Friday, May 07, 2004

D.S.D. Delicatessen & Imports, Inc.

The other day, I jammed a bunch of places into one post 'cause my taste memories were fading. While I have great recall within a few days of a meal, I am no James Beard, remembering every meal ever. It might have been then or never. The compilation post, however, did little justice to the great experience at Le Coq in Oak Park, and even less justice to D.S.D. deli on Lawrence.

As I work my way through my D.S.D. purchases, I am becoming convinced that these may be the best sausages in Chicago. Shockingly good. The texture of the salami impresses me the most. In the mouth it just does not seem like sausage. Somehow, in their sausage making process, they figured out how to fit the meat and fat together like a jig saw puzzle, so that the texture remains entirely solid and compact. Papaya King in New York calls its hot dogs filet mignon on a bun, but D.S.D.'s salami comes down right close to being real meat. If the garlic salami is silk, the dry sausage tube (I apologize I have no idea what these things are called in Serbian, I ordered by sight and taste-test) is Harris tweed, a rough amalgamation of chunks held together by an incredible amount of smoke. As Wiv would say, 2 hours later, you're burping it back. I'm very anxious to return to this place.

3818 W. Lawrence, Chicago.
Spring World Re-Post

There appears to be posts from Chowhound that are impervious to search & find. Luckily, as the Ultimo, GWiv has encouraged, I have saved many a post. Below is a re-post of a great meal at Spring World, the Yunnan/Szechuan place in the Chinatown Mall.

And the food:

Appetizer plate four ways - conch in a sneaky hot sauce, also very chewy; the famous chicken in black vinegar dressing, maybe the finest dish in the house; mushrooms wrapped around bean curd sheets, more rolls of bean curd than some other local versions; tendon, sliced razor thin, forgotten dressing, but delicious.

Cold Yunnan noodles, like spaghetti, in a multi-flavor sauce, similar to the chicken, but also very heavy on the cilantro. Could have stopped right here.

Beef and special mushrooms in a dark rich sauce - This was a Trio-esque type dish where the richness of the beef merged into the richness of these special mushrooms. Blindfolded, you would not know which was which. (A 4 color brochure was provided for us later to learn more about the imported mushrooms.)

Yunnan ham with leeks - Wow! While I would have loved to have had the ham, procured we are told via a hell of a lot of red-tape, plain with buns, I was plenty happy with this preparation. Yunnan ham really tastes almost exactly like good country ham. The same dense texture, the same intense ham flavor, and the same linger saltiness that tons of soaking cannot kill. Could have stopped here.

Pan fried dumplings - A fine, if un-distinguished, dish. Larger than typical dumplings

Chengdu dumplings (a/k/a boiled dumplings) - A superior version, somehow the called for chili oil was not as oily as it could have been. What was the added grated substance, ginger?

Kung pao chicken - A nod to a first time Chinatowner in our group, yet another superior version. Just the exact amount sauce clinging to the meat and bright fresh peanuts made this a fine dish to eat.

Pigs feet "Hong Tashen" - Hong Tashen, as RST explained to me, is a city in Yunnan and the name of Spring World in Chinese. We were not sure if the dish was meant to be in the style of the city Hong Tashen or in the style of the restaurant named Hong Tashen. Regardless, I am now convinced that I like pigs feet as much as I like spicy desserts, meaning a hell of a lot more than I thought I did. This was a spicy dish, loaded with dried chili peppers, yet unlike some dishes at like, Lao Sze Chuan, the peppers meant something. OK, fatty, chewy and bony too, but all in a good way. Give in to pigs feet!

Tofu and Chinese okra - No one was quite sure what is really Chinese okra. We think it is the long green vegetable also called ohba perhaps and used in Indian cooking. This was a mild satisfying dish that played extremely well against the more rich and spicy other courses.

Spicy baby chicken with ginger - I have had this dish at Spring World before, and it has always been good, but this was gooder, as Sophia might say.

Tilapia fish is horrible looking sauce, insert gross analogy at will, that tasted perfect.

Scallion cakes - Is this getting redundant, the best version I have had in Chicago. Wisps of grease, flaky, crisp and puffy in spots, I could have eaten a dozen.

[Note, on my chowhound report, I failed to mention the salty shrimp in red paste, 'cause, well I guess I did not like it so much.]

Fresh fruit and Yunnan style moon cakes - This is not on the menu, but what the house offered us for dessert. Yunnan moon cakes are totally different than the Cantonese versions, no nuts or bean paste. Instead, an extremely flaky dough, from lard I am sure, filled with tiny bits of Yunnan ham.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Why New Orleans is such a Great Eating Town

The my city eats better than your city is old, very old. Of course we have to eat what's here, and of course we should like what we have. Still, would not it be pretty nice to have a list like this. From Tom Fitzmorris: [note the typo's are his]

I'm not talking about desserts, but about snacks. All of this is pretty
junky, when you get down to it. But once in awhile. . .

1. Pralines. The classic local candy. Best flavor: praline.

2. Cannoli. Fried pastry shells stuffed with sweetened ricotta cheese,
candied fruit, and pistachios, dusted with powdered sugar. Brocato's
are, of course, definitive: chocolate on one end, vanilla on the other.

3. Satsumas. They're out of season, but when they're in, they're like

4. Sweet potato or pecan pies. The little ones, made by guys like the
late Omar the Pieman, or the ones you get at the Jazz Festival.

5. Beignets. It's sad the way beignets, even from the classic producers
of them, have become so terrible. But when they're not too oily or
dense, they're wonderful.

6. Snowballs. I've had my first dozen of the year already. I find myself
asking for less syrup than they usually put on. Best flavor: ice cream.
Worst flavor: licorice.

7. Roman chewing candy. Atmosphere, 10. Taste, 8. Effect on your
fillings and crowns: 1.

8. Heavenly hash. I' not sure whether this is an Elmer's trademark or
not, but there was a time when many candymakers locally made it.
Chocolate, marshmallow (much less of that then Elmer's uses), and
almonds. The famous one was at D. H. Holmes.

9. Calas. Of almost purely historic note now. The ball-shaped rice
cakes, fried then dusted with brown or powdered sugar, were once sold
hot from carts around the city. I mention them here to encourage
someone--anyone--to revive them. (Still great at the Coffee Pot fro

10. Hubig's lemon delight. I've always felt that there's a lot of room for
improvement in this half-moon-shaped fried pie. The pastry is too
heavy, for example. But when you're in the mood for several hundred
old-style calories, you might have to eat one. I get about one a year.

Nibbles and Gulps

La Quebrada - The new menu still irks the Condiment Queen as she longs for her calamari ajillo botana. Me, I may be happiest at La Quebrada with the most basic stuff, the antojitos on the back page. Yesterday, I had two tacos cesina and a sope with the unctuous barbacoa de chivo. As Hat Hammond notes, a hand-made tortilla makes any taco, and La Quebrada might make the best tortilla in Illinois. The taco cesina is more than tortilla though. It is a totally successful medley of chip-chopped cesina, refried beans, pico de gallo and guacamole in that hand-made tortilla. The sope does not approach the absolute pleasure of the blue van, but it is still plenty good, with the sope blend of crisp and toothsome. A dollop of Quebrada's deep chipolotle salsa topped the sope and added to the package. Five locations.

Freddy's - Notice a pattern here? More and more, I am convinced that Freddy's is the best food store in Chicago. The level of artisanship and just flat out realness is found almost no where else in Chicago. A lot of places make their own fresh sausage, but at Freddy's, they make their own capicolla, salami, sopresseta and hams as well as their own breads too. Each day there are platters of food wholly reminiscent of Italy. Freddy's can pretty much fit in as a store in Italy. Yesterday, I picked up a round bread I have never seen there before. In texture, it resembled almost their ciabatta, but it was not as dry. It looked and tasted nearly exactly as the baked in the floor breads from Argo Georgian Bakery on Devon, but with a bit more stiffness and not as much yeast. A great bread. 1600 S. 61st Ave
Cicero, IL

Siam House - I've had some outstanding food at this restaurant in Niles that caters as much to Chicago's Thai community as it does to just plain lovers of Thai food, but that outstanding food avoided us the other night. As I mentioned on Chowhound, I did not work hard enough to get Thai-Thai. I know treasures lie buried in Siam's menu for next time. Still, at least one dish impressed me on Sunday, a half-chicken grill roasted and oozing Thai juices. 7742 N. Milwaukee Ave, Niles, IL

D.S.D. Delicatessen & Imports - One of these places you pass hundreds of times and you never think to enter only later to say why kind of places. A Serbian deli offering five (at least) varieties of red pepper spreads and the other basics of Euro important--chocolate wafer cookies, sour cherries in syrup, etc. In back are the meats. They roast and hack pigs, visually ultra-appealing with orange stiff skin, and they make a variety of smoked products. They eagerly sliced bits for me to try, practically forcing me to buy a garlic salami and two kinds of dry sausage. We put the product in the trunk, but within 20 minutes of driving, the entire car reeked Serbian. 3818 W. Lawrence, Chicago

Salam - With a bunch of restaurants around the Kedzie - Lawrence intersection, why do we almost always eat at Salam. Salam is not one of these restaurants run by one or two whirlwinds. Five or six fella's work at Salam at a time, and the effort shows. For instance, I had gone in back to use the restroom. And in back is the reason to go to Salam. Buckets of chick peas soak for hummus, fatah and other items, a bunch of collapsed, roasted eggplants stand ready to be baba ganoushed, and one of those five or six fella's worked a big bowl of fresh spinach for pies. He did confess that the pastry sheets came from next door, but he also stated that since this shop made their own phylo, the pies would be totally hand-made. Great minced jalepeno salsa too. 4636 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL

The Sweet Shop Next to Salam This place seems to change owners and names every few years. Always, it sells high quality Middle-Eastern sweets. I am always torn between two: rectangles filled with a sweet cheese and triangles filled with a gooshy custard. Typically, I give in and buy both. On the other hand, I tried these little fried balls soaked in syrup, looking tempting near the register. I will have no problem avoiding these lead bombs again.

Le Coq - On Chowhound, some people said bad words about Le Coq in Oak Park. I disagree. Is Le Coq the perfect restaurant, hardly. Is it an ideal restaurant, damn close for sure. People have attacked their service, and we (well me as Ms. VI thought I was verging on nuts) rather challenged the service. I told them that I pretty much hated all American versions of chocroute garnie, would I like theirs. And I still ordered the dish. I also needled them for the lack of morels in the morel mushroom sauce on the asparagus. And the waiter did get a bit huffy, but I mean come on, it's not that hard to know the difference between a morel and a button mushroom. While I stopped arguing my apparently no win point, he did return with a small dish of more mushrooms, with a few more morels. Regardless, three things make this place near ideal. First, this may be just another bistro around town, but the dishes always taste of the chef. This is not restaurant doing French because that seems in. This is a crew grounded in actual French style food, and they create dishes that always strike me as a notch or two better than they need to be. Second, I was so pleased that the menu spoke spring and spoke spring pretty loudly. Asparagus and peas and morels and young cabbage were all over the place. And done so well too. The grilled asparagus with morel mushroom sauce, even with the miser's portion of morels drove home my fetish of seasonal eating. Every aspect of this dish exploded in my mouth. I weep from such real food. Third, this place knows value. I weep from such prices at Le Coq. Only a few dishes edge over $20. The rest are comfortably in the tens. The appetizers are priced realistically. Foie gras, OK, that costs a bit more, but if you want something else, like the asparagus, well you can get by for a lot less. Given the quality in the kitchen, the low prices are weep worthy. 734 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Resources and Links

I've added MikeG's chow photo's to the Links and the Italian beef tasting to the Resources. Let me know what else needs to be on this page/taken off the page.

UPDATE: Whoops, as Dickson can attest, I've been dropping a couple of balls lately. Anyways I meant to add Eatchicago to the links list. It's there now.