I always thought taro root was something used in steamed or fried dishes at dim sum parlors. That is, until my colleague Kevin Pang, from the Chicago Tribune, took me to Joy Yee’s in Chinatown and showed me how good taro can be in a frozen smoothie. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I’ll be darned if it doesn’t taste like buttered popcorn. Add in a few boba (large tapioca balls) for some chewiness amidst all that creamy/sweetness, and you’ve got yourself a fun little departure from the usual strawberry or mango varieties.
Chicago is as much a lox town as New York City is a sturgeon one, and while I’ve lamented the lack of bagel shops here offering smoked sturgeon, finding gravlax (aka “lox” which is essentially cured salmon) is still pretty easy. Yet few people realize that you don’t need to own a giant smoker or a special cooler to make your own gravlax. The method is pretty easy, actually, as the chef at Fjäderholmarnas Krog showed me a few months ago in Stockholm. Sweden is a country where the cuisine is predicated on finding inventive ways to preserve things, since the summer is so short. Pickled fish, salted and smoked meat, even cured salmon are all regulars on menus there. Hopefully you’ll be armed with some new skills – and confidence – after watching how she makes it look so darn easy. For the recipe, keep reading. Read More
You could call Matt Lee a coffee geek, and he would be just fine with that. The owner of Manic Coffee in Toronto was seriously tired of seeing the Tim Horton’s chain – along with a lot of other so-called “coffee shops” open up and serve sub-standard beans that had been roasted who-knows-when. So Lee got in touch with the folks from Chicago’s Intelligentsia about four years ago, and is now regularly importing the meticulously-sourced beans to his shop on College Street. Yes, they cost a little more, but he says it’s totally worth it.
With all of the food and wine heavies in town this weekend for Chicago Gourmet, reservations will be about as easy to get as they are during the National Restaurant Show. I’m sure every seat at Next is taken, as their remarkable Thai menu draws to a close at the end of the month. In case you haven’t been (which I suspect many of you haven’t) or, if you’re going to go at some point over the next week, here’s a brief preview of one of my favorite courses, the som tom (papaya salad) which veers away from the Isan original form in a few notable areas. Aroy.
Martial Noguier never quite settled into his previous assignments. At one sixtyblue, his cooking would veer into French territory, but the fact diners were there for Michael Jordan’s connection as much as anything, probably limited his creativity. At Café des Architectes, inside the Hotel Sofitel, he explored his roots a bit more, but still, he was a hotel chef, succumbing to the whims of business travelers and chopped salad lunch-goers looking to get in and out in about an hour.
At Bistronomic - a stone’s throw south of the Sofitel – Noguier seems more at home than he ever has been. There are terrines and patés, of course, but also Lake Superior whitefish over French lentils and a seriously good tartar, made with tuna, rather than the more traditional (and fashionable) beef. Arriving in a glass jar, topped with lemony-scented avocado, it’s a fabulous way to wake up your mouth as you get ready for the really serious stuff.
As the summer draws to a close, I’m left with thoughts of sweet corn, tomatoes and soft serve. I’ve been spending lazy days on, in and around Lake Geneva, the summer respite for so many Chicagoans. With an abundance of farm stands in the area, the thought of cooking dinner every night is simply exhilarating. But stranded without an ice cream maker, we’ve been making almost nightly treks to the legendary Dari Ripple (no typos there, by the way) in Walworth, Wisconsin. After a few nights of cones, sundaes and the inevitable Flurry (essentially a Blizzard without the copyright), I notice a word on the individually-lettered menu board: “widgets.” In a nutshell, it is dough (perhaps a biscuit variety from the folks at Pillsbury?) cut into small pieces, then briefly deep-fried and coated in a choice of sugar or cinnamon. I wouldn’t necessarily have a bag of them after pounding some Sheboygan brats and drinking a New Glarus Spotted Cow, but then again, it’s summer in Wisconsin; I don’t want to offend anyone.