Thursday, August 10, 2006

Towards Better Eating
Two Recent Meals

As I expound and expand on my better eating plan, I thought I would detail two of the meals eaten this week at the VI Bungalow (I'm skipping a third meal as it was practically a repeat of one of the meals.)

Meal #1

Farmer Vicki's hierloom muskmelon with prosciutto (not local I know); also Nicholl's Farm celery stuffed with a mint marscopone blend--this was supposed to be blue cheese, but yes, after several months en fridge, blue cheese does spoil

Caputo's brand linguini with arugula, tomatoes, and hot peppers from Vicki; capers and black olives. Ever hear the expression tasting summer, well this was it.

Fresh Fruit

To Drink
Inspired by Bridgestone's post on LTHForum, we had home made plum "snaps" and then a bottle of Lambrusco, chilled, truly an ideal summer wine.

Meal #2

Seedlings peaches, Seedlings who are at Green City and other Markets sell some of the best fruit to be found under Parma ham (again). Still, the experience of peach and ham and muskmelon and ham are so different. The melon is subtle, and you focus on the intensity of the ham. The peaches nearly drown out the ham, and it is a minor key harmony of flavors instead.

Classic summer Caprese salad, what I've been waiting for, for ages. Vicki's heirloom tomatoes, sorry I do not know the variety, they are small and oblong-round with green streaks over a bright red background. With the tomatoes, Freddy's fresh mozza, which LTHForum Italian maven, Antonious, believes it about the tastiest around.

Pasta again, this time with Vicki's patty pan squash and Vicki's heirloom black cherry tomatoes.

Fourth, fresh fruit again. Nicholl's Farm's plums have been especially delicious this year.

To Drink
What else, Prosecco, very cold

A certain repitition of ingredients? Darn right, but these tomatoes are so fleeting and it is best to get our complete fill now. Of course, not only do we eat old fashioned, we live old fashioned, and with limited air conditioning in the Bungalow, these kinda meals are truly seasonal.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Latest in Great Neighborhood Restaurants

The participants of the site have identified a new group of places considered GNR's or Great Neighborhood Restaurants. Do I love all of the restaurants nominated? Well, maybe there's one or two I do not love, but I love the list, like previous rounds it repersents of range of places that inspire passions in eaters. These are the kinda places I would seek out if I was a visitor to Chicago (or a recent arrival).

For more information, contact:
David Dickson (630) 399-9172,
Gary Wiviott, (773) 282-3277


Chicago, August 7, 2006 – LTHForum, the Chicago-based culinary society, has announced its latest choices in its semi-annual Great Neighborhood Restaurants program.

A sampling of winners, with comments from LTH members, are:

Scooter's Frozen Custard,1658 W. Belmont Ave.,Chicago

“I am convinced each time I try it that Scooter’s is making the best ‘ice cream’ in Chicago these days... Scooter’s went about it the right way, tasting famous custards from Milwaukee, St. Louis and elsewhere before concocting their own, which tastes like something you grew up on. The creamy richness of Scooter’s makes so many ice creams seem (what else?) plain-vanilla...It is truly a great neighborhood restaurant because the owners are so friendly to everyone.”

Burt's Place [Chicago Style Pan Pizza] 8541 N. Ferris, Morton Grove

“Burt’s cooks a mean pizza in a very unique style, with roots far back into the annals of Chicago Pizza History... Burt has spent over 40 years developing and perfecting his style of pizza. It has a wonderful caramelized crust and the sauce is obviously made from fresh ground tomatoes. The flavor and texture of the crunchy sweet peppers contrasts wonderfully with the warm tangy sauce and melted cheese... Burt and his wife seemed genuinely pleased to serve us pizza, sit and chat, and give a tour of their historic memorabilia.”

Hai Woon Dae [Korean Barbeque] 6240 N California, Chicago

“Live coals have never had it so good as being able to excite Hai Woon Dae’s meat... The perfect Korean barbecue in a nondescript north side strip mall. Real charcoal grills, big tables, tender marinated meats in many varieties, a glorious array of panchan to choose from and a free flow of good, inexpensive soju—I always leave Hai Woon Dae well-fed, a bit rowdy, and happy with my lot in life... One item that may not stand out on the menu is simply called Steamed Eggs. Light, flavorful egg custard, perfect as a starter.”

Sunshine Cafe, (Japanese/non-sushi) 5449 N.. Clark St., Chicago

“This is a very simple restaurant, and yet so warm, quaint and welcoming... Japanese food is more than sushi and sashimi. Home-style cooking (ofukuro-aji, meaning mom’s taste) like this is so under-represented in the city... If grilled mackerel is served in Heaven, I believe this is how it would taste... And if you’re looking for the perfect tempura (crispy, non-greasy), or the perfect bowl of Udon noodle soup, or excellent miso, fantastic sukiyaki, teriyaki, salmon, it’s all here... What a wonderful homey place.”

BomBon Bakery [Mexican bakery] 1508 W. 18th St., Chicago

“The most fabulous bakery I know of in Chicago is BomBon, in Pilsen. I had a slice of a tres leches cake from them last night which could not have been better... They succeed in making every pastry taste equally as wonderful as it looks. Every tart I have sampled is fresh and full of distinct flavors. Their flan is the absolute best I have ever tasted... A Mexican bakery that is artisanal and artful, as well as a true neighborhood place in one of Chicago’s most vibrant neighborhoods.”

Over the history of the awards, winners have represented an eclectic mix, including everything from the most minimalist hot dog stand in town to the most exotic one, from a Japanese restaurant dishing up spiritual experiences in a Korean neighborhood to one serving up Japanese comfort food in Lincolnwood.

Only 21 out of Chicagoland’s nearly 15,000 restaurants received the award in this round of nominations. Previously, 43 other restaurants have been so honored. Awards are based on multiple visits by some of LTHForum’s more than 2,400 registered users.

Said program administrator David Dickson, “We have two primary objectives in doing this. We want be a tool for consumers to find good and adventurous places to eat, and we want to help support deserving restaurants that many might not otherwise have discovered.” He pointed out that LTHForum is an all-volunteer organization, with no financial interest in any of the awardees.

Other recognized restaurants in this round are:
The Hopleaf [Belgian Bar Food] 5148 N. Clark St., Chicago
La Unica [Cuban/Latin] 1515 W. Devon Ave.., Chicago
Spacca Napoli [Neopolitan Pizza] 1769 W. Sunnyside, Chicago
Volo Restaurant & Wine Bar 2008 W. Roscoe St., Chicago
Nuevo Leon Restaurant [NorteƱo Mexican] 1515 W. 18th St., Chicago
La Casa de Samuel [Mexican/Guerrerense] 2834 W. Cermak, Chicago
Steve's Shish-Kabab [Middle Eastern] 3816 W. 63rd St.,. Chicago
Taqueria Puebla [Mexican/Pueblan] 3619 W. North Ave., Chicago
Calumet Fisheries [seafood, primarily fried or smoked] 95th Street at the Bridge, 3259 E. 9th St., Chicago
San Soo Gap San [Korean Barbeque] 5247 N. Western Ave., Chicago
Sticky Rice [Northern Thai] 4018 N.. Western Ave., Chicago
Priscilla's Ultimate Soul Food Buffet 4330 W. Roosevelt Rd., Hillside
Salam Restaurant {Middle Eastern] 4636 N.. Kedzie Ave. Chicago
Fonda del Mar [Mexican] 3749 W Fullerton Ave. Chicago
El Nuevo Kappy's [Mexican antojitos] 2759 Cermak Rd., Chicago
Shan [Pakistani] 5060-A N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago
Katy's Dumpling House [Hand-pulled Noodles] 665 N. Cass Ave., Westmont
Mandarin Kitchen [Shanghainese] 2143 S. Archer, Chicago

Full details on these restaurants can be found at, in the “Great Neighborhood Restaurants” section.

Each restaurant was nominated by one of the over 2,400 registered members of, the Chicago-based culinary chat site, and ratified by the moderators of the board based on the degree of discussion and community-wide enthusiasm from the food-obsessed participants on the site.

LTHforum is a Chicago-based internet chat site and impromptu dining society which has quickly grown to become an influential fixture on the Chicago dining scene, widely read by journalists and chefs eager to know what’s new and what regular diners are saying about the city’s restaurants. Participants, while not ignoring the city’s high-profile restaurants, are particularly adept at finding small, out-of-the-way eateries that many Chicagoans may not be familiar with.

Registered members discuss everything from restaurants to recipes, focusing on Chicago but taking in destinations as far afield as Montreal, Paris, and Xi’an China. Discussions also cover cooking techniques, local sources for unique foodstuffs, and, occasional silliness, such as a recent discussion about the atmosphere on Planet Mongo when visited by Flash Gordon. The site's web address is


For more information, contact:
David Dickson (630) 399-9172
Gary Wiviott, (773) 282-3277

Monday, August 07, 2006

Eat Local
In the Long Run

When I dived into the eat local fray over a year ago, I did it, I admit, mostly for the challenge. Since my attempts to lose weight had been failing, it would give me a new challenge. Something to do, so to speak. And the thing is, I never really succeeded much as a challenge. I had too many exceptions right from the start. I mean there's that whole eat out exception--that pokes a big hole through the framework; then there's my wine, my coffee, my olive oil, and when the Condiment Queen wanted to pack baby carrots in the kidz lunches, who was I to complain. The less I have cared, however, about the challenge, the more I have succeeded in eating local.

To some extent, I do better at eating locally because I am more committed than ever to the idea, to the benefits. I do best, though, because I have time and experience behind me (and ahead of me). It takes time to know how to eat local, or should I say that it takes experience to eat local. The biggest thing we learned, a big duh moment perhaps, but the biggest thing we learned that was even with two refrigerators, we did not have enough freezer space to effectively stock up. Related to that, we learned that extra freezers hardly cost. Costco had chest models for under $300. We ended up splurging on a huge stand up freezer for less than $500 from Sears. We have been freezing away.

Berries go flat on a tray for a day then into ziplocks; cherries get pitted and then put into various containers; we blanch the vegetables, green beans and asparagus and peas and most of the many ears of corn that arrive each week in the CSA; we will do the first wet pack peaches this week and soon it will be some tomatoes. The volume of the freezer is a luxury we adore. This will be our produce when the harvests end.

We still need time. We know that last year by mid-winter, we had barely any local produce left. Then, we were not even eating in as much, being local enough. Now, we use more but expect to need more. Will we have enough until next spring's first harvests? It will take at least a few years to know how much to store. Eating local is not just a challenge. It is a destination.