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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Windy City Blogger Wed Nov 04 2009

Windy City Blogger Wednesday: To Kiss the Cook

This week I would like to introduce Jessi of To Kiss the Cook.


What brought you to Chicago?
I was raised in Memphis by a pair of northeasterners, made my way to rural Ohio for college and then took the tunnel burrowed under Indiana by many previous generations into the city of Chicago. I always knew I wanted to be in a city (better food) but until three days before I moved here, I thought I'd be in Boston. Au contraire. This city, which was supposed to be a two year incubator before New York, San Francisco, Boston, London etc. has now been home for going on five years. I am satiated in wanderlust by living right on the blue line, a straight shot to O'Hare. This comes in handy every 3-4 weeks.

What do you do when you aren't blogging?
When I started TKTC, I was working at a small (but mighty!) PR firm within the beauty industry. The blog evolved as a way for me to talk about my personal passion, food, while showcasing what turns out to be the uncanny ability to bring every single decision or story back to the edible bits- what was made or ordered and then eaten with enthusiasm. That said, I'd kept the blog for about a year when I was approached by Edelman to manage relationships with other food bloggers for a living. It seemed like a tailor-made opportunity and it still feels that way. So when I'm not writing or reading blogs out of personal interest, I'm doing both for professional interests. There is overlap more often than not. Outside of the Internet, I love live music and I love to travel. Dating a touring musician gives me a lot of great excuses for both and I make a point to be on a plane once a month.

Favorite restaurant in Chicago?
Is it cliché to say "it depends"? My favorite sushi and the longest-running member of the favorite restaurant list is Coast Sushi in Bucktown. Friends introduced me to the white dragon roll very early in my Chicago tenure and I've been bringing other folks ever since. My favorite "destination dinner" for $2.25 is taking the Brown line all the way to Kedzie to eat at Semiramis, hands down the best Lebanese I've eaten. My brunch specials are tied between Milk & Honey Café's Huevos Rancheros and the Katie Cakes at Andersonville's Taste of Heaven. For small bites, Mana. I'm not a vegetarian but you don't need to be to appreciate the genius of this place, a very welcome addition to the neighborhood. Last but not least, Home Bistro (HB) in Boystown for proper French fare with a cozy twist. I think their mussels more than rival the Hopleaf's. Coast, Semiramis and HB are all BYOB.

Favorite restaurant in Chicago, if you aren't paying?
Graham Elliot has probably been my most satisfying spend for high end restaurants but to be honest, the thrill for me is in "the find" and I just don't tend to be drawn toward restaurants where the price is the thing that makes me eyes bug out. I'd prefer to leave that to the food. I am wildly curious to try Schwa and would go all out on one of the tasting menus there.

Favorite recipe and/or post?
I love having people over. Those tend to be my favorite things to post because several plates or bowls just look a little more appealing than one. I'm also a "stuff" girl. Sandwiches, pizza, pasta, omelets- I like a lot of "stuff" on all of them. Those two facts got tied together with a nicely geeked bow for The Kind of Magic You Can Eat, about a breakfast with a Harry Potter theme. There were a couple recipes to come out of that day- Slytherin Asparagus, Butterbeer Banana muffins, etc- but the one I've used and shared the most since then are the Conjured Cauldrons. They're simple, delicious, perfect for a group and excellent vehicles for all that "stuff" I love. A friend of mine referred to them as as looking like captured suns. I loved that too. Runner up is Personal Best: Lemon Linguine with Spicy Clams, Asparagus and Garlic. Because as much as I love having people over, sometimes I just want to make some awesome pasta, sit down with a book and a glass of wine and listen to music.

How do take your coffee?
Peet's French Roast, strong but mellowed out with a kiss of cream and a Splenda.

Cubs or Sox? {...crickets...}

What is the one thing/place/restaurant that you recommend to your out of town guests? The overall theme of visitor advice is to get out of the Loop/Mag Mile and into the neighborhoods. That's where Chicago is and that's where a lot of the authentic eating can be found. Hot Chocolate isn't prohibitively expensive but it's a great date and Mindy Segal is a rockstar of a local chef who does beautiful things with both sides of the menu, letting local, seasonal ingredients shine through. It's also in perfectly central to my two favorite sipping spots- the Violet Hour for an early pre-dinner cocktail and the Map Room for a festive round or three afterward. All three of those spots represent the range of personalities in the neighborhood perfectly.

One (or two) things that you can't live without in your kitchen?
My santoku (freshly sharpened at Northwestern Cutlery), my rolling pin and my orange stir spoon with the lasered happy face cut out. Nothing wrong with your face matching your spoon when there's cake batter involved.

Catch up on all the previous Windy City Bloggers here.

Do you have a favorite Chicagoland based food blogger? Email with [food blog interview] in the subject line with the name and URL of the blog and I will check it out!

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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