Floriole

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On Webster Street near DePaul, Floriole offers a beautiful setting for its coffee, bakery goods and food. The decor is warm and modern.

I was prepared to love this spot, which was new to me. However, my quiche was so disappointing. In fact, it was the worst I’d ever had. The Starbucks in China offer consistently good quiche for less. How I missed it. This quiche was very custardy or gooey in a way that didn’t appeal to me at all. I ate about half and didn’t enjoy the egg part at all. The price was more than double Starbucks. Also, it’s a place where there’s no table service.

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The Unappealing Quiche

I should have gone up to complain, but I didn’t want to make a fuss. My introversion got in the way. It’s a shame they don’t have employees asking if everything’s alright. I probably would have mentioned the quiche and given them a chance to make me more satisfied.

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hot cider

Their hot apple cider was good, but smaller than I expected for the price.

I might go back, but I’d order something different.

 

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Shake Shack

Since I’d seen the 60 Minutes feature on Shake Shack, it seemed high time that I visit this high caloric eatery. Ordering was efficient and the man who took our orders was polite. Even though

I soon got my ShakeBurger and chocolate shake. The shake was decadently delicious, while the burger was good, but nothing exceptional. My friend had the same sandwich and a salted caramel shake, which she said was very good.

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I’d say the burger isn’t on par with what we’d get a Hackney’s, a legendary Chicago-area spot, and it’s not as good as what people make themselves at home, but you’d pay a few dollars more at a better spot.

If you look at the calorie count, you’ll see that Shake Shack is an indulgence. I’d have tried a holiday shake, but those were over 800 calories!

The interior was a step up from a Wendy’s or even the nicest McDonalds.

Shake Shack started in New York and is moving across the country.

Vie Restaurant

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Salmon Amuse-Bouche

In October I visited the award winning Vie Restaurant twice – once for my aunt’s 80th birthday party and last night after attending a wake for my father’s best friend.

The food at the birthday party was terrific. Perhaps I just chose really well. The salad, gnocchi and beef with mashed potatoes and squash I had were terrific. The appetizer selection of cheeses and sausages was also superb.

But last night’s meal, which I went to with my parents and their friends wasn’t as on the mark. Part of the problem was sticker shock. We probably should have expected high prices given the awards the chef has won, but we didn’t. We probably should have figured that the grey book on the table was the drink menu, but we didn’t look at it. So we were shocked to see that the chardonnay my mother ordered was $20 and my red wine, which I didn’t love, was $16 for a glass.

The menu showed the entree prices and described the artistic offerings. The problem was each item had something that needed an explanation. Will I like “sweet potato-tofu hash”? Probably not. What is blueberry aigre doux or pickled ramp remoulade or tatsoi? It took our party a long time to order because the menu was so gourmet.

It’s not like we’re bumpkins, but none of us was up on all the trends.

After our drinks arrived we were given some bread, which was a lovely sour dough and butter. Then we got an amuse-bouche, salmon with a tomato mayonnaise.

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I played it safe and ordered the shaved asian pears, mesclun, pancetta, giardiniera vinaigrette, crispy sauerkraut salad and the hamburger.

It took quite a while for our food to come. The pacing this night was off.

If I’d known my wine would be so pricey, I would not have ordered the salad, which for all the flowery description, wasn’t as good as what I can make myself. The pears sure were shaved, so much so that they didn’t add much flavor. The grilled sauerkraut sounded exotic, but tasted like just thinly julienned fried anything. The salad wasn’t bad and the portion was big enough to share, but I wasn’t blown away.

 

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The hamburger was fine too. Not the best I’ve had, but not the worst. It was alright, but for $19, I expect wonderful. The french fries weren’t at all good. They were shorter than usual, greasier and too salty. A lot of fast food establishments do better with fries. I just ate half the burger and fewer than half the fries and the doggy bag is stored in the fridge. Typically, a good burger will be my first choice for lunch the next day, but I figured I can wait as it wasn’t spectacular. I’ll probably throw out the fries.

The other members of the party had the white fish or the black fish. They were satisfied but not blown away.

The service was fine, but nothing special. I think the waitress was tentative because she got off to a poor start by asking, “Are you celebrating anything tonight?” We let her know we’d just come from a wake.  She was nice, but a bit aloof. My father asked for recommendations and hers seemed contrived.

The Who Café

I’d seen 3D latte art in Taipei on Instagram so when I visited I asked my hotel to suggest where I could find a café that offers it and they came up with The Who Café which is a couple blocks from the Taipei 101 MRT station, exit 2. It’s hard to find as it’s on the second floor and the stairs are between a garage and a cake shop.

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When I went there, I passed it the first time I went up the street. I did find it, but didn’t know they didn’t open till 11:00 am so my plan for breakfast there was out. (I wound up going back up the street to a Starbucks.)

Later in the day I returned and got the cat latte above. I got the brown sugar latte which was sweet but not too sweet. The Who Café is best to visit when you’re not in a hurry because the artful lattes do take time and it also seemed like the staff wasn’t all that organized. So though I had to leave in a rush, I would go back and was happy with my drink.

A Shame

Recently to celebrate a friends’ birthday, four friends and I went to eat at Bon Appetit, an Italian restaurant which used to be run by an Italian American married to a woman from Jinan. About a year ago he returned to the US so his children could have a better education.

The last time I went, which was a while back, the food was good, but the service wasn’t what it used to be. This time my food and the food that two of my friends ordered was fine. Unfortunately, two other friends got terrible food poisoning and were up all night in the bathroom. The birthday “girl” was so sick that she had to cancel classes the next day.

The last thing a restaurant should do is make people sick. I emailed them and never got a reply. I would have let this problem go, but I don’t want Bon Appetit to make other people sick. I wouldn’t wish food poisoning on anyone. Last weekend I got a Chinese friend to call them. The response was very disappointing. They insisted that none of the other guests got sick. Well, we were the only table in the restaurant that night. There were no other guests. We weren’t looking for freebies. I just wanted to tell them about a problem so they could correct it and build their business. I used to want to see them succeed. Now their defensiveness has completely turned me off. I’d never return to Bon Appetit, which used to be a gem.

Those days are over and neglect has ruined a once good restaurant.

Guild Hall Dining, #1

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While on a walking tour of Beijing’s Tienanmen Square and environs, I learned that from way back when each province of China has had guild halls where envoys from the provinces would stay. These halls also have restaurants where anyone can sample the best cuisine from each province for a relatively low price.

I found a list of these spots on a blog called Eileen Eats and have wanted to visit some for quite a while. This past weekend I had a friend who was game and we went to Xingjiang Fanzhuang Urumuqi Muncipal Office for lunch.

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Since the blog contains the addresses in Chinese as well as the romanized pinyin, we could show a taxi where to go. Urumuqi is the capital of Xinjiang, a western province with a large population of Uighurs, an ethnic group that differs from the Han Chinese in language, culture and politics. I’ve had good Uighur food in Beijing at a restaurant that’s disappeared and on my trip to Urumuqi.

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Lamb & onions

After a 15 minute taxi ride from the South Cathedral at Xuanwumen, we arrived in a neighborhood and weren’t sure we got to the right place, then we saw a Central Asian facade on a building set back from the street. Sure enough this was the right place.

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Potatoes

Upon entering we where struck by the noisy bustle of the restaurant. The place was busy and the wait staff scurried about. Soon someone noticed us and gave us a card with a number. Then after awhile someone was shouting a number in Chinese and was getting frustrated that no one was responding. I guessed, correctly, that they were calling for us. We were shown to a table and given a menu with English and with photos. Since it seemed we were the only foreigners there we were surprised, and delighted that there was English. The menu featured a lot of lamb dishes and some exotic items like braised camel’s feet. We chose a lamb and onion dish, some meat pockets, which were a lot like what a Mongolian friend would make, and Xinjiang vegetables, which turned out to be potatoes in a spicy sauce.

The food was fine, but not spectacular. Our tab came to 62 rmb (so less than $10 USD). The decor was Central Asian with a touch of Russian.

I think we should have followed Eileen’s advice and gotten the “polou rice.” I was just delighted that we found a place off the beaten path. I’d definitely try another provincial restaurant and possibly go back to this one if a friend was eager. It was easy to get a cab back to the city center.

(Tip – If you don’t speak Chinese, just say Tienanmen or Wangfujing and you’ll get to a place where you’re likely to find something to do or hop on the subway.)

Restaurant Review

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Dianne, her student Emma and I went to Daming Lake on Tuesday for what’s become a weekly evening walk. Before the moon came out, we found a new, intriguing restaurant in a refurbished old shop by the canals downtown. The name is in Chinese and I can’t

While the exterior looks traditional, inside there’s a crisp, bright, artsy look.

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Restaurant location marked in red

With Emma’s help we ordered mixed vegetables, fried tofu and what we thought was tempura rose petals.

The tofu was served in a dramatic manner. The server brought us a black plate with a circle of salt and the tofu stuffed inside foil. She lit the salt and flames heated the tofu before they went out. Then she cut a cross through the tofu to open it.

The tempura rose petals turned out to be tempura mashed purple potatoes, with rose petals as a garnish. Probably tastier than the petals we thought we’d get. I admit I first thought it was red bean paste inside and I turned up my nose at the dish. Once Emma said it was purple potatoes, I liked it. That says a lot more about me and psychology than the food itself.

The mixed vegetables, while not innovative were a tasty addition to the meal. We’d definitely return.