Instead of “I’m just mad about Saffron,” it could be, Chow, Baby’s just mad about the house special calzone ($8.30), an overstuffed bundle of cheese, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes, all nice and fresh. (Be a better fit if the calzone had saffron in it, but oh well.) And something could be made of the cosmic karma connections: Donovan once traveled to India with the Beatles to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; Mellow Mushroom makes a pizza called Kosmic Karma (sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, feta, tomato, and “kosmic swirls” of pesto, $14.25 medium) and another called Magical Mystery Tour (a zesty pesto base topped with spinach, jalapeño slices, and big chunks of portobello, button mushrooms, and feta, $16.30 medium). All the baked-to-order pizza crust is basted with garlic butter and sprinkled with parmesan – really, really good, and bound to be a sudden craze.
Unfortunately, Donovan’s lyrics don’t give Chow, Baby that much to work with. (“Electrical banana”?) More significant, the feel at Mellow Mushroom is only 10 percent Donovan and 90 percent Hootie and the Blowfish. Chow, Baby doesn’t know any Hootie song lyrics, but it does know an old-school college hangout when it sees a big room jam-packed with baseball-cap-wearing, beer-swilling, presumably-21-year-olds. But unlike in Chow, Baby’s sausage-and-canned-olives day, college kids now get to enjoy inventive pies with fresh toppings classic or gourmet, tempeh and tofu or five kinds of peppers. They call it great pizza / Quite rightly.
When in Rome
See if you can guess where Chow, Baby and its beloved ate the other night: We began with a nice salad ($8.95) of field greens, bacon bits, and escargot in a sherry-bacon vinaigrette. Next, a gloriously tangy escargot Roquefort ($7.95) in a red wine reduction, and a thick, cheesy escargot fondue ($7.95). Then the classic escargot au Persil ($6.95), half a dozen snails baked in parsley butter. Yep, we had a lot of escargots.
Most readers have probably figured out by now that we were enjoying Escargot, 3427 W. Seventh St. Chow, Baby hadn’t been to this $$$$ (that’s restaurant-listing-speak for “very expensive”) French restaurant since “new” owner Mark Taylor took over nearly three years ago. But with just a few appetizers and one incredible dessert – croustade de poire ($6.50), baked pears, whole toasted almonds, and almond cream wrapped like a present in phyllo, presented on a caramel sauce – we were both full, and Chow, Baby’s $-$$ expense account covered most of the bill. Smart, huh?
Even smarter would be lunch at Escargot, where the menu features smaller portions of the dinner classics for much smaller portions of money (most $9-12). But Escargot is one of those restaurants where it doesn’t matter how much you spend, because you feel so good during and afterward. The pretty sponged-green room was soothingly serene (except for the loudmouths in the corner screeching “This is America!” and other things Chow, Baby already knew, but they eventually left), and server Kellie was as warm and friendly as a Dixie Café waitress. There’s no $$$$ snootiness here. Chow, Baby doesn’t know when next it will have a craving for snails, but it knows where to go. (Escargot.)
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