the avena shake from irazu on n. milwaukee ave.

I wasn’t in #Illinois for more than 48 hours when I found myself hitting places that are old favorites. Of things I love very much, the avena (oatmeal) shake from Irazu on N. Milwaukee certainly places in my top ten. Irazu is a family-owned restaurant in Wicker Park that has grown over the years. The flavor is Costa Rican, and their standout dish is actually this shake. Avena con leche (oatmeal with milk) although you can choose water or soy milk. As for ingredients, I would guess a blend of ice, milk, oatmeal, cinnamon, sugar, and maybe some nutmeg.

Chicago Illinois Irazu Costa Rican Restaurant Avena shake

If you’re super hungry, you can add a burrito, sandwich, taquitos, empanadas, or another one of my go-tos: the palmito salad. Be sure to have cash on hand as Irazu doesn’t accept credit/debit cards. Disfrútate (enjoy yourself).

pączki for the mardi gras win

Mardi Gras is serious fun in the South–especially New Orleans and Mobile–where the Krewe fêtes are plentiful, the parades are noisy and joyful, and King Cake comes in all different flavors and varieties. In the North where you can find Polish bakeries, Mardi Gras means pączki (pronounced ponch-key). And these calorie-busting, jelly-filled doughnuts at local bakeries draw long lines.

Paczki Mardi Gras Chicago Illinois

Source: Melissa Wang via Flickr

Pączki are also enjoyed on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek), and the reason for making pączki is to use up all of the ingredients (lard, sugar, eggs, fruit) before Lent kicks in. Bridgeport Bakery on S. Archer in the South Side of Chicago has an unassuming storefront, but you’d never guess they sell tens of thousands (yes, tens of thousands) of pączki on Fat Tuesday, also known as Pączki Day. If you didn’t make it to Bridgeport Bakery this week, don’t fret. They sell four different varieties of pączki all year round.

buttermilk popsicles at deep south pops

Ran an errand yesterday in downtown #Jackson, and woo wee, it was a warm and sunny day. Almost 82 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty special for the end of February. When Mother Nature dials up the warm-weather crank, I head to DSP–Deep South Pops on N. State Street.

Heaven on a stick is the Strawberry Buttermilk Popsicle. The crushed strawberries are fresh, and the buttermilk lends the popsicle a slightly tart/sour vibe. Translation: This popsicle isn’t ultra sweet.

The buttermilk popsicle is also available in blueberry, which is almost as good as the strawberry version.

If you need a caffeine pick me up, Deep South Pops offers an assortment of coffee drinks. It’s a cool space to hang out and chill.

that time i ate boiled crawfish at capitol auto body shop

The title here is a bit misleading. I didn’t eat crawfish in an auto body shop, but did I try these shellfish at a client appreciation event in a tent area adjoining Capitol Auto Body Shop in Flowood, #Mississippi? You betcha. And gotta say, eating boiled crawfish is a messy business.

Crawfish boil Deep South

Source: Louisiana Sea Grant College Program via Flickr

Crawfish happen to be the state crustacean of Louisiana, and crawfish boils really get fired up in late February but also March and April. A proper crawfish boil involves a lot of crawfish, seasoning, onions, garlic, red potatoes, and ears of corn. To eat a crawfish, hold the head in one hand and the tail in the other hand. Twist and pull, peel off the shell layers, and you have the meat from the tail. You can also suck the juice from the head, but I skipped this part. Mike the Crawfish Peeling Machine offers an illustrated, step-by-step guide here. Bon temps!

give me tacos

I was hungry. Not exactly hangry, but could use a bite to eat. Tacos, I was thinking. I knew where to head after a day of exploring Saint Petersburg. Over the bridge and back to Empamamas in the Tampa Heights neighborhood. This sign had me at Roses Are Red.

Empamamas Armature Works Tampa Heights Florida

What makes a great taco? In my opinion, it needs a proper foundation (foundation as in tortilla), and flour just doesn’t cut it. Too soggy, too limp. The tortilla has to be corn, and Empamamas checked that box. Deliciously cooked proteins. Empamamas checked that box as well. Add to the above fresh vegetables, pico, and street corn, and my meal/day was made. Give me tacos. The end.

sunny side up

One of my dearest friends invited me to come hang out in #Florida for a couple days, so I got in my little car and headed south and east. The drive from Jackson to the Sunshine State is a bit long (about 11 hours), but the experiences and sights are pretty interesting.

Got brunch at Shore in #Sarasota, and it’s impossible to go wrong with a sunny-side up egg, avocado, and tomato sandwich.

Shore Restaurant Sarasota Florida

Stood under some beautiful Spanish moss.

Spanish moss Sarasota Florida

Also stopped at Bradenton Beach, and the sand is powdery soft. This little guy didn’t seem to mind us taking photos. Life’s a beach.

Egret Bradenton Beach Bradenton Florida

the egg & olive sandwich at brent’s drugs

The best thing to happen to two slices of whole-wheat toast? It’s the Egg & Olive sandwich at Brent’s Drugs in #Fondren. It’s egg salad with chopped green olives mixed in. I order it every time I visit and never regret my choice. Never as in ever.

Egg & Olive Sandwich Brent's Drugs Fondren Jackson Mississippi Deep South

Brent’s has been in operation since 1946. Originally opened by pharmacist Alvin Brent, this drugstore was–and still is–a staple gathering place for Jacksonians. Brent’s is now a diner with a lovely soda fountain counter. If you’re super hungry, you can order the E&O with a root beer float on the side. Or milkshake. Nom.

Brents Drugs Fondren Jackson Mississipppi Deep South