Monday, December 17, 2007

Bone Collection

OK, so no one has ever accused the short rib of being a beauty. Its gnarled tangle of beef is bequeathed only to those willing to put forth a solid braising effort. Half an hour on the stove, two hours in the oven, bathing in bottles of wine and its own admirable reluctance, until finally, when your hungry has peaked in a way that resembles rage, it completely acquiesces to your will. Then you eat.

The result is very similar to pot roast in taste, texture, and the comfort it conjures. It makes an untraditional centerpiece to a Thanksgiving meal, but the casual bounty that it offers fits perfectly within the holiday's theme. Just trim away or be prepared to not be able to eat all the meat present on each bone. These ribs were once in charge of moving the entire back half of a cow during its sojourn on Earth, so their hard work is in sacrifice of some edibility. No matter. The braised short rib is long on charm and flavor.

Glazed Expression

Part 1 of the two-part series entitled Glaze Makes Life Worth A Damn. Sicilian lemon cookies, displayed as a trio because Tamalehawk barely has the first one crushed in his beak before maniacally planning the demise of the other. After three he must physically restrain his own wing as it flails and flaps in search of a fourth and fifth. These indeed bring out the worst and best he has to offer. In a mirror, quickly think of all things that come glazed. Remember the face that you make. Now picture the same items, completely denuded of their glaze. Compare that face with the one you made previously. Without exception, your face transformed from delighted grin to deadly grimace.

For lack of a smooth transition to Chinese food, Tamalehawk will just lay it out there. He thinks he found a new home base. He has been struggling with the cuisine for some time; Orange Garden can't get their act together to offer delivery, most other places are obsessed with ladling a cabal of crinkle cut carrots and an odorous onslaught of onions in every dish. However, Silver Seafood on Broadway and Lawrence, delivered on the promise made by Check Please, which Tamalehawk had watched just a day earlier. It marked the quickest turn-around time from viewing to tasting, and proved a wise move. Great fried rice, bafflingly fresh chicken, crab rangoons that quite effortlessly go Beyond Rangoon, and only a small container of white rice which Tamalehawk feels no guilt about depositing directly into the trash unopened.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Rebirth

A casual, covert census has confirmed melted marshmallows as a ubiquitous umbrella for this sweet seasonal side. Holidays are a balance of preservation and experiment, of nostalgia and opportunity. Some smells must be recreated note by note; other new smells must be allowed to wantonly waft their way into tradition. Magazine recipes meet mom's memory, surprise meets certainty. The crescent rolls blacken from neglect and are heroically saved at the last moment, or ceremoniously buried beneath a hillock of potato peels. Everyone eats in eleven minutes and meanders back to the couch to finish the puzzle.

That was weeks and weeks ago now. Tamalehawk stills soars stoically above the staggered cityscape, save for the surreptitious swoops to the shadowed streets for a sweet or savory snack. He apologizes for his prolonged perch in the placid penumbra, and affirms that his appetite has not abated, but rather accelerated to accommodate the inflated belly of '08.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Ageless Wisdom

At three o'clock, eons after lunch and a lifetime before dinner, Tamalehawk needs to fill the growing void that is his hunger. Often it's a tortilla wrapped around something strange and broiled. Occasionally it's something wrenched directly from its jar, perhaps plucked from bottomless briny depths. On this day, a small bolt of inspiration led to this: a peanut butter, blackberry jam, shredded apple and cinnamon sandwich. It's not often that Tamalehawk gracefully handles the haunting chime of three o'clock, and this brief bit of guiltless guile made him flash a proud smile.

Critical update: Tamalehawk has secured what he was sure would remain forever in his imagination - an authentic copy of Seven Hundred Sandwiches. A remnant from the volatile sandwich culture of a nation poised on deep depression, this cherished artifact now claims a place of distinct honor in Tamalehawk's heart. One need only to glimpse the foreword to realize the true power of this tome; as it clearly notes the "constant and insistent demand for new ideas in sandwiches, new combinations in fillings, and new and attractive architectural plans for construction." Tamalehawk is filled with a renewed sense of purpose, determined to continue the groundbreaking work of his ancestors.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Science of Madness

Sometimes in a great while, you just have all the ingredients you need to make a thing worth really eating. Tamalehawk had the onions, lettuce, cheese and turkey to make this monster come together beneath the crack of lightning, lurching to life in a frenzy of forming, chopping, spreading, and sizzling. Too big for its mortal bun, the burger broke free of its earthly binds and clawed its way into legend.

It was this sad day that Tamalehawk used the final few drops of Worcestershire sauce, causing the ghosts of both Lea and Perrins to gasp in horror. The crucial cure-all, a certain stand-by to all mashed meat mixtures, sat sad and empty in its crinkled paper shroud. Tamalehawk winced as he knew he might forget to put this shadowy staple back on the grocery list. All the best sauces go unremembered in the clank and clamor of the supermarket. Nonetheless, the sauce made a proud and final performance, the likes of which no man can forget.

A Certain Victor

Chocolate and bacon fight ferociously for the coveted title of Best Ever, each outdoing the other time and again in ways it can make a person feel simultaneously awful and ecstatic upon consumption. Tamalehawk long ago resigned that from perfection always dangles a price tag. He can't blame these foods for achieving these forbidden aspirations, their continual dominance of the sweet and savory worlds. To do so would be like blaming the sun for making the world too beautiful.

The Dutch, for example, excel in the realm of chocolate, harnessing fully its powers to be shaped into all letters of the alphabet. Tamalehawk thanks them for realizing that chocolate and text are a marriage long overlooked, and that indeed all messages of importance should be spelled boldly in cocoa. Don't be too lazy to get that glass of milk, either.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Creeping Heat

Tamalehawk, perpetually plagued by persistent impatience, has never used his slow-cooker. He prefers the panic and pacing of skillet sorcery. It's the same reason he doesn't bake, really, when you get down to it. But bakeries and barbacue rank right at the top of any list of weaknesses he might endeavor to make. Thankfully, Ladyhawk specializes in patience.

So, with a bite, Tamalehawk again realized this fact of life. Time plus the patience can bring about a lot of worthwhile things. Axl Rose knew it, though by then it was on Lies and everyone already knew it wasn't quite as good as Appetite for Destruction, and that really nothing ever could be, and so patience didn't really sate their appetite for destruction in that case, even considering and for some especially because of its protracted whistle solo. But the point still holds true. Slow-cooked pork is pretty great.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sweet Sadness

Tamalehawk can confidently say that he would, if practical to request of his loved ones, have his coffin filled with cannoli cream. He would sign any necessary waivers, serve as the liaison between the baker and morgue, even pay extra for handling. It would be unusual, but all attendees would have thoughts of Italian pastries perforating their mournful laments.

Tamalehawk readily admits to a near-crippling affliction for all Italian confections. It haunts him yet makes him whole, holds him back yet helps him soar. No man-made smell comes close to that of a New York bakery; Tamalehawk spend an entire childhood smearing the glass display cases with frantic wingprints, pointing and contemplating, gesturing and pleading. Having that white box tied with red and white string sitting on the kitchen counter was often the only thing that would get a tiny 'Hawk through dinner. Today, he relies on the generosity of a fine Ladyhawk to hit an out of the way Italian deli and bakery and rescue him from his endless quest.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sabor Sin Labor

Tamalehawk has to thank the fine people at Goya for constructing all the parts of this strange improvised version of arroz con pollo. Goya labored over every element that was delicious in this steaming creation...the yellow rice, the sofrito, the culantro and achiote seasoning packet. The hawk-handling time was mercifully minimized. It's like Goya just wants you to be happy, and you just let them, because they are so good at it.

You brown chicken or pork in a big pot, then take it out. Then get some chicken broth going in the same pot and dump your rice in. Then add sofrito and the magic packet, cook it for a while until the rice is almost done, and add the chicken back. Also some chopped olives. When the rice and chicken are done, you're done. Hang up your apron, eat it too quickly and burn your face off, wait impatiently, continue, realize the rice is the best part and don't even need meat, eat the meat anyway but in a begrudging manner, repeat.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rise Again

There is no correct way to eat a Mallomar; what is irrefutable is the cookie's place in the snack hall of fame. Sure, it may be featured in a smaller wing, sort of by the bathrooms or on the fourth floor by the privately-funded Teddy Grahams exhibit, but its display is a respectable one, poised beneath glare-proof glass and beside a stately foamcore timeline illustrating its illustrious evolution to the forefront of east coast pantries. If Tamalehawk was curator, or at least an influential docent, he'd probably oversee the installation of an entire east coast snack feature, annexing part of the gaudy Reese's wall in the lobby and reprogramming some of flat-panels to show a sepia-toned tour of the original Drake's factory on an endless loop.

Dreams aside, a Mallomar is a dense dome of industrial marshmallow atop a disc of graham-like cookie, submerged into a chocolate approximation, which then forms a formidable shield, a byproduct of whose purpose may actually be flavor. Tamalehawk could make an entire sleeve disappear in one sitting if he suspended his better judgement. Also, their buoyancy allows them to float in a glass of milk in a way that makes Tamalehawk marvel like he was an innocent eyas again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Discounted Feelings

Tamalehawk resigned long ago that pizza was just different in the middle swath of states. His pizza epicenter starts in New York and radiates outward, transmitting an increasingly weak signal. Anyway. If you're looking for the best Chicago pizza, you're looking for Lou Malnati's. The buttery crust, the perfect thickness, the correct sauce-to-cheese propotions. It's excellent all the way to the end, and not the kind of deep dish you abandon because the crust has become a forbidding terrain of carbs and the cheese has congealed and assumed an altogther unsettling sheen.

If you live outside of the delivery area and aren't buying a shower curtain in Schaumburg or the EGV, then you have to settle for something else. Luckily, there are alternatives. The Art of Pizza, for example, shown here is really good, though Tamalehawk can't seem to break away from the pan variety and try the deep dish that is also allegedly worthy. Downside - they never have coupons, which they claim are unnecessary because of the daily specials they offer. There is something about a pizza place that doesn't offer coupons which ruffles Tamalehawk's feathers right down to his calami. It just feels vaguely unpatriotic to not incentivize the consumer like that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Beneath The Surface

Another, and perhaps the most important, product of the griddle era. It is with a great deal of reverence that Tamalehawk returned the griddle back to its box and into the closet. The problem: what do you do with the remaining quart of buttermilk that is still in your fridge, if you're not up to the mental and physical feat of making fried chicken? You solemnly pour it down your sink a few weeks later. RIP.

Tamalehawk has eaten a lot since his mandatory sojourns south to New Orleans started appearing on his calendar. Some of the items weren't even fried. First, oysters four ways: Fonseca, Bienville, Rockefeller or fried. He didn't realize he cared for oysters as much as it turns out he does. Also, crab fingers? Crabs have fingers and you can eat them. The finger is the pincer, or the serrated and articulated terminus of the claw. You can bread those and eat them in a sort of crazed, dexterous manner, being careful not to eat the blade of cartilage that represents the crab's last chance for revenge. Tamalehawk eventually has to pull the brakes on the bullet train of fried delights and was surprised to find that NOLA can just as easily post up with some great Thai food.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Far East

Tamalehawk did not die in a tragic buffet accident. He has not been impaled on a beer garden umbrella, nor has he choked on a battered mushroom. He has been perched on ledges nationwide, lazily soaring above city buildings in search of something interesting to eat. He's landed back in the nest, briefly, and still hungry. To bring it over to pickles, Jimmy John's are near perfect, and Potbelly's sadly lacking. Never buy the cooked variety. Pickles belong in the fridge, swimming in a brine that you secretly take swigs of when you're a kid. Also, you can reuse that brine - chop up some carrots, celery, onions, and jalapenos and slide them right back in for a few days. You have made giardiniera, sort of.

Tamalehawk did eat Korean BBQ recently with the regular rookery of rogues. Amid a sea of banchan, suspiciously absent of tiny fish jerky, they dined on roasted quadruple bulgoki, shrimp, and squid. Tamalehawk can't resist the kimchi, the weird omelet things, and the crunchy discs that may just have been jicama. It took a fair amount of restraint to not wrestle the tongs away from the server. It's not often enough that Tamalehawk gets to man the coals.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Finding Balance

Does anyone know of any new ways to melt cheese? Please notify Tamalehawk posthaste. Until then, he'll stick with the basics: grilled cheese on the griddle, diner-style with no remorse. Puddle of ketchup for dipping if you please. This installment is part of the ongoing griddle series, which at this point has included burgers, chickpeas, corn, quesadillas, pancakes, and hash browns. Anything that needs to be cooked, heated, sizzled, prodded, forged, or flipped is going on there. If you don't already, take your griddle out from the hall closet, placing the detergent bottles back on the shelf and re-stacking the crate of winter gloves, and let it take up a temporary residence in your kitchen. It works for every meal, and you can often make the whole meal at the same time on the same plane. That is a life worth living.

Eat at: Essence of India. Tamalehawk figured out how to eat for two at this Lincoln Square hot spot for under thirty bucks. He use to march in there, order a korma and a sang paneer, rice and the rest, maybe a Kingfisher if he was feeling reckless, and promptly stop laughing when the bill came. Things would get somber, eyes would be averted, portentous swallows of regret would be audible. When had things climbed up over fifty dollars? At what point did our revelry become such lamentable excess? Should we ask to review the menu again or would that be too embarrassing? Then it all becomes a blur and you're even to demoralized to eat a cupcake at the Grind next door. But, Essence of India is completely awesome - so what Tamalehawk has learned to do is get one main dish instead of two (say, a murg lajwab or a butter chicken), the basmati rice, the pappadum, the naan, and the softball-size samosas - and you still walk away sore from the sheer grandeur of the East.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Escape

What, in the end, will these Cheerios find with their new freedom? Will life outside the bowl live up to the expectations they have created? Sadly, evidence to the contrary is all around us: under carseats, behind couch cushions, stuck to sock bottoms. No, the taste of freedom is not honey-touched like in the dreams of these rogue oats, but rather a series of failures, a stream of sad admissions that their round shape could not roll them to a better place. Their fate is in the awaiting maw of a fussy child, or decades later, a man who is just not interested in preparing a proper meal for himself.

But seriously, Tamalehawk knows you know not to front on Cheerios. They have always been there for you and are still there now, steadily expanding their varieties to suit your sophisticated adult palatte. Yes, you are correct that Honey Nut Cheerios are the best, but best is a relative term. Multigrain is an admirable yoga-instructor cousin, Frosted is a strange but welcome half-brother who is a mesmerizing juggler, and Apple Cinnamon is probably also a terrific uncle but really, with Honey Nut, why bother. Not to mention a new "burst" line, including Berry Burst and Yogurt Burst, which would presumably be a niece and nephew in the Cheerios family. Tamalehawk hasn't tried them but, if voting, he comes down distinctly on the side of adding "bursts" to any food product. And of course, the grandaddy, wonderfully nostalgic Plain. In Tamalehawk's books, these Mills are anything but General.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Alight, Retreat

Tamalehawk has expounded on the best city burgers he's tried, documenting discoveries within the boundaries of his fly zone, which ranges from medium-far north to sorta west and mostly east and about as south as maybe Diversey. The true barometer of any place serving them, the care put into the forming and grilling of your burger is a direct correlation to how much they value you as a customer. It's actually a complex equation evolving a cosine, a set of biconditional elements, and a heavily nuanced duodecagon, but the result is startlingly simple: the burger barometer never fails. This one is the first product of the griddle renaissance which lasted an entire holiday weekend, seared in some bacon fat.

Tamalehawk was honored to inhale a profoundly awesome ratatouille, crafted by some gracious crested owls. Flanked by a pair of grilled brats, he thought he might choose to never leave the table and instead see if delicious food would just continue to appear before him. Brats and chocolate chips cookies - two things Jewel hits out of the park. Their festering produce section could be visibly devolving down to a microbial level beneath the relentless mist sprayers, but brats and cookies are where they really soar. Also, a generally pervasive aura of savings.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Living Right

Risking the scorn of a thousand Sicilian grandma ghosts, Tamalehawk occasionally partakes in whole wheat pasta, whenever he feels sad for the health of his tiny, trembling bird heart. This is the best whole wheat pasta he has found - virtually no taste difference from semolina, no strange aftertaste, no dominant wheat overtones. He wouldn't use the pasta water the same way as regular - it doesn't get as starchy and useful - but it pairs well with any number of sauces.

He experimented for a time with the whole wheat tortilla. No dice. It hardly captures the magic of Mexico. He converted completely to whole wheat hamburger and hot dog buns. Easy enough, the bun is usually playing support to a feature meat anyhow. Get a recognizable bun brand, though, or else the whole experience may be ruined. Don't mess with the Jewel buns, please. You're just playing yourself. Next up for Tamalehawk - do something with the bag of whole wheat flour that has been sitting in his freezer for perhaps six months.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dark Passage

A tragic power loss put all of Tamalehawk's fridgely possessions in jeopardy. The popsicles, being the weakest of constitution and unfortunately braced against the freezer door, where the first casualties. Once lean and swirled, gravity and a devastating partial thaw melted them all halfway, deforming them. Shaming them. Thankfully, though the nuances of blueberry and lemon were no longer distinguishable, their inherent deliciousness remained intact.

The milk and eggs also paid the price. No degree of triage could save them from peril. Tamalehawk would normally have had to restock his staples at White Hen prices. He and the White Hen have their history, no doubt. They were buddies in college, storming the quad, ruffling feathers. He would swoop down and devour breakfast sandwiches, peruse the muffin options, and partake in the expansive coffee island. But sadly, the Hen had no power in its coop, was dark like the corners of Tamalehawk's cereal-less existence. Then everything was back to normal in a day.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lessons From The Past

An indefatiguable classic. Don't get Tamalehawk wrong, there are any number of elements that could go catastrophically wrong here - burnt or limp bacon, razor-thin or tasteless tomatoes, afterthought lettuce whose sadness is express by it lifeless drape; still, the BLT has left a bacon-shaped silhouette in the American sandwichscape, the likes of which cannot be mistaken or replaced.

Upon light internet research, Wikipedia told him that the BLT made its print debut in a book called Seven Hundred Sandwiches, from 1929. Whoa. Please someone locate a dusty, brittle copy of this manuscript and carefully deliver it to Tamalehawk's waiting embrace. To create the future of our sandwich culture, we must look first to the lessons of the past. What kinds of sandwiches were people eating then? A whole population, teetering on the precipice of an economic catastrophe, concerned with pioneering their sandwich options with unparalleled industriousness. To them, Tamalehawk says thank you, 1929 - your efforts were not in vain.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Silent Triumph

Don't call them guilty pleasures. Tamalehawk never weathers a pang when coddling a popper twixt his feathertips. If they are on a menu, they are being considered. They are finalists in the menu selection playoffs. Like chicken fingers, jalpops belong to that rare genre of food that may even be better off as a frozen item. Tamalehawk wishes he had Unilever's recipe for these ubiquitous pepper pellets. Cream cheese or cheddar, or the combo if you're savvy, it sits high above the onion ring and is secretly superior to even the French fry in terms of pure flavor, style, and innovation. He isn't even going to qualify that.

Speaking of competitions, Tamalehawk recently confirmed that Full Shilling is better than Yakzies in the all-important Mediocre But Affordable And Convenient Sports Bar With Plenty Of TVs category. Granted, Yazkies has those sweet, giant round tables and is pretty much always hilariously empty, but Full Shilling has an insane pot roast sandwich for some reason. And crinkle fries. And it's cheaper. Weird but true. Don't get him wrong, Full Shilling feels like a strange fit, and the half of the bar you enter on is super gross and cramped, but in many of the areas that matter, it might be your best bet when the game is about to start and you're tired of no one making a stupid decision already.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Broken Wings

Were you looking for the best canned tomatoes? Here they are. Go ahead, grabbed the crushed ones. Unless you want them whole. Whatever. They cost a bit more than your Del Montes and your Hunts, but the superiority in taste and appearance is immediate and undeniable. You may try to deny it, but the failure will be overwhelming, and there you'll be, standing in your kitchen as a wave of shame knocks your glasses off, causing them to skitter across the floor.

Speaking of shame, it should be known that Tamalehawk was the main agitator in the equally reviled and revered Cheese-Plate Destruction of 2007. When sliding beer garden tables apart on a cement surface, improper attention was paid to the platter of cheese slices that teetered above the widening chasm. It went crashing to the ground, and subsequently into the history books. He, with withering wing, retreated into the shadows. This lamentable occurrence is all too common, typically transpiring in front of a gallery of gawking egrets and spoonbills.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Bounty of Persistence

Halfway through construction, Tamalehawk was seized by the sensation that something red needed to be hastily sketched into the blueprints. This delayed the build-out for several portentous moments, during which it was feared that the whole project would lose momentum and devolve into a standard cereal sojourn (SCS). He eventually resigned to the largely green scheme and his rare bout of composure was roundly rewarded.

This is: spinach with olive oil and balsamic, topped with scrambled eggs, shredded zucchini, Swiss cheese, and avocado, with toasted onion flatbread. Tamalehawk inhaled this as fast as his mandibles could maneuver. It was just insanely fresh and awesome tasting and he instantly wanted to abuse that healthy feeling he had by impulsively making an entire second one. He battled this behavior and just barely emerged the victor. That is the life that Tamalehawk is burdened with.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Onward, Bravely

Tamalehawk sent out a survey to no one: What are you guys eating your chocolate with? Is it orange? It probably should be. This combination has risen to achieve a cache of casual credibility in recent years. It brings a lot of seemingly incongruous elements into a reverent harmony. Bitter and rich, just like all the best everythings always are.

Directive: Try the #5 at Nhu Lan Bakery on Lawrence. It is a mildly famous sandwich by now, having had its own gratuitous feature photo in Time Out. Be prepared: it is going to sound like a hard sell. You will not want to order it. It may fundamentally repel you in concept. It is, after all, a pate and pork belly sandwich. But persevere and tap into your reserves of adventurousness, the one that made you fearlessly pick rain-displaced worms off the sidewalk when you were just a #5, and order with confidence. Here's what awaits: a hot and cold, crunchy and soft, spicy and fresh meal that tastes just like potstickers in sandwich form. All for $2.95. There are other kinds too that looked as promising - chicken, pork, meatball. Plus each half is wrapped separately for some awesome reason, so it's like you're getting two sandwiches, one for each triumphantly-raised hand.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Pastoral Climes

Tamalehawk apologizes for an awful July vis-as-vis tractate tending. Many meals have been egregiously overlooked. He can only, like the humble pierogie, hope to extrude them all through a tube into a dough pouch and pan-fry them.

Julylights: Tamalehawk reaffirms his praise for Bistro Campagne on Lincoln. It marked the maiden voyage of escargot into his bird belly. Seeking to sate his seemingly ceaseless hunger, he continued with shrimp and homemade gnocchi in a crazy broth with some weird onions that looked like orchids that are apparently Google-proof. All this in a garden patio that is undoubtedly magical; Tamalehawk expected sparrows with fresh napkins to alight on his lustrous wing bars.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Desperate Times

The crazidilla surfaces in a time of need. The people cried out for sustenance; Tamalehawk responded by putting leftover bacon, onion, roasted red pepper, and Swiss cheese together between tortillas. He then, for the good of humanity, applied a modest amount of leftover bacon fat on the outside of each corn tortilla and cooked it all in a hot pan. He did this all with a brave beak, knowing that sometimes the arteries must coalesce to the stomach's will.

A perfectly timed tamale delivery from a gentle heron made an excellent dinner. If you haven't adopted the concept of a second dinner into your life, Tamalehawk feels sad for you. You eat first dinner around four, then second dinner at seven or eight. Then you watch house flipping shows because the Cubs have already won that day.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Genius of Discontent

Signage notifies Tamalehawk that this is known as a pluot or aprium. He is an avid fan of food hybrids; free of the ethical quandaries that bind animal hybrids, why shouldn't man aspire to combine non-living foods into new superfoods? Trick question. There is no reason. This particular specimen didn't deliver on the sweet promise of either the plum or apricot, but still. The ambition garners respect.

Tamalehawk's mind reeled. What else should be melded together in the name of science? What other culinary Frankensteins should rightfully lurk in our grocer's aisles? Can someone make an onion that is truly sweet? Not just Vidalia sweet, like apple sweet. Our produce sections could be living museums of humankind's complete dominance over vegetation. Until there is a lab disaster and our reign is abruptly and violently ended.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Get Respect

Without limes, there would be no margarijos, mojitas, or beergaritas. So, essentially, there would be no summer. If you're in favor of never having summer, or of not having an awesome time with friends in the sun, or not laughing the night away in a beer garden on a spontaneous Sunday hang-sesh, or freedom of speech, or ironic street justice, then hold the lime.

Make a beergarita: Mix tequila, beer, and...margarita mix? And lime? Tamalehawk isn't a hundred percent on this one, but he urges you to concoct. For one moment, you will be OK with the fact the Bears didn't win the Superbowl, and celebrate the fact that they made it there in the first place. Embrace the power of this seething seedless citrus or be squirted or your fresh khakis. This post brought to by the National Lime Association, which exists.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Claiming the Throne

Are pistachios the secret sovereign of the nut realm? Tamalehawk knows so. Elusive, versatile, and packing a complex flavor that transcends typical nut nuances, the pistachio is the underestimated overlord of any worthwhile nut mix. Indeed, any mix that doesn't include and tilt favorably toward the pistachio ratio, hereby known as the pistatio, is not something you should serve without suffering suitable shame. It is important to note though, that pistachios are highly flammable in large quantities and are "prone to spontaneous combustion." Let's see another nut display that level of determination and power.

Detractors will argue that since the pistachio is not a true botanical nut, it warrants not the preceding fanfare. These people would likely lavish it instead on say, the crass and flavorless Brazil nut. Some may enter a bid for the highly divisive pecan or the nihilistic hazlenut. Others have argued that the peanut is thee rightful recipient of the coveted title. Tamalehawk will gladly concede the peanut's importance and indispensable contributions to the global foodscape. But in terms of straight snacking, the pistachio wins. Sorry to everyone who is wrong.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hunting Season

Tamalehawk hasn't updated the tractate in a lamentably long time. That doesn't mean that his culinary excursions aren't worthy of review. It is high grilling season, after all. Tamalehawk is a grilling mercenary, swooping undetected into yards and porches with talons outstretched to swipe stray chops and dogs. When the Weber smoke clears, though, the bird must turn back to captive prey. What is this, for example? It's nothing, a mess. But he has eaten this mess several times already because it is fast, uses the right resources, and tastes strangely awesome.

It's true, everyone. Broiling salami makes it taste a lot like bacon. Except like a more powerful, shameful, and severe kind of bacon. The kind that will induce pangs of guilt and deep organ pain with each bite but tastes too great with eggs and toast to succumb to. Do not eat more than three pieces though, because you will probably murder your earthly vessel. Your spirit, however, will soar above the clouds with salty abandon.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Strange Bounty

When evaluating whether or not your life is actually like this, remember that it includes spitting the pits into the garbage can while meandering the kitchen and eating so many that you get an enduring stomach ache that you eventually just have to go to sleep with. This is the regimen you willingly undertake with something as perfect and expensive as cherries. Tamalehawk once pitted a massive bag by hand just to make a pie, and the memory still haunts him like sirens to soon-stranded sailors.

Earlier Tamalehawk had endorsed Treasure Island as a primary shopping venue. This recommendation stills holds true as much as it ever did. But if you are looking for an adventure, go to Harvest Time on Lawrence and Rockwell. It's an expanded Mexican grocery with terrific produce and meat and low prices. Its selection of standard, recognizable items is very modest but commendable, and the trade-off is a host of unusual products that you don't get elsewhere (Hello, jalapeno pierogies. Please get into the cart posthaste). Also, if you're into buying corn tortillas and pita bread while they are still extremely warm from the oven, then this is the place for you. Deli meats are scandalously cheap. A whole table of strange Mexican root vegetables chides you as it beckons. A cinder block of fresh feta cheese is basically free. Etcetera. Tamalehawk enjoyed his time there and will surely visit this magical land again.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Buried And Reborn

The great thaw continues. Any item recently chipped free from the primordial ice cliffs of the freezer should be considered a candidate for either a salad, a casserole, lasagna (deconstructed or traditional), or a soup. The key is to bury its freezer-burned faults with a barrage of supporting ingredients, a host of scrappy alternates who, together, can obscure the truth of its origin.

In this case, Tamalehawk battles through a clutch of frozen chicken parts. Peaked with icy terrain and bearing sell-by dates that harken an altogether different season, he decides to try for chicken salad. After defrosting, prying apart, splaying, and rotating, he poached them all in chicken stock. When they were cooked, he shredded them, added mayo, dijon, BBQ seasoning, and really anything else that seemed up to the task. Cheesed and lettuced, he decided to pose them in a dramatic angular fashion, as though the sandwich was going to eat you. He eschewed the industry standard sandwich pose, where the corner of one half is stacked gently atop its brethren in a jaunty fashion, as though it were clamoring to find its fate in the first willing maw that came along. In the end, the series of select staples rallied to reveal a rewarding finale.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Unknown Expedition

You can tell the groceries are approaching a dramatic terminus when the freezer becomes a desolate tundra of complicated and unappealing stalwarts. Tamalehawk begins the arduous endeavor of defrosting the long-neglected selections wrapped in unmarked foil and stashed sideways in random arctic alcoves.

He doesn't know what this is. There is Italian sausage, retrieved from antiquity, compiled with a melange of remaining regulars including artichokes, olives, garlic, anchovies, olive oil, tomato sauce. The key here is making something that reaps the meager harvest in a palatable way while yielding lunch leftovers. A mild triumph in those respects, Tamalehawk can't help but long for a bountiful future.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Vice and Virtue

It's been documented that Tamalehawk drinks liquor only as a novelty or at weird weddings on someone else's dime, but his desire to innovate compelled him to create a new cocktail. He did, after all, receive his honorary doctorate in Mixology from a bartending school that is as prestigious as it is non-existent.

Seizing scattered components and christening his cocktail shaker, he added leftover brewed coffee, Maker's Mark whiskey, Triple Sec, and almond flavoring. Shake it up and strain into a glass. You have just made a Cowboy Sunset, guaranteed to blur the line between alcohol and coffee buzz. You're not drinking alone at home, you're just having a fancy coffee drink. Besides, if Starbucks could offer you two fingers of whiskey, you know they would. They would also somehow burn it, overcharge you, and continue speeding the demise of modern music. Oh no he didn't. Yes he did.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Frozen Assets

For Tamalehawk, summer brings a fierce predilection for ice cream. He found this in his grocer's freezer, a low-fat frozen yogurt made by Haagen-Daz, that really transcends any of the deterring modifiers in its title and lives up to the standards of its ultimate namesake. It's really hard not to bypass an actual dinner, eat the entire thing in one to two sittings, and give yourself an old-fashioned stomach ache.

As far as local options, Dairy Queen scratches the ice cream itch in a complete and nostalgic way that Tamalehawk appreciates. He agrees with the heap of good press the butterscotch dip cone has reaped. You can do the Blizzard, as it undoubtedly has done its fair share of heap-reaping, but Tamalehawk tends to grow tired of them a few bites in. Plus, a wise man once stated that you'd have to be a complete lunatic to get anything bigger than a small size when dealing in Blizzards. Also, it's OK to be intrigued by the Peanut Buster Parfait, but don't ever get the Brownie Earthquake. The mantle of stale brownie disappoints to the core. Cold Stone Creamery is really not an option unless you're getting the cake-batter ice cream, in which case, proceed. Get it with: almonds and cherries or just straight up fudge. Just don't even glance at their abhorrent suggestions on the wall.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

But For The Gilding

Frying egg or hideous eyeball of advancing robot overlord? You decide. Tamalehawk always turns to eggs when he's alone and has waited too long to eat. He's not always in the mood for them or anything, but they are really fast and versatile. When you've been ranging from kitchen to living room to computer in a doomed triangle of hunger, you settle for almost anything that will put an end to that misery march.

Tamalehawk is sure you've eaten at any number of the city's Golden diner options, be it the Golden Angel, Golden Cloud, or Golden Apple. Normally, the word "golden" would describe something of precious value, however, in restaurant terms, it means "cheap diner with a mind-bogglingly extensive laminated menu." Having eaten at all local Goldens and enjoyed them all, he recommends the Golden Angel. Slight disappointment with the coffee is overridden by a general pleasing vibe. Fresh mushrooms in the omelet is always a sign of a diner that cares, and two kinds of hot sauce on the table is an added bonus. No need to mess with that Tabasco stuff.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Service Defined

According to the sundial, it's high meatball season. These feature the trifecta of meats - pork, beef, and veal - with garlic and all the other stuff. Then ball them, dredge them in flour, brown them, etc. You can purchase the three meats together in one shot at Treasure Island. That is considerate of them.

After an extended trial period, Tamalehawk can honestly say he recommends Treasure Island. His grocery strategy has been, historically, riddled with indecision and dissatisfaction. Jewel has cheap prices, a value card, and lots of recognizable brand names. But awful, detestable produce and completely unreliable meats. Trader Joe's can't deliver on many items, but makes up for it with lots of interesting exclusive products. Treasure Island humbly meets them in the middle, offering great produce and meat while still sort of exuding a somewhat European air. Tamalehawk is not sure what that means or why he likes it, but it seems to work. It's the closest thing to one-stop grocery shopping that he's been able to find. Also the deli people always give you a slice of what ever you've ordered to taste-test, which is a nice touch. Having a man in a bloody apron dangle a piece of ham in your face then wait patiently for approval is far more satisfying than it should be.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Day In The Sun

Some advice: If you buy Nutella, then make sure you have something on hand to dip in it or spread it on. Dipping is less work and therefore superior. In an ideal world you'd have like a pretzel stick or something. Like a shortbread cookie. Or any kind of cookie. A biscotti for sure. Tamalehawk got desperate and tried it on some Kashi Fire Roasted Vegetable crackers. The Nutella kind of takes over completely, so really they worked fine. He finally settled on dipping a spoonful of Nutella into a jar of loose peanuts. That worked out exceptionally.

He's going to go ahead and recommend the breakfast roll at Ginger's Ale House. Consisting of Irish bacon and sausage, eggs, onions, and cheese on a long roll, it just tastes good, especially before witnessing a massive slaughter at Wrigley. Make sure to get an Old Style while you're there. You'll be intrigued by the PBR tall boys, but stay with the classic. If you still have room, pack away peanuts and a dog or two. Also, Tamalehawk noticed they have nachos with like shredded pork on them? Did you know about this? He was mesmerized.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Series Of Delusions

Why the bear gets all the credit associated with the versatile bounty of honey, Tamalehawk will never know. You should be squeezing a plastic molded bee, since they are the ones carefully cultivating the honey. Based on this misappropriation, the bottle may as well be a human form, somebody with a sheepish look holding some granola and waiting for the lazy suzan to spin his way.

It is with a heavy heart that Tamalehawk administers an unflattering review of the Chicago Ale House. The standard fare could potentially be overlooked if not for the inescapably unfortunate decor. Weird carpet and dull upholstery make the front room look like a banquet hall, giving the place an overall "family bar" vibe that is as distracting as it is muddled. Is Tamalehawk being petty? He probably is - this type of problem shouldn't be considered an impasse. He will readily assess the mashed potatoes as exceptional, and his grilled chicken sandwich with pears, pesto, arugula and melted brie was also pretty good. He also noticed that the back room of the giant bar seemed distinctly better - hardwood floors and an immense TV that would be great for when you want to watch something huge. Also there are 60 beers on tap, including Old Style, and that is never bad and always good. So, the final recommendation: If you are in the neighborhood and want to watch a popular local sporting event and feel like a beer and a plate of mashed potatoes, actually, this place is ideal.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bête Noire

There was an accident. Basically the cilantro salsa came crashing down and destroyed a bowl and an adjacent glass, smashing them to tiny shards, turning the bottom part of the glass into a jagged spire not unlike the tower of Mordor, and the bowl into a pile of ceramic dust coating everything in a four foot radius. Tamalehawk knew the unrelenting nature of granite, but it never ceases to astound with its impenetrability. Fortune smiled on the cilantro salsa, who was returned to the shelf rattled but intact.

Something clearly has to be done about the shelf organization. Why is the Hungarian paprika front and center on the most accessible shelf? Why must the long pastas be laid horizontally across the canned goods? Nothing worth eating is visible or easily acquired. Heavy jars teeter on the brink of calamity. Various boxed teas comprise an entire shelf of prime real estate. Order and sense has given way to confusion. Tamalehawk has resigned himself to getting brained by a suicidal can of chick peas.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wanton Disregard

Another contender in the inadvertent series of comfort foods. Tamalehawk supposes that category includes anything that is inherently unhealthy and delicious and has mass appeal. Things that require you to briefly abandon your conscience before you can be excited by the prospect of eating them. He waves a concessional wing at this definition because guilt makes everything taste better.

Tamalehawk builds his cheese sauce on a basic bechamel by melting 4 tablespoons of butter in a pot until it bubbles, then adding 4 tablespoons of flour and cooking it until it is blond in color. Add 2 cups of cold milk, a little bit of nutmeg, salt, and cayenne, and stir it with a whisk over a medium heat until it thickens. Add a ton of cheese, in this case cheddar and parmesan, but please get fancy and do the whole gruyere thing. Pour it over your cooked pasta, then into a buttered casserole dish. Take that time to toast your Panko breadcrumbs with a little more butter in a pan. Dump the crumbs on top and bake it until you're too hungry to wait any longer. Add a side salad or don't. It doesn't matter because you've just changed the world.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Phantom Pangs

Tamalehawk has come to terms with the fact that a thriving bagel culture has not entrenched itself in the Midwest, but that doesn't mean he doesn't still feel the longing on a Saturday morning. Breakfast just can't be the same. Harder to acquire than the bagel is the rarely photographed bialy, captured here only in the grim repose of death. A sad fate for such a noble starch, who must brave the heat of the hearth without the bulwark of boiling first.

If there is a reputable bialy repository in the city, notify Tamalehawk post-haste. He has located a place on North Avenue that does a good job but few things are worth traversing the gnarled retail morass that surrounds it. Also, just like a roll? To assemble a bacon and egg on a roll sandwich? Which exists in its own wing of the Breakfast Hall of Fame? That you have to pay an extra $5 to visit but is completely worth it?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Midnight Raid

In a culinary sense, few things can make you crestfallen faster than a lack of eating options. Do you really want to defrost that chorizo and make some sort of taco thing? Will olives taste good on toast? Couldn't you swear that you bought some jalapeño jack cheese? Tamalehawk knows this despair all too well. It haunts him, cutting his predatory night flights short with a cold finality.

Sometimes you have to just stop staring into your empty fridge in the dark and go to Ribfest. Wear shorts because it is really hot and you'll be there longer than you think. Make sure to eat ribs from four-time festival winner Cy's Chop House - they are incredibly tender and sort of have a citrus-ginger thing going on. Do not eat anything from the impostor Robinson's. Merle's has good pulled pork sliders with mac and cheese, possibly the best deal there. Gale Street Inn has good ribs to especially when you shuffle down the block and douse them with Hecky's barbecue sauce because that is how you roll.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dreaded Appendage

The art of the supplemental side is self-taught; a trade forged in the fire of exigent hunger, of anticipated yearning, of old-fashioned glutton. No one wants to find themselves pacing the living room after inhaling an undersized burrito, or flipping the channels restlessly after a scrawny salad that didn't even have the decency to feature croutons. Rules for a good supplemental side: it's got to be assembled fast, so there's no time to second guess yourself or feel shame, and it's got to fit in one hand.

Tamalehawk recommends the chimichurri rice from Trader Joe's. No one does unusual frozen items like that place. In this case, the rice surpasses all the criteria for a quality frozen item: it's easy to make at three minutes in the microwave, it serves a several people instead of being a deceptively tiny portion that angers you instantly, it's easy to open, and it tastes surprisingly fresh. Shown here with pork chops breaded in Panko, the greatest breadcrumb ever because it is drier and crunchier and bigger, and a supplementary quesadilla made more out of fear than necessity.

Unflagging Classic

When you're talking about the spot, and really want to hit it dead on in one meal, you are talking about spaghetti, meatballs, and garlic bread. Tamalehawk loves the collision of childhood and college found in a bounty like this. Throughout college and post-college city life, Italian sausage gets swapped for meatballs because they're faster, but the joy is the same. You run out to Jewel and grab everything before Survivor comes on and get the water boiling while your roommates do bits and you watch the reward challenge from the doorway.

These days, Tamalehawk will take the time to make the meatballs when possible. His experiments with turkey meatballs have proved successful and, being an aging accipitridae, he has to consider his health as long as it can still taste good. He mixes a pound of ground turkey with Worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. He has no problem with dried herbs in this context. Then, he rolls them into golf ball sized chunks and rolls each in a thin coating of flour. Set them all in heavy-bottom skillet in some kind of fat and brown them. In this case, Tamalehawk used some leftover bacon grease that was handy and was strong enough to push past the flicker of guilt he felt. Add your sauce and scrape the bottom of the pan, drain the pasta, and pull your garlic bread out of the oven just before it burns and shatters the nostalgia.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Delicate Haunch

It's hard to front on bacon. In addition to being the most coveted of breakfast meat, it freezes and defrosts really well. Tamalehawk now fully advocates broiling your bacon over pan-frying. Lay your bacon out on a broiling pan, or on a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet, and set it about 3 to 4 inches under the broiler. Watch it to make sure it isn't dripping anywhere and flip the pieces over when the top sides are done. This method allows perfectly even browning, creates almost no smoke, and doesn't spit hot grease all over your forearms as your stand over it. Speaking of which, bacon grease is among the most delicious of fats - so be sure to pour some of the grease from your cookie sheet directly into your frying pan or on your griddle and use it to cook your accompanying eggs or pancakes.

Taste of Heaven is the place in Andersonville that got some local heat for having a small laminated sign warning all who enter that "children of all ages must use their indoor voices" when dining there. Tamalehawk reserves judgment on that issue, but wantonly judges the food. Verdict: approved. Many of the things here are homemade, which is always a plus. Great reviews for the Katie Cakes, which are pancakes with berries, lemon cream-cheese whipped cream, and this kind of streusel topping that will probably make your child envious as he watches through the window from the sidewalk.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Price of Glory

Content will cheap beer, Tamalehawk typically only delves into hard liquor on special occasions like open bars, when beergaritas are involved, and when Meador buys him a shot of Malort. This herb liqueur is only distilled in Chicago and tastes like a liquefied acid fart. Some call it a local rite of passage, but it's hard to describe the churning hellscape you are passing to or why you would want to journey there. Still, Tamalehawk loves a challenge. After all, he has witnessed some legendary cocktails being born from the depths of risk and uncertainty, such as the Sticky Pirate (rum and cream soda) and the Brown Derby (vodka and root beer) and will never forget what it's like to stand so close to genius.

As for wing recommendations, the recently expanded Buffalo Wild Wings (formerly BW3) on Lincoln is a great option. When it comes to sauce options, size, and saucing technique, these award-winning wings rank in the upper echelon. Tamalehawk diversified his portfolio with spicy garlic and medium and was rewarded for his savvy. Select the Buffalo Chips, which are small potato discs, over fries or wedges, and you have a classic Champaign feast, right in the heart of the city.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Karma Remora

Eat a pear and everyone gets jealous. They're all like "Are those pears for the office?" and you shoot them a glare and covetously slink away to your desk. Not as mainstream or handy as an apple but nowhere near the arduous grappling of an orange, the pear is a shamefully overlooked icon in the fruit canon.

As Tamalehawk considered the logistics and ramifications of a fruit cannon, he ate black bean and mushroom tamales from First Slice on Ravenswood and Montrose. This place is great and brings food to Chicago's homeless so it's a win-win. The tamales themselves lacked a little filling but made up for it with the pumpkin seeds and crispy tortilla strips that adorn them. The sandwiches always deliver - whether it's the astounding and elusive barbecue pork, the reliable ham and cheese, or the roasted duck. Support this place and you get a free dollop of positive karma, and everyone knows Tamalehawk loves to benefit from the altruism of others.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Local Flourish

You should always buy coffee from a local proprietor whenever possible. Local coffee shops define a neighborhood's character and foster community. Starbucks fosters homogeny, over-roasts their coffee, and is too expensive. The Grind on Lincoln keeps it frighteningly real with incredible local coffee and food that Tamalehawk dares call "artisanal."

When Tamalehawk lived on Newport he would do the Clark Canter on a sunny Saturday to the Pick Me Up Cafe. That intersection in many way is a perfect Chicago soundscape. You can hear the cheering from Wrigley, the rumbling of the El, and the...sonorous groan of the...graystones. Along with My Pie, the PMU was the first place he'd eaten in Chicago. The hummus melt sandwich is really exemplary, and your Clown Combo breakfast is a great option when it's too early to reconcile whether you want sweet or savory. The French toast is also clutch.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Saccharine Destiny

There is an old fable of the Swedish fishmonger who was sad that all the children in the village ran away from him because he smelled like fish all the time. He was going to drown himself in the Klardlven river when he accidentally knocked a satchel of sugar on top of some perch. Later he was indicted for armed robbery and suspected of three local arsons and eventually died in a bar fight but at that point candy factories were already making Swedish fish.

Tamalehawk thought about how candy pioneers suffered to bring joy to a savory world. He silently thanked them as he ate a pre-show Snickers courtesy of Arnie. The best candy bar, incidentally, is the Skor bar, a rigid continental shelf of toffee coated in a lush layer of chocolate sediment. Adding to the perfection is that fact that Skor means "shoe" in Swedish, a moniker no doubt accompanied by its own lurid and tragic Swedish folklore.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Holiday Strike

Summer means it's time to get tropical at all costs. Tamalehawk sensed the urgency and threw a mango on the edge into his blender. Mangoes are a real pain to cut up, so he wound up squeezing it lifeless over his blender. Add some ice, milk, honey, ginger, sugar, and pineapple if you got it. Tamalehawk sacrificed a single-serve cup of pineapple tidbits along with its juice. He also dumped a tablespoon of salt in there by accident but excised it from the mix like a master surgeon before any blending occurred. Crisis narrowly averted. He did momentarily consider going all savory with this concoction, but wasn't feeling that daring.

Recommendation: Hamburger Mary's on Clark. If you're ever doing the Andersonville Amble and looking for a great burger in a lightheartedly bawdy atmosphere, then you have found it. Eaten: the Buffy the Hamburger Slayer, which is a burger cooked in red wine with Swiss and garlic aoli. An avid hunter of local burgers, Tamalehawk adds this place to the list, which, incidentally, also include Jury's and the Grafton on Lincoln. He also noted several new spots open in Andersonville which seemed promising, including a Silician bakery that was stark and white and offered six precious varieties of pastry, making it look like a museum for historic Italian treats.