Based on the number of volunteers, sponsors and dudes with walkie talkies roaming around the UIC Forum on Saturday, you’d think Baconfest was something well into its 2nd decade. The celebration of all things porcine (especially cured, smoked and belly-related) was a huge hit, attracting more than 3,000 people and well over 100 chefs. I couldn’t stay the entire day, but from what I saw, they were knee-deep in cured belly and lovin’ it. Seriously, Lipitor should be the premier sponsor next year.
The Two Brothers Brewery in west suburban Warrenville (we’re talking pretty far west of Chicago) has been producing award-winning beers for many years now. One of their latest has caught Michael Roper’s eye this week, as it’s something he sells frequently at The Hopleaf in Andersonville. It’s their Domaine DuPage, a French style country ale that, as Michael describes it, has the essence of caramel malt. Beer for dessert, perhaps? Cheers.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a grilled sandwich, and the Cubans certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to applying heat to bread. A couple of years ago, you could barely find a properly made Cuban sandwich in Chicago, but today, you’ve got at least half a dozen excellent options. As much as I like the ones at 90 Miles and Señor Pan, I’ve got to hand it to the folks at Cafecito, in the Loop, where the Cubano is as good as anything I’ve had in Miami. Crusty, griddled bread; a tangy, slightly bitter orange and garlicky mojo; thick slices of roasted pork and tart pickles…if you’re craving a taste of Havana, throw some Buena Vista Social Club on the speakers and take home one of these beauties. Fidel would be proud.
I knew I would run across some cool, crazy stuff on a trip through China, but I had no idea what they would look (or taste) like. I’m not about to step onto Andrew Zimmern’s toes here – I have very little interest in culinary one-upmanship by slamming grubs and other paraphernalia down my gullet – but there was some stuff we couldn’t avoid, including the first “robotic chef” I’d ever seen, at X.E. Flavour in Beijing. The company worked on securing nearly 200 patents for it, and they use it exclusively for their large banquet room. Humans are needed only to measure, weigh and plate. I’m sure the service unions in the U.S. would take some issue with that. There were plenty of other oddities in both the north and the south: Read More
If you have any interest in pastry, then in addition to knowing how to make a ganache and perhaps choux pastry, you’ll also need to master a crème anglaise. This versatile component stars in ice creams and sauces, and in the hands of a pro, can be deployed to make addictive desserts. Cindy Schuman, the Pastry Chef at Sepia, showed us how its done. You still have time to crank one out for Passover or Easter this weekend!
I was just reading through Gail Simmons’ new book, Talking With My Mouth Full, and came across a section about her love of Montreal bagels, which I too now share, after having seen the light a few weeks ago. There are two primary sources in Montreal – both of which are stellar. Although within the city, there are definitely separate camps leaning toward either Fairmount (apparently Simmons’ choice) and St-Viateur (which I believe are being shipped to Brooklyn’s Mile End a few times each week). The owner of the latter was kind enough to speak with me a little bit about what makes their bagels so darn good. Sorry, NYC. In my book, not even close.