Pimm & Not So Proper

There may be no better reward for enduring one of Chicago’s hard winters than a boozy alfresco afternoon. Put away the juleps, the Daiquiris and the Margaritas, though, because there’s a new sipper in the city. Advertisements

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Duck Liver for Charlie

A couple of nights ago I drank away some of my recessionary angst at the new Humboldt Park watering hole, Rootstock (954 N. California). The tiny little wine bar is a joint venture from Webster’s Wine Bar vets Jamie McClennan, Tonya Pyatt, and Johnny Hap. It is a totally idiosyncratic spot that like the best places honors the whims of its owners and operators. The night I was there, both Hap and Pyatt were super-gracious, with Pyatt even pulling up a chair to hang with me and my friend for a spell and dish on the wonders of our other local fave beer joint, Archie’s bar (2600 W. Iowa).

Quick Beijing Duck Legs

I actually have an appointment to eat Beijing duck on Monday, which makes it kind of absurd that tonight I was struck by the desire to replicate a quick version at home, but matters of the palate, just as matters of the heart, don’t always make much sense. Anyways, I made a trip to Richwell Market (1835 S. Canal) picked up some Beijing style pancakes for a couple of bucks and a bunch of scallions for $.49, then headed over to Fox and Obel for four 8 oz duck legs ($14). I was pretty psyched with what turned out. The photo above is my actual plate. Recipe follows:

Snapper in the City

While I abhor Cosmopolitans, the one thing I do love about those ladies from “Sex and the City” is their camaraderie. I suspect their daily meetings, however, are nothing but TV mythology. There’s no way anyone with a real job and life has time to meet with their friends so often. Still, their gatherings duly represent my aspirations of whiling away endless afternoons over drinks, food and banter to celebrate life. And so I do. Since I moved to Chicago, my best friend Aamir and I have made it a pretty regular habit to decompress at various downtown establishments after work.

Not Just Winging It

Watch out Col. Sanders.  General Tso is ready for battle.  Fried chicken, once the exclusive domain of Southern gentleman and grandmothers hunched over cast-iron skillets, has a new international face.

Fun With Bacon and Marcona Almond Maple Syrup Brittle

I was at Whole Foods last night staring at a Vosges Mo’s Bacon Chocolate Bar, remembering how I’d devoured one in a single sitting the week before. Scared that I’d do the same again if given the chance, I ran away without buying a bar. Then an hour later as I was sitting on my couch, I was thinking I’d been a fool. I started dreaming of salt and sweet variations. With no chocolate on hand, but plenty of bacon and nuts, I though, hmmm bacon pecan brittle….oh wait, I have Marcona almonds, bacon marcona brittle…..of course I’m one of those dudes who drowns his entire breakfast plate in syrup, so if I’m goin’ bacon, I gotta have some syrup…and voila, recipe below. It’s rare that I have such good ideas. Now I’m thinking chorizo marcona brittle, or marcona almond brittle with a touch of smoked paprika…stay tuned!

Taking a Walk on the Southside

They say defeat is an orphan and victory has a hundred fathers. Likewise, the origin of many classic cocktails or iconic dishes is usually mired in pitched battles between generations of families, restaurateurs, and shady credit claimers. 

Crabbin in Chicago

You’d think the revered concubine of the Scientology movement could afford a high-level food consigliere, someone to tell her where the truly best eats are. Instead, it turns out Mrs. Tom Cruise, nee Katie Holmes, probably listens to what some second-rate concierge at a high-priced Michigan Avenue hotel told her last time she was in Chicago. You see, according to last week’s People magazine, Holmes recently brought in frozen Gino’s East deep-dish pizza for the crew of her current film “Mad Money.”

Ramping Up

Wild leeks are kind of like the agricultural version of crystal meth. That’s not to say if you eat a handful of the green, leafy, white-bulbed veg that tastes like a cross between spring onion and garlic you’ll end up tweaked-out and toothless, selling your children in the Wal-Mart parking lot. But then again I’ve never smoked or snorted them. Maybe if you throw a couple of bulbs in some rolling papers and spark up, you’ll commune with the ghost of Julia Child and a Rockette-like dance troupe of truffle-stuffed chickens?

Getting Fresh with a Cocktail

I’ve given cocktails short shrift. I’m a descriminating gourmand, who’ll travel a thousand miles just to eat a local specialty, but when it comes to the bar, I’m more likely to amble a couple of blocks, and ask for my old standby of bourbon and Coke. Lately though I’ve been spending some time with bartenders who pursue mixology with the same dedication as top chefs. These guys are focused on seasonal ingredient driven cocktails filled with chopped farm fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t know why it took me so long to have an epiphany. Whenever possible I’m looking for farm grown heirloom tomatoes for caprese salads or local creameries for my milk, and yet I think nothing of using mixes full of corn syrup, sodium benzoate, shelf stable gums, and artificial colorings for my drinks.