Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Taste of Downtown

I don't get to make it to downtown often for several reasons, the biggest being there is usually only street parking and I never learned how to parallel park. So I haven't been to a lot of the great restaurants downtown has to offer. Most of them aren't open early in the morning when The Good Daughter and I go to the Farmer's Market. But even if they were, I would feel a little awkward with my stroller among the white linen tablecloths.

So the Taste of Downtown is a great opportunity for me to get to sample food from all the great vendors and do it in a kid friendly and relaxed environment. The Taste started at noon and we got there soon after in an attempt to beat the heat and the crowds. While it was crowded, I didn't have to wait in line at any booth at all. The heat, I wasn't able to avoid.

The first thing we sampled was a lobster corn dog with a spicy mustard sauce. I really liked this and so did TGD, who ate the entire thing after I had the first bite. Very tasty with a mild lobster flavor. The sauce was a little too spicy, though.

Next were chicken pot stickers with a sweet chili sauce. These were just ok. TGD liked them though.

Next was bacon wrapped shrimp. $6 for three shrimp. I was more than a little disappointed about this overpriced dish. The cocktail sauce seemed to lack any flavor other than tomato paste. I love my cocktail sauce with a hearty dose horseradish and this had none. I wish I would have skipped this dish.

TGD had a orange dreamsicle cupcake. I only got a taste of the frosting which was good. She didn't share the rest, so it must have been good.

The next dish was a sample of "cuddlers" - a meal in a pie pocket. Fillings are stuffed into dough and baked for a crispy take on a pierogi. I had wanted to eat at this cafe before but couldn't find it the last time I was downtown (I also have a horrible sense of direction to complete my lack of parking skills). I had low expectations going in for this dish, but it was one of the highlights of the day.

I got the mini sampler of 4 different kinds. This first one was a spinach artichoke cuddler. Very tasty.

The second cuddler was a BBQ Chicken. The BBQ was sweet and mild and the chicken was tender and juicy. Very good.

The third cuddler was a pizza supreme. Sausage in pizza sauce with pepper and onion. Very good but ugly, so no photo.

This was the best cuddler out of the four. It was a quiche with spinach and mushroom. It was the most flavorful of all the cuddlers. I will have to go back and order some of these to go. They were great.

This was the other highlight of the day. This is a local, organic micro brewery beer.

IT WAS AMAZING. I tried to get bottles of it on the spot; it was that good. Unfortunately, bottles aren't available for sale just yet.

Here is the description from their website: This brew boarders on an imperial hefeweizen with big citrus note from the wheat used in the recipe, so there's no need for a stupid lemon slice or orange slice ( n.f.l.s. / n.f.o.s. ). There is also a banana flavor from the fermentation. Bringing a balance to these sweet and citrus flavors are our farm grown hops, a bitter note in to the flavor profile.

All these flavors together serve to balance each other in a harmonious blend, with a start, a middle and an end. The start, an initial nose of banana and clove with a taste to match. The middle is a soft citrus, flowing and slowing the sweet of the banana start. The end is a finish of citrus-like bitterness. This comes from our central Illinois farm grown whole cone hops, grown on Rolling Meadows Farm, where our brewery is located.

I had high hopes for this dish too and was disappointed. This was from a vendor that isn't actually downtown, but rather, owned by the owner of downtown restaurant. It is a concept restaurant whose goal is to "offer our guests a dining experience that encompasses quality food and service from start to finish. It is our mission to use only the freshest ingredients, sourced from farmers right here in Illinois. We want to encourage the sustainable movement happening in our community by endorsing farms that are locally owned and family operated, and grow beautiful products without the use of pesticides."

The Good Husband and I went there in May for our anniversary and we both really enjoyed it. So I was happy to see them at the taste. However, this dish was only ok. It was a chicken confit taco with buffalo corn salad. The chicken was watery and a little bland, and the corn tortillas would have been so much better toasted. The salad was the best part of the dish.

So overall the entire thing was ok. There weren't a lot of crowds, it wasn't too hot and the beer and cuddlers and lobster corn dog were the best part. I won't devote my social calendar to it next year, but if I am already downtown, I might go again.


Jo said...

We love going to the Taste. It's nice to support the local businesses and the food usually isn't too bad. My favorite was some sort of taco I got from the Cafe Brio stand.

Oh, and the cuddler restaurant is at 4th and Monroe. It's just west of the Post Office, across the street from an old flower shop. They have a pretty good lunch special.

The Good Wife said...

We might try it again next year, Jo. I should have gone to Cafe Brio's stand. I have never had anything bad from them ever.

You can get cuddler as a take a bake, so I will have to go down there and get some.