30 May 2003

read about La Unica (but, shhh....don't tell anyone!) here. oh, i guess if its in metromix, its not such a secret anymore.

yeah. my week in reverse. or, a short survey of some of my very favorite places to eat:

in the [hopefully] very near future: cuban sandwich from La Unica. spinach pie and saganaki from greektown.

[highly anticipated] dinner tonight: alice and friends with one of my favorite friends who is leaving town on monday. what is she thinking, bailing on me like that??
lunch: leftover "focaccia" with grilled vegetables, cheese and tomato sauce, otherwise known as a "pizza" from the italian place down the street on dearborn. pretty tasty, even cold out of the styrofoam box. in fact, maybe tastier that way.
breakfast: eggs overhard (new favorite!) with hashbrowns extra crispy and buttered wheat toast from standees, the local dive. i walk by every day and see the same faces every day (even do the nod with the bald guy in the orange shirt) so sometimes i gotta go in for a fix. the coffee is awful, but all the food is smothered in melted butter which is such a good thing. i make a little egg sandwich with the toast. and lean forward so i don't drip butter, grease or yolk on myself.

dinner: lula cafe, god bless. i'm pretty sure the stomach ache i got after dinner was entirely unrelated. a dirty martini with blue cheese stuffed olives, the lula house salad, a greek salad for my dining buddy, orzo with artichoke hearts, fennel, tomato and parmesan, orchiette with onions, morel mushrooms and feta. next time i'll save room for dessert and get flourless chocolate cake with chocolate chili ice cream. i'd move to logan square just to be closer to lula its so good and the folks who work there are so cute!
lunch: the focaccia, round one. rootbeer, salad and lots of bread drenched in olive oil. followed by a birthday party dessert of rice crackers with jalapeno pineapple jelly and brownies without nuts.
breakfast: oops. none.

two whole days ago
dinner: er. rockstar roommate comes thru! fried eggplant stuffed with some sort of peanut coconut cilantro thing, curried rice and beans, basmati rice with dill and carrots, na'an. and wine.
lunch: greek salad at corner bakery downtown. pleh.
[late] breakfast: victory's banner, everyone's weirdly enlightened breakfast spot, complete with sari'd waitresses, photos of elderly gurus squatting 1300 lbs and robins egg blue walls. the bagel sandwich with scrambled eggs, veggie cream cheese and soy sausage almost achieves the brilliance that was the pesto egg biscuit at No Way Cafe in seattle which is, from what i've heard, tragically tragically closed. sigh. man. but victory's banner is a spectacular second choice and much closer to my apartment on the far north side of chicago anyways. good coffee, too.

three days ago
dinner: ethiopian diamond and their new okra dish which was, much to my friend's relief, not slimy. everytime i go there, i get halfway through the meal and begin to worry that we haven't ordered enough and by the end of dinner, i'm so stuffed i can hardly move. i wonder if its hard to make injera because, i mean, what will i do next year?
lunch: leftover veggie tagine. sometimes couscous is pretty tasty when it clumps together into a giant, well, cous.
breakfast: slice of bernie's bread. thank you sara (and bernie, too).

just got an email about the salt&pepper squid at hong min. oh man!

In the world of competitive eating, a competitor is called a "Gurgitator." and while i realize that there's nothing pretty about eating 57 cow brains in 15 minutes (good job Takeru Kobayashi!), might they find a slightly less graphic term? yes, its funny and yes, it does perfectly fit the bill but the last thing you need while watching someone eat seven sticks of butter in five minutes is another reminder of barf.

27 May 2003

a good weekend. a very good weekend. friday was jin ju with my family who arrived 35 minutes late (!!). its a new fancy-ish korean restaurant on clark in andersonville staffed almost entirely by hot, buff gay men. this is, of course, absolutely my thing. granted it doesn't have the romantic grittiness (or inexpensive entrees) of san soo gab san, but dinner was fantastic. the two hot, buff gay men sitting at the table next to me asked the server to pick for them and we ended up pretty much ordering what they received: dol sut bi bim bap, and, um, chicken stuff and scallion pancakes and loads of other fantastic stuff, spicy and full of goodness. and tea. saturday during the rockin' scavenger hunt my friend organized, Team Giles stopped at a pub downtown for a platter of deepfried food. it would have been just as effective, i think, to actually crack myself open and clothespin my arteries, but who has time for that? sunday on the way home from the hardware store, don and i stopped at La Unica's cuban cafe. the menu was in spanish so we didn't stay. i went home, got on the phone and convinced my friend jason to bike up to La Unica and help me get lunch. i ended up with rice, beans, fried plantains and a frisbee-sized piece of fried chicken. i successfully ate every bit of food on my plate and dragged myself home to prepare for the dinner party that was but a few short hours away.

shortly after coming home, i received a call from a dinner invitee requesting space for two more folks, upping the attendees from a paltry five folks to a whopping eleven. in my slight panic i made said invitee promise to bring food with her. got off the phone and went to work, with don, on veggie tagine, salsa, this tasty spinach corn side, and a salad. attendees 1 and 2 arrived with two strawberry rhubarb pies, two loaves of homemade bread, salad stuff and beer. attendies 3-9 showed up with more beer, more bread, salsa, hummos, cheese, olives, pita chips and more that i'm forgetting. needless to say, we have enough leftovers in our fridge to last us for a few months. of course, i wasn't particularly hungry but i gave it the ol' college try. after eating about 5% of available food, we packed up and shipped out to Rainbo, the "dive" bar in wicker park where i ran into obies and trevians all over the place. we stayed there 'til the lights came on.

monday morning, hung over, vaguely nauseous and completely exhausted, i headed down to chinatown for dim sum at happy chef. despite the nausea, i did a good job, stuffing in various forms of meat stuffed in various breaded products, steamed, fried, sauteed and boiled. sue naturally ordered about five times more than we could have ever possibly eaten. my favorite: fried dough wrapped in pancakes, covered in sauce and scallions. hello, its a dough sandwich! post-dim sum i napped. i swung by a 4808 barbecue for shrimp kebobs and raw radishes and then drove up to the 'burbs for a family barbecue with parents who very generously accomodated the vegan i brought with me.

and now, i rest. well, except for the leftover tagine i have for lunch.

17 May 2003

the little "vegetarian" who could

rochester, new york, culinary capital of the world. arrived, did not pass go, did not collect $200, went directly to Rio Bamba which is, no, not some fancy latino fusion nouveau cuisine but is just nouveau fusion cuisine heavy on the meat and seafood. um, let's see, sea scallops and oysters or caesar salad. sadly, the decision took a nano-second and next thing i knew, i was dipping into a crab souffle, those oysters and tuna on a bed of somethin'. oops, wait, thats not vegetarian? drat! this was followed by an equally non-vegetarian scallops and salmon. all of it was delicious, minus the tuna which was just sort of boring. but it was nothing new...just the same old seared scallops with greens and whatever which is of course a ridiculous thing to complain about because its fantastic and i am only bored with it because i'm lucky enough to have parents who take me out to nice dinners on a regular basis but really, people, think a little beyond the box here. just because something is "seared" doesn't mean its revolutionary. my brother, now he got something interesting. what can only be called a deconstructed lasagna, only lacking the obligatory foam and savory ice cream. shrimp, tomatoes, sliced beets and some other stuff between two sheets of pasta. points for creativity...big points, but not so much on the flavor. the combination just didn't work for me and it was really quite dry. without the ricotta slathered on top and a pile of melted slightly browned mozzarella, it just didn't come together. anyways, after all that, dessert was fantastic: a mixed berry sorbet terrine (i.e. rasberry, strawberry and blueberry sorbets layered and frozen together, berry soup (i.e. berry sauce) and a few fresh berries. it was wonderful and cool and refreshing and, come to think of it, reminds me of martha stewart and her sorbet molds. did you know that the easiest way to remove a mold from the tin is with a handheld blowtorch? yes, turn that sucker on, flip the mold and lightly run over the mold with the flame. badda boom badda bang! an easily removed mold.

that martha? she's brilliance! and no matter what, it always comes back to her.

and martha would have been proud, i think, of the lengths to which the little brother's girlfriend's parents went to provide for us at their graduation barbecue. we were there for five hours and ate pretty much non-stop. pizza, burgers, brats, egg rolls, salad, pasta, veggies&dip, chips&salsa, fruit pizza, etc. and i kept going back to the spread, long after i had filled up. the only gross part? the fruit wines my brother provided...strawberry and cranberry. ick! yeah. stay away from those.

16 May 2003

smashing! dinner last night after a fabulous tour of the chicago tribune library (thanks julia!) at big bowl which was sad since i really wanted salt&pepper squid from hong min. oh well. nothing like a little pseudo-pan-fusion-nouveau asian food to make you feel all warm inside. we split an appetizer ("Long Life Combo"--peanut sesame noodles, shrimp spring rolls and chicken satay) and i got a "make your own" stirfry with chinese ginger soy sauce and rice. ok, granted my stirfry was good but i would have chosen hong min any day of the week. although, really, it is so special to choose your own stirfry ingredients and actually get to go up to the bar and put them in the bowl by yourself. wow! how exciting! its like you're....cooking or something! and, you know, when i go out to eat, i am always looking to feel like i'm preparing the meal. its just so empowering.

well, who am i? after all, i could have chosen something off of the menu.

today for lunch, at any rate, i had cold leftover pizza which never disappoints. mostly because anything with bread, cheese and tomato is good. hot, cold, soggy, crispy, whatever. give me cheese, give me starch and give me tomato and i'm a happy camper. wait. no soggy. i take the soggy back.

15 May 2003

today i got all excited because i realized i was having a "karen" kind of lunch in that it involves lots of at-work preparation and just seems kind of, i don't know, fancier. but then i realized that it is lacking in one ingredient essential to the karen lunch: fresh vegetables. unless you include the tasteless tomato i bought at dominicks the other day. ick. but so i have carefully created: one tortilla topped with mozzerella, tomato, chickpeas and tobasco. its not so bad, actually.

speaking of surprisingly good food, last night when i got home from my endless meeting, i heated up some rice and mixed in some hotsauce and braggs and it was delicious! who knew that something so simple could be so good! gosh Mrs. Braggs, thanks!

14 May 2003

in the meantime, i pray for the salt&pepper squid fairy to make her appearence hastily.

today i accidentally ate goo gone. just a tiny bit...nothing serious. but the outside of my mouth is tingling a little and the inside just feels weird. it seems to be...eh...flaking. somehow, in the steps between cleaning a rubber stamp with goo gone (and destroying it, i should add), cleaning up the cleaning area and putting away the goo gone, washing my hands, washing a carrot and eating the carrot, the goo gone ended up on the carrot.

now there's a funny bump on the bottom of my tongue that is, no doubt, some of my personal goo trying to make itself gone.

08 May 2003

oh, if you ever know you'll be having a dinner like this, be sure to invite me:

(from a friend who shall remain anonymous) "I had a wicked dinner last night. chicken and taro root in coconut sauce. crispy chicken with a fermented bean curd and black bean dipping sauce. conch stir fried with pea-pods and ginger. beef tenderloin with onions in a sauce that i can't think of a way to describe. but it was red. and usually it is made with rum, but i couldn't taste the rum though. it was good anyways. and, pork chops cooked with spicy salt and red peppers (in the style of the squid, sans battering). and carrot-lotus root soup and a dessert soup with red bean and tapioca that was really weak but reminded me of grandma."

the julie/julia project in which one bold soul undertakes the task of cooking every recipe out of julia child's mastering the art of french cooking while maintaining a full-time day job, too. wow. veal seems to be a central theme in french cooking.

i, in the meantime, have been eating rice crackers non-stop. sue brought them to me and i'm already dreading the end of the bag which is quickly approaching. i'll have to buy more. they are just such the perfect combination of crunch and saltiness.

oh gosh. i should work now. eek! bye!

07 May 2003

cool! i went to high school with this kid! and now he's all on NPR and stuff! and his "online journal" has a food related name.

bwah! food porn!:

I place the asparagus spear on my cutting board so the curve lies flat against the board. With my chef’s knife, I cut about a centimeter from the end at the base of the spear. As I push the knife gently through the cylinder of flesh with a slight sawing motion, I try to feel for the individual fibers that run up and down the length of the spear. If my knife glides effortlessly through the flesh, I know that the whole spear will be tender when cooked. If I perceive the roughness of the fibers, I know that I need to cut a bit more off the end, or the end may still be stringy after cooking. One by one, each spear in the original pile is gently trimmed and stacked in a new pile.

i made wonderful vegan chocolate chip cookie bars with only minimal ingredients available (no vanilla extract) and while they certainly don't qualify as food porn, they were nice and crispy, the oil giving them a texture that you can't get with butter.

next year when i no longer live in one of the culinary capitals of the world, i will probably have to cook a lot more. i look forward to doing so and hope that i make time to actually create worthwhile meals. last time i was in school and living in a town with only a small selection of restaurants, most either awful or overpriced (or both), i found myself pretty much adhering to a diet of popcorn (with olive oil, nutritional yeast and basil) which, really, is absolutely grim. no wonder i was depressed. now i'm already fantasizing about dinners at home with the roomie, the hanging pot rack that i hope to put up in the kitchen (something i've hoped to do in every apartment i've lived in since college and have yet to actually do), and all that good stuff. the one major barrier is the electric stove in the kitchen. i mean really, people! electric? what were you thinking? ah well, what can you do?

06 May 2003

oops. this is from a while ago and for some reason it just didn't post:

OYSY, the japanese restaurant a friend used to work at:
veggie lunch box including:
miso soup
tofu salad
veggie maki
veggie tempura
pickled veggies
seaweed salad
green tea

sue's lunch poem:
Spicy sesame noodles!!!!
But - they weren't lying
my food isn't s'posed to hurt...
No complaints from me
as too my lunch was free
I wish I had some milk though -
to take away the burning
oh wait, I can't...
for i'm a tad bit lactose-intolerant...
got back to work at 12:50 PM

oh, remember that thing about not getting anything out of the shameless promotion of that fantastic restaurant that i mentioned before? that restaurant that achieves such perfection that i'd almost forego my plans for continued education and move to brooklyn for? yeah, well, guess what! they're totally giving me a free milkshake or beer if i'm ever in town and stop by. oh yeah!

after having spoken rather disparagingly about a new restaurant in new york, i was contacted by said restaurant and asked to please, since i mention them in the blog, link to their website and blog. so, it is with my pleasure that i (and without any personal gain) encourage everyone out there to check out Schnack and the Schnackblog. this brooklyn landmark (as of mid-March 2003) offers a simple, yet delicious menu and apparently is reviewed in major publications all over new york. and geez, if i didn't live 13 hours away from the place, i'd totally stop in for lunch.

but by the way, i still think the name of the place is a little dirty.

05 May 2003

the gift that keeps on giving
lunch today: tofu from china town with cabbage discovered at bottom of container. bonus track. so tasty. especially the strips of ginger occasionally stumbled upon.

yesterday was the day of food: breakfast at a great little spot on ashland i'd never heard of: tex-mex mash, eggs and jason's strawberry pancakes. coffee. free food at the walk for a just peace walk in oak park (an m&m cookie, garlic+ baba ganouj, rice, ginger ale). a bite of jason's free slice of bread at great harvest. coffee. thai spice. julius meinl cream pastry. double decaf americano. and lots of crossword puzzles.

02 May 2003

friends in the know
last night around 10:30pm, i was taken to chinatown for take-out squid and tofu. after observing what seemed to be a fascinating conversation between my friend and the restaurant's owner, we went home with batter-fried squid with red peppers, rice, and enough tofu to feed a small village. and, boy, there's nothing quite like sitting down to dinner at eleven at night, knowing full well that you will be going to bed as soon as you've finished eating and cleaning up. knowing that you are about to subject yourself to the sensation of being exhausted, bogged down by food coma and totally wired all at the same time. woo hoo! what fun. but, hey, that squid was good!