Sunday, September 28, 2008

Japanese comfort food

Or perhaps more accurately: food to make you poo.

They had burdock root (one of my favorite vegetables, so tender and stringy with its bizarre planty fragrance) at Mitsuwa, so I made kinpira gobo with grated gobo (burdock), julienned carrots and flavorless but chewy konnyaku yam paste. It's supposed to have sesame seeds too but I'm laying off those because of this stupid blood type diet book I read that says their bad for me (they also say tomatoes, pomegranates and persimmons are the devil, so what the fuck).

It's the kind of dish that's really just a mega infusion of fiber, but damn I love it, even if it looks like a bowl of worms.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Whine and Cheese: Chicago Gourmet

I attended Chicago Gourmet at Millenium Park today, and I've got to say, I feel sorry for anyone who actually paid to attend this event (I had a press pass). The highlight of my day was watching Mayor Daley cook a Halibut (and I had to miss a beer and cheese workshop to see this, tragically). Allow me to outline the suckpoints of this event:

-It was touted as being the epicurean "Taste of Chicago." In truth, only a few tents offered food, in miniscule portions, and there was invariably an insane line at these stations. Fox and Obel get kudos for putting out a decent spread of cheeses, olives, meats and chocolate, but it still wasn't, ya know, a meal. You could spend a fraction of the ticket price here on a fantastic meal at somewhere like Hot Chocolate and be much better fed. A friend who attended the $250 gala opening dinner said that it also sucked, that there wasn't enough food and that people were standing around hungry. FOR $250. And the food that was being produced at the Chef's tables- stuff like chili and mac and cheese- was hardly sophisticated enough to justify the insanely high ticket price.

-I have realized that I vastly prefer beer to wine at this point. Which is not to say I don't enjoy wine, I just don't get the same geeky pleasure from imbibing it. Which is too bad, because this really should have been billed as a wine festival. I did get to try Goose Island's Matilda, which was awesome.

-The seminars seemed a little slipshod and poorly organized. I was also told I was "wrong" at the sake seminar when the instructor asked the difference between an Ale and a Lager and I replied longer fermentation time- the answer he was looking for was top fermentation vs. bottom fermentation, but to tell me I was wrong when my answer was in fact correct was kind of insulting especially since I was the only person in the room who raised their hand.

-An appetizer served at one station that appeared as though someone had jacked off on potato chip and honestly didn't taste much better. I'm still not sure what that spooge-like substance was.

-The Whole Foods "Family Village"- a tiny bargain priced gulag that I didn't have a chance to check out before it closed- I don't think it generated much interest

-Dunkin Donuts was a major sponsor. For a WINE AND GOURMET FOOD event. FTW?

Lest I seem overly negative, it was nice to see my colleague Julia from the Reader, hang out with Iron Chef America judge Louisa Chu, catch up with SakeOne rep Dewey Weddington, and taste Mindy Segal's (who hosted the fabulous beer dinner I attended on monday) fabulous cold chocolate drink.

I just hope that if they do this event next year, they'll adjust the pricetag or hold it at a smaller venue. Or just bill it as a glorified winetasting, because that's basically what it was.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bargain beer dinner...

So I attended a super fabulous craft beer dinner on monday, and a thought occured to me- what foods would pair well with PBR and Schlitz? What could one cook with Sparks? I think I would have to appoint Vally Val as culinary chief in such an endeavor, since she has been known to make a spring suprise salad involving mayonaise, cheese and lemon jello, as well as my birthday Watergate Cake which involved Cool Whip and pistachio jello.

I'm thinking- frito pie and pbr. A sparks jello mold. A cake leavened with Miller Highlife! Schlitz pot roast.

How much do you want to bet I could get hipsters to pay money to attend my budget beer dinner? Although they'd probably just sneak in and eat all the food, then leave.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

eat the rich

I just paid almost $11 for hummus, a green pepper, 2 soggy heads of brocolli and some crackers because I didn't have time to pack lunch and didn't want to eat crap. Fuck that. No wonder poor people eat crappy food.

Great food quotes from the previous night

"I had to stage an emergency mushroom visit!"

-Catherine Lambrecht of LTH Forum at the Louis Glunz Beer Culinary Council dinner at Hot Chocolate.

"Do you like your eggs scrambled or fried?"

"Over easy. Are you propositioning me?"

"I was trying to determine if you were a socialist, since they cannot stand the superiority of the yolk held above the white, and prefer scrambled eggs since both are mixed together equally."

-Conversation while drinking with Doug at Ronny's

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Blast from the Past

Do you remember the late 80's/early 90's? When everybody and their fucking dog was afraid of salt?

Remember that? You got it in your mind?

It's back...and it's crazier than before.

For those of you out there who aren't chemistry nerds -- table salt, i.e. sodium-chloride molecules are one sodium atom (Na) and one chlorine atom (Cl) each. The molecules in question may be from France, pale gray and quite expensive, got at an impressively appointed kitchen shoppe, or it could be out of the blue-and-yellow canister with the little kid on, dead white and boring, got from the local mega-mart. You are getting one atom of Na and one atom of Cl. That's the deal. Sure, you could get a few molecules of something else. Particularly if the salt isn't pure, like the afore mentioned sel gris (grey sea salt), or Fluer de sel (course grey sea salt), or Indian black salt, and pink salt from various locations -- but, by and large you get NaCl. The level of trace elements is usually not high enough to appreciably effect the taste or texture of the salt.

So why, why, WHY is Campbell's billing it's "Healthy Request" soup as being low sodium, but better tasting because they use "natural sea salt?" As if NaCl molecules out of the sea is somehow healthier than a NaCl molecule out of the ground.

The stupid. It burns!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Soy rant

So, my revulsion du jour is that disgusting crap "soy sauce" that you occasionally encounter with really bad takeout or in the generic house-brand packaging of your local grocery store (particularly if your local grocery store is in a central Texas town most famous for spawning a doomed would-be Messiah). The first three ingredients are water, salt, and caramel coloring, and there is usually no soy presence whatsoever. There is sometimes some "autolyzed yeast extract" (ARE YOU GIVING ME WATERY VEGEMITE AND TELLING ME IT'S SOY SAUCE?!), but sometimes it really is nothing but water, salt, fake colors, and fake flavors. It's really gross.

While I'm on it, I know that genuine wasabi is really expensive and delicate blah-blah-most-wasabi-is-just-horseradish, and I can deal with that. I'm actually not a wasabi snob. However, when it comes out of the little pouchlet looking like a baby ate two parts green Play-Doh and one part Burger King bun Play-Doh, then pooped it into my plastic takeout sushi tray, we have a problem. Come on, people. I agreed to accept green-tinted horseradish as a suitable condiment. Don't exploit my goodwill with sorbitol, corn oil, and Blue #1.

I know it's my fault for eating grocery store sushi, but where I live it's comparable to anything you could get at the two "sushi" "restaurants" at my disposal.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Taste test: Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale

I was recently at Mitsuwa shopping center doing research for an article I'm writing, and decided to pick up a bottle of Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale, from Ibaraki. I am a budding beer nerd and lover of Japanese lagers like Sapporo and Asahi, so I was excited to try this craft beer in it's cute little retro owl adorned bottle. It was hard to choose just one since they make a milk stout, red rice ale and a white beer as well, but at $4 a pop my budget didn't allow it. (I had already dropped $80 at Ikea nearby).

The commemorative beer appears to be a new years themed beer from the Japanese writing on the label, and is "brewed with vanilla beans and spices, coriander, orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon." It's an opaque amber colored ale with a nice, spicy taste reminescent of dried fruit and oranges, perfect for the Winter holidays. However, this beer also suffers from INSANE HEAD. The bottle had been sitting in my fridge, totally inert, and I pour A GLASS OF FOAM, which I make the mistake of sipping, resulting in THE WORLDS FOAMIEST BEER BELCH (seriously disgusting). It's a well known fact that Japanese bars (in Japan) serve you 50% head when you order draft beer, it's just how they roll. I always assumed they were just being cheap, but maybe that's how they like it and this beer WAS ENGINEERED TO HAVE MORE FOAM THAN BEER! It's a great beer but I recommend getting a really big glass and letting it sit a few minutes before drinking less you too experience the belch from hell!

I am looking forward to trying other varieties, assuming they are less head oriented.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My love hate thing with wraps

I hate wraps. They're like some creepy yuppy version of a burrito. I hate going to a coffeeshop and that's all the have to eat. I don't hate sandwiches as much as I hate wraps, I just hate most of the sandwiches you get at restaurants because they're way too expensive for what you get. Milk and Honey is an exception, I had their ham and havarti sandwich while working renegade this weekend and it was crazy good.

So, I actually broke down and bought a package of whole grain wraps because I had v. little food at home and I wanted a hearty, healthy breakfast and decided I should give an egg and veggie wrap a try as a filling breakfast. And it was the bomb diggity! You throw the tortilla thing on a cookie sheet, load it with cheese, meat, whatever and stick it in the oven for a few minutes and voila! Now I am addicted though I still won't eat them while out.

My one disclaimer is the whole grain ones aren't really flexible enough to "wrap," maybe because I'm putting them in the oven which dries them out. I kind of just fold it around the filling to the best of my ability.

This morning I made myself a wrap with swiss cheese, sliced turkey, roasted beets and yams, fresh tomatoes and cottage cheese, because apparently I was channeling my grandma. It was pretty good but I wouldn't wish it on another person.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Don't Fuck with My Coffee

I've been holed up sick (thanks for the "A Simple Cold Turns into The Plague at the Drop of Hat" gene Dad) so I've seen alot of TV and daytime TV at that. Saw alot of ads for flavored coffee non-dairy creamer. Ugh. If I want Blueberry Pie flavored coffee I will have a slice of blueberry pie with my coffee. Don't fuck with the beautiful flavor that is coffee. I can understand a bit of cinnamon or vanilla or things that can enhance coffee but don't add a bunch of chemicals to it and try to convince me its something else.
Hmmmm.......Is this some dieting ploy? I'm not going to want the chocolate fudge brownies if my coffee tastes like that? Never mind that the texture and temperature is way off. It reminds me of all the freaking yogurts that taste like anything besides yogurt. Fuck that, when I brave the effects of having dairy its usually for some good Greek yogurt and not some Creme Brulee Yoplait pink ribbon crap.

I'm going to make another toddy. In fact, I will share the recipe. Dad may have given me Prone to Upper Respitory Infections DNA but he made up for it by taking me to get antibiotics and making me a toddy :)

hot tea (herbal works if you want to be healthy about it)
a shot of whiskey or scotch (as Dad said, "amber alcohol is your friend")

Mix, sip and feel a hell of a lot better.

Meet your authors at Renegade Craft Fair this weekend!

The RENEGADE CRAFT FAIR is happening this weekend on Division St, between Damen and Hermitage. It is totally free and totally AWESOME. Last year was a blast and this year cool bands like Califone and Hey Willpower will be playing in the evening.

I will be running David Murray's awesome SEIBEI teeshirt booth all weekend long with the lovely Vally Val, and David himself will be in town Sunday! If you do not know Seibei, it's the teeshirt line behind the fabulous SANDWICH DINOSAUR shirts seen all over Chicago! He's got lots of new designs and some sweet assed dinosaur necklaces, so be sure to check that shit out! (and give me a hug and bring me some coffee, probably).


Monday, September 8, 2008

You're an asshole and you don't even realize it.

A while back I blogged about the cloying and obnoxious customer service policies of a certain restaurant I had privy to reading the employee manual for.

I just received a comment from a woman calling me classist for implying that the need to feel "loved" (if corporate douchebaggery can truly be called "love"- I know all about that one from working in the service industry) by a the man or woman who takes your dirty dishes away reflects a serious emotional insecurity.

Wow. Just wow.

Honey, that busser doesn't love you, he's just trying to get into your pants!

And honestly, I didn't see the service when I ate there. It took them ten minutes to bring us water, and our waitress spent the better part of the evening trying to work me for journalism contacts. If that's love, I'd rather be hated.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Eating well is the best revenge

Last time I was at Mitsuwa, I stocked up on Kewpie Mayonnaise and Okonomiyaki Sauce to cook Okonomiyaki for my now ex-boyfriend. Then he dumped my ass. So I made Okonomiyaki for myself! I think it's officially a three-way tie between Kewpie Mayo, Okonomiyaki Sauce and Anger for the best Okonomiyaki topping.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pet Peeve of the day

People who can't tell the difference between a weak pour and a drink that's mixed so well that you can't taste the booze. Not being able to taste the alcohol is a good thing!

Unrelatedly I had a (smart) bartender tell me last night that I shouldn't freeze vodka because it "shocks" the spirit and you have to shake it or something. Though really I was kinda toasted when that conversation went down.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What Do I Hate?

Vegan cookbooks.

I mean, is it so hard to write a book *without* trying to create more True Believers?

I'm not reading a cookbook for gospel, I'm reading cookbook for recipes and food information. I don't care how cool or enlightened or exceptional you think your life style is, I just want something interesting to do with beans.

So vegans, guess what? Your cookbooks universally suck. Go read Nigella Lawson, or M.F.K. Fisher, or Anthony Bourdain, or Julia Child, or Thomas Keller, or Michael Ruhlman or Jane Grigson, or Laurie Colwin, or Stefan Gates, or, or, or any number of food writers who really care about food and the way people eat. Learn something. Then come tell me about how cool you are.

Thank you very much

P.S. I'm drunk, don't mind me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Impatient assed counter people take note:

You wanna know what pisses me off? When I'm at a bakery or a cafe or something, checking out the drink list or the bakery case, and nobody's standing in line, and the counter person gets all impatient and demands my order within seconds then stands there looking irate until I make up my mind. I am the type of gal whose day is ruined if she orders the wrong thing due to pressure, and I actually prefer if there's a line because I can leisurely make up my mind. Seriously- give me five minutes, you can go back to texting your friends while I decide what I want, mmmkay?