April 26, 2005

chilaquiles, kinda sorta

In my limited kitchen, I have been making things with the tortillas and eggs and chorizo that I have, and I have settled on a pretty good method, based loosely on the chilaquiles rojos recipe on the back of the tortilla package. It is particularly useful for improving crappy supermarket tortillas.

Take a good chunk of spicy chorizo and start it frying, smushing it with the back of your spoon. When you have a little rendered fat, add some diced red bell pepper. When it's all nice and fried (pepper soft, chorizo browning), add cut-up tortillas and stir. When the tortillas are soft and well blended into the mess, break an egg in there and stir it in to scramble & cook. Top with some cheese. Chow breakfast. Or dinner. Whatever.

You could put in onion & garlic, or avocado, or rice, or tomato, to change it up. I've been eating some form of this all week, and it's saved my hungry butt more than once when I've dragged in after the 80 minute commute home. I wish I could more easily find Mexican chorizo in Boston -- I must not be looking in the right place. It's a tasty treat.

Posted by foodnerd at 08:15 AM | Comments (5)

April 25, 2005

IMBB 14: Carrot-lime salad

One day late because i am still homeless and don't have kitchen and internet within 5 miles of each other (so not kidding), but I really wanted to be sure to participate in IMBB Orange, because a) it is cool and b) orange is one of the best colors EVER. This is the most orange thing that I make, and given my current circumstances thank goodness it's also blindingly easy to make. Especially since I scored a box grater at the very last minute for 25 cents at a yardsale yesterday (whew). It is so refreshing and delicious, and goes with lots of different foods as a side salad.

Peel carrots -- I used 3 big ones -- and grate. Chop a bit of cilantro & add that, squeeze in a lime, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and drizzle with just a bit of mild oil. Toss. You can eat it immediately or let it marinate a little while, either way it will taste sweet from the carrots, sour from the lime and savory from the salt & pepper. Crunchy too, always a plus in my book, and just think of all the vitamin C & betacarotene in this thing.

Posted by foodnerd at 02:58 PM | Comments (1)

April 24, 2005

when diners fail

So today I ducked into the Marquette Inn on Madison for coffee to stave off an increasingly evil withdrawal headache (caused by ATM failure, which in turn caused failure to acquire caffeine this morning due to NO MONEY), and while I was in there I figured I'd have a little soup for lunch since it was starting to SNOW. Stupid snow. I'm only just a little bit bitter that it's snowing and freezing though it's almost May, and I would just like to say that Chicago has a bitch of a windchill. Especially near the lake -- I am glad I am looking for apartments well away. So anyway -- the cream of chicken rice soup arrived, and the first warning sign was that it jiggled. Like jello. Eeew. It was so solid that the saltines rested lightly on its surface, sinking not at all. And sad to tell, it was pasty and bland and in no way delicious. And to describe it as hot would have been generous. Sigh. At least the coffee was okay.

Posted by foodnerd at 04:03 PM | Comments (5)

black pepper jack doritos

In the chip dept, I was of course unable to resist these because I love any and all things containing black pepper. These are good, quite spicy and savory, and a nice alternative to regular Dorito flavor crystals, but not very discernably flavored with black pepper. They are decent, but I won't go out of my way for them again.

Posted by foodnerd at 03:43 PM | Comments (3)

April 23, 2005

perez posole

As promised, the report on the posole at Perez. Yum yum. Six bucks gets you two meals' worth of savory red-orange broth full of soft hominy and big melting chunks of pork. A shade bland, but squeeze in a few of the lime wedges and magically it's perfect. With tortillas & hot sauce on the side, along with raw lettuce & onions to add in for crunch and body. Seriously between this and pho I am starting to think that all broth soups should have lime juice in them, I love them so much.

Posted by foodnerd at 05:50 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2005

hee hee hee

I'm not the only one who calls it Whole Paycheck. *giggle* (This is an awesome post for many other reasons too, btw.)

Posted by foodnerd at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2005

well, at least it's not just me

having horrible experiences in supermarkets. I didn't notice it being quite so horrible in Boston, in the mainstream markets -- maybe it's that in eastern Massachusetts we are all so lefty and organic we don't realize it, that even our blue-collar citizens are aware of the perils of processed foods. I wanted to live somewhere different and see what it's like, and I guess I found out one of the ways it's different. God help America; we need it.

Posted by foodnerd at 02:23 PM | Comments (1)

April 19, 2005

it sucks having no kitchen

I have been struggling to eat often and well enough, though the meals when I have them have been pretty good. I didn't realize just how much I rely on my kitchen. Funny story: my pal H packed me off to this empty apartment with a few things from her pantry, and I did one frenzied pass through a crappy supermarket (i had to pee REALLY bad; more on the crappiness of Dominick's markets in another post). So with these paltry supplies and one skillet, I tried to figure out what I would make. I decided on a couple meals, one of which was a box of Goya rice, a can of octopus, and a can of ranchero sauce. I intended to cook this that night. But I went to see an apartment after work, and by the time I left there I was ravenous -- and it's an hour's train ride way the fuck uptown to the apartment, and I knew I would be nauseous the whole way because I was hungry. So I looked for a taqueria for a quick bite, but what I found was a Cancun-style seafood place. And I bet you can see the punchline coming.... I ended up eating pulpo ranchero for dinner: rice with octopus in ranchero sauce. I didn't even know this was a real dish, i was just trying to combine a set of random ingredients in the least weird way possible. Turns out it is in fact extremely tasty. *yay*

When I finally ended up making my version at home, it didn't really stand up. The rice was fine, and the sauce was much spicier, but the pulpo tasted canned and the sauce was kind of eh. It's food, but just barely. Oh well. I'm eating the rest of it mixed with some mexican chorizo and eggs, which is a great improvement. I have to stick to things that can be made in a single skillet, which is an interesting exercise that I am eager to conclude.

Screw it, we'll talk supermarkets in this post. Dominick's is just overpriced and has crap selection. In the 'hood up north it caters to its primary demographic with packaged food and more packaged food, with not even a boneless breast of chicken to be found, while near work in the gallery district it caters to *its* primary demographic by being relentlessly yuppie, but the sort of yuppie who doesn't ever cook. Blech. I went to a Jewel, in Wicker Park, which was better, but still expensive. This one was inhabited by hipster couples, some with infant, some without -- oy vey. But at least there were reasonable things to buy. I had a much better time at the indy markets up on Devon, and I think I'm going to stick to the indies and to the occasional Whole Foods run, and only hit the big supermarkets when cornered. I guess Fuck Corporate Groceries is on to something, not just a personal experiment but a straight-up necessity.

Posted by foodnerd at 08:19 AM | Comments (2)

April 18, 2005

in a chinese restaurant on devon

in the Hasidic stretch. Heh.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

walking down devon

So on Sunday to while away my day I took a walk down Devon. All of Devon, from Sheridan to Kedzie, which looks on the map to be about 3 miles. The first part is boring, but once you cross Damen it starts to get interesting until it crescendoes in a mile-long stretch of Indo-Pak chaos: restaurants, bakeries, sari shops, jewelers, electronics hawkers, the works. I walked by one storefront marked "sweets and snacks" and got about another block down the street before I realized that it had been jammed to the rafters with people, so I went back and went in. It's called Tahoora Sweets & Bakery, and I got a boxful of sticky Indian desserts, including some egg-shaped things stuffed with cream and rolled in coconut, a shredded-carrot cake, a giant pistachio-topped fried ball, and one of those greasy-sticky mini-funnel-cake things I don't know the name of. I also got something called halwa puri, which I saw on pretty much every table in the place. It was a sectioned tray of spiced potato, spiced chickpeas, pickle, raita, some safety-orange stuff that seems to be the halwa (sort of a lightly-sweet relative of cream of wheat, with raisins and almonds, served warm), and 3 big puffy greasy puris. I got mine to go in plastic tubs, because there wasn't a free table in the place, and I was the only gringo, and it didn't seem fair for me to take up a whole booth for myself, and besides I was hungry and didn't want to wait. So I ate on a bench at a bus stop, scooping up potato & pickle in greasy bits of puri and generally snarfing away. I got about halfway through and was full -- not bad for $3.50. I forgot to get a napkin so I just rubbed all that grease into my cuticles (which were intensely grateful and looked better that day than they have in months) and went merrily along. It was all so good, and it held me through the whole long-ass walk, and the latter half made an entirely satisfying lunch, as you can see in the picture.

I also stopped at a place called Ambala that sells canisters of salty snack mixes; I had one at H's that was great, and I tried to get one for myself, but I think I got one slightly different, so that will be fun too. It has shards of potato chips, nuts, dried fruit, spices, yum yum. This place is much more elegant and high-end inside, and has a whole range of sweets. I didn't buy any because I'd already gotten a boxful elsewhere, but the shopgirl offered me a taste of their mini-funnel-cake treat, which was not glowing-orange and was the only one of these I've ever had that didn't taste like the frying oil was stale. It was fantastic, crispy and sweet and syrupy without being cloying, so i will be going back there for my next batch of sweets.

Then the street morphs into a Muslim section, and then stops briefly in Central Asia (one Turkish shop and Argo Georgian bakery). I got some Turkish sheep's milk feta and oil-cured olives, and a big yeasty round loaf at the bakery, and cilantro and dill at the produce market next door, so I can have a Baku-style breakfast tomorrow, yum. I stopped at a dollar store and bought the most hilarious shower curtain ever (i'm staying in a totally empty apartment, you will recall). This thing is like tissue paper, and the printing doesn't line up properly -- whaddaya want for $1.19? And then I trucked on through the Hasidic neighborhood, spying Hashalom, reputedly the only Israeli felafel in the city, but I was still full so I'll have to try it later. And then at Kedzie I went over the river, but saw only Home Depot and strip-mall hell, so I turned around and caught the bus back east. There's a bunch of stuff that needs more time, not least of these being an African restaurant called Toham (at Newgard & Devon) that claims to have smoked goat, so I will be heading back sometime soon.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2005


Tonight we went to Moody's Pub, where there seems to be only one really good way to order: Berghoff beer and cheeseburgers. I asked for my burger well done (I like my steaks rare, and I love steak tartare, but commercial ground beef is just kind of icky when it's soft and pink), and damned if it didn't come out fantastically crunchy on the outside and still tender inside, with a nice toasty taste, not at all burnt. The fries were magically crunchilicious too, even when they got cold, which they did rather quickly because we were sitting outside on the patio in our coats, just because we could. I think in terms of taste and overall joy-factor, my heart still belongs to Charlie's Kitchen in Cambridge, but these Moodyburgers will hold me quite nicely, especially considering that they can be consumed either in a fabulous tree-shaded patio or in a dark divey snug of a bar.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:42 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2005

viet food court

My friend H is recovering from her months of job-seeking and wasn't up for leaving the couch, let alone leaving the house, so I went for dinner on my own. She did, however, pass along the nugget of information that I could walk from her place to Argyle Street's asia-fest. I figured it was 3 el stops, it had to be too far to walk, but turns out I was wrong. I went with H's recommendation to seek out the Vietnamese Food Court, and was well pleased. I knew I wanted pho, because it was cold and I was feeling tired and rundown myself, but I wanted also to try one of the many things on the menu that were new to me. So I went with an appetizer that turned out to be 8 little soy sauce dishes, each filled with rice flour and steamed, then topped with dried shrimp fuzz (what pork sung would be if it was made out of shrimp) and shrimp cake, shallots and scallions, and served with the usual viet-sauce of lime, sugar, fish sauce, & chillies to be spooned into each wee dish. You had to sort of scrape the little rice cake free of the dish, then shovel it right into the mouth. They were delicious, each one a mouthful of sweet, salty, savory, spicy. The pho was very nice, nothing mindblowing, but very satisfying and beefy in the broth, and the meatballs seemed homemade and the rare beef was tender. And the whole thing came in a marvelously bizarre setting: the room is a mishmash of elegant bamboo and gold calligraphy and tube lights and cheesy paper decorations, and at the front is a stage, which that Saturday night was featuring a homegrown band doing reasonably convincing covers of the Cranberries and Bryan Adams and Guns N Roses. Hee.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2005

caribbean-american baking company

On the walk along Howard Street from my temporary dwelling to the el stop is a tempting bakery that has a huge selection of Jamaican treats. I got a pile of sweets to share with the office -- banana cake (tastes just like banana bread), sweet coconut bread (more truly a bread, with raisins in) -- and some other stuff for myself. Jackass corn had to be bought for the name alone, and turned out to be the lovechild of gingersnaps and graham crackers. They're really hard and crunchy, and I think they would be lovely with a cup of tea. Grata cake is a big brownie-size bar of the filling of a Mounds bar: grated coconut and sugar, with the top dyed hot pink. I *heart* grata cake.

It so happens that this bakery is apparently the only purveyor of jamaican patties in the city, and sells them to caribbean restaurants all over town. I got a bunch to share with H + J, and they were fabulous. The pastry is nice and flaky, not too greasy, and the beef filling is good and spicy, and the jerk chicken filling is just to die for yummy.

Posted by foodnerd at 02:14 PM | Comments (1)

April 14, 2005

fabulous donuts

My coworker brought in some fantastic donuts this morning. Classic cake donuts, rich yet light, super crunchy on the outside (even by afternoon when I had another taste), and with a lovely light chocolate icing on top. Dreamy. Can be had at Impallaria bakery and deli. Possibly best donuts ever.

Posted by foodnerd at 06:55 PM | Comments (1)

woo! interesting new potato chips!

So on my way to the train up here in Rogers Park, there is a convenience mart that has some intriguing looking cartons of potato chips in the window. So, duh, I go in one morning to see what they got. In the potato chip aisle I encountered a man who told me he was about to go smoke some weed, and showed me his little nugget of impending joy; I told him that you definitely needed snacks for that and moved to the counter with my purchases of Vitner's snacks:

superspicy Hot Cheeze Crunchies, decent but too hot to eat plain -- needs a sandwich

kosher dill pickle chips - very good indeed, realistic pickle flavor!

Louisiana hotsauce chips - as yet untried

Sweet Baby Ray's bbq chips - very good, ate them for supplemental breakfast yesterday

Sizzling Salt & Sour chips - spicy plus salt/vinegar: two great tastes that taste great together? i'll let you know. (Update: Damn skippy! These are great -- flavor crystals that eat through your mucous membranes in not one but TWO ways! Yum.)

Posted by foodnerd at 05:44 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2005

my first solo meal in chicago

Not particularly auspicious, but there it is. I moved off my friend's couch and into her friends' empty apartment way up in Rogers Park. My first night there, I tried to pirate someone's wireless from the apartment, but no dice, so I ventured out to find an internet cafe. 8 or 9 really long, cold blocks later, schlepping my heavy-ass laptop, I finally found one, a Starbucks that was going to make me pay for a T-Mobile subscription. F that. By now I am one hungry, cranky little camper, but there has been nothing in the way of places to eat, which I find bizarre for a residential neighborhood. So I hump it back to the one place I did see, a Giordano's pizzeria. And I vaguely realize, somewhere in my hindbrain, that this is a stuffed-pizza place, and is at least theoretically a Chicago specialty, so all is not lost. Unfortunately for me, Chicago stuffed pizza takes 30 minutes to hit your table. I talked to tallasiandude on the phone (sorry, i know talking on the phone in restaurants is really bad, but the place was nearly empty and I was really quiet, I promise) to stay distracted. The pizza was actually pretty good, with a nice crunchy outer crust and good sauce flavor and lots of cheese, kind of like an Uno's pizza without all the extraneous grease. I've been eating the second half of the thing each morning for breakfast, one slice at a time in my empty, borrowed kitchen. It gets me through the hour-plus trip down to the office, whereupon I eat a supplemental breakfast. :-)

Posted by foodnerd at 09:12 PM | Comments (4)

April 11, 2005

and so on

While I'm on the topic of labelling, check out the ingredients list on this package we found in a supermarket in Chinatown a few weeks ago.

I guess they're on the right track, at least.

Posted by tallasiandude at 05:39 PM | Comments (1)

When Zero != Zero

Because of the FoodNerd, I spend a lot more time paying attention to what I'm buying at the store than I used to.

I look for organic products, the grain-fed/antibiotic-free meats, and while, for years, I've looked at the nutritional info on most of the packaged food that I buy (originally to check for fat, then sodium), now it's all about trans fats -- the partially hydrogenated oils that seem so pervasive in our food supply.

It's really depressing to discover how many things we eat actually contain the stuff. I went through the candy bar aisle at Costco a while back looking for a cheaper alternative to the Balance bars and new Snickers marathon energy bars (which will run you almost a buck a pop), and just about everything had some kind of partially hydrogenated oil. (I ended up buying a large bag of peanut M&Ms.)

So, I had heard that several manufacturers were making the effort to take the trans fats out of their product lines (and adding a "trans fat" entry into the nutritional information table), so I've been dutifully checking the ingredients lists of some of my guiltier pleasures. Not much luck there.

Oreos? Trans fats.
Twinkies? Trans fats.
Doritos? Trans fats.

Now, here's the rub: I've checked the ingredients list on a bag of Doritos before and was sad to have to put the bag back when I hit the partially hydrogenated something-or-other. (replaced by a bag of Tostitos -- ingredients: corn, oil, salt.) So, how psyched am I when I notice the words "no trans fats" on the label on my most recent trip to the 'Co? And I turn the bag around and halfway down the ingredients list, I see it again: partially hydrogenated blahbity-blah. Then I look at the nutrition label:

trans fats 0g


Now I'm wondering if I'm confused about what trans fats are. So I check the web when I get home. Ok, partially hydrogenated oils are trans fats... what gives?

Then I get to Frito-Lay's page:

- The list below provides you with many choices of Frito-Lay snacks that contain zero grams of trans fat per serving. In some of our seasonings, there are trace amounts of partially hydrogenated oils, but in all cases, the amount of trans fat is so small that it is considered dietarily insignificant by the FDA, or equal to 0 grams of trans fat for the FDA labeling regulations.

At this point, I'm wondering what the exact wording on the bag was.

Maybe I'm overreacting, but to me, zero means, well, zero. As in none. nada. zip. It's misleading, and saying that the FDA considers it "equal to 0 grams" sounds as stupid to me as the "Indiana Pi bill" that tried to legislate the value of pi.

But I guess that's just how my brain works.

Given that I'm already making a concession in buying the Shawr's/Stah Mahket oatmeal raisin cookies (because, well, they're just too damn good), I can probably manage to eat a few Doritos without coming to harm. (Or at least, not any more harm that I'm already bringing upon myself.)

But I can still be annoyed.

Posted by tallasiandude at 05:05 PM | Comments (4)

dinner party, professional style

H & J let me tag along to a dinner party given by their friends D & T, and for this I am intensely grateful, because not only are D & T nice people, they give a hell of a dinner party. D was the chef, and he did three courses, all beautifully plated (readers of this blog will recall my frustration the last time I tried a plated dinner for guests) and utterly delicious. I bow before his greatness.

The starter was a creamy corn and potato soup, with chives and some sort of spicy heat, either curry or cayenne or a touch of both. He followed this with a monster pork chop, brined in bourbon, salt, honey and mustard, and grilled, with sage and a pile of caramelized onions. This brine gave the pork a smoky, sweet, salty flavor almost like ham, with a fabulous crispy exterior and a moist flavorful interior. The last course was a salad that I am definitely going to steal: watercress, matchstick raw beets and carrots, red onion, and a dressing of toasted pecans, dijon mustard, honey, salt, sherry vinegar, fresh thyme, and a tiny bit of oil. Completely fantastic, a wonderful mix of complementary sweet, earthy, nutty and peppery flavors. He said the recipe came from the second Union Square cookbook, which on the strength of this recipe alone I may have to buy.

A delightful meal, and a wonderful start to my social life in Chicago. :-)

Posted by foodnerd at 08:15 AM | Comments (2)

April 10, 2005

La Fama bakery

So while wandering the streets yesterday exploring neighborhoods and searching for apartments, I ran across a Mexican (?) bakery that looked interesting. Big clean empty room, ringed by glass-fronted cases containing trays of rolls and cakes and cookies, all apparently marked 35 cents each. It was around lunchtime, how could I resist? La Fama Bakery, 1751 W Chicago Avenue, turns out a fine selection of rolls and sweet pastries, much more consistent and delicious than some Italian and Latino bakeries I've tried. The review linked says things are heavy on the sugar; I disagree. Sweet, yes, but certainly not overly so, and I found on the whole these treats were less gooey-sweet than most American desserts.

I had a big bag of stuff, which I photographed with my new camera-phone (yay! foodnerd continues to be illustrated, even though tallasiandude kept the camera in Boston!), but sadly I didn't stop to read the manual first, so I lost the image because I forgot to save it, in all of my pastry-anticipatory excitement. The image above is of three delightful items that were not completely consumed by my afternoon's worth of dipping into the bag every so often, in lieu of stopping for lunch.

The best of all of them was a round, flat, thin crispy disk covered in cinnamon sugar. This is awesome. Sweet, spicy, crispity-crunchity, a little bit flaky-tender. Like the best pie-crust cinnamon roll EVER. You can see the last couple of shards of this at left in the photo above. If anyone knows what these are called, let me know. These alone are worth a trip.

There were a couple of bread rolls swirled into pretty shapes, both with different flavors -- one more bland & airy, the other a little richer but still light. There was a tiny raised donut, a mini-loaf of yellow cake topped with pecans, a round soft cookie-cake studded with raisins (very nice), another round soft cookie-cake that had a topping of what appeared to be icing and coconut that had been baked so it separated into a pretty mottled pattern on the surface, and the gooey coconut ball you see in the picture above. It's two half-spheres of bright yellow cake, glued together with berry jam, coated with more jam, and rolled in coconut. This would seem like it might be super-sweet & too goopy, but really it is quite light and tasty. I am eating it for breakfast this morning. Again, if anyone has names I can assign to these things, let me know -- the girl at the counter was nice enough, but not exactly chatty, and there were no signs anywhere.

The business card I picked up says: La Fama Bakery -- We are not the biggest, just the best. I have to say, I think I agree. Yum!

Posted by foodnerd at 10:40 AM | Comments (2)

April 09, 2005

arroz con pollo, peruvian style

I am staying with my dear friend H in Chicago until I can find a place to live, and this Friday her husband J had some people over for an impromptu dinner, and for this he whipped up his signature arroz con pollo. Oh, yeah, yum yum yum.

He makes it with a whole bunch of cilantro pureed in the blender with a bit of water, and puts this in with the rice, the chicken thigh sauteed with onions & turmeric, the sweet red peppers, and the edamame (his twist on the usual peas). The whole thing comes out soft and savory and a most springlike yellow-green color. Comfort food at its finest, especially when paired with the incendiary tomato salad that H made to go with it. She makes this insane spice paste with vats of habaneros (perhaps I did not blog about the bagful of gorgeous orange ones she bought in October; she's already blown through those and this is a new batch), and she used a scant dollop of this to make the dressing for her tomatoes and onions. On its own that salad will send smoke out your ears, but mixed into the rice & chicken it's a lovely little zing to contrast with the soft moist starch. The radish salad was not an attack salad, but rather a nice tangy peppery crunch for texture. A lovely meal and a lovely evening.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:22 AM | Comments (1)

April 08, 2005

i think i am going to like it here

Around the corner from my new office is a Mexican restaurant called Perez, where for $6 I had a plate of 4 big meatballs in a mild savory orange sauce, with creamy refried beans and rice, along with a basket of nice crunchy not-at-all-greasy tortilla chips, a bowl of pico de gallo, another bowl of fairly mild smoky thin salsa, and a half-dozen fresh hot soft corn tortillas. And the standard-issue table hot sauce is really good, spicy tangy and smoky, and new to me: Tamazula. Holy crap, it was good.

These albondigas were the Thursday special, along with posole, so stay tuned next Thursday for a report on the soup. Or possibly sooner, for some other day's special. *grin*

Posted by foodnerd at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2005

au revoir

tallasiandude took me to the Tuscan Grill the night before I left for Chicago. This was a bittersweet evening -- many tears have been shed as I have made my way to the midwest, but our dinner at the grill was as wonderful as always, if not perhaps more so. This is our restaurant, much the way other couples have "our song." We don't generally go there with anyone but ourselves, and it is so close to the house that we could almost (almost but not quite) walk there. And we always sit at the bar, for a host of reasons: it's faster to get a seat, the bar itself is lovely to look at, all dark wood and glass, and the bartender (& owner?) is one of the best ever. He's genial but not aggressively friendly, he's attentive in a most unobtrusive way, and he's as genuinely enthusiastic about the food as we are.

We used to overorder (us? overorder? *gasp*) and roll out of there stuffed to the point of pain, but we've mastered the art of ordering by now. The trick is to go easy on two of the three courses, and simply share one dish instead of two. This time we had a single antipasto, a single half-order of pasta, and two entrees.

The starter was a no-brainer to order -- anything called "duck three ways" and claiming to involve both confit and pate is something i must eat. The third way was a duck proscuitto, and the works came with crostini & a lemony fig conserve. Gorgeous. The pasta was a wild-mushroom cannelloni in a mushroom broth, which was creamy and light and full of mushroom flavor, a wonderfully simple dish after the rich savory duck treats.

The two perennial highlights of the secondi are always the hanger steak and the scallops -- this time the fish special trumped the scallops but the hanger steak was spectacular as always, tender and intensely meaty and almost crispy on the outside. It came with sauteed escarole and a gratin of penne and grated parsnips. I love the veg-pasta gratins they do at the Tuscan Grill, and this one was particularly delightful, the sweetness of the parsnips bringing out both the wheatiness of the pasta and the flavor of the meat. It is a very clever idea, marrying vegetable and pasta under a thin blanket of cream and a toasted crust of parmesan -- i have seen them do this with cauliflower and other veg as well -- and I am going to have to borrow it one of these days for a dinner party.

The fish was a piece of halibut with a perfect crunchy golden crust, a simple butter sauce, and a huge pile of black trumpet mushrooms, flanked by a pile of baby spinach lightly dressed and decorated with a handful of lovely rock shrimp. This time even tallasiandude was wrestling with the impulse to lick the plate, and there were many surreptitious swipes of the finger through the sauce left on the plate, a luscious blend of butter, fish juices, mushroom juices and just a wisp of acid from the salad. It is a damned shame that we can't get fish like this without going to the top-shelf restaurants. We live on the ocean, within an hour's drive of a major fishing city, and yet the average person will get utter dreck when ordering fish in the average restaurant or buying in a normal supermarket. Scandalous.

Dessert was a half-bottle of moscato d'asti, a particularly fruity, peachy version called Nivole, along with a single unctuous creme brulee that we shared. And then we went home to snuggle and watch the special features on the Incredibles dvd, because we are just that geeky. It was a lovely night, making quite clear the wonderful man unfortunately still in Boston while I forge on with this project of living in Chicago.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2005

does shape matter?

Lunch today was cobbled together from pasta, jar sauce, and frozen costco hamburgers. Is it wrong to use a frozen patty as a meatball?

Posted by foodnerd at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)