Wednesday, July 6, 2011


What a great (if pickled) Fourth of July weekend. I got to explore a new neighborhood in Chicago--West Town--somewhere I really had no exposure to before this weekend. But while down there, I ran into a friend, and through the magic of friendly people being, well, friendly, was invited to her friend's great 4th cookout (I say cookout as I fear my Southern friends' wrath for calling anything not involving smoking a huge piece of meat for several hours a barbecue) on the roof of a building that has an unblemished view of Chicago's skyline and, thus, a 360° view of the fireworks in all of our neighborhoods all over the city.

That day was absolutely gorgeous, and beyond the amazing weather and top-notch food, I was most impressed by the grace, hospitality and generosity of those hosting and joining the party. There are times that, as a chef, it can be hard to get an invitation to share food someone has made; chefs never get invited to dinner! But let me say, that when I do, it's all about the fact that you are sharing with me something you created, and critiquing or criticizing that would be the absolute last thing I would ever do. So, a huge thank you to the hosts this last weekend, and everyone there for that matter. There were beautifully grilled sausages, farro salad, steak and chimichurri, cakes and the fudgiest brownies. Home brew was shared and mixed drinks were invented, and we watched some solid fireworks. What did I contribute? Well, other than my usual ability to make food disappear, I brought a little salad I love made with shredded mango, cucumber, carrot and red pepper, doused with a dressing of sliced serrano chiles and shallots soaked in a ton of lime juice and cane vinegar, brown sugar and a touch of fish sauce, topped with crushed peanuts. It reminded me of why I love southeast Asian flavors so much, and why I am terrified of mandolines. Anyway, as we return to a bit of normalcy, and the last few hangers-on light their last few fireworks, I'd like to offer a big thanks to the hosts of the world for sharing a bit of yourself with and opening yourself up to the rest of us!