We’re off to Morocco this week, sort of. At least on West Irving Park Road. I guarantee you’ve probably whizzed by Shokran on the way to Smoque BBQ or at the very least, were probably focusing more on the exit/on ramp for the Kennedy Expressway than you were on the storefront here. It’s easy to miss. But do yourself a favor and stop in for the spice-laden tagines and the hearty bisteeya. The former are fragrant stews served in conical clay vessels; the latter, a sweet-savory mashup that’s harder than ever to find in Chicago. Thanks to Todd Rosenberg (@toddrphoto) for the fine videography work as always.
Walking out of Ming Hin a few weeks ago in the Chinatown Square mall, I caught sight of him. I hadn’t seen Liu Chang Ming in over a year, when he was smiling broadly for passersby at Hing Kee, just a few doors away. There, he could reliably be seen most days, right up front next to a large window and adjacent to a wok filled with boiling water, hand-stretching, pulling and shaping extra long noodles, destined for bowls of soup or platters of ground pork and chilies. And then, just like that, he was gone. Had he moved back to China? Been lured, perhaps, to a strip mall in Naperville? Apparently, he had been waiting for Sing’s Noodle to open up just across the way from Lao Sze Chuan.
We’re giving away some more cookbooks, as we kick off 2014 with a commitment to learning how to cook. I’m in the midst of Michael Pollan’s Cooking right now, which I highly recommend, even if you haven’t read Omnivore’s Dilemma. It has me yearning to spend more time in the kitchen this year, even with a travel schedule this January that will make your head spin. James Peterson isn’t exactly a household name, and he never became a “celebrity chef” (hate that friggin’ term) but the man can cook, and he was one of the few cookbook authors I interviewed over the years who actually shot all of his own photos as well. Just tell me in a few sentences (or poem/haiku) why you deserve this book. I’ll pick a winner this weekend and notify them on Monday. Good luck, and happy cooking.
Miami, FL – Beware of staff members asking questions. That is, unless you’re ready to open up your wallet. This was the lesson my family and I learned the hard way after a frustrating, weeklong stay at the gloriously refurbished Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel. The 60 year-old landmark underwent a $1 billion renovation a few years ago, single-handedly injecting new life into the Mid Beach area. In the 1950s, the Rat Pack made it a winter retreat; in the 60s, James Bond duped Goldfinger here by the pool. But over the course of our winter break, it was clear you needed to either be a Russian oligarch, a New York City hedge fund manager or Auric Goldfinger himself to keep up with the dizzying array of fees and extras. Need a beach umbrella? That’ll be $35. How about a steam in the locker room? ($35). Want access to the pool chairs or the gym? ($19.95/day); need a rollaway bed? ($45/day). I can see why 007’s nemesis had his manservant Oddjob tag along. No one’s going to argue with him about leaving a $25 deposit for an umbrella. Read More
So much of what makes chefs successful today is their approach to dealing with the press. Just look at Graham Elliot. If you have a big personality, your own restaurant and a unique offering, chances are pretty good the media – and by that I mean TV, radio, print and online food blogs – will get to you fairly quickly. There is so much more demand for food information than there was a few years ago. But not every chef has the time, the team or the resources to stay in front of their Twitter followers and Facebook friends. Some chefs just want to cook, but they realize the importance of maintaining an online presence. It’s for this reason I’m partnering with Chef’s Roll, a new resource for chefs that I’m helping market OUTSIDE of Chicago, in conjunction with my media training services. Read More
If you haven’t already made your reservations in Chinatown this Christmas Eve, or you’re just in the mood for something a little different next Tuesday night, may I suggest Christine Subido’s family tradition from the Philippines: nochebuena. Traditionally celebrated in Latin America, Spain and the Philippines, this Christmas Eve dinner comes in a few forms. In Cuba, a pig roast is common; in fact this year, I’m going to be with the family who created the Caja China roaster in Miami and attend their own nochebuena. But in the Philippines, nochebuena comes at midnight, after the family has attended the late evening mass known as Misa de Gallo. Read More