If They Ask Me
10 Favorite Foods
Paul at Foodblog sez there is a meme going around, asking food bloggers their ten favorite foods. Well, if the meme gets to me, here's what I'd tell 'em:
Fried chicken - I like a lot of chicken: roasted, broiled, grilled, poached with home-made mayo, but I like best, fried chicken. From fast food, crisp yet moist Pollo Campero to Austin Leslie's famed garlic marinated, to rarely seen true Midwestern pan-fried chicken, I am rarely unhappy when eating fried chicken.
Spicy food - I like hot food, like Thai food, but I mean here, highly spiced food. If nothing else, I have in mind Indian food. I love how nearly everything in Indian food seems doused in secret masala spices, even the mixed nuts. Also, highly spiced sauces, like the green salsas at the Afghan resturant on Da'bomb, Isla Marias, Pico Rico, the Ecuadorian chicken place; or Salaam in Albany Park.
Nuts - Which gets me to, nuts. I like a nice plain toasted almond like the next guy, but nuts go to a new level to me, turn me into an addict, when treated with spices or sugar. My wife makes outstanding spiced nuts, so good she's considered going into the nuts business. And I think she'd make a fortune.
Anchovies - Gee, these little fishies pack a lot of flavor. Is it that mysterious fifth flavor, unami or just the salt? It really is worth the ick to de-bone genuine salt packed anchovies.
BBQ - Like fried chicken, this is a genre that appeals to me no matter what. NC style, Texas style, faux Chicago grilled ribs; you see I love both the cooking method and the sauce. I'm so far from a purest. Just the other night I really enjoyed Russell's Ribs in Elmwood Park, with just the faintest hint of char, but a lovely sauce that I can never quite diagnose.
Lake perch - Do I love this because it is so rare to find these days? Perhaps. As a medium for a lot of butter? Perhaps. Or because of their latent sweetness and perfect texture? Perhaps.
French fries - Like my younger daughter, I love potatoes in nearly all their forms. Moreover, you would think that having spent a good part of a summer in Grenoble, that my favorite potato dish would be a decadent gratin. No. The thing about gratins, mashed potatoes, or other potato dishes is that they are more vehicles for butter, cream and other great foods. Frying a potato most brings out the nuance and flavor of a potato. Take the fresh cut fries at Al's Italian Beef, there is a sweetness to these potatoes that you would never detect otherwise.
Bread - I do not see eye-to-eye with Jim Leff much these days, but when he said toast was the most perfect food (or something like that), well he's spot-on. I can walk away from the spread at Fogo de Chao and be most happy with the cheese bread. I can be happy at Old Country Buffet because I love their rolls. The overall improvement of bread in Chicago in the last ten or so years has been a real boon. My two favorites: Fox and Obel and Freddy's.
Salad - including cole slaw and papaya salad - I've noted that liking salad is really about liking salad dressing, and it is true that I love salad dressing, especially vinaigrettes but all sortsa dressings from green goddess to Hidden Valley ranch. Still, I like salad too, the stuff under the dressing. Unlike my older daughter, I will not eat plain lettuce, but dressed, it is an ideal marriage. I also adore the mouthfeel of a great chopped salad (and I make the best).
Donuts - Chowhound MikeG accurately called donuts "food crack". Not so much because they are addictive but in the way that grease and sugar, two things that make food taste great, are distilled down to their basest levels. I would be so fat if I lived in LA with great donuts on nearly every corner. Here, I go most to Dunk Donuts in Melrose Park but especially love Dat Donuts on the south side of Chicago. The Oak Park Farmer's Market donuts are not ideal but special for many reasons. Something akin to LA donuts can be found at Wheeling Donuts in, well, Wheeling.
So many things that barely made the cut: champagne, corned beef, hand sliced lox, and nearly all Jew food (except gefilte fish); how could my list exclude hot dogs or hamburgers? my mother's rack of lamb? Door county cherries?