Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Drinks with a Ploughman, or, This Sure Is A Picky Ghost

I spent a really nice day not too long ago walking around, and ended up walking from my neighborhood (Edgewater/Andersonville) over to Lincoln Square. A good couple of miles or so, and it was a gorgeous fall day. You know the type--blue, blue skies, so crisp; leaves of every color, cold enough to make you know what we're in for but not too cold as to keep us from enjoying it. And somewhere along the way, I ended up in The Book Cellar, reading a magnificent cookbook called Made In Italy by a fellow named Giorgio Locatelli, an Italian chef with a Michelin-starred restaurant in London called Locanda Locatelli. I love cookbooks like this--it's more prose than anything, and it's filled with Locatelli's reminiscences and anecdotes of his life as a boy in Italy through his chefdom in London. You can feel his passion on every page, and his recipes--though a bit cheffy and difficult at some points--come from a quite simple place, and really inspire the same simple passion in the reader.

Naturally, it drove me to eat. The first thing that came to mind was a bottle of prosecco; I love champagne and find it appropriate at any given moment in time, and for those of you saying "Hey, isn't this supposed to be the On The Dole guy?", rest easy knowing that decent bottles of sparkling wine, nay, any wine can be had for around ten clams these days. It's not going to be something you serve the Queen of England when she comes over, but it will serve the purpose and work wonderfully any other time.

So I beat it into the wine shop there on Lincoln. Weirdest window displays ever, but great staff who know their stuff and have a ton of it. And while in there, perusing, my thoughts turned to beer. And a nice big bottle. And I settled on the perfect one--between BIG HUGE beer and delicate champagne. And this was Rodenbach Grand Cru. Light and sour, with deeper flavors emerging soon after these as the first initial mist from opening the champagne-like cork dissipates; a really beautiful beer. And thus the muse carried me further and suggested thoughts of really nice sausages and cheese. You know, that simplest of meals: nice wine, a hunk of meat, a hunk of cheese, a hunk of bread. And I thought, I've got the time, I'm going to head down to Paulina Meat Market. After all, I was about to perform what I would tell myself was a good deed by pushing a stalled car down the road a bit. And never mind that I kind of cut out once the guy told me he was going down to Montrose Avenue (we were roughly at Lawrence, and we're talking like a half mile). I mean, he had some other guys helping him. So I slipped silently into the train station and waited for the brown line to come.

And I made it to Paulina in short time, basically closing my eyes and floating in on a wave of smoke, that wonderful Paulina smoke, the way Bugs Bunny would float through the air when smelling a roast or something like that. For those of you who don't know, Paulina Meat Market (aside from selling the best meat available in Chicago not sold at markets by the farmers themselves), smokes all kinds of meat and sausages in-house right there in their shop. And this illuminates the neighborhood with unthinkably wonderful smells. And so I floated right in, Bugs Bunny style, and ordered a pepperoni and a linguisa (a heavily spiced pork sausage), added on a hunk of stilton blue cheese, and made it out of there on the cheap. Stopped off at the market and picked up an apple, greens, and a shallot, and threw in a small demi-baguette.
Yes, you read right. I was making the Ploughman's Lunch.

Finally home, I opened that lovely beer and poured a glass; minced a shallot and whisked it with Dijon mustard, champagne vinegar and olive oil; washed my greens, rolled them gently in a dish towel to dry, and then dressed them; sliced my apple, broke off some cheese and cut up my sausages. Bread went in the oven for a quick few minutes and I was set...
...and it was great. It'd been a really long time since I had this; it was an old favorite at the haunted, now being remodeled Red Lion Pub in Lincoln Park. And as I munched and sipped away, I asked myself why it had been so long. Ah well, nevermind, I said, as I poured more beer.