Typically, the heat of a new place determines the “see and be seen” (SABS) factor. If it’s new, and they’re serving sushi on backlit tables, then chances are there’s going to be a wait to get in. But there are roadblocks aplenty to achieving successful SABS status. Read More
For some reason, I keep hearing more and more about Montreal-style smoked meat lately, and thankfully, I keep running into it. Last month, in Brooklyn, I had lunch at Mile End, and along with the imported bagels and poutine, they also made a dynamite smoked meat/pastrami that took me right back to the legendary Schwartz’s in Montreal (where they refer to it simply as viande fumée):
It’s basically a whole brisket that’s been brined (always a secret recipe, but often containing coriander, salt, sugar, water and other spices) then dry-rubbed with more secret spices (often black peppercorns and probably coriander seed as well) and finally, smoked over hardwood like oak and cherry, for anywhere from 12 – 15 hours. I was pleasantly surprised to find an outstanding rendition right here in Chicago recently, at Fumare Meats, one of the stands inside the Chicago French Market. Read More
While The Twisted Spoke probably gets more attention for their Smut & Eggs promotions (porn after midnight!) and in-your-face ads, the food has always been several notches above the usual bar food crap that most places offer only to soak up the beer and booze. The Fatboys (burgers) and bloody marys are almost legendary, but the shrimp po’boy is a more recent addition, and it’s stellar. So good, in fact, (and such a dark horse on the menu), that my brother-in-law called me last week, as he was grabbing a bite before the Kanye show at the United Center, and asked if it was, indeed, as advertised.
“The menu says it’s one of your favorites, is that true?” he asked me. They must have put that there since I did do a story about a year ago on it for ABC 7.
“Yep, it’s true,” I said. “It’s a legit po’boy.” Although sadly, nothing in Chicago even comes close to the po’boys of my dreams at The Parkway Tavern or Domilise’s in New Orleans, let alone the legendary ones I recall having at Uglesich’s many years ago. The key, of course, is the Leidenheimer bread. I thought Mac & Min’s on Madison had some pretty good ones, until they closed earlier this year. So for now, you’ll have to head over to the corner of Ogden and Grand, and check out the shrimp po’boys at The Spoke. Let me know what you think.
There are some traditions in Chicago that need no explanation. The home openers at Wrigley and The Cell, the dyeing green of the Chicago River and the nearly annual parade of government officials being hauled off to jail. These events mark the passage of time and will endure for generations to come. But there’s another holiday tradition that’s been etched on my culinary calendar the past few years, and its star is herring. Read More
I love a good holiday cocktail, but the truth is, eggnog has become a bit of a cliché, especially at holiday parties. A cousin to the brandy milk punch of New Orleans, this only-in-December concoction always seems to have too much cream and nutmeg, not enough structure or depth. So we turned to Eric Hay, a mixologist and bartender with the Wirtz Beverage Company (formerly of Bar DeVille and Duchamp), who had a great idea for this throwback: add mole bitters to give it a unique edge your guests will truly appreciate.
Eggnog de Oaxaca
2 oz. Ron Zacapa 23 or Zaya Rum
1 oz. Heavy Cream
1 oz. House made spiced syrup*
1 Whole egg
2 dashes Bitter Truth chocolate mole bitters
Method: build all ingredients in a shaker tin and mime/dry shake (without ice) to whip contents. Add ice and hard shake for 8 seconds. Strain up into 2 glasses.
Garnish: Microplaned nutmeg over the top
*House made spiced syrup recipe:
Simmer 10 cinnamon sticks and 12 cloves in 2.5 cups of water for approx. 20 min. Remove sticks and cloves and add equal parts sugar to remaining hot spiced liquid. Let cool and then refrigerate. Can be used for up to one week.
Before we go any further, let me just say that if you have never seen the movie Tampopo, do yourself a favor and rent it. But before you do, make sure one of the five places below are open, because you’re going to be jones-ing for a bowl of ramen immediately afterward. True, most of the restaurants in Chicago don’t make the noodles themselves, but the good ones either have someone make it for them, according to their recipe (Takashi) or just have a great source from Japan they buy from (Tampopo, Santouka). Like a great pho, the broth in a ramen is key: sometimes it contains rich, fatty slices of pork. If you want to really dive deep into the world of ramen, pick up David Chang’s Lucky Peach Vol. 1. and geek out. Read More