Friday, January 04, 2008

Eat Local Food

The World's Greatest Hot Dog Stand

Really, I plan on blogging a lot more in 2008. Localvore (or locavore) was the word of the year according to the folks at Oxford. Yet, if this is arrival, it hardly feels like it. In Chicago at least, local food seems like a dabble, a week long challenge still. It hardly seems popular. It needs more blogging! (No?)

More farmer's markets covered, lists of what's in season, preparing for the hungry months, highlighting restaurants and caterers that go local. And the backlash, damnit; yes an ocean liner carrying lamb from New Zealand is much more energy efficient than that truck bringing Wettstein lamb to the Oak Park Market, but really did the Wettstein's use more fossil fuel. Moreso, are those New Zealand lambs slaughtered at the pier--does the lamb's meadow end at the pier--these backlashers who point out the existence of teeny ol' cars in the local food chain, I mean does everything in the industrial chain move by grand ship and mighty rail? Do people buy their Chilean peaches at the harbor? C'mon.

Whoops. You could see the face of Moderator Cathy2 when I started on that rant at the holiday party. But more blogging. One of the things I seek to explore is the notion of local food, local foods and local cuisine. Local foods in the Chicago area are wide and diverse; citrus aside, nearly everything grows here. We have all kinds of meats, cheeses and freshwater fish. Local cuisine, I am not so sure, and that's a topic for another day. Now, local foods, that we have as much as local food. Local cuisine, I guess, I'm making this up as I go, is about a style of cooking, how the various ingredients taste. Local food is the raw materials, what grows or is harvested around here. Local foods, on the other hand, are created items that are popular to eat and associated with this region. Like deep dish pizza. Italian beef. Hot dogs.

Yes, hot dogs. The Chicago dog. Is there anything more local? It is what this localvore family had for dinner last night. A happy return to the World's Greatest Hot Dog Stand after about six months of pescatarianism from older daughter (Yes MikeG it was the bacon). Gene and Judes, in the words written a few years back.

The greatest hot dog stand in the world serves neither hamburgers, nor polish sausage, nor grilled chicken sandwiches. There is no grill, no char-broiler, no spinning mound of gyros. At the greatest hot dog stand they only need buckets of simmering water for dogs, steamers for steaming buns and Supreme tamales and ever bubbling vats of oil for the fresh cut fries.

You can see the greatest hot dog from far up the street. Because the greatest hot dog stand is all glass and harsh florescent lights and stands as a beacon for all who are hungry. If you see a line, you know it will move fast.

The greatest hot dog stand follows few of the rules laid out by the experts. Their buns are poppy-seedless. They offer few condiments beyond mustard (no ketchup on site). They do not dust their dog with celery salt. Yes, it is a Vienna sausage, but a skinnyish one at that. You really need to eat more than one at the greatest hot dog stand in the world, and many of the customers do (Sample customer, "I'll take seven hot dogs and an [extra] order of fries”).

The cooks at the greatest hot dog stand in the world occupy their time in between orders by thrusting fresh Idaho potato through a machine that converts them into perfect sized french fries. These amazing sticks of pure potato get tossed on top of each offering so that if you want to eat them inside your hot dog bun, well you can and maybe should.

The greatest hot dog stand in the world is a throwback to a world when people ate hot dogs. A throwback to a time when a great stand could keep their buns steamed just right, and their red hots, hot but not limp. So a Gene and Jude hot dog snaps right back at you. Interactive eating. With a side of hot fries, you will know you are at the greatest hot dog stand in the world.

Gene and Judes
2720 River Road
River Grove, IL 60171-1325
On the corner of River Road and Grand

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Local As I Wanna Be

On Beet

A simple dinner.

Three versions of house made bureks from City Fresh Market at Devon and Kedzie, Chicago*: cheese, spinach and sauerkraut. Plus, the salad pictured. About 25 keeper beets getting soft, boiled until tender (over an hour), then peeled; cubed and dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, harissa from Middle Eastern Bakery (Clark and Foster, Chicago); garnished with local cilantro that has somehow survived our fridge.

*Chicagoland seems awash in "Fresh" supermarkets. As far as I can tell, there is no relationship between City Fresh, Garden Fresh, Fresh Market, Fresh Farms, etc. Many of these places have a Russian orientation and are good sources for smoked fishes and garlicky "Korean" salads. City Fresh, on Devon has some Balkan in it, as especially marked by its homemade pies including the bureks. It also sells a few versions of Bosnian pita bread. No house roasted meats however. In general, I am inclined to like any grocery with Fresh in the store name, and I mean that literally.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I Visit My Food

Toys in the Attic

Wine geeks place furniture in their cellars to hang out with their wine. I poke around the attic to check on my fruit (and veg). As I have mentioned before, this is the first winter we have used the attic as a storage option. It is unheated and pretty (although not completely) dark. The attic seems appropriate for everything but alliums (which should be mixed with potatoes in the first place, and need a warmer locale in the second).

We have not dined in home in over a week, really since the lamb neck, Boston and all. Today I wanted to see how the food was holding out. Good. All of the attic apples are solid as are the squash. The white potatoes, including Yukon Gold and fingerling seem no worse for the wear, but some of the red potatoes are sprouting. Turnips too, a few turnips are growing proto-leaves. Still, the turnips seem firm and mold-free, all I want. Beets, however, are a bit looser. We will cook some tonight.

We did buy navel oranges, tangerines and grapefruit today.