Shop Stop: Carlos & Sarah’s Surplus of Options

Yes, that’s the actual name, Carlos & Sarah’s Surplus of Options. I can never remember it; I actually had to Google Street View the sign to get the name. It shares an unassuming building with a body shop on the same block as the Trader Joe’s in North Center, and I think the windows are tinted because sometimes it’s hard to spot.

But it’s worth a stop. A surplus of options there most definitely is at this resale store of sorts. You never really know what you’re going to find in there—vintage clocks, G.I. Joe’s, lamps, artwork, books, coconuts… you get the idea—and while I’ve never actually bought anything, I love to visit because it’s almost like a much-less-overwhelming House on the Rock. (Has anyone been there? That place could seriously make a person go crazy. I haven’t been there since I was about 12, but I certainly don’t want to go back any time soon.)

Plus, the owners, Carlos and Sarah, are 20-somethings too so I feel like I should support ’em. The prices are fair, the shop clerks (maybe Carlos and Sarah, I’m not sure) are friendly and there’s always something interesting to look at—if not buy. It’s hard to characterize; check out the pictures and you’ll see what I mean:

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Carlos & Sarah’s Surplus of Options, 3664 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-827-1330

UPDATE 10/1/13: I’m sad to say that Surplus of Options has closed it’s doors. We’re sorry to see you go!

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Foodie Friday: Strawberry Mango Salsa

If this isn’t summer in a bowl, I’m not sure what is. I offered to make something to bring down to my parents’ cookout (even though I knew my mom would have made way more than enough for all of us—and she did), so I thought I’d try something new. I looove having fresh fruit salsa on tilapia, but this we ate on cinnamon pita chips from Trader Joe’s—so. addictive.

McConkie Menu cautions against putting too much basil in, but my warning would be to watch the red onion—it can easily overpower the strawberries and mangos. That said, I think I got a particularly potent red onion because I was crying my eyes out cutting it up!

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This is obviously pre-mixing. I got too excited to try it after and forgot to take another pic!

Click here for the full recipe.

Foodie Friday: Fried Chicken Sandwich with Pickle Slaw

Guys, you’re not going to believe this. Hell, I barely believe it myself.

Me, the non-cook just six months ago, made something from the cover of Bon Appétit.

Gm5jPAnd it turned out awesome! Julio says it’s the best thing I’ve ever made (which could not be saying a whole lot, ha). It’s a fried chicken sandwich with pickle slaw and spicy mayo… BOOM!

I was so focused on getting it all right that I didn’t even take pictures of all the steps. But that’s ok; it’s a really easy recipe to follow. I did make a couple tweaks though:

For the slaw: I don’t like bread and butter pickles, so I subbed in dill and it came out just fine. But be careful how much fresh jalapeno you put in there if you don’t like spicy foods. I made it a day in advance so the cabbage would soak up the flavors.

For the chicken: OK, there’s no way the chicken on the cover is a breast halved crosswise—look at that thing! But I bought the thin sliced breasts at Trader Joe’s not knowing just how thin they’d be… well, let me tell you, it’s a step above deli meat. But we just put two on each sandwich, and it tasted great! I don’t have the deep-fry thermometer (and I thought buying one would only encourage me to deep fry everything) BA suggests, so I just eyeballed it. I imagine doing a regular-sized breast would make that more difficult.

For the buns: Is it just me or are Trader Joe’s bread products pretty weak? Well, except the pretzel rolls, which are phenomenal. I didn’t feel like going to another grocery just to get white buns, so we gave it a shot with pretzel, and I think the substantial-ness of the pretzel really helped keep the sandwich together. I didn’t warm the rolls with butter, like the recipe says; I just tossed them in the oven for a couple minutes. (This is already a not-very-healthy recipe, so I figured skipping the butter was a good call.)

IMG_0915Oh my god, my mouth is majorly watering right now just remembering how freaking delicious these were. I’ll definitely be making them again. Maybe tonight…

Click here for the recipe.

Mariano’s Fresh Market

Have I ever talked about my love/hate relationship with grocery stores on here? I can’t remember. Well anyway, listen to me rant once more if you would. For the most part, I really dislike grocery stores in the city. They’re always crowded, there’s never enough cashiers, it always takes me two trips up and down the store to find everything I need, the size is overwhelming… is that enough reasons? So to show my disgust, I generally just don’t buy grocery. I’m showing them! Right…?

Of course the answer is no. I end up eating frozen pizza and Wheat Thins and whatever else I can round up just so I don’t have to visit a Jewel or Dominick’s any more than I need to. Sure, Whole Foods is ok but way too expensive, and I don’t mind Trader Joe’s except they get crowded, too, and the cashiers are way to chatty.

But, low and behold, a new grocery story recently opened in my ‘hood – Mariano’s! Apparently it’s a chain, but I’d never heard of it before. Not sure if it’s just because it’s new, but I seem to be in like with it – and that’s saying a lot coming from me. They have free samples everywhere, the produce actually looks fresh and the prices aren’t bad for the city. They have four different brands of baguette – in one store! Heavenly. They even have a gelato stand. Check it out:

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PERHAPS I’LL START WORKING TOWARD GOAL NO. 1 AFTER ALL…