Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kuma's Burger (Lollapalooza) - Chicago, IL

I've been wanting to go to Kuma's Corner forever, but it's up in Avondale and I hear the lines are crazy so I was really excited when I found out they'd be at Lolla this year.

A friend described their size of the beef patties to hockey pucks. The beef patties were indeed huge, 10 ounces to be precise. They had three options: The Kuma Burger (bacon, cheddar cheese and fried egg); the Iron Maiden (Avocado, Cherry Peppers, Pepper Jack and Chipotle Mayo) and the Judas Priest (Bacon, Bleu Cheese Dressing with Apples, Walnuts, and Dried Cranberries).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Silver Palm - Chicago, IL

So after day 1 of Lollapalooza, where do we go for dinner? In keeping with the Meat-fest theme, we decide to hit up The Silver Palm for the Three Little Piggy sandwich.

Now why does that sound so familiar you ask? It's because Anthony Bourdain called it the "greatest sandwich in America" on the Chicago segment of his No Reservations show last year.

The Silver Palm is basically a retired railway dining car-turned-restaurant, docked near the intersection of Milwaukee and Chicago Avenue. This restaurant serves up one mean sandwich, enough to make any wolf jealous.  Good thing the Silver Palm is made of brick.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Graham Elliott (Lollapalooza) - Chicago, IL

I went to Lollapalooza earlier this month and while my cousin was going crazy for the lineup, I was busy creating my own lineup, plotting what I would eat throughout the course of the weekend. hehe. I've been to my share of street festivals this summer and was getting a bit tired of the usual funnel cake, fried cheese curds and elephant ear offerings. So you could imagine my excitement when I found out that The Southern, Hoosier Mama Pie Company, Kuma's, Sunda and Graham Elliott were all going to be there.

We all have Graham Elliot Bowles, the Culinary Director for Lollapalooza this year, to thank for the fabulous chow town line up. For those of you who are not familiar with Mr. Bowles, he, at the age of 27, was the youngest chef in America to ever receive four stars while he was at Avenues at the Peninsula Hotel. Then Bowles went on to open a River North “bistronomic” spot named after himself two years ago. He's known for creating signature dishes like his “foilipops” (fois gras speared like a Tootsie Pop and encrusted with Pop Rocks) or his deconstructed Caesar salad, which is made up of baby romaine, white anchovy, Parmesan fluff and a brioche Twinkie.

His restaurant represented at Lolla and offered up three tasty choices: Lobster Corn Dogs, Truffle and Parmesan Popcorn and Watermelon Gazpacho.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Giordano's (and Jazzin at the Shedd) - Chicago, IL

My cousin Jung came into town for two weeks and there were three things I knew I had to feed him while he was here: Great Seas, Chicago style hot dogs and deep dish pizza. Now everyone seems to have their favorites when it comes to Chicago deep dish. Some like Lou Malnati's buttery crust, while others prefer the disk of sausage and corn meal crust at Gino's East. I know some people like Pizzeria Uno, but I didn't like it when I tried it years ago and haven't been back. My law school friends are partial to Giordano's so I decided to take Jung there.

There are several locations throughout the city. We opted for the one in Greektown, there wasn't a long line and there's even a large parking lot where you can park for a minimal fee. If you have a car, you should definitely come here instead of going to the one in the Loop or in River North.

I didn't know that Giordano's pizza was technically "stuffed pizza" and it's not deep dish. Giordano's basically has a thin layer of dough on top, which means all the cheese and toppings are stuffed between the two layers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

RoliRoti Gourmet Rotisserie - San Francisco, CA

One of my closest friends from college got married in a tiny little town near San Francisco a few weeks ago and it was a blast. It was a fun filled weekend, but a definite highlight was our dinner prepared by RoliRoti, a rotisserie food truck. She had originally planned on having dinner at the only restaurant in town, but they were charging exorbitant prices for fish and chips, so she asked the wonderful people at RoliRoti if they wouldn't mind driving an hour up from San Francisco to cater a dinner for her wedding party.

For those that have never heard of RoliRoti, it's a rotisserie food truck based in San Francisco that serves free-range chicken, Heritage pork and local lamb, prepared by owner Thomas Odermatt, a Swiss former organic farming student whose business card reads “Rotisseur.” You can read up on Mr. Rotisseur himself here.

I've heard so much about RoliRoti so I was so excited when they pulled up to our house. From the side, it looks like a regular van, but prop open the back and you see a built in rotisserie grill. Where can I get one of those?

Here is a close up.

On top of the rotisserie was the Porchetta (por-KET-ta). My friend described it to me as basically a pork roll, a free range pork loin that is wrapped in a layer of pork belly. Thomas takes the pork loin and loads on the garlic, fresh herbs like rosemary, marjoram, cracked black pepper and fennel seeds. He then wraps a pork belly and skin on top, ties a nice bow around it and skewers it on a rotisserie for four hours until the skin is crispy brown on the outside, and the meat is succulent on the inside. Thomas typically uses the Porchetta and serves it in a sandwich at his food truck stop at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market every Thursdays and Saturdays. I hear the waits can go for hours. We were so thrilled knowing that we'd have all of the Porchetta to ourselves that night.

Below the perfectly packaged Porchetta were the Gourmet Rotisserie Chickens. Thomas grills only the freshest corn-fed chicken from Sonoma County, which he sprinkles with herbs and spices. And don't forget that it's also getting bathed by the Porchetta drippings from above. Have mercy.

As if that was not enough, at the bottom of the rotisserie was a layer of halved french fingerling potatoes that had been tossed with fresh rosemary and unpeeled pieces of garlic. These potatoes were just hanging loose, getting a nice sun tan and catching every juice from the chicken and porchetta morsels above. We all know that there's nothing better than golden brown roasted potatoes cooked in chicken and pork fat renderings, right?

The caterer said that he had started cooking this on his drive up. The drive up to Bolinas is quite windy and treacherous so thank goodness these chickens were skewered on tight. He said he had about an hour or so more of cooking left so we waited. The truck was stationed outside and every 10 to 15 minutes, a few of us would venture outside to check on our dinner and just stare glassy eyed into these skewered meats being rotated round and round. You could tell that dinner was almost ready when you heard the pork skin start to crackle and the birds were getting nice and golden as well.

A close up of the triplets.

When the food was all ready, he laid out all the other dishes that accompanied this glorious feast.

We had some Heirloom Tomato Salad with crispy shallot vinaigrette and fresh basil. Oh my lord, these were so good!! Anyone that has tried heirloom tomatoes knows they are the real deal. Crazy expensive anywhere you can get your hands on them, but so full of flavor.

At the bottom of the picture, you'll see Summer Corn Salad, which consisted of charred corn and fresh avocados tossed in lime-jalapeño vinaigrette, garnished with cilantro.

Here is our dear friend untying our present and preparing to slice up pieces of that infamous Porchetta. We had a delicious onion marmalade, some French sea salt and rolls from Acme Bread Company to round out our meal.

Here's a picture of our plate. Every single thing on that plate was heavenly and quickly devoured.

I wish I lived in SF. I'd gather a bunch of my friends every weekend and have this catered if I could. Everything tasted so fresh and so flavorful. Without a doubt, this was the best food at a wedding ever! Congratulations J & M! Love you guys, and your taste in food trucks! :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mariscos de Veneno - Chicago, IL

Sometimes when I go for a run after work in my neighborhood, I pass by this restaurant and there is always groups of people waiting outside to eat. I made a mental note that I needed to check it out one day.

My cousin, Susan, Aleen and I came here early one Saturday night because were had heard the wait can be quite long, but we got lucky and got seated fairly quickly. Just be forewarned, the seats are packed pretty tight inside, so you'll be very close to your dining companions.

Here's a picture of the menu. It refers to Nayarit, which is a costal state in Mexico. I've never been there, but I presume that this restaurant showcases the seafood cuisine of that region.

When you sit down, they will give each diner their own tuna tostada with some chopped cucumbers, red onions, carrots and tomatoes. They also served this with a hot sauce, which was HOT! They weren't kidding when they said not to use too much. It was a salsa huichol, which is made from a blend of spices, chiles and vinegar. A few drops was all that I could handle.

We ordered some shrimp empanadas as well. It was served hot with a slice of avocado on top.

We ordered a plate of the langoustines, which look like mini lobsters or giant crayfish. I've been duped by places in Southern California that advertise lobster tacos and it turns out to belangoustines, so I think a lot of people use the terms interchangeable, but really they are not baby lobsters. I think it tastes more like a shrimp or crayfish than a lobster. I've seen biggerlangoustines before, but these were on the smaller side. My cousin and I wondered whether maybe the size depends on the season. Anyhow, the garlic and butter sauce is what makes this dish. We dipped fries or anything we could get our hands on, into this sauce. We even dipped the peeled langoustine tails into the sauce before popping them in our mouths. Although this looks like a lot of food, there's not that much meat in each langoustine. It's a shame because all of that flavor is seeped into the crevices of the shell.

We also got a grilled red snapper with garlic butter sauce. Most people around us ordered the whole fried red snapper. Since it was four girls, watching their figure, we opted for the grilled option. We were so confused because it looked like three pieces of fish, but they had deboned the fish from the back bone, breaded the two pieces of the fish and the backbone, and fried it. So it wasn't what you would consider grilled, it's just slightly less fried. lol.

The breaded part was garlicy, buttery and crispy, and the flesh of the fish was perfectly moist. We really enjoyed it. It came with a side of rice and salad. We ordered a side of french fries as well.

My friends and cousin still rave about how good the food was here. We'll definitely have to come back. They also have crab legs in that nayarit sauce that we saw a lot of other people eat. We might have to try some next time.

Mariscos de Veneno
1024 N Ashland Ave
(between Augusta Blvd & Cortez St)
Chicago, IL 60622

Btw, it's across the street from El Barco, my friends ended up there by accident.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ad Hoc's Rice with Roasted Cauliflower

I saw this recipe in the LA Times and I knew I had to try it. Roasted cauliflower sounds soo good, doesn't it? I feel like cauliflower gets such a bad rep, but it's delicious in soups or braised in Indian food. It's also really tasty to eat as a crudite when blanched. Unfortunately I don't use it enough in my day to day cooking, but I was excited to try a new recipe that utilized it. Ad Hoc is one of Thomas Keller's restaurants in Yountville, CA and so you know it's gotta be good. I thought this would be a good side dish to go with the Chicken Marbella I was bringing to the picnic. The roasted cauliflower was really good on its own, but with curry, butter, rice and red pepper flakes, you can't go wrong. I could eat this for days and never tire of it.

Ad Hoc's Rice with Roasted Cauliflower

1/2 head white cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons canola oil
Pinch of curry powder
6 cups water
1 cup Carolina, or long grain, rice
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the canola oil and season with one-fourth teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper, or to taste.

Place the cauliflower in a roasting pan (reserve the bowl) and roast until the cauliflower is a deep brown and tender throughout when pierced with a knife, 20 to 25 minutes, tossing every few minutes for even coloring and cooking. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees. (Sorry I forgot to take pictures.)

While the cauliflower is roasting, cook the rice: In a large saucepan, add the water and a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the rice and chili flakes and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the rice just until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the rice well, then spread the rice in a thin shallow layer in a large baking dish.

Place the rice in the oven to dry out for 5 minutes. Remove, then stir in the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired with salt and pepper. Place the cauliflower back in the bowl and toss with the curry powder. Taste and season, if desired, with additional salt and pepper.

Gently stir in the warmed rice and butter, tossing until the butter is melted and evenly coats the rice and cauliflower. Stir in the green onions and serve immediately.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chicken Marbella

Apparently I've been living under a rock because I've never heard of Chicken Marbella until now. I was talking to my coworker about how I needed to think of something to bring to a picnic that my friends and I were doing at Ravinia. She immediately told me to make Chicken Marbella. She described it as marinated chicken with prunes and olives and the best part was that it's pretty good served cold. I googled Chicken Marbella and realized, everyone and their mothers have tried this recipe and they all love it. It was also nice because you could marinate the chicken for days before cooking. I spent Sunday evening prepping the chicken and making the marinade and let is sit for two days. I cooked it the day before the day of the picnic and it turned out great.

Sheila Lukins and her co-author published "The Silver Palate Cookbook" in 1982 where she introduced home cooks to ingredients such as prunes and capers, which are staples now. I'm sure this recipe, back in the day, caused quite the stir. The original recipe calls for 4 whole chickens that you cut up, but I figured since it's a picnic, no one wants to be picking out bones, so I looked for a recipe with boneless, skinless chicken breast. I found the following adapted recipe. I made the following additional changes. I put in 1/8 cup of dried oregano. The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup but maybe if the chicken had the skin on, that might have been fine, but it looked like the chicken would just be coated in green, so I opted to put less in. I also added 1/2 cup more prunes and olives, just because I felt like it. :) It also calls for 1 cup of brown sugar to sprinkle on top of the chicken and it seemed a bit excessive to me, so I sprinkled a generous amount and I only ended up using 1/2 cup of brown sugar and it turned out fine.

Chicken Marbella
adapted from The New American Cooking
10-12 servings

6 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
1 bulb garlic, finely chopped or puréed
1/8 cup dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups pitted dried plums
1 cup pitted green olives, or a mix of olives such as Greek, Moroccan, or French
1/2 cup capers with about a tablespoon of their juice
6 bay leaves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
finely chopped fresh Italian parsley or fresh cilantro as garnish

In a large bowl, add garlic, oregano, coarse salt and pepper, vinegar, olive oil, dried plums, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves.

Add the chicken to the marinade and refrigerate, covered, ideally overnight, but at least for 2 hours. I put mine in a zip lock bag.

When you are ready to cook the chicken , preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in 1 or 2 large, shallow baking pans and spoon the marinade over it evenly.

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around but not on them. Bake for about 40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes with the pan juices.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, dried plums, olives, and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with the parsley or cilantro. Serve the remaining pan juices in a separate bowl.

Since I was taking this to a picnic, I just put my chicken with pan juices and all in my handy dandy tupperware.

I made some cauliflower rice, which will be my next post, to go with it. It was delicious. I ate the leftovers for days. The chicken is great with salad too.

Ravinia is such a great venue and it's a definite must if you're in Chicago during the summer. I can't wait for next year!