Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fuck, I want some!

Nutella, whiskey and candied bacon ice cream.

I want to hate the whole bacon trend, but bacon is really that good. Although I prefer it straight up, no chaser.

HT to Rachel KB.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Meat wrapped in dough!

Last weekend Christo made me what I dubbed a "greek burrito"- lamb, peas and carrots seasoned with cinnamon and wrapped in phyllo. He also breaded the leftovers and fried them the next day served with a port reduction, which I thought was overkill but one does not question Chef Boyfriend's culinary vision quest.

Oh yeah, he decided we needed a "starch" (since phyllo is not starch?) with our meal and made delicious sweet potato latkes which I drunkenly devoured leftovers of at 2am. Relatively healthy salad not pictured.

Today, my Polish friend Justyna and I went to Bosnian-owned Pizzeria Bravo at Lawrence and Spaulding on a quest for burek, a signature Bosnian dish (with muslim origins) that is essentially seasoned ground beef or cheese stuffed into a tube of flaky dough and coiled into a spiral. The owner Asim had already turned off the ovens for the day (his restaurant is mad old world like that), but was cool enough to give us a couple of frozen burek for free! We had a cocktail with the Asim and the patrons and talked about Balkan culture for the better part of the hour (Justyna traveled all over Bosnia, and I am a total nerd for Balkan music and history).

mmmm, burek.

Choice quotes from the evening:

"Kosovo is not part of Bosnia...It's a different space, like Star Trek."

"How do you explain what it's like to find pieces of children in a trash can?" (In reference to the war in the early '90s....yikes)

Anyway, we made out way back to my apartment eventually and baked our cheese and meat bureks...they were delicious!

Now enjoy some surreal Bosnian pop with your Burek:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My favorite new DIY cocktails

Reed's ginger beer+rum (with fresh lime and grated ginger).

Mango jarritos+rum

Rice milk+ rum (Yvonne dubbed this a "White Asian," but it tastes like Brandy Milk Punch)

hmmm, I think I like rum. I blame Val, Cat, and James.

I feel trashy for admitting this, but...

raspberry jam on a peanutbutter cookie is the bomb!


I've decided sub-par food photography is the hallmark of this blog.

That's rice pasta topped with shrimp, sliced marinated yellow peppers, a sauce made of tomato/pepper soup reduced with cream and plymouth gin, and topped with shredded greek cheese.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Drinky fun at IWSB '09

Booze trade show= board meeting with drunk people

I decided to check out day two of the annual International Wine Spirits and Beer Event at McCormick Place monday. This is a big boozy trade show that's part of the National Restaurant Association show, which in itself is kind of overwhelming and ridiculous.

I covered IWSB for the Reader Food Blog last year when I was a young and green booze journalist, so I was able to score a press pass this year as well. The event seemed somewhat less impressive and scaled back this year, I don't know if that's because I'm jaded and pickier, or because of the economy. I think there was only one beer company in attendance, which makes me sad. I was also sick-ish which meant I was lazy and went for the last hour of IWSB and skipped the somewhat overwhelming NRA show. There was a candy conference in the same building, and these creepy billboards were one of the highlights of my visit:

Is it just me, or is this billboard inexplicably gay?

Since when is getting "jacked up" a good thing?

Tradeshows are weird- the atmosphere is kind of tense because everyone is there to hustle- and I'm less about the business end of things and more interested in being a connoisseur (hence, I am a writer and not a sales person). It was great to see some of my favorite industry folks were there though- Sonya Kassebaum of North Shore Distillery (who make awesome vodka, gin, absinthe and aquavit) was kind enough to share her secret stash of mole with me- a clear spirit infused with chocolate, cinnamon and peppers- their infusions are to die for. I also saw a couple of my favorite bartenders- award winning ex drunk punk mixologist Charles Joly of the Drawing Room and Daniel De Oliveira, (who is a super awesome dude and dead ringer for Jonathan Rhys Meyers), the bartender who mixed drinks for the fantastic Plymouth Gin pairing dinner at Boka, who was helping out at the Domaine De Canton liqueur booth.

Other highlights- chocolate infused cognac served by a French dude who addressed me in French but ignored my feeble responses in same, apple pie liqueur, and Polish raspberry mead. I also tried Veev, which the salesman pitched as being made from "acai, the most nutritious fruit on the planet." when I asked if any of that nutrition made it to the bottle of vodka, he sheepishly admitted it didn't. Why must I be a hater? I just don't see the point of taking something like healthy like acai or quinoa and making it into vodka if it doesn't actually retain any nutritional properties in the bottle. I like that Veev totally sounds like something Oprah would call her vagina, though.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Stuff I've cooked recently

1. making peanut butter cookies using the "from a machine" peanut butter at whole foods and raw sugar results in a very different texture than expected, though it grew on me. I told Christo they turned out weird, then offered to bring him some and he said "you make a lousy salesperson...you should have said they have a unique and innovative texture." LOL.

2. Beer chicken! Pictured above w/ rice and collard greens. The recipe comes from a person I hate, via a person I love. It's easy to make- brown onions, green peppers and garlic with chicken seasoned with salt, pepper and cumin (or cumin adobo from Goya). Then pour on a can of diced tomatoes and a 2 cans of beer and let that fucker simmer for 30 minutes. It's great, and cheap! Yum.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Awesome stuff I've eaten in the past month or so...PART ONE

This is to kind of make up for the last post. I've had a lot of incredible meals in previous weeks and I wanted to catch up and discuss STUFF I'VE BEEN EATING. But this has to be a two-parter because I have a lot to catch up on.


Brasserie Jo
Chef boyfriend (CB) likes French food so we went here for dinner a while back.

Drinks: Both of the wines I had with my food were excellent, though I don't remember what they were called.

Food: Seriously the best bread and butter I've had in ages. Weird but true. The goat cheese and beets salad was good, had my first ever escargot, and CB's skate dish was excellent. My steak frites was terrible however- the steak was pounded thin and I had to request aioli w/ the frites which was disappointingly bland (I guess the whole garlic aioli thing is more of a Belgian thing). We shared a HUGE creme brulee that was a bit heavy headed for my tastes- I like a pale, creamy custard flecked with vanilla beans.

Service: Good, but also a little heavy handed- the waiter came to the table to fold CB's napkin while he was having a cigarette.

Hot Chocolate
We went here for my Birthday dinner. I've been here twice before for brunch, and once for a beer pairing dinner that was phenomenal.

Drinks: Amazing. The chocolate martini was the chocolatey-est creamiest chocolate martini I've ever had, and very indicative of Mindy Segal's signature style with chocolate. And CB loved his old fashioned.

Food: The grilled octopus was fantastic, but the beans that accompanied it were a touch undercooked. The asparagus salad was a touch spare, would have liked more veggies with it, though I loved the crispy pork belly- it reminded me a lot of the stuff I used to eat at cafes in Kyoto, actually. We had some sort of steak thing as entree that was ok, but I don't actually remember it well enough to comment. Dessert was disappointingly meh, I had some citrus cheesecake/key lime combo and CB's chocolate banana profiterole was like a dessert with ADD- too many elements between the chocolate, bananas, ice cream, pate choux, etc. I would have stuck with just the chocolate martini for dessert.

Service: Good. They actually moved the table so we could sit side by side and canoodle.


Japanese Dinner- I did most of the cooking for this. Perfect miso soup, kimchee sesame natto (fermented soy beans), which I love but CB hated, Rappini goma ae (rappini with sweet sesame sauce), hiya yakko tofu (soft tofu topped with ginger, green onions and soy sauce), gyoza, and plain and red caviar inarizushi (the later was CB's creation). I think we drank IPA with it.

Pork loin dinner- App of thin pork loin wrapped around greek cheese, topped with prune and basalmic vinegar reduction, salad with roasted pears, main course of roasted pork loin served with with heavenly whipped parsnips/celery root with fennel seed (which I have been unable to recreate successfully) and carrots roasted and served with tomato/red bell pepper reduction. Consumed with copious quantities of prosecco (champagne). So good.

Shrimp/flank steak dinner- french bread with hand shaken butter with cumin, heirloom tomato salad with yellow pepper based homemade 1,000 island dressing, shrimp roasted in red pepper/tomato soup and broiled with greek cheese, flank steak, am I missing anything? Dessert: crepes I made w/ vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and toasted coconut. Served with a delicious sparkling pinot grigio.

CB is a helluva cook and I am a lucky 'ho!

Also, I swear I'm gonna start taking more (and better) food photos.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The great culinary disappointment that is Chicago

It seems the more I eat out in Chicago, the less impressed I am by the food. ESPECIALLY the mid/high end stuff. It's so easy to drop a huge wad of money on dinner and come out with maybe one of two things that were excellent and the rest that's an overpriced, resounding MEH. I'm a good cook and my dude is a good cook, I don't want to spend money unless I know it's going to be better or more labor intensive than what I can do at home.

Maybe I'm overly critical (I've spent the past year working as a food writer, and my boyfriend's a chef, so we're a couple of hard to please motherfuckers), but I can't recall being so consistently disappointed by restaurants in the Bay Area or Japan (where I lived for years) or in other great food cities like New Orleans and New York. I don't have a lot of spare cash, so if I spend a lot eating out, I expect something fantastic, and I don't think that's unrealistic. My visits to Chicago prior to moving here, were memorable, but not for the food.

That said, I do think Chicago has strengths as a food city, but it's not fine dining. Chicago rules when it comes to comfort food and basics- ethnic hole in the wall joints (particularly puerto rican and cuban), slavic buffets, street food like the elotes carts, pizza (but even then, there's a ton of shit pizza in this city- I have no idea how Gino's East stays in business), hot dogs (notably Hot Doug's), hamburgers (Kuma's), coffee (Metropolitan and Intelligensia), ironically granola (Milk and Honey) and booze- there are good local breweries and distilleries and great cocktailers. But a few exceptions, yuppy food, brunch, baked goods (so many overpriced bakeries selling bland, dry cupcakes and you can't even get a good donut due to Dunkin Donut's dominance) all suck compared to other cities. I guess it's still the Midwest and there just isn't the same access to good ingredients and sufficient demand to create truly great food. (And I'm sure there are many who would be happy to tell me I'm full of shit, but I am admittedly biased). There's just too much fucking pretense and not enough craftsmanship.