Sunday, March 25, 2012

Coming Tomorrow...

If you LOVE a good steak, stay tuned. 
We just learned a new method of cooking steak that’s got us thinking that we’ll never have to eat steak out again.
This steak was so delicious that the masterminds in Vegas who created it are now our favorite study.
Bon Appetit!

The Girl and The Goat: How To Score a Table at the Hottest Restaurant in Town

While Stephanie Izard was off cooking for NATO, we were hanging out at the door of the Girl and the Goat a half hour before opening last Friday night just hoping to score a table.

What – are you crazy? The restaurant has been booked out for months. In fact, ever day since they opened.

Actually, the thought would have never crossed my mind except my friend Bill told me that he and his wife snuck into the bar area last week for lunch.

Bingo. The seed was planted and I was on a mission. What’s the old saying - Where there is a will, there’s a way.

I am convinced that the trick to getting in any good restaurant that’s booked solid for months on end is to be there when they open. We were the 3rd group in the door and got seated at the communal table in front of the open kitchen with the promsie that we would have to give our seats back by 6 PM.

Actually, I could not believe that we got a table and concluded by the end of the night that the only better seat in the house were a few to each side of the kitchen…and they come with a price and an advanced reservation.

Facing the kitchen was so much fun and to watch the staff, in orchestrated fashion, create simple but also complex culinary works of art was just short of amazing.

From the first bite to the last, this was an eating adventure that I did not want to end.

Our waiter was so knowledgeable and everyone commented on how educated he was about the food. We were hesitant to order one more dish and he did not encourage us to do so which was something totally new to me. Rather than sell us another plate, we bought into the total experience and he was definatley a huge part of it. When your staff is this well trained, you know the management cares about their customers.
The Chardonnay I selected was complete luck and absolute magic. This $65 bottle came from the Molnar Family Winery. It was full of exotic flavors and is now at the top of my wines to share with special friends.

It was actually the 2nd bottle of Molnar Chardonnay I’ve had this month and both are unmatched. Look for the 2008 Molnar Family Poseidon's Vineyard Chardonnay, Carneros, USA on the menu and Lawrence, the Girl and the Goat’s sommelier, will steer you in the right direction every time.

I have a long love affair with Cabrito (goat) and when I lived in Mexico, I headed north to Monterrey every chance I got to eat at El rey del cabrito. They had the most delicious BBQ goat and I still dream about it to this day.

As a result, I inquired about the goat legs but the smallest they had that night was an 8 pounder for a wopping $220.00.
We ordered the Goat liver mousse with crumpets instead which was the lighest mousse I’ve ever had. It was my least favorite dish of the meal…good but not my favorite. I did however love the texture of the crumpets and had visions of pairing them with poached eggs, pancetta and lemon sauce. A little of the breakfast lover in me.
We devoured the Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro, red wine-maple and potato stix. This reminded me of a similar dish at the Purple Pig only it was sweeter with their addition of the red-wine maple. The presentation was a mind's eye of colors that added so much to the finish of the dish. Visually it was stunning.

The escargot ravioli with bacon and tamarind-miso sauce was one of our favorites. The ravioli’s were stuffed with a simple escargot and the sauce?...well, this was one dish I could have ordered more of. The combination of flavors was skillful and it made me wonder who thought up this mix of ingredients in the first place? I want to jump inside their head a grab a few more recipes.
Our table mate Eric was there with his daughter and when their Crisp Braised Pork Shank with butternut-shiitake kimchee and buttermilk dressing came out, I had my wish-I-would-have-ordered that moment. They gave me a taste and it was well worth the price point. The most expensive thing on the menu besides the goat legs.

I love pork shank because it is the easiest dish to prepare and to pair and it’s got incredible flavor.

That’s one thing I enjoy about communal tables. By the time we got half way through the meal, we were all sharing dishes.
Our other table-neighbors had some of the Citrus Goat Sausage Pizza with celery root, blood orange and mountina alpine cheese leftover and shared it with us. That was delightful as well.
It was 6:00 PM and I felt like Cinderella with a curfew. As always, I wanted dessert.

Lucky for us the party that had claim to our seats were running late so we did have time to indulge in the  Butternut Malasadas with bourbon gelato, brown butter apples and Hook’s cheddar. The complexities of flavors were amazing and the waiter was totally surprised that we noticed.

The Girl and the Goat is for an adventurous foodie who is not afraid to try anything. If it’s a dish (and they change their menu up often) with ingredients that don’t look like they belong together, you will definitely want to try it.

Ok. Confession…Just writing about this dinner has triggered my taste buds once again.

I plan to be back at the front door on Friday at 4:30 PM. If you think all the hype is just hype, try to make a reservation any time soon.

Bon Appetit!

In The Neighborhood:

After dinner, we explored the West Randolph neighborhood (so may great places to dine) and the place we really fell in love with was Maude’s Liquor Bar at 840 West Randolph.
It's cute, dark, French and small so you will feel instantly at home the minute you walk in.

The bar was staffed by some entertaining mixologists who used eye droppers to master the exact measurements of each cocktail they made.
I will go back just to try the Pomme Frites and Bone Marrow so look for a follow up post. bevanda perfetta

I’m anxious to experiment with liquor now and am half tempted to take a class in bartending.

My recent trip to ING’s got me loving Limoncello, especially when they mixed it with Honey Nut Cheerios infused rum. I think that it was one of the best drinks I’ve ever had anywhere ever.

Limoncello is really sweet and ING’s made it taste smooth so I’ll be experimenting over the next month and am thinking Triple Sec and some other ingredients to smooth it out.

Look for some fun warm weather drink posts this spring.

Bon Appetit!

Limoncello Collinse

16 ounces limoncello 
12 ounces vodka
8 ounces fresh lemon juice
24 paper–thin lemon slices
16 ounces chilled club soda
8 mint sprigs

In a pitcher, combine the limoncello, gin and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
Press 3 thin lemon slices against the inside of each of 8 collins glasses. Add ice to the glasses.
Stir the limoncello mixture and pour it into the glasses.
Stir 2 ounces of club soda into each drink and garnish with a mint sprig.

The Morning After St. Patrick's Day

Leftover corned beef from the St Patrick’s Day turned into a great breakfast hash…carrots and all.

I dumped the leftovers on my counter and chopped everything, including the cabbage, into tiny bits and fried them on my stovetop. I then topped the mixture with a poached egg.

And they say Poutine is the ultimate hangover cure…

Bon Appetit!

Williams-Sonoma Cooking Classes: A Free Culinary Education

I thought that I  knew everything about making tarts so I stopped in for a class to see if had any thing else to learn.
The free cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma are held weekly.
I learned more than I planned and will be going to these classes every chance I get.
I was amazed at just how much I did not know and following the class, you’re given a 10% discount coupon to shop that day in the store.
Not sure if I enjoyed the class or the shopping more as turing me loose in a cooking store is dangerous.

I also signed on for the Gardening class (only $10.00) in April that will cover growing vegetables from seeds. Maybe I’ll have one up on my neighbor this year in our joint venture vegetable garden.
Class space in limited so call for a reservation and show up early.

I met a few other passionate cooks who are regulars in this class at the Lake Forest Williams- Sonoma . It was great to get their perspective on all the shortcuts.
The best part? Talking to other people who love to cook as much as I do made me all the more passionate to try something new in the kitchen that very afternoon.

Bon Appetit.

St Patrick's Day 2012

It just didn’t seem like St Patrick’s Day in Chicago. 
Instead of the bitter cold that is usually associated with a day in the middle of March, it was summer-like. I think we set a record that day in addition to the other 8 days where the temperature been over 80 degrees. This is crazy but hey, I’ll take it.

With historical warm weather, people showed up in record numbers just to see the grand trandition of the Chicago River being dyed a very IRISH psychedelic green.

The route was filled with tweny somethings and families who were jockeying for a position just to be in the front row. We were just content to get anywhere close to even seeing this.

Everyone was there for the party including Minneapolis based Sister-in-law Liz who is 100% Italian but quickly got into the spirit and kicked off the day of traditional and elevated partying.

The guest of honor was Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who took part in the parade of floats, bands and Irish dancers along Columbus near the lakefront. Kenny was with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who celebrated his first St Patrick’s Day as the Mayor of Chicago.

This was a day to celebrate and I was happy that I had a day off from my kitchen… although lunch at Chicago’s German institution Bergoff’s was a amusing way to declare your Irish roots.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

International Home + Housewares Show

Knowing the lay of the land was key. I covered more ground in a shorter amount of time than last year. I was no longer a rookie…so I thought. 

On Saturday, I spent three hours wandering the floor just to get a sense of what was. Saturday night I drafted a plan.  

I got sidetracked more than once from that plan on Sunday. Lucky for me, I found plenty of willing participants to help and made a few new international friends in the process.

There are so many international visitors at this show you wonder what country you are in every time you turn a corner and hear another language.
I am still amazed that this show draws 60,000 attendees, 2,000 exhibitors from 35 countries, 15,000 U.S. buyers, 6,000 international buyers from 100 countries on 6 continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa.
This year, the recipe was Collapsible and Colorful…the new color being tangerine.

Any shade of orange is the color of moment and I especillay loved the fact that my new orange Kitchen Aid stole the show at the Cooking Theater where celebrity chefs such like Cat Cora, Paula Deen, and Ming Tsai brought their magic to the culinary kitchen.

One of my favorites was chef Rick Tarantino who, with his staff, was the perfect comedy team to bring the audience through five rounds of crockpot cooking.

I never endorse products but these items made me think about replacing some of the things I currently have - or do not have - in my kitchen.
Zyliss: Endless Kitchen Gadget for Any Budget

From graters and other kitchen tools to salad spinners, wine accessories, openers, and utensils, I am sold on this line not only for the functionality and durability but also the price point.

You can replace or add a lot to your gadget drawer and still have money leftover for lunch at one of Chicago’s cheap eats.

Two of my favorite chefs, Jamie Oliver and Ken Hom, are part of the brand.
Mastrad: Thermo-Sensor Spoon
This measuring spoon was created to eliminate those extra steps by combing a removable electric kitchen thermometer with a spoon.
You’ll never complain again when you are trying to master chocolate.
Another one of my preferred lines, they were a finalist for the first annual International Housewares Association Innovation Awards. Their fat-free Topchips™ Chips Maker was my favorite at the show last year and now comes in a variety of really fun colors

Kitchen Advance: The AquaChef
Cooks food sous vide style. Simply vacuum- seal, select temperature, then place the bag in water. Best of all a suggested retail price of the AquaChef Oven and accessories is $159. A lot less expensive than other Sous Vide style ovens which retail near $500.

This cooking method has been around Europe since the 70’s. For those of you who don’t know, Sous vide is a method of slow cooking food in vacuum sealed bags placed in warm water at low temperature. I have a friend thay swears by this cooking method.
Japan: Two Companies  = Beautiful Tableware
Two companies let me in on their efforts to come back on the 1st year anniversary of the tsunami. Their tableware was some of the most beautiful in the show.

Naked Pan by OIGEN. Founded in 1852, they are celebrating a 160th anniversary this year. I really loved some of the stove- to- table items and these teeny-tiny pans by western standards are the perfect answer to cooking and eating much smaller portions.
I appreciate great Asian food and the tradition is no more remarkable than eating off the exquisite lacquerware of Matsuzawa Takuo.

I will buy these pieces just to get the Ahhhhh-factor from my dinner guests.

Marna 51: Rice spoons. Who else sells at the Museum of Modern Art?

Camerons Products has a whole line of BBQ items including this pan which my brother Terry made a celebrated, picture perfect chicken a few weeks back.

The most eye-catching pan of the show (and I was looking for it) was from Chefs Toolbox. The como advanced Wok with steamer was stunning and if I had $199.00 to spend right now, this would be in my kitchen.

Some other great new products were:

Paper Bakeware by Welcome Home Brands

Tear off napkin by My Drap…honestly, these tear-offs felt like the real deal.
Lunchskins…reusable snack and sandwich bags.
Poachies…perfect poached eggs in a bag. And you thought you didn’t know how to poach an egg.

The ALL IN ONE by Krups…a bit pricey at $2,500 but totally on my wishlist.

Jamie Oliver’s Thermo Spot is Tefal's unique heat indicator that lets you know when the pan is pre-heated to the right temperature to seal in the flavour of your food. Is this easy or what?
I first saw these on NBC News Saturday morning and knew that this was the perfect cookware for someone like my nephew Patrick who is just becoming a skilled chef.

LeCreuset’s new Marseille Blue is stunning (especially if you have been to Marseille and seen the blue sea) but the red cookware I received almost 30 years ago, and still now looks brand new, is their most popular color.
The Celebrity factor? Mario Batali was bigger than ever as was Curtis Stone and Joan Lunden.

Coming back next year? You bet.

I’m just wondering who thinks up all of this stuff to make our life in the kitchen painless and so much fun.

Now, if only I could find my smart spoon.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

World's Best Street Food

Street Food: Food on a budget without having to hold back on the local flavors. 

Having been introduced to street food in Mexico when I was young, I’ve sampled some of the best and the worst in cities across the globe.
I am an adventurous eater and have never been sick but there is one basic rule by which I’ve survived: Never drink the water.
I’m not a cerveza drinker but I live on beer when I am in a foreign country. It’s a matter of survival... or so the excuse goes.
Fruit and fresh fish can also be uncertain so my suggestion is to know who your street vendor is and only eat food that is freshly cooked. Go where all the rest of the locals wander. The most popular cart on the block is likely to be the most reliable.
Try street food in all the cities where you travel because street chefs are known to cook up some of the best local eats anywhere.
While some chefs are just starting out, others have cooked for years and can’t imagine doing anything else but packing up their carts every day and heading to their same spot on the street.
Where to go in Chicago? Go to any of the places listed below and enjoy your food outside. It's been nice enough all winter for a picnic.
The cities listed below boast celebrated street chefs, some who compare to the best restaurant chefs in the world. Just ask Rick Bayless who, year after year, explores what’s cooking on the streets of Mexico.
Safe to say that their customers are a mix of people like you and I who are just trying to find the great taste of authentic, local cuisine.
Bon Appetit!
Paris - Paris Street: Sidewalk Cafes
Fresh crepes smothered in fruit are some of the best flavors to watch people by…an essential of street food culture in the sidewalk cafes of Paris.
In Chicago: Green City Market .
Hanoi, Vietnam – Bahn Mai
Wrapped in a newspaper you’ll likely never be able to read, this 50 cents sandwich (in Hanoi that is) happens to be one of the most successful street foods ever.
Take one bite of the fresh, crunchy bread (thanks to a touch of rice flour) and you’ll understand why, when stuffed with grilled pork and pickled vegetables, it’s become one of America’s favorite sandwiches.

In Chicago:Saigon Sister’s in Chicago’s French Market.
Philadelphia – Philly Cheesesteak from Philadelphia’s Italian Market
Nothing better when you’re in the city of brotherly love than Pat’s where it all began back in the 30’s with a simple stand at the southern end of Philly’s Italian Market.
In Chicago: Grab a sandwich from Philly’s Best in Lakeview and walk down to Evergreen Park.
Berlin, Germany – Bratwurst with Sauerkraut
Only one place to eat your favorite brat. Piled high with homemade sauerkraut and bacon potato salad, this dish motivates me to book my next flight to Berlin and head straight to the streets.
In Chicago: Sorry, almost any place 73 miles north in Milwaukee.
Mexico City – Tacos al Pastor and Churros
Mention Tacos al Pastor and Churros and you have my undivided attention. One thing for sure: I will always be the first in line to eat.

In Chicago: Maxwell Street Market every Sunday morning where you can get a delicious fix of either one with grilled corn on the cob.
Tel Aviv, Israel - Falafel
These pita sandwiches, made of either fried chick pea patties or eggplant and topped with pickled cabbage, beets and a creamy tahini, are the favorite addiction of my entire office.
In Chicago: Where else but Sultan’s Market in Wicker Park. Did I mention that they are almost as cheap here as they are in Tel Aviv?

Los Angeles – Kogi BBQ
The one who started it all made street food as celebrated in the U.S as the hot dog.
In Chicago: Korean anything and I head straight to Bill Kim’s Belly Shack and for a double dose, Urban Belly for Round II.
Istanbul, Turkey – Where street food is an ALL DAY experience
You’re sure to survive eating off the streets of Istanbul because they are dishing it up 24/7.
Want a high-quality caffeine buzz? Start your day with Turkish coffee…it will definitely wake you up in a hurry.
Lunch? Head to a köfte stand for skewered grilled meat and if that’s not enough…
Dinner time already? Go straight for lahmajun’s, a grilled flat bread topped with meat and grilled veggies and kokoreçs - chopped lamb intestines seasoned with oregano and hot pepper.
In Chicago: The Turquoise Café in Roscoe Village has every Turkish delight you can imagine going on including the coffee.
Marrakech, Morocco – Slow Cooked Lamb
This is a country where the food comes to you. Every night the central square turns into street food central where Chicken Tagine and slow cooked lamb rule.
In Chicago: Shokran Moroccan Restaurant in Irving Park. Just like in Morocco, bring plenty of Dirham’s because they only accept hard cash.
Bangkok, Thailand – Floating Street Vendors
Working out of boats along the city's waterways, Bangkok's food vendors serve up generous portions of pad thai and if you're feeling really brave, sample some of the multi-legged ants, crickets or beetles.
In Chicago: Sticky Rice on Western where you will find plenty of serious Thai and no bugs whatsoever on the menu.
Singapore – Satay drenched with Peanut Sauce
For anyone out there that hates to cook but loves to eat, this is your died- and-gone- to- heaven food zone.
Singapore's hawker centres are the perfect mix of street food and local restaurant. In other words cheap eats with service.
Did you know that each vendor perfects usually just one dish? You can literally eat for months without repeating the same meal.
Satay skewers of grilled beef or lamb, drenched with fiery peanut sauce, provides the perfect dish for multi-tasking: eating and walking at the same time.
These food stalls are the best way to try Singaporean favorites for a fraction of the cost.
In Chicago: Although true Singapore food is still on my hunt, The Bento Box in Bucktown will do in a pinch.

Brussels, Belgium – Frits are not a side show…they are the main event!

Sold in a flimsy paper cone and saturated with some of the best flavored mayo, local bintje potatoes provide a crisp, greaseless fry.

My second choice: Waffles of any kind overloaded with fruit and whipped cream.
In Chicago: Frietkoten Belgian Fries and Beer in the French Market. Four stars for the best fries on the planet to grab before you get on the UP North Line home.
Portland – The Street Food Capital of the U.S
From stands, carts, trucks and even bicycles, Portland has earned the number one spot for the best street food in America. Why? They were doing it before anyone else knew what street food actually was.
In Chicago: The pork pozole naan-wiches from Matt Maronis Gaztro-Wagon. That's when I suddenly realized that food trucks were here to stay and I didn't feel the least bit ridiculous chasing one through the streets of Ravenswood early one Saturday morning.
Mumbai, India – Bhel Puri
With 16 official languages, you can say street food until you’re blue in the face…that is until you whisper Bhel Puri…the universal “food language” in India.
In Chicago: Patel Brothers: Shop then hurry home to cook up a magnificent Indian feast…one of the easiest foods to cook including Frontier Chicken.
Cartagena, Colombia – Arepas
Corn bread flattened into a pancake and filled with egg or cheese, then griddled to form a brown, crispy crust.
Delicious and yes…I can see the butter sliding down your face now.
If this were not one of my favorite street foods, I would have to go to Cartagena just to find out what I was missing but luckily the Arepa lady from New York was the hit of the San Francisco Street Food Fest this past year so I got a much needed fix until next year. Or did I?

In Chicago: Mekato’s Columbian Bakery in Lincoln Square.

Toronto – Poutine.
Call it the world’s best hangover food, Poutine ranks among the top 5 cures for whatever you did the night before.
Take your pick of Poutine spots in Toronto because every one of them will have you A- OK in the morning…even without an Alki Selzor.
In Chicago: The Gage or my poutine ever!