This weekend is Open House Chicago, a great (and free!) way to see buildings all over the city (businesses, churches, etc.) that normally aren't open to the sniffin' of public folk. The Reader has some nice suggestions on where to eat between gawking at buildings; food or no food, take advantage of this event. It's worth it.
To celebrate this day of pie, head to Atlas Brewing Company (2747 N. Lincoln) tonight for a Pie Day Beer and Pie Throw Down--yes, pie and beer. The folks at Atlas, along with Hoosier Mama, Bang Bang Pie Shop, and Sugar Pie Cafe, will be serving flights of the sweet and sudsy stuff, with participants getting to vote for their favorites. Event runs 5:30-7:00pm; tickets $31.40 (naturally).
Also, stop in at Hoosier Mama today and enter a raffle for a whole year's worth of pie.
Bakery in Chinatown; picture by yours truly. To celebrate the Year of the Horse, the Lunar New Year Parade kicks off at 1pm Sunday in Chinatown. Additionally, Redmoon Theater will be holding a free celebration Saturday evening in the Crystal Ballroom at Navy Pier.
Last week, Kendall College (900 N North Branch) hosted the fourth annual Chicago Food Film Festival. Each of the festival's four days had a separate theme (two on Saturday) and Friday's was the Food Porn Party. It was all about pleasure: these films featured extreme, juicy close-ups of food.
Mark Klebeck's "Old Fashioned Salted Caramels" had me salivating for the featured doughnut drizzled with caramel and sea salt. Matt Checkowski's two films, "Beer Braised Ox Cheek" and "Mixed Berries, Three Ways" were shot against a crisp black background, making the food pop with color. Strawberries shimmered like rubies and hunk of raw ox meat looked elegant.
Six of the ten films had a food pairing, including the featured food in Checkowski's films. We also tasted the Paloma cocktail from "Paloma," the Mandorlato from "That's Mandorlato!" and beer fondue from "Fondue." My favorite though, was that doughnut from "Old Fashioned Salted Caramels." It tasted like like cake and fried bread had a love child, and then decked out in caramel sauce and sea salt. The whole audience moaned while eating this, or I just did, very loudly.
I'm a slow adapter to most things, but I have hopped right on board with the arrival of Jeni's ice cream to the city (try to stop by tonight's preview party--or even better, when her Roscoe and Southport store opens Saturday). Pictured is my favorite concoction so far, topped with a sweet and salty crumble of corn chips (which Jeni's lovingly calls "gravel"). Summer doesn't have to end after all.
In honor of Hot Dog Week, I went to Bull & Bear's Dog Days of Summer event to sample their neighborhood-inspired dogs, and despite my general excitement, I was admittedly apprehensive. You see, I believe Jesus himself invented the classic Chicago-style dog: a beef frankfurter nestled in a soft bun, topped with white onions, relish, pickles, tomatoes, and mustard. No fucking ketchup. There's something delightful (pornographic even) about pushing this bread-enclosed sausage into your mouth, condiments oozing down your chin like nobody's business.
Nonetheless, I couldn't very well miss an opportunity to eat hot dogs, so I made my way to River North to try Bull & Bear's creations. I ordered the "Frank Plank" (a flight of all five specialty dogs in miniature form) and a side of their Parmesan truffle fries.
Farmers Market Watch:
It's not a market , but the parking lot of Pritzker Elementary (Damen and Evergreen) turns into a weekly outdoor food court of sorts beginning this Saturday (through October); the NOSH will have eats from places such as Pecking Order, First Slice and Mixteco Grill. Free admission; runs 11am-6pm.
Farmers Market Watch: Devon Community Market opens Saturday (monthly, 10am-2pm, 2720 West Devon); the Chicago Botanic Garden's Green Youth Farm Stands start Wednesday in two locations (9am-1pm at 3750 W. Ogden and 555 E. 51st St.); Pullman also starts Wednesday (Arcade Park, 111th and S. Cottage Grove, 7am-noon); and the City Farm Market Stand opens next Friday (1-5:30pm, corner of Clybourn & Division ).
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Great Chefs Tasting Party, a fundraising gala for the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Chicago (UCP). In case you didn't know, cerebral palsy is a "disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by injury or abnormal development in the immature brain, most often before birth...People with cerebral palsy often have other conditions related to developmental brain abnormalities, such as intellectual disabilities, vision and hearing problems, or seizures." (Mayo Clinic). UCP has been helping CP individuals and their families since 1951, providing a variety of different services including professional development and educational programs:
"We help a child with cerebral palsy use technology that lets her speak for the first time. We help a man unable to use his hands or arms learn to do his own laundry and prepare his own meals. We help a woman in a wheelchair roll down her new ramp and back into the community." (UCP website)
The organization does amazing things for the CP community, and their food lineup did not disappoint. There were nearly 40 different participants, and while I could go on and on about each, some of my favorite highlights can be found after the jump...
Picture by me from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool. If you love apple pie, head to Sunday's Bucktown Apple Pie Fest at Holstein Park (2200 N Oakley, 2-5pm); music, fun for the kids, and pie--lots of glorious apple pie--await you (as you can see from the above submission from last year's event).
DT Staffer Clarisa Ramirez and I will be among the judges, along with Hoosier Mama's Paula Haney, pastry chef Malika Ameen (ByM Desserts), and Alpana Singh (of the forthcoming Boarding House). Event benefits Friends of Holstein Park.
Living in Lincoln Square, one hardly wants for formidable dining options within easy walking distance -- but in the last few years since I've moved to the neighborhood, Italian cuisine seems to be missing a truly worthy representative in the area. Trattoria Trullo and La Bocca Della Verita, both on Lincoln Avenue, are both flatly fine options -- nothing fancy, nothing taste-bud numbingly amazing, but nothing that tastes like its major components couldn't have come out of a freezer either. Just solidly mediocre. And while the area boasts some outstanding pizza (Spacca Napoli what up!), sometimes you just want a bowl of noodles and red sauce -- and have it not taste like something you (or Chef Boyardee) put together on your own stove.
Due Lire opened on Lincoln a year or so ago, offering a classic Italian mix of appertivo, small plates, pastas, and mains, and while it took me a while to finally visit, I will gladly return when the pasta-craving strikes from now on. While the staff wavers a bit between charming and aggressive, and both dining room and back patio are cozy but nothing to write home about, the food is gorgeous.
Image by Katherine of Chicago from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool. The Ramova Grill, which has been in business for 83 years, closes April 14, so get down there (3510 South Halsted) while you still can for their famous chili.
Picture of Parfait of Coconut Cream, "Ruby Red" Grapefruit, Toasted Meringue and Spiced Rum from Naha's Restaurant Week menu from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool. Pay attention--Restaurant Week ends Sunday!
The fourth annual Chicago Gourmet treated patrons this past weekend to another slightly damp, but mostly bright and temperate weekend of wine splashes, tiny bites, and of course ubiquitous bright red totes of swag.
In addition to such memorable morsels as NoMI's cheddar polenta with chard and onions (so creamily sweet and mild it almost could have been a savory dessert) and braised pig tails from the Purple Pig (fall-off-the-vertabrae-tender, topped with shredded hard-boiled egg, bathed in a fennel-dosed sauce), there were logistical improvements this year that really caught my attention. Plywood sheets replaced those perforated rubber sheets to give attendees surer footing on the wet grass; the line structure had been changed so that multiple vendors could be sampled in one trip through a pavilion, rather than a separate queue for each; a plastic plate with a notched space for your glass joined the gratis wine glass everyone received at the gates.
These seem like small things, but the overall impression I took away was that the event, potentially one of the bigger (and in the past, inflated) line items in the yearly foodie budget, seemed sort of...worth it. Case in point: a cocktail seminar not only introduced guests to the finer points of making a Manhattan, but sent everyone away with a bar set to get them started mixing drinks at home. And for the first time this year, I heard a CG patron say those two magical words that mark the end of a great meal: "I'm full."
Here are some of the sights and bites that made us feel full this year:
Image by Debbie Carlos from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool, which confronted its ex-boyfriend on a very special episode of "Cheaters" last weekend. Submit your pictures so that we can move on from that fool Larry.
After a long afternoon of repeatedly refreshing my browser several weeks ago to get into Next's ticket system, my tenacity paid off last night. Enjoy.
Street snacks: roasted banana, prawn cake, sweet shrimp and garlic, fermented sausage, and steamed bun. The banana packed flavor, and the shrimp was wrapped in a mint leaf that set the stage for an incredible meal.
Hot and sour broth, pork belly, tomato, ginger. The chunks of pork belly were like little treasure chests of flavor. Good stuff.
Chili, shallot, garlic, salted duck egg, green mango, white radish pickles. This is where things got dicey for me, as it was full of heat and spice landmines. The chili sauce and radish pickles were the high points.
Catfish, caramel sauce, celery, coriander root. I expected much more from this dish, given the flavors. Next!
It's not seasonal, but it's appropriate. Image by deepblueskies from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool. Add your pictures, or we'll take your TIF money, bulldoze an airport in the middle of the night, or make poor business decisions about parking meters, hired trucks, and Olympics bids.
Picture by katherine of chicago at the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool. If you love pie, get up to three of your friends and take part in Hoosier Mama's Second Birthday Scavenger Hunt tomorrow, co-sponsored by Drive-Thru. You must be registered in advance; call 312-243-4846 to enter. More info here.
Last year's Thanksgiving threw a monkey-wrench in my normal traditions. For some bizarre, overly capitalist reason, the US futures markets are open on Thanksgiving. If you're bored waiting for your bird to cook or have time between potato mashings, you, yes YOU can trade the S&P. Which meant for me, last year I had to work on Thanksgiving. Boo hoo. I know I'm not the only one. There are plenty of folks that had to work, couldn't take the time off, couldn't afford the trip to see family and otherwise didn't get to have a proper Thanksgiving. Cue the pity party.
Image of whole roasted Sonoma Valley foie gras with roasted pears, sweetened walnuts and herbs by happy_stomach at the Drive-Thru Flickr Page. Join and add your pictures, because I hate eating computers.
"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not eaten well."
If Scott Harris of the Francesca family wanted my attention, he had it by opening the menu to this delightful phrase. I'm readily adopting his headliner as my life motto, and voraciously scanning the menu.
Davanti Enoteca is the newest addition to the Mia Francesca's family: a take on rustic Italian food, made available by seasonal Midwest ingredients and made intriguing without being regionally specific. Typically, you think Mia Francesca's and you think mounds of pasta with meaty sauces. Not so at Davanti. The menu reads like the farm-to-table craze that we've all seen before: pork belly, varying bruchetta, farm eggs, meat from Mint Creek and Slagel and yet, something feels different here. Savory ragu roasts are paired with airy light mascarpone polenta and spread on a board at table side. Pizza with leek and mushroom is drizzled with truffle oil and the sharpest taleggio I've ever had. The Uovo, daily made large-style ravioli pasta with ricotta and spinach piped around the edge, egg yolk in the center and served in a sage butter sauce, sits lightly in your mouth.
Jonathan Beatty, who helped open Purple Pig is overseeing the menu as executive chef. And weekly Saturday night specials means he can play with seasonality and ingredients of his choice. The back of the restaurant doubles as a wine boutique. Rather than a traditional wine menu, Davanti allows patrons to buy wine at the boutique at commercial prices and then charges a $7 corking fee. To be honest, I can't tell you how nice it was to drink a glass of wine from a $30 bottle of wine and actually have it cost $30, rather than the standard 2-3 times as much.
The crowd is a good mix of locals and rapidly increasing by those of us being tempted back down to Taylor Street after a long hiatus. The decor is a cozy mix of re-purposed wood, spaghetti western posters, found farming equipment and Chianti chandeliers; the back boutique section feels as if you're sitting in some Italian baron's country wine cave. Harris is working on two new projects in the area and is hoping to re-establish Little Italy to it's former glory, and more. If these others are half as lovable as Davanti, I'll be hitting up T Street once a week.
For a newbie restaurant, Davanti has it all figured out. The food is approachable, the prices affordable, and the staff affable. I'll be headed back next week in order to keep my thinking, loving and sleeping in shape.
Over the summer while working in Evanston, I've found myself wandering around one block of Noyes Street in search of lunch. Nestled in a quiet, student-less (for the time being) residential area west of Northwestern's campus is an impressive group of restaurants that cater to all price points and tastes. The street's anchor is the Piven Theater Workshop, which resides in a beautiful white brick building bordering a busy, children-filled city park. Far from home and working in an office with a scary, ancient microwave, I did what any curious foodie would do: I began an endless (and often enjoyable) lunch crawl in the neighborhood.
Smokey, savory, salted debauchery with a couple hundred of my best friends...
That's right, I was fortunate enough to get tickets to BFC2010. That's Baconfest Chicago 2010 for the uninitiated. Taking over the Stan Mansion (2409 N. Kedzie) in Logan Square, even on the approach from the corner of Kedzie and Fullerton, one could smell a hint of smoky pork goodness on the breeze that only became stronger as one grew closer to the Stan Mansion.
But for April Fools '10, I decided to play the fool rather than prank other fools. So, I got up early and started wrapping. Bacon wrapping that is.
With a convenient stash of bacon, sufficient toothpicks, and a couple of kielbasa, I wrapped these sausages up like Martha Stewart on a X-mas present bender.
After applying the bacon love, I then wrapped the sausages in several layers of aluminum foil, and slid them into a 350° oven, and walked away.
How long did I cook them? I didn't really think about it. I simply pulled them out when the entire apartment started to smell like delicious bacon-wrapped sausage, and I noticed neighbors licking the windows.
If I were forced to set a time limit to the cooking, I'd say that an hour and a half would work. Your results may vary. Just remember to remove the toothpicks before serving.
This is usually the part where someone will tell you what to serve with the recipe. I've found that a fork and knife work well.
Also, if you want to eat at Naha, this fantastic restaurant is participating in Restaurant Week (ending Sunday!) and is offering an earth-shattering $80 gift certificate for $40 as today's Groupon offering. Take advantage.
Meet the February special burger at Kuma's. The Sigh is topped with Asian ground pork seasoned with oyster sauce and chile; sauteed celery, scallions, water chestnuts, garlic and ginger; and fried won ton strips. Picture by Andrew Huff from the Drive-Thru Flickr group. Join! It has a peaceful, easy feeling.
It's been several months since Chicago Gourmet but my mouth still waters every time I even think about looking at my pictures from that weekend. Sundra's sample - shrimp on a rice cake drizzled with an egg sauce - was by far one of my favorites. Yum. Sigh. Is it September 2010 yet?
If you're like me and daydream about buttercream, chocolate ganache, and anything with a buttery, flaky crust...and are a borderline-might-actually-be-a twitter addict then you need to add these sugarcoated tweeple to your follow list ASAP. Tweets about delicious treats maybe not be as good as eating them but they are titillating -- it's dessert foreplay, if you will.
Here's the first Friday Foodporn! Each Friday, we're will now feature a photo from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool and feature it here on the blog. This first shot is of purple and green onions at the Green City Market, photographed by Swanksalot.
This doesn't look like it's for the squeamish, what with its recipe for human-incubated yogurt, but newly launched magazine Food + Sex looks like it offers some thoughtful essays or photo collages about composting, factory farming and bees, along with some material that seems a little less food related. The magazine is a "combined effort of artists, writers, farmers and foodmakers, exploring how desire shapes the food environment." You can check out a list of articles on the web site, but to really find out what these artists and foodmakers have to say, or to show you, you'll have to order a copy (for $10) online.
Holy Jebus! I just ate the best Wonton Soup of my life. This was accompanied by some life changing chicken wings and some unusually light and fluffy shrimp fried rice.
I've been having tummy issues and when my favorite internal organ isn't happy, neither am I. The one food I am able to consume, no matter how miserable my guts are, is Wonton Soup. I am convinced it has powerful healing properties. My latest slurp of this medicinal goodness was simply amazing; hence, I felt compelled to share. Likewise, I always know when I am truly sick when wine doesn't sound good. So, something is seriously awry in my belly, and rest assured I will take this up with my docs. But enough about my GI track...
Get thee to Great Sea restaurant post haste. This joint has some sublime Chinese chow. Now, I have no idea if its authentic or regional or anything like that. I just know its good. Upon first glance at the menu, its nothin special. Just your usual Chinese take out fare. But lordy lordy, the execution of these dishes really sets this place apart.
Take for example, the Wonton soup above.(Apologies all around for the crappy quality of my phone pics.) Its lightly salty, chicken-ish broth is nice, but its all the added goodies that blew my mind. Wide chinese noodles, tiny shrimp, greens, and wispy threads of egg are in generous quantity. Even the mushroom slices had real texture. Now, there are no dumplings in here per say, but who needs em when you have all the ingredients in tastier form swimming in the bowl?
Oh, and I bet you have an opinion on chicken wings. Really, who doesn't? The Spicy Sweet Chicken wings here will blow your mind. First off, they are trimmed and fried to make a lolipop is crispy chicken form. The sticky glaze is sweet and spicy as advertised and plentful, which makes for a nice drizzle on a side of white rice. Not only are these little treats unbelieveably tasty, but way less messy than you average wings or drummies. The trimmed bone as handle keeps your fingers free of sauce. Next TV viewing party I host, I'm totally ordering up a ton of these. Start angling for your invites now, or hustle to Albany Park for your own.
3254 W Lawrence Ave
(between Sawyer Ave & Spaulding Ave)
Chicago, IL 60625
At last week's All Candy Expo, I wandered the aisles in search of what's new in the snacking world in terms of sweet and savory snacks--even though the event is the "All Candy Expo," the subtitle is "It's All About Sweets & Snacks." This breaks down into show floor that's a lot of candy, some nuts, a lot of chip brands, and more meat jerky companies than you ever thought were possible.
Needless to say, I found a lot of novelties, some tasty treats, and products I never thought were imaginable. Check them out after the jump.
Smokin' cocktails. Give your cocktail an other-worldly feeling with Mistystix, a patent-pending cocktail stirrer that has a capsule for food grade dry ice. Put a small amount of dry ice in the capsule, click it shut, and insert it into your cocktail. The ice carbonates and cools down the beverage and lasts for anywhere from 3-8 minutes. These aren't yet on the market, but I wouldn't be surprised if you started seeing them in clubs soon.
I've finally come out of my food coma, first induced by a few days at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show, followed by a couple of days at the All Candy Expo.
Although the NRA exhibits span two halls and feature anything you could possibly want in a restaurant (Viking stove, menus, Irish pub furniture, etc.), the food and beverages are the big draw, and it's easy to eat yourself silly with all the great products that might be at or coming to a restaurant or retail outlet near you.
After the jump, I'll fill you in on some of the best and/or most interesting products I found at the show.
Haagen-Dazs did not ask me to write this, but you'd think they were underwriting my next trip to Aruba by what I'm about to say: their Five collection is awesome--and I'm not an ice cream fan. The pitch is that this ice cream only has five flavors, which are boldly spelled out on the packaging: eggs, cream, sugar, milk, and the flavor of the ice cream (passion fruit, brown sugar, ginger, vanilla, milk chocolate and coffee). I've tasted half of these so far and think they're off the chain--incredible flavor, creamy, and thankfully, they come in a small size.
Finally, I party I can really enjoy: on a Saturday morning, I was among a group of people conducting a blind taste test (and informal award ceremony) of donuts from four South side bakeries.
But is there such a thing as a crappy donut? Well, if you've ever hungrily eyed a pink and orange-colored box soaked with grease stains in the office breakroom, you know it's possible to eat an unsatisfying donut. Really possible. But this event was different, as we sampled a range of locally made test subjects. Overall, the donuts that we sampled were delicious--but when you get all of them together in a room, you can tell which ones are winners and which ones get a participation pin.
Chicagoist has been exploring the city's latest culinary superstar, Laurent Gras's L2O. There's plenty of foodporn to be had, both behind the scenes and on the plate (Gras and his team produce plenty of foodporn of their own on their blog). You also get a look at the restaurant's decor. The series culminates on Monday with an interview with Gras himself. If you were intrigued by L2O's appearance on the Chicago episode of "No Reservations," this will only whet your appetite further for an increasingly hard to get reservation.
Pulled pork sandwich, cole slaw, mac and cheese and more sauce. From Smoque, located at Grace and Pulaski. Two times in one weekend. No embarrassment, just please give me what I ordered yesterday. Thank you.
Rarely does anything good come of dinner with one's ex. Last week, such was not the case when pastry-chef Chris and I broke bread in Oak Park. Not because of our so-so meal at the has-been Pasta Shoppe on Oak Park Avenue (originally to be the subject of this post). But from finding the truly phenomenal Lido's Caffé, tucked away on Marion Street in the heart of the downtown Oak Park.
When Chris suggested strongly that we visit the newly opened Lido's, given his line of work I expected something good. So let me get this out of the way first and everything else will be commentary: this place is a doppelganger in quality and (almost eerily) appearance of my all-time favorite hometown Italian caffé and gelateria, NYC's Rocco's Pastry Shop on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. A counter lining one side of the long space punctuated by pastry and gelato display cases, an imported espresso machine, locals nestling into their Tribs and laptops while tucking into Italian cookies--this New Yorker had the sneaking suspicion he had just found a convenient new home on the Harlem Green Line.
As a kid, I was dragged to Italian folk dancing classes, which were held in a decrepit building in a seedy part of town. Most of the dancing involved moving around in a big circle, and I'm pretty sure it was to the tune of Neil Diamond's "Coming to America." The endpoint of the dancing classes was to perform in a late-summer local festival. I had to wear a peasant outfit. Neil Diamond provided the background music, again. I hated it. But I loved the festival's food, notably the genetti.
Genetti cookies are a somewhat soft, nondescript vanilla cookie covered in a colorful, anise (licorice)-flavored glaze. They tend to show up at Italian holiday celebrations, notably Easter and Christmas. Maybe the last thing you'd think of as a decent cookie flavor would be the sharp sting of anise, but trust me--like rum or amaretto, anise softens in taste when combined with heat and a high sugar content. Anise shows up in a lot of Italian sweets in much stronger concentrations--biscotti and cakes, notably--but here is a good genetti recipe to ease you into baking with the licorice-flavored stuff.
Now that my heart is no longer aflutter and my breathing has returned to normal, I'm clear-headed enough to write about the encased meat sandwich that lured me to Hot Doug's on Friday. Kevin Haas won Time Out Chicago's contest to have his hot dog made and sold at Hot Doug's. It admittedly wasn't the sandwich I voted for, but I was delighted to try it anyway. I love the concept of combining a variety of different ethnic cuisines into one meal. And it almost works really well. But only almost.
The chorizo sausage is one of the best I've had. It packs a lot of flavor and spice in each bite, and it's not so greasy that you end up with orange juice running down your chin which was nice. Fat may add flavor, but too much fat flattens the flavor and ruins the taste. The spiciness of the chorizo was expected and enjoyable for the first couple of bites, but the spice of the sausage combined with the chili mustard quickly became overpowering and drowned out the flavors of the Asian pear chutney and the paneer. Which was a shame, because the chutney was heavenly and made only better by the chili mustard. The paneer was fried, which I hoped would add a little flavor to an otherwise bland, but soothing, cheese. Unfortunately, the paneer was cold when it was placed on top of the sausage, and served in large chunks, so they mostly fell off while I was eating. If the cheese had been in smaller pieces, so they stayed on top of the sandwich, or if the cheese had been soft and melty so it stuck to the sausage, I think the paneer would have provided the cooling sensation that it provides in many Indian dishes.
So while I had a very, very enjoyable lunch and would even end up ordering this sandwich again, I'd probably split it with someone because by the end of the sandwich all I tasted was the chorizo. Thankfully the ingestion of duck fat fries (which are so amazingly good) provided enough grease to counteract some of the spice so I could eat without sniffling while sitting just a few feet from Anthony Bourdain. Maybe I'm not done swooning after all.
The Gulab Jamon, "A small dark doughnut hole of flour and milks (powdered, regular), steeped in a sticky syrup of rosewater and sugar (and sometimes cardamom) until it's spongy and dense, and sweet," looks particularly delicious.
I took a trip to one of my favorite places in the world this past Friday to see Feist: RAVINIA!
For those who haven't made the journey, the Ravinia experience begins with the trip up the Metra Union Pacific North rail line, steadily weaving through the lush suburbs (Kenilworth, Wilmette) as you leave the city, arriving at Ravinia Park a half-hour later. The lawn is really the only exciting place to be during the show, especially when it comes to the food: some people bring gourmet eats to be placed on dainty little tables with elegant candles and silverware, and others walk in with a few bottles of cheap wine and a bag of chips. It's truly a beautiful sight to see the patchwork of blankets and tarps that spread across the lawn. Even Leslie Feist herself started talking onstage of her curiosity of what was going on in the lawn section of the theater, seemingly miles from the stage. We ate on.
I took a minute to take some pictures of the spreads around me. For your enjoyment...
We dashed for ice cream: espresso Oreo, strawberry and vanilla chocolate chip - all vegan. Two friends and I had just finished dinner using veggies from Green City, when we realized we needed a treat. One of them called. How late are you open, he asked? 9 p.m. We were soon walking down North Avenue, wandering if fast enough. A few traffic lights slowed us down. Some 21 minutes remaining ticked down to ten. We were those last minute customers, but the staff gladly obliged. The cones were vegan. I took the sugar cone - the one I remember loving from childhood indulgences two and three scoops deep. He momentarily left for the cone, and then returned telling me that he'd double-checked to make sure it was vegan - so nice. Each of us took a different flavor. I sampled all three before deciding. The vanilla chocolate chip tasted the fullest to me, with a nice round flavor. All were smooth, and the espresso had a nice coffee flavor. The strawberry was the scooper-man's fav, he enthusiastically told us. Most importantly, each of us liked our flavor the best. My two pals had planned to work out, and they did. I walked with them to their gym. Cardio was next up after dinner and vegan ice cream. Just Indulge, 1755 W. North Ave., (773) 486-6680.
I love bacon. It’s true. But who doesn’t? I know of no other creation of mankind that can turn a person’s moral upstanding right on it’s fickle head as bacon. Every vegetarian I’ve ever known has either dreamed fitfully or fallen headlong into a bacon dalliance. I was one of those vegetarians, once. I sniffed it in rapture at the hip south city diner where I waited tables in my home town. But I didn’t touch. No. Not Yet.
Not until shortly after New Year’s Eve 2001 did I cross that blissful fatty cured belly line. And after 5 years of vegetarianism, I thrust myself bodily into a long and enduring relationship with bacon. It is, at present count, the longest most enduring relationship I have had, outside of that with my hairdresser. Yes. I have a long term relationship with my hairdresser, what of it? She gets me, alright.
Tod Mun and it’s reputation runs the line from much maligned to utterly forgettable. This little fried treat more often resembles the exact flavor and texture of disinfected shoe soles than a delicate lime inflected pillow of deliciousness. It is a tremendously simple thing: fish, and sometimes shrimp also, are pureed with long beans, curry, lime leaves and eggs, made into little patties and fried. They are traditionally served with cucumber dipping sauce. Together the two make a fresh lip-smacking treat, if done right. Somewhere the balance gets lost often, it is easy to make the collagen in fish become spongy and chewy. And taken overboard, lime leaf can taste more like furniture polish than one of my favorite things.
I have tried Tod Mun at nearly every Thai place I have entered in this city, and it has been many…perhaps too many…but that’s for another day.
Honestly, at it’s best it is hands down my favorite Thai treat, well, next to a really well executed green papaya salad. These two dishes require a certain level of skill and sense of balance, which makes them an excellent gauge for a kitchen’s commitment to good solid cooking.
Here are a few of my favorite Tod Mun, and be assured that they are just the tip of the iceberg for these three really special Thai spots:
TAC Quik: Thai Authentic Cuisine. Ask for their Thai menu. So incredibly good, the whole fish is also incredible as is this insane anise scented stew. God love’em, get over there.
Spoon Thai: one in a stretch of pretty good Thai spot on Western, they do these sorta lame lunch specials, but at night when you can get the special Thai menu, it is so good. There are these chive dumplings that are gooey and chivey and just excite me.
Sticky Rice: Um…northern sausage? Coconut water in a shell….I have had some very very exciting food here. Damn…
Honestly I was tempted to say that each of these places has my favorite Tod Mun, but that’s not possible, they are seriously head to head. Make sure to try these little swimmer patties, they are incredibly satisfying and just make you want more.
According to some less-obscure-than-you'd-think British formula, the third Monday in January (Blue Monday - not to be confused with the rockin' but still actually kind of depressing New Order tune) is always the most depressing day of the year. It has something to do with compounding accumulated debt with grey weather, number of days since Christmas, number of days since breaking your new year's resolution, etc. While it may be a week later, we're hardly in the clear, and if you're like me, you're in need of a little sunshine, metaphorical or otherwise.
Enter new food blog One Trick Pony, who, with her cooking photos and banter, is clearly anything but, and is sure to warm you up inside. And maybe even make you want to stay inside and attempt to cook a duck. (Or not.) Only a week in, and the author's kitchen has already seen many a good meal come through -- more, please! Add to the goodness some tips for Chicago groceries that range from Aldi to Joong Boo Market, and the following video, and you should be set to fight the winter blues for a long time to come.
Back in September, Guy Fieri from the Food Network show "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," interviewed the minds behind BBQ masters Galewood Cookshack at the Logan Square Farmers Market. The episode aired January 14 but we have some footage for you to drool over in anticipation of barbecue season (and better weather). Fieri also visited Smoque recently; the next airing of that episode will be Monday night.
Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday celebrating the dead through art and food, begins today. If you're looking for the sugary, colorful calaveras (skulls) and sweet egg bread (pan de muerta) that are the symbols of the holiday, a nice Sun Timesarticle (mentioned in the Quick Links below) sums up where to go. If you're looking to buy some things online, local confectioner Dulcelandia has a nice selection. And if you're a foodie with a hankering for the gourmet stuff, your buddies at Vosges have come up with a nice trio of chocolate skulls for your indulgence.
Summertime is a good time for food porn. Colorful, varied, and never boring, I find pics of summer dishes to be almost better than eating the darned thing. So when I got my hands on a recent Smitten Kitchen post about a Summer Berry Pudding, I began planning my own foray into photographed cooking. I was going to make the Summer Berry Pudding. And it was going to be artful, clean, and delicious. Just like the photos.
Our comrades in foodiephileness at LTH Forum are holding their first annual Food Photo Contest that ends June 30, so get over to the site to check out the rules. Finally, there's an incentive for enduring the stares of puzzled waitstaff and fellow diners when you whip out your digital to take pictures of your meal. And theirs.
Sure, there are lots of Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, but it turns out that almost all of them of them (like the vast majority of Chinese restaurants in the US) serve Cantonese food. Now I'd never disparage Cantonese cuisine, which can serve up some real delights, but its the spicy Sichuan dishes that really capture my heart, so I've always been a little disappointed with Chinatown here in Chicago... that is, until a friend told me about Lao Sze Chaun.
People always recommend Cedars (or Cedars of Lebanon as it was previously known -- that's a story for another post) as the best spot for middle eastern in Hyde Park, but I've always liked The Nile even better. It's a much cheaper and less ambitious restaurant, but the hummus is the best I can remember having anywhere, and the sandwiches are both delicious and massive.
We're reviewed Tanoshii in the past and have followed Sushi Mike from Hama Matsu (our review) to Tanoshii. I'm a huge fan of the kind of sushi Mike makes -- a fusion of French, Italian and Asian style sauces meets the clean, crisp taste of sushi.
In January, when Schwa moved to closing on the weekends and opening on Mondays instead, I managed to obtain a much longed-for reservation. Schwa, in some way, is a hidden gem of cult status sorts — those who know about it rant and rave and those who don't wonder why they never knew about the place in the first place. They're not lacking for diners though but somehow remain manageable for "those in the know". Given the dining experience at Schwa, I can't imagine any other way for them to operate — which is just about perfect.
I was using Rick Bayless' restroom, I mused, staring up at the ceiling window that was projecting a heavenly beacon of light upon my less-than-angelic duties. I could barely distinguish Rick's faint murmurs through the orange walls, something about how... Read this feature »