Mmm… Food

What happened?!?!?!
May 22, 2009, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Cooking, Foods, Random Facts, Restaurants

I don’t have any good excuses.  So I won’t try to make a grandiose apology.  It’s been too long.  I’m coming back!!!

Of course, maybe I should have waited to share a more recent eating/cooking/dining experience.  But I’m feeling the impulse, and don’t want to push it off and watch more time go by before I post again. 

So…  here’s a few pics of stuff I managed to snap along the way in the past two months since I’ve put anything new up.

1st Grill of 2009 on March 26th.

The first time I grilled in 2009 was back on March 26th.  Rare warm day that I took advantage of.
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Ethiopian Coffee, (April 12th)  served from a traditional coffee pot known as a “jebena”, at The Peacock Cafe located at 6014 N. Brodway at Glenlake.
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Duck Nachos (April a5th) at Dorado 2301 W. Foster
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Strawberry Whipped Cream cake (April 23rd) , from which April made for me after I e-mailed her with an “I want This” e-mail 🙂  Super Awesome!!!

And there will be new to come!!!  Yeah 3 day weekend comingup!!!


Week 10: Heat by Bill Buford (Where’s Week 9 you ask? I’d like to know too)
March 12, 2009, 4:38 pm
Filed under: Books, Restaurants

It happens every year.  I should come to expect it, but it still trips me up.  I’ve fallen behind on my reading.  I made it to Week 9.   The redeeming part is that I fell behind on my Food reading.  While I did not complete my food book (I was on vacation remember) I did finish the second half of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and also listed to Chokeby Chuck Palahnuik on CD.  So two books in one week really… just not food related.  I do hope to make up for lost time and back read for Week 9, but…


Week 10 – Heat {An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany} By Bill Buford

Ilana is my reigning champion for book recommendations.  SHOUT OUT!!!  This is the third on the list of ones she suggested and she has chosen a winner.  I guess when your friend is a Creative Writing Grad Student who left the culinary world of catering and restaurants though, recommending good food books comes naturally. PROPS!!

This book was very entertaining, and while focusing on a wide variety of experiences, he strings them all together in a cohesive manner that keeps the reader interested.  Never having worked in a professional kitchen (Taking orders on a pre-printed pad at Rollies Hot-Dogs when I was 17 doesn’t really count) I am still amazed at the incredible effort, blood sweat and tears that go into churning out food at a restaurant.  In Heat, we get a glimpse into the inner working of Mario Batali’s Italian restaurant Babbo.  We witness the madness of learning to work the grill station.  Moving up from prep work to want to make the Pasta.  What a task.  Overwhelming really.

In addition to all the effort and work Bill puts into learning food and cooking at Babbo, he also makes incredible efforts to complete training that Mario Batali completed, by traveling to Italy and learning pasta from the same woman that Mario did, and then travelling to Tuscany where Batali’s father learned butchery from Dario and the Maestro.  Super fascinating.   

My love for Italian food too makes me love this book even more.  The day I finished it I met up with my old roommate Stacia for dinner, where we dined at Spacca Napoli on these fine pizzas. 



The menu there is all in Italian and the waitress helped us out with explanations adding “The owner is the only one who speaks Italian, the rest of us have to figure it out along with you”  HA!  But it seemed so fitting in a pizza place where the owner spent a great deal of time in Italy learning pizza and then imported his crazy expensive wood-burning hand crafted stove to replicate the tastes for here in Chicago.  Cheers to you!!!  And to any others out there like Bill Buford who go to the source to learn the original. 

4 Stars.  Read this book.

Valentines Day: Disappointments and Rewards
February 20, 2009, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Restaurants

For Valentines day we contemplated several restaurants.  Lula was offering a fixed menu and was actually taking reservations, but it seemed a little seafood heavy and came at a cost of $75.  We could go to Francseca’sthe little Italian place we had tried last year.  The food was delicious and I always loved an order of pasta.  But no, we decided to forgo the dinner nite out and instead treat ourselves to a splurge of Hot Dougs hot dogs!!!  We’d been talking about going there for what feels like forever and had never made it.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity.  They only make their duck fat fries on Friday and Saturday so that too worked well into our plan.  So… on Saturday after planning our weekly food menu, walking the dog and doing some grocery shopping we set out a little late around 1:45 to get a belly full of goodness only to be greeted when we got there with this!!!! 


A line, and not just any line, it stretch a block down such that you couldn’t even see the restaurant anymore. 


Now perhaps I should have expected this as we had just watched Anthony Bourdain’s Chicago episode of No Reservations where he goes to Hot Dougs and also finds a line, but he went in summer!! and it wasn’t Valentines day!! when I thought most people would step it up and not just get hot dogs like us.  We were sadly mistaken.  Estimating the line to be at least an hour long, and having only eaten 2 eggs for breakfast (so in order to be fully hungry for this tasty treat) we left Hot Dougs behind and headed to Evanston to get our hot dog fix at


Weiner and Still Champion.  And here is the reward. 


Country Fried Bacon.  What is it you ask?  Glorious battered deep fried bacon served with an Argentinian Herb and Garlic Mayonnaise and a spicy bbq sauce, like what you might find with hot wings.  OH MY GOD!!!  It was salty fatty heaven!!! Accompanying this mound of goodness we each chowed down on two Chicago dogs and cheese fries and a Coke!!! 


Heaven.  We enjoyed ourselves thouroughly.  Stuffed to the brim we rolled ourselves out of the small restaurant and poured ourselves into the car to go watch Coraline(which was awesome).  So Hot Doug’s  we’re sad we didn’t get to enjoy what has been famed but Weiner and Still Champion, thanx for coming thru and letting us know there’s more than one great hot dog stand in this fine city.  (Well a close suburb, but still) 

Weiner and Still Champion is located on Dempster just west of Chicago in Evanston.  Check them out tonite!!!

Ba Le : some of the best cheap Vietnamese sandwiches in Uptown
November 18, 2008, 10:48 am
Filed under: Restaurants

Ba Le is a Vietnamese sandwich shop located at the corner of Broadway and Argyle (5018 N. Broadway).  It serves up some of the tastiest cheapest sandwiches you can find in Uptown, or dare I venture Chicago at large?  All the sandwiches start with a baguette and are stuffed with a variety of eats and vegetables.  There are 11 different sandwiches to choose from, including my favourite Banh Mi Thit Nuong or B.B.Q. Pork which comes with sliced pork, carrot, radish, jalapeno, onion and cilantro, and they range in cost from 2.95 to 3.25.   This price makes me giggle when they then offer the deal of Buy 5 Get 1 Free, but require a fine print note that reads “free on lowest price sandwich.”

The combination of fresh bread and spicy pork (but do watch out for the jalapenos, we got an extra heavy dose last time which can be a little intense) just melds so perfectly in this quick and easy food stop. I picked up some sandwiches and a few egg roll appetizers before heading out on Friday to the Reeling Film Fest at Film Row Cinema located at Columbia College. And you should pick some up before you head out to your next event! I highly recommend it!

Spacca Napoli Pizzeria
October 22, 2008, 10:56 am
Filed under: Restaurants

Praising Spacca Napoli here on my blog makes me happy, and maybe makes you readers happy and want to go out and try it, but seriously? this place doesn’t need anymore good press.  You should already know about it.  it’s located in Ravenswood at the corner of Sunnyside and Ravenswood and their restaurants website boasts 45 separate reviews from 28 different sources.  How many places can say that??  Sure some of the Chicago classics that have been around for forever have review lists way longer than this, but this place has only been open for 2+ years!!  It opened on Valentines day of 2006 and has been serving it’s Neapolitan pizza since. 

April and I dined there last nite, trying one of the 3 special pizzas offered.  I wish I would have paid better attention to the fine list of ingredients so I could tick them off to you here, but I’m lost in the head space of thinking about the incredible crust that the pizza had.  It was paper thin, but chewy!!  Not hard and crisp, but soft and pliant.  We both were reminded of Naan, the Indian flat bread, which has a similar texture.  The pizza is baked in a wood-burning brick oven that was specially designed for the shop and it cooks the pizza to perfection.  It’s all about the oven, which the Chicago Tribune (in one of it’s five reviews) refers to lovingly as being built “in the tradition of classic Neapolitan ovens, similar to the ones built in Pompeii 2,000 years ago.”  It must be the key.  The high temperatures that take the dough and cook it just so…  They’re on to something here!!! The same is true of Naan.  You can only achieve that perfect texture by using a Tandoor oven made of clay.  The intense heat quickly cooks the bread and leaves it melt in your mouth delicious.

The take away lesson from this?  You have to go out and try it.  This is not something you can do at home.  Your oven at home will never be able to do what this oven can.  You have to try it, in the restaurant, moments after it has left the interior heat, been slapped on a plate and brought to your table piping hot.  This is when you need to eat it.  Now!  No waiting and taking it home to enjoy in the comfort of your own home.  Do it now, in the shop,  eat eat eat!!!

Lula Cafe in Logan Square
October 16, 2008, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Restaurants

And we all yell PASTA YIAYIA!! PASTA YIAYIA!!! Lula Cafe in Logan Square offers us up one of the tastiest pasta dishes you aren’t expecting. Simple and simply delicious Pasta yiayia is “bucatini with moroccan cinnamon, feta, garlic, and browned butter”

One of the things I love about this dish is the type of noodle chosen. Bucatini pasta reminds me a little bit of an udon noodle, except it has a hole running thru its center. It’s big and fat and adds up to the perfect bite when combined with the other ingredients. There are so many different kinds of pasta yet so many places offer up so many of their meals with a more standard linguine or angel hair. The bucatini helps this dish stand apart.

Lula Cafe also partners with the group we do our Food Share with, Home Grown Wisconsin. This makes me excited of course, and with all the good earth choices that Lula makes it’s a must visit on everyone’s list. Go there. Today!!!

Bunny Hutch and Novelty Golf
October 13, 2008, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Random Facts, Restaurants

I love a good hot dog.  A Chicago Dog.  Vienna Beef.  Covered in mustard, relish, onions, tomato, pickle and celery salt in a poppy seed flecked bun.  I got my fill this weekend at the Bunny Hutch located next to Chicago’s own Novelty Golf at the corners of Lincoln and Devon.  Just look at that mess of greasy goodness we devoured. 

We played course #1 at the Novelty Golf which included, a T-Rex, a mermaid, the statue of liberty which you can see from this street view on Google Maps.
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a ying-yang spinner, 2 chickens and a varitey of other odd fiberglass object littered holes. Don’t get me wrong here. This place is great. We love this place!!! But more in that old kitschy kind of way, than isn’t this new and amazing? It is mini-golf after all. The sounds is terrible, but as you can see by this Tivo-ed video they are still showing the same commercial they shot back in 1972 to attract business to their location. You don’t need to update a tradition.

You may of course have to wait until next year to visit. This past weekend in Chicago was unseasonably warm (it got up to 80) just in time for the marathon. But when spring rolls around again you should get out and try it on for size.