Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's This? A Food on the Dole Collaboration?

Last week I had the pleasure to join a group of about a dozen strangers at a dinner put on by a group of friends and fellow chefs, who operate a pretense-free, clandestine dining experience factory named X-Marx. Take note of the term "pretense-free", because as some of you know, I'm not the biggest fan of events where form takes over function. But no worries here, not only because I know these folks behind X-Marx (believe me, these people are in it because they sincerely adore food), but as the night unfolded it became clear to all that the mission of the evening was first and foremost to put food on a pedestal.

Right now, X-Marx hosts a weekly "X-Market" dinner. The idea is to shop in one of Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods, find inspiration in these markets, and cook a 4 to 5 course meal driven by said inspiration, using the food found there, spontaneously on the same day. This week there was a Devon Avenue-inspired vegetarian dinner and as well as one from Koreatown; next week is Little Italy. I attended the Argyle Street night, and was thrilled to do so--toasted barley tea, a Thai beef salad that will destroy any sad little overcooked and one-dimensional catering dish that name conjures up in one's mind, a sunny-side up duck egg playground of homemade sambal and sausage and roughly 35 more "condiment" options, a decadent piece of pork belly concealed in a pan-roasted skatewing. I'm Pavlovian about that salad. Can't get it out of my mind. Stop me.
They also host what they playfully call "Junkets", a double-meaning word that, aside from the commonplace meaning of something like an extravagant trip, is also the name of an old dessert, probably English, made of sweetened curds of milk. I'm guessing the former definition is appropriate, in that these dinners involve upwards of a dozen+ courses, usually inspired by a theme. This weekend is the "Ice-Age Barbecue", where those lucky enough to join will have some of the better barbecue in Chicago done in large part by the creator of the hot and delicious Holy Ghost Hot Sauce. There go my salivary glands again.

I seem pretty into this, right? Well, I am. And good reason. I'll be teaming up with the X-Marx crew on Saturday, February 27 for a Food on the Dole Junket. From the X-Marx newsletter:
After finding himself "on the dole" in 2008, Chef and Writer Hugh Amano created Food on the Dole as a way to bring people closer to food and each other, whether in their own Home or at one of the Food on the Dole Community Dinners. Hugh has a keen eye for squeezing the best flavor and experience out of modest ingredients.
X-marx is pleased to team up with him to bring you seven courses of some Hard Hobo times inspired dishes. We will elevate Broke Cuisine to Haute Cuisine via dishes in the vein of Not-So-College Ramen, Tuna Helper, Canned Spinach, and Fat-Ass Franks and Beans Cassoulet. This is not to be missed.
So. There you have it. We'll be working on some really interesting dishes, all the while having fun with some great food and each others' creativity. And I can promise that the food will be full of heart. Not the kind of heart that X-Marx will be serving at their Offal Dinner on February 23, but the kind that, well--you know what I'm talking about. Interested in coming? Follow this link. The code? HAUTEDOG. No spaces. The cost? 70 clams. Booze? BYOB. It costs a pretty penny, indeed, but we will do everything we can to make certain it is worth each one. Even if you can't make it, I'll tell you all about it at some point.

And Mom, my apologies for the name of that last dish.