April 04, 2006

foodnerd family adventure, day 2

On day 2 of the FoodNerd Family run amok in Chicago, we had a hearty breakfast of all the loot from the Polish markets: kraut, beets, chicken loaf, smoked pork, and creamy cakes. Then *gasp* we did a little sightseeing. It was rainy so we drove around downtown gawking at landmarks -- Marina City, Wrigley Building, Harold Washington library with its awesome gargoyle-laden crown, Marshall Fields (RIP). And then we drove up Lake Shore Drive so my dad could see Lake Michigan.

Which of course brought us directly to Devon Street. *grin*

We pulled right into a sweet parking spot at the eastern end of the Indo-Pak stretch, and not a moment too soon either, since moments later cops barricaded the block, since there was a fire in a building up the street. Firetrucks and firemen all over the place, spectators rubbernecking, the works. We discreetly eyeballed the carnage from inside the Farm City Meat & Food Market, which caught my eye as we passed. It seems to be a Balkan-focused Muslim market, to judge by the number of Yugoslavian products on the shelves. They have some really pretty jars of honey and nuts, with the nuts arranged carefully in rows like a sand-painting, which would make excellent holiday or hostess gifts.

In the new sari shop right across the street, Mom tried on about 5 different beaded outfits -- not saris, but the pant-and-tunic sets that I cannot remember the proper word for. Nothing fit properly, much to the disappointment of the enthusiastic and persistent saleswoman -- maybe next time (Mommy loves bright colors and beading, and some of these outfits were really gorgeous, much nicer than a lot of the ones I saw with littlelee & spleen on my last trip to Devon St).

A little further down the street we ran into another police barricade, this one stopping traffic for the Assyrian New Year's parade running up Western Ave. There's plenty of Assyrian pride here in Chicago -- there were floats, and ranks of Assyrian-American cops in formation, and private cars leaning on their horn and flying flags. This was especially cool because Dad does a lot of reading about Middle Eastern cultures both present and ancient, and filled us in on the specifics.

We stopped at World Fresh Market and got some curry leaves, a lita squash, a handful of flat guvar beans, which turned out to be a bit bitter and quite stringy in texture; i think you are supposed to simmer them a long time, so i re-cooked them in coconut milk and curry paste, and fresh almonds in their furry little jackets, which turned out not to contain fully-formed nuts inside, but rather just soft little proto-nuts. I googled but couldn't find any info about immature almonds or what to do with them -- suggestions welcome.

By then we were pretty hungry, because somehow we got through several hours on Devon Street without having any snacks, so we drove way out west to Superdawg. Which is beyond adorable with its antic anthropomorphized sausages on the roof and all of its retro graphics and carhops and general aesthetic fabulousness, but the dogs are pretty substandard.

First of all, the relish: I know that neon green relish is big here, but it still just freaks me out. And there was way too much relish and mustard on the dogs, and no celery salt or fresh tomato at all, though the green tomato pickle is a nice touch. The fries are pretty lame, and you don't get the option to not order them, and Dad was endlessly irritated by the fact that the dogs are jammed into a tiny box with the pile of fries, so you have to excavate out all the fries to even lay a finger on your dog in the first place. And their lemonade sucks. The quest for the best Chicago dog continues unabated.

Then on the way down south to the Garfield Park Conservatory, I was unable to resist a quick side trip to the Chicago Food Corp to show off the massive availability of Korean goods in these parts. We found a truly astonishing sheet of beautiful, delicate dried-fish lace, and I acquired a bit of lotus root for kinpira and a new batch of pucks. Yum.

Dinner was at Lou Malnati's so we could try real Chicago style pizza, which continues to underwhelm. The dough is just too thick and doughy, though Malnati's is much crunchier than Giordano's. Daddy disapproves of the sauce, which was pretty much just cooked tomato chunks rather than rich savory sauce, and i tend to agree with him, though the lightness of flavor was admittedly pretty nice in contrast to the heaviness of dough and cheese.

And so concluded our whirlwind exploration of Chicago eating, at least until next time, when I want to take them for southside soul and bbq, and to Goose Island Shrimp House, and to a korean bbq, and Siam Rice & Noodle House, and...

Posted by foodnerd at April 4, 2006 12:22 AM

Love getting dogs when I go to Chi-town...best in the country as far as I'm concerned :)

Posted by: Jeff at April 6, 2006 03:43 PM

my comments got lost in the ether....try looking up 'green almonds' for ideas. there's a little epicurious article that offers some interesting suggestions:


i've only ever had them pickled (in a mezze plate), but i'd love to try making something with them some day.

Posted by: santos. at April 6, 2006 11:10 PM

According to my Middle Eastern neighbor, the women of the middle east LOVE eating these green almonds. I tasted them and found them to be a bit bitter but of interesting taste. They had me bite the tip off and then dip them in salt and eat them. The women go wild for them.

Posted by: Vicki at April 11, 2006 05:52 PM

some advice from a chicagoan on hot dogs and pizza...

for hot dogs, check out muskies, or herm's palace in skokie (not too far from devon) but there's so many hot dog places, I tend to just think of the ones that I won't go back to rather than the ones I frequent. gold coast dogs is pretty good too, they have a few locations. portillos, despite being a big chicago chain, makes a good dog also (i like the jumbo chili dog though not a chicago dog per se). also, everyone raves about gene and judes, but I haven't made it out there as of yet...

you mentioned encased meats in another post, so I assume that you've been to hot doug's? if not go on a friday or saturday and get the fries cooked in rendered duck fat. they're the most amazing fries ever. totally worth the wait (the line is often out the door.)

for pizza you must have pequod's, or check out gino's east or delisi's

Posted by: shawn at July 12, 2006 04:00 PM
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