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July 2009 Archives

By guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

NEW YORK -- Sara Moulton, executive chef of Gourmet magazine's executive dining room, has a new cookbook coming out next year.

Last night, in New York Botanical Garden's Edible Garden, she was asked the title of the book. "Oh, I don't remember," she said, laughing, and went back to cutting plums for fruit potstickers. (Yes, fruit potstickers, as in crisp, fruit-filled dumplings. Last night's focus was on summer fruits in pastries.)

Whatever its title, next year's cookbook will be tailored for those of us who like cooking at home but who don't have loads of time.

Moulton, who cooks for a living and then cooks dinner at home five nights a week, certainly understands being in that position. She has loads of tips for the home cook:

* When you're rolling pizza dough, forget the flour. Put a little bit of olive oil - not too much, or the dough will slide all over the place - and roll it out. The dough will stay in place and roll out beautifully.
* Rolling out dough for a circle: rotate the dough in eighth-turns.
* Skinned chicken and lean cuts of pork can taste dry. Soak them in seasoned buttermilk for 20 minutes before cooking, and they'll be as tender as could be desired.
* Soak fish fillets or game in milk for 20 minutes to take the edge off the gamey or fishy scent,
* Buttermilk has two assets in tenderizing: acid and dairy.
* There are only two kinds of dairy you can boil: heavy cream and creme fraiche.
* Choosing oils for cooking: canola is healthy; grapeseed is flavorless.
* Thickeners: flour makes things opaque; cornstarch and tapioca, translucent.
* Refrigerating pastry dough relaxes the gluten (giving you more tender pastry).
* When blending pastry dough, it is better to have more, rather than fewer lumps.
* Wonton skins are a great cheat for everything from large ravioli to miniature lasagna - and nobody has to know you didn't make them yourself.

You can find more about Moulton on her website, saramoulton.com. Sweet and savory Edible Garden recipes are here.

Moulton encourages people to be creative. You're not stuck with the fruit that's in the recipe. If something else looks good to you, then use that instead. See what's available at the Green City Market.

With Moulton's inclinations, you know that her recipes are going to feed your passions without consuming too much of your time.

Two of Moulton's recipes after the jump.

By guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

NEW YORK -- Sara Moulton, executive chef of Gourmet magazine's executive dining room, has a new cookbook coming out next year.

Last night, in New York Botanical Garden's Edible Garden, she was asked the title of the book. "Oh, I don't remember," she said, laughing, and went back to cutting plums for fruit potstickers. (Yes, fruit potstickers, as in crisp, fruit-filled dumplings. Last night's focus was on summer fruits in pastries.)

Whatever its title, next year's cookbook will be tailored for those of us who like cooking at home but who don't have loads of time.

Moulton, who cooks for a living and then cooks dinner at home five nights a week, certainly understands being in that position. She has loads of tips for the home cook:

* When you're rolling pizza dough, forget the flour. Put a little bit of olive oil - not too much, or the dough will slide all over the place - and roll it out. The dough will stay in place and roll out beautifully.
* Rolling out dough for a circle: rotate the dough in eighth-turns.
* Skinned chicken and lean cuts of pork can taste dry. Soak them in seasoned buttermilk for 20 minutes before cooking, and they'll be as tender as could be desired.
* Soak fish fillets or game in milk for 20 minutes to take the edge off the gamey or fishy scent,
* Buttermilk has two assets in tenderizing: acid and dairy.
* There are only two kinds of dairy you can boil: heavy cream and creme fraiche.
* Choosing oils for cooking: canola is healthy; grapeseed is flavorless.
* Thickeners: flour makes things opaque; cornstarch and tapioca, translucent.
* Refrigerating pastry dough relaxes the gluten (giving you more tender pastry).
* When blending pastry dough, it is better to have more, rather than fewer lumps.
* Wonton skins are a great cheat for everything from large ravioli to miniature lasagna - and nobody has to know you didn't make them yourself.

You can find more about Moulton on her website, saramoulton.com. Sweet and savory Edible Garden recipes are here.

Moulton encourages people to be creative. You're not stuck with the fruit that's in the recipe. If something else looks good to you, then use that instead. See what's available at the Green City Market.

With Moulton's inclinations, you know that her recipes are going to feed your passions without consuming too much of your time.

Two of Moulton's recipes after the jump.

Well, lookie here! Rick Bayless already is a fierce Twitterer but now he also is blogging about the whole Top Chef Masters experience.

There are only a few posts up now, but considering Bayless' constant Twittering, complete with photos of his cooks on the line during service, you can rest assured it is the Top Chef Master himself doing the blogging and not some minion.

Bonus: He also gives up the recipe for his now-famous tongue tacos, which have been added to the menu at Frontera Grill. Just one more reason we're rooting for you, Rick.

Let the Champions Round commence!

We're down to the six "Top Chef Masters" finalists, a heavy-hitting crew that includes Chicago's own Rick Bayless and Art Smith. Last night's episode started with a bang -- the always nail-biting mise en place relay -- and just kept on going.

The chefs were split in teams for the quickfire challenge, with Bayless, Anita Lo and Hubert Keller on one side and Smith, Michael Chiarello and Suzanne Tracht on the other. The chefs had to divide and conquer these tasks: shuck 15 oysters, dice five onions, break down four chickens, separate five and beat the whites so that they hold upside for at least five seconds.

Never mind that these guys and gals haven't done their own prep in years - they still had it. When huggable Smith went up against smooth Frenchman Keller in the onion relay, and the cameras shifted between Keller's robotlike precision and Smith's seeming clumsiness, we were thinking, no way in hell. So was Bayless, who watched with amusement and said of Smith, "He's cutting his in a way I've never seen before!"

Yet ... Smith pulled his team ahead!

In another fascinating relay, Bayless faced off against Smith in the egg task -- and proceeded to beat the Big Bear rather soundly. "Rick Bayless was like Mr. Kitchen Aid," Smith admitted.

Afterward, the chefs were asked to prepare their signature dish. They sat down for a nice meal together, enjoyed each other's creations -- and learned that the elimination challenge was to prepare one of their competitor's dishes, but with their own stamp on it.

Smith's task was to interpret Tracht's clean dish of chopped sirloin with green peppercorn sauce topped with a fried egg. Bayless drew Chiarello and his fennel balsamic roasted quail with greens and roasted apples.

All of the chefs fretted about not wanting to insult each other by tweaking their assigned dishes too much. Yet, as the challenge wore on, we began to see just how strong the competitive fires burned. (Especially with Chiarello and Bayless - both chummy, all grins, but watch those two.)

Smith's dish was a take on a Scotch egg -- a hard-boiled egg enclosed in ground lamb -- served with sweet potato fries and a delectable tomato tart. Judges liked all the other stuff on plate. His downfall: "The grotesque huge ball of undercooked lamb was just terrifying," judge Gael Greene said. Youch. Tell us how you really feel, Gael

Bayless, meanwhile, just kept doing it right. His parsnip- and prosciutto-stuffed quail over wild greens delighted and surprised judges, who were expecting something Mexican from the Mexican master.

Ultimately, though, it was the quiet, methodical and mind-blowingly creative Lo who beat out Bayless by half a star. The ax was to fall either to Smith or Tracht, and in the end it was Tracht who was sent home .... again, by half a star.

Whew. Go Chicago.

Let the Champions Round commence!

We're down to the six "Top Chef Masters" finalists, the heavy hitting crew that includes Chicago's own Rick Bayless and Art Smith. Last night's episode started with a bang -- the always nail-biting mise en place relay -- and just kept on going.

The chefs were split in teams for the quickfire challenge, with Bayless, Anita Lo and Hubert Keller on one side and Smith, Michael Chiarello and Suzanne Tracht on the other. The chefs had to divide and conquer these tasks: shuck 15 oysters, dice five onions, break down four chickens, separate five and beat the whites so that they hold upside for at least five seconds.

Never mind that these guys and gals haven't done their own prep in years - they still had it. When huggable Smith went up against smooth Frenchman Keller in the onion relay, and the cameras shifted between Keller's robotlike precision and Smith's seeming clumsiness, we were thinking, no way in hell. So was Bayless, who watched with amusement and said of Smith, "He's cutting his in a way I've never seen before!"

Yet ... Smith pulled his team ahead!

In another fascinating relay, Bayless faced off against Smith in the egg task -- and proceeded to beat the Big Bear rather soundly. "Rick Bayless was like Mr. Kitchen Aid," Smith admitted.

Afterward, the chefs were asked to prepare their signature dish. They sat down for a nice meal together, enjoyed each other's creations -- and learned that the elimination challenge was to prepare one of their competitor's dishes, but with their own stamp on it.

Smith's task was to interpret Tracht's clean dish of chopped sirloin with green peppercorn sauce topped with a fried egg. Bayless drew Chiarello and his fennel balsamic roasted quail with greens and roasted apples.

All of the chefs fretted about not wanting to insult each other by tweaking their assigned dishes too much. Yet, as the challenge wore on, we began to see just how strong the competitive fires burned. (Especially with Chiarello and Bayless - both chummy, all grins, but watch those two.)

Smith's dish was a take on a Scotch egg -- a hard-boiled egg enclosed in ground lamb -- served with sweet potato fries and a delectable tomato tart. Judges liked all the other stuff on plate. His downfall: "The grotesque huge ball of undercooked lamb was just terrifying," judge Gael Greene said. Youch. Tell us how you really feel, Gael

Bayless, meanwhile, just kept doing it right. His parsnip- and prosciutto-stuffed quail over wild greens delighted and surprised judges, who were expecting something Mexican from the Mexican master.

Ultimately, though, it was the quiet, methodical and mind-blowingly creative Lo who beat out Bayless by half a star. The ax was to fall either to Smith or Tracht, and in the end it was Tracht who was sent home .... again, by half a star.

Whew. Go Chicago.

Vacationing on the shores of Michigan is not without its challenges. Cell phone reception often is spotty. And much to our chagrin last night, Bravo was not on the available list of cable channels in this otherwise lovely house. Which is another way of admitting we are Top Chef Masters junkies.

Thank goodness for the laptop and the wireless connection, though. We logged in first thing this morning to see who came out victorious, and lo and behold, it was Chicago's own Art Smith!

It appears Smith's fried chicken was too luscious, crispy and juicy not to win. Smith joins Rick Bayless as one of the six finalists. Chicago represents and we, for one, are not surprised.

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Though my gardening is confined to my apartment's backporch and kitchen windowsill, I enjoy gardening as much as I can. I like watching things grow, I get pleasure from picking something and immediately using it, whether it's basil in pasta sauce, a tomato in a sandwich or arugula in a homemade pizza. Because of my work schedule, I sometimes get home at 9 a.m., and other times I'll wake up mid-morning but won't need to be at work until early afternoon, so I'll make my coffee, then water and check on the various vegetables growing outside my back window.

There's only one problem, though. I have a black thumb. A thumb of death. I am the Grim Reaper of gardeners. As much as I like being around plants and being able to grow flowers and veggies, I don't have much success when it comes to being able to grow said plants to adulthood, without them withering on the vine (if they get that far) first. In spite of that, though, I've had astoundingly good luck with basil. Whether I've purchased basil that's already started to grow or just gotten a packet of seeds, whether it's in a small container on my windowsill or in a large pot on the porch, I've got a knack for growing basil.

Which presents another problem. I just can't eat basil as fast as I can grow it (adding to that is the basil that sometimes arrives at my home from my other half's weekly ration box of veggies from a local community-supported farm). You can only make so much pasta sauce, pesto and pizza.

So what to do with all of this basil? I posed that question on my Facebook page recently, and among the suggestions I got, from one of my former City News editors, Kim Kishbaugh, was to make a slurry.

Slurry? Basil Slurry? Sounds like the name of a character from a British sketch comedy show from the 1970s, a la some sort of a Foster Brooks with a bowler and mustache and a voice like James Mason. But enough comic digression.

It's fattening as all get-out, but there's nothing fast-food about the Three Little Piggies sandwich (ham, breaded and fried pork tenderloin and bacon) at the Silver Palm, 768 W. Milwaukee. That's because it takes about 15 minutes to prepare the dish that Anthony Bourdain called "evil" -- in a good way. And then, after you've smushed it down and sliced it in half, you've got another five minutes to let the piping hot dish rest a bit.

But what Bourdain failed to tell you about is the MAN behind the sandwich. That's what newspapers are for. Not only is he the genius who invented the sandwich, bartender Dan Palm is probably one of the nicest, funniest guys you could buy a beer from.

At the end of the year, we pick what we deem to be the year's 10 best recipes. It's a rather unscientific process that involves physically paging through each section, scanning for recipes that strike a familiar chord.

Sometimes, though, we don't have to wait for the recipes to jump out at us from the page. Sometimes, the recipe is so fantastic the first and second and maybe even the third time we make it that we immediately catalogue it in our brains.

Urbanbelly chef and owner Bill Kim's recipe in today's Food pages is one of those. Somen noodles with shrimp and watermelon is a winner for its simplicity and pureness of flavors. And yes, shrimp and watermelon and noodles lapping up a salty, tangy dressing made of fish sauce sounds dubious at first, but it works, people, it works.

Kim wrote the accompanying column, an installment of our regular At the Chef's Table. But his most exciting news didn't make it into print -- he's expanding his Urbanbelly universe in Chicago with a sandwiches etc. type of place.

So make his noodles again and again, while summer and sweet watermelons are still around. And rest easy knowing you have plenty more from Kim to look forward to.

By now you may have heard of the nationally-famous 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea shop in Seattle. A nationally-famous neighborhood coffee and tea shop that has just opened this week? How does that happen? Well, it happens when its owner is Starbucks Corp., and when that owner doesn't want you to know that this "neighborhood" coffee shop is owned and operated by the Big Green Coffee Co.

Starbucks' stealth strategy was exposed last week, in stories such as this one in the Seattle Times. The new, or re-branded shop sounds like a pretty cool spot, actually, especially when you consider that this particular Starbucks was slated for closure by the company. Now it will get new life, a new identity and will sell beer and wine along with the coffee and tea, as well as featuring events such as live music and poetry readings, like a real European or classic San Francisco/New York coffeehouse.

But there are people who do not appreciate that Starbucks wants the public to think that this is an indepenent shop. A little honesty early on could have gone a long way to calm down the Starbucks haters. (In the same way that a little honesty a while back could have cooled the civic fury here over the 2016 Olympic bid.) They could have stripped away any remnant of the old Starbucks but somehow, gently, informed diners and the public at large of the connection between Starbucks and "15th Street." People would have complained, as they seem to enjoy doing, about the taste of Starbucks' coffee or the fact that it is an evil global empire, but at least they would be without the ammunition provided them by the company's apparent deceit.

The thing about this new endeavor and Starbucks' fact-finding missions that really angered me, however, was the observation by Sebastian Simsch, co-owner of Seattle Coffee Works near Seattle's Pike Place Market, who, according to the Seattle Times story, "became frustrated last year after large groups of Starbucks employees kept crowding into his 300-square-foot store to look around." Not only did they crowd the shop like a corporate invading army, but they didn't buy anything! Fortunately Simsch called them out on it and cowards that they were, the corporate soldiers did not return.

It seems that Starbucks will transform stores that are in neighborhoods and have taken on a certain neighborhood flavor, so it would seem unlikely that your downtown or airport Starbucks would change. You can bet that this concept won't be limited to Seattle, nor will it only happen in a few stores here and there. And considering that Chicago has long been a favorite test market for Starbucks, how do you like the sound of the "Piper's Alley Coffee and Tea," "Andersonville Coffee" or "Via Taylor Cafe" ?

Overheard while getting lunch at the sandwich shop the other day: "I'm going to the Green City Market barbecue!"

Why is this significant? One, because if you're a foodlover, the Green City Market Chef's BBQ -- at 6 tonight in Lincoln Park -- is the one local foodie event worth its weight in gold, or Euros, or organic pattypan squash, however you see it. The bucolic setting, the who's who of Chicago chefs, the food and wine, the farmers (who, we might add, are the real rock stars here) ... everyone's drinking the happy juice. This is summer at its best.

Two, because if you did what you were supposed to do and you bought you're tickets in advance (the only possible way to do it), then you are one of the lucky ones.

This particular young, giddy fellow had not planned ahead. But, as luck would have it, he told us he was buddies with someone who works for Beth and Brent Eccles of Green Acres Farm. And as he fretted to his buddy about how he hadn't bought his ticket, his friend told him not to worry - Beth had already saved him a spot, knowing how much he wanted to go.

We, meanwhile, need to finish packing for our vacation to the shores of Michigan, so we'll miss tonight's event. That's right -- we didn't plan well this year, either.

So what is the point of all this, if you are one of the ticketless many? Simple: Mark it on your calendar for next year. (Oh, and if you're on Twitter, follow uber-publicist Ellen Malloy, who will attempt a "video twestival" from tonight's event.)

Indian fever

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It's all-Indian, all the time in today's Food section. Indian street foods! Indian eating in the South Loop! What wines go well with Indian food!

In our main feature, Anupy Singla takes us back to her native land, where street foods surround and envelop and surprise and please you at every turn.

(In a happy coincidence, the James Beard Foundation's e-newsletter, which landed in our inbox this morning, included an item on chaat -- the catchall term for Indian snacks -- and info on two upcoming Beard events, where Indian street foods will share menu space with other cocktail fare).

Putting the package together required a trip up to Patel Bros. on Devon. It's amazing how when you've been away from a place you utterly dig, you realize just how much you love it when you're back. At Patel Bros., produce is so incredibly fresh and cheap and the spice section unparalleled. On our visit, the kind owner and patriarch handed out candies to a group of young, distinctly non-Indian Park District campers on an outing.

And now our pantry is equipped with all sorts of ingredients, including garam masala, tamarind paste and the mysterious black salt, which Singla says is THE thing that gives Indian street snacks their oomph. 7-7-09 Hein indian 12.jpg

Singla, by the way, gave us a great story and recipes, but she's a good story on her own. A former TV reporter and anchor, she quit her job a few years ago after realizing that her two young daughters were getting the short end of the stick, culinarily-speaking, because of her own grueling schedule and inability to cook the way she wanted to for them.

So now Singla's cooking every day, working on her first cookbook on Indian Crock-pot cooking ("It's the secret tool in every Indian kitchen," she says), freelancing and writing a blog. Those are some lucky little girls.

If you follow the MenuPages Chicago blog, you'll notice that it has morphed today into the Grub Street Chicago blog. Chicago is one of five cities into which Grub Street -- an influential blog owned by New York Media, which puts out New York Magazine -- has expanded. The Chicago Grub site is much sharper looking than MenuPages and includes posts from the other Grub sites, though it retains the MenuPages listings and reviews.

photo_nutrition_BV276.jpgThat's what Men's Health magazine has dubbed this monster from Baskin Robbins -- the large Chocolate Oreo Shake. According to Men's Health, this fat bomb "has an ingredient list that reads like an [organic chemistry] final. Those 70-plus ingredients conspire to pack this shake with more sugar than 29 Fudgsicles, as much fat as a stick and a half of butter, and more calories than 48 actual Oreos. Oh, it also has three days' worth of saturated fat." That yummy shake is not looking so tasty now, is it?

Weighing in with 2,600 calories, 135 grams of fat, 263 grams of sugars and 1,700 mg of sodium, this drink has as many calories and grams of fat as more than 10 Dunkin' Donuts' Boston Kreme donuts. I love the Boston Kreme donut, but can you imagine eating 10 of them, in one sitting? This drink even has more than four times as many calories as a Big Mac and more than four times as much fat as the Big Mac. Jump here for the nutritional info.

The marathoners out there may be interested in it though, for carb loading (and when I say "loading," I mean loooaddding...), since it does have 133 grams of carbs. Just keep your cardiologist's number handy, though.

If you have to have a cold, chocolatey, Oreo-y, drink from the BR, Men's Health suggests an alternative -- the small Chocolate Chip Shake, which "only" has 540 calories and 21 grams of fat.

Via Vie chef Paul Virant's Twitter feed (say that 10 times fast):

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Virant's caption: "These are "real" baby carrots. Did u know that the kind you get at the store are really big carrots that are shaved down by a machine?"

And speaking of things you get at the store:

Our cubicle mate, Char, was just telling us how, when she shops at her supermarket (we won't say which, but it rhymes with 'school'), she usually spends around $130 or so, and how, when she pays for her groceries, the machine spits out a coupon for $8 -- if you spend $150 or more.

She was obsessing about this -- and now we're obsessing about this -- because another co-worker, who only spends about $30 on her grocery trips, had given Char her own coupons for $5 off -- if you spend $50 or more.

Interesting, no? Methinks our supermarkets know too much about us and want too much from us. Check your receipts.


The discovery of live cockroaches, fruit flies and wastewater leaking onto the floor of a basement kitchen at a Near West Side pub led Chicago Department of Public Health inspectors Wednesday to shut the place down, while a North Side restaurant where rat feces was found Tuesday remained closed.

The Beer Bistro, 1061 W. Madison St., also was cited for not having any soap and hand towels at a hand-washing sink designated for food handlers, according to a CDPH press release.

Unpleasant dining conditions were also found on the North Side. On Tuesday, Cy's Crabhouse Sports Bar and Grill at 3819 N. Ashland Ave. was shut down Tuesday when inspectors found food at unsafe temperatures and numerous rat feces throughout the restaurant. It remained closed Wednesday, according to the Department of Public Health.

Wednesday's visit to Beer Bistro by CDPH was a routine, unannounced inspection. The eatery will remain closed until it has corrected all violations and passed re-inspection. Owners are also scheduled to appear at an administrative hearing Aug.20 and face a fine of $1,750.

The enforcement actions were the 117th and 118th times in 2009 that CDPH inspectors have closed an establishment for food safety violations.

Diners who believe a restaurant or other food establishment is operating in an unsafe manner should call 311 or register a complaint at the city's Web site.

We touched on making mayonnaise from scratch in today's story on things that are better, and generally cheaper, when made at home versus store-bought.
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Though we still say it's OK to buy the Hellman's without feeling too guilty, we were inspired in our research after talking to chef Mark Mendez at Carnivale, whose own mayo-making method is this:

"Take one of those tall, to-go containers you get at an Asian restaurant. Put in a whole egg, a cup of oil. Then take the immersion blender. It takes about three seconds. It's the coolest thing."

On the flip side, Oak Park local food champion Rob Gardner today offers his old-school, elbow-greased version on his Web site, the Local Beet.

Gardner was quick to dig into his batch of white gold, making BLTs, then dipping crudites and finally, riffing on Thousand Island dressing, that crafty, lucky bastard.

Got any other mayo ideas? Send them our way.

A few hot dog-related thoughts:

* Oscar Mayer, THE Oscar Mayer (well, actually the third in the family), has died at the ripe age of 95.

* The August issue of Bon Appetit magazine lists the nation's 10 best new hot dog joints. Among them (surprise, surprise): Hot Doug's at 3324 N. California. New?? The BA editors must be living in a time warp. Oh well. Guess whose line just got even longer?
Also getting props is Hank's Haute Dogs in Honolulu from Henry Adaniya of Trio fame, of whom we're only slightly jealous. In the last conversation we had with the man back in 2006 as he prepared to close the doors on Trio, he said he'd always just wanted to open up a hot dog stand, a really good hot dog stand on the beach in Hawaii, where he grew up. And he did.

* There are 23 more days left of National Hot Dog Month. Eat up.

Chef Carol Wallack, owner of Sola, and Executive Pastry Chef Toni Robers of C-House, saved one sleek, stainless steel ice cream maker from certain death. Or, at least from finding its way to the shelf of a Brown Elephant where another cook could take the hot little number home only to find that it churned out batch after batch of iced milk.

Turns out it's not the ice cream maker, but rather the "cold" recipes (each with the usual lineup of heavy cream, whole milk and flavorings) that came with the appliance are the problem. Wallack and Roberts explain that egg yolks -- part of a cooked custard -- make all the difference. They're right.

Chef Roberts' basic vanilla ice cream recipe is a great foray in to the world of making premium ice cream. The process adds maybe 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time. That's nothing. The final product is rich and creamy --- not icy -- and and the beautiful milky yellow color with specks of vanilla bean makes for a lovely summer treat. Too pretty, really to cover up with chocolate, caramel or other syrups. But consider raspberries or a seasonal fruit as a sidekick.

EricRuegg.jpgOne night earlier this year, after he had just enjoyed a meal at a restaurant in Huntington, West Virginia, J. Eric Ruegg had an epiphany.

He was siting in a warm, quiet loft at the bar, when he lit up a cigar; a Gran Habano 3 Siglos Gran Corona. What followed was nothing short of achieving an elusive "total consciousness," something that inspired him to write about it for the Cigar Advisor newsletter. He wrote, "Its flavors were truly spectacular and tantalized my taste buds into submission. It was an ebb and flow of rich, aromatic bliss. While I had difficulty singling out any one particular note from another, underneath a predominant tone of cedar, I tasted what seemed to reference baking spices."

A couple weeks later, he cooked a pork tenderloin for he and his wife, and the combination of the aroma of the fennel bulb slices, crushed fennel seed, and black pepper rub for the pork, and the backporch cigar he enjoyed afterward (a Perdomo Reserve Cameroon Robusto) got him to thinking about flavors and the interplay of those flavors of the food with those of the cigars. "I remembered the 3 Siglos," he wrote, "its cinnamon, I remembered the pork tenderloin and its fennel, its anise flavors, I thought of the Perdomo on the porch, its desperate flavors wishing to escape to freedom, what were they? I only knew that they shared some of the spices of these confluent events."

I had to talk to this guy.

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The pie-off is ON.

Hugh Amano, the unemployed but not un-busy chef/blogger and master of $18 (and less) dinners, will play host at a lakefront gathering of pie-bakers and eaters at 5 p.m. Sunday.

This is the second such gathering of perfect strangers organized by Amano. He hosted a potluck in April at his Edgewater apartment. Why? No offense to underground dinners (like the one we, uh, just mentioned in the previous post), but as Amano gently argued on his blog, "to some degree it's become another badge of hipster or foodie cred, with the real message potentially getting lost."

Amano is planning on bringing a "sausage ... and pepper and polenta and tomato and cheese-type of thing." He expects anywhere from 12 to 20 people -- and possibly more -- to show up, bearing an array of sweet and savory pies.

And, Amano says, if you are pieless but find yourself on the lakefront near Argyle Street on Sunday, join him.

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We've been hearing about Stephanie Izard's not-yet-existent restaurant, the Drunken Goat, for months now.

We still have a few more months of waiting (she is hoping for a January opening), but until then, Izard has come up with yet another way to whet our appetite -- an underground "Wandering Goat" dinner series.

The first of five dinners is on July 26. It will be in the backyard of one of Izard's chef friends (which chef? Only those going will find out, via email right before the event, her publicist says). Izard will grill up stuffed calamari, short ribs and other eats; Three Floyds beer, Black Dog Gelato sorbet and music also are on tap. The cost for each dinner: $50.

Only 40 tickets are available for the first shindig. Those interested are encouraged to follow Izard on Twitter for details on tickets.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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