Solid As a Rock... not my Brown Sugar!!

January 31 2010 - 9:16 PM

Solid As a Rock… not my Brown Sugar!

Brown sugar is one of my favorite cooking friends. It is a wonderful flavor addition to breaded chicken, chili, beef/pork tenderloin, stir-fry, and the list goes on. Technically, Brown sugar is a mix of white sugar and molasses. It seems like whenever I buy a box of Brown sugar it is fluffy and easy to use, but in a short amount of time, even in a sealed container, it turns solid as a rock. There are a few easy ways to keep your brown sugar more like cotton than croutons.

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2000 Hugel et Fils Jubilee Riesling

January 31 2010 - 3:17 PM

Hugel, an influential Alsatian wine producer, has a relatively easy to find "Gentil" wine, widely available at Binny's, Whole Foods, and several other select locations.  It's an excellent value for $10.99 at Binny's, and in years past it was an even better value, but the declining value of the dollar has taken its tool on European wines.

Finding its high-end Jubilee brand is another story.   There is not much demand for high-end Alsatian wine here in Chicago, and many retailers are reluctant to stock variety due to slow demand.  I finally stumbled upon a few bottles of the 2000 Riesling; the only other Jubilee I found was some Pinot Noir at the Binny's formerly known as Sam's.   

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Alton Brown's Pan Fried Chicken

January 29 2010 - 1:59 PM

Since we’re all on a fried chicken jones…

Crisp, the New KFC

January 28 2010 - 1:33 PM

In Chicago, the Korean fried chicken craze has not quite approached the madness of say, haute cupcakes, but we do have a number of options for Asian-inspired fried chicken. Prompted by Josh’s newfound love for Korean fried chicken, I went to investigate Lakeview’s Crisp, which does the honors of putting the Seoul in soul food.

Southern-style fried chicken relies on dredging the chicken in a thick crust, sometimes made thicker through a buttermilk soak. In contrast, Korean-style chicken is unique in its very thin flour coating and twice-cooked frying process. The first round of frying renders out most of the fat, and the second round turns the skin crisp, almost translucent. This results in an unbelievably crunchy exterior that is not greasy. After frying, the chicken is given a light coating of sauce, which is absorbed into the crust. Done well, you will have flavorful, but not soggy chicken.

 

At Crisp, just approach the counter to place your order for a half ($9) or whole chicken ($13), and in a few minutes, your name will be called out to pick up your food. I clutched the basket of Seoul Sassy chicken, expertly seasoned with ginger, soy and garlic flecks. The meat was juicy, sizzling hot, and perfectly crisp. I am proud to say that I gnawed away until the bones were picked clean.

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Two Brothers Brewery

January 23 2010 - 8:33 PM

Continuing my excursions to noteworthy Chicago-area breweries, I trekked to Two Brothers Brewery to take a peek at the #2 craft brewer in IL (the champion being Goose Island). Though they were founded just 13 years ago, family-run Two Brothers has grown tremendously and now distributes in 8 states, and arguably even has an international presence. (Apparently there’s a guy who brings 10 pallets of their beer back to Sweden once a year.)

You can get an up close look at the brewing facilities by taking a tour of the premises. Tour guide Gabe was a fount of knowledge about beer-making, and super witty to boot. Seriously, this was hands-down the funniest brewery tour of all time.

Home Cooking

Highfalutin Fried Chicken

January 21 2010 - 2:09 PM

The past several weeks I’ve been all atwitter about Korean fried chicken. Now it seems that just when you thought the ramen-revolution was here, it looks like it might be short circuited by Bon Chon and Thomas Keller.

Last year I lucked out at Ad Hoc and enjoyed 2 helpings of the fantastic fried chicken. The Yountville locals all knew about it and asked if I was there for fried chicken night… lucky me. It seems now that Williams Sonoma is offering the mix for a paltry sum of $15… just add chicken. Now $15 for some packets is outrageous but then again if Inflatable Water Slide Bon Chon offered it I’d be salivating all over my credit card. Keller’s kit offers brine and batter, and hey it screams, “I make a good gift”. It doesn’t however address the 2 problems I have.

The problems I have with fried chicken:

1- it makes a HUGE mess and 2- it makes my ass HUGE too…

So fried chicken will remain a poor food choice made ad hoc, whether at Ad Hoc or not.

Chickpea

January 20 2010 - 8:55 PM

The first thing you notice upon entering Chickpea is the walls, emblazoned with technicolor posters for Hollywood hits in Arabic. With the wall coverings combined with an oh-so-trendy, synecdochic one word name, I mentally began to typecast Chickpea as a faux ethnic joint catering to hipster aesthetics. I mean, if an Arabic poster of Terminator doesn’t scream Irony, then I don’t know what does.

Luckily, my doubts were quickly quelled by the emergence of Amni Suqi, chef and matriarch of the restaurant. With a warm smile, she welcomed us and asked us to seat ourselves wherever we liked. We were handed paper menus, and told to be sure to ask if we had any questions.

 

Like dining at home, Chickpea boasts a pretty low-key environment. Though you can wait for someone to come by, your best bet is to head to the counter to place your order and pay. (Note: Chickpea is cash only.) Food is delivered soon afterwards to your table. Water is available via plastic cups in the corner, and you can help yourself to the bottles of sambal oelek chili paste on the counter, a nice addition if you like added zing to your food.

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HB: Home Bistro... In the words of Britney Spears, "Gimme More"

January 18 2010 - 9:03 PM

I say “Gimme More”, not because I was disappointed, but rather I cannot wait to go back and try the rest of the menu. This past Wednesday, another self ordained Foodie and I ate at HB: Home Bistro on Halsted Street. For $29 per person (3-course menu), we enjoyed one of the best meals in a long time!  HB is also a BYOB, so the bill for the 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 2 desserts was $64. Value, leftovers, and satisfying/memorable food…very nice!  HB offers a variety of dishes that can be categorized as American cuisine with East Coast and European influences.

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Haitian Restaurants in Chicago

January 14 2010 - 2:54 PM

One of the best ways to experience a culture is through their food. Ironically in a city founded by a Haitian, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, I could only find one Haitian restaurant still open (please correct me if I’m wrong), Sweet Nick’s Caribbean in Evanston. At a time when Haiti is top of mind for heartbreaking reasons, food can be a Inflatable Water Slide connection that provides real insight and empathy that you can’t get from all the news in the world. Most importantly, it might be something positive at such an unfortunate time for the Haitian people.

Sweet Nick’s Caribbean
741 Howard St
Evanston, IL 60202
847-869-7172

 

Pierrot Gourmet – Macarons, Macarons... Everywhere!

January 13 2010 - 9:12 PM

PhotoI am not sure if it is my imagination, but macarons seem to be everywhere these days. Restaurant menus, cafes, even Starbucks has a variety pack of 12 macarons to go with your skinny latte.
I was lucky enough to eat ‘real’ French macarons while on vacation last year and have not tried any recently through fear of disappointment. That was until last weekend, when we ate at Pierrot Gourmet, the restaurant attached to the Peninsula hotel.

Their macarons were good, and fresh (much more so than I would expect the Starbucks version to be). They were quite large, which I think Inflatable Water Slide took something away from the taste, and meant that I felt more guilty for having eaten 3 in under 5 minutes. As the classic flavors are often best with macarons, we steered clear of the ‘PB&J’ version and got some chocolate and raspberry to take home.  We will certainly be going back for more……