Devon’s Desi Corridor… and Euro Surprises

It’s been awhile since I had an event due to taking some personal time off for my husband’s birthday and Thanksgiving. But I had to get my fix of some culinary intervention and today was a perfect day to do just that. I hosted a culinary tour of Chicago’s Devon Avenue, also known as the Desi Corridor. It’s a vibrant street rich in culture and diversity so with friends, we took in the sights, sounds and flavors Devon Ave. had to offer.

If you ever want to see a diverse neighborhood of Chicago, Devon is a great place to start. Many folks who know about Devon often associate it with Indian & Pakistani culture. It’s full of wonderful restaurants, various stores selling saris, electronics, incense, spices and so much more. However further west on Devon Ave. lies a great pocket of European and Jewish businesses. My tour focused on these two very different sides of Devon Ave – Indian & European. Check out the pictures of the stops we made during our tour:

  • PATEL BROTHERS MARKET — Before lunch, we checked out some authentic ingredients and grocery offerings of Patel Brothers Market (2610 W. Devon Ave). They have a great wall of spices, interesting produce and some frozen items I learned about today…

Kantola – Small Indian gourd related to the bittermelon.

Haldi – the Hindi word for tumeric and this is fresh tumeric

Patra – a popular vegetarian dish consisting of taro.
Goovar – Indian beans used mostly in South Indian cuisine.
Ratulu – Indian potato yam.

  • KAMDAR PLAZA — Another great resource for authentic ingredients is Kamdar Plaza (Indian market) (2646 W. Devon Ave) where you’ll find other pantry staples. Even more impressive is their large assortment of incense!

  • VICEROY OF INDIA — Lunch was a wonderful Indian buffet lunch at Viceroy of India (2520 W. Devon). We enjoyed a feast of vegetarian and non-vegetarian offerings. Right next door was their cafe and bake/candy shop where everything looked so beautiful.

  • SUKHADIA’S — Next up, we satisfied our sweet tooth at Sukhadia’s (2559 W. Devon). Here we had some desserts and sipped some authentic masala tea. They had some great sweets and confections of Indian cuisine to choose from.

  • ARGO GEORGIAN BAKERY — Have you ever had a hatchapuri? If not, you must check out the Argo Georgian Bakery (2812 W. Devon) here in Chicago. They specialize in Georgian baked goods including hatchapuri, a filled buttery & flaky dough. The most common is one filled with farmers cheese, feta & mozzarella. We learned a bit about their cuisine and took a look at their monstrous Georgian oven, shaped like a dome on the outside and a barrel on the inside.

  • THREE SISTER’S DELIThree Sister’s Delicatessen (2854 W. Devon) is where we checked out some great Russian delicacies. They had beautiful cakes on display, many kinds of jams & jellies as well as breads, smoked fish and deli meats/sausages.

Due to Saturday being the Jewish Sabbath, the other stops we wanted to make were closed. However here is a picture of another place just to show how all these establishments can be found along the same street!

Spicing It Up!

Spices are a great way to add flavor to dishes. In honor of the power of spices, I took my group on a Spice Tour at the The Spice House, a wonderful spice shop owned by Tom & Patty Erd. If you’re familiar with Penzey’s spices, Patty Erd is the daughter of Bill Penzey Sr.! You can read about their history in the spice industry here. For this culinary adventure, my group received a wonderful presentation on spices. We learned the origins of common spices including vanilla, nutmeg, peppercorns, saffron, ginger just to name a few. After their presentation, we got to browse their shop and indulge in the amazing aromas and textures. Here are pictures of the great purchases I made…

Grains of Paradise
This was in a goodie bag given to all of us at the tour by Tom & Patty.
Interestingly enough, Alton Brown is an avid user of this product
and he can be seen using this specific spice in his pickling & brining show!
Red & Black Hawaiian Sea Salts
I purchased these for some dishes I plan on making in the future for some summer parties I have lined up. These are great finishing salts and are ideal for making kalua pork. The red salt is milder than the black but both offer some great flavors and aromas.

Crystallized Ginger
This was another treat in our goodie bag, We learned quite a bit about ginger and how it was used in history. It’s a great thing to take for stomach aches and mild sicknesses.

Chinese Five Spice Powder
Since I love cooking asian inspired dishes, I was running low on this spice so I picked some up. I’m anxious to use this in some of my dishes including Chinese BBQ pork ribs!

King Creole Seasoning
Another goodie bag item, this seasoning mix is great for a little heat. One of the things I plan on making in a couple of weeks is a good hearty jambalaya… so this will come in handy!

Chesapeake Bay Seasoning
I’m hosting a seafood boil next month for a wine tasting event and this caught my eye. Rather than the usual Old Bay seasoning commonly used for seafood boils, I plan on using this for added flavor.

No more powdered chai mixes for me! I had a cup of chai using this mix and wow! It was fabulous and I’ll never go back to those premade mixes again. The flavor was complex, rich and well, the way chai is meant to taste.

Celeb Chefs Made My Day!

Today was a special day that I shared with my friend Elly, of Elly Says Opa! I invited Elly to attend the Home & Housewares Show here in Chicago with me since I knew she would appreciate the food, products and celebrity chef sightings.

The International Home + Housewares Show is the world’s largest homegoods & housewares marketplace, showcasing thousands of new products and designs in four related product expos. It featured home cleaning products, small electrical kitchen & home appliances, international pavillions and (my fave) dining & design. The Dining & Design expo includes GoHo – the Gourmet Home. This is where Elly & I spent a majority of our day.

We started the show by walking through some of the booths to learn more about some new and interesting food products. There were countless vendors specializing in gourmet food gifts, sauces, marinades, dips, jams & jellies, cookies, biscotti, cakes, packaged desserts, nuts, etc. If it could be consumed, it was probably there at the event. Related to food were booths geared towards cooking & baking: cookware, bakeware, serving ware, microwaveable gadgets, flavored skewers, popcorn kits, wine kits, etc. It was all a sensory overload of things to see, taste, hear, touch, smell.

However the highlight of the day for me were all the food celebrities we were able to meet. Part of the GoHo expo included cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs. Some of these chefs even had free cookbooks to give away that they autographed. Here are the great things I walked away with from the food celebs we got to meet:

Rocco DiSpirito
restaurateur & guest judge for “Top Chef”

Cat Cora
Food Network’s “Iron Chef America”

Todd English

restaurateur & host of “Food Trip with Todd English”

Alton Brown

Food Network’s “Good Eats”

Curtis Stone
TLC’s “Take Home Chef”
Pam Anderson
cookbook author

The Green Grocer

Green Grocer Chicago is an intimate, neighborhood market that features organically grown, locally produced food products and specialty items. It is the place where you can pop in to pick up your essential grocery items, your lunch to-go, the ingredients for a fresh and delicious dinner or a gift for a friend who loves unique and hard-to-find food items! You will find the best service in town along with products that conform to the highest standards of quality! — Green Grocer Website

Tonight I hosted an event at the Green Grocer Chicago store where we were provided with a personal tour, a presentation/talk on organic foods & their benefits to your diet and some light snacks & drinks. Here are pics from the event:

Cooking for the Community!

It’s that time of month again where my cooking group and I gather at a local soup kitchen to volunteer our cooking skills. It was a wonderful turnout of members who helped make some of the biggest meatballs you’ve ever seen and we plated up a stick-to-your-ribs dinner. Here are some pics of our event:

A few members & the staff of the
Good News Community Kitchen
Preparing the meatballs:

It’s a Meatball Party!
Prepping the dinner silverware:
Checking for doneness:

Cooking for the Community!

Cooking for the community is always a rewarding experience! I didn’t let my cast hold me back from participating this month. Unfortunately, the kitchen had 4 breaks in their gas line and as a result, the gas has been shut off all week until they are all repaired. Despite having no cooking gas, the kitchen did manage to still create some good healthy eats for the patrons.

For tonight’s menu, my cooking group and kitchen staff offered tuna salad, italian green bean salad, baby carrots, green salad, sliced bakery bead, Oreo cookies and milk. Here are pics from the event:

Cooking for the Community!

Today was another volunteer day at the Good News Community Kitchen (GNCK). Joining me in the kitchen was Teresa, Michele & Sarah, in addition to the awesome GNCK staff. For tonight’s dinner, we prepared ham, smoked sausage, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, bread/rolls and desserts. Here are candids from the event: