Thursday, March 11, 2004

Jim and Pete's with Art B.
I lunched today with one of the smartest mobologists out there, Art Bilek. As I have advised before, go buy his book on the St. Valentine's Day Massacre (The St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone, with co-author Bill Hemmer). If you are having trouble finding the book, Art said that Borders put it in the True Crime area not with the Chicago books. And also, if you have any connection to the book business and can pass on the word of this book, let me know...

Jim and Pete's: Over the years, they've expanded and expanded, but the linoleum floored front room gives you the real Jim and Pete's. I must confess that my favorite thing at Jim and Pete's is the oil dip for the bread. Mild yet rich olive, whispering of garlic and hot pepper, gritty from grated cheese, it is highly addictive. I actually believe they should use it to dress their salads or as a pasta sauce. Actually that salad dressing is pretty good too. Jim and Pete's peaks with the first tastes and then moves slightly down. I've had a few things there over the years that have been fair or even less than fair, but also a few good things too. Today's lunch special of pork chops diablo, thin chops in a mess of oil, giardinara and potatoes was just the kind of messy food I love. Finally, finishing just as strong as they start, Jim and Pete's wraps their food about as good as any restaurant, with plastic mummifying the styrofoam containers and keeping all the food away from where it does not belong.

7806 W. North Ave.
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
(708) 453-5204

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Todd & Holland

It's kinda neat having one of the leading tea purveyors in the USA practically down the street. The Condiment Queen decided to give up substantial coffee drinking (something I would never do), and take up tea connoisseurship. She got hooked at Chado, a nice tea store and cafe in Los Angeles, but shops extensively at the close-by Todd & Holland.

If you have any interest in tea, you should check this place out. I hardly have the fanaticism of my wife (and surely prefer coffee), but as a foodie, I still love going to T&H. First, there is the intense depth of product there, how can you not appreciate it. Second, there is Bill Todd. As he told me the other day, "I'm willing to talk tea with anyone for as long as they want to talk tea." Whether its something as mundane as how to know how to get your water at the correct temperature (i.e., 185 for green tea) to various micro-estate teas, he can converse on the level you need. If you cannot make it to River Forest, much information can be found on their web site, and you can easily order from there.

7577 Lake Street
River Forest, Illinois 60305
Morning Toast

I took a quick foray around Chicago's leading (pretty much only) gourmet emporium, Fox and Obel yesterday. I'll do a report at some point. I've been praising their bread a lot of late, and if nothing else, I wanted to get one while I was downtown. They were out of the big round, what I was calling country but turns out it is called peasant bread, when I stopped by. Seems they only bake a few a day, but the person in the bread counter insisted they made a pointed loaf from the same dough. I was duly impressed when she had to bring the bread in back, to a special slicer, because the crust was too hard for the regular slicer. But you know what, while I nibbled on that bread a fair amount yesterday, I stuck with my Whole Foods bread for morning toast. And while maybe the crust is not as impressive, the interior of my Whole Foods bread makes better toast. What I did find at Fox and Obel was butter. Pim's comments in the comments yesterday, of course, had me thinking of butter all day, and it was high serendipity that I ended up at F&O, with its collection of butters. Organic from California, English, Irish, multiple versions from France, Catalan, what did I buy? Czech. A purely utilitarian foil wrapper appealed to Ms. VI. She figured reverse marketing, if they would sell this butter with such cheap packaging, no shelf appeal, it must be special. Maybe, but the spread today, jelly (or should I say jam lest any of my British readers think it what we Yanks call Jell-O) rather overpowered the butter. I used Zentris tart cherry from Germany. Zentris can be found at a lot of ethnic markets in Chicago. It is a strong jam, very sweet and very fruit forward. It is a mid-range jam, not the most expensive we have in the house, but not the cheapest either. Still, jam provides one of the best cost to deliciousness ratios out there, and even those things we pick up at close-out at Marshall's can make for great morning toast.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Mil-WALK-ee (Seth's great name!)

MikeG, in the comments for the upcoming Milwaukee Ave. Walkathon (April 17), n/k/a Mil-Walk-ee, wonders if we should go NW, pick up cars, and extend to "Niles where Polish meets Middle Eastern and Korean-Asian with some Italian thrown in. We would of course be literally recapitulating the move of Polish immigrants from Milwaukee in the city to Milwaukee in the burbs." I'm not really hep on this plan, but I am open.

The problem with this approach is where would the cars come from? We park them for later use? My thinking actually, anyways, was to walk SE, towards the city center. There are a few reasons for this. I think early on when are legs are fresh and our appetites wider, we can cover more distance, but as the day wears on, it will make more sense to be able to just drop in on whatever is in front of us. I am not even sure how we should do this. My instinct and desire right now is to have no set itinerary, just go with the flow. The whole point of being on foot is maximum flexibility, but it also does impinge on the ability of people to move in and out. But that is also, again, one of the reasons I want to go IN. We work towards more transportation options not less. If we ended up north, its a lot harder for people to hook up. Finally, as obvious in any athon, do not over fill the day, a lot gets left off as things proceed. Anyways, I am not set on anything here.
Morning Toast

"The latte is homemade, from Francis! Francis! X5, using Illy espresso pod (yes, I am a pod person). I’m not sure if Melkor will approve of my foam though. The bread is Delle Frattoria’s Pain Int├ęgral, bought at the ferry plaza farmer’s market on Saturday. The butter is Strauss Family Creamery lightly salted butter. I always use salted butter to eat out of hand, unsalted is, to me, only for cooking. The jam, or ahem, confiture, is from the grande dame of confitures, Christine Ferber. The one on the bread today is Reine Claude d’Alsace" So Pim inspired me to pay more attention to morning toast. [ed. do you know Jim Leff also makes a point of eating toast each morning?]

If words do not do it, see the pic:

Now, the first thing I had to do, per Pim, was get myself some lighly salted butter. Now, I am both cheaper and way less world-traveled than her. Thus, I got my lightly salted butter at Costco (Cabots). We are, however, always buying jelly and honey, and in fact sometimes we eat one just to finish it and justify opening another. So, I was well covered in that area. Bread, well I've talked about that before. Of late, I have actually been very impressed with the baked on premise breads at the Whole Foods in River Forest. Pretending I am European, I pick up a new bread every day or so.

Today, the bread was Whole Food's round, white "French" bread, very heavy in crust, fine crumb if not nearly as close to a piece of cake as Fox and Obel's superior version. Because I've been partaking a bit too much in that lightly salted butter of late, I used only a miser's share today. Drizzle was Buram Turkish honey, a honey with a decided tannic flavor that makes it seem winey. Coffee was merely the French Press, beans Costco too.

Monday, March 08, 2004

His clutter can be your clutter!
My friend Mike Wells, computer guru, has decided to give up most of his worldy possesions and take his 2 kids and lovely wife on a world tour. How inspirinng. Hopefully as they travel around the world, he'll pass on some food tips to the blog.

Anyways, Mike's looking to ditch all his stuff. Go to HIS blog to see what's for sale. Me, I got my eye on the cherry night table.