It wasn't my birthday this weekend, but it was Mother's Day, and I had to contribute something to the Peterson Garden Project's bake sale (an organization you should support if you support growing your own food). So I (i.e., the missus) contributed a cake and a half to the sale, reserving half for our own selfish purposes. An interesting development occurred. We failed to turn the first cake right-side up after removing it from the pan and glazed it on the bottom, where the uneven surface allowed for deeper penetration of syrupy goodness. Compared to a proper right-side-up cake, there was no question that the first was superior.
Think this cake doesn't look so special? Consider the fact that we dropped it off at the bake sale on Friday, and all slices were gone by Sunday. Recipe after the jump:
Last Friday night, 26 of Chicago's best chefs and scads of you nice, attractive people (see here) gathered at the Bridgeport Art Center for a little culinary symbiosis in the name of adventure. We called it the Key Ingredient Cook-Off. Basically, it was a live, interactive take on our popular (and award-winning) Key Ingredient series. We challenged chefs to come up with creative and delicious ways to prepare one of five predetermined ingredients: durian, dried shrimp, celery, millet, and Malort.
The resulting dishes were better than we ever could have imagined. The free cocktails and the music weren't bad either.
It wasn't easy (and I'm not just saying that), but a panel of Reader staffers conferred and selected a winning dish for each ingredient, as well as an overall winner who we really thought had outdone himself.
The prizes: A donation is being made in each of the chefs' names to the Healthy Schools Campaign. Also bragging rights.
Without further ado . . .
• Myron Freedman, owner of the venerable Lincolnwood steak house Myron & Phil's, died Thursday night, reports the Skokie Review. A half hour later a fire broke out in a storage room in the restaurant.
• At Chicago, Whet Moser responds to a bad argument put forth in Slate, arguing that Good Food Doesn't Have to Be Class Warfare.
• The mayor proposed nine additional food-truck parking spaces, which would bring the number to 30, reports the Trib.
• The Green City Market has moved outdoors and the Local Beet was there.
• Check out the promo video for Next's vegan menu, which went on sale this week and promptly sold out its first month:
No. Probably not. But I have a feeling I know who was behind Tixteco Mexican Restaurant's short-lived attempt at social media outreach. Open since early March, Tixteco (not to be confused with Mixteco in Ravenswood—or maybe they'd like if you confused the two) is a tiny mother-daughter operation: mother makes the food, daughter handles the guests (and presumably the social media).
The daughter half of the twosome is young—not a child, but, like, Twitter young—and really nice and helpful. Although they've put together a pretty straightforward menu of tacos, burritos, gorditas, and tortas, she kind of lingered while I decided what I wanted to order to go, just in case I had any questions. So that she didn't feel like a vestigial limb, I asked her what she recommended. Easy: the al pastor (because it's her mother's recipe) and the lengua (because she loves tongue—stop with the joke before you start, please).
The special that day was three tacos, rice, and beans for $7.99—I chose al pastor, carne asada, and barbacoa, plus an extra lengua taco and an al pastor gordita.
She was right. The al pastor, with its smoky, char-grilled flavor, was the best of the four fillings. It was particularly fun in the gordita, atop a layer of refried beans and a cushion of spongy masa. The gordita was only $2.25, 26 cents more than a taco, but was the tastier, more filling option for those dining on a dime (which is a thing I do now and then).
Now Solemn Oath, a year-old brewery in Naperville, wants to do the same thing to me. From their website: "We hope you’ll fall in love with one of our beers. When you do, we’re going to take it away. Seriously."
Their plan for the first few years, the site goes on to say, is to make dozens of different beers in a wide range of styles, and then occasionally bring back the best of them. The names are great and the descriptions intriguing: Dude, Hold My Purse (cabernet barrel-aged Belgian blonde ale with peaches), Creepy Barista (American brown ale with coffee), Nothing Rhymes With Orange (spiced oatmeal Belgian blonde ale), Ravaged by Vikings (double IPA, which Philip Montoro reviewed a few months ago). Personally, I can't wait to try Oxford Comma, a spiced Belgian blonde ale, mostly because I'm an Oxford comma fan.
It was the ideal dish for a grad student since it was cheap and the preparation was time-consuming, ideal for procrastination, although I would tell myself that the precise chopping of potatoes and onions and the supervision of the frying so that they browned to the ideal degree of crispness without burning was the sort of boring task that put one into a meditative state, ideal for working out the subtleties of arguments about the subtleties of Henry James or plot developments in the novel I was supposed to be writing.
Only after I graduated and a friend passed along a copy of Nora Ephron's Heartburn did I realize that others had discovered my beloved crap potatoes before I had and called them "hash." I hate Nora Ephron.
Nonetheless, when I learned that there was a new cafe on the Wicker Park-Humboldt border so devoted to hash that it called itself Hash, I signed up to review it.
When I last checked in with Mike Bancroft, he was pushing a line of three excellent hot sauces in order to fund Co-op Image, the youth arts-education center he founded on the west side. Since then the sauce business has been very good to him—and to the arts center. Today Co-op Sauce is an independent business, with a full line of ten sauces (plus short-run seasonal and collaborative ones), as well as vinegars, salsa, barbecue sauces, and pickles, all produced with a bounty of locally grown produce. And Bancroft has moved operations out of the cramped west-side arts center and into a dedicated kitchen in Rogers Park that he shares with baker (and girlfriend) Anne Kostrowski of Crumb Chicago. He still steers half the proceeds to the kids and employs a number of them in sauce production, monthly Stew Supper Club dinners, and operation of the cafe, which runs out of the front of the space four days a week. It has a tightly focused menu, featuring a handful of sandwiches, a salad, coffee, sodas, and a selection of Kostrowki's baked goods, including the "bread board," a choose-your-own sampler of breads and spreads.
• Mick Dumke won a Peter Lisagor award for his five-part series "The shot that brought the projects down," which ran on the Bleader over five days this past October. Mick also won a Lisagor for his posts "Here comes another city privatization deal forged behind closed doors," "G8 moving to Camp David = one less summit to protest," and "UNO's Juan Rangel does a damn good Chris Christie impression."
Congratulations to all the winners!