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Thursday, January 17

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Store Thu Aug 01 2013

Independent Spirits Opens in Edgewater

20130727_154509_1.jpgIt's pained me that the closest thing to a wine shop walking distance from my apartment in Edgewater is the liquor section in Dominick's. There, you'll find the usual suspects you can find most anywhere: Columbia Crest, Lindeman's, Cupcake. I'm not knocking those wines because I can, and frequently do, grab a bottle while grocery shopping. But seeing the same labels all the time is boring and makes the huge and varied world of wine and spirits seem like it's owned by a handful of megabrands.

The drink gods heard my prayers. Earlier this summer, Independent Spirits, Inc. (5947-49 N. Broadway) opened. And it wasn't only me who wanted a neighborhood booze shop. I first stopped in two days after opening and already a bunch of wine had been sold, leaving only a scattering of bottles here and there, mostly of French and German wines, plus a mishmash of others, including Greece and Argentina. Proprietor Scott Crestodina assured that the shelves would be stocked next week.

And boy, were they, plus a new table of wine at the front of the store. Eyeballing all the wines I wanted to buy, prices were incredibly reasonable, with a significant portion under $20. And there wasn't one bottle of Cupcake amongst that red, white, and pink.

Continue reading this entry »

Christina Brandon

Wine Mon Jul 29 2013

A Night of Wines from the Pacific Northwest

20130725_185505_1.jpgI first took wine classes with Diana Hamann of Evanston's The Wine Goddess at The Chopping Block before she opened her own shop. I was predisposed to liking her classes since I really wanted to learn about wine, from how to assess it properly to how climate and weather impact the grapes.

But she far exceeded my expectations by taking what can turn into a dry, complicated topic and making it fun with her sense of humor and clear passion and knowledge of the subject. Hamann made you not only want to drink more, but encouraged you to ask questions and consider what was happening in your glass. With this in mind, I eagerly signed up for her "Wines of the Pacific Northwest" class.

Continue reading this entry »

Christina Brandon

Store Fri Oct 05 2012

Brew Camp to Reopen in Ravenswood

brewcamp.jpgBrew Camp, the North Center-based home brew supply store, announced today that it is moving to 4639 N. Damen Ave., after its former location at 2039 W. Belle Plaine Ave. was closed by the City earlier this week due to improper licensing.

"It's a great space -- twice as big as the other one, and a much better location," co-owner Jared Saunders said.

Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Huff

Event Mon Aug 15 2011

Make Your Dining Room Look Like Blackbird's

This Sunday, August 21, Big Star is hosting an "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" sale. Out on their sidewalk at 1531 N. Damen Ave. from noon to 4pm, Big Star and its sister restaurants (Publican, Avec, Blackbird and Violet Hour) will be selling their extra and unused plates, cutlery, beer mugs, chairs and more in order to benefit the Garfield Park Conservatory. Proceeds of the sale will help the Conservatory recover from severe damage due to a massive hail storm.

So if you've ever walked into the Publican or Blackbird and wished your dining room could look a bit more like theirs, pop by and see what you can find.

Joanna Kanakis / Comments (1)

Drink Thu Jul 07 2011

Summer Drinking Series: Leinie's Summer Shandy

I've been off the sauce for a week or so (injury, medication, let's not talk about it). What better way to welcome myself back into the ranks of the summer drinkers than a Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy. No, it's not as sweet or complex as the Stiegl Radler (which you should go out and buy, right now, if you're already a shandy-fan like myself) and it doesn't come equipped with a semi-magical beer garden like at the Handlebar, but Leinie's shandy is a wholly decent drink, its sour, citiric edge tempered with a pleasant light fruitiness. Crisp, refreshing, and easy-drinking, it's a beer that was made for the hot months.

leinie lodgeAnd if you really want to up your Leinie's experience, you can see where they make the beer made for summer -- the Leinie Lodge is a mere 330 miles away from Chicago in Chippewa Falls, WI. If you're passing through the state at all, particularly heading to or from the Twin Cities, it's absolutely worth stopping by. They give excellent tours, sell Leinie's swag from canoes to chapstick, and even offer a calendar of area events to make your trip worthwhile. Pick up some gouda from the Holland Family Farm in Thorp on your way, and you'll be well on your way to a perfect summer picnic.

Andie Cavedo

Video Fri Feb 11 2011

The Grid: Market Fisheries

"Market Fisheries" is the first short film in our new series, The Grid. These documentaries will be popping up all over Gapers Block and compiled in their own multimedia feature section. Enjoy!

Market Fisheries, located at 7129 S. State Street, has been owned and operated by the Brody Family since 1957. For more information about the store, see this Chicago Tribune article from 2009.

About The Grid

The Grid is a series profiling Chicago businesses, subcultures and landscapes. These short, lyrical documentaries aspire to be art cinema, ethnographies and experiments in form. Producer Ben Kolak's directorial debut, Scrappers, won Best Documentary at the 2010 Chicago Underground Film Festival and made Roger Ebert's top 10 list of documentary films in 2010. Editor Dave Nagel is a recent University of Chicago graduate.

David Schalliol / Comments (5)

Event Mon Nov 08 2010

Dreaming of Bleu Mont?

For you Bleu Mont cheese fans out there, cheesemakers Willi Lehner and Quitas McKnight will be at all three of Pastoral's stores on November 17 and 18:

Loop (53 E. Lake St.): Wednesday, November 17 5:30-7pm

French Market (131 N. Clinton): Thursday, November 18, 12-1:30pm

Lakeview (2945 N. Broadway): Thursday, November 18, 5:30-7pm

And, as Pastoral's blog says, "rumor has it that they're bringing a 'new to our shelves' cheese with them." Intriguing...

Ruthie Kott

Store Thu Aug 12 2010

Drink Coffee, Donate School Supplies: Win-Win

Coffee and Tea Exchange is collecting school supplies for the families served by Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4). Many of the families who rely on C4's mental health services can't afford back-to-school basics for their children. Two hundred backpacks have already been donated, and you can help fill them up by donating any of the following items:


  • notebooks (spiral and composition)

  • paper (ruled, for computer/printers, construction, or graph paper)

  • pencils/pens, cases, and sharpeners

  • markers, crayons, and colored pencils

  • rulers, glue sticks, and scissors

  • pocket folders and binders


Drop off supplies until August 20, and don't procrastinate: Chicago public schools start class on September 8.

While you're at Coffee and Tea Exchange, pick up a pound of coffee for yourself (or your kid's teacher - a much better back-to-school gift than an apple-shaped mug full of pencils). And be sure to check out CTX's impressive collection of collaged coffee barrel lid covers.

Sunny McDaniel

Store Fri Jul 02 2010

Masi's Italian Superior Bakery

Not every shop can trace its lineage to the Italian village of San Vitaliano, but not only does Tri-Taylor's Masi's Italian Superior Bakery do so, it acts as a living link to the baking traditions first established there. In 1933, when the first iteration of Masi's appeared in Chicago as "Western Avenue Bread," legions of devotees became addicted to their freshly baked breads, taralles, biscottis, and pastries, and have flocked to their doors ever since. And while it looked like the Masi brothers had come to the end of their line back in 2005, long time patrons and brothers Angelo and Jake Saccameno stepped in and have kept the hearth alive.

All of this history can be found on their on their website, but to really understand why Masi's has had such longevity, you've got to make the trek down to Western Ave. and Taylor St. and take in their breads, pastries, and perhaps the finest pizza in the city. Best eaten straight from the tray at room temperature, these densely packed slices with their perfect crust are not the usual fare you're accustomed to eating. Grab some of their pignoli cookies, a bottle of top-shelf olive oil and a filone made of spelt on your way out, and you're good to go. And then in a week or so, you'll be back.

Visit them Tuesday thru Sunday 7 am to 1 pm at 931-33 S. Western Ave.

Ben Schulman / Comments (1)

Dessert Thu May 20 2010

Shaved Ice-Cream at Cloud 9

Chicago has seen an influx of cheerful frozen yogurt chains from Asia. This season brings something new from Taiwan: shaved ice cream from Cloud 9. Brother-and-sister entrepreneurs Kenny and Gawin Tsai, with the help of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago, have opened a shaved-ice-cream spot in Lakeview. The IJ clinic helped with Chicago's red tape, leaving Kenny and Gawin free to concentrate on the Taiwanese ice cream, also known as Xue-Hua-Bing. They offer a few flavors each day--currently including vanilla, mango, strawberry and chocolate. They're also quietly testing red bean and green tea, which they let my family sample the night we went in to check it out. The vanilla was refreshing, but held no surprises. The mango had a nice tartness, and the green tea had a bite. The ice cream, made in house, is naturally low in fat; it's not made with as much sugar or cream as traditional ice cream. It comes out of Cloud 9's freezer in a disc-shaped block, and after being shaved by machine, it lands in soft layers in a bowl. Like cotton candy, it looks larger and denser than it actually is. The toppings, too, are low in sugar. The fruit syrups contain no added sweeteners, and cut-up fruit, nuts, sprinkles or chocolate syrup are available as well. Each heaping bowl of snow ice is served with a plastic fork, the better to grab the flaky layers with. And, while at first it might seem flaky and ice cream don't belong in the same sentence, by the end of the summer I think many Chicagoans will find they enjoy ice cream in flakes.

Cloud 9 is at 604 W Belmont. No phone yet.

Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

Feature Fri May 14 2010

Raw Abiding Citizens

If you've been to the French Market, you've probably seen the brightly-colored Raw food stall in the back corner. I visited recently and was not only impressed with the samples I tasted and the willingness of Polly Gaza, one of the shop's owners, to talk and answer questions. I have to admit, I was also really impressed with Ms. Gaza's glowing complexion. It made me want to get rid of my oven, clear out my pantry full of pasta, cereal, and cookies and become a raw foodist. In Chicago, that isn't such a hard thing to do. Besides Raw, which has been open since December, there are a number of caterers, restaurants and even classes offering food (or the chance to prepare food) untouched by mysterious additives or processing.

Continue reading this entry »

Lori Barrett

Review Mon Apr 26 2010

Halsted Foods

Halsted Foods.JPGHalsted Foods
3418 S. Halsted St.
773-247-3789
Mon to Fri 9 to 9
Sat 10 to 9
Sun 10 to 7

Think of "Cheers" when you enter this place. Yes, come in here enough and they will know your name. This place is over 100 years old (seriously) and has no sign of slowing down. I'm reminded of the old A&P chain when I go in here but it has no green stamps or the ubiquitous coffee mill at the register to grind your Eight O'Clock coffee beans. (But they do carry ground Eight O' Clock in hazelnut no less).

However, they probably will move within the next year or so. The Chicago Public Library has plans to expand south and they are in the way.

Continue reading this entry »

Jennifer T. Lacey / Comments (1)

Store Tue Feb 23 2010

Fantastic Find at Middle East Bakery & Grocery

My husband and I have been semi-systematically going through the myriad of dips that fill the refrigerated cases at the Middle East Bakery & Grocery. From creamy garlic hummus to smokey babaghanuge, everything has been fantastic, as light dinner with warm pita and a glass of dry white wine, or as condiments to elevate an otherwise unremarkable sandwich a notch. As an added bonus, the dips are very clean--no unpronounceable chemicals here.

Green Olive Tapenade

Last week, our pick was a tub of green olive tapenade. And although I love virtually everything I've tried so far, this tapenade possibly tramples them all. Made with green olives, capers, extra virgin olive oil, basil, oregano and salt, it might sound simple, but its flavor is rich and complex. The beauty of this tapenade is that its complex flavors are perfectly balanced. The floral note of the capers, the garlicky kick, and just the right amount of saltiness all blossom on the robust, green, earthy background of the olives. I've had it smeared on my morning toasts (mmmm, heaven) and topped sunny-side-ups with it, but the best use so far is in a warm potato salad. The addition of tapenade made this otherwise simple salad into something special and satisfying. (Dare I say "gourmet?")

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa

Event Wed Feb 17 2010

Cheese Sculpture Demo in Niles

World-famous cheese sculptor Sarah Kaufman, who has carved the likenesses of Katie Couric, Jay Leno and Brett Favre, will be in Niles on Saturday and Sunday. As part of an opening celebration for a new Meijer store, Kaufman will carve the Niles city skyline out of two 150-pound Wisconsin cheddar wheels. Shoppers, and cheese-scultpure afficionados, can watch her work from 10am to 5pm both days, at Meijer, 9000 Golf Road.

Lori Barrett

News Mon Feb 01 2010

Greektown Fire Destroys Costas, Damages Others

Tribune reports that a devastating fire that started just before midnight Sunday completely destroyed Costas, a Greek restaurant that has been a cornerstone of this Greek corner of the city. The restaurant has another location in Oak Brook Terrace, but whether their histrionic "Opa!" over flaming saganaki will be heard again in its original location remains to be seen.

According to the Trib article, it took firefighters more than three hours to extinguish the fire. While it raged, the fire also heavily damaged the building on the north side of Costas, which houses Athens Grocery, Greektown Gift and Music Shop, and Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop. I used to walk past these buildings daily on my way to and from UIC until a few years ago, and the sight of bushy-eyebrowed old men sitting outside of the Pastry Shop, chatting over tiny cups of coffee and playing chess was as endearing as it could get. This building, perhaps more than any of the restaurants, seemed to anchor the "Greekness" of the area, providing everyday necessities and a place to socialize to the few remaining descendants of Greece.

The area around Greektown has been going through some gentrification with condo towers sprouting up here and there, and I only hope that the damaged building will not push the these businesses out of existence.

UPDATE: Alvin Shubert, who shot today's Rearview photo, took pictures of the fire from his nearby high-rise apartment.

Yu Kizawa / Comments (2)

Openings Tue Dec 22 2009

Beard Papa Opens in Block 37

Beard Papa, a Japanese bakery chain that specializes in cream puffs, opened in the basement of the Block 37 mall today. My hubby, who had been there earlier, reported that there was a pretty long line of (mostly East Asian) customers snaking out the door.

I'm among these Asians who have been anxiously awaiting this day. With all the financial trouble that Block 37 was reported to be in, I'd been growing a little pessimistic. But no more--it's finally here!

Hubby brought back a chocolate-covered, custard-filled cream puff, and it was delicious. (Sorry, no pictures, because, well, I already ate it. Update: here's one in the Flickr GB pool, thanks to KidItamae.) The shell is crunchy, the chocolate is actually chocolate-y, and the custard is soothingly smooth. It's a good thing I don't use the Red and Blue lines any more--otherwise, I'd find it difficult to resist the temptations when changing trains there: you'd pass the bakery as you transfer from one to the other.

Beard Papa
108 N. State Street
(in the basement)

Yu Kizawa

Store Mon Dec 07 2009

First Look at the Dill Pickle Food Co-op

DillPickle 8.jpg
After five years of planning, the Logan Square Dill Pickle Food Co-op opened its doors this past Saturday to overwhelming community support. This member-owned co-op aims to offer affordable local, sustainable and organic goods to members and non-members alike.

Continue reading this entry »

Gemma Petrie / Comments (1)

Openings Mon Dec 07 2009

A New Lush in West Town

LushWestTown2.jpgThe third location of Lush Wine & Spirits celebrated its opening in style on Friday night with a well attended, free tasting party. Visitors sampled a dozen beers, over twenty-five wines and few small-batch gins while speaking with Lush staff and distributor reps. (The Ransom Old Tom Gin pictured here was superb.)

A generous spread of appetizers helped pace the crowd.

The West Town site is the boutique wine store's largest location yet. A beautiful horseshoe bar connects the retail portion of the store to a space reserved for private events, tastings and classes. This location will also offer a selection of cheeses and charcuterie.

With three well-placed locations at Halsted & Roosevelt, Western & Addison, and now Chicago & Noble, Lush Wine & Spirits makes an easy stop on the evening commute for many. We highly recommend letting the knowledgeable staff help you choose the perfect wine, beer or spirit for your next weeknight dinner or weekend event.

Lush Wine & Sprits - West Town
1412 West Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 666-6900

Gemma Petrie

Openings Sun Dec 06 2009

First Look at the Chicago French Market

frenchmarket_apples.jpgChicago's new European inspired French Market opened at the Ogilvie Metra Center in the West Loop Thursday. Its focus will be on local artisan purveyors -- the current tagline of the food industry.

The year round indoor market was developed in partnership with the Bensidoun family, fourth generation Parisian market operators. They're attempting to recapture some of the vitality and entrepreneurial spirit that fell pray to mass marketing here in the States post WWII.

Besides offering essential convenience products, the Market strives to provide distinctive small batch culinary experiences featuring local bounty. At 15,000 square feet, there's room for 25-30 purveyors. At opening they were about 80 percent leased.

Continue reading this entry »

Alan Lake / Comments (1)

Openings Wed Dec 02 2009

Chicago French Market Opens Thursday

The much-anticipated Chicago French Market opens tomorrow (Thursday) in Ogilvie Transportation Center, with much fanfare. Celebrations include market bags for the first 500 customers tomorrow through Saturday, $5,000 worth of gift certificates being distributed on Friday and Saturday, and a wine tasting on Friday from 4 to 7:30 pm.

I have been waiting for the French market to open for months, since they were initially slated to open this spring/summer. As I walked past it this evening on the way home, the space was bustling with last-minute preparations. A green grocer was stacking up pineapples, and someone in Pastoral's counter was wiping their gleaming meat slicer. And the best part--my nose told me that there's going to be at least one really good baker in the mix; the sweet and tangy smell of lemon bars baking somewhere in the market was just about irresistible.

A list of vendors is available here. With an organic green grocer, a Vietnamese take-out and more bakeries than you can shake a stick at, this market will most certainly contribute to the enhanced lunchtime happiness of the area workers--which happen to include me.

Yu Kizawa

Store Thu Oct 15 2009

Sam's Warehouse Sale

new-sams-logo.gifSam's Wines & Spirits is currently having its annual warehouse sale. This is the perfect time to stock up on some heavily discounted wines for the upcoming holidays. The goods could be marked down as much at 75%. They will also be sampling dozens of the wines every Friday and Saturday during the sale so that you can try before you buy. The sale runs from now until the 25th, in-store only.

Sam's Wines & Spirits
1720 N. Marcey Street (near North & Clybourn)
312-664-4394

Whitney Merritt

Store Wed Aug 19 2009

French Market Hits the Loop

MetraMarket, that shopping arcade space connected to the Northwestern Ogilvie Metra station that's been pretty desolate for a long time, will become a French Market.

If you live in East Lakeview, you may be familiar with the French Market that's held on Saturday mornings throughout the summer in the Nettelhorst school lot. It's a small mix of vendors that sell goods such as fruits and vegetables, bread, flowers, specialty foods, cheeses, and even art and jewelry. Bensidoun, the French company who runs this market, is also managing the one at MetraMarket.

The new French Market will be 15,000 square feet and hold 25 small shops that will sell all sorts of fresh produce, meats, breads, and prepared foods. The list of vendors is pretty impressive and includes Pastoral, the artisanal cheese purveyor; Vanille Patisserie, Chicago Organics, who will sell organic produce, meat, and dairy; Completely Nuts; the South Loop's Canady Le Chocolatier; and west suburban Albano's Deli.

I'm a big fan of the Nettelhorst French Market, so I'm pretty excited about this one, especially since it'll be open six days a week.

Jill Jaracz / Comments (3)

Event Mon Aug 03 2009

Carrotmob Plans Fox & Obel Invasion

On Sunday (August 9th), Carrotmob Chicago, a group of consumers who band together to spend money at socially responisble businesses, is putting its buying power behind Fox & Obel. The mob (along with a colossal carrot, according to the web site) plans a "buycott" or reverse boycott from noon until 6pm. They're encouraging local consumers to visit Fox & Obel for their food needs, and the store, in return, will use part of the proceeds to continue to reduce its carbon footprint (going above and beyond the organics, recycling and LED lights they already have in place). If helping the environment doesn't satisfy your good-deed need, the Greater Chicago Food Depository will also be on site collecting food donations.

Lori Barrett / Comments (4)

Store Mon Aug 03 2009

Dill Pickle Moves Forward

dillpickle_co-op.jpgThe Dill Pickle Food Co-op has found a space at 3039 W. Fullerton Ave., and have launched a blog so you can follow the renovation progress. They're also looking for a general manager -- details here if you're in the market for a job.

Andrew Huff

Business Tue Jul 21 2009

Wal-Mart Brings Farmers Market?

Tribune reports that Wal-Mart is bringing a "farmers market" to Southside neighborhood of Chatham, with the hope that the gesture will create more favorable climate to the recently stalled plan for the second store within the city limits.

The "farmers market" will be held this Saturday, July 25, from 10 am to 2 pm, at 83rd and Stewart, where the new store is proposed. Interestingly, neither the Trib story nor the chain's flyer for the event lists any details on who is going to be selling what, come Saturday. A "farmers market" without any identifiable farmers??? I briefly tried to get an answer for this, but quickly gave up when the only phone number provided turned out to be a generic customer service phone number. (This is why I'm not making my living as a journalist.)

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa / Comments (2)

Feature Fri Jun 19 2009

Time To Shop? Go To HarvesTime

HarvesTime Foods could be one of the best kept secrets on the north side. It's like the Millennium Falcon. From the outside it doesn't look like much. The awning is torn and a bit sun-faded. The LCD sign's functionality is sometimes spotty. The building is coated in a stark whitewash in a neighborhood where one side of the street is rundown and the other is neo-gentrified. So at first glance, purchasing even canned food from this market may make you cringe a bit and wonder if you're taking your life into your own hands.

Continue reading this entry »

Cliff Etters / Comments (11)

Openings Wed Jun 10 2009

New Starfruit Cafe Opening

Starfruit, the frozen kefir cafe, is opening a second location in Lincoln Park on Thursday. The grand-opening will have a live DJ and activities for kids served along with the kefir smoothies and parfaits. And, on Thursday only, each kefir purchase comes with a free topping. For Chicago parents facing a day with bored kids at home waiting for their teachers to finish filling out report cards, a little face-painting and frozen-treat outing might soothe a lot of pre-report card angst. The cafe is at 2142 N Halsted Street.

Lori Barrett

Openings Tue Jun 02 2009

Smash Cake Grand-Opening

cupcake.jpgSmash Cake, the bakery named for a birthday cake meant for a one-year old to smash, had its grand-opening party on Saturday. The space has been open for about a month, offering cupcakes kids can decorate themselves, sandwiches, soup, coffee, tea and juice. As with sister store Bleeding Heart Bakery, everything is organic, and the store sells not only foodstuffs, but a lifestyle as well. At Smash Cake, there are homemade aprons covered with little skulls and crossbones for kids to wear as they decorate their cupcakes or take part in crafts activities. Similar aprons are available, in children's or grown-up sizes and fabrics, from designer Kerry Vitali. Her cards are displayed, as are the cards of other local designers and printers, along with sample party invitations, so you can plan and prepare for an indie kiddie party in one stop. Artwork is for sale as well. Currently one wall is covered with paintings by Derek Erdman, featuring bright images of neckties, ice-cream cones and school buses.

Continue reading this entry »

Lori Barrett / Comments (2)

Store Wed Apr 29 2009

Marion Street Cheese Market's Got "Faith"

Although New Belgium Brewing is known primarily for their Fat Tire amber ale, they've also got a pretty cool program called "Lips of Faith," a group of experimental beers that they make in small batches and share with a select group of establishments.

Oak Park's Marion Street Cheese Market has just gotten accepted into this program, so for the next year, they'll be awash in some ultra-cool, hard to get brews from New Belgium. They're kicking off their participation in the program by tapping a barrel of Biere de Mars next Wednesday evening, May 6. Along with $3 pours of this ale brewed with barley, oats and wheat malt, Marion Street will be giving away a bunch of New Belgium swag, including glassware and Belgian chocolate.

Jill Jaracz

Random Mon Apr 27 2009

Five Bucks for Chuck

chuck.jpgTonight is the season finale of ">Chuck," the NBC show about spies working in an electronics store (charmingly called Buy More) and a fro yo shop while trying to save the government's secrets, especially those embedded in the brain of the titular hero. If you're a fan of the show, you'll know that the future of Chuck is up in the air. NBC is weighing whether to renew the series. Fans have started letter-writing campaigns to save "Chuck," and are asking people to go out today to Subway (one of the show's main sponsers) to buy a footlong and leave a comment in the suggestion box professing your love and support for "Chuck." If there's no comment box, a Zac Levi (Chuck) fan site suggests contacting Subway online or on the phone. (This site also has a lot of video footage of Zac helping out in a Subway in the U.K., after fans followed him to the store.)

I'd hate to see "Chuck" get cancelled. It's a family staple in our house, looming large in Monday's after-dinner hours, prompting my kids to finish their homework on time and to help clean the kitchen. One of us even has a Chuck dance that accompanies the credits and theme song (Cake's "Short Skirt, Long Jacket"), a dance that would make the Nerd Herd proud.

Lori Barrett

Ingredient Fri Apr 03 2009

Soft Shell Crab Available @ The Fish Guy

The Fish Guy, Bill Dugan, has "whale" soft shell crabs available now at his shop on Elston. He has his shipped frozen for the best quality.

Dugan says, "Whales are the largest size available and I have the watermen freeze them as soon as they shed and are graded and dressed. In order to ship them 'live' you need to put them back in holding tanks for three weeks to form a 'paper shell' that will help retain water to keep them alive for transport North.To me that is no longer a 'Soft Crab'.

Come on in and try for yourself.They are cleaned and ready for the frying pan.I like to dust them in a mixture of pancake flour and cornmeal that has been sifted and seasoned .Dip the crab in a seasoned wash of 2 cups milk and one egg, drain,then dust with flour and into the frying pan with a bit of peanut oil. Once you turn them you can add a dab of butter and lemon for some pan drizzle."

price 6.00 each or 60.00 per dozen

The Fish Guy
4423 N Elston

Christine Blumer

Business Mon Mar 30 2009

The Yogurt Invasion Continues

Perhaps in time for the warm weather that's due any day now, another Korean frozen yogurt shop is rolling into town. Red Mango, which has set up shop in Evanston and Naperville, has a cheery HELP WANTED sign covering a storefront window on Clark Street, just above Diversey--probably at the exact latitude in the city's grid system as YoBerri, a few short blocks away on Halsted Street. Last year, after the suburban locations opened, both Time Out Chicago and Chicago magazine named Red Mango the best probiotic frozen treat. Now we have to wait and see which will arrive first: the "fresh" and "bright" frozen yogurt or the fresh and bright spring we're waiting for.

Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

Dessert Fri Mar 27 2009

Vosges "The Green Collection" truffles are here for Spring

Vosges has their "Green Collection" for Spring available now in their boutiques and on linevosges green.jpg.

The collection includes:
Ellateria - Indian green cardamom + dark chocolate + white poppy seeds
Kaffir - Thai kaffir lime + fresh coconut + dark chocolate
Kayoko - Japanese macha green tea + white chocolate + cherry blossom petals
Buddha's Leaf - Malaysian pandan leaves + dark chocolate + cocoa powder

Green Truffle Collection, $28-$42

Vosges is also making great strides in eco-conscious production. Their shipping department uses air-filled bags that are made from 100% post-consumer waste and are biodegradable as opposed to styrofoam peanuts. Vosges manufactures their products using 100% renewable energy and heir boutiques in Chicago, New York and Las Vegas run on 100% renewable energy as well. Catalogs are printed with paper from a mill in the USA that is 10% post-consumer waste and certified for sustainability.

So you can feel good about all that chocolate you snarf down.

Vosges
951 W Armitage
520 N Michigan (North Bridge Mall)

Christine Blumer

Openings Thu Mar 19 2009

Le Sucre Cakes & Cupcakes

Le Sucre cupcakesApparently now cupcakes are being replaced by whoopie pies as the queen of traditional-baked-goods-elevated-to-glamorous-gourmet-food-dom, but cupcakes are still a lot of fun, and more bakeries have been opening up around that cupcake fun. We recently visited a newish one, Le Sucre Cakes and Cupcakes, in Niles.

The store is on Waukegan, just outside of the mall that holds the Korean megamart, H Mart. The owners are a young Asian couple, with the friendly husband manning the cashier and the polite, smiling wife baking in the back (which you can kind of see through the glass window). I wouldn't call their cupcakes "innovative" in the sense of More, which has crazy (but delicious) things like BLT and chocolate-champaign cupcakes. Le Sucre's are more traditional, aiming for tried-and-true comfort like dark chocolate mocha and straightforward vanilla. As it was about 5 minutes before closing time, the owner threw in two extras to our chosen two, so we got to try four (yay!).

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa

Store Thu Mar 19 2009

Local Flavors Featured at Downtown Farmstand

Thumbnail image for Downtown Farmstand.jpgWe were quite excited when Chicago's Downtown Farmstand opened last year. Now, after the winter closure, it's back open again, and it seems like they've been doing some background work while in hybernation. They just announced a spiffy new program called "Local Flavors."

Each month, the Farmstand will showcase one ethnic neighborhood of Chicago, by way of featuring locally made products from an ethnic grocery or a market. This month, Middle East Bakery & Grocery in Andersonville has been the featured partner. This happens to be one of my favorite middle eastern bakeries in the city--if I worked close to the Farmstand, I'd be right there three times a week for the eggplant pie and some kibbi balls. (Alas, I don't.)

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Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

Review Fri Feb 06 2009

Vosges Organic Candy Bars

cb_unwrapped_Th.jpgVosges Chocolate recently introduced a new line of organic, single-origin chocolate bars. Each bar comes in at a steep $8.50 (a buck over a regular Vosges chocolate bar), but this is chocolate worth splurging on.

The five new flavors are: Dominica Noir, Dominica Lait, Peanut Butter Bonbon, Enchanted Mushroom, and Habana.

While I usually prefer dark chocolates, I was very impressed with the Dominica Lait. The chocolate was smooth and rich with a nutty, raisin-y flavor. This chocolate would make an excellent addition to a cheese and fruit course.

I was really excited to try the Enchanted Mushroom, a bar of dark chocolate with reishi mushrooms and walnuts. It was nice, but rather uneventful. The mushroom flavor was barely noticeable and the result was simply a high-quality chocolate bar with walnuts. --Not necessarily a bad thing, but not what I was hoping for.

The Habana bar was my favorite of the bunch. The milk chocolate was perfectly suited to the crunchy, salty plantains. If you are looking for a unique Valentine's Day treat, this would be an excellent choice.

Vosges boutiques are located downtown and in Lincoln Park.

(Image from VosgesChocolate.com)

Gemma Petrie

Store Wed Feb 04 2009

My New Favorite Treat

While perusing the aisles at Trader Joe's last night (one of my favorite past times) I encountered something magical. I don't usually have a sweet tooth which, I suppose, is why sea salt brownies appealed to me. The bite size brownies are moist and fudgy (as a brownie should be!) and the sea salt on the top adds such a unique and delicious flavor. Please, do me a favor and try them out. You owe it to yourself.

Kaitlin Olson / Comments (4)

Store Tue Dec 02 2008

San Marino Deli: Welcome New Addition to West Loop Lunch Desert

I work in the West Loop, a few blocks west from the Clinton station on the Green line. Although my coworkers say that the area has much improved in terms of lunch options in the recent years, it still seems like a lunch desert when it comes to cheap, quick meals that don't come from Subway or Jimmy John's. There's a pizzeria chain that cranks out surprisingly nice, fresh-tasting pizzas, and there's an endearingly wacky greasy spoon with a toy train running around on a rail laid out overhead. (If you know the area, you know what I'm talking about.) But if you have only 15 minutes to grab something and get back to work like I do most of the time, options are limited.

So when I saw a sign saying "Italian deli coming soon" iin the window of an empty storefront across the street from the CTA headquarters, I got very excited. As I watched the store's progression from bare concrete walls and empty wire shelves to gleaming deli counter to boxes of panettone and grissini, my excitement only grew bigger and bigger. When it finally opened as San Marino Deli recently, I jumped right in.

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa

Event Wed Nov 12 2008

Blue Sky Pie

Taste some pie this weekend and help support the budding careers of local teens. Blue Sky Bakery and Cafe, a nonprofit that offers job training and opportunities for creative expression to at-risk and homeless youth, is hosting a pie-tasting event at the bakery on Saturday and Sunday, from noon until 3 pm. The $5 fee will get you a sample of four desserts and a coffee, tea or hot apple cider. The young bakers will be preparing chocolate pecan, apple and pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake, not only for the weekend tasting but for the duration of the holiday season.

Lori Barrett

Business Tue Nov 11 2008

Old Town Oil

oil-bottle2.jpgOld Town Oil occupies a sparse storefront along a busy section of Wells Avenue that my mother claims was "quite wild" back in the day. They specialize in 100% extra virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars. A lone employee greeted us at the door and asked, "Would you like to try some oil?"

I made my way down the line of olive oils in the center of the store, savoring the rich flavors of blood orange, basil, and porcini varieties. I then began to work my way around the perimeter, sampling the outstanding balsamic vinegars in flavors like, red apple, oregano, and pomegranate.

The excursion had been prompted by running out of olive oil the evening before, but I didn't have the heart to purchase any of their exquisite oils to simply cook with (nor could I stomach the price for such a use). Instead, I bought my favorite of the vinegars, a 12-year Fig Balsamic Vinegar (375 ml for $16.95).

The vinegar makes an outstanding salad dressing, but is equally delicious drizzled over fresh fruit or cheese. Each bottle is filled and sealed to order and would make an excellent gift for a Thanksgiving host or your favorite holiday cook.

Old Town Oil
1520 N Wells St
(312) 787-9595

(Photo from: Old Town Oil)

Gemma Petrie

Business Tue Oct 21 2008

Chocolates Designed by Local Budding Artists to Benefit Marwen

CCCH Chicago open box.jpgCan chocolate and art create hope and generate inspiration? That was the unlikely question posed on the young artists who participated in the Create Chocolate, Create Hope contest. Held by ethel's Chocolate Lounge, the contest asked the participants 1) to create a graphic design to appear on the surface of ethel's limited edition chocolate collection and 2) to write an essay on the possibility of chocolate and art creating hope.

Last Thursday, four winners of the contest--Emily Poniatowski, Kate Riley, Miguel Delgado and Dennise Isidoro--were at ethel's location at 871 W. Armitage to present their designs to all gathered--family, friends, and the media (which is what I fall under). All four of the winners are aspiring artists--either in school or working on their own. As such, they were visibly excited to see their own designs neatly printed on little square pieces of chocolate, as an employee of ethel's marched around the room with a tray of chocolates with winning designs.

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

News Mon Oct 06 2008

Farmstand Opens Downtown

Chicago Downtown Farmstand (photo Kate Gross).jpgChicago may have just come one step closer to daily farmers markets and seeing more local produce available year round. Chicago's Downtown Farmstand opened on October 1 as a pilot, and while it may close for the season this winter, the goal is to have it open year round next year. This market, in the Loop at 66 E. Randolph, stays open 5 days a week through mid-December - Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. - re-opening in the Spring. Products come from within 250 miles of the city.

The Farmstand, put together by Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs, reminds me a lot of the Green Grocer. Both sell a variety of local produce and locally made packaged goods. The Farmstand's refrigerated cases currently chill local English muffins, various apples, jugs of cider, preserves, small pumpkins, and greens like Swiss chard, arugula, and spigariello. Shelves and baskets are stocked full of locally grown beans, artisan bread, jars of vegetable dips, and locally roasted coffee. You'll also find Brussels sprouts, onion, peppers, green beans, potatoes, and tomatoes. Behind the counter near the registers, they'll make you a smoothie of cider, fruit and ice. Cooking related classes start September 11. Photo courtesy of Kate Gross Photography.

Chris Brunn / Comments (2)

Business Thu Jul 24 2008

DIY Iced Coffee

In these lean times, I like to brew my own coffee at home to save some change. However, the process can be trickier in the summer when what I really want is iced coffee. Here are some tips I've picked up along the way:

First, the guys at Intelligentsia's Randolph Street location tell me that my brewing method is perfect: I just make a pot of coffee like I always do, nice and strong. They recommend avoiding darker roasts, which don't taste as good on ice.

Once the coffee is ready, I pour a big glass and stick it in the freezer. By the time I'm finished showering, the coffee isn't exactly cold, but it's not piping hot, either. I fill my thermos with ice cubes made from coffee leftover from the previous day, and then pour in my chilled coffee and a spot of half and half.

Lately, I've been sweetening the brew with a homemade almond simple syrup. I bring one-third of a cup of water and one-third of a cup of sugar to a boil, then let it simmer for just a couple of minutes until the sugar dissolves completely. I take the pot off the heat and stir in a bit of almond flavoring to taste.

Incidentally, Intelligentsia's new summer drink, GG's Horchata -- rice milk, espresso, simple syrup and a dash of cinnamon -- is a refreshing change of pace on days when I don't feel like firing up my pot at home.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (9)

Store Thu Jul 17 2008

Hey, There's Food on your Shirt.

Made you look!

Show your love for cake, steak, cookies, and pretty much all other things food-related by wearing it on your shirt. Threadless.com, Chicago's very own t-shirt phenomenon, combines food and fashion with quirky food-related t-shirt designs.

My personal favorite:

Threadless
3011 N. Broadway

[Photo from Threadless.com]

Bobbi Bowers / Comments (1)

News Thu Jul 17 2008

CTA: Grocery Stores Near Stations a Good Idea

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is exploring the idea of expanding commercial development, including grocery stores, near its L stations, according to the Chicago Tribune.

As a frequent visitor to Alta Vista Foods, a small but fully loaded produce and grocery store accessible from inside the Sheridan Red Line station, I can attest to how great it is to be able to pop in after work to pick up hamburger buns, lemons, tomato sauce or even a package of chicken legs. My husband and I got rid of our car last year, and grocery shopping is about the only reason we miss having it. Alta Vista definitely makes things easier -- and based on the fact that there's always a steady stream of fellow L riders in line with me, it makes good sense that the CTA is looking to spread the love to other stations.

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

Store Thu Jul 10 2008

New Smoothie Flavor @ Soy Organic

soy_organic_bicycle_trailer.jpgPilsen's Soy Organic is all about offering a healthier alternative. With real fruit smoothies on a hot summer day, I don't know how they could go wrong. But I'm biased; I've been a fan of their fun bulk selection, vegan chorizo and shelf of Indian instant foods packed into a cute storefront since courting them for the Veggie Bike and Dine. Their new smoothie flavor is vegan banana nut. Thursdays, they have fresh Polish bread, Fridays organic Amish "Grab-and-Go" soups. If that's not enough, they have Rice Dream ice cream bars. (Photo courtesy of Soy Organic).

Chris Brunn

Restaurant Thu Apr 17 2008

Soy Organic and Feed

Soy Organic market in Pilsen and the fast food spot called Feed in Humboldt Park were both fun stops on last night's scouting for this year's Veggie Bike and Dine, an event I co-organize – as a disclosure. One can get non-veg items at both places, but they're also quite vegan friendly. Soy Organic, a small, friendly grocery on the corner of 19th Street and Paulina in Pilsen, has tubs full of bulk grains, nuts and dried beans, small bags of dried fruit, Swad brand of Indian products, and, my favorite among a couple grocery aisles, meatless soy chorizo in the refrigerated section – a vegan version of that spicy pork sausage. It should fry up brilliantly on a hot pan in it's own oil. Throw some tortilla pieces or corn chips in the pan, maybe some crumbled tofu, and you could be reflecting visions of chilaquiles. Oh, and Soy Organic is starting up their smoothie machine quite soon, using real fruit.

Hours later, Feed, on Chicago at California, took care of us with good counter service. Our two orders of our fried okra were vegan – they made a special effort to check – batter-coated in small, round nuggets. Ditto for the hand cut sweet potato and regular fries, tender spinach, succotash, coleslaw, beet salad, and juicy fried green tomatoes with a super light batter. Yes, they're all side orders, but combined, they're a meal for four people who just pedaled many miles. Sure, we did have some snacks from Soy Organic earlier. Call them tapas if you need convincing that you can make a meal out of such pieces. Two of my companions put tunes on the old chrome jukebox playing vinyl. We had decided to go in after one of us, a scout if you will, went inside to check on its vegan options. This person emerged with a plate of a few sweet potato fries, as a sample. I was hooked.

Chris Brunn

Business Tue Apr 15 2008

Starfruit Opening

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Starfruit
opened in Wicker Park today and offered free samples of their new products. Starfruit is owned by Lifeway Foods, which is based in Morton Grove, IL. They offer frozen kefir in plain and pomegranate ($3 -$5), parfaits ($4 - $7) and smoothies ($4 - $7). The 24 topping options ($1 for the first and 50 cents for any additional) range from simple fruits to Vosges chocloate bacon bar bits and Milk & Honey granola. (The small frozen pomegranate with kiwi pictured above would cost you $4).

The shop is bright and colorful and they will offer both front and back outdoor seating in the coming weeks. I'm a fan of Lifeway's kefirs and the frozen pomegranate did not disappoint. It was subtly sweet with a nice texture that could almost make you believe you were eating a creamier dairy. The staff members were not particularly helpful, most notably when a confused middle-aged man inquired about the Brazilian gogi berry topping, but all in all this seems like a great establishment for the summer Wicker Park crowd.

Starfruit Cafe
1745 W. Division

Gemma Petrie

Business Sun Apr 13 2008

Sweet Spot on Sheridan

My husband and I have lived in our new apartment for about a month, and we love it. But on weekends we've missed being within walking distance of both a good coffee shop and a bakery on par with our old haunt, Dinkel's on Lincoln. This morning, we searched Google Maps in desperation and finally unearthed a solution: a short bus ride down Irving Park Road to Sheridan satisfies both cravings with Emerald City Coffee and Artemio's Bakery.

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Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

Business Mon Mar 31 2008

Only a Month More to Catch Thai Delicacies

Thai Grocery's Awesome NibblesThai Grocery, a tiny ethnic grocer at Broadway and Argyle, is closing its door at the end of April.

It's been in business since 1974, and the owner figures it's time for retirement back in his home country. So, if you're addicted to their fragrant Thong-Ek (small, flower-shaped sweets made of, egg yolk and coconut milk) or sweet-and-spicy curry puffs, you have only a month to grab it. (You could also get some of their sweets in the refrigerated case of the Thai Pastry, a nearby restaurant, which is where I first found the sweet-and-floral Thong-Ek.) I don't know where else in Chicago to get these authentic Thai sweets that I remember from my childhood in Bangkok, so it's quite sad to see them go.

Meanwhile, I know I'm going to be trying their to-go counter in the back of the store, although this, too, might add to my sadness should the food turn out to be as excellent as I've heard it to be. Thai Grocery is located at 5014 N. Broadway.

Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

Store Wed Mar 19 2008

Surprise Chili

I wasn't at all hungry; I'd just cooked dinner, yet I found myself holding a large carryout chili. A sign on the sidewalk lured me in: seitan chili, vegan - not always on the menu, the lady inside told me. I'd planned just to pick up my bicycle from service. Cooking Fools happened to be along the walk. I tasted the chili before putting it away for lunch. It looked thick and hearty, like I remember a beef chili, imparted with seitan's flavor instead, and that of tender onions, peppers, and beans with a nice spicy heat. 1916 W. North Ave. (773) 276-5565. El: Blue Line (Damen). Bus: 50 Damen, 56 Milwaukee, 72 North.

Chris Brunn

Store Tue Mar 18 2008

Greasy Fingers, Good Belly

Truthfully, I can't begin to guess which mecca of meaty goods gets more play in this town, Hot Doug's or Paulina Meat Market. And, truthfully, it doesn't matter. They are both positively glorious...

Yes, I said: glorious. No, make that: Glorious.

I can scarcely write this entry right now for the greasy fingers slipping haphazardly over my keyboard. Greasy fingers are thanks to the handiwork of the iconoclastic meatmen of Paulina and their monumentally delicious corned beef brisket. I just ate a little sliver of leftovers from yesterday.

It's the most brash shade of pink, laden with whole spices, unctuously fatty and addictively salty. I came home rather spent from a long day at work Monday evening, was ready to hide in my room until I saw the big brazen slab of meat emerge from the oven and on to the cutting board. My Irish American room mate with her shamrock headband was throwing an impromptu St. Patrick's Day party at our apartment. Our house guest had made a trek out to Paulina Meat Market to procure three pounds of Corned Beef. I should have known how good this stuff was going to be, I should have begged her to procure just a few pounds more. I would love to profane to make a corned beef hash with this stuff and sop up some runny sunny side up eggs with it this weekend... Seriously, I would consider a life of crime just to ensure this beef comes back to my house. I sent a message to the guys at Paulina to find out of it's availability throughout the year, I'll let you know when I find out.

I tend to forget about things like corned beef until I find myself in moments with them. Like last night in my own kitchen, Guiness in hand, surrounded by the din of clinking glasses of Jameson, and there I am in a suspended moment making eyes at a big Irish brisket. It's kind of a brilliant thing, it combines curing and pickling and a slab of cow breast. Apparently it's called corned beef because they used to call grains of salt "corns" of salt. Salty, fatty: that's the key. And I can say that this one was the best I have ever had. Hands down. Fingers greased. Get it while you can.

Rachel Humphrey / Comments (3)

Store Fri Mar 14 2008

Farewell Big Cheese

The Cheese Stands Alone is no more. It’s a sad thing to see such a stinky loved-one leave the hood. The web page is just a fond farewell with a promise that they will be looking for another storefront and I hope this is true. The former location was definitely just a block or two out of reach from the bustling Lincoln Square shopping complex, but that was part of the charm. I mean, the cheese stood alone, and the cheese was really great. Really great.

I can’t say that I was a regular, but I did make a few trips in since moving back up north. My co-worker was nuts for this little shop and waxed supreme about her twice weekly visits to the place, so I had to get over there. I found it titillating to walk through the door of this small store front and get absolutely smacked in the face, pummeled about the body by the thick aroma of cheese. Matt was incredibly helpful and obviously passionate about his dairy wares. I don’t know if I was just an open book or if he really was just ridiculously good at reading a person’s cheese-story. The last time I went in this past winter I went home with an incredibly good aged cheddar and that stinky swiss number, Appenzeller. I nestled them into my handbag (which, mind you, was redolent of appenzeller for a week after) and stole away home with some preserves and a bottle of slightly dry Reisling. It was one of those ritualized nights of sheer joy, letting bits of excellent cheese melt on my tongue and washing it back the sweet swish of simplistic decadence. A magical end to a ridiculously stressful day.

It seems a strange trend going on right now. Threats of recession loom daily and yet people are talking about our love of daily decadences like great cheeses and lesser known wines. Organics and artisanal food goods are on the rise. I am a cook, my finances rival that of the most lowly paid public workers but I am of the mind that no matter how broke I have been: I can always afford the little luxury here and there, it’s a necessity. A sliver of dreamy double cream is worth a million dollars in my simple mind. I really hope The Cheese Stands Alone can find new life. It happened for Doug, let’s keep our fingers crossed for Matt and Sarah.

Rachel Humphrey / Comments (2)

Publication Wed Mar 12 2008

Bon Appetit: Chicago

d35a_1.JPG

The April issue of Bon Appetit has a one-page spread on design shops in Chicago. Oddly, five of the ten stores featured are located on Damen. A list of the stores with addresses and website links after the jump.

Continue reading this entry »

Gemma Petrie

Drink Wed Feb 27 2008

North Shore Distillery Tasting @ Binny's South Loop

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for NorthShoreAquavit_stor.jpg

For those of you who have yet to try the fabulous spirits created by the local North Shore Distillery, Binny's South Loop will be hosting a free tasting this Friday from 5pm -8pm.

(Their website mentions that they will be adding a brandy to their artisan collection soon!)

Gemma Petrie

Openings Tue Feb 26 2008

More Groceries for Wicker Park's Six Corners

Opened about three weeks ago, one block off the North, Damen and Milwaukee intersection, W Crossings (2045 W. North Ave.) is a hybrid of liquor store and natural food conscious mini-mart. You'll find liquor, wine, and beer, including a few of Goose Island's reserve brews. With bananas, apples, oranges, cantaloupe and pineapple, they are no match for the produce selection at nearby specialty grocer and wine/beer shop Olivia's Market (2014 W. Wabansia Ave.), but I hear vegetables like spinach, onions, and tomatoes will be arriving soon. W Crossings has many quick pick offerings, including Amy's frozen pizzas, natural peanut butter, natural cereals, vegan cookies, soy milk and canned soups. Open until midnight weekdays, and 1 a.m. weekends.

Other immediately nearby small business grocery options include the 24-hour Wicker Park Food Mart (1571 N. Milwaukee Ave.) for typical convenience items, granola, cookies, crackers, nuts, raisins, juice, soy milk and dried beans. Goddess and Grocer (1646 N. Damen Ave.) offers an ample wine selection, plus plenty of specialty foods to go with. Crespos (2157 W. North Ave.) sells beer, wine, liquor, and the occasional food item. The Wicker Park Blue Line concession stand reliably sells bananas and small snacks and drinks. Evergreen Pantry (1339 N. Damen Ave.) offers more convenience items.

Chris Brunn

Drink Mon Feb 11 2008

Cheaper bubbles this week at Randolph Wine Cellars

randvday.jpg
Most wine shops are charging a premium this week for sparkling wines, but Randolph Cellars is offering 10% off all the bubbles in house through Saturday. Use the extra couple of bucks to buy your sweetie some truffles or a decent card. Cue the Barry White...

Christine Blumer

Store Fri Feb 01 2008

Baggu Bags

Baggu.jpg

I make every effort to remember to bring my own bags when I grocery shop these days. The Whole Foods reusable grocery bag that I got for free at Pitchfork last year has seen better days and I decided it was time to buy a replacement.

I wanted something sturdy, simple and advertisement-free. I found several great options online and eventually ordered three bags from Baggu. While many companies strive to perfectly emulate a disposable plastic bag, the big draw for me to the Baggu bags was the strap length. The bags can be carried in your hand or easily slung over a shoulder. I don't have a vehicle, so I am always walking or on public transportation. The longer straps made Baggu an excellent choice for me.

The bags are made of rip-stop nylon, can hold up to 25 pounds, fold up into a tiny square pouch, have a gusseted bottom and come in 9 colors -- You can even send a well-used Baggu bag back to the company where they will recycle it and give you a small credit towards a new bag. The bags are $8 for one, $22 for three, and $38 for six. While that may seem like a lot of money compared to other options, it has been worth it for me to finally find a sturdy, versatile bag that I never forget to bring with me.

Gemma Petrie / Comments (8)

Event Tue Jan 29 2008

Cheap n Sweet V-day Dinner @ Bittersweet

Have a new sweetie that you want to share Valentine's Day with, but not sure they're worth a $200 fancy pants feast? Or maybe you just want something a bit more low key than the fixed priced menus and disaffected waiters that most joints serve up on the officially sanctioned Day O' Luv. Bittersweet bakery is offering two seatings of a 3 course menu on the 14th for a mere $35 pp. Menu includes an organic greens, beets, and goat cheese salad, your choice of veggie gratin or lamb chops, molten chocolate cake and a glass of bubbly. With seatings at 5:30pm and 7:30pm, you can continue the evening at a swanky bar or back at your love shack with some sweet treats from the pastry case. Reservations are required. (773) 929-1100. Bittersweet Pastry Shop. 1114 W. Belmont Ave.

Christine Blumer

Recipe Wed Jan 23 2008

Korean Carrot Salad

carrotsalad.jpg

A few years ago I visited my friend Margaret in St. Petersburg, Russia where she had been living for some time. I could speak endlessly of the culinary delights that I found in that country, but one that stands out was the Korean Carrot Salad sold in the nearby markets.

This simple salad is, as far as I know, not a Korean dish at all. Rather, it is an ingenious Russian dish that blends shredded carrots, fiery seasoning and oil. I work in West Town just down the street from Ann's Bakery, a lovely Ukrainian grocery store that will hopefully be able to stick it out now that Dominick's has moved in down the street. Ann's Korean Carrot Salad sells for about $5 a pound at their deli counter. While you are there you should probably pick up some delicious light rye bread too.

If you are feeling more adventurous, or just happen to have a lot of carrots on hand you can make your own by following recipe after the jump...

Continue reading this entry »

Gemma Petrie / Comments (1)

Store Tue Jan 22 2008

Cookware Sale at the Chopping Block

LC-Round-BlueBigger.jpgIf you weren't gifted over the holidays with the Le Creuset Dutch oven you've been drooling over forever, check out the Chopping Block's 20 percent off sale on all cookware through January 31. The sale includes all those dreamy kitchen items such as All Clad, Le Creuset, Emile Henry and Scan Pan.

Meghan Murphy Gill

Random Thu Jan 17 2008

Cool Kitchen Gadget Alert

If you're like me and you suck at "eye-balling" measurements, you'll love this nifty Oil and Vinegar Pump Bottle from Crate & Barrel. Simply pump the buttons at the side to fill up the handy calibrated spigot at the top and viola! Perfect measurements without the mess.

[Photo from crateandbarrel.com]

Looking to find the perfect olive oil? Check out these specialty retailers that offer olive oil tastings.
-City Olive
-Ta-Ze
-Old Town Oil

Bobbi Bowers

Store Tue Nov 20 2007

Big Box Booze Battle in the South Loop

Wine geeks in the South Loop have two new spots to shop in the hood.Binnys Beverage Depot and Sam's Wine and Spirits have both opened giant new stores on Roosevelt in the South Loop. The new Sam's features a wine and cheese bar and fine wine room, with two floors of wine and spirit selections in a landmark building circa 1928. Binny's new location, less than a mile west, is simply gigantic. In what looks like even more floor space than the Lincoln Park Sam's location, Binny's South Loop has a tasting room with over 100 wines and 16 beers to sample, a rare wine cellar, walk in humidor, and special section of their gourmet market dedicated to chocolate. Both stores have Grand Opening events scheduled for the week.

Christine Blumer

Business Thu Nov 15 2007

Eatzi Going

Eatzi's Easygoing Gourmet in Lakeview is shutting its doors for good in a week. Until then, they're offering 30% off on all that's left on their shelves and in their refrigerators, including wine and beer. They emptied out their warehouse today, so there should be a good selection of wine for the holidays on the shelves tomorrow. Elsewhere, the store is starting to look pretty bare, but you might be able to score some nice chocolates or cookies for holiday host gifts or to help add another layer of warmth for the winter.

Lori Barrett

Ingredient Mon Nov 12 2007

You Made Me Love You, I Didn't Want to Do It

Ah, Trader Joes. First you make the groundbreaking, life-changing Pumpkin Bread Mix, several boxes of which have a permanent home in my cupboard. Just when I'm getting comfortable in the relationship, you pull Gingerbread Cake and Baking Mix out of your hat. And it's good. Real good. A nice blend of molasses, clove, and nutmeg. I can make it as a cake, or if I'm feeling frisky, cookies. Thank you for this blessed cooking timesaver. I no longer have to use 3 spatulas to coax molasses out of a measuring cup when I'm baking gingersnaps. Excellent.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (2)

Store Fri Nov 09 2007

Takoyaki at Mitsuwa

LTHForum moderator Cathy2 captured the art and process of making takoyaki, or octopus balls, at Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights this past weekend. The takoyaki were part of Mitsuwa's anniversary sale, which runs through Nov. 19; not sure whether the octopus balls will last that long.

Andrew Huff / Comments (1)

Store Tue Oct 30 2007

Not Just the Gold Coast is Gold

chococitycake.JPGEver wonder what the Sears Tower would look like rendered in chocolate, or more accurately in golden chocolate? Some friends came for dinner the other night, and brought this chocolate cake from House of Fine Chocolates in Lakeview. It's wrapped in a skyline that invokes mouthwatering civic pride. And, yes, it tastes as great as it looks.

Lori Barrett

Random Mon Oct 15 2007

All Good Things Must Come to an End

farmersmarketonions Farmers Market season is winding down. This is the last week for several Chicago markets, so if you haven't already walked through rows of produce tents brimming with seasonal offerings, maybe you ought to skip your weekly trip to the Jewel's this week. It's going to be a long, cold winter before you get the opportunity again, so pick up some fresh seasonal fruits at anyone of the city's neighborhood markets.


Meghan Murphy Gill

Store Thu Oct 04 2007

Greek Grocer, Greek Baker

The same friend who showed me the great Italian store on Grand named Bari told me there was a Greek place I needed to try. A few weeks later we were there, in Athens Grocery at 324 S. Halsted. As we locked our bicycles out front, she told me we needed to also visit Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop next door, at 322 South.

Athens is setup like many small Chicago grocers. It first has a row with coolers and produce, a few aisles of shelves, and a counter up front to pay up at. I grabbed some ripe bananas and after an aisle of American packaged foods, went for the Greek imports. Metal cans with tear-off tops from Greece sit on a shelf over jars of tahini and down from tins of coffee. I took a tin of baked giant beans - the same kind I'd seen dried earlier in the store - 280 grams in all. The ingredients told me the beans make up 59 percent - the remainder being a silky savory sauce (as I'd later find out) of soy oil, onions, tomato, parsley, dill and red and black pepper. I took one of those for $2.99 and another of young okras (57%) for $3.49. The latter came with soy oil, onions, tomato, vinegar, parsley, garlic, and red and black pepper. An elegantly painted tin of stone milled Turkish style coffee found its way into my basket, too. The can showed Aroma Coffee Company in Chicago's 60607. Next, I took a $3.49, 9.7-ounce jar of Kalamata spread from a back shelf that also holds much large jars of giardiniera. In the last aisle, a bottom shelf holds packages of dried stalks of sage and oregano. Large glass $2.99 jars of chamomile herbal tea list their ingredients "in descending order of predominance" - even though they continue to list just one ingredient: the chamomile flower. Across, a counter holds two large filled-to-the-rim pails of olives in brine. One contains green olives, the other Kalamata. A sign says to keep your hands out. Liquor is on the back wall.

Continue reading this entry »

Chris Brunn / Comments (1)

Store Fri Sep 28 2007

Dominick's: The Final Chapter

Yesterday evening, among balloons, tiny plastic cups of soup and a grill wagon belching smoke and country tunes in the side lot, the Dominick's at Chicago and Damen celebrated its grand opening. The fanfare may go without saying, seeing as how this particular venture has been the catalyst to some very serious debate in its home ward, and in the city at large, concerning private and locally held development versus the Ever-Infringing Evil Conglomerate, the future of urban planning, and the prevention, if not eradication, of the food desert. To name but a few.

No one last night seemed to be pushing any agenda (except for that Rancher's Reserve guy in the meets section -- pushy), and while the lines stretched long to check out and then take the elevator up to the rooftop parking lot, the supermarket party-goers seemed to be in fine spirits. The controversy of the Dominick's development may not be behind us (let's see how the traffic is at that corner this morning...), but the Ukrainian Village seems to be, for the moment, pleased by its newest commercial neighbor.

Andie Cavedo

Store Tue Sep 18 2007

Divine Balkan Bread on Devon

Tucked in the corner of an unassuming neighborhood grocery store, there is nothing fancy about this bread. They're in plain brown bags, there's no fancy sign, and even the name of the bread is rather generic: "Round Balkan Bread." But once you walk near them, your nose won't let you walk away without picking one up.

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

Store Mon Sep 17 2007

Bari and D'Amato's: Two Must Bike-To Little Shops

Bari Imported Italian Foods looks like any regular neighborhood grocery from Grand Avenue, but it's stocked full of delicious pasta, house branded sauces and olives in a deli case. You'll find jars of capers, various brands of good quality canned tomatoes and various flours - including durum (great for pasta making), chestnut, chickpea and farina 00 (super for pizza dough, I hear). The Bari brand of tomato sauce is out of this world. It's incredibly savory with ground tomatoes, water, garlic, spices, oil and salt. We first dipped in spoons to taste, then bread, and then I pour myself a glass. It's runny like soup. And it's almost a shame to distract from it by mixing in pasta. The sagnarelli pasta that Bari sells is also a treat. It's thin, flat and narrow, with flutes edges all around. We cooked the pasta and boiled down the sauce with Sicilian olives from Bari's deli that we finely chopped. It's a perfect simple dinner for a cool summer night at an outdoor table with a candle.

D'Amato's #1 Italian & French Bakery is next door, and on a tip that they made killer sourdough baguettes, we had to try them. The crust is perfectly crispy, sealing a tender inside. I was so tempted by the focaccia that D'Amato's also sells that I left without my bread. The nice lady who had sold the bread to me came out the door with it as we were unlocking our bikes from the city rack. At home, we toasted slices up, and then rubbed on an un-smashed garlic clove like we were using a crayon - with the pointy clove's end running down to nothing at the sixth slice. Don't use smashed cloves or it'll be like painting with a brush that leaves its bristles all about. Drizzle with olive oil. Stop in Bari and D'Amato's on your way home. It's easy to get there on Hubbard from the Loop on your bicycle.

Bari Imported Italian Foods, 1120 W. Grand Ave., (312) 666-0730
D'Amato's #1 Italian & French Bakery Co., 1124 W. Grand Ave. (M-F 7-7, Sat 7-6, Sun 7-2)

Chris Brunn

Event Fri Sep 07 2007

Sushi Class and Wellfleet openings @ The Fish Guy

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Plenty of opportunities to have fun with fish this fall with The Fish Guy. Take a sushi class from Hiroko Shimbo on October 14, 15, or 16 for just $100. Class includes lots of sushi and sake as well as signed copies of both of her cookbooks. You can also snag a coveted reservation at the once a week restaurant Wellfleet on September 7, 14, or 21 if you act quickly. Sign up now and get a free Caviar Wellfleet for each couple. 773-283-7400.

Christine Blumer

Ingredient Fri Aug 17 2007

Not your Typical Marshmallow

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Imagine you're vegetarian. Now imagine, you don't eat marshmallows. Typically, they contain gelatin to make them jell, and often gelatin is derived from animals. Now image that a friend hands you two 8.5 ounce boxes of mashmallows. They've vegan. And they're from Cincinnati. But the label says New York.

A friend and I were lunching at the Art Institute's gardens, when he handed me the boxes. He'd just returned from visiting our friend's new green general store in Cincinnati. Dan Korman recently left his job in Chicago advocating for bicycling to start Park + Vine in his beloved home town. The grand opening came June 1 with a packed store, both full of Dan's friends and with a man who came down from his apartment above the store to by shavers. Park + Vine also sells bamboo-cotton apparel, handbags, local artwork, cleaning supplies and vegan shoes. But they also sell Sweet & Sara Marshmallow Meltaways. And they're vegan, just like everything else in the store, whether it's labeled so or not. Veg News named these marshmallows Product of the Year in 2006, saying the "self-described 'dessert snob' Sara Sohn has reinvented the vegan marshmallow." They're fluffy and a bit chewy - as you'd expect a marshmallow to be - and they're packed with a full sweet flavor. Now, I'm off for some graham crackers and dark milk-free chocolate. Look for Park + Vine in the September 2007 issue of Veg News. And look for me with my face full of chocolate from s'mores.

Chris Brunn

Restaurant Sat Aug 11 2007

Chicago Korean Festival with Tofu House and Lawrence Fruit Market

Adrienne and Mike at Tofu House.jpgThis weekend, Califone and the Ponys are rocking West Fest on Chicago Avenue and the Midwest Buddhist Temple hosts Ginza Festival. Meanwhile, the 12th Annual Chicago Korean Festival fills Bryn Mawr between Kimball and Kedzie with a bandstand plus food and advocation tents in typical street fair style. I took the Homan/Kimball bus north from North Avenue, met up with my pals and popped out of the fest and into Tofu House (3307 W. Bryn Mawr) for a meal. The commercial corridor of the Korean enclave seems to span just the few blocks of the festival. It's a delightful find, not too far from Arabic cafes, restaurants and stores on Kedzie near Lawrence. Tofu House's steamy tofu vegetable soup is full of spice, just like I asked for, and brought to the table simmering - perfect inside air conditioning on a hot day. We're in a room off of the main wood paneled room that's under a ceiling of dark wood slots. The wood lends a wholesome feel that becomes humbly charming with the dark, almost forest green that paints chairs and the table frames that hold medium-stained wood tabletops. Service is attentive, and includes a current Korean fashion magazine to admire while we wait. Across and down the street, through the festival's table tents and wrestling sand pit, sits a modest looking Lawrence Fruit Market (3318 W. Bryn Mawr). Packaged goods like soybean paste, barley flakes and rice paper for spring rolls sit in shelves around a table with crimini, shitake and oyster mushrooms and okra and coolers with organic tofu, broccoli, leeks and more. Fresh plump and deeply sweet figs and lychee wait at checkout. The back of the store seems reserved for unpacking. On the sidewalk, my pals and I peel the lychee's round, prickly outside and appreciate the sticky, grape-like sweet inside. I spit the pit into a trashcan and get lost on a side street. The bungalow-lined streets are pristinely manicured. Down an alley, friends point out a Korean backyard garden. Gourds and cucumbers hang from a trellis, homemade from electrical pipe, that makes me think of going home to unpack the veggies I just bought.

Continue reading this entry »

Chris Brunn

Store Mon Jul 30 2007

Taste Opus One at the new North Halsted Whole Foods

OpusOnezoom2.gif If you’ve ever wanted to taste this famously fancy and expensive red from Robert Mondavi and the Baroness de Phillippine de Rothschild with out shelling out $150, here’s your chance. The new Whole Foods at the Center on Halsted has a Vino sample area like the one I blogged about earlier this summer, but the selections are a bit different. This location is offering some swankier tastes on tap and a few more boutique-y items than most other stores. You can get a sample of the 2003 Opus One for $8 at their tasting station, and if it really does it for ya, take a bottle home for $159. Best keep that bad boy in the cellar for a while though. I find Opus reaches its peak in about 10- 12 years from vintage, but that’s just me. I like my California Cabernets and blends to have a good deal of berry fruit tones still front and center, even if its at the expense of complexity.

Any Halsted Street bar owner or restauranteur will confirm that the boys love their bubbly, especially Veuve Clicquot. You’ll find a hearty supply here of both standard and half bottles, pre-chilled, in the cooler for you. While you’re there, pick up some of their sushi, a couple of made to order noodle bowls, and some Raspberry Cheesecake or Peach gelato for dessert. Then call me with an invite for dinner.

Christine Blumer

Random Tue Jul 24 2007

The Simpsons in the Suburbs

As you know, in preparation for the Simpsons movie, which is opening this Friday, several 7-11 stores nationwide were picked for a temporary facelift into Homer's beloved Kwik-E-Mart to promote the film, among them the store at 6754 West 63rd Street, near Midway Airport (aka Nowhere Near My Place). I headed down there this past weekend to soak in the atmosphere and eat donuts.

Continue reading this entry »

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Store Mon Jul 16 2007

Meyer? I Just Bought 'er!

Have you been crying into your Spaten ever since Lincoln Square's Delicatessen Meyer closed earlier this year? Never fear, leberkaese fans, the proprietors of a Belmont-Cragin sausage shop have picked up the deed. They plan to sell German and other European specialty foods, including home-made herring, crepes and more.

Shylo Bisnett

Store Sun Jul 08 2007

Dough Boy's Little-Known Indian Talent

When you're out along Devon Avenue, take a look at the freezer sections of the international grocers (like Patel Brothers') there. You might find amusing things--like Pilsbury's Dough Boy, a.k.a. Michelin Man's Bastard Child, proudly presenting ready-made, potato-stuffed Indian flat bread.

Dough Boy Presents Ginger Potato Paratha!

When I found various Indian flat breads, called paratha, made by General Mills India (in India) the other day, I just had to try one. The combination of the familiar dough boy and the exotic Indian bread was irresistibly amusing. So, we picked up a package of ginger potato paratha and tried them the next morning as a breakfast.

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa

Store Wed Jun 06 2007

Vino Tasting Cards @ Whole Foods on Peterson

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Wine lovers can taste before they buy or just have a little drinkipoo while they shop at the new Sauganash Whole Foods. Stop by the cheese counter to get your rechargeable Vino Card and add any amount you'd like in $5 increments. Snag a real glass from the shelf, peruse the 16 selections available "on tap," and select the wine you'd like to try. Prices per taste are illuminated above each offering, ranging from 75 cents for a nice Spanish rose to $3.25 for a fancy Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon. Just insert your card, position your glass under the desired spout, press the button, and out comes your wine at the perfect serving temperature. Store buyer, Kurt, is usually on hand to offer savvy recommendations and pairings. You just might find yourself volunteering to do the grocery shopping more often.

Christine Blumer

Ingredient Mon May 21 2007

Find ingredients for Ethiopian food at Kukulu Market

Berbere and InjeraIf you haven't given homemade Ethiopian food a try because of the sheer difficulty of mixing up a proper berbere, now is your chance. One of my favorite shops in Chicago, Kukulu Market sells the spice mixture in large quantities for a low price (around $6 for a pint-size container!). You can also purchase three large rounds of injera for only $1.50 and Niter Kebbeh, a delicious spiced butter. Whenever I bring home the spongy and sour flat bread made with tef flour, I feel such gratitude for the fact that I live in a city with such a multitude of foods and ingredients available. Kukulu also sells Ethiopian coffees, spices for chai and traditional coffee sets. It's located in Edgewater, home to a large Ethiopian community, on Broadway, right across from the Ethiopian Diamond.

If you have zero to little experience with Ethiopian food, the owners are delightful and love to talk about their food. Ask them questions and they'll be certain to give informative answers.

Or, you can use my recipe for Miser Wat.

Continue reading this entry »

Meghan Murphy Gill

Store Fri May 18 2007

Whole Foods Market Community Support Day

Whole Foods Market is holding one of its Community Support Days on Saturday, 5% of total sales from all the stores in the Midwest region will be donated to Sustain and FamilyFarmed.org, a non-profit group that supports organic and sustainable farmers by connecting them with consumers and grocery trade buyers. So Saturday is the perfect day to spend some of that hard earned cash on some sausage or other grilling type stuff, like organic produce grown right here in the Midwest.

Christian Scheuer

Store Fri May 18 2007

Sausage Fest

Cooked sausages On the rare occasion that I decide to shop at Whole Foods, I make it my goal to try something new. My last visit led me to the meat counter, where I put together the components for a sausage tasting. We bought five different varieties: chicken apple, bratwurst, lamb basil, mild Italian chicken, and mild Italian buffalo. Cooked to perfection on the grill, all were quite tasty, but my favorite was the buffalo. It was studded with fennel seeds and stayed juicy and tender on the inside while it developed a nice crusty char on the outside. Next time you decide to empty out your bank account at any of the city or suburban locations (+ a new store opening this summer at Waveland and Halsted), pick up a few links and expand your own sausage horizons.

Dana Currier

Thu May 10 2007

White Peaches @ Whole Foods Means Bellini Time

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White peaches from California are available at Whole Foods in Lakeview right now, which means true Bellini cocktails are just a blender spin away. The famous Italian aperitif starts with a glass of cold Prosecco (an inexpesive sparkling wine from Italy), topped with a white peach nectar puree, and garnished with a berry or perhaps a little nugget of the stone fruit and a sprig of mint. Epicurious has a recipe from the Hotel Cipriani in Venice that is both simple and classic. Best make them quick. The white peach season is notoriously short.

Christine Blumer / Comments (2)

Drink Fri May 04 2007

A Good Time to Buy Glassware

mondavi%2520bssm.jpgIf you need to stock up on some nice stemware, now's a good time. The Robert Mondavi series by Waterford usually carries a price tag of $50 per set of two. CostCo on Clybourn has them for a mere $36.99 right now. While they're not as aromatically precise as competitors like Riedel, they are some of the most beautiful wine glasses around for the money.

Good news for Riedel fans too! Macy's has open stock of Riedel Vinum series stems for a close out price of $14.99 each as part of their One Day Sale on Wednesday May 9th. Makes a nice gift for Mom as well.

Christine Blumer

Store Sun Apr 22 2007

Bread Baking 101

Baguettes The art of baking bread has always eluded me. My doughs never rise, my crusts never crust up, and at the end of a day of mixing, kneading, waiting, punching, waiting some more, and then finally baking, all I'm usually left with is a dry, dense mound. This is why I immediately signed up for the Chopping Block's Bread Workshop when I found it on their April calendar of cooking classes. The class, held in the upstairs kitchen at the store's Lincoln Square location, was very well-organized and the instruction very thorough.

Continue reading this entry »

Dana Currier

Store Mon Apr 09 2007

Courting The Foodie Vote?

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As a part of their month-long, 10th anniversary blowout, The Chopping Block is hosting an olive oil tasting event. Through April 9th to the 13th, you can visit both their Lincoln Square and Merchandise Mart locations to sample and vote on “rare, artisanal olive oils of the highest quality.” The winning oil will be crowned the, “Official Olive Oil of The Chopping Block’s 10th Anniversary Year.”

No word yet on what’s become of last year’s winner, an Armando Manni's extra virgin from 1999. The fine Tuscan artifact was stripped of its title after reports surfaced of its use in a number of adult films in the early '90s.

Bryan Delano III / Comments (2)

Store Tue Apr 03 2007

Caputo's Cheese Market

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The mozzarella tank at Caputo's Cheese Market

One of the hidden gems of the western suburbs is Caputo's Cheese Market. Behind the strip malls at North Avenue and 15th in Melrose Park, Caputo's occupies a converted warehouse that still looks a lot like a warehouse on the outside. Inside, however, you can find a refrigerated cheese room with all manner of imported cheeses at bulk prices -- the best deals are probably on the Italian stuff, but there's cheese from all over the place, with an excellent selection of cheeses from Eastern Europe. Best of all, they make their own fresh mozzarella and ricotta, and it's very affordable.

Besides the refrigerated cheese room, Caputo's also has a bakery with delicious fresh pizza, a deli counter with dozens of Italian and Eastern European selections, and great deals on imported pasta, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, and (of course) Italian wine.

Continue reading this entry »

Paul Goyette

Store Mon Mar 26 2007

Olive Branch

I have a little girl that eats olives the way other kids eat candy. She eats candy the way other kids eat candy as well, but in a contest for her heart, brine would win out over fructose. So she and I both got pretty excited when we heard about the opening in Andersonville of City Olive. As we made our way up Clark Street to check out the shop, we had visions of giant vats of olives, marinating in different oils and brines: some of them green, some of them black, some of them with spicy red peppers, and some of them mixed in with pickled cloves of garlic, a favorite for after-school snacks.

cityolive.jpgTurns out, City Olive isn’t the olive mecca we were hoping for. It’s a lovely shop full of imported oils, vinegars, tapenades and hand cream made from olives. There are colorful packages of pasta, serving dishes for olives and olive oils, artisanal salts in different shades of pink and brown, and Greek cookies made with olive oil and wine. But they don’t carry a lot of olives. The people in the store were nice enough to refer us to a Persian market a few blocks south (closed the day we were in the neighborhood) with some vats of olives, and in the meantime offered us samples of olive oils. Instead of offering bits of bread to soak up the oil, they were pouring oil into small cups to be sampled in a sip. My son was the only one brave enough to take more than a sip. He seemed to enjoy it, going back repeatedly to refill his little cup. We made our way around the store, picking out ingredients for a nice pasta dinner, and a jar of olives mixed with gherkins and pickled cloves of garlic. We still haven’t made our pasta dinner, but my daughter served herself the olives and garlic cloves for breakfast the next morning.

City Olive, 5408 N. Clark St., 773-878-5408

Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

Store Sat Mar 24 2007

Logan Square Grocery Store Update

When the Cub Foods on Elston closed late last year, a crucial point was lost in the "Lifestyle Scalene Triangle" that consisted of Target, Home Depot, and the heralded strip mall that housed Cub. Where else could I get a six-month supply of paper towels, a gallon of paint, and the ingredients for a chicken parmigiana meal in such a small distance? Word on the street is that Strack and Van Til, an Indiana-based grocery store chain, hopes to be opening in the former Cub space at 2627 North Elston by April 1.

Robyn Nisi

Store Thu Mar 08 2007

Piece of Cake

The tres leches cake from Pierre’s Bakery is hardly a cake. It’s more like a heavenly square of sweet, sweet delight, so moist that it leaves a puddle of nectar on the plate if you hesitate to eat it. As if you would hesitate to eat it! The three milks of the name are condensed milk, evaporated milk, and yes, milk, so this is not a cake for your vegan friends, but when you are looking for the end-all of comforting desserts, take a quick trip to one of Pierre’s Chicago locations and pick up a piece (or a whole cake). Although we are partial to the Logan Square location at 2747 N. Milwaukee, there are a variety of Pierre’s sprinkled around Chicagoland.

Pierre’s offers a variety of cakes by the piece, which makes it a perfect place to stop if your pot luck assignment is dessert. From the Atomic (cheesecake, yellow cake, chocolate cake, strawberries, creamy filling, toasted coconut) to the tropical Charolotte, a selection from Pierre’s will please just about everyone…

Just to sweeten the deal, here’s a coupon for 10% off.

Mary Smith / Comments (1)

Business Wed Feb 28 2007

Sam's is Sold

chicagosams.jpegSam's Wine and Spirits was quietly sold today to one of the family members and a group of outside investors. The store has been family owned and operated by the Rosen family since its humble beginnings on the Near North Side in the 1950s. Youngest brother, Brian Rosen, and his financial backers have purchased his brother Darryl's interest in the company and seem to be making changes rather quickly. Eight employees were let go this week, which continues a trend of many key staff members giving notice or receiving pink slips over the last three months. No word yet as to whether they intend to make changes to the business model or how the selection or service will be affected.

Christine Blumer

Store Wed Feb 21 2007

Far Away Flavors Made Easy

So, you're going down your ingredients list at your favorite grocery store. You've grabbed the heavy-hitters like meats and veggies. You've got your supporting cast like starches and sauces. And there’s always that one egg. But then you get to the mood setters — the spices. Suddenly the needle scratches right off the record as you realize your perfectly planned meal has been sabotaged; by exorbitant prices if you're lucky or by a woeful selection if you aren't. Special spices and ingredients like tamarind, bulgur, sesame oil, tahini and exotic chilies can be hard to find at a reasonable price if you can find them at all.

Fear not ambitious gourmands, there are plenty of markets across Chicagoland that sell every obscure, but utterly necessary, ingredient your cookbook will ever call for. And at a fraction of the price you'll pay at the big chain stores. (They don't call it "Whole Paycheck" for nothing, right?) And consider this: exotic spices sold by specialty stores will be far fresher than ones sitting on a chain store shelf waiting for that one special shopper to come blow off the dust and take them home.

Chicago's ethnic markets are a superb place to track down these sultry essentials. Some suggestions can be found below the fold.

Continue reading this entry »

Bryan Delano III

Store Tue Feb 20 2007

Yet another Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods will be opening a new store in the Sauganash neighborhood on Wednesday, so be sure to visit this 40,000-square-foot store. According to Whole Foods, the reason for larger stores is due to a greater selection of natural and organic products available and that the stores are attracting a wider variety of clientele than the hippies and natural food die-hards of 27 years ago. The pending relocation of the 36,000-square-foot North Avenue location to the whopping 80,000-square-foot store in Lincoln Park will make it Chicago's largest.

Whole Foods Market Sauganash is located at 6020 N. Cicero Avenue (Cicero & Peterson) just off the Edens Expressway.

Christian Scheuer / Comments (1)

News Mon Feb 19 2007

Wisconsin-based grocery chain to round out the competition

Both the Tribune and Sun Times reported last week that Wisconsin-based Roundy's is coming to Chicago. The chain will be opening the first of a hoped for 13 in the New City YMCA property near the shopping corridor at North and Clybourn. Another possible location is the Carson's building on State Street, in which there is talk about a "food emporium."

Roundy's CEO, Robert Mariano, is a Jefferson Park native and a former CEO of Dominick's. He lost his position when California-based Safeway took over the local grocery chain. He'd been with Dominick's for 27 years. Now he's back on the radar and told the Sun Times that opening Roundy's locations in some of the 14 Dominick's slated to close would "make a lot of sense."

I've never been to a Roundy's (or Pick 'n Save, Rainbow Foods, or Copp's - the other three names under which it operates), so I don't really know whether Chicagoans will welcome the new addition. What do you think? Can we expect more overpriced produce and boxes of cereal, or is Roundy's going to up the ante?

Meghan Murphy Gill / Comments (5)

Ingredient Tue Feb 13 2007

Luscious Blood

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Despite all the hysteria after the deep freeze in southern California a few months ago, as of yet I have noticed no real shortage of citrus fruit in my local Jewel. In fact, a few weeks ago I purchased an entire sack of navel oranges for a decent price. The bright orange skin of most of the oranges was clearly visible through the mesh of the sack, except for the one orange that had been wrapped in a piece of waxed tissue paper. I assumed this packaging was nothing but a marketing gimmick, but a few days later, when I grabbed the wrapped orange from the fridge, I was surprised to find a deeply blushed skin beneath the paper.

Continue reading this entry »

Dana Currier / Comments (4)

Business Sat Feb 10 2007

White Hen Pantry Could Soon Be a Convenience of the Past

After the acquisition of Lombard-based White Hen by 7-Eleven Inc. last August, there was a bit of speculation as to whether the locale chain of convenience stores would retain the name. As you may have noticed in recent 7-Eleven commercials, White Hen is mentioned in a coffee promotion if only briefly — apparently Chicagoans prefer White Hen coffee to that of 7-Eleven. It appears now that franchise owners have been asked to sign a letter of intent to change to 7-Eleven or get out, and by out you are no longer a franchisee and you lose your store.

Yet another venerable Chicago-area brand bites the dust.

Christian Scheuer

Store Thu Feb 08 2007

Pop-up Shop Disses Cupid

Not feelin' the Valentine's love? Chicagoist and Apartment Therapy point us to a pop-up store from Altoids in Lincoln Park aiming to provide "the lovesick, lovelorn and Cupid-wary of Chicago ... a sanctuary from all the romantic overtures." Stop in between now and Valentine's Day and get free chocolate-dipped Altoids, coffee and cupcakes from Angel Food Bakery, anti-Valentine's cards and more. Yes, all for free.

Altoids Chocolate Shoppe
Open noon to 10pm, Feb. 8-14
912 W. Armitage Ave.

Andrew Huff

Event Thu Feb 08 2007

Heat up the Kitchen

Provenance food and wine shop in Logan Square offers more than just a convenient place to pick up Australian olive oils, fresh organic produce, or a bottle of Pinot Noir; they also offer a variety of classes and events, including an upcoming Aphrodisiac Foods Class on Monday, February 12th from 6:30 to 8 pm. Not only will you learn how to put together a delicious menu for two including artichoke pesto, butternut squash bisque with chipotle and other sexy foods, you'll also get 10% off all purchases that evening. The class costs $30 per person, visit their events page to learn more.

Mary Smith

Store Wed Feb 07 2007

Touring the City's Markets

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A year and a half ago, I moved into a neighborhood rife with opportunities for adventurous eating. The problem was I had no idea where to start. So when I heard about Evelyn Thompson’s Ethnic Grocery Tours, I couldn’t believe my luck.

A friend and I embarked with Evelyn on our culinary journey one Sunday morning last January, and we proceeded to sample our way through various Uptown, Andersonville, and Rogers Park food markets. We hit Patel Brothers on Devon, the Middle Eastern Bakery on Foster, a Vietnamese market on Argyle, two Mexican markets, one Cuban market/fast food joint, and one Bosnian almost-supermarket. Along the way, we tasted cactus, yucca, plantains, sour oranges, freshly-baked bread, feta, crispy Indian cornflakes and coffee beans. At the end of the day, I was brimming over with plans to cook all kinds of exotic dishes. I swore I'd never go to Jewel again. Obviously, I didn't exactly follow through on that pledge. I do, however, feel much more at ease walking into any one of the myriad food markets in the city that are more off the beaten path. They're often far cheaper and carry higher quality products than the big chain stores. I highly recommend getting in touch with Evelyn and letting her introduce you to some of the city's hidden food gems.

Dana Currier

GB store

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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