Friday, February 27, 2009

Annals of Authentic - Victorio's Barber Shop, Elmwood Park

A wise scribe once equated connoisseurship of food with appreciation of a good barber. Hear hear. In that vein, let me introduce you all to Victorio, a highly ideal barber and his shop in Elmwood Park.

Does Victorio meet all my needs in a barber? I shall say upfront, I have certain barber-wish list items unfulfilled by Victorio. For one thing, a man deserves a decent shoe shine with his cut, but that, my friends, is an art dying even faster than the art of barbering. I also very much like the feel of getting my hair cut in some place like the basement of the Palmer House, with their row of about ten chairs, but not only did I not particularly like my one haircut there years ago, I do not even believe they are in business anymore; gone as in the Friday fillet of sole and oddly green cole slaw. I also fantasize that my barber is a bit of a bookie on the side, that I can play my favorite number with him or take a square in the weekly Calcutta. Victorio, I can tell, is much too nice of a guy to get caught up in that kinda stuff.

We know what he lacks. What then, are the many traits that have made me happy, to have settled in with Victorio as my guy. It starts actually not with him but on the way to him. Victorio keeps a small pot of coffee going. I never go near, not the least because he has only creamer. Instead, I stop nearly always at Massa, on the way, on North Ave., for an espresso. There is something about the act of popping off a shot of caffe that makes me feel more like a man, more able to get the best from Victorio. And he always gives me his best. He is firstly modest, not wanting to impose his sense of fashion. He is secondly, and much more vital, not so in love with his scissors. Some barbers just cut and cut, frankly I believe, because they like the sound of it. Victorio uses his scissors well. It's a hell of a good $15 cut.

It is not the cut one truly wants in a barber. It is the experience, the accessories. It starts with the magazines. Of course there should be papers that you do not want it to be generally known that you peruse. This is a safe haven. But there should also be journals that appeal to your better instincts, to be the Esquire man of the 60's, and along with the Playboys and Maxims, Victorio has Wine Spectator and other finer rags.

Then, mostly, it is the bells and whistles that matter to me. Is my neck that much sharper looking because Victorio shaved it with a real, Sweeney-Todd, straight razor. What does all that talc do for me. I want it though. If other traditional barbers have the Clubman lotions and the hot lather, do they have this: a Mad Man era neck massager. Yes, us real men, us barber shop dwelling men, feel secure in letting a quiet man stand behind us and make us feel good for a few minutes. It is not the trim we desire. We want more. We want what Victorio gives.

I cannot guarantee you, however, that Victorio will give you the best hair cut possible. I do think you will find his place authentically good.

7900 W North Ave
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
(708) 453-3899

Monday, February 23, 2009

Edible Information

I'd kvell about the new issue of Edible Chicago despite the fact that the Local Beet's Melissa Graham* gets a good write-up, and despite the fact that my name gets more than a bit of play. Ann and crew put together an issue making it very clear that local food in Chicago does not hibernate come winter. I picked up my copy at Fox & Obel. Green Grocer should have it by about the time you see it, and a few other places to pick up the magazine can be found here. Get your copy now.

Fox & Obel, Green Grocer, mmmm, I guess I was doing a bit of shopping. What did I buy? Well, the day to day exploits of me and the rest of my Local Family can be found at the Local Beet. Saturday I made it to Chicago's Green City Market, I'm sure I'll have a report on Sunday's shopping up soon. For more up to date reports on the ins and outs of eating local, you can find me on Twitter here.

To help you all in your quest to eat local, the Beet highlights interesting upcoming events. We also post weekly, a column of eat local activities. When things get going by May, we won't be able to tell you of each area market. Instead, we will have the most complete, user friendly guide to area farmer’s markets. The Local Beet already has your a guide to area CSAs (and addressed some of your CSA concerns).

The Local Beet also wants to hear from you. We want your knowledge and input. A few weeks ago, a friend asked me why we did not include a certain restaurant in our (admittedly work in progress) list of local-friendly restaurants. It was no slight I assured her. Let us know any restaurants or shops that sell “our kind of food.” Please add generally to our resources. We have a forum to collect and disseminate data. If you need info, ask away.

In addition to our farmer's market guide, the Local Beet has some other great things in the works, especially in the area of food policy. Keep your eyes focused on our developments.

I am very proud to be associated with the Local Beet and Edible Chicago. I am working closely with Michael Morowitz, Melissa Graham and others to make the Beet an outstanding online resource, and I know that Ann and Rebbecca and others are working to make Edible Chicago an outstanding print resource. Eating locally in Chicago is getting better all the time.

*Melissa can also be found blogging here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Mado Family Dinner Under the Belt

Really, it's not six course of local pork cooked up by Chefs Rob and Allison Levitt of Mado, with the assistance of Jason Vincent of Lula's soon to open Pilsen spot that has me avoiding dinner tonight. I mean I did nosh a bit at the Happy Anniversary party for Cassie's Green Grocer and ate one wee moon cake my family brought home for me from Argyle. Besides, I should treat the Mado family dinners as much more than an exercise in gluttony. After all there was the Slagels talking hog while we ate one of their hogs, but REB on LTHForum does a good job of covering the Slagels. In fact, Ronna covers the meal pretty well, although I found the fritto misto of pork parts crisp and hot when it got to me. Still, what is there to say these days about a Mado family meal than, boy am I stuffed.

Actually, I believe I ate much less at the family dinner. I mean not less as in what a regular person would eat, but maybe less than I did at a previous family dinner. Rob Levitt admonished us early on, save room for desserts. If we did not adequately and fully eat his wife's creations, he would be sleeping on the sofa, he warned. On the other hand, what about me. What about this Rob ending up on the sofa. See, lo, around three in the AM, I awoke from the internal machinations of my organs that sought to process all the consumption. I'm not blaming that on the pork so much as the five bottles of wine and a good dose or two of Michigan pear brandy we all shared. I needed one of those purified seltzer bottles Mado sells for like a buck, but I had to settle for plain old Lake Michigan to hydrate the systems. Next thing you know, I'm watching the early version of Sports Center. I could of course, if I wanted, watch the Australian Open live. And drifting off on the couch.

Platter after platter of pork somehow lends itself to reasonable eating. I'm the kinda guy though to eat much too much of roasted celery root or turnips, well turnips cooked in goose fat. I could settle this time for ones of each. I even limited myself to one trip around the charcuterie table, but I stopped only because I had psyched myself up all afternoon not to each so much pork rillette. I want very much to have a better figure to sell the health benefits of local eating. One can only sell local health on so many slices of house made mortadella.

I took reasonable portions of the next courses. The most non-porcine thing on the menu last night, a fried sardine contained so much sardinial intensity that I was not returning to it anyway. One was enough. I showed restraint on the salad course of lentils, pickled tongue and bacon, but come to think of it, there was not more to eat. I did not have that problem with the meatballs, and several rosemary heavy polpette lay next to my spot, taunting me. I did finally give in and have a second meatball, but I did it the way my grandfather would, who would not, in a thousand years, ever have eaten in a place like Mado, but if he had, would have done like me, taking a forkful and then another forkful until a whole extra meatball had made its way into my gullet. Really, it was not the extra pork I needed, it was the sauerkraut.

We all ooh'd and ah'd over the dumplings, lauded the cookies that combined buckwheat with air and just a hint of sugar and need no urging from Rob to finish his wife's Shaker lemon pie which made the definitive argument for lard crusts. Yet, yet all that, this was a night for lowly ol' cabbage. Dabs of it gave the right buttery accent to the pasta, and the sauerkraut that Rob said he had made and then plum forgot about, I overturned all the extra meatballs to get any kraut lurking underneath. I'm stuffed on sauerkraut.

It goes without saying that I cannot wait until the next Mado family dinner.

1647 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL
(773) 342-2340

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Vital Update!

Guess I did not check the one place I should have been checking when checking what was new (to check).

The Local Beet welcomes it's latest blogger today. Vera V is a farmer, a wool spinner, an artist and a market vendor. I very much look forward to what she'll have to say at the Farmer's Almanac. She gives a little background today.

Vital News

If you wonder where the missives are, urging all to eat local, I blog almost daily at the Local Beet.

Look forward to some forthcoming design tweaks at the Beet and more, a new blogger to the fray.

In the meantime, enjoy the Beet's guide to 2009 CSA's.

I think there's a space or two available for tonight's family dinner at Mado. The theme, duh, a whole pig. A very happy way to eat at Mado. I promise a picture less report.

Happy Anniversary Cassie and Gary at Green Grocer Chicago. Come to the party on Monday. I heard there will be plenty of local produce, even in the winter. The omnipresent one, Michael Nagrant hits all the high points of Green Grocer in this Serious Eats profile.

Round up a designated driver for Vie's dinner with Death's Door Spirits this Thursday.

Some people cannot worry about whether their food is local, some people have to worry, even today, whether there is food period. The Greater Chicago Food Depository is one of the main bulwarks ensuring there's some food for all who need it. Martha Bayne's doing her part assist this cause. Three other local food celebrities pitch in this week with soup at the Hideout on Wednesday.

It's somewhat old news now, but still quite interesting. Roth Kase of Wisconsin, which has very successfully bridged the divide between artisinal and commercial cheese took on a new international owner. Here's a good take on the Roth Kase sale and other high finance maneuvers in America's Dairyland.

Nina's organizing a potluck for Chicago eat local fans on Feb 28th. I think I'll be able to attend.

In case you lost count, seven more reasons to eat local.

Ever wonder about the wheat berries you see at the winter markets or maybe in Madison. This may help figure them out.

Plugs always for three local woman: Valereee, Lenae, and the VFG.

Who says eating local cannot be done in the North. How they doing eating local in the Hudson Valley? Or New England.

What else?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yes I'm Nutz

Presentation Tonight (1/15/09) - Oak Park - Local Eating in the Winter

A month or so ago, I was asked to participate in a presentation in Oak Park on winter local eating. There would be a grower, a market maker and me, the market shopper. I jumped at the opportunity like I jump at any opportunity to spread the eat local message. Then the week rolled in.

On Sunday, we sent e-mails around. It would be minus 212 degrees on Thursday. Would we want to postpone? Me, I said I would be willing to wait, but what better way to hammer home the idea of winter eating than in the winter-est of winter days. But then again I'm nutz. It turned out my fellow panelists were equally nutz, and we all voted to proceed.

I do hope there's some fellow nutzians out there who want to discuss winter eating tonight. Details below:

Green Community Center in Oak Park presents Locally Grown Foods in Winter

Thursday, Jan. 15, 7pm

New Spirit Community Church
542 S. Scoville, Oak Park

What are the obstacles to growing and buying local foods in the off-season in Chicago? What are the solutions? What can you find–and where can you find it? Presenters include Kathy Caldwell (Catalina’s Garden), who sells at farmers markets and has ventured into season-extending growing methods; Robin Schirmer, who organizes Winter Farmers Markets & Meals for Hope in the Chicago area; and Rob Gardner, who together with his family is eating as locally as possible year-round.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wbat's New - Cassie's Green Grocer

Liquor'd Up

It came on the txt messenger, via e-mail and through the Facebook group. Cassie's damn happy to have received her liquor license. She promises local beer and North Shore Distillery spirits, and she's looking into Michigan wines. I, of course, as always, will be full of suggestions. Go have a drink with her.

In the more mundane part of the store, Cassie received on Monday, local beets, and two types of local onions including cippolini onions. Today, she expects chard, baby greens salad mix, parsnips, turnips and lettuces. Dominicks was advertising cherries last week. Go shop where the produce is still local.

Green Grocer Chicago
1402 W. Grand
(312) 624-9508

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fish Fry Wisconsin Cont.

They Write E-Mails

I got this advice from chicagostylehotdog on some Wisconsin fish fries
In your hunt for a close Wisconsin fish fry, I suggest Beer Belly's on Layton in Milwaukee. Great pan fried perch & blue gill. Wegner's St. Martin's Inn does a nice Friday night fish fry too. If you're headed up north into Vilas County, Birch Lake Resort on County W in Winchester, just north of Manitowish Waters, serves a nice family style Friday fish fry.
Good luck!