Andersonville Food Tour!

Today was an especially fun day with friends. We toured a small section of Andersonville’s Clark St. where many culinary boutiques lined one of our favorite neighborhoods in the city. Here are the places we visited… and if you’re ever in the area, definitely stop in!

Tomboy Restaurant
5402 N. Clark St.
A great place for Sunday Brunch to start out our culinary adventure!
Looking for brunch recs?
We loved the Greetalian Omelet & Breakfast Burrito…
Pasticceria Natalina

5406 N. Clark St.
An Italian pastry shop filled with delicious treats.


City Olive

5408 N. Clark St.
An olive oil shop that carries some unique olive oils and olive oil products.


Bon Bon

5410 N. Clark St.
A unique chocolate boutique with amazing truffles and chocolate confections.


In Fine Spirits

5418 N. Clark St.
A great wine shop offering rare and favorite wines that are not only good but affordable.
The Brown Elephant
5404 N. Clark St.
Resale Shop

To end the tour, we also stopped in The Brown Elephant, a local resale shop. This is one of my fave places in the city for some great housewares and cookbook finds. Today, I scored a teak wood salad bowl & salad servers (to complete my set at home), 6 bamboo mini prep bowls, small olive oil cruet, 2 small glass canisters, seafood cookbook, folding card table, 4 white porcelain side bowls, and a few misc items for the hubby… all for less than $20. Woohoo!
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Me Lovin’ Lao Long Time

One of the things I love about Chicago is the ample cuisines accessible for me to try out. Each month I take my group to a different neighborhood of the city for a culinary and cultural adventure as part of my ethnic food tours. This month we had our fill of Southeast Asia where we enjoyed a fabulous Laotian lunch and shopped at the Thai asian market next door.

Lao cuisine is rather new in Chicago because there is only one Lao restaurant in the city. This restaurant is Sabai Dee. Some may be quick to compare Laotian cuisine to Thai or even Vietnamese… however it is a cuisine completely different and very unique. The following is taken from Wikipedia, since they do a better job describing the cuisine:

“Lao cuisine is the cuisine of the Lao ethnic group of Laos and Northeast Thailand. Lao food is distinct from other Southeast Asian cuisines. The staple food of the Lao is sticky rice. Galangal and fish sauce are important ingredients. The Lao national dish is laap (sometimes also spelled larb), a spicy mixture of marinated meat and/or fish that is sometimes raw (prepared like cevich) with a variable combination of greens, herbs, and spices. Another characteristic dish is tam mak houng, a spicy green papaya salad. Lao cuisine has many regional variations, according in part to the fresh foods local to each region. A French influence is also apparent in the capital city, Vientiane, such that baguettes are sold on the street, and French restaurants (often with a naturally Lao, Asian-fusion touch) are common and popular. Vietnamese cuisine is also popular in Laos.”

I’m now a big fan of Lao cuisine… especially their larb. I don’t normally eat much beef, but I have to say that one of my fave dishes I tried is the beef larb. I’m still craving it! Here are pictures of the restaurant where I hosted the event and the wonderful lunch we had:

Sabai Dee
5359 N Broadway Unit AChicago, IL 60640
http://www.yelp.com/biz/sabai-dee-chicago

Papaya Salad

Beef Larb

Green Curry Chicken

Tamarind Soup


Tofu Stir Fry over Pan Fried Noodles

Pork Stir Fry over Pan Fried Noodles
Egg Custard (and Fresh Mango) over Sweet Sticky Rice

Our hungry friends mingling before lunch:




Shots of the restaurant’s steam table offerings:













Pilsen & It’s Vibrant Colors

Mexican culture and cuisine is evident all over the US and today, I hosted an ethnic food tour of a Chicago neighborhood that highlights Mexican culture and cuisine in an artistic way. The Pilsen neighborhood is one that is vibrant in color with the many murals that adorn the sides of buildings and the people that live and work there. The Pilsen community is located south of the UIC campus. Pilsen has served as a port of entry for many immigrant groups that have come to Chicago seeking work and a better life: Germans at the turn of the century, followed by immigrants from Ireland, Poland, Lithuania, Bohemia, and others. During the 1950s, Mexican families began to move into the neighborhood. This trend accelerated in the 1960s, when Latinos became the major ethnic group.

We started the tour at a popular restaurant, Nuevo Leon. There, we enjoyed an authentic Mexican lunch which included fresh tortilla chips & salsa:

A Nacho appetizer:

A lunch plate of a chicken tostada, steak taco,
cheese quesadilla, rice & beans:

Afterward lunch, we stopped next door at Sabino Tortilla Factory. They make fresh tortillas during the week and the public is welcome to stop by and purchase fresh tortillas, tortilla chips and even masa. Today, they had no production going on, but we were able to take some pics of the factory and the many boxes of tortillas they have ready to ship out to local stores:

To end our tour on a sweet note, we crossed the street and followed the sweet smells of BomBon Bakery. It’s a small bakery but the desserts they produce here are outstanding and worth the wait. Many of us bought some treats to enjoy… and I especially loved the trio of tres leches cakes I purchased (Kahlua, Caramel and Original):

Chinatown Treasures

It was a gorgeous day here in Chicago and perfect weather to take in the sights, sounds and tastes of Chinatown. With nearly 25 members of my group, What’s Cookin Chicago, we met up for a Chinese dim sum brunch at the popular restaurant, The Phoenix.

I’ve blogged about this particular restaurant before and dim sum in general, so instead of reiterating what’s been said & done, here are the pics of the dishes we indulged in and the sights we saw while touring the neighborhood:

Pork & Scallion dumpling

Pork Dumpling
Steamed BBQ Pork Bun

Sticky Fried Rice
Fried Curry Baby Octopus
Fried Taro Ball
Shrimp Dumpling
Shrimp Eggrolls
Pork Spareribs in Black Bean Sauce
Beef & Vegetable “Crepes”
Beef Meatball
Shimp & Cilantro Dumpling
Rice in Lotus Leaves
Pan Fried Steamed Bun
Baked BBQ Pork Bun
Fried Pork Dumpling
Chinese BBQ Ribs
Steamed Chicken Ginger Bun
Expensive Dried Shark Fins (for soups)

Corner full of TeasChicago’s Pui Tak Center

View of Chinatown (from Wentworth St)

How we all felt after the tour!

Persian Persuasion & Lebanese Love

Today I hosted an ethnic food tour for my group. This month we focused on Persian cuisine and visited a Lebanese market. I think I’ve found my new fave restaurant, Noon o Kabab. It was a fabulous lunch of Hummus, Baba Ghannouj, Kash-Ke-Bademjan, Caspian Eggplant, Joujeh Koubideh, Joujeh Kabab and Koubideh (descriptions follow).

Unfortunately my camera’s battery died shortly after taking pics of some of our appetizers, however here’s what I was able to take pictures of… (I’m definitely going back there and will try to get more pics to add here!)

Fresh Feta Cheese & Radish Plate
Hummus
Blended chick peas, Tahini (sesame seed oil),
garlic and spices topped with lemon juice.

Kash-Ke-Bademjan
Mix of eggplant, mint and onion with Kashk (aged dried yogurt),
topped with fried onions & mint.

Baba Ghannouj
Charbroiled eggplant, tahini sauce, fresh garlic, and fresh parsley

Caspian Eggplant
Mix of sweet eggplant, tomato, onion and garlic
topped with moosir (Fine Persian Shallot Mix with yogurt).

Koubideh
Fresh ground beef, prepared daily with Persian seasonings
carefully put on skewers, cooked on open fire

Joujeh Kabab
Sskewers of deliciously marinated and seasoned chicken breast

Joujeh Koubideh
Skewers of marinated & seasoned ground chicken

After lunch, we walked across the street to Al-Khayameih, a Lebanese market complete with a bakery, butcher shop, countless aisles of middle eastern foodstuff and even a section dedicated to flavored tobbaccos and hookahs!

From Al-Khayameih, I purchased some sweet walnut baklava… and it was enough for me to return again (perhaps after another lunch at Noon o Kabab! I’d love to also return so I can take pictures of all the wonderful offerings the store has. It really is a great grocery find in such a diverse neighborhood of Albany Park in Chicago!

Ethiopian Eats

Today my group and I ventured into African cuisine, specifically Ethiopian. Here in Chicago we have a small population of Ethiopians who have been making their mark through numerous restaurants scattered around the city. Currently, there are at least 6 Ethiopian restaurants in Chicago.To experience Ethiopian cuisine at its finest, we had lunch at the Ethiopian Diamond restaurant. It’s a popular restaurant known for bringing out the bright and fragant flavors of the cuisine.

Dining in Ethiopia is characterized by the ritual breaking on injera and eating from the same plate, signifying the bonds of loyalty and friendship. These bonds are often demonstrated in the form of gursha – that is the placing of food in the mouth of another diner from one’s own hand. Ethiopian dishes are known by the variety of spices from which they get their exotic tastes. Watt is a stew that comes in the form of beef, lamb, chicken , fish and vegetables. These range from spice to very mild. The mildly seasoned watt is called Alicha. Vegetarian dishes are also very popular in Ethiopian cuisine, especially during the religious season of Lent. The variety of watt and alicha made of lentil, peas and other vegetables are just as popular and tasty as those with meats. — Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant

Here are pictures of the feast we enjoyed along with a trip across the street to Kukulu, an Ethiopian grocery shop specializing in Ethiopian grains, injera and coffee.

Drinks: Ethiopian Tea
This tea is fragrant and relaxing. It includes all spice, cardamom
and a cinnamon chip that are all boiled
and steeped in water to create a flavorful tea.
Appetizers: Sambusas
Thin dough shells stuffed with minced meat and/or vegetables.
We had a sampler of sambusas filled with beef, chicken,
whole lentils, spinach and potato & carrot.
Taste of Ethiopia
We shared platters like this for every four people.
Read on to learn about each item featured.Doro Wat
Chicken leg & thigh marinated in lemon juice & ginger,
cooked in a homemade spice sauce until tender.
This was served Ethiopian style with a hard boiled egg.Yemisir Watt (Spicy) & Kik Alicha (Mild)
Yemisir Watt are red lentils simmered in a spicy onion sauce.
Kik Alicha are split peas cooked in a mild sauce of onion, garlic & ginger.
Gomen, Yebeg Alicha (mild), Quosta
Gomen are chopped collard greens simmered in a mild garlic & onion sauce.
Yebeg Alicha is lamb meat booked in a mild onion, garlic, ginger & basil sauce.
Quosta are chopped spinach simmered in a mild garlic & onion sauce.Dinich Alicha & Kay Watt
Dinich Alicha are potato cubes & carrots cooked in a ginger,
garlic, & onion sauce with Ethiopian spices
Kay Watt are lean beef meat cubes cooked in a spice homemade “Diamond Sauce.”
Tikel Gomen & Dinich Alicha
Tikel Gomen is sliced cabbage & carrots cooked in a mild sauce.
Dinich Alicha are string beans, carrots and potatoes
cooked in a mild onion, garlic & ginger sauce with Ethiopian spices.
Injera
Injera is the traditional Ethiopian bread that is part of every entree. It’s a pancake like bread on which the various stew dishes are served. The traditional way of eating it is with your fingers. A bit sized piece of injera is broken off to pick up a mouth full of the chosen dish.

Destaye (My Happiness)
For dessert we indulged in these thin dough shells stuffed with dried red & white raisins, pistachios, split almonds, shredded coconut and cardamom powder…
and some French Vanilla Ice Cream
After lunch we headed across the street to Kukulu Market,
which specializes in Ethiopian products. It’s a small shop that is modestly filled with a few Ethiopian wares
and ingredients native to Ethiopian cuisine. Here’s a pic of Ethiopian coffee pots
that line the storefront window:
The owner of the shop was kind enough to provide a little talk on Teff,
a small grain used to make Injera. Here’s pic of Teff that’s sold in his store:Injera is often made from locals who bring it to the store for purchase.
Here’s a picture of shelves full of injera ready for consumers.
They even make some injera in the store too:
Ethiopian cuisine is full of flavor and its due to their use of various spices.
Here’s a pic of some spices used in cooking:Ethiopia is also made popular for the quality of coffee they produce and export. Here’s a pic of shelves in which they sell Ethiopian coffee at a fraction of the cost found in other large chains:

Paczki-Palooza!

To continue on with Paczki-Palooza, we got to fry and fill our own packzi. Paczki are traditional Polish doughnuts The fillings included plum butter, rose petal jelly (a traditional filling made with fried rose petals), raspberry, blueberry, custard & “boozy” custard.

Traditionally, the reason for making paczki has been to use up all the lard, sugar & fruit in the house, which are given up during the religious season of Lent. Paczkis are eaten especially on Fat Thursday, the last Thursday before Lent… but over the years, it had been a treat eaten on Fat Tuesday. Here are pics of the Paczki making event:

Paczki dough that has finished proofing:
The glorious globes bobbing in the hot oil:They’re turned twice until a golden brown color is reached:
Hot finished paczkis, straight out of the fryer to cool:Not quite perfect paczkis… see the difference?The fun jelly filler machines that contain flavors such as
plum jelly, rose petal jelly, raspberry, blueberry, apricot & custard:
Colleen was brave enough to tackle the filling machine:Filled Packzis!We also filled cooled paczki with “boozy” custard.
The custard has some alcohol mixed in to cut the sweetness.
For these, the packzi has to be filled by hand

My favorite filling of them all is the
fresh strawberry & whipped cream paczkis.
Chef Dobra uses fresh strawberries,
mixed into a strawberry gel and whipped cream.

The paczkis are sliced in half,
given a ring of whipped cream on the edges
and fresh strawberry filling is placed in the center
before topping it with the second half.

To finish them strawberry & cream paczkis off,
a nice dusting of powdered sugar sweetens the deal…
done by Stacey:

Here’s my box of paczki I took home…
Happy Fat Tuesday!