Thursday, December 24, 2009

Montenegrin at Deta's Café, Chicago

Back in Illinois, my beloved land of Slavs, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try Deta's Cafe, a Montenegrin restaurant near my friends' place in Roger's Park. Montenegrin cuisine, like most Balkan cuisines, is a wonderful blend of all the influences that have passed through the region for centuries, from Ottoman to Italian to Hungarian. Located on the Adriatic Sea coast, there is also a wonderful Mediterranean influence that pervades the cooking.

Walking into the restaurant it felt like we were walking into someone's home. We were greeted by presumably Deta, a cute older Montenegrin woman who asked if we were hungry and led us to a table. What ensued was a conversation where she more or less told us what we were getting. That might sound ghetto, but what's fresh is fresh! She had a few salad options, 3 different bureks - spinach, sweet cheese, and meat - and then a gulaš. Ok!

We began with a nice simple salad of red pepper, tomatoes, onion, and feta with balsamic, plus some nice rye bread. It is incredible how delicious just a few fresh ingredients can be!

Next was the gulaš, originally a Hungarian dish but now a mainstay in many European cuisines. The beef was nice and tender - plenty for the three of us to split. It was served with pasta, common in the former Yugoslavia, which was fine, but nothing to write home about.

Last but not least came a massive plate of burek, both the cheese and meat varieties. Burek itself is a flaky, baked (or fried) phyllo pastry filled with a variety of delicious fillings. Brought by the Ottomans centuries ago, burek is now a hugely popular dish in the former Yugoslavia, with the rolled variety being the most prevalent. The flaky, buttery pastry with the savory fillings is a wonderful combination, and it's fun to eat it piece by piece as the roll begins to come apart. Both of ours were delicious, but the slightly salty and crumbly baked feta-like cheese one was my favorite.

Decently-full we still managed to find room for a small portion of homemade apple cake, which she brought out in three petite-sized tooth-picked slices. The cake was super-moist and the layer of apple was outstanding - just the right amount of sweetness.

I'd love to come back here again and have a look at the real menu, just to see what else Deta has to offer! Anyone who's a fan of Greek, Turkish, or other Southeastern European cuisine, as well as anyone up for something new and fun should definitely give Deta's a try!
Deta's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cookie Swap!

Recently, we went to our first cookie swap. It was fantastic, and I hope it becomes a holiday ritual.

Unfortunately, I don't have all of the recipes to share, but I do have a photo of some of the goodies we got to bring home. We took P's now-famous biscotti (12 o'clock on the photo below), and we were glad to know that recipe #5 is a keeper.

Below, you can see what came home with (starting at 1 o'clock and going clockwise) "comic fortune" cookies, chocolate "crackles," chocolate-covered mint cookies, macarons, peanut butter/chocolate chip cookies, fig pinwheels, and orange/ginger slice-'n'-bake cookies (unfortunately, you're not able to see the latter). The event was a great success, and I think the bar has already been set very high, so we'll have to start getting ready for next year now. ;-)

I am going to try my hardest to get the recipes for the macarons and the fig pinwheels so they can become part of my own cookie repertoire! ;-)