’t been to before. We started off with cocktails at The Copa Cocktail Lounge. I’ve driven past The Copa many times before as it’s right behind one of Lima’s favorite stores, The Land of Nod. Lima adores the toy monkeys they sell there, so we’re frequent patrons. And every time we drive past The Copa, I think “That place looks cute. We should try it.”

Well we finally did. Cute little bar with a very hip feeling. Intimate size, nice bar stools and eclectic mix of boldly patterned wallpaper on one wall, retro wood paneling behind the bar, and funky lights above the tables that change color and cast red, blue and green glows on the table. This décor sounds crazy, but it works and comes together for a trendy, but comfortable, feeling. We had the pleasure of meeting a very friendly and competent bartender there and he mixed a terrific Copa Flirtini and a solid rum and Coke. The Copa’s a cute place to meet for cocktails.

After our drinks, we walked a few blocks to Vinci. Vinci offers reasonably priced Italian food that’s quite good. I selected Grilled Calamari for my appetizer. This was marinated grilled calamari steak with farro, arugula, toasted pine nuts, and basil oil. The marinade on the calamari was excellent and the grilled flavor came through nicely. Serving it on farro was a pleasant touch too, as I haven’t had farro in a while.

Win selected Carpaccio for his appetizer. This was seared carpaccio with mustard sauce, capers, oven-dried tomatoes, arugula, and pecorino. It was really excellent and the flavor combinations on this plate were terrific.

Happy with our appetizers, we then moved on to our entrees. I ordered one of the day’s specials: ravioli with porcini and many other kinds of mushrooms in a dark sauce with truffle oil. See photo above. This was very good, but it almost was too mushroomy. I think I would have liked it more if it was a little less dense with mushroom flavor and perhaps a bit more balanced between strong mushroom flavor and some ricotta or other cheese in the ravioli. It’s not that the dish wasn’t good---it was very good---but it was just slightly less than ideal.

Win loved his entrée. He ordered Vinci’s Hen, which was marinated hen grilled under a hot brick and served with roasted potatoes, garlic, rosemary and natural juices. This tender, juicy hen was outstanding and full of herb and lemon flavor.

For dessert, we ordered Vinci’s special dessert of the evening which was a lemon tart with a grappa caramel sauce. It was served with fresh berries and was really delicious. Great combination of sweet/tart and rich/light.

We liked Vinci a lot. I wasn’t blown away by the food, but it was quite good. The servers were friendly and helpful and the atmosphere was relaxing. I think what maybe makes me like Vinci a little less than some other Italians I have had recently is that it’s a more “corporate” restaurant and is owned by the Davinci Group which also owns the popular Adobo Grill. When push comes to shove, I’m more of a fan of the tiny, independent, neighborhood places over restaurants owned by a larger corporation. But Vinci was worth trying and made for a fun night out.

The Copa
1637 N. Clybourn
Chicago, IL

Telephone: 312-642-3449

1732 N. Halstead Street
Chicago, IL
Telephone: 312-266-1199
Web Site: http://www.vincichicago.com

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Top 20 Age-Defying Foods

The March 2005 issue of Shape magazine has a great list of the Top 20 Age-Defying Foods. According to a study recently released by the US Department of Agriculture and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the following foods are superstars in their ability to help fight disease and potentially slow down the aging process:

1. Small red beans
2. Wild blueberries
3. Red kidney beans
4. Pinto beans
5. Commercial blueberries
6. Cranberries
7. Artichokes
8. Blackberries
9. Dried plums
10. Raspberries
11. Strawberries
12. Red Delicious apples
13. Granny Smith apples
14. Pecans
15. Sweet cherries
16. Black plums
17. Russet potatoes
18. Black beans
19. Plums (Note: This is how the list reads. Dried plums are #9. Black plums are #16. I suppose the "plums" ranked #19 refer to all other kinds of plums but that is just my best guess.)
20. Gala apples

I’m all for natural ways to keep healthy and look young. Since reading this article, I’ve been trying to incorporate these specific foods and more antioxidants into my diet. See the photo above for some potato (#17) and black bean (#18) action. So far, so good. But somehow I don’t think the pecans (#14) that were sprinkled on top of my salad at dinner tonight would counteract the damage done by the artery-clogging (but very tasty) honey-dijon dressing served with it. Oh well, I’m a culinary work in progress…

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Chef's 7-Course Tasting Menu at Vermilion

It’s a rare thing when two completely unrelated people recommend the same restaurant to us in the same week. It’s even more unique when both people ask if you like a certain kind of cuisine and then say it’s ok if you don’t, you have to try this restaurant. This is what happened with Vermilion.

Last week, I was out with the Lima Bean and someone mentioned that they had an amazing dinner out recently. My ears immediately perked up and the person started by saying, “Do you like Indian food?” Indian isn't my thing and I told her that. She said “Well, you still should try Vermilion. It’s like Indian, Asian, South American fusion and the flavors are unbelievable. Even if you don’t like Indian, you will love this place.” She had strong confidence in her recommendation so I was intrigued.

A few days later a colleague of Win’s recommended Vermilion out of the blue. Said he loved it and asked if we liked Indian food. Win said he did and I didn’t, but the colleague was still sure we’d love the place. Another very strong recommendation, despite my less than enthusiastic feelings for a lot of Indian cuisine.

So with two hearty recommendations in hand, we had to try Vermilion. I am so thrilled that we did. Vermilion’s fusion cuisine brings together flavors that are delicious, absolutely unique, and often unexpected. And as our friends mentioned, you don’t have to love Indian food to love Vermilion, although much of the menu is heavily Indian influenced.

Vermilion is modern, with a trendy yet comfortable aesthetic. The walls are lined with interesting art. Our server conveyed huge pride in the place and raved to us about the chef’s abilities from the minute we sat down. You could tell from minute one that he fully expected us to love what we had for dinner and that he had supreme confidence in the chef’s ability to please. Nice feeling to convey.

As we perused the menu and sipped drinks (a Vermilion Sol cocktail for me and a Kingfisher beer for Win), we thought it would be fun to start with an order of naan. As you can see from the photo above, the naan came with four dipping sauces. One was a cucumber sauce, another a sweet chutney, the third a spicy and chunky vegetable salsa, and finally a milder yogurt sauce. All of them were excellent, but our two favorites were the cucumber sauce and the sweet chutney. You’ll also notice the amuse bouche on a small plate behind the naan. The amuse was a cucumber with an amazing swirl of what I think was minted cream on top. Hard to describe, but absolutely delicious.

After spending a great deal of time thinking about our dinner options, Win went out on a limb and suggested that we order the Chef’s Seven Course Tasting Menu. At Vermilion, the tasting menu includes an array of dishes customized by the chef and is only made available if all parties at the table will be ordering it. I was game, so we placed the order and waited to see what would turn up.

Our first course was a collection of four tapas which included steamed mussels simmered in a coconut-cilantro broth, bajian acaraje which was a traditional Brazilian bean croquette studded with a stuffed Spanish olive, a mysore lamb chop served over a minty red onion salad, and five spice scallops served in a spicy, fruit salsa. I couldn’t believe the luck on this selection, as the mussels and the bean croquettes were things I was seriously considering off the a la carte menu. Win is a huge lamb chop fan, so that made his day. All four of these tapas were outstanding. Fresh, bold flavors all cooked perfectly.

After that very successful first course, a bowl of red pepper soup was served to each of us, accompanied by some naan. This soup was rich, creamy and seasoned somehow differently than one would expect. Different in a very good way.

Next came a salad. This was a salad of spring greens with some stuffed grapes as accents. There was very little dressing on the salad and our waiter mentioned to us that he thought the dressing had some sort of onion paste in it. This was the only portion of our meal that disappointed us. The salad was rather flat and whatever dressing it had just didn’t hit us right. The flavor was perhaps too oniony or just not seasoned in a way that worked for us. So the salad course didn’t impress us, but more good things were to come.

After the salad, we were presented with Plantain Crusted Fish with Aloo Gobi. This was tilapia crusted with plantain, served on a bed of spicy potato and cauliflower and accompanied by a curry sauce. Even I, the non-fan of most Indian food, loved this curry sauce dish. The fish was moist and tender and the plantain coating gave it a nice crunch. The curry sauce was outstanding and it took the fish to a new level.

At this point, we were so happy and full we couldn’t believe that we had more courses to go. So we were pleased to see the waiter bring us a champagne sorbet for our next course. This sorbet was amazing. Packed with champagne flavor, it soothed our very active taste buds and prepared our mouths for the next course.

Tandoori skirt steak was our next dish. This steak was served in a classic Indian marinade over sautéed garlic spinach. It was surrounded by plantain chips. This steak was mouthwatering. Win loves red meat, but he often shies away from skirt steak because so many restaurants overcook it. This steak was perfectly cooked, and as our waiter said, it was so tender that we didn’t need steak knives. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the classic Indian flavoring of this steak was what made it so unique and delicious. The spinach was outstanding too and a nice accompaniment to the meat. We loved the plantain chips, but they were spiced with red pepper or something incredibly hot so we had to eat them more cautiously.

So to review, we have had naan, a huge appetizer sampler, soup, salad, fish, sorbet, and steak. We’re so full and satisfied but we know there is one more course on the way. Can we manage to eat it? Of course we can, when it’s desserts as decadent as these. We were served two dessert plates. One included some molten chocolate cake creation that was warm, rich and so, so chocolaty. On that same plate, opposite the chocolate wonder, was a heaping pile of fresh berries topped with the most potent berry sorbet I have ever had. This sorbet absolutely popped in your mouth with the essence of fresh, ripe berries. The second dessert was a coconut rice pudding topped with dried fruits. As luck would have it, these two desserts suited Win and me perfectly. Win’s a chocolate guy and probably would have ordered that chocolate cake off the menu, had he been given the choice. I’m a die hard rice pudding fan and when given the chance to experience a new, unique pudding I am all for that. So needless to say we were thrilled with these high-quality, well-prepared desserts.

It’s important to note the portions of these dishes. Look how generous Vermilion is with their tasting menu portions. As you can see from the photos, we had a sizable appetizer, a regular size bowl of soup, a large piece of fish, a whole portion of steak, and ample desserts. We’ve all been to places where the tasting menu includes seven tiny, tiny, tiny things and you leave with a stomach as empty as your wallet. Vermilion’s tasting menu portions were almost too large and we had to pace ourselves to make sure that we didn’t overeat on any one course and risk filling up before getting to sample the full spectrum. The tasting menu costs $65.00 per person, and given all the outstanding food you receive we left feeling like this was an incredible value.

Dinner at Vermilion was magnificent. The flavors that come out of that kitchen are a true fusion of Indian and Latin tastes and they are often completely unexpected but so pleasing to the palate. With the exception of the salad that we didn’t like, every dish that came out was unique and delicious. And as our friends both said, you don’t have to love Indian to love Vermilion.

10 W. Hubbard Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Telephone: 312-527-4060

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What's Up With Lima?

It’s been a while since I gave an update on our Lima Bean so I thought it was about time. Lima is 22 months old now and she’s still my constant companion, in the kitchen and pretty much everywhere else. In the past few months she has become amazingly verbal and can say almost anything and carry on very good mini-conversations. It’s been very, very fun to learn what goes on inside her head.

Lima’s also become more and more active. Some of her new tricks include summersaults, crawling like an inchworm, doing a monkey walk, and walking around on her hands while someone holds her feet in the classic wheelbarrow pose. She just learned the wheelbarrow thing today and she’s very pleased with it. She loves drawing and painting and anything having to do with glue…the messier the better.

Lima’s musical taste has evolved in the past few months too. While at home, she likes to hear the theme song from Sesame Street as much as she can. I actually have the Sesame Street CD set on permanent repeat for that song, a sure sign that I will be going insane any day now. She also can be found glued to the tv mesmerized by The Wiggles at least once a day. When we’re in the car, these are the songs Lima wants to listen to:

-Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder
-Mickey by Toni Basil
-Rock Lobster by the B-52s
-Whip It by Devo
-Oh Yoko by John Lennon

Quite a collection, huh? Don’t dare try and slip in a new song because she will not have it. It’s one of these 5 or nothing.

On the food front, Lima still loves going to restaurants. At one of our neighborhood favorites, Lima is a total regular. She walks in like she owns the place, says hi to the people behind the bar and then walks to our usual table. She often brings the waitstaff little things to show them. Recent Lima “gifts” include a large piece of bark, a really big stick, and her Boohbah. At the end of the meal, the waitress always hands Lima the check. We wish she’d start paying, but instead she looks to us for the money and then happily delivers it to the waitress and says “Money! Money!” or “Card! Card!”, depending on whether we paid with cash or credit card.

She’s a big fan of “helping” me any way she can, so if I have my apron on you can be pretty sure Lima has her little pink one on too. She gets a huge thrill from doing anything in what she perceives to be “grown-up” style.

So that’s the latest in Lima’s world. She’ll be 2 in a couple months and I’m starting to think about birthday party ideas. Nothing crazy and over the top, but I’d like to do something special to mark the day. I’ll let you know what we end up doing…

Next time At Our Table: No, this isn’t a total mom blog…I’ll be back with more food talk next time. Whether you like Indian food or you don't, I have an interesting place to tell you about.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Sandwich You Must Try

OK, I have a sandwich here that is so good and so unique that you must try it. I am not kidding. Unless you are adamantly opposed to a key ingredient, wildly allergic or incredibly health conscious, you need to give this one a try. It’s a Bacon and Gruyere Panini with Green Apple, Sauerkraut and Grainy Mustard.

We got the idea for this sandwich from our latest shipment from the Bacon of the Month Club. This month’s featured bacon is Father’s Hickory Smoked Cinnamon-Sugar Country Bacon. This delicious bacon comes from Gatton Farms in Bremen, Kentucky. According to the literature that came with the bacon, the meat is dry-cured with sugar, then it hangs in refrigerators for 10 weeks at various temperatures, then it is aged. Along the way, the bacon is hand-rubbed with a mixture of double-strength cinnamon and sugar. This bacon is delicious and you can really taste the cinnamon and sugar flavor. It’s subtle, but it is definitely there and it makes for a very special bite of bacon.

As always, our bacon of the month came with a recipe. When we saw the recipe for Bacon and Gruyere Panini, we knew we had to try it.

Bacon and Gruyere Panini with Green Apple, Sauerkraut, and Grainy Mustard
Adapted from a recipe provided by The Grateful Palate
Serves 2

4 slices bacon, halved crosswise
4 slices pumpernickel bread
grainy mustard
2 ounces sliced Gruyere cheese
¼ cup drained sauerkraut
¼ Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. This should take about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease in the pan.
2. Next, assemble the sandwiches. Lightly butter the inside of the bread and then spread mustard on one side of each sandwich. For each sandwich, layer ¼ of the cheese slices on top of the slice with mustard, then pile on half of the bacon, then add half the apple slices, then add half the sauerkraut, then the remaining ¼ of the cheese. (This sounds way more complicated than it is…basically, just divide up the ingredients fairly between the two sandwiches and stack them on.) Press the top piece of bread firmly onto each sandwich. This is how ours looked at this stage:

3. Cook the sandwiches in the bacon pan over medium-low heat until melted inside and toasted outside. Press down on them firmly with a spatula to compact them as they cook. This should take about 4 minutes per side.

Seriously, these sandwiches are amazing. The flavor and texture combination here is unbelievable. You have rich, savory pumpernickel bread providing the backdrop for crisp, full-flavored bacon and luscious melted Gruyere. Those ingredients alone would make for a standout sandwich. But then you add the Granny Smith apples and the sauerkraut and the whole thing just explodes. These ingredients provide the added interplay of sweet/tart and hard/soft contrasts.

While this sandwich may not be heart healthy or low calorie, it is absolutely worth the caloric splurge to try it. It’s one of the most unique flavor and texture combinations I’ve had in a sandwich and it’s absolutely delicious. If you try it, I hope you agree.

Next time At Our Table: What’s up with Lima?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

When in Chapel Hill, Scoot Over to Vespa

Another night during our trip to North Carolina, Win and I tried Vespa. Win’s parents have been to Vespa several times and they really enjoy it, so we were eager to try it too.

Vespa’s dining room is attractively painted in warm tones with interesting art and decorations on the walls. The dining room is comfortable and if you sit up front by the windows facing Franklin Street like we did you can do some good people watching.

We really loved the food at Vespa. To start, I ordered Crostini di Polenta, which was cornmeal topped with warm gorgonzola cheese. Now, I enjoy polenta. It’s not something on my “must have” list when I go to an Italian restaurant, but I do like it. This polenta made me a believer though. It was hands down the best I have ever tasted, thanks to the warm, rich gorgonzola covering it. This appetizer was a perfect way to start the night.

Win opted to start with Scottata, which is warm homemade mozzarella wrapped around prosciutto with roasted peppers. Win loved his and the flavor combination was really excellent.

For my entrée, I chose one of Vespa’s daily specials. It was Ravioli with Spinach and Ricotta in a Light Pink Sauce. The ravioli’s stuffing had just the right balance of ricotta and spinach and the sauce was creamy and flavorful without being too heavy.

Orecchiette Porcelle, or orecchiette with sweet sausage in a spicy tomato sauce, was Win’s entrée. He loved it and although he’s usually too full to finish a large plate of pasta in one sitting, he easily downed this delicious dish.

Our waiter was very friendly, he knew just when to refill our glasses of Chianti, and he kept our meal moving at a pleasant pace.

Vespa was really, really good and reasonably priced. It’s located on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, which makes for a nice walk before or after dinner. There are several cute shops to peruse nearby as well as the beautiful UNC campus. Win and I agreed that we’ll definitely go back to Vespa on future trips to see his family.

Next time At Our Table: Amazing, amazing sandwich. Seriously, you must try this one.

Vespa Cibobuono
306D West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC
Telephone: 919-969-6600

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Southern Delights

As I mentioned last time, we recently got back from a visit to Win's parents' house in North Carolina. His parents are excellent cooks and bakers and they always feed us well. While visiting, also usually try and get out to a couple restaurants and shops to sample the local fare.

In my mind, no visit to their part of North Carolina is complete without a trip to A Southern Season. A Southern Season is one of the largest and most interesting cooking and food-related shops I have ever seen. Check out these photos to see for yourself. The massive, well-decorated and welcoming store boasts a large section devoted to coffee and tea, an enormous wine section, and then cases and cases of imported meats, gourmet cheeses, fresh salads, and other tempting dishes. The store sells all sorts of cookware, bakeware, and gadgets and I could stand in the aisles for hours just perusing all the interesting merchandise. They sell china, flatware, linens, and all sorts of table and dining room decorations. The racks of A Southern Season are chock full of unique condiments, sauces, spices, cookies, crackers, and other treats. They also have many regional specialties on hand, showcasing some of the best flavors of North Carolina cuisine.

Every time I go to A Southern Season, I want to buy practically everything I see. Fortunately for my bank account, I am always traveling by plane back home and I convince myself that buying all these things would be impractical and impossible to carry. I have ordered from their web site before, however, with excellent results. So if you have occasion to visit the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, definitely pay A Southern Season a visit. If you enjoy food, cooking and entertaining, you'll enjoy getting lost amidst all their treasures.

Besides our visit to A Southern Season, we ate some tasty Southern food too. One night I went out with a friend to Mama Dip's. It was a Mom's Night Out and I was off duty as a blogger, so sorry but no photos of this one. Mama Dip's has been serving up very traditional Southern food in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for 25 years. While the décor in Mama Dip's is basic, the menu is full of pitch perfect Southern standards. My friend Debra and I tried the corn bread, the Brunswick Stew, the Catfish Gumbo, an order of fried green tomatoes, and an order of fried zucchini & broccoli with cheese. All of the food was very good. It should be noted that Deb and I aren't native Southerners (she's a Midwesterner now living in North Carolina and I'm an East Coast girl now living in Chicago). As such, our non-Southern palates encouraged us to select dishes that were delicious and traditional, but not the epitome of Southern cooking. For those who like the real deal, Mama Dip's also features chitlins, chicken and dumplings, black eye peas, collards, country ham, sweet potato biscuits and all sorts of barbeque.

Later in our visit, Win's parents took us to Allen & Sons for lunch. Again, I was off-duty for this one so I don't have any photos to share. Allen & Sons has amazing barbeque, slow-cooked on a wood fire that gives the meat an absolutely delicious taste. We started our lunch with sweet tea and an order of hush puppies. For me, that combo right there is heaven. Then we dove into their barbeque. Their barbeque (pulled pork) sandwich is so, so good. The meat is tender, smoky, and perfectly flavored. Despite being happily full with the barbeque sandwich, we all ordered one of their homemade desserts because they sounded too good to pass up. With that, coconut chess pie, cherry cobbler, blueberry pie and Klondike pie were delivered to our table. All of them were outstanding in their own, unique way. Our Lima Bean, who has never seen so much dessert all in one place in her life, was thrilled to have bites of everyone's pie. She proclaimed loudly that "Daddy's is best." So Lima's vote went with the Klondike; I'm going to have to say the coconut chess pie stood out for me as the most unique and intriguing. Allen & Sons has friendly servers and a charming, casual dining room. We were lucky to get there early because at peak lunch time they were packed. Their food is so good, I can absolutely see why.

Late one night, Win and I took a drive around Chapel Hill while my in-laws kindly babysat Lima for us. Knowing I am a complete sucker for sweet tea, Win lured me to one of his old favorites from his college days: Time Out. Time Out is a tiny takeout joint on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, right next to the University of North Carolina campus. It's open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year and it specializes in Southern food and traditional takeout staples. Nothing fancy, but it's somewhat of an institution among the college set.

For years Win has raved about the chicken biscuit at Time Out. This sandwich is a fried chicken breast served on a warm biscuit. When you order the chicken biscuit, the person behind the counter grabs a piece of chicken, fried and on the bone, and uses tongs to rip the breast portion off. He or she then slaps the chicken breast on a biscuit and off you go. Win is in love with this chicken biscuit and it's been years since he's had one, so he loved trying it again. I thought the sandwich was good, but to be honest I was just happy sitting there slurping down my giant sweet tea. Ahhh, sweet tea...

So that sums up the Southern food portion of our trip to North Carolina. We had another excellent, non-Southern meal out, but I'll save that for next time.

Next time At Our Table: The polenta that blew my mind

A Southern Season
Highway 15-501 at Estes Drive
University Mall
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Telephone: 800-253-3663
Web Site:

Mama Dip's Kitchen

408 W. Rosemary Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Telephone: 919-942-5837
Web Site:

Allen & Sons barbecue
6203 Millhouse Road

Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Telephone: 919-942-7576

Time Out
133 W Franklin Street

Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Telephone: 919-929-2425

**People of Southern Season: I love you and yes, I do accept gifts.