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The Last Supper: Jerk Chicken on Howard

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Tonight, as a month-long personal experiment to try one new culinary wonder -- a gadget or recipe or restaurant -- each day in January comes to an end, I journeyed in to the snowy night for a piece of Jamaica. I found it at Good To Go Jamaican Cuisine & Fresh Juice Bar, 1947 W. Howard St. The jerk chicken, which came with a side of rice and peas (that looked a lot like dirty rice and black beans), fried plantain and steamed vegetables, was a first for me and a good, simple final meal. The bone-in breast meat was done just right and the tangy brown sauce, with hints of allspice and cinnamon, is something I'd love to make as a marinade for pork tenderloin. I ordered for the small, which was $9.50 and with seven small cut pieces of chicken breast, plus the sides, it was enough to feed two.

Leave the Mint Alone

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Mint and booze have long enjoyed a strong bond. I don't get it. But it's true. Witness the Mint Julep with its mint, bourbon, sugar and water mix. To me a mere sip has me wondering how any right-minded person with a gag reflex could ever get liquored up on this stuff. But they do -- the first Saturday each May in Louisville, Ky. And I love the Kentucky Derby, don't get me rung.
Head a ways south, to Cuba, and there is the mojito -- a rum based cocktail with mint that also leaves me non-plussed. So today, when I opened up a box of Charles Chocolates from San Francisco chocolatier Charles Segal, I looked close at the package and there it was. The final straw. A mojito chocolate. Heart shaped and all, just in time for Valentine's Day.

I had ordered the shrimp in walnut sauce at Peruvian restaurant Machu Picchu, 3856 N. Ashland tonight, figuring I had never had it before. But my Spanish is good enough to know that what I was served was Picante de Camarones -- shrimp in a chili sauce made with garlic, paprika and some other spices. While it's supposed to be spicy -- maybe they toned it down for me without asking -- there dish had a mild kick. The 8 shrimp were served with a side of rice and potato. The dish was $14 and But the runaway hit? The Papa Relleno -- stuffed potato balls ($8).

The great part of Annie Chun's Miso Noodle Soup is the biodegradable bowl and its ready-in-two-minutes dinner option. But microwave this baby and what you have are some amazing noodles swimming in utterly flavorless broth.

Russell's Barbecue, Elmwood Park

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Tonight, we journeyed to Russell's Barbecue, 1621 N. Thatcher Ave., a recommendation courtesy of WGN-AM radio personality Nick DiGilio. He described it was an institution. The restaurant's take-out menu says it's been a family tradition since 1930. This was a nice diversion, since I tend to get caught in my routines, including regular trips to the very trendy Smoque BBQ, 3800 N. Pulaski, for the sliced brisket sandwich and must-have macaroni and cheese (I'd eat the foil cup it's served in if I didn't think it would hurt my silver fillings), and Fat Willy's Rib Shack, 2416 W. Schubert, for the pulled pork sandwich. Time to branch out -- even if it means leaving the city.

My bookcase of cookbooks is about one-quarter magazines, filled with recipes that I've either used or hoped to use. The October 2007 Food & Wine falls in to the latter category. Recipes for four different cheese souffles are featured. Much like working with yeast for a pizza dough or bread dough, I fear the chemistry project that is a souffle. Especially when a recipe for this light, meant-to-be fluffy dish is accompanied by a color photo of a gorgeously browned souffle magically sprouting from a simple white ramekin. It's all so very Ina Garten, really.

You Say Runsa, I Say Runza

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Folks, this installment of one-new-food-a-day features a homemade -- yes, made in the Donovan kitchen -- meat and cabbage stuffed pastry brought to my native Nebraska by German immigrants. I found the recipe by chance in a cookbook that crossed my desk "America's Best Lost Recipes" at the paper. The dough, made with sweetened condensed milk, provided a sweet to the savory, dare I say bland, cabbage, onion, beef, cheddar cheese filling. I'm hoping to find out what WGN-AM 720 host Nick Digilio thinks when he has me on his show tonight (Friday) at midnight to talk about the blog.

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