Sep 062011
Bubble & Squeak from Owen & Engine

Owen & Engine's version of Bubble & Squeak

I think part of the fun of dining out is finding the new and unexpected. So I was absolutely delighted when I spotted Bubble and Squeak on the menu at Owen & Engine this weekend. Admittedly, this was because I had no idea what the hell it was AND I enjoyed saying it. I am a woman of simple pleasures.

Bubble and Squeak, if you don’t know, is a fancy potato pancake with chopped-up left-over veggies. The name comes from the sound of the mixture frying up in a pan with lots of butter. It’s usually served with things like pickles, sliced meat, or a fried egg, but Owen & Engine has it on the sides menu so you can decide to pair it up however you’d like. The restaurant doesn’t use left-overs in their version, and they skipped some of the traditional veggies to go with turnips and onions.

It was delicious, and most importantly, Owen & Engine inspired me to go home and try my own version.

Bubble and Squeak

A selection of veggies and figs in a clay roaster

I don’t talk a lot about cooking on this site because I only know how to make recipes for a small army, and there’s seldom reason for me to feed a large number of people. My freezer is now full of bubble and squeak components, which is the bad news. The good news? This dish is incredible easy to make, and doesn’t really require a recipe — only a will to chop.

Over the course of an afternoon, I roasted cabbage, figs, Brussels sprouts, garlic, onions, potatoes, and carrots in my clay roaster. I let the veggies cool, chopped them up, and then mixed small portions together into the mashed potatoes I made. I fried the patties in some butter until they were brown on both sides, and topped my dish with a fried egg.


Bubble and Squeak

Bubble and Squeak

I need to play with the veggie-mashed potato portion a bit, and not fry it for quite so long. Other than that, this is awesome comfort food. I have some left-over pickles from Owen & Engine which I’ll use to plate my next version. Who knows? I may even try to make pickles when these run out.

In the meantime, go get inspired down at the local pub:

Owen & Engine
2700 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

May 312011
Pret A Manger

Pret A Manger has a serve yourself approach to lunch.

When I was in high school, I took an overseas trip that had a 14 hour layover in Heathrow. The only meals available at the airport were pre-packaged sandwiches wrapped in little plastic containers or candy bars. I decided sugar wasn’t a healthy way to get through my trip, so I grabbed the ham and cheese instead. Bad choice. That sandwich was one of the nastiest I have ever had — damp, flavorless, and I discovered after biting into it, with mold on the packaging. Something about the look and packaging of Pret A Manger reminded me so strongly of that experience that it kept me from considering it seriously as a lunch spot.

Sweet Chili Shrimp & Avocado | Pret a Manger

Sweet Chili Shrimp & Avocado

I ended up there one day because it was at a perfect in-between restaurant between me and a friend, and because I’d been chatting with someone about my royal wedding coffee mug that I won online. Pret A Manger, if you didn’t know, started in London in 1986 — a year after my first trip there.

I brushed off my bad memories and walked in just before the press of business people descended like locusts on the place. Pret A Manger reminds me strongly of an industrial cafeteria — neat, tidy and with an ample amount of shiny seating if you get there early. It wouldn’t be out of place at O’hare at all.

There are several pre-packaged full and half-sandwich and salad options available, and you can dispense your own soup to-go as well. However, that’s where the comparison to my remembered airport food stops. The chain prides itself on items made fresh daily, and their sandwich choices include seasonal and ethnic choices.

Nicoise Salad | Pret A Manger

Nicoise Salad

I tried a half-sandwich stuffed with shrimp, avocado, and fresh greens. The sweet chili sauce on top had a satisfying kick, and made me wish I’d gotten a full-size portion. My friend went with a nicoise salad that was perfect and sizable. The boiled eggs didn’t have that ring of green around the yolk that comes from over-cooking, and the tomato wasn’t at all mushy. Fresh, tasty, and healthy? Yes to all three.

I was suitably impressed with the food, though I still don’t like the looks of the place. Pret A Manger just released their new Summer menu, so I’ll probably drop by and get a hummus & veggie sandwich or some lentils & couscous to go. For $10 or less, it’s in-line with downtown lunch prices and a better choice than most of the fast-food in the area.

Pret A Manger
211 West Adams Street
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 546-8270

Mar 072006
Elephant & Castle

Elephant & Castle

Elephant & Castle is far too busy for everyone to know your name, but if you go there often enough, you start to become part of the active hum that runs through the place. Whether it’s the after-work crowd popping in for a brew or St. Paddy’s Day maniacs who cheer the drum & pipe crews shoving their way through the crowd, Elephant & Castle is always filled with people in a very good mood. And yet, it’s also a wonderful place to eat a quiet lunch or dinner with friends. I’ve been in after-work, on St. Patrick’s Day, and had dinner there many evening, and I plan to go back as long as I’m employed downtown. It’s my quick escape after a hard day’s work.

What’s your favorite home away from work restaurant? Drop us a line and tell us where everyone knows your name.

Chicago Bites (13.5M)

Show Notes:
00:00 – 00:58 Intro
00:59 – 09:16 Elephant & Castle Review
09:17 – 09:24 Wrap-up & Sign-off

Elephant & Castle
111 West Adams Street
Chicago, IL
Get Directions

Bridget rates this restaurant 8/10
Tammy rates this restaurant 7/10