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Content about Chicago

Tote bags! Autographed bookplates! Paw prints!
Pardon the shameless shill for a moment, but we're both pretty excited about this. As most of you probably know, Blake and I have been writing the Dinner Tonight column over at Serious Eats for well over four years. That's a lot of weeknight dinners. But our history with the site actually goes back to the very beginning.  (Here is one very old article that we both wrote if you need some proof.) This is all just a way of...
An Argument for Grains and Vegetables
I’ve worked enough days in my life, from my desk at home to mind-numbing office temp gigs, to have developed some theories on lunch. To me, the working lunch is a series of balances: it should be fast, yet not fast-food; it should be a break from work, but not so indulgent you can’t get moving again; it should be fulfilling, but not a cause of sluggishness. Lunch should work for you, but so often it’s the other way around...
Announcing a collaboration for the month of October
  We’re happy to announce a new collaboration between The Paupered Chef and some fellow friends and bloggers of ours in Chicago: The Midwestyle. It’s a great blog, and thorough. Ostensibly about dressing well on a budget, it’s really about caring: how you look, how you think, how you act like a young man in this here century of ours. We feel an affinity with their go-get-em energy, the same early-20s stuff that...
One dessert it doesn't hurt to have in the repertoire
It's probably become clear to most readers that this is not a food blog where you read about desserts, and for that matter, about baking at all. There's a good reason. We're no good at it. Cupcakes and chocolate cakes and other frivolous foods are the specialty of other writers.  Besides a post or two about bread (we're pretty proud of our olive-and-herb-studded foccacia and the lengths explored for the perfect...
August 22, 2011
Saving andouille from the supermarket.
This didn't start off as a gumbo mission, though I did end up there (more to come on that front soon.) No, the saga began simply: about three weeks ago I needed andouille for a Dinner Tonight. All I could find at the grocery store was a product that claimed to be the right stuff, but had all the character of cheap bologna and about as much spice as, well, cheap bologna. I was angry. Then I drank too much whiskey and started to dream...
Adventures with buttered toast, ripe tomatoes, and Duke's mayonnaise.
Most people return from the beach with tans; I returned with tomatoes. It was a half-bushel, to be exact, and they were stashed in the back of a car as it wound its way from North Carolina, through the Great Smoky Mountains, and, some 16 hours later, finally to Chicago. Why such extravagant measures for tomatoes? When it comes to tomatoes, I don't suffer fools, and I simply can't accept sub-par specimens. I shun fresh ones except...
Nick enjoys the comforts of a 100 year old recipe.
I have a thing for hotel bars. It helps if they are opulent old ones, designed to comfort the wealthy traveler from a 100 years ago. Sure, the drinks aren't necessarily the best, and the service can be uninspired and overly corporate, but I feel immediately relieved when I walk into some grand old space like Chicago's exquisite Palmer House in the Loop. Plus, I'm just not sure there is a better place to have a cocktail. Served...
Cooking from Chicago's New Dose Market, Happening Again This Sunday
The Italian bean salad has been with me a long time, and for good reason.  I've made some variation of beans, herbs, and olive oil dozens of times over the past few years and I never get tired of it.  When it comes to the relationship between deliciousness and effort, this one gets it exactly right.  It's about as easy as mixing the ingredients together and letting the flavors develop, then it's ready to bring to...
A Chicago Backyard and Many Happy People
Mexican food is made for parties. The construction of tortillas, fillings, salsas, and toppings; the spicy, rich flavors; and above all, the fact that it tastes so darn good. This was our guiding principle on a recent Saturday when, with the help of a handful of talented friends, we threw a Baja Fish Taco party under warm string lights in a Chicago backyard. We were celebrating one of the early recipes published on this blog for beer-...
Ginger, Lemon, Sugar, Yeast...and 24 hours.
File this one under projects that seem a lot harder than they actually are. A week or two ago, my wife tore out a couple pages in the New York Times Style magazine about a shop in Melbourne, Australia that combines style, bespoke fashion, and great food under one roof called Captains of Industry (here it is as an interactive online feature).  Besides all the cool ideas and wavelengths that must bounce around in that shop, they...
For those who don't particularly like rhubarb.
"I hate rhubarb." That was the first sentence uttered by my local butcher after I described this sauce I wanted to make to pair with some pork chops. To be fair, rhubarb is a much-maligned spring vegetable. I was just convinced that I had to love it, and that I’d instantly find all kind of amazing uses for it. Though rhubarb and I don’t have much history to contend with, in cooking more that one dish with it in the...
Leaving the packaged noodles behind...
Ramen is Japan’s ultimate comfort food, the equivalent of a cheeseburger, fried chicken, and deep-dish pizza into one. - Takashi Yagihashi from Takashi’s Noodles I may live in Chicago, but I’ll admit that I'd probably pick ramen before those other foods when I'm in need of something truly comforting. Those big bowls of noodles and broth seem especially perfect at warding off a brutal winter. Unfortunately,...
I don't really care for big burgers.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one railing against the big burger tide. While nearly every new restaurant opening in Chicago features a big, fat burger on its menu, I’m that guy that prefers thin little griddled burgers. Usually I can only find them at old school joints, but even these are frequently harder to find these days. It’s getting to the point where I haven’t eaten a burger at a restaurant in months. I...
From Bone Marrow to Saffron
Learning how to make risotto at home was one of the more liberating experiences of my early culinary career. The idea that I could create a perfectly legitimate risotto by just buying arborio rice and stirring like mad, was enough to make me wonder what else I couldn’t cook. I’m not going to say it single-handedly helped launch this blog and my writing career, but it was crucial. It was the moment that I looked around the...
Here's a list from Food and Wine of the best pizzeria's in the United States.  Chicago's own Great Lake is listed, as well as Pizzeria Mozza, which we wrote about in our Gorgefest: Los Angeles Edition.  What we want to know, though, is did they leave any place out? Food & Wine's Top Pizza Joints in the US
Chicago's forthcoming iNG restaurant by Homaro Cantu has a pretty novel concept: rather than ordering a la carte, you just pay them by the hour to bring you out delicious things.  Would you pay $50/hr for continuous food and beer? We sure would for oysters with foie smoke, among other things. [iNG Menu]
Plus, a Killer Recipe To Use It In
We are thrilled to be participating in Charcutepalooza, an organized blogging movement of people writing about the noble art of charcuterie. Scores of people around the country (or even the world?) are making and writing about bacon, pancetta, and other delicious variations this fine month of February—and throughout the year, will be embarking on ever-cooler projects like brining, and smoking and drying and fermenting (the organizers...
A Variation on a Classic That Goes Down a Little Easier
Ah, gimlets. I've always been too much of a wuss to enjoy them. The gimlet is all harsh lime and bracing alcohol, befitting to manlier men like the British seaman who invented it, at some point in the 19th century, halfway across the Atlantic. They were looking for their allotment of vitamin C (scurvy sucks), had Rose's lime juice, and they were drinking a lot of gin. How's that for a cocktail history? Today, the gimlet is still...
The Chinese New Year is the perfect time to look back on a spicy year.
Greetings from bitterly cold and blustery Chicago. Currently the city is buried under two feet of snow, and battling some of the coldest temperatures in years. Though it seems like everyone is putting a post about where to eat Chinese food tonight in honor of the Chinese New Year, I decided to take the time and talk about what it has been like to cook Chinese dishes at home. I fell hard for this mighty cuisine in 2010, cooking it nearly...
Check out Nick's post on how the blizzard is effecting Chicago restaurants.  Stay tuned for more updates over at Grub Street Chicago.
January 23, 2011
Just got back from an expo at the Trump Chicago featuring Australian products and purveyors.  This has got to be thousands of dollars worth of truffles! (Click picture to zoom in). They served them shaved in a silky celeriac (celery root) puree.  Terrific, and way out of my price range.
A mad dash for LA's best food in one afternoon.
We had four hours to eat in L.A., a period of time which all of us agreed wasn't long enough. While most people would have simply given up and spent the time driving around Hollywood or lounging on the beach, we plowed ahead, sure we could catch a plane and sample some of the best food in the city along way. So our afternoon in L.A. was spent cruising the endless sprawl of concrete and zig zagging through the streets in search of the...
The kiwi could change everything
The kiwi that could change everything I keep returning to Korean barbecue, and once I get it in my head, nothing else interests me. The amazing flavor of the meat--beefy and complex and sweet--and the unique butchering and cooking method, which renders the normally tough short rib into a grillable pleasure. These things are crack to someone who loves to eat and is fascinated with cooking. So here's what we know about Korean-style...
Tweaking the classic Chicago hot dog (aka The Superdawg)
Though it pains me to say this, the Chicago hot dog has one little flaw. It’s not always an issue, but it’s there just the same. Most of the seven toppings which make up a proper Chicago-style Hot Dog can be had at any time: mustard and relish are condiments, celery salt is a seasoning, the sport peppers and pickle come from a jar, and onions can be freshly cut up at any time of the year. No...the flaw is that damned red tomato...
August 11, 2010
Chicago's famed restaurant revamps their cafe
Spiaggia isn’t the sort of restaurant you waltz into on a whim--you have to wear a jacket to eat there, its gorgeous dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows, they have a cheese cave, and, oh, it’s really, really expensive. But the secret is that Spiaggia also has a cafe. It’s casual, intimate, and the food is superb. The attention to detail that is expected of a high-end restaurant like Spiaggia filters down to its more...
An afternoon learning about "Grahampagne"
Through a heavy, metal door with "Brewery Employees Only" slapped on the front, I was led into a warm, steamy room where Goose Island beer is made. I side-stepped hoses and puddles of water and found a capacious space filled with slanted light; up above, at the top of a skinny ladder, great tanks of beer were lined up at various stages of aging and fermentation on a platform, were Goose Island's brewmaster Jared was talking to...
Urban gardening in Chicago
I've started an experiment this year: how easy is it, really, to grow vegetables and herbs in a windowsill? When I moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan three years ago, I was rather taken with the idea of urban agriculture, romanticizing the rustic life of the small producer who grows his own vegetables, raises his own livestock, and scavenges the seas for the rest. (This fantasy was fueled rather steadily by episodes of the River Cottage...
Tackling Mexico's national dish
You can shave truffles over a dish and call it special, but it's not; it's just expensive. - Rick Bayless I've been a fan of Rick Bayless since this blog started over four years ago, but it wasn't until he blurted out the above statement during the Top Chef Masters finale last year that I really figured out why. I already knew that I loved so many Mexican dishes because they balanced fat with acid, and layered spices...
Almonds, garlic, and bread are the magic ingredients in this alternative to tomato gazpacho
I heard a lot of complaining this month about Chicago weather, mostly about how cold and rainy it was, and I added my fair share to the chorus. "It's May, already, where's the warm weather?" was a common conversation starter, as weather always is. Apparently, somebody upstairs was listening. This week we have been thrust into what feels like the height of summer: it has climbed repeatedly above 90 degrees, and Chicago has...
Gin, lemon juice, and egg white make for a drink designed to cool you down
I'm not sure if the Silver Fizz was developed in Chicago, or if it was just popular for a time around 1883. But I have to believe that there is a correlation between cocktails and the cities that embrace them. Wine has a tie to the land, and cuisines are based around what's local and fresh. So it's my humble opinion that the Silver Fizz was built to cool the heads and stomachs of men without air conditioning, and I imagine there...
The SIP method of urban gardening
I've long been drawn to the idea of urban farming. When I lived in Brooklyn, I had two plots in two community gardens, in addition to three massive tomato plants on the back deck. Planting seeds and growing vegetables was an unlikely pleasure. For me it was connected to good eating: I loved to cook and eat the freshest vegetables I could find. Getting to the source is something we often explore on The Paupered Chef--from seeking out how...
"The bacon of fish" elevates this simple pasta to transcendence
You may remember awhile back my lamenting post about a favorite ingredient I couldn't find in Chicago. The ingredient that Claudia at Cook Eat Fret christened "the bacon of fish." Something relatively undiscovered and very difficult to find in the U.S. A secret ingredient, you might say. Well, I'm done lamenting. Because I have found bottarga, the cured roe sack that's pressed and dried to become the density of hard...