Sunday, January 04, 2004

Ed's Potsticker House
Ringing in the New Year with Champagne and dumplings

The benefit of the listserv is that great special meals can be planned and executed with minimal effort. All it takes is an idea and an e-mail account. The brilliant one, RST, got the notion that we should kick things off, 2004, with a full range of helpings from Ed's Potsticker Northern Chinese snack menu, and to wash it all down, champagne, preferably champagnes from small bottlers.

I was last at Ed's in July, although for some reason it seems like last year (hahahahaha, no really it does seem like longer.) Our meal Saturday mimicked much of what we ate in July, although this time we excluded any "main dishes". All snacks or dim sum.

Honestly, as one of the chowhounditas likes to say, honestly, it was all great. A seemingly endless procession of Calvin Trillin inspired stuffed stuff. First, soup dumplings with an elastic and rather leak proof wrapper. Not too soupy, but good nonetheless. Second, the house signature dish, traditional Northern style potstickers, much different than your PF Chang version. Rolled, like the cigars served in Israeli restaurants, crisp all the way around, flaky, and just a touch greasy. Third, water dumplings, a thicker wrapper, more European, like a pierogi, to support the more vigorous cooking process, boiled versus steamed. Now, these dumplings pretty much all contained the same things inside, three similar items, yet all three possessed distinct and different skins. It focused you on the artisanship of the dumpling maker. Fourth, tiny bread bombs (typical Chinese steamed bread of "silver cake", steamed and then fried), with a bowl of condensed milk for dragging. Nothing much to say, huh? Fifth, sesame balls with bean paste, one of the few overlaps with traditional Cantonese dim sum. Ed's does a much tinier ball, and fries it longer. More crunch than goo, but I slightly prefer the goo. Sixth and seventh, two forays to Shanghai: rice cakes with bok choy and pork and thick round noodles. The carborama continued, just not as dumplings. Still about the contrasts in texture and what can be done with flour based on how it is worked and how it is cooked. I really liked the toothsome rice cakes, but the guy sitting next to me (MikeG) felt them too MSG-y. Eighth, back to dumplings, this one steamed and griddled on one side, like most people expect of potstickers, but filled with a kids pleasing cellophane noodle and chive. Ninth, the collective favorite, the crisp and flaky pancake filled, pita-like, with Chinese bacon--belly meat, rolled and slice so the filling was circles of pork meat and port fat. Tenth, soup, a much meatier and beefier broth than found further south, filled with, guess what, won tons (more dumplings). Ten ways to drive Atkins nuts and ten ways to have a great lunch. Eleven actually, we got chopped up bits of Chinese donut sticks, but the kids grabbed and ate these so fast, I cannot say more.

Those champagnes to accompany? Brilliant idea. Not only does Champagne go anywhere, not only did it extend the New Year's parties, but Champagne, with its mouth clearing properties, makes an excellent companion to this starchy food. Afterall, how many times has a champagne been described as bready or toasty. We had an assortment of bottles including some small producers--I'll get the details later, some Czech czampagne as we called it and some decidedly NOT small, Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Vintage Reserve 1996 I bought on sale a month or so ago. To be honest, I have limited insight on the bubblies. I agreed to let Ms. VI sit with the adults, I took the kids over to a big table, where we joined Mike G, his two, and a very brave, very generous chowhound named Peter. My condition for this arrangement, I got to drink all the champagne I wanted. Soon, all the wine blurred together, even the highly sweet, a bit medicine like, Czech version.

Ed's Potsticker House is continued testament that Chicago is filled with fantastic Chinese cooking. Ed's serves roughly, the population in Chicago, not from the Southern states. Ed's gorgeous and charming owner, Brenda, hails from Beijing. Her chef from Dong-bei, the East. The menu, as noted above, takes in Shanghai dishes as well. To perhaps step over the line, but even in Hong Kong, non-Cantonese restaurants have a reputation for warmth and friendliness, but with a Northern style place like Ed's, you will not find some of the brusqueness, the refusal to serve dishes, the you no like, treatment, found often at Chinese places. The outstanding hospitality of all at Ed's only added to the pleasure.

After lunch, most of us took the short jog to Filberts, where for the first time in my life, they were bottling when I entered. Hungrier sorts continued south to Lem's ribs, but we need to get back to Oak Park.

Ed's Potsticker House
3139 S. Halsted St.
(312) 326-6898

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