Archive for July, 2011

Hot, Sweaty, and Delicious

Last night, with temps in the 90’s and a heat index well into the danger zone, my friend K., her friend M., and I headed to the Green City Market BBQ in Lincoln Park to pursue the offerings from some of Chicago’s best and well-loved chefs.

The BBQ is essentially a scaled-down version of some of the more heavily attended street food fairs around the city, and boasted offerings from roughly 100 Chicago restaurants, served out of booths that were, more often than not, manned by the headlining chefs themselves. To be sure, the BBQ is pretty much everything Taste of Chicago isn’t, and that’s a good thing. I’ll gladly take a swampy summer evening sippy classy wine and perusing dishes from Paul Kahan, Rick Bayless, and Paul Virant than fried fucking cheesecake on a stick topped with a chocolate-dipped turkey leg. Now, because I was so besieged with sweat and overwhelmed by all my options, I’m not going to give an entire rundown, but here are some highlights:

 First stop, wine tent. Here’s K., casually drinking her wine and being totally casual. We started out with some delightful Sauvignon blanc poured by a friendly man in a sweaty shirt. I kept coming back to him and dropping hints about how stingy every other wine booth was being with their pours and nonchalantly motioning with my empty wine glass. After about the second round of this, sweaty shirt caught on and began filling my glass with glugs, not dribbles.

Oh, then this happened:

 

 

 

 

 

(That’s Stephanie Izard, btw.)

 

 

Also, there was this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I was that close to Rick Bayless. He was right there alongside his staff, mingling with the hoi polloi and serving up insanely spicy salmon tacs. What a guy.

After that, there was alla this:

And finally, a baby who somehow made his way from the 1940’s:

Now, this wouldn’t be a proper Hungrypants post if there wasn’t at least one thing to bitch about, right? Well, here it is: the goddamn process for throwing out garbage. What should be a simple, one-step procedure (throwing out garbage), Green City Market staff somehow turned into a convoluted and nerve-wracking game of what I can only describe as reverse whack-a-mole. They had each trash disposal station manned by a volunteer wielding a paddle (like the kind you use for playing paddleball but without the ball and string), and three holes: one for compost, one for recycling, and one for “landfill”. I could never get it right. I would hover a hand over the recycling hole, tentatively, only to have the staff member sigh and sharply point to the LANDFILL hole with her paddle, clearly indicating that I was a moron for being unaware that compostable food cannot go into the compost hole, and recyclable plates and forks simply don’t belong in the recycling hole.

On and on this went, all night, staff whacking at our hands with their paddles whenever we approached the trash stations. It was confusing! Doesn’t it all wind up in a landfill? The anxiety of being faced with this sudden and remarkably vague pop quiz regarding my knowledge of the intricacies of trash disposal and sorting was too much for me, so whenever I saw an unguarded station I just threw my shit in the recycling bin. Let them sort it out on the other side, I said. Only God can judge me, I said.

Food-wise, a few trends I noticed were the extensive use of lamb and goat meat, a large number of booths serving tacos; handmade sausages, and a proliferation of sustainable, local, ingredients. Apparently last year it was nothing but pork belly.

I’d say my absolute favorite, standout item of the night was the “adult popsicle” from the Primehouse booth: think frozen, gingery bourbon popsicle in a plastic push-up sleeve, not unlike the Flav-or-ices of our youth. It was tangy, a little spicy, and exactly what you need on a hot-ass night. Upon asking the chef handing the popsicles out what the recipe and freezing process was for these little beauties, we were met with a wink and two words: “elf magic”. I almost believe it.

Adventures in Neighborhood Eating

 

 

Well guys, it’s finally happened. I’ve given up my swinging, Clooney-esque bachelorette lifestyle. B. has made an honest woman out of me and we are living  in shacked-up bliss with our psychotic yet eminently adorable dog, Philippa Middleton (aka Pippa, Pips, Pipsqueak, Pipster, and Omgyoustupiddogstopfreakingbitingme!!!  for short).

With this merging of people comes a merging of STUFF, and now B.’s extensive collection of quality cookware and kitchen gadgets are at my disposal! Does this mean I’ve been using them with any regularity? Of course not. My dreams of honing my sloppy and inept kitchen skills have fallen by the wayside in favor of wiping up dog piddle and avoiding our overly-chatty neighbor and her dog, Merlot. No really, that’s her dog’s name. Merlot. Neighbor lady likey her winey.

Our new kitchen is like, five times the size of both of our old kitchens combined, and it really is fantastic for cooking. We’ve been able to knock off a few pretty impressive meals since we got settled, and I’m proud to say that I have been responsible for almost HALF! I have stockpiled a list of recipes I’ve been dying to try and have managed to create exactly two of them. Baby steps.

I’ve also been exploring  new culinary landscape of my new neighborhood. Previously, I reported to you from Old Town, where I frequented such gems as Marge’s, Twin Anchors (Twanchors for those in the know), Cafe Sushi, Old Jerusalem, and Wells on Wells. My move to northwest Lakeview has put me in immediate proximity to at least three different neighborhoods, including Roscoe Village and North Center, each boasting their own collection of local eateries. My hands-down favorite new place is Frasca. You guys, these people freaking LOVE DOGS. Every time we go in with Pippa, the staff freaks the fuck out, gives her treats, threatens to steal her, and just generally loses their shit over this dog. It’s really great having a place in the neighborhood where the dog isn’t banished to the “outside edge” of a patio, like some places we’ve attempted to dine when we’ve had the dog in tow. It makes a world of difference knowing that we’ll be welcomed as patrons rather than viewed as an imposition. Plus, the food is awesome, they have bottomless mimosas during brunch, and their patio is great for people-watching.

If you’re in the mood for something exotic, there’s Cafe Orchid a mere two blocks from my house. Located on the bustling intersection of Ravenswood, Addison, and Lincoln, Cafe Orchid is a BYOB Turkish restaurant with a charming outdoor patio and reasonable prices. I ate there about a month ago with my friend K., and we were both impressed by the food’s authenticity and layered flavors. For those unfamiliar with Turkish food, think Greek/Mediterranean fare with a little bit of Italy thrown in. Lots of lamb-based dishes with yogurt sauces, plus your usual stuffed grape leaves and babaganoush. Just really good, hearty food.

Over on Roscoe just west of Damen, there’s El Tinajon, a fantastic Guatemalan place. There are very slight variations between Guatemalan and Mexican foods and generally if you’re a fan of Mexican food, you’ll thoroughly enjoy Guatemalan as well. This joint has a nice little outdoor patio and pitchers of strong sangria. I really enjoyed a fish dish wrapped in fragrant leaves (I forget the name of it) and their tres leches cake is out of this WORLD. Rumor has it they have a pretty decent brunch menu as well.

 Speaking of Mexican…El Tapatio on Ashland and Roscoe really gets me going. Their fish tacos are tender and flaky and served in MASSIVE portions. The complimentary chips and salsa are fantastic and the salsa packs a wonderfully hot kick. None of this pansy-ass table salsa here, no sir. You will be sweating after your second or third scoop, and that’s the way I likes it. Also a nice little patio here, and it’s great for large groups who want to get bombed off their enormous (and strong) margarita pitchers.

Coming up, I’ll be attending the Green City Market Chef’s BBQ Benefit this Thursday. There are a lot of amazing chefs from a lot of outstanding restaurants participating in this event, so I’m sure I”ll have a lot of things to say and pictures to share.