Saturday, August 1, 2009

Yolk, Chicago IL

At home breakfast is the same nearly every day – after a good workout it is a filling salad with chicken, fried eggs, and a parfait of yogurt, fruit, salt, and protein powder. When on vacation breakfast is the same nearly every day as well – after a good workout it is pastries, pancakes, donuts, or whatever childish combination of flavors I can find – vacation is a time for fun and breakfast is fun! Having already done both Bongo Rooms and Over Easy in Chicago the decision for the morning meal before Alinea was Yolk on Michigan Avenue before heading over to the Gold Coast Art Show. Opening at 7am with our group arriving at 8:45 the place was jammed – but thankfully parking was close-by and cheap – with a line so long I expected good things and surprisingly we were seated in less than 15 minutes.

Having already browsed the pastry case and seated in the middle of the large room I must say I was impressed by the food but taken back by the noise level – between the close packed tables, loud voices, and clatter of utensils I simply found the music unnecessary – even if it was Neko Case who is superb. Greeted by our friendly server our water was filled and drink orders were taken along with an order for three pastry appetizers. Arriving in short order my sister’s tea selection, my coffee, and mom/aunt’s orange juices were all good and my coffee was kept refilled quite adequately – thankfully I brought my own nutrasweet, though as Yolk had only Splenda and Equal (does Steve Wynn own this place?? :-))

Following the beverages were our pastries – dessert before dessert-esque breakfast? Sure! Ever since I was offered dessert at breakfast in LA this has been my mantra. Starting first with the blueberry muffin – lets just say it was still warm, super buttery with hints of vanilla, and loaded with very fresh blueberries – all told I liked it ($2) better than my Blueberry Baba at Spiaggia the night before.

The second pastry was their “famous” cinnamon roll. While I can’t say I’ve heard of their cinnamon roll before (as compared to Ann Sather’s) I will state now that it has replaced Omega as my favorite cinnamon roll to date. Creamy and luscious with heavy hints of cinnamon, vanilla, and butter the frosting was an additionally wonderful addition with its sour cream cheese essence lingering throughout the palate – I need to taste Sather’s on my next trip to see if it even compares.

The third pastry – homage to the previously mentioned LA meal – was a griddle grilled Pecan Roll. While good and perfectly prepared with a crispy/buttery exterior I simply must state that after the cinnamon roll it didn’t have a chance. Good, but not “amazing” – just get the cinnamon roll, it costs less too.

Sharing our appetizers around we were all primed for the main event and once again Yolk produced quite quickly – we had our mains within 20 minutes of seating and lingered over them for some time without feeling rushed at all. Starting with my option – mostly because I always wait to see what everyone else orders before making my decision (in order to maximize tasting options) - Semi-sweet Chocolate and Strawberry Cakes. While tasty, I personally found the cakes to be a bit doughy and (like Bongo Room the day before) more like McDonald’s Hotcakes than I’d prefer. Draped with a small dollop of whipped cream and even less chocolate I was fortunate that the strawberries were of good quality – but regardless the dish required a lot of extra syrup to be as tasty as hoped.

The next dish, one of the two I’d wanted to order but was glad others had chosen so that I could sample, was my sister’s Cinnamon Roll French Toast – essentially one of Yolks previously mentioned awesome cinnamon rolls cut lengthwise and griddled. Without adding any additional cream cheese frosting aside from that which topped the original I’m not really sure why there was a $4 increase to simply pan fry this item and my sister noted that the top layer was way too sweet while the rest was way too bland. The taste I had was quite tasty and well complimented by the maple syrup, but I’d stick to the plain cinnamon roll sans grilling.

Ordered by my mother, Cheese Blintzes with Raspberry and Sourcream was a dish I’d not have ordered, but she didn’t want something “too sweet.” Very well formed and appropriately airy crepes were served filled with creamy cheese and along with fresh sour (and I mean SOUR) cream and a wonderful raspberry compote. Not a fan of sour cream in general I took one taste of the dish with sour cream and reconfirmed my belief. Thankfully my mother opted to top each Blintz individually I did re-taste the dish sans sour cream when she couldn’t finish and did appreciate the quality of the presentation and how the creamy cheese mellowed the sweet compote.

The final selection, the dish I’d planned to order on browsing the online menu, was ordered by my aunt - Peanut Butter Banana Nut Bread French Toast. Having had Banana Bread Pudding French Toast at Brenda’s in San Francisco and Norma’s famous Banana Bread in NYC I only hoped this dish could live up to my expectations – and mostly it did. Thick cut and crisply fried banana bread, a small degree of egginess, strong hints of cinnamon, and all the better when topped with Peanut Butter. My only complaint would actually be the quality of the Peanut Butter – clearly a canned/jarred non-natural I would’ve much preferred something with less added sweetness – I’m picky about my Peanut Butter.

When it was all said and done I do believe Yolk was our cheapest meal of the weekend and I enjoyed the experience moreso than our meal at Spiaggia the night before – despite the packed seating I didn’t get elbowed once! With that noted, I can’t say I’d return to Yolk on future trips simply because better options exist – specifically Bongo Room and m.henry.

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