Friday, December 23, 2011

If What's Supposed To Happen in 2012 Really Happens in 2012, At Least We'll Be Well Fed in 2012

*when you live in close proximity to FotD Salon leftovers, you get to wake up to croissantillas filled with braised pork belly and shoulder and pickled chiles*

Whenever we've got a lack of snow this deep in winter, I'm always suspicious as to what's going on out there--but I try to enjoy it knowing that we're going to get nailed with plenty of snow and cold weather here in Chicago soon enough, and for long enough. Yes, I know that in late April I will be trudging around, freezing, wondering when it will all end. Well, nevermind all that--we've got four new Salons for January to keep us warm--click on a link for tickets:

Brunch Salon Sunday, 1/8/12 11:00am In the Food on the Dole Brunch Salon we create a highly market-driven menu together, touring some classic dishes and exploring some new terrain as well; a perfect way to resurface after the decadence of the holiday season--BYOB as always! $50.

Ramen and Gyoza Salon Saturday, 1/14/12 7:00pm One of our favorite things to eat here at the Food on the Dole Salon, this ain't the ramen you slurped down in college! We'll hand roll and cut noodles and serve them up in a rich broth with a bevy of tasty accompaniments. Learn what you've been missing all this time eating 10-for-a-dollar packs of Maruchan, and explore one of the tastiest, most fulfilling dishes out there! Not to mention--we'll fill, fold and fry one of my favorite comfort foods--the Japanese dumplings known as Gyoza. BYOB! $50.

Winter Market Salon Thursday, 1/19/12 7:00pm We're in the depths of winter in the Midwest--what will the market have to offer us? If you've ever wondered what to cook in the middle of the season of frozen ground in Chicago, come join us as we find all the hidden gems awaiting us in the market and we'll create a rich, hearty mid-winter market dinner together. Anything goes, and please note that this is not necessarily a vegetarian Salon. BYOB as always! $50.

Pasta Salon Wednesday, 1/25/12 7:00pm Come learn how simple and easy it is to make fresh pasta as you spend an evening in the Salon kneading, rolling and cutting for a lovely winter feast! We'll share stories of our experience with pasta, learn about what makes this simple food so comforting and dig in to a hearty and soulful meal together. The Salon is, as always, BYOB, so bring those big Tuscan wines to enjoy as we cook the evening away. Come with questions and an empty belly; leave with technique, a sense of community and a snapping waistband. $50.

We're rolling off the great Beer Salon and Pasta Salon that finished out a great 2011, and moving full steam ahead into 2012 with another year of great Salons--hope to see you at one soon!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beer Shall Keep Them Warm

After a top-notch Beer Salon last Saturday night we're all set to roll into (out of?) the holiday season and into January. I'm putting together Salon dates for the cold months ahead, all certain to warm us up just when we need it the most. Meanwhile--that Beer Salon. What a great night, with really good food and beer brought out by the Saloneers. Stateside Saison from Stillwater, Supplication from Russian River, Avec Les Bons Voeux from Brasserie Dupont, and of course the delicious if big Bourbon County Brand Stout from Goose Island, made in 2008. Lots to try, and an enormous thanks to everyone for sharing in the true spirit of the Salon. But perhaps the beer that will stay with me was one that a Saloneer made himself using Citra hops, something he calls the Blasted Heath IPA, which--if I had to compare it to something--reminded me of the wonderfully un-syrupy, un-sweet Zombie Dust from Three Floyds I stumbled upon early in the year. Anyway, Blasted Heath was a real treat, and the thought of this happening in someone's home thrilled me to no end.

The food we made stood up to so many beers, and after a day of drinking beer and judging chili at Graze Magazine's Chili Home Companion fundraiser down at The Empty Bottle, you'd think I would be knackered and ready to call it a night. On the contrary, the energy of the Salon and those attending simply brought me back to life and so we steamed some mussels in a strong ham broth with leeks, celery and wheat beer; we dove into a crock full of pork rillettes with homemade epi bread; we rolled out some buttery flatbreads I stole from the fine Mission Street Food Cookbook that eat like a tortilla crossed with a croissant, and topped these with briased pork shoulder and crispy pork belly, with sauce options of Oarsman-braised cherries and apricots or nam prik pao pickled chiles. A huge bibb leaf salad--upon which we rained just-fried pork rinds from the belly skin--served to cut through all the decadence. And, as we finished our beers, the caramel ice cream bombe made it's way to the table, capping a very indulgent day.

I sat back after everyone had made their way back out into the cold, fortified by all that food and beer, and drank the remainder of the Bourbon Stout left by the home brewer. To me, that was a holiday celebration--not centered around a holiday--for the ages.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Strawberries? In December?

Strawberry. Plantain. Syrupy. So read the description on the package of Metropolis' Costa Rican Perla Negra I'd just picked up. I worried they'd gone sappy up there in Edgewater. I mean, I understood the decision to move from more prose-like descriptions to the hard and direct system of few words as indication of what one might expect from a certain coffee, but this was too much. This described a smoothie--or worse: a slurpie.

But then, at home later, I boiled some water and ground some of the beans. And as soon as the hot water hit the grind, I said to myself, "why do I smell berries? It's December!" I looked in the fridge, trying to remember if I had something berry-laden left over from a Salon. No. I scanned the countertop, thinking something must have been left out, some jam, or the kombucha had picked up a weird strain perhaps--or wait! The Super Bubble in the cabinet! No. And finally, looking at the brew sitting on the counter I recalled the words from the bag. I approached the thick mix of ground beans and hot water, and yes indeed...the strawberry aroma was steaming up from the coffee! Weird! And behind it--the rich, almost sticky aroma of banana...but earthier, and not quite as sweet...perhaps a touch greener. Plantain!

Feeling embarrassed at my excitement over something I usually try to avoid--bypassing actual multi-sensual enjoyment of food, wine, beer, and yes, coffee for esoteric, cerebral reasons as the food/drink gets cold or flat (second only to relentlessly taking cell-phone photos while forgetting to actually experience the food)--I poured the coffee, kept with the usual gameplan of sticking my nose in the cup, and enjoyed the aromas, not to mention the astute olfactory palates of the fellows up at Metropolis. Well done guys!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Comfort, In Food and Place

Just read a great article about the Supper Clubs up in Wisconsin in the NYT--places whose appeal and quality stand frozen in time from nearly a century ago, aptly captured by the author David McAninch in the following, lovely paragraph:
Imbibed in this north woods sanctum, Tom Kelly’s cocktails are a potent tonic for body and spirit alike. It helps, perhaps, if you’ve spent the day hiking amid the magnificent birches and pines of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, which extends in a vast patchwork across this lake-studded swath of northern Wisconsin. It also helps to know that a thick slice of prime rib is waiting for you at the end of that drink. You know this because the hostess, dressed in a prim black waitress uniform with white piping, has already appeared alongside you at the bar unbidden, pen poised over order pad, asking what you’d like for dinner and informing you that your table will be ready whenever you happen to be — no sooner, no later.
No schemes here, nothing to make you think you're somewhere you're not. It's Wisconsin. It's 2011. But none of that matters, because you are well-fed, well-oiled from the drinks, and you have that pleasant sense of physical exhaustion smoothed over by these things. I think this is something we can all appreciate.

Looking ahead, we've got a couple Salons with some well worn seats and tasty food yet available, and I'd love to see you there! Click on a Salon to purchase tickets:

See you then!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

WARNING: Butcher's Shops May Contain Meat

I was preparing for a private catering gig on Saturday when I stopped in to Gene's Sausage to get some pork and beef and salami for what would be tasty little meatballs. As she was getting me the meat, my friend behind the butcher's glass told me tale of dastardly proportion. You see, Gene's currently has hanging in their windows a few quarters of beef; immense, big slabs of shoulder and flank waiting to be cut into more manageable pieces (though wouldn't it be wonderful to build a great fire and somehow fashion a spit large enough to spin a side of beef and roast the whole thing medium rare?). I relayed my excitement to my friend and she told me how they'd received a comment card condemning the beef; that perhaps that sort of display might fly in Europe, but that "this is America", and it was in exceedingly poor taste for a butcher shop to, um, display meat.


This certainly wasn't the same blood thirsty person that ordered three turkeys from a local farm for Thanksgiving, then once they were slaughtered changed their mind, leaving the farm holding three dead turkeys (which, incidentally, found their way to a table via some good-spirited folk). Both examples remind me of the great Max von Sydow in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters, talking about the inanity of television: "Can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling?"

ANYWAY, this is all clearly a matter of opinion. For those who do, stop by Gene's and get a big slab of that meat. For those who don't, stop by anyway and get a jar of Biscoff Spread before it's only available at precious little boutiques--just be sure to shield your eyes while walking by the butcher case.